Why would a personal injury lawyer turn down your case?
Attorneys do not take every case that calls or walks through the door, and it is a common saying among lawyers that an attorney is defined as much by the cases they turn down as the cases they accept.
If you’ve been to a few attorneys already who did not accept your case, you might be wondering why. Not every attorney explains their reasoning to the people they turn down, but it may be important to know before you make the next appointment looking for a personal injury lawyer.
Before making the second or third appointment with prospective attorneys, you may want to ask yourself 1) Do I have a case? or 2) How can I present my case in a way that a personal injury attorney will accept?
Attorneys May Turn Down Your Case if it is Not Their Practice Area
The first question you should ask if attorneys are turning down your case is, “Am I calling the right type of attorneys?”
Every lawyer does not accept every type of case. Some attorneys focus on certain practice areas exclusively, like auto accidents, medical malpractice, or criminal defense. Even attorneys who have experience in a wide range of practice areas will turn down some types of cases that they do not ordinarily handle.
One way to check this is to browse the law firm’s website to see if your type of case is listed as a practice area. If you have a car wreck case, do not call an attorney who focuses solely on real estate transactions. If you are looking for a mass torts law firm to file a class-action lawsuit, do not call an attorney who only lists criminal defense as a practice area on their website.
Ethical Conflicts Can Result in an Attorney Turning Down Your Case
Attorneys are required to do a “conflict check” before taking on a new client’s case, and there are many different conflicts that could prevent the attorney from accepting your case.
For example, the attorney may have represented (or may currently represent) another party in the case or an insurance company that is involved in the case. In other cases, the attorney may have a personal conflict that would prevent them from doing their best work representing your cause.
When there is the potential for an ethical conflict (there are specific rules that attorneys must follow), the attorney 1) will turn down your case and 2) may not be permitted to tell you why they are turning your case.
Personal Injury Lawyers May Turn Down Your Case if There are Low Damages
Personal injury attorneys ordinarily are paid on a contingency basis – it can depend on the type of case and the specialization required, but one-third of the recovery is the typical attorney’s fee in a typical personal injury case.
If your damages are not high enough to compensate the attorney (and their staff, administrative costs, court costs, and expert fees), they usually will not accept your case. No matter how much the attorney wants to help, their law firm must pay the bills and keep their doors open…
Keep this in mind when you meet with prospective attorneys. Do not exaggerate your damages, but make sure the attorney knows what your damages will be. For example, you may be entitled to:
- The costs of your current and future medical expenses, including surgeries, hospital and ER bills, doctor’s bills, medications, medical equipment, and the cost of long-term care,
- Lost income and future loss of earning potential,
- Compensation for property damage,
- Pain and suffering,
- Mental anguish and emotional distress,
- Compensation for disfigurement or scarring,
- Loss of enjoyment of life,
- Loss of consortium or loss of companionship for a spouse, or
- Punitive damages for egregious conduct.
You may not know the exact amount that your damages will come to, but you should be able to tell your attorney the medical procedures you have had done or expect to have done, the bills you have received from medical providers so far, and the effect that the incident has had on you both physically and mentally.
Attorneys Will Turn Down Your Case if You Cannot Prove Liability
Liability is another reason personal injury lawyers will turn down your case. You must be able to prove that 1) the defendant’s negligence (or intentional act) caused your injuries and 2) your negligence did not cause your injuries.
SC follows a modified comparative negligence rule, which means that you can be up to 50% at fault and still recover damages (reduced by the percentage a jury finds that you were at fault), and most attorneys will accept your case even if liability is contested. But, if there is no evidence of the other party’s negligence, most attorneys will not accept your case.
Be truthful with prospective attorneys, and do not exaggerate the facts, but make sure you point out the potential evidence of liability like the responding officer’s statements in the accident report, the fact that the other driver was charged with a traffic violation based on the accident, or potential witnesses who can testify as to the facts of your case.
No Insurance Coverage or Other Source of Recovery
Although it is not set in stone that the defendant must have insurance coverage, it is exceedingly rare for an attorney to accept a case where there is no hope of recovering damages in the end.
A verdict against the person who caused your injuries is nothing more than a piece of paper unless you can collect from them – and that piece of paper won’t pay your law firm’s bills.
There may be multiple sources of recovery in your case, including:
- The defendant’s insurance policy,
- Third-parties insurance policies,
- A vehicle owner’s insurance policy when the defendant was driving a borrowed car,
- A rental company’s insurance policy,
- Your own uninsured, underinsured, or umbrella policies,
- The defendant’s employer,
- A business that may be liable for your injuries, or
- Homeowner’s or business liability insurance policies.
Your personal injury lawyer knows how to find insurance coverage or another source of recovery if it is there. But, if it is not there, this may be why attorneys are turning down your case despite what seems like good facts.
Attorneys May Turn Down Your Case if You Present Yourself as a Difficult Client
If you present yourself as demanding, abrasive, unlikeable, dishonest, or otherwise difficult in your initial meeting with an attorney, they are more likely to turn down your case.
It’s not just that the attorney doesn’t like you – the attorney may be concerned that jurors will not like you. It’s an unfortunate fact that, no matter how just your cause, juries will award higher verdicts to pleasant, relatable accident victims, and they will award lower verdicts or return defense verdicts for angry, demanding, or over-reaching plaintiffs.
If the first impression you give is controlling, demanding, or unhinged, the attorney you are meeting with is more likely to turn down your case to protect themselves and their office staff as well.
Be yourself, but be aware that every attorney in private practice chooses their clients and they are under no obligation to accept a difficult client’s case…
If the Cost of Experts is too High to Justify the Expected Recovery…
In many cases, you may have personal injury damages, liability may be clear, there may be a source of recovery, and you may present yourself as the perfect client and witness, but attorneys will still turn down your case because the cost of litigation is just too high to justify filing the lawsuit.
This is often the case in medical malpractice cases (where you must retain an expert medical witness before you can even file suit) and product liability cases that will require multiple experts for consultation and testimony.
In these types of cases, your damages must be high enough to justify both the attorney’s fees and the cost of the experts that will be required to litigate your case.
Personal Injury Lawyers in Myrtle Beach, SC
If you are not sure whether you have a valid case, your Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyer at Coastal Law will meet with you for a free consultation – we will help you to decide whether your case can be filed and why your case might have been turned down in the past.
Call Coastal Law now at (843) 488-5000 or message us through our website to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in Myrtle Beach today.