Here’s why an attorney won’t take your personal injury case
And why you should not always take no for an answer.
Is this you?
You’ve been injured through no fault of your own. You could’ve slipped in a puddle of water at the grocery store or maybe your neck is hurting after a fender bender. Because you’re certain it was not your fault, you’re either certain you deserve restitution from the offending party or you just want to know if you do.
But try as you may you can’t get an attorney to agree to take your case or even hear you out. Do you want to know why? I’ll explain below, as well as tell you what you can do about it. In many cases you should not take no for an answer.
Why do personal injury lawyers say no?
If your case is being turned down by attorneys, there are several possible reasons:
1. The statute of limitations has passed
There are strict deadlines set by law for filing a claim. If you have missed that deadline, your claim is invalidated.
2. There is a conflict of interest
It could be something as simple as they are representing the other side, or they may be representing the person you want to sue in another case. Good news here is that it has nothing to do with your case. Don’t get discouraged and move on.
3. They’re too busy
Often attorneys are just too busy and won’t be able to devote the time needed for your case. Again, it may have nothing to do with your case and you can just move on. However, it could be they’re just too busy for you for other reasons listed below.
4. This is not their expertise
Not every attorney is an expert at the type of law you need. Some attorneys will handle mostly business or criminal law, then take some personal injury cases on the side. Others may specialize in personal injury law, but perhaps aren’t as good at some types of injuries, such as child sexual abuse or nursing home abuse, to give some examples. A good attorney will not take a case if they don’t feel like they can give you the best results. And in cases like that, they should refer another attorney for you.
What can you do if it’s not their expertise?
If your injury is not an area where that lawyer is experienced, you don’t want them to take your case to try to learn. A little internet research on your part can help you determine who to call. Find one who lists case studies with your type of injury or read their website carefully for more information. Then when you call them, ask them directly if they’ve handled cases like yours before and let them share their story with you.
5. They can’t afford to take your case
Big law firms have big overhead and therefore may only consider larger cases that pay larger settlements. This is nothing against you or your case, and nothing against them. They need to pay junior lawyers, paralegals, administrative staff, office expenses and a lot more. If your case is mid-sized to small, you may be best served by partnering with a single attorney firm with fewer expenses instead of a large one. There is an added benefit to this because a large firm may need to pass over some of the tasks to handle your case, including research and communication with you, to their administrative staff to keep their costs down. When you work with a small firm like my own, though, you usually work directly with the attorney at all times. That means you get real expert on your case 100% of the time.
What can you do if your case is too small?
Always ask why the attorney is turning down your case. If his answer is that what you can expect to recover won’t pay for legal fees, remember his expenses may be higher than another’s. So get a second opinion.
If it’s clear your case is too small and no attorney can afford to take your case, don’t be afraid to ask the attorney what you should do. I always give those who call tips on how to settle with the insurance company. Others do too. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
6. You carry too much of the blame
If you are somewhat or mostly at fault, some attorneys will not risk the time and resources needed to take your case for fear that they’ll be left holding the bag. This is a valid concern.
What can you do if you’re partly to blame?
If they’re concerned they can’t win a settlement, so should you. Not all claims are valid, so you may need to ask yourself if it’s even worth your own effort and mental stress to pursue the case.
Be sure to ask why the attorney does not feel you have a case. Sometimes his or her explanation will go a long way in helping you reach closure.
But don’t assume that because you bear some of the blame for the accident you are not entitled to compensation. So do ask more than one attorney because maybe the one you spoke to doesn’t have enough experience to understand all the little nuances that come into play in personal injury cases. As an example, one of my biggest settlements was for a elderly woman who was crossing the street against the light. She was hit by a vehicle, and even though she was crossing against the red and partially to blame, we won a substantial settlement for her.
7. There are minimal to no damages
Most personal injury attorneys who fight for the plaintiff truly want to help those injured, but they also need to make a living. And since they work on contingency, that means in order for them to make that living, there must be a settlement.
If you experienced mental anguish, but there was either minimal medical expense or little missed work, the damages are small and chances of getting a settlement are diminished. Along with that is your chance of finding an attorney to take your case.
What can you do if the damages are minimal?
Don’t assume anything. Find an attorney who will actually evaluate your case. He or she may know about costs you are entitled to that you don’t even know about.
In addition, do not over treat your injuries. This is sure to backfire and leave you with bills you can’t pay.
Keep a true accounting of costs associated with the injury – including medical treatment costs and lost pay to share with the attorney.
8. Little hope of collecting a settlement
If the defendant is uninsured or underinsured, you may have a case but there will be little chance of collecting on the settlement. Attorneys can’t afford to take on cases like that – at least on contingency.
What can you do if the defendant is un- or underinsured?
Before you spend time and energy pursuing a case against them, an attorney can help you figure out if it’s worth your time. The call is free, so take advantage of it. You may be pleasantly surprised. In some cases, it’s not just an individual with no ability to pay off a claim who is at fault. Sometimes employers or manufacturers carry equal blame and they are usually covered by insurance. An astute attorney will know where to find a just settlement if there is one.
To give you an example, we won a case against a gun manufacturer when the plaintiff originally only thought they had a case against the parents of a boy who accidentally fired a gun and injured my client. After a lot of research, we discovered the manufacturer was aware of a problem with the gun but failed to address it. That made them liable and we were able to collect damages from the manufacturer.
How can you increase your chances of getting a personal injury lawyer to take your case?
As you get ready to speak with an attorney in your first free case review phone call, knowing a bit about how they think can make the conversation exponentially better.
A few things to remember:
- They are busy.
- They need to know the basics of your case.
- They have a series of questions that will help them determine whether your case is one they are willing invest their time in.
You job is to be prepared before the phone call so you can answer their questions clearly and concisely and so they can then make an accurate determination on whether or not you have a case and whether or not they can take it.
Don’t ever assume you don’t have a case and give up before you start.
Don’t assume you don’t have a case if your injuries are minor or you think you can handle it on your own with the insurance company whose only interest is to keep their costs to a minimum and settle low. Instead, call a personal injury attorney. The call is free and you have nothing to lose. Many attorneys will also give you tips on how to handle your own case if that is in your best interests. I do.
Also if you submit a free case review form like the one I have here on my site and you don’t get a reply, don’t assume that means you don’t have a case. The reason the attorney did not respond could be for any of the reasons I mentioned above, and most of those are not deadends! So instead of sending a form, you may want to try calling instead. That way you can ask for reasons if they decline. Here’s how to make that call more productive.
Prepare for the phone call beforehand
Before you call, create a file with the following:
- Copies of your accident or incident report if possible. Have this in front of you before you dial.
- Photos of your injuries, the area where the accident happened, vehicles involved, etc.
- Medical records for treatment and doctor’s notes regarding prognosis and ongoing health issues from this incident.
- Medical records from injuries before this event. It may be relevant.
- An accounting of costs so far. This would be as a result of your injuries, but also of physical damages to your car, bike or other belongings, and lost time from work.
- Contacts with insurance companies, and notes from those conversations.
- Notes from conversations with other lawyers you have talked to.
Don’t argue if they turn you down
If an attorney you call has already decided in the first few minutes of speaking to you that they are not going to take your case, arguing with them will not get them to change their mind. Once you start arguing their only thought is “how can I get off this phone call the fastest?” and you have lost your chance to gain insight from them find out why they said no so you have more knowledge with which to approach the next lawyer you call. Which brings us to the next point.
Ask “why” they are turning you down
By asking why and getting answers, you’re better equipped to overcome objections on the next phone call, assuming you can.
Don’t give up just because you hear a few “no’s”
If you feel you have a case, trust your instinct. Even if you may be partially at fault, or are unsure about the viability of a settlement, don’t just give up after a few negative responses. You owe it to yourself to get through to an attorney who will truly evaluate your case and take the time to answer your questions about it. I hear many people say that they were turned down by so many attorneys until they found one who believed in them and their case. That is the eureka moment. That is when you have found your match.
If you’re afraid to ask, consider this.
I can’t speak for others, but I became a personal injury attorney because I like helping the little guy in their fight against Goliath corporations and insurance companies. I’m sure there are many more who feel the same way. This is why we go to work each day, and why we look forward to your phone call. So don’t be shy about calling.
For reasons given above, I can’t take the cases of everyone who calls me, but I do evaluate all that cross my desk. And when you do, I will be upfront with you about the strength of your case. If I don’t think I can get you more compensation than you can get on your own, I will tell you so. If you have a settlement offer on the table and I won’t be able to substantially improve it, then you are best served to take that offer and I will tell you so. If I cannot help you because I’m too busy or your case is not my expertise, I will refer you to other attorneys in the area who may be better suited to your case.
If you haven’t yet found an attorney who does the same, please keep trying.
My hope is that you let an attorney make those determinations for you though because you’ll never know what’s best for your case or if you have a case at all.
There’s no harm in asking.
So do it. Call today and tomorrow and the next day if you have to. Don’t take no for an answer until you know that no really is the right answer for you – and it’s an attorney or 2 or 3 who told you so.
Call me. I’ll tell you if you have a case.
If you’re in the Bay Area, I have offices in Danville and Pleasanton where I meet with clients. Or we can chat on the phone. Request a free case review now. I serve clients all over California. I will listen and take the time to carefully evaluate all cases. If I can’t take your case, I’ll tell you why and give you advice on what to do next.