I picked up the phone yesterday from someone I knew did not have a personal injury case. He sent us an online intake weeks ago and was now cycling back to us. This means has called almost every personal injury lawyer in Maryland but did not keep track of who he had contacted.
The reason he did not have a case was that he had a mass tort case in litigation that has long since ended AND he was passed the statute of limitations. I spoke to the guy because he never got a personal injury lawyer on the phone to explain to why no one would take his case. It is confusing. There are million and one lawyers online and elsewhere begging for cases. So this guy was understandably perplexed as to why he could not even get anyone on the phone.
Our firm takes hundreds of new clients and personal injury cases every year, but we turn down way more potential clients and cases than we actually accept. This is true for most personal injury attorneys. You can’t take every potential new case that comes your way so for every new client a personal injury lawyer signs up there are probably 10 more that they turned down. That number is even higher in malpractice cases.
Getting turned down as a potential client can be very frustrating, but you shouldn’t take it personally. When a personal injury lawyer turns you down or declines your case, it is always based on economic rather than personal reasons. Each new client/case is basically like an investment for a personal injury lawyer. It will cost the lawyer money to bring your case because most of us front all client expenses. The more complex the case is the more expensive it will be to bring. An average medical malpractice case can easily cost the lawyer over $100,000 to take to trial. Even simple auto tort cases can require a $5,000-$15,000 expenditure.
If a personal injury lawyer turns you down it means that they don’t view your case as a good investment. This is almost always the core reason for passing on a case. The real question is why the attorney viewed your case as a bad investment. If your claim is not drawing interest from personal injury lawyers, there are many possible reasons. But there are five big reasons why victims cannot find a lawyer.
(1) You Weren’t Seriously Injured
This is probably the most common reason why we pass on prospective cases. The potential value of any personal injury case is based largely on the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries. The more serious your injuries are the more money your case will be worth. Even if you have a totally valid negligence claim against the defendant, it won’t be worth much money if your injuries are minor. A lawyer is not going to invest $5,000 in your case if it’s only worth $10,000 based on your injuries.
This can be a tough pill for many prospective clients to swallow, particularly in situations where they feel legitimately “wronged” by the defendant. But the reality is that the value of a case depends on how much you were actually hurt, not how wrong it was.
For example, let’s say your pharmacy has been filling your prescription with the wrong medication for the last 6 months. You find out that instead of meds to help your blood pressure, the pills you were taking every day were actually anti-psychotics. The pharmacy was grossly negligent and you probably feel totally wronged, but you didn’t actually suffer any injuries or adverse health conditions from the medication error. If you start calling personal injury lawyers about suing the pharmacy, most of them are going to turn you down because without any serious injuries the case has little or no value.
- You may not need a lawyer to settle your soft tissue injury case. Here is how you do it.
(2) Too Unlikely to Prove Fault
Even if your potential case involves very serious physical injuries, it won’t have much value if there is no defendant to hold liable for those injuries. To get any money out of a personal injury case you need a defendant who can be held legally responsible for your injuries.
For instance, let’s say you trip over your shoelace and break your leg while walking into a Home Depot store. You clearly have a serious injury but most lawyers will pass on your case because there is no one to hold liable (particularly in Maryland with contributory negligence). Home Depot is responsible for keeping their store safe but that does not mean they can be held liable for every accident in their store. If the injury is caused by your own negligent actions, you can’t expect to force someone else to pay for it.
The risk a lawyer will take on a personal injury case with questionable liability depends on the amount of potential damages. We take birth injury cases where there may be significant challenges on proving the doctor is at fault (every birth injury case comes with vigorous defenses, both real and insane) because the potential damages are so high it is worth the risk to try that case and potentially lose a lot of money. But if you have a malpractice case with limited damages, the risk is not worth.
We recently tried a malpractice case where we lost the case and $170,000. The most we could have gotten for the client at trial is $710,000. Why on earth did we take that case? It was a dead child. The doctors made a mistake. If we did not bring that case, no one would(Long story short: the jury agreed the doctor was negligent but did not believe the negligence caused the death.)
So, sometimes, we take cases on pure principle. We knew we would need 5 or 6 experts and that the cap in the case was low (just one wrongful death beneficiary). This is not the first time we have put on our Tom Cruise “Risky Business” sunglasses and said what the heck. But the truth is this is still rare. If we took all of the cases we review with that mindset, we would find ourselves in bankruptcy court pretty quick.
(3) The Statute of Limitations Has Passed
Another very common reason why there may be no “clear liability” in your case could be that that statute of limitations on your claim has already expired. Every state has a statute of limitations which requires civil lawsuits to be filed within a certain number of years (usually between 2-5). If you don’t file suit before that deadline you will be legally barred from suing. The statute of limitations on personal injury claims in Maryland is usually three years from the date that the claim was or should have been discovered.
Many people know about the statute of limitations but assume that if they have what they consider to be a good excuse, the court will dispense justice. This just does not happen.
(4) Defendant Has No Money
Even if you have serious injuries and a clear defendant with legal liability, your case may still be a bad investment for an attorney if that defendant doesn’t have money to pay for whatever legal compensation you may be entitled to. This is sometimes a hard one for people to fully understand so let’s use another hypothetical example.
Let’s say someone riding a bike runs you over on the sidewalk and you break a bunch of bones. The bike rider is clearly liable for the accident and you have major injuries. You successfully sue the biker rider for negligence and the court gives you “judgment” against him for $100,000. What many people don’t fully realize is that this judgment from the court does not automatically get paid.
A judgment is just a piece of paper from the court saying that the defendant owes you money. The court doesn’t give you a check for the amount you were awarded. In fact, the court doesn’t do anything at all to enforce the judgment or make sure that the defendant actually pays you the money. Unless the bike rider defendant happens to be rich he probably doesn’t have $100,000 to pay your judgment even if he wanted to. If he has no money and no assets your $100,000 judgment against him will be uncollectable and effectively worthless.
If the potential defendant in your case is just a normal individual with no insurance and no personal wealth (like the bike rider in the above example) your case will be a bad investment for an attorney. The lawyer might spend $5,000 bringing the case only to get a worthless judgment that never gets paid. To have a viable injury case the defendant needs to have resources (e.g., a large company) or have insurance coverage.
Another way to look at is that is John Rockafeller (or O.J. Simpson) was the defendant, a murder case would be one of the most valuable personal injury cases out there. But most murderers do not have assets which is why you rarely see a wrongful death claim after an intentional killing.
(5) No One Is Handling That Kind of Case Any Longer
Every lawyer and their mother chases the next great mass tort case. The cases either resolve with a settlement or collapse. The lawyers do not take their pages down. So victims assume the cases are ongoing.
We try to go back and modify the pages to tell people what happened in the cases. Most lawyers do not. They leave up these pages that breathlessly beg for the cases. So it is no wonder why clients are confused.
Victims are so desperate for help they do not even read the page before calling. We have mass tort pages that discuss at length why the cases failed because we want people to understand why they do not have a claim. Yet we still get calls on those cases in spite of the bold print that says we do not handle those cases.
Tell Us about Your Personal Injury Case
Just because we turn prospective clients away doesn’t mean we don’t want to hear from you. If you think you have a personal injury claim against someone, tell us about it. Reference this post and say you are looking for direction.