Injury lawyers take on a lot of cases; a busy lawyer may spend over 2,100 hours per year working. But injury lawyers do not take every case that comes their way.
A lawyer might turn down a client for a variety of reasons. Most of these reasons have nothing to do with the client. Instead, the lawyer may have concerns about their caseload or have doubts about the merits of the client’s case.
Here are a few of the common reasons why a personal injury lawyer will turn down a case.
The Lawyer May See Problems with the Case
Sometimes, an injury lawyer will see problems with your case. Bear in mind that reasonable minds can differ in their legal analysis. If a lawyer turns down your case, you may need to find another lawyer that’s willing to take your case.
Here are some of the most common case issues that you may face:
An Expired Statute of Limitations
Florida law gives claimants four years to pursue most personal injury claims and only two years for medical malpractice claims. These timelimits are known as statutes of limitation. A court will dismiss a case filed after the statute of limitations has expired.
Florida law excuses some delays in filing. Unless these exceptions apply, a lawyer will decline to take your case if it is barred by the statute of limitations.
The damages in an injury case often include medical expenses, lost income, and non-economic damages, like pain and suffering. If you required minimal medical treatment and recovered quickly, your damages might not justify the time and expense of a lawsuit.
The minimum policy limit allowed under Florida law is $10,000. This means that insurance will almost always resolve claims under $10,000. Florida will not even allow you to file a lawsuit for claims this low.
The only exceptions occur when you suffer a permanent injury or have more than $10,000 in economic damages. In these situations, Florida excuses you from the no-fault system and an injury lawyer will likely accept your case.
Doubts About Liability
Not every accident justifies compensation.
The following causes of action may provide compensation for injury victims:
- Intentional acts, like assault
- Defective products
- Dogs and dangerous animals
If the cause of your injury does not provide a right to compensation, a lawyer might decline to take your case. For example, if you were injured in a single-car accident caused by a hurricane, you might have no one to sue for your injuries.
Alternatively, you may bear some responsibility for your injuries. Under Florida law, a judge can reduce your damage award if you share fault for your accident. In some cases, your share of the blame for injuries might reduce the damages to the point that a lawyer will decline your case.
Problems with the At-Fault Party
Sometimes, a lawyer can foresee a problem with the at-fault party. The most common problem is an at-fault party that lacks insurance. When the at-fault party is uninsured, you will need to pursue their personal assets to recover compensation for your injuries. This process can take a lot of effort and does not always produce results.
Another problem can arise if the at-fault party has no assets. For example, if you slip and fall in a business that has a lot of debt, you might never collect your judgment. Even if the business declares bankruptcy, you may stand at the end of a long line of creditors.
Problems with the Lawyer
Lawyers do not take every case. And in fact, lawyers must not take some cases. The Florida’s Rules of Professional Conduct impose a duty of competence on attorneys. A lawyer must decline your case when it involves an area in which the lawyer lacks skills or knowledge.
The lawyer must also decline representation if their firm lacks the resources to handle your case. For example, a complex product liability case against a multi-national manufacturer might tax a firm’s resources. The firm might need to decline representation and refer you to a larger firm.
Resources also include time. A lawyer that has a full caseload might not have the time to work diligently on your case. Similarly, a lawyer who is about to take a case to trial might not be able to focus on your case and give it the attention it deserves.
A lawyer that is facing these situations might choose to turn down your case. They might prefer to let you know up front that they can’t serve your needs.
Another potential problem could arise from a conflict of interest. Lawyers owe you a duty of loyalty. A lawyer must decline representation if they have a conflict of interest.
Thus, if you get into a car accident with one of the lawyer’s existin clients, that lawyer might decline representation. Accepting your case could present a genuine conflict of interest or merely create the appearance of a conflict. Turning down your case will avoid any problems, including the court questioning the lawyer’s motives in handling the case.
Talk to Multiple Lawyers
You can resolve many of these situations by speaking to a different lawyer. If a lawyer declines your case, they will usually explain the reasons. If the problem with your representation arises from the lawyer themselves, another lawyer may be able to take your case.
If the problem arises from the case or the at-fault party, shop around and talk to other firms. You might find a lawyer with a creative legal strategy that will enable you to pursue compensation for your injuries.