Personal Injury

What if a personal injury lawyer won't take my case?

By Prathyusha Chowdri, J.D., University of Maryland School of Law

Find Out the Reason

Before you can evaluate all your options and decide on your best next step, you need to find out why the attorney turned down your personal injury claim. So, if you don’t know the reason, you need to ask.

It could be simple. Perhaps the lawyer simply does not have the time right now to take on your case. Or, maybe there is a conflict of interest involving someone on the other side of the case, such as the opposing attorney or one of the parties. In that situation, the attorney is under an ethical obligation to decline your case.

If the reason has to do with the lawyer (and not you or your case), then you simply need to reach out to another personal injury attorney.

But what if the reason is more complicated? Let's look at some different scenarios.

"It’s Not 'Winnable'."

Lawyers will turn down cases where there is very little (or no) chance of winning. If a lawyer files a claim that he or she knows (or should know) has no merit, then the lawyer could be sanctioned by the court, or could face a lawsuit for the costs and fees the opposing side had to pay to defend the frivolous suit.

For example, a lawyer will reject a case where you missed the statute of limitations (the deadline by which you must file the lawsuit) or a case where there is clearly no viable legal basis for holding the other person liable.

If a lawyer rejects your case because it’s not “winnable,” but you believe strongly in the merits of your claim, then it may be worth it to reach out to a few more lawyers to hear what they say. If they all reject your case for the same reason, then it's safe to assume that you should not bring your lawsuit.

"It’s Not Worth It."

Lawyers have to invest a significant amount of time and money in a personal injury case, and they usually won’t be paid unless you win. Sometimes, even if a case has merit, the value of the case is so low that it isn’t worth it -- meaning, the amount of damages you could win would not be worth the cost of litigation.

For example, most personal injury cases rely heavily on medical records to prove your claim. Your case may not be worth pursing if you never saw a doctor or your injury is minor. A different scenario would be if the person who injured you does not have insurance coverage.

If multiple lawyers tell you that your case isn’t worth it, then you can consider filing the claim in small claims court. Learn more about How and Where to File a Personal Injury Claim.

On the other hand, sometimes a lawyer believes your case has merit, but he or she cannot afford to take it based on their current caseload and resources. In this situation, you might try reaching out to a larger firm with the resources to handle your case.

"It’s Not a Personal Injury Case."

Perhaps your case is not a personal injury case after all, or it requires representation by an attorney who specializes. If your case involves medical malpractice, products liability, or workman’s compensation, then you may need to consult with a lawyer who has expertise in that area.

"It’s Not Me, It’s You."

Finally, sometimes a lawyer will reject your case because of something you said or did. For example, the lawyer believes you caused the accident or at least share some significant amount of fault. Or, you do not seem credible (e.g., you have a bad driving history and this is a car accident case, or you give multiple, inconsistent versions of the incident).

Some people just appear to be potentially “difficult” clients. For example, persistently asking a lawyer “what’s the highest amount you can get me?” may be a sign that you have unrealistic expectations. A lawyer may reject your case because you seem like a person who will be difficult to work with.

Bottom line: If one personal injury lawyer won't take your case, that doesn't mean it's over. Ask questions, and carefully consider what the lawyer tells you. If you still think it will be worth it, try to find another lawyer with the skills, resources, and time to commit to you.

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