People who have been injured in a car crash are bombarded with television, radio and Yellow Pages ads from attorneys eagerly seeking clients who have been injured in car accidents. Yet these same injured persons are often shocked when they seem unable to find an attorney to take their case. The question is ‘why’? Why can’t these injured persons find an attorney to take their case?
At the outset, it should be noted that many attorneys are their own worst enemy in terms of client relations. Many attorneys who are willing to devote hundreds of hours to cases they do take, are only willing to spend one or two minutes to explain why they reject cases they do not take. It is for these clients that this blog post is written.
Before listing the reasons attorneys might not take a case, it is important to understand the economics of how a trial lawyer earns a living handling personal injury cases. Most attorneys handle accident cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that the attorney takes a percentage (usually between 30% to 40%) of the eventual settlement or jury verdict in a case. Keeping this in mind, here are the typical reasons why an attorney will decline a person’s injury case:
1. The damages are too small.
An attorney, like a skilled lawyer will typically spend between 100 to 200 hours working on a case from beginning through trial. Assume that an injured client has a soft tissue injury that would likely generate a settlement or jury verdict of $7500. If the attorney’s contingent fee is one third, this means he will earn $2500 for doing up to 200 hours of work. This works out to a little over $12 per hour. There is no way an attorney can maintain his overhead, including office space and staff, at this rate of compensation.
2. Liability is not clear.
Even before an attorney estimates the potential dollar amount of a jury award, she first must evaluate the likelihood that a jury will find the defendant at fault for the injury. For example, assume that a car crash occurs at an intersection with a four way stop. Such an intersection places an obligation upon all drivers to stop their vehicle before proceeding into the intersection. Unlike an intersection with a red light/green light, demonstrating which driver is at fault for the crash may be difficult or even impossible to prove, especially if there are no independent witnesses.
3. The attorney thinks that the injured person will not be liked by a jury.
For obvious reasons, most attorneys do not like to bring up this subject, but it can be very decisive in determining whether to take on a new case. For example, in a car accident case where the injured person claims lost income for being out of work for a year, proving lost income involves the client’s past earnings history. If the potential client has not filed tax returns for the past five years, most attorneys will reject even a disabling injury case because jurors tend to be angry with litigants who have not paid their income taxes.
If your injury case is rejected by more than two attorneys it is likely that this because of one of the above reasons, even if the attorneys are not willing to be blunt about their reasons for rejection.