When you’ve been in a life-altering accident, it is normal to want to seek compensation of some sort. After all, such accidents – like car and boating accidents – often result in astronomical medical bills as well as time needed off of work.
Both of these factors, as well as the potential need for physical therapy or even something as extreme as in-home care, can hugely impact your financial situation. In the aftermath of a significant accident, many people find themselves struggling for money, so far into debt that they aren’t sure how to get back out.
This is typically when people seek out a personal injury lawyer to discuss the matter of compensation from the other party involved in the accident. In some cases, liability is clear cut. For instance, in accidents occurring because of drunk driving or driving while the intoxication of another substance, legal or illegal.
Distracted driving has also often led to serious motor vehicle accidents. The same can be said for operating a boat while intoxicated or otherwise distracted. In these cases, where liability is relatively clear cut, most personal injury lawyers will accept the case.
However, the majority of cases deal with more shades of gray and, in some circumstances, a personal injury lawyer and personal injury law firm will decide that your case is not strong enough to try – and succeed. In such instances, it is likely that a lawyer will decline your case.
Below is a short list of reasons why this may occur, though it is far from exhaustive, as each situation is different and has a unique set of circumstances.
Reason #1. If You Seem Like You Won’t Be Able Or Willing To Pay Legal Fees
To begin, it is important to say that the majority of personal injury attorneys will be very understanding of some of the reasons that lead people to seek out a personal injury settlement, such as financial hardship after an accident due to medical fees and other such costs that have accrued as a result.
In circumstances such as these where a viable case has been determined, a personal injury lawyer is more likely than not to only charge a client once a victory has been obtained. Then, the client can use a portion of the settlement money to pay their personal injury attorney.
Such a lawyer will typically take around thirty-three to forty percent of the settlement money awarded, though this will range from lawyer to lawyer and by part of the country, as different states are likely to have different standards.
Some personal injury lawyers will request to be paid on an hourly basis, but will offer a free or fully refundable consultation. Such a consultation will allow both parties – lawyer and client or clients – to assess both the validity of the personal injury case itself as well as whether or not they will be able to have a healthy working relationship.
However, there are cases that a personal injury attorney will not be willing to accept based on financial grounds. Simply put, if a case doesn’t seem worth it, it is unlikely to be picked up by the lawyer that you propose it to.
This will typically come down to a number of factors.
First: will you be willing to devote time to the case? In a number of circumstances, the answer will, unfortunately, be no. For those who suffered in a severe accident and are still undergoing hospital treatments, it is probably not the right time to take on and present a personal injury case in hopes of settlement money.
If you are able to present the case to a lawyer within two years of the accident, it is likely that you will still be able to receive money for it. If you are able to wait until your treatment or treatments are completed or at least at a manageable level to continue on with day to day life, it is more likely that you will have success with finding a lawyer to take on your personal injury case.
This is because in such cases the victim has no time to devote to the case – in the investigation stage or any following part of it. Without the victim’s perspective, it can be difficult to present for the lawyer.
It may also mean that the treatments the victim is undergoing are so extensive that any settlement money will go directly to the hospital to pay the debt accruing there. This is common in cases where injuries are severe and life-altering, as insurance only covers so much (and many patients are now uninsured).
This means that the lawyer will receive less money from the settlement than they otherwise would. For the lawyer, this may not be a financially responsible venture to take on.
Reason #2. Your Injury Is Not A Particularly Serious One
Conversely, to not taking on a case with an injury that is too serious and intensive to balance out the cost of the lawyer with the settlement money that may potentially be received, some personal injury lawyers will decide that your case is not worth trying if you have not suffered a severe enough injury.
This is because of how settlement money is typically awarded, based on a number of factors that include the amount of the pain and suffering caused to the victim of the accident.
The amount of pain and suffering that has been determined to have been caused by the accident is directly related to the amount of settlement money that is awarded.
A number of factors are taken into account in these cases. For instance, if a victim has had to take a significant amount of time off of work or has even had to leave their job, it factors in.
Extended hospital stays and physical therapy programs will also factor, as does any permanent medical equipment now needed. For those who have become paralyzed or otherwise permanently impacted, the whole structure of their life is likely to change – and this change is not always an easy one.
This, too, will become a factor in determining the level of pain and suffering that has been caused.
It is important to keep in mind that while any trauma or suffering that have affected you in the aftermath of an accident is valid and deserves to be treated with the utmost care and seriousness, it can also give you a skewed perspective on the actual seriousness of the accident.
Any type of mental distress should be treated under the care of a licensed clinical therapist or psychiatrist, who can help you to work through the accident through a combination of medication and behavior therapy, if necessary.
But it is also true that we often perceive dangerous situations at an elevated level when we are physically and emotionally invested in them. A car accident may not have been truly life-threatening, though it may have certainly felt that way at the time.
In such cases, a personal injury lawyer is likely to be hesitant to take them on. This is because even though the accident did cause pain and suffering, it is not to the extent that it is worth the time and the effort to legally pursue.
Again, a lawyer is a business person, and this means that they must often make the choices that will financially benefit them. A small settlement payment is typically not a choice that does, as a very small percentage will end up belonging to the lawyer if the overall settlement itself is lacking.
Reason #3. Liability Cannot Be Determined Or Is A Gray Area
Liability is a tricky issue primarily because it is not always black and white, so clear cut that there is not a question about it at all and fault can clearly be decided.
In fact, this is a pretty rare occurrence. More common is a murky answer the question of liability, in which both parties involved in a serious accident looking to get a settlement from the other. Of course, this is not a viable case, and will typically lead to no settlement money awarded at all.
When a lawyer feels that liability can be concretely determined, they will often stage a reenactment of the accident, as well as an investigation of the site where the accident took place.
Even then, it is not a sure thing that they will be able to determine the liability of the other party, and this will typically result in a loss of money as well as resources for the legal firm that the lawyer works as a part of.
If there is significant doubt regarding liability even before the case is taken on, a personal injury lawyer is more than likely to be hesitant to accept it.
There are also cases where liability is shared, particularly when it comes to motor vehicle accidents. A personal injury lawyer is also not likely to take on such a case, as a settlement fee is often not relevant in such an instance.
In these cases, severe injuries are still likely, but because the blame cannot be pinned on one part or another, a payout is not common.
This just goes to show that simply the presence of a severe and life-altering injury is not enough to ensure a settlement payout. There can be more than one victim – and more than one perpetrator.
And so, in such cases and in all potential personal injury cases, it is suggested to search out free and refundable consultations with lawyers who specialize in personal injury matters. This will help you to figure out if you have a viable case – and the amount of money that you are likely to be awarded if the court settles in your favor.