When you first contact an attorney about your case, you do so to make sure he or she is good and determine whether you can trust them to handle your case competently. The initial case evaluation also gives you a chance to make sure you like the attorney and can get along with them in a process that can often take time to resolve. While the initial case evaluation helps you choose an attorney that you feel will do his or her best to win your case, the lawyer will also evaluate whether your case is strong enough to pursue.
Of course, if you don’t have a chance of succeeding in your case, for whatever reason, you would like an attorney to be candid with you about that and explain why. A lawyer who takes a case they don’t reasonably believe is winnable is wasting your time and practicing law unethically.
Finding a Good Personal Injury Attorney
Most people search for personal injury attorneys online or get referrals from friends and relatives. It’s a good idea to give yourself options by setting up initial case evaluations with three or four attorneys who look good on paper, based on good ratings and excellent feedback from prior clients.
Scheduling an initial case evaluation gives you time to evaluate the attorney, and for the attorney to evaluate your case. While one attorney might not take your case, while another attorney might. One attorney might feel they have the experience and knowledge to zealously advocate for you, while another might not. On the other hand, if none of the attorneys you visit agree to take your case, it is often because the case is simply non-winnable.
What Is a Non-Winnable Case?
While many personal injury cases are winnable, in some cases, no attorney will take a case because it is simply not.
The reason why a case is non-winnable may be clear-cut—for example, if you have waited too long since the time of your injury, the statute of limitations might have run, and thus you no longer have the right to file a lawsuit. If you were to file a case, you would waste your money on the filing fee because the court will throw it out.
Every state specifies how much time victims have to file lawsuits—this is the statute of limitations. If you try even one day after that time limit expires, the court generally lacks jurisdiction and will dismiss the case. If the court accepts your case, the defendant’s attorney will calculate the statute of limitations and file a motion to dismiss your case. If you file after the deadline, the court will agree with the defendant’s motion and will throw your case out.
The attorney may also determine that the facts of the case are clearly not in your favor. If it looks as though you are fully at fault—or nearly fully at fault—for an accident, a lawyer might not take your case. However, if you believe that the preliminary evidence is incorrect—for example, a police report is wrong or a defendant filed against you—some attorneys might take the case and conduct further investigation to determine if the preliminary evidence can be proven faulty.
Why a Lawyers Refuse Non-Winnable Cases
If your case isn’t winnable, no lawyer will want to waste your time, or the court’s time, pursuing legal action. However, if you have a case where the facts and evidence are in question, but the damages you could recover are high, an attorney with extensive experience in cases like yours might take the case.
When a Lawyer Might Take Your Case
For example, in a car accident where the police report states that you were speeding and caused the accident instead of the defendant who didn’t stop at a traffic control signal, the officer’s opinion could be incorrect. You might share some of the liability for the wreck, since you were speeding. But if an investigation shows that the defendant ran a red light or a stop sign, they could also share in a good portion of the responsibility for an accident. In some cases, the defendant could be deemed more in the wrong than you, and therefore owe you at least partial compensation.
Whether a lawyer will take your case also may depend on its potential value. If that accident caused you to suffer catastrophic injuries, or you lost a loved one because of that, the damages are much higher than if you were to suffer injuries with a relatively short recovery time. It might be worth the attorney’s time, your time, and the court’s time to do a more in-depth investigation into an accident where your injuries are more serious.
Winning a Case
If one attorney tells you that your case is not winnable, it is worth it to check with at least two or three other attorneys. It might just be that your first attorney doesn’t have the experience to bring a successful case, and not that your case is non-winnable.
Not all law firms handle every type of personal injury case. For example, a car accident lawyer might not handle dog bite or slip and fall cases. To increase your chances of an attorney taking your case, be sure to research the attorney before you schedule a free case evaluation, so that you know whether they have experience in your kind of case.
When you choose an attorney with extensive experience in cases like yours, even if you are early in collecting the evidence you need to prove that the defendant is at fault, you have a much better chance of getting the compensation you deserve.