Why Will No Attorney Take My Case?
Transcript: Suppose you call an attorney thinking that you have a great personal injury case, but the attorney is not thrilled and does not accept your case.
What would explain an attorney’s refusal to take a seemingly good case?
Hi, I’m Indiana personal injury attorney David Holub.
When an attorney receives a call from a potential client, they have to make a number of decisions before deciding to take the claim. Let’s go through some of the major decision points one at a time. One decision point revolves around whether the attorney might have a conflict of interest. Suppose the attorney represents someone else that was in the same car–a passenger perhaps. Or suppose they represent the other driver already or just spoke with the other driver on the phone and refused the other driver’s case.
Those contacts or that other representation may require an attorney to determine that there’s a conflict of interest preventing them from taking a case. Another conflict might be if, in a medical malpractice case, the target defendant that a caller wants to sue is a current treating physician of an existing client. It would do great harm to the current client if that doctor is called to testify if, in fact, you as an attorney are also representing other people against that doctor saying they are a terrible doctor and make medical mistakes.
So that could create a conflict of interest. Another decision point revolves around the extent of the damages allegedly suffered as a result of the alleged negligence. A classic case would be someone calls and says, “I’m walking down the street and a crane lifting a piano up into the building dropped the piano and it just missed me.” Well, the issue is: were you harmed? Technically, you probably suffered an emotional fright, but is that emotional harm sufficient to justify bringing a lawsuit? On the other hand, if when the piano dropped you suffered a heart attack and had to be placed in the hospital for weeks, you might just have sufficient harm.
Another decision point revolves around the issue of fault. Suppose a caller says, “I ran off the road because it was icy.” Well, in general, ice is an act of nature and you can’t really sue nature. Suppose a caller calls and says, “I ran off the road because a truck ran me off and then that truck disappeared and I don’t know what happened to it and have no information to identify it.” This scenario will prompt questions about whether there were witnesses that saw that particular truck or whether the witnesses can identify it. It also will prompt questions about whether you have the type of insurance that’s called uninsured motorist coverage and has a provision that applies to what might be called “hit and run” drivers. So those kind of questions will need to be explored. And if you don’t have that coverage or if there are no witnesses, an attorney might well refuse to take a case that otherwise seems seemingly good. Another decision point revolves around the statute of limitations.
Many times we receive calls from people who have both good liability cases and good damage cases, but for some reason they’ve waited too long to call an attorney and the statute of limitations has already expired. In most injury cases, that statute of limitations is two years, but it could be longer in some situations and we would urge you to call an attorney if you are having any questions about a case so they can analyze it, but an attorney might well decline to take a case if the statute of limitations, in their view, has expired. Another decision point revolves around the provability of the caller’s claim.
If there are no witnesses to the incident or if there are questions about the veracity of witnesses, including the victim of a potential negligence claim, sometimes that will result in an attorney declining to accept a caller as a client.
These are just a few of the reasons why an attorney might decline to accept a case. We invite you to view the many other informational videos on our website.