Without a doubt, case rejections are one of the most frustrating challenges of starting a case. It’s not uncommon for clients to consult with several lawyers before finding one who will take their case. Some attorneys openly discuss their reason for rejecting a case, while others offer more vague explanations to avoid discouraging potential litigants.
If you have experienced a case rejection–or maybe several–you may want more information about why an attorney won’t take your case. Read below for 6 Reasons for a Case Rejection, including ways to maximize the chances of getting your case accepted.
The lawyer doesn’t specialize in the right area
“The attorney’s website says he does personal injury. Why did he reject my injury case?”
Within every broad area of law, there are many specializations and sub-areas. For example, an attorney listed as a “personal injury lawyer” might focus mainly on slip-and-fall accidents or medical malpractice. Ensure that the attorneys you contact have experience with your specific type of case. If you’re not sure how to classify or describe your case, ask for a free consultation to find out.
Also remember that some types of cases–such as legal malpractice or civil rights–involve multiple areas of law. For example, if you want to sue an attorney for mishandling a divorce, you may need to retain a lawyer with experience in both malpractice and divorce law. In order to prove to a judge that the case was mishandled, your lawyer must understand how it should have been handled.
When an attorney says that he or she doesn’t have the expertise your case needs, take them at their word. While they may practice the broader area of law, they may not specialize in the niche that you need. Rather than arguing or demanding that they accept your case, ask for a referral to someone with the correct speciality.
You’ve missed the statute of limitations
“I want to sue my doctor for doing a bad job on my surgery five years ago.”
This is a very common reason for a case rejection, particularly in personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death cases. Each of these cases has a strict time limit, or “statute of limitation” (SOL) on when a claim must be filed. If too much time has passed since the infliction or discovery of the injury, your claim is automatically invalid.
For ongoing injuries, such as constant pain or deteriorating conditions, the SOL begins to run when the patient knew or had reason to know of the cause of harm. If a patient experiences pain after a car accident, but does not seek medical treatment for several months, the SOL will likely begin at the date of the accident rather than the date of the patient’s diagnosis.
It is vital to consult with an attorney as soon as you become aware of your injury. Calculating your SOL can be confusing, but a good attorney will take the time to walk you through the process.
You’re too close to the statute of limitations
“I need an attorney now! My statute of limitations is up in three weeks.”
It never pays to wait till the last minute to start searching for attorneys. If you have a month or less before your SOL deadline, you may find it difficult to secure an attorney. Most attorneys are unable to drop their current case work to prioritize your last-minute claim.
Before drafting a complaint, your attorney must verify and familiarize himself with the facts of your case, collect your medical records, determine the best legal theory to argue, and research relevant case law. These steps often take longer than clients expect, but they are necessary to avoid sloppy pleadings. To maximize your case’s potential, you want your attorney to prepare as much as possible.
Your case requires a significant investment
“With some expert witnesses and pathology testing, my case will be a winner.”
Most lawyers who specialize in auto accidents, personal injury, or medical malpractice work on a contingency basis. This means that their clients risk nothing on the case. All expenses are paid by the attorneys, and the attorneys themselves are paid only if the case recovers.
While this situation is beneficial to clients, it means that these attorneys take a risk with every case they accept. They must cover the filing fees, court costs, record retrieval costs, and expert witness fees themselves. Some cases may require additional expenses, such as accident reconstruction, pathology testing, and scientific research. These expenses often must be paid before there’s any chance of a settlement or verdict.
The ability to handle expensive cases will vary between firms. Some small firms and solo practices are unable to afford any significantly expensive cases. Others can only handle a few at a time. Larger firms may accept more expensive cases, but even they will reject a case that seems too risky. If your case is repeatedly rejected by firms of all sizes, it may be that the necessary investment outweighs the potential gains.
The facts of your case are uncertain
“I’m not sure what the doctor did wrong, but I’ve been in pain ever since my surgery. I’m sure he messed up somehow.”
Attorneys may be reluctant to accept cases relying on excessive speculation or “he said, she said” accounts. These cases require a high burden of investigation just to determine whether a claim can be filed. A case that seems too speculative will likely be rejected. While it’s true that most evidence will be discovered during the litigation process, you should establish a reasonable basis for your case before calling an attorney.
Try to obtain police reports, accident reports, or medical records as soon as possible before calling an attorney. These documents provide your attorney with impartial proof of your claim, and will also help them inform you whether your case is viable.
There’s nobody to recover from
“I’ve been badly injured by an uninsured driver, and they’re clearly at fault. Why won’t someone take my case?”
One of the most difficult rejections to hear is that your case has no viable means of recovery. It’s a tough fact to face, particularly if you or a loved one have been grievously injured. Most attorneys, however, simply can’t afford to bring a lawsuit unless there is the potential to recover their expenses and fees.
For injury, malpractice, and accident litigation, an attorney will want to know whether an insurance company, corporate employer, or government entity is involved. Otherwise, there may be nobody with sufficient assets to cover the costs of a lawsuit. Suing private individuals alone is rarely profitable, unless the individual owns a house or other significant asset.
It never hurts to schedule a free consultation to discuss the recovery potential for your lawsuit. Don’t dismiss the idea of bringing litigation until you’ve explored all your options. An experienced attorney may be able to identify means of recovery that aren’t immediately obvious.