How do personal injury attorneys decide to take or drop a case?
Will an attorney accept my personal injury claim?
These are questions that many potential clients ask at the earliest stages of their dispute, and a valid question at that. Few people, especially those who are facing a mountain of medical bills after being injured, can afford to prepay for legal representation. Thus, the decision to pursue a personal injury claim often hinges on whether a party can retain an attorney with something known as a “contingency fee” agreement.
Cambridge Dictionary defines “contingency fee” as; “A method of payment someone such as a lawyer in which no money is paid until a particular aim is achieved, for example getting a sale or contract or a successful result in a court of law.”
Contingency fee payment arrangements are accepted by almost all personal injury lawyers, who tackle your case with no upfront cost, instead of collecting payment in the form a percentage of any settlement or judgment awarded in your favor.
Why are personal injury lawyers selective about what cases they take on?
What is often lost on most prospective clients is that this involves a substantial risk to the attorney offering their services on a contingency basis. You wouldn’t like the idea of going to work without getting paid and neither does your attorney. To manage this risk appropriately, personal injury lawyers must be selective with the cases they take on.
There are several factors which affect the decision to take your case and the relative importance of each of these considerations is likely unique to each attorney. There is simply no magic formula.
If you have been injured and believe you are owed compensation, here are a few tips to use to increase your likelihood of finding an experienced personal injury lawyer willing to take your case.
Assess Your Claim Before Contacting A Personal Injury Lawyer
Be honest in your assessment of your personal injury claim. There are three questions which will dominate your claim.
1. Have you suffered an injury to your person, lost wages, pain and suffering, or some other form of injury?
No injury, no personal injury claim.
A party must have suffered some form of legal injury for a court to award damages. Thus, in the context of personal injury claims, the existence of an injury is factual requirement number one.
Moreover, bonus claims unfairly waste court resources, cause delays for those with legitimate claims, and can end up costing you a substantial sum of money. It is not uncommon in California courts for a party responsible for filing a frivolous action to be ordered to pay the opposing party’s attorney’s fees and court costs.
2. Why is the defendant liable for your injuries?
Liability is factual requirement number two. Legal determinations of liability can be extremely complicated, but someone else’s actions or negligence should be the primary factor that caused your injury.
3. How much compensation are you owed?
Seeking an appropriate claim amount.
If both of these primary facts are present, then you have the basic elements of a valid personal injury claim. Your next step would be to try to estimate how much compensation is owed to you.
Be realistic and use conservative estimates. It may seem insensitive, but for an attorney who will be paid a percentage of the damages paid for your claim, and nothing if you lose your case, there has to be a significant amount of damages to recover for your case to be worth the risk.
In case of: Medium and Small Injury Claims.
There is nothing wrong with choosing to consult with a personal injury lawyer for smaller claims, but they may require you to pay some of your legal fees in advance to secure their services
Preparing For Your Initial Consultation.
Gather all information about your claim including names and telephone numbers of witnesses, copies of any documentation, photographs, video recordings, and anything relevant before scheduling an initial consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
It’s important to remember that your consultation(s) is/are more than just an opportunity for you to meet and interview an attorney before hiring them. It is also an opportunity for the attorney to interview you and learn about your case.
Arrive ten to fifteen minutes before your scheduled consultation. Be prepared to provide a simple factual account of how you were injured. List the evidence you have, how many witnesses saw or heard what happened, and remember not to overstate anything. An experienced personal injury lawyer will take over from there, asking questions about specific details and perhaps asking to see evidence which you would be smart to have with you.
They may be able to tell you whether or not they are willing to take the case right then and there. If not, expect to get an answer within a day or two. Either way, if they do indicate that they are interested in taking your case, that would be the appropriate time to discuss the payment terms.
What If My Personal Injury Lawyer Doesn’t Take My Case?
Don’t take it personally.
Be polite and thank them for their time. If you want to continue your search for a personal injury lawyer, consider asking if they could refer you to another attorney who may be interested in taking the case.
If you continue to have difficulty finding a personal injury lawyer to take your case, then you may have to rethink your approach. You may have a valid claim that just isn’t large enough to warrant taking the case on a contingency basis.
It may be time to decide whether or not you have the resources to hire an attorney on retainer (i.e. paying your attorney a sum in advance to secure their services.)
Another option would be to pitch a modified contingency agreement where you pay court costs and your lawyer’s out of pocket expenses up front, with the remainder being contingent upon a successful outcome and paid as a percentage of the damages awarded.
Save yourself the headache and start your search by contacting an experienced Los Angeles personal injury law firm JT Legal Group has a proven track record, helping clients like you get compensated for their injuries.
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