It is a constant refrain from people who call me, “Why won’t anyone take my case?” Sometimes the answer is something obvious – the statute of limitation (legal time to file a suit) has passed or they have no legal right to make a claim. Frequently, though, the answer is more complicated. For some callers, I am the right lawyer to take their case. I’ve successfully handled many cases that other lawyers passed on. For others, I will have the same disappointing answer. So why do lawyers turn down cases? Here are a few reasons – they are not exhaustive but are common reasons for lawyers to say no.
There just aren’t that many lawyers to choose from. People who lament that 5-6-7 lawyers have already turned them down are usually calling about complicated cases. Rather than a rear-end car crash or collapsing staircase, they are calling about medical malpractice or product liability cases. In the first instance, there are a limited number of lawyers who will even consider such cases. They require specific skills and knowledge that not every lawyer has. Thus, you are looking at a smaller pool of lawyers.
The lawyer just doesn’t have time right now. You want a lawyer who has the time and energy needed to devote to your case. Sometimes lawyers are just “full up.” They don’t have enough time or resources to give your case. Believe them when they tell you this – you don’t want to convince someone to take your case only to have them discover halfway through that they just can’t do a good job.
Conflict of Interest. This frequently happens in smaller communities. The person you want to sue is an active (member – physician – healthcare provider) in the community and is someone the lawyer must interact with daily with regard to his/her other clients. A lawyer cannot sacrifice the needs of their other clients on your behalf.
Complicated Liability. The classic example is “I went to 8 hospitals and nobody got it right until #9.” Proving 1-8 were negligent is tough – perhaps they’re not as smart as #9, or perhaps by the time you saw #9, it had additional information the earlier facilities didn’t. Anytime there are 8 other witnesses as to how complicated your diagnosis was, it’s an uphill battle. Or maybe the person had multiple different conditions contributing to their demise, plus a negligent physician in the mix. Sometimes the risk of losing is simply too great for the lawyer to take the risk of taking on your case.
Limited Damages. Unfortunately, Wisconsin and many other states have limits (under various circumstances) as to how much money can be recovered. As unfair and tragic as they are, they are currently the law. This means any attorney will look at those caps (limits) in determining if they can afford to take your case. Medical malpractice cases take years to resolve and frequently cost six figures in costs – at the end of the case, if the only person potentially getting paid is the lawyer, it’s a bad situation.
I was recently quoted in the Milwaukee Journal about a truly tragic case that I turned down. It was beyond heartbreaking. But I couldn’t accept the case. Neither did any of the other lawyers they consulted. This will happen sometimes; a sad result of many factors – legislative, business, even political.
On the other hand, I recently settled a case where my client said to me (as I handed him his settlement check), “you were the only one who believed in me.” I did believe in him – and his case – and I knew I could do a good job for him.
So even if another lawyer has turned you down – give us a call. We want to hear from you – maybe we will be the right lawyer at the right time for you.