Most personal injury attorneys have to turn down many cases that would-be clients are sure deserve a shot. The fact is, there are legal and economic elements that must be present for an attorney to take the case, especially since most personal injury lawyers take cases on a contingency basis.
When a lawyer takes a case, with no guaranteed payment, they are taking a risk that the case will have an unsuccessful outcome, and they will not be paid. Consider your own job. Imagine if, any given month, you may not be paid because the company you work for felt their performance (not yours) that month didn't meet expectations. For this reason, attorneys have to be somewhat picky with regards to the cases they choose to represent.
What Makes a Good Case?
There are legal issues that need to be considered before an attorney will take a case. Equally important, there must be significant damages present to justify the cost of bringing a personal injury claim.
Damages: Monetary Injury Compensation
Often times, personal injury lawyers will look for significant, permanent injury to ensure the damages will be large enough to cover the costs of prosecuting the claim. Many people are surprised to learn that prosecuting a personal injury case can cost tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Obviously, if the injuries are minor, it is simply not economic to pursue a personal injury claim, and your attorney should advise you of that.
Legal Elements of a Claim
Additionally, the legal elements of a negligence claim must be shown so that damages can be awarded through a trial, or more likely, settlement.
These elements include:
- Duty - An attorney must prove that the liable party had a duty, or responsibility to not injure the plaintiff
- Negligence - Negligence is a breach of the above mentioned duty. Negligence can be as simple as running a stop sign to a very complex case of medical negligence
- Cause - It must be proven that the negligence directly caused the injury
- Injury - Obviously, someone must have been injured, or "wronged" in order to demand compensation
Essentially, it must be possible to prove through the evidence that the liable party, through it’s negligence, caused an undue injury to the victim. This is not always easy to do, and in many cases, requires expert witnesses who can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
When to Consult an Attorney
There are numerous subtleties involved in a personal injury case that are far beyond the scope of this introductory article. Ultimately, it’s up to the judgement and experience of a qualified personal injury attorney to determine the validity and value of a given personal injury case.
Fortunately for those injured, most attorneys will offer a free consultation where they can listen to the details of a case, and offer people legal advice and guidance with regard to the possibility of recovering damages. Always consult an experienced injury attorney if you believe you or a loved one was harmed through the negligence of another.