What Do Personal Injury Lawyers Look for in a Client?

What Do Personal Injury Lawyers Look for in a Client?

Many people think that a personal injury attorney will take any case. The truth is actually far more complex when they're considering working with a prospective client. Personal injury is a common claim inside and outside of courtrooms all across the United States. Every year, there are six million car crashes, or one every 10 seconds, along with five million dog bites, 17,000 slip and fall incidents and more than 231,000 deaths for injury-related cases. The compensation that personal injury clients usually receive is in the form of medical treatment, property loss or damage, emotional distress, loss of income, punitive damages and loss of consortium.

While personal injury clients often scour the internet or look to family and friends to help them find a lawyer following their incident, personal injury lawyers also have their own vetting process. Good lawyers won’t take on any client just because there is a possibility of a monetary reward. Instead, they look into the case, make sure it is legitimate and see how they can offer value to a client prior to signing any sort of contract to provide services.

Factors in Taking on a Personal Injury Case

When personal injury lawyers are deciding whether or not they'll work with a client on a case, they take the following important factors into consideration.

The Quality of the Case

This might sound crass, but if a client hasn’t had serious injuries it may not be worth it for them to pursue the claim. If a client has been involved in a personal injury incident, the lawyer has to assess whether or not it’s going to be a quality case. For example, if a client slipped and fell but didn’t experience any sort of pain afterwards, it’s going to be hard to fight for that client and win any meaningful compensation for the case. However, if a client got bitten by a dog that drew blood and then went to the hospital for an infection from the bite, that could be a quality case.

Injury lawyers look to see that a client has an actual case and a valid personal injury claim that is serious. They also try to verify that a potential client went to a hospital no more than 72 hours following the incident and received medical care for the injury. Before retaining a client, an injury lawyer will want to know if they spoke with an insurance adjustor and whether or not they signed or agreed to anything. A case could be dead in the water if a client never went to the hospital or if they told the insurance company anything that could be used against them in the case.

Ideally, in an actionable case, a client (or their family member) will experience a verifiable injury, immediately go to the doctor to get treatment and refuse to speak to an insurance adjuster until they find a personal injury lawyer to help them navigate all available options.

Client Credibility

Fraud is no joke. Sometimes, potential clients will have a history of bogus lawsuits under their belt because they’ve made a habit of suing for personal injury claims in the past.

According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, in one year in the U.S., 21% of bodily injury claims and 18% of personal injury protection claims that closed with payment were potentially fraudulent or were comprised of “buildup”, which means legitimate claims were inflated. Common fraudulent or buildup claims include a client saying they got whiplash or that they have a sore back from an automobile accident. These claims are hard to prove, and there are people out there who will take advantage of certain situations or even stage personal injury incidents in order to receive a payout.

Prior to taking on a client, personal injury lawyers often look at any past lawsuits prospective client’s had and ask them questions about it. If they went through multiple lawsuits and had what appear to be fishy claims, a law firm may avoid taking on the client’s case.

Potential Damages

In personal injury cases, the compensation is a huge range. Clients often receive between $3,000 and $75,000 for their claims, with the majority receiving the lower end of $3,000 to $10,000. Only 10% get payouts of $25,001 to $75,000.

When a personal injury lawyer looks at a potential case, they will assess whether or not a client can actually receive compensation in the form of damages. Otherwise, a lawyer can’t really help a client. For example, if a client only experienced a tingling hand sensation and slight dizziness from a car accident, they may not get anything in damages.

Since injury lawyers work on contingency, it might not be worth a lawyer’s time and energy if there is no significnt payout for the client or the lawyer. These cases can take months of hard work, hiring of expert witnesses, administrative costs and years waiting to go to trial, so lawyers need to assess whether or not it’s worth it to devote themselves to a particular case.

Clear Liability

A personal injury lawyer needs to know that the client was not liable (or at least mostly responsible) for their own injury. For example, if a client was following the rules while driving and a red light camera caught another driver smashing into the client’s car, then that the clear liability is on the other driver. However, if there is no video evidence, no witnesses and the client has a past record of DUIs, then the liability may not be so certain. Taking on a client who is in this second situation could be risky for a lawyer, because it’s going to be hard to prove liability.

Personal injury lawyers look for cases where liability can be backed up with evidence and testimonies from witnesses, along with police and hospital records. If a client has these things to prove their claim, then the chance of winning the case is higher. If it’s not clear who was at fault, personal injury lawyers are going to be much more hesitant to work with a client. *Note: In some circumstances a percentage of the total claim can still be recovered but may be reduced by the degree to which the plaintiff's own negligence contributed to cause the injury - this is called comparative negligence.

With clear liability in place, potential damages on the horizon, a credible client and a quality case, a personal injury lawyer will be in a better position to take on a client’s case and ensure their client gets the treatment and compensation they deserve after an incident. It's important to know that this is not comprehensive of what an injury lawyer factors into a decision to take or refuse a case. However, it's important to realize that for a lawyer some of the best cases are the ones they don't take. 

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