Getting injured as a result of someone else’s negligence can be more than a little frustrating. You may have medical bills to pay, damage to your property, and be unable to work for a period. With all of these stressors in your life, it is only natural that you will want to hold someone accountable.
If you decide you want to sue, you will want to talk to a qualified personal injury attorney. After reviewing the facts, the lawyer will offer his or her professional opinion regarding the merits of your case. Sometimes, the attorney will determine that the law is not on your side or that your lawsuit is not viable for other reasons. If that happens, they might decline to take your case.
Statute of Limitations Expired
One of the reasons an attorney may not take your case is that the statute of limitations has run out. Personal injury lawsuits must be filed within a certain time frame after the incident occurs. In Florida, this period is four years. After this time period has elapsed you are barred from bringing your case. This is true even if you have a very strong lawsuit.
Now, there are a few narrow exceptions to the statute of limitations rule. If an exception applies, you may be able to file after the deadline. One exception is if you were incapacitated during the statute of limitations period, such as in a coma.
Another exception is if the person that caused your injury took steps to conceal their identity to avoid being sued. An example would be if the person changed his or her name and moved. However, there must be evidence of significant efforts to evade a lawsuit, not merely a person being unresponsive or denying responsibility.
Not Enough Evidence to Support the Case
Another reason an attorney may turn down your case is if the evidence is weak. As a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, you have the responsibility of proving that the defendant caused your injuries. This requires enough evidence to convince a judge or jury that you should win.
An experienced attorney can look at all of the documents and the story that you provided and give you a good idea of the strength of your case. Much of this determination comes down to the type of evidence you have available.
For example, if the evidence in your case is primarily your own testimony, this would likely not be as strong as having other witnesses corroborate your story or other evidence, such as videos or photos of the accident.
In some instances, an attorney may turn down your case even if you still have time to file your lawsuit and your evidence is strong. If this happens, the reason may be that the potential damage award is too low.
Personal injury attorneys are typically paid on what is called a “contingency basis.” This means that you don’t pay anything when you hire a lawyer. They only get paid if you when. If you win, they collect a percentage of the settlement or court award. These arrangements are often beneficial to the client because they do not need to pay the attorney an hourly fee.
At the same time, the attorney needs to be fairly certain that there will be payment for all the time and money he or she put into the case. The lawyer must make a tactical decision considering the work and expenses that will likely be incurred as well as the potential for any settlement or damages award.
Lawsuits can be expensive and may involve the payment of filing fees, costly depositions, the preparation of exhibits, and many more expected and unexpected fees. Awards and settlements are also highly unpredictable and require the attorney to take some risk even in cases where the evidence appears strong.
Concerns About the Defendant’s Resources
Getting a court award or settlement in a lawsuit is not always a reason to celebrate. In some cases, due to the defendant’s financial situation, a plaintiff cannot collect on the money that is owed. In this situation, the defendant is referred to as “judgment proof.”
Attorneys are wary of this reality and will research before taking your case. If the defendant has insurance, such as automobile coverage or a general liability policy for a business, the insurance company will step in and pay up to coverage limits if you win.
However, if the defendant does not have insurance, the most you can collect on a judgment is what the person owns in money and property. Further, the law provides that certain income and assets are considered “exempt”, meaning that they cannot be taken to satisfy a lawsuit judgment. A person’s home and a portion of their income fall under this category.