A civil lawsuit takes place when one person wants to hold another party liable for physical or emotional damages. Personal injury lawsuits are a type of civil case. They occur after car crashes, defective products, slip and falls, etc. You might file a personal injury complaint against a reckless driver who ran a red light and crashed into your car. You might file a lawsuit against a doctor who incorrectly reads an x-ray and mistakes a broken bone for a simple sprain. If another person caused harm in some way, they can be held responsible in a civil court.
In California, there are three main civil court cases. Limited civil cases involve sums of money totaling $25,000 or more. Unlimited civil cases are for amounts of $25,001 or higher. If the amount is less than $10,000, the matter could be handled in small claims court. While many people are capable of representing themselves in small claims court, the other two types of civil court cases are best handled with an experienced personal injury attorney. As personal injury attorneys often collect payment only if they win your case, you may find that attorneys are selective and don’t always agree to represent you. How many cases do California personal injury lawyers take on?
What the Statistics Show
Think about some of the most common reasons people file a personal injury lawsuit. They range from car and truck crashes to dog bites. In 2017, the NHTSA reports there were 3,602 fatal crashes in California and 273,069 injuries. According to State Farm, California accounted for 14% of the claims the company received for dog bites. Workplace injuries accounted for close to 467,000 non-fatal injuries in 2017. All of these complaints and injuries are reasons people would file a personal injury complaint.
If you look at the numbers shared by the Judicial Council of California, there were 712,299 civil cases filed in 2017. Just over 201,000 were civil unlimited and more than 350,000 were civil limited. The remainder were small claims filings. Looking at just motor vehicle personal injury cases, there were 35,100 cases filed in California between 2015 and 2016. Of those, 818 were dismissed and 31,145 were settled before trial.
The other types of personal injury cases were not broken down, but there were 21,515 personal injury cases filed. Of those, 624 were dismissed and 18,620 were settled before the scheduled trial. It’s not a lot of cases given the number of injuries that occur every year.
Here’s Why Attorneys Often Pass on Taking Your Case
If a personal injury lawyer does refuse to represent you, don’t take it personally. There are several reasons why an attorney will pass on a case.
#1 – A Lack of Time or Money
If an attorney lacks the necessary time to talk to witnesses, gather evidence, negotiate with the other party, and file with the court, the answer will be no. If the attorney doesn’t have the funding it would take to represent you, the answer will also be no. As personal injury attorneys are paid when they win your case, there’s no retainer to help pay for expert witnesses, travel time, and salaries to help with the research. This is for your benefit. You don’t want an attorney to agree to take your case and have no time to do a good job. It’s better getting the “no” and being able to go talk to another attorney. You may even get a referral to an attorney who can help you.
#2 – Not Enough Expertise With Your Specific Complaint
Attorneys all have their specializations. If you have a medical malpractice case, you’d want an attorney with a lot of experience in malpractice cases. If the attorney you talk to handles hundreds of car crash accidents each year but no malpractice cases, the attorney may fear that the case is beyond his/her expertise. Again, you may be offered a referral to help you find the right attorney for your malpractice lawsuit.
#3 – The Possible Award or Settlement Doesn’t Justify the Hours Needed
The attorney may look at your case and realize that similar cases led to an award of a few thousand dollars. If the award is too low, it’s not going to be worth the attorney’s time. If it takes a week to reach witnesses, file forms, and negotiate a settlement offer and the best offer is only $2,000, the attorney isn’t making enough money to justify taking the case. You may be offered tips on going through small claims instead.
#4 – Upcoming Plans Cause a Scheduling Issue
You might get turned down because the attorney knows that several of the law firm’s staff will be going on vacations or attending seminars in the next couple of weeks. If lawyers are already doubling up their workload to account for those who are out of the office, additional cases will be turned away.
#5 – There’s a Conflict of Interest
If you go to the attorney’s office, the attorney is bound by rules of ethics. One involves not representing someone in a case against another client. If that law firm represents the company or person you’re suing for a car crash or other civil court matter, the lawyer must turn you down as there is a conflict of interest. You can always ask for a referral to another law firm if this happens. You may not get one, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
#6 – Too Weak a Case
Going back to how most personal injury attorneys get paid, a case that is going to be too hard to win will get turned down. When the payment arrangement is on a contingency fee basis, the attorney gets a percentage of the money you’re awarded or offered in a settlement. If the attorney doesn’t feel the case is a guaranteed win, he/she will turn it down. Make sure your case is strong enough.
How to Present a Strong Case
When you go to see the lawyer for your free consultation, be organized, and have all of the evidence and documentation you can gather to prove that emotional or physical damages occurred. This includes but is not limited to:
- A copy of an accident report
- The investigating officer’s name, badge number, and contact information
- Photos and/or dashcam footage
- Witness names and contact information
- Medical bills and doctor’s statements
- The initial insurance settlement offer
- An inventory of damaged or destroyed property
- A statement from your employer regarding your weekly wages
- Journal entries regarding your recovery and impact it’s having on your life both personally and at work.
Go into the meeting organized and prepared to answer questions. Don’t get emotional or angry if things don’t seem to be going your way. Listen carefully to the advice you’re given and use it to find the best lawyer for your situation.
While it may not seem that the odds will be in your favor, don’t immediately give up hope. Yes, the number of California personal injury lawsuits may be low, but that doesn’t mean your case is hopeless. Let experts in civil law guide you through your options. The attorneys at Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley – Trial Lawyers for Justice – specialize in tough cases. We offer complimentary consultations and do not charge anything unless we take your case and win. Call us at 1-888-CZR-FIRST to get expert advice from personal injury attorneys.