Not every personal injury case has merit. If you cannot prove that a person or organization was knowingly negligent enough to cause you harm — one of the core components of a personal injury case — then you should lower your expectations before even speaking to an attorney. This is true even if the person or organization is guilty of causing the injury. Proof is how the law works. Without proof, you don’t have an actionable plan. And a lawyer probably won’t even take your case.
That brings us to one of the main reasons why a personal injury case can go off the rails. First, let’s say a lawyer does take a case without merit. This is unlikely because personal injury lawyers work off contingency, which means they only get paid when the case is won. But a desperate or low-quality attorney might take a case that probably can’t be won in court. Be wary of who you approach for help. If you’re an attorney, don’t take cases you can’t win — no matter how much you need the money. The wasted time isn’t worth it.
Socal Injury Lawyers were reminded to stick to what they do best recently — helping clients — when a disbarred lawyer was sentenced to a half-year in prison for pilfering money directly from his clients. How does this happen? First, charging for work never performed. Not only can this get an attorney in hot water with a client, but it can also lead to criminal charges, huge fines, prison time, and even disbarment. Basically, don’t charge for time you didn’t put in and don’t stray from clients’ interests.
Another reason a case could go off the rails is bankruptcy. If you’re a lawyer whose client is filing for bankruptcy, be wary that the case might not go as planned. Or at the very least, payment might not go as planned. A client who is in bankruptcy generally doesn’t have the option to decide where any “income” goes once obtained. And that means the potential for payment to be stolen out of your hands.
Continuing legal action requires a client to disclose all financial matters, no matter how small. If you discover a client has been dishonest, then you have the right to remove yourself from the equation.
Beware of advance payments made to a client. A court might misinterpret the law, allowing the plaintiff to recover financial damages both from an insurance company — which may have provided an advance payment if liability is not in question — and then from the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit. Typically, the law says that the insurance payment must be credited toward those damages. A plaintiff cannot sue for anything the insurance company pays for.
And this is certainly a caveat to consider if your client is an insurance company. You’ll want to be diligent about checking to see that they never pay more than they are legally obligated to pay, and also that anyone suing doesn’t overstep. Plaintiffs will always try to get every penny they can (as they should).