When people call us, they are generally emotional and hurt about what has happened to them. That makes saying “no” one of the hardest things about my job, even when it is the right answer. A “no” in this case generally comes in the form of recommending against pursuing a case.
The truth is there is a lot more to pursuing a case than being able to prove each legal element. There are many circumstances that affect our evaluation of a potential case. We either recommend further investigation – or not – after weighing many things. Unfortunately and understandably, despite our efforts to explain our thoughts, “no” is simply not easy to hear.
Some recent conversations have put the spotlight on this problem for me. I am sharing some things here about our process in hopes that it might shed more light on how we analyze potential claims.
We take our work seriously and we consider ourselves to be in the profession of helping people. If we cannot help you, we believe the right thing to do is to let you know from the outset. To better assess whether we can help you, we gather more initial information than you may expect.
- We are not judging you for the work you do – or do not do.
One piece of information we ask is whether you work and, if so, where you work and what you do. There are several reasons this information is important. If you have lost wages, that may increase the value of your claim. In other words, from a monetary perspective, we may be able to show more financial loss which may make the case a better one for you to pursue. The fact that you are employed, regardless of what you do, can be seen as a good thing if the consequences of someone’s negligence led or will lead you to miss work.
Also, certain companies who offer health insurance are entitled to be repaid for medical expenses they have paid. That lien would then take away from what you would otherwise receive from a case. If you do not work and are on disability (and likely receiving Medicare), Medicare also has a lien. Medicaid and other insurers have liens. If the liens are big enough, they can leave you with little or no recovery at the end of the day, even if the case is successful.
When we ask about your work, we are asking because it helps us get to important information.
We are not judging you.
When we ask about your work, we are also not assessing whether you can afford to pay our legal fees.
Almost without exception, our personal injury clients are not in a position to pay our legal fees because of the very circumstances that bring them to us. For that reason, we handle personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis. That means that our clients do not pay us at all for our time (and do not owe any legal fees to us) unless their cases are successful.
We do the best we can to understand the facts of your situation. We cannot guarantee perfection in understanding everything. After all, you are the one living through this. We do, though, try incredibly hard. And, in situations where we have missed something important, we are okay with you telling us that.
When you call us, you are likely experiencing many emotions and trying to figure out what your future will look like.
Part of our job in evaluating a potential claim for you is to set aside emotion and, instead, to logically analyze the advantages and disadvantages of a potential claim. If, in our opinion, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages, we will not recommend you pursue a claim.
When we give you our recommendation, it is just that. You are entirely free to seek other opinions. If you have concerns about how we have analyzed things, contacting another attorney is a great option.
To finish where we began, we take this work seriously. We try to present our recommendations in an accurate and caring way because we really do care.
If you have questions about our intake and investigation process for personal injury, wrongful death, or medical malpractice cases in Virginia, please feel free to call.