Generally speaking, when a lawyer evaluates a case, they look at three key aspects:
- The client
- The merits of the claim
- The damages
The client: Facts and legal debates go a long way toward a successful resolution of a claim. However, a lawyer may also look at the client from a personal perspective as concerns their credibility, how reasonable they are, and their ability to communicate effectively. They make these judgments based upon how a jury would receive their testimony or legal depositions. While not an exclusive dealbreaker, these qualities are assessed when evaluating the chances of winning or losing. And thus, the chances of getting compensated for their time.
The merits of the claim: Different types of claims require varying elements of proof. Fortunately, when it comes to personal injury claims, these are civil matters. A civil matter can be resolved based upon the preponderance of the evidence. This is different from a criminal case, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict. A civil case only requires that there is more compelling evidence on your side than the defendant.
An attorney has the duty to evaluate your claims and decide based upon their professional opinion, whether there is enough evidence or can reasonably conclude that substantial evidence can be found to support your claim. Otherwise, if they file a lawsuit on your behalf without evidence, the court could sanction both you and your attorney for filing a frivolous lawsuit. Obviously, that’s not a position any reasonable attorney would want to find themselves in.
Damages: As stated previously, there has to be the potential for a significant award for your claim since a percentage of the award is how a lawyer gets paid for their efforts on your behalf in a contingency arrangement. It’s not unusual for one of our clients to rack up tens of thousands, or in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees if we were paid by the hour. Additionally, there may be thousands and thousands of dollars in extra costs incurred for things like expert witnesses and investigator’s fees.
Risk and reward are something every lawyer has to take into consideration when taking on a case. However, that’s not to say there could be additional elements to your case that may make a high-risk case more intriguing. For example, if your case has the potential to be awarded a great deal in pain and suffering or punitive damages. While punitive damages are rarely awarded except in cases of egregious harm, the dollar amount can be staggering.