There are several factors an attorney must consider when deciding to take on a new personal injury case. And potential plaintiffs should understand how these factors influence an attorney's decision to take or reject a case, and how these factors will play into their lawsuit.
The first thing an attorney evaluating a case will typically do is determine the statute of limitations. These statutes are designed to limit the time period in which an injured party can bring a lawsuit against any defendants. In other words, if you don't file your case within the time imposed by the legislature (the statute), you could be barred from filing suit and recovering altogether.
Statutes of limitations depend on 1) the state or states where your claim may arise (every state is different); and 2) the type of claim you bring. For example, Kentucky has a one year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. This means, to be safe, an attorney will generally want to file your case within one year of injury. Although there are rules that may expand or toll the time under the statute, if you are injured by someone else's negligence, it is vitally important to contact an attorney right away.
Second, the attorney will want to know if the potential plaintiff is injured, and if so, to what extent. They will ask if you sought medical attention. Failure to immediately seek medical help after an injury can seriously diminish any value of a case, no matter how clear liability is. This is because "damages" are what are recoverable under a personal injury lawsuit. If you wait or decline to seek medical help, you may not have the requisite proof needed to show you suffered an injury at trial.
Third, the attorney will seek to find if there are any insurance proceeds that may be available to an injured client. If the negligent party has full coverage, the more likely the potential plaintiff will be able to be compensated. Without the necessary insurance coverage, there simply may not be any funds available to compensate an injured plaintiff. That's why if you are injured in a car accident, it is important to get the other person's insurance and contact information. If the negligent party does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to make the case worth pursuing, there is still a chance they may have assets that the plaintiff may collect to compensate him or her for their injuries.
Additionally, an attorney will evaluate whether there is liability. Liability generally refers to negligence, or conduct by the potential defendant that justifies awarding the injured party compensation. The stronger the liability, the stronger the case, and the more likely the case will be settled prior to filing a lawsuit. Although this factor is not always in the control of the plaintiff, an injured person can take some steps to help an attorney evaluate this issue. For example, a person injured in a car accident that is believed to be the fault of someone else should (if possible), make sure they observe the scene after an accident (and after they ensure everyone is ok). This means calling law enforcement, taking pictures, writing down what happened, and keeping in mind that anything you say, including to law enforcement, may come up later in a potential case. If there are any witnesses to the incident, make sure to get their names and contact information. Lawsuits take time, but if your case goes to trial, you may be deposed or testify at trial, meaning your recollection of the events can make or break your case.