PICKING CASES: Take the Case? Refer it out? Turn it down?

NeuwirthLawFor Lawyers

Do you want the client’s case???  One of the critical pieces of personal injury law is Case Selection. It simply cannot be overstated how important this is. While you need a steady volume of cases to make case selection an issue, that is a separate topic. Case selection is simply the 80/20 rule or figuring out what is the best use of your time and resources. For me, car accident cases are my bread and butter and keep the lights on and the bills paid, the kids in private school etc. The other cases like medical malpractice, products cases, slip and falls with serious injuries, suing the city and carbon monoxide poisoning, are the more entertaining and high value fights.

In the auto cases, case selection is fairly straightforward.  Assuming liability is clear, injury determines value along with a host of other factors. So, when a new person calls, I am listening for injury and makes and models of cars to guess at coverage. Fact patterns in North Philly are often plagued with hit and run drivers, serious injuries and not enough insurance coverage. The Pennsylvania State Minimum coverage is $15,000 and that is never enough for any injury. Fact patterns in the Philly suburbs often involve plenty of coverage, but inexperienced or out of control drivers in big cars and inevitably some blaming of the other party, traffic conditions etc. Usually, I assume that there is some element of texting and driving.

Nevertheless, there is always a lawyer willing to take a case of some lesser value than I like to mess around with. My average case takes about 9 months and every client with a strong case will tell you that their case was filed in court and took about 2 ½ years from start to finish. So, if I am going to take a case with real injuries, I want to be sure that the case is worth it for both the client and me and that we can get along for a year or longer. The last thing I want is a unhappy client. I should not take that case and try to learn from the mistakes where I do take those cases.

Even if I sign the case up and have a decent sense of valuation, I may still refer it out to other lawyers for any number of reasons.  I try to do that sooner than later in the case and preferably at the very beginning.  I refer out cases in medical malpractice, workers compensation, employment and any other area that I do not handle.  I often refer out cases that are too small or too large for me. I don’t like to handle class action cases or multi-expert medical malpractice cases. They require too much of an investment of my time and money.

Finally, I turn down cases most often when the client’s story is not supported by their medical records, the police reports or some other area that raises questions about liability.  If you were at fault, I am probably not going to represent you. There are simply too many other fights to have than fighting about who was responsible and then having to also fight whether you were injured or not.  Not worth the time.