A personal injury case arises when someone has been harmed by the wrongful actions or negligence of another person. Sometimes, we hear from potential clients who feel they have been wronged or treated unfairly, and want to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Depending on the circumstances, they may have a good personal injury case. Other times, these clients need to file a different type of lawsuit. Sometimes, unfortunately, there simply isn’t a legal justification to file a claim.
Here are some examples of circumstances that either don’t warrant a personal injury case, or may need to be handled some other way.
1. The accident was your fault
If you were injured in an accident that was completely your fault, you don’t have the right to sue someone else for your damages.
2. You weren’t seriously injured
If you had an accident that caused significant property damage, but no one was seriously injured, that is not a personal injury claim. It’s a property damage claim.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a legal case. If the accident was not your fault, the other vehicle’s insurance coverage should pay you up to the policy limits. If the accident was partly your fault, you should still receive payment, although it would be reduced based on comparative negligence.
If the insurance company doesn’t pay what you are owed, up to the policy limits, you may have a bad faith insurance case, which is a specialized area of the law. Not all personal injury lawyers handle those types of cases.
If your damages exceed the insurance policy limits, you may be able to sue the vehicle owner and/or driver for the remaining amount – but unless that amount is substantial, it may not be worth hiring an attorney for. If the damages are substantial, there are personal injury and general practice attorneys who will handle property damage cases. If not, you may have better luck in small claims court.
3. Lack of insurance coverage/no hope of collecting damages
If the at-fault party also doesn’t have insurance, or any money/assets to speak of, it is not worth the expense of a lawsuit, because there is nothing to collect.
This is why we recommend that, unless you live in a “no fault” state, all vehicle owners should purchase uninsured motorist insurance coverage.
4. The statute of limitations has passed
Each state has a law that places a limit on how long after the date of injury an injured person can still file a legal claim for damages. These are called statutes of limitations, and every state is different.
In California, Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, and Nevada, personal injury victims have a two-year limit to file a claim against the liable party.
District of Columbia, New York and the state of Washington all have three-year statutes of limitations on personal injury cases.
Maine is one of the states with the longest statute of limitations on personal injury claims, at six years. After the statute of limitations is passed, you may not legally file a claim for a personal injury. Each state also has different limitations for property damage cases as well. This site provides a chart listing each state’s statutes of limitations.
If you think you might have a personal injury case, don’t wait too long before consulting an attorney.
5. You waited too long to seek medical attention
When you file a claim for an injury you sustained, people will logically want to see medical records that provide evidence of the injury, dating back to the incident. If you waited days or weeks before seeking medical treatment, it may be difficult to prove whether the injury was a direct result of that incident or some other incident that took place afterwards. Unless you don’t timely medical documentation, you may have no evidence to prove your case.
This is why we recommend that accident victims seek immediate medical treatment after the incident, even if they don’t think they were injured.
6. No one is liable
Sometimes, accidents are caused by an act of nature or what is sometimes called “an act of God.” In other words, it was simply bad luck. If the cause of your accident was bad weather or natural disaster, or a wild animal, there is no lawsuit because there is no one to sue.
However, if an act of God was only a contributing factor, you may still have a case for negligence, product defect, or construction defect. If your car was hit by a branch that fell in a windstorm, but neighbors state the branch was in danger of falling even before the storm, the property owner may still be held responsible.
An attorney can examine all the facts to determine if a case exists. This is also worth a consultation.
7. Sovereign immunity/governmental immunity
State and federal government entities are protected from lawsuits under what is called “sovereign immunity.” In other words, judges, police officers and other government employees cannot be sued for rightfully performing their official duties.
However, under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), sovereign immunity may be waived, and a lawsuit against a government employee may be permitted in some circumstances. Usually, if the injury was caused by the negligence of a public employee while performing some task within the scope of employment, you may file a claim for compensation – IF the state also permits the claim. There are many exceptions, so your case may not be legally allowed.
Because these cases are so complex, they are best handled by an attorney, who can tell you whether or not you have a case.
8. Your case needs a lawyer who specializes
Perhaps your case does not fall under the general “personal injury” umbrella, but it requires representation by an attorney with specialized expertise. If your case involves medical malpractice, or workers’ compensation, it is best to consult with a lawyer who specializes in that area.
If you have been in an accident that was not your fault – or even if it was only partially your fault – contact a personal injury attorney. Be prepared; for any of the reasons listed above, the attorney may, or may not take your case.
If the attorney doesn’t take your case, it’s still possible that another firm may be interested. The attorney with whom you consulted may be able to refer you or give you some sound advice on where to find representation.
Either way, it’s worth a call. TorkLaw attorneys are available for free consultations. Complete the form on this page, or call us at 888.845.9696.