​Do Lawyers Take Cases They Can’t Win?

June 16, 2022 | David Abels
​Do Lawyers Take Cases They Can’t Win? When you have a legal dispute, you want to contact an attorney. Many individuals assume that attorneys will take their case. However, there are times when an attorney will not take your case. An initial consultation is similar to an interview. During this meeting, you will present your case to the attorney, and they can decide if it is a viable case. You will also have the chance to get to know them and their credentials. You need to feel comfortable with the attorney you choose to represent you. Chances are you will work together for an extended period, and you need to feel comfortable with each other. Even if you believe your case is a home run, an attorney can think otherwise when analyzing the facts. You will want an attorney that will be honest with you about the possible outcome, even if it is not what you were hoping for. It is a red flag for an attorney to take an unwinnable case. They are wasting your time and theirs. Taking an unwinnable case can also violate legal ethical guidelines. There are several reasons a case is considered unwinnable, or an attorney won't handle your case. An attorney can deny taking your case for other reasons than viability. Meet with a couple of attorneys before throwing in the towel. Sometimes the first few lawyers you talk to will miss something that makes your case valuable.

What is a Non-Winnable Case?

​Do Lawyers Take Cases They Can’t WinIf you have a genuinely unwinnable case, no attorney will take it. There are several reasons a claim is deemed non-winnable. Some reasons are obvious, while others are minor nuanced issues the average person will not know. Some reasons an attorney will not take your case include:
  • Past the statute of limitations: There are stringent statutes of limitations for filing claims and cases. If you contact an attorney after the statute has expired, this is an unwinnable case. No court or judge will take a look at the issue. If you wait too long, you lose the right to file a lawsuit.
  • Filing too close to the statute of limitations: You might feel that anytime before the statute of limitations is sufficient to file a lawsuit. That is a misconception. If you are too close to the statute of limitations, an attorney will not take your case. There will be insufficient time to gather evidence, attend mediation, depose witnesses, etc. You need to take specific legal steps before filing a lawsuit.
  • You are entirely at fault: Regarding an accident, if there is evidence that you were entirely at fault, then no attorney will take your case. This determination will rely on the preliminary evidence that is present.
  • The case is challenging: Liability can be clear and injuries substantial, and the claim can still fall through. A lawyer may choose not to take your case if it is too challenging. Some examples are:
    • Questionable credibility
    • Delay in medical treatment
    • Not following medical treatment plans
    • You contributed to the accident
    • Your social media habits indicate you were at fault or did not have an injury
  • The attorney is only taking specific cases: While an attorney may know how to win your case, they can still decide not to take it. They can be going in a different direction and solely focus on a particular area. For example, instead of taking on every personal injury case, they are only looking to take on medical malpractice claims. Your case is a premises liability case and, therefore, not what they are focusing on currently.
  • Lack of resources: The legal process is costly, especially when catastrophic injuries are involved. The attorney will pay these costs upfront while the case goes on. If they do not have the resources to take on your case, they will not. Some firms will have the capital to take on your case but currently have too many cases to contend with and therefore cannot give your case the time and attention it deserves.
  • Conflict of interest: Lawyers follow specific ethical and moral guidelines in the legal field. If they previously represented the entity you seek damages from, it will be a conflict of interest to take your case. Conversely, if you and the attorney are related, this is also a conflict of interest. An attorney is legally required to decline a claim if there is a conflict of interest.
  • The recovery is too small: Some cases are winnable, but the potential for recovery is minimal. An attorney will weigh how much they expect to spend versus how much they wish to recover. If the recovery number is smaller, they will likely not take your case.
  • There is no one to sue: Liability is the basis on which your case will rest. For another entity to be held liable, the entity must have owed you a duty of care, and the other party must have breached this duty. If these elements are not present, neither is a case. In contrast, if no party was liable for your damages, there is no one to sue. If you were drunk driving and crashed into a tree, there is no viable entity to hold liable for your damages aside from yourself.
  • Personal reasons: We mentioned an initial consultation as a way for both parties to decide if they will work well together. An attorney can decline your case if they feel that you are out for revenge or your motivations do not align correctly with the case. They may feel you will be a challenging client and decide against working with you. An attorney can decline a claim for various personal reasons.
  • Lack of evidence: Every legal matter relies on evidence. If there is insufficient evidence, a lawyer is unlikely to take your claim. Other times there is substantial evidence, but the evidence is disputable. Ethically attorneys must ensure that clients or potential clients do not file frivolous claims or lawsuits.
A lawyer may decline your case if it is a waste of time and resources. They will see themselves investing more time and energy than what the case is worth. The court will also deem the case a waste of time.

When Does a Lawyer Take Difficult Cases?

You will need to show your attorney the facts and evidence. Some cases seem unwinnable based on preliminary evidence, but the circumstances change as more evidence comes in. The most common example is a car accident. The police report blamed one party when the other party caused the accident. An attorney can contest the validity of the police report and present evidence on the contrary. A lawyer will also take your case if they see the monetary value. If the accident caused a catastrophic injury, it will have a much larger value. Even if the preliminary evidence appears to go against you, a lawyer can see the potential in conducting a thorough investigation. Your damages are substantially more significant, and the court will also see the value in a claim. An investigation is crucial if the accident involves a death.

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What You Can Do to Have a More Appealing Case

The facts of a case do not change, and if your case is genuinely unwinnable, it is unlikely that any respectable attorney will not take it on. However, if you believe that your case is with an attorney's time, you can take some steps to make it more desirable. Remember: Do not deceive your attorney to try to make your case desirable. Take the following steps instead:
  • Gather evidence: You should collect as much of the available evidence before meeting with an attorney. The more evidence they see that can dispute the original claim and turn a losing case into a winning one. You can take photos and videos of the location and ensure you get a medical examination. If there were any witnesses to the accident, get their contact information and provide it to your attorney.
  • Be honest with your attorney: Within the initial consultation, you need to be honest about every aspect of the case. Ultimately an attorney will find the information you did not present, which can worsen your case. Tell them everything, including how you may have contributed to the accident. Lying and deception can cause your attorney to drop your case later.
  • Have realistic expectations: You need to know how much your case is worth. Many potential clients are under the impression that the case is with millions when it may only be worth thousands. If you go to a consultation with this attitude, it can be a red flag to the attorney. They can and will decline to take you on as a client. Be realistic. You must also know how much time the case will take and how quickly the attorney can respond to you. You are not the only client, so communication can take more than a few minutes.
  • Trust your attorney: When you have decided on an attorney, it is crucial to trust them and the firm. You are not a lawyer, and while you can read things online and get advice from your friends, this does not replace an attorney’s education and experience. If an attorney senses you do not trust the firm, they can decline to take your case, leaving you to handle it yourself. Please work with your attorney and not against them.
  • Do not wait to speak to a lawyer: One final suggestion is to talk with an attorney immediately. The longer you wait, the less likely you can find an attorney willing to take on your case. You will need to gather your evidence and immediately meet with an experienced firm.
An experienced attorney will primarily decide whether to take your case when there is substantial preliminary evidence to show that it is winnable—the more information you can provide about the incident, the better. An attorney will weigh the pros and cons and decide whether the case is viable.

How Does a Contingency Fee Work?

One major contributing factor in personal injury cases is the contingency fee model. You will need to pay upfront costs to retain an attorney for some legal matters. However, lawyers work on a contingency fee arrangement for personal injury cases. If they do not win the case, they do not get paid. The fee structure motivates attorneys to win cases. It also means an attorney is less likely to take on an unwinnable case because it reduces the likelihood of receiving payment. The attorney will take out their portion when the patient has settled before issuing you a check for your damages.

How Do Lawyers Choose Cases?

Initially, an attorney cannot tell you whether the case is airtight or if the personal injury attorney can win it. They will use specific language not to make promises they cannot keep. Instead of saying you have a winning case, they will convey the probability of winning is strong. A few factors will determine whether an attorney will take your case or not. They will judge the client and whether this is someone they wish to work with. They will look at the evidence and likely outcome. Lastly, an attorney will look at the damages. If your injuries are substantial and the evidence against you is disputable, you can still have a chance to recover compensation.

Consult an Experienced Attorney Today

Remember to consult with two to three attorneys to ensure you have no legal options. The first attorney may deem the case unwinnable because they do not have the experience or resources to win it, not because it is unwinnable. The primary determining factor in whether a claim is winnable is who was at fault. If you and the other party share the blame, it will come down to who has more responsibility. Attorneys focus heavily on their reputations. If they take unwinnable cases, this can hurt their reputation and ability to take on other cases successfully.
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David Abels


David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.

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