Why Will No Attorney Take My Case?
I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.
Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.
Today’s question comes from a caller who asks “I have talked to four attorneys and they said I had no case, I do not understand why they would say that, why will no attorney take my case?”
I am sure you have heard of the phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger”.
Well, the phrase applies to attorneys that have to share bad news too. We never like to share bad news, or tell someone they do not have a claim.
All too frequently when an attorney tells someone that they cannot represent them or pursue their claim the attorney hears yelling and maybe even swearing on the other end of the line.
More often than not, attorneys find themselves having to give bad news to a higher percentage of people calling to speak about medical negligence claims.
That is likely because when a person has a medical procedure go wrong, they feel betrayed. Don’t get me wrong, if someone crosses the center line and hits you head-on you can feel betrayed. But in medical situations, the person has a personal relationship with a physician or surgeon. Even when a doctor says not every procedure goes well and has you sign a form about the risk, it is easy to think that you will never fall into that percentage group that has a poor result or a complication.
A young mother who now has to live with ongoing numbness in her legs after having an epidural during the delivery of her baby, can get upset when an attorney has to break the bad news to her that the law may not support a malpractice claim in her case because such an outcome, albeit a negative outcome, routinely happens even when a doctor does everything right.
Even a caller who has a clear-cut medical case will be hearing bad news from any Indiana attorney they call.
Why? Because Indiana was the first state back in 1975 to pass what is called medical malpractice reform legislation.
The act caps patient damages against doctors at $250,000 (higher in some cases), and that cap applies no matter how badly the doctor harms a patient.
Let that sink in for a minute. No matter how bad the doctor harms a patient, a doctor’s financial exposure can be capped at as low as $250,000.
The bad news about the doctor liability being capped at $250,000 is somewhat lessened by the fact that there is a pool called the patient compensation fund, which is really an insurance pool that does allow recovery up to $1,250,000, and more in some cases. But bad news is still bad news.
Before 1975, if a doctor did $10,000,000 worth of damage, they could be on the hook for $10,000,000.
Insurance companies and doctors defend the act by saying that it keeps premiums low and that it will prevent doctors from fleeing the state.
The reality is, however, that only one or two percent of the doctors in the state are actually committing malpractice.
They’re people that probably should have had their license suspended a long time ago, and nobody should care if the bad percent of doctors flees the state.
The bad news about malpractice especially hurts people who have smaller claims. Why? Because in Indiana you have to submit a claim for medical malpractice to a medical review panel, which is made up of three medical doctors.
It’s a costly process. Sometimes it can cost a minimum of $15,000 to hire experts to review medical records and go through that medical review panel process.
Then once you get through the process, you still have to go through a court because even if the panel finds the doctor responsible and having committed malpractice, that doesn’t end the lawsuit.
People calling an attorney about medical malpractice sometimes come with the understandable mindset that, “Well, you’re the attorney. You pay the $15,000 to see if I have a case.”
In reality, it doesn’t work that way and can’t work that way.
We sometimes talk to five medical malpractice callers a day. If we took those five cases and spent $15,000 on each case, we, as attorneys, would be spending up to $75,000 responding to one day of calls.
So now you see why I say whenever we talk to a medical malpractice caller, they’re going to be hearing bad news.
For some the news is terrible. For others, it is just somewhat bad: they have a case, but guess what, the amount you can recover is capped.
But we understand the frustration that callers have. We have that same frustration.
We wish that we could all go back to before 1975 when Indiana was like most other states.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.