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Top Seven Reasons Why A Minnesota Personal Injury Lawyer Turns Won’t Take Your Case

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Personal injury lawyers are seemingly everywhere.  At home, you may see commercial after commercial on TV for personal injury lawyers.  If you leave your house, you are likely to see billboards, and hear radio advertisements for personal injury law firms.  In all these advertisements, it is likely that the personal injury lawyer will be telling you that you may be entitled to money if you have been injured.  This leads people to believe that if they are injured, they are automatically entitled to compensation, and they will be able to find a personal injury lawyer to represent them.

This may be true, and there are many circumstances where if you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you may be entitled to compensation.  However, there are also many circumstances where an individual has been injured, but they can’t find a personal injury lawyer to take their case.

There are many reasons why a personal injury lawyer may turn down your cases.  Here, we discuss the seven most common reasons why you may not be able to find a Minnesota personal injury lawyer to take your case. 

 The Statute Of Limitations Has Run

If the applicable statute of limitations has passed on your claim, a Minnesota personal injury lawyer will turn down your case.  Statutes of limitations are deadlines, set by Minnesota statute, by which a claim for injuries either needs to be settled, or a lawsuit started.  If that deadline passes, without the claim being settled or a lawsuit started, you are forever barred from pursuing the claim.  This is true regardless of how clear fault is on another party, or how bad your injuries and damages are.

The vast majority of personal injury claims in Minnesota are based on negligence.  For example, claims involving injuries sustained in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, or slip and fall or trip and falls are all claims based on negligence.  Minnesota has a statute of limitations period for negligence claims of six (6) years from the date of the incident.

Other types of claims may have shorter statute of limitations periods.  For example, medical malpractice claims in Minnesota generally have a four (4) year statute of limitations period, and wrongful death has a three (3) year statute of limitations period.

There may be exceptions to statutes of limitations for minors.  Typically, for minors, the statute of limitations periods is one year after the minor reaches the age of 18 years old, even if the specific statute of limitations time period passed prior to that time.

In order to determine what statute of limitations period applies for your case, it is important to talk to an experienced Minnesota personal injury lawyer as soon as possible so that your rights are protected.  If your applicable statute of limitations deadline passes, there is nothing that a lawyer will be able to do to overcome that, and they will turn down your case. 

Lack Of Insurance Coverage

Personal injury lawyers are trained to determine if there is a source of potential recovery in a potential personal injury case.  The most common and certain source of recovery, is through insurance coverage.  This could be through an at-fault driver’s car insurance, through an at-fault party’s homeowner’s insurance, or through a business’s liability policy.

If the at fault party is uninsured, or if their insurance company denies coverage for one reason or another, an injured party is left trying to collect against the at-fault party personally, which, due to Minnesota’s collections laws, and lack of personal assets for many people, is very difficult to do.

The reason why a potential source of recovery is so important to personal injury lawyers is due to the fee structure under which personal injury lawyers normally work.  Personal injury lawyers typically work on what is called a “contingency fee.”  A contingency fee is a fee that is earned by a personal injury lawyer if, and only if, they get a recovery for you.  That fee is then paid directly out of the recovery.  The standard contingency fee percentage for most personal injury lawyers ranges from 33% to 40% depending on the type of case.  For example, a personal injury lawyer working on a 1/3 contingency fee, would have fees of $3,000.00 if your claim settled for $9,000.00.

If there is no source of recovery, the lawyer is unlikely to never get paid.  Because of this, a personal injury lawyer may turn down your case in situations where there is no insurance coverage.  In such situations, you may want to search out a lawyer who is willing to work on retainer and charge an hourly fee for their services.

Lack Of Fault Or Damages

In order to have a successful Minnesota personal injury claim, you will have to prove two things: fault or liability and damages.  Liability refers to proving that another party was at fault for causing the accident and injuries.  The most common Minnesota personal injury claims are based on negligence.  In cases involving negligence, liability is shown by establishing that the other party breached a standard of care in their actions.  Damages refers to the losses you have sustained as a result of the accident and injuries.  Recoverable damages in a Minnesota personal injury case are your past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, and past and future pain, suffering, and emotional distress.

Proving both fault and damages is essential to having a successful personal injury cases.  If a personal injury lawyer does not believe that they can prove BOTH fault and damages, they are likely to turn down your case.

For example, if you have a case where there was clearly fault on another party, but you are not injured, there is nothing that a personal injury lawyer would be able to do for you, and they will likely turn down the case.  Similarly, if you have sustained significant injuries, but cannot prove the injuries were caused due to the fault of another party, again, there is nothing a lawyer would be able to do for you, and will likely turn down the case.

The Type Of Claim Is Outside Of Their Practice Area

There are many different types of personal injury claims, ranging from car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents to dog bites to slip and falls to medical malpractice claims to worker’s compensation to wrongful death to products liability claims.

Not all personal injury lawyers handle each and every type of personal injury claim out there.  Similar to doctors, you may have lawyers that focus their practice on specific types of personal injury claims.  For example, just as you have doctors who specialize in orthopedics, neurology, dermatology, or cardiology, some personal injury lawyers may handle car accidents and similar type claims, but not handle medical malpractice or worker’s compensation.

It is important as you search for a Minnesota personal injury lawyer, that you ask them if it is the type of claim that they handle.  If it is not, they are likely to turn down your case.  You wouldn’t want an orthopedic doctor treating you for a heart condition.  Similarly, you wouldn’t want a workers compensation attorney handling your complicated medical malpractice claim.  

 Ethical Reasons

Minnesota personal injury lawyers are governed by the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, which set for certain situations in which a lawyer cannot represent a client.  The most common situation involves if representation of a potential client would create a conflict of interest.  Conflicts of interest can arise in many ways, but the most common of which is if representing a potential client would be directly adverse to either a past or current client.  In such situations, the lawyer cannot represent the potential client and will have to turn down the case.  

Jurisdictional Reasons

In order to represent a client, the lawyer must be licensed in the jurisdiction in which the case will need to be brought.  For example, in order to represent an injured party for an accident that occurred in Minnesota, the personal injury lawyer must be licensed to practice law in Minnesota.  A common occurrence is a Minnesota resident goes out of state for a trip or vacation and is injured.  A Minnesota lawyer may not be able to represent the injured Minnesota resident unless they are licensed in the state that the injury occurred, or they team up with a lawyer licensed in that jurisdiction and are admitted “pro hac vice” by the court in that jurisdiction.   If the Minnesota personal injury lawyer is not licensed in the jurisdiction where the accident occurred, they may turn down your case. 

 You Already Have A Lawyer

In some circumstances, an injured party may already have hired a lawyer to represent them for their injury.  For one reason or another, they may want to switch to a new lawyer.  In such cases, not all personal injury lawyers are willing to represent someone who has had previous representation.  These reasons could be that the case is too far along in the process, they are unable to undo mistakes made by the first lawyer, or that the previous lawyer has a lien for their fees on the case which would make taking on the representation financially unfeasible.

Because of this, it is very important that you do your research and due diligence when hiring a personal injury lawyer.  This can be done by reading online reviews, meeting with the personal injury lawyer in person, asking them questions about their background and experience, and evaluating whether you believe they would be a good fit for your case.


While facing the prospect of a Minnesota personal injury claim can be overwhelming, understanding the potential reasons why a Minnesota personal injury lawyer might not take your case can help you navigate the legal process more effectively.  By recognizing these potential reasons, you can take proactive steps to address any obstacles by consulting with an experienced Minnesota personal injury lawyer early on, and thoroughly researching your options.  This can enhance your chances of finding a personal injury lawyer who may be willing to take on your case.

Matthew Nelson has been practicing personal injury law in Minnesota since 2010.  He focuses his entire practice on representing individuals in Minnesota who have been injured or killed in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, dog bites, slip and falls, and other types of personal injury claims.  He has taught continuing legal education classes to other Minnesota lawyers on personal injury topics.  His firm, Nelson Personal Injury, represents individuals and families across the state of Minnesota, and provides free consultations.

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