That was the subject line of an email that I received recently from a potential client whose case we had rejected.
She was frustrated because our firm (and, apparently many others) had rejected her case. She said, "You lawyers are all about the money."
I get it that she was frustrated. She had been through a terrible ordeal with her dentist. Years of pain. Maybe there was malpractice, and maybe there wasn't. Maybe she followed the dentist's advice for her own self-care and maybe she didn't.
At BenGlassLaw we get between 3-5 inquiries PER DAY just from people who want to sue their doctors. We get many more inquiries each day for general personal injury cases.
While different lawyers will look at potential cases differently, here's what we look at to determine whether we will accept a case:
- Is the negligence clear? Doctors will win 85% of the time in medical malpractice cases in Virginia. In order to win your case you must fit into that top 15% of cases. This is a tough mountain to climb. Essentially, there must be virtually no conceivable dispute as to what the "standard of care" was for the doctor.
- Are the damages catastrophic? Yes - catastrophic. Virginia's tort reform laws make it very expensive to bring and maintain a medical malpractice case. Virginia then limits damages at approximately $2 million. In a medical malpractice case a lawyer will be devoting upwards of a thousand hours towards the case. In addition, either the client or the lawyer is going to be advancing $50,000 or more in case expenses. There has to be a significant payoff for this risk.
- Read #2 again. Money is a factor in the decision regarding medical malpractice cases. Law firms are a business, and we don't actually have unlimited money to put toward trying every single case we hear about. A well-regarded law firm is choosing amongst hundreds of inquiries a year as to which cases it will invest its time and money capital. That is reality.
- Finally, there must be a clear connection between the alleged negligence of the doctor and the damages. Sometimes doctors make mistakes and sometimes the damages are huge but there must be a very clear connection between the negligence and the damages.
So we get it that this lady was angry. It goes with the territory. The fact that several lawyers arrived at the same decision as we did is telling, though it doesn't guarantee that this woman didn't have a case. It's just a reality we must all face, lawyers and clients alike.