A personal injury attorney is a lawyer who provides legal representation to those who have been injured physically, psychologically, or financially due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another person, company, government agency, or other entity. Personal injury attorneys specialize in an area of law called tort law.
What Does a Personal Injury Attorney Do?
A personal injury attorney performs a variety of duties to help their injured clients. Main responsibilities include:
- Interviewing clients and evaluating their case to determine if they have a valid legal claim for damages. The attorney must establish that negligence or recklessness directly caused the client’s injuries or losses.
- Investigating the accident or incident through evidence gathering. This can involve visiting the scene, taking photos, interviewing witnesses, consulting medical records and police reports, and more.
- Determining all liable parties and filing claims and lawsuits against them. This can include individual persons, businesses, manufacturers of defective products, insurance companies, and governmental bodies.
- Estimating the full value of the client’s monetary damages, both economic and non-economic. Economic damages include medical bills, lost wages, and property damage while non-economic damages cover pain and suffering.
- Negotiating with insurance companies and defense lawyers to attempt a positive settlement for the client before trial. Personal injury cases often settle out of court.
- Presenting evidence in court, questioning witnesses, and making the legal argument for all deserved damages if a settlement is not reached before trial.
- Counseling clients through the legal process and managing their expectations. An attorney explains each phase of the case and prepares them for things like depositions, court proceedings, and more.
Common Types of Personal Injury Cases
Personal injury law covers a wide range of potential accidents and incidents. Some of the most common that a lawyer may handle include:
- Vehicle accidents – Claims arising from car accidents, truck crashes, motorcycle collisions, bicycle accidents, and more.
- Premises liability – Injuries that happen because of unsafe conditions on someone else’s property. Examples are slip-and-fall claims, dog bites, inadequate security, fires, etc.
- Medical malpractice – Lawsuits against doctors, hospitals, nurses, surgeons, and other healthcare providers that harmed the patient through substandard care.
- Product liability – Cases involving defective consumer products that caused injury, like exploding batteries in electronics or insulation in children’s pajamas catching fire.
- Workplace injuries – On-the-job accidents like equipment malfunctions, lack of proper safety gear, unsafe work conditions, and more that employers may be responsible for.
Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
It is always advisable to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer versus handling a case yourself. Benefits include:
- Legal expertise – Personal injury law can be complex, with strict statutes of limitations, procedural rules, and evidence requirements. Attorneys have the knowledge and skills to navigate the system.
- Settlement negotiation skills – Lawyers have experience negotiating settlements and can often get much higher claim payouts versus individuals representing themselves.
- Courtroom experience – If a settlement can’t be reached out of court, an attorney can advocate for the client at trial and present the strongest case before a judge.
- Objectivity – Emotionally and financially drained clients may not make the best legal choices. An attorney acts more rationally on their behalf.
- Resources – Lawyers have access to legal resources, research, and case evidence that individuals do not.
- No upfront costs – Most personal injury attorneys work on contingency fees, meaning they only get paid if they win or settle the case for the client.
Questions to Ask a Potential Attorney
It’s important to thoroughly vet any personal injury attorney before agreeing to legal representation. Useful questions to ask during an initial consultation include:
- How many years have you practiced personal injury law? Look for substantial experience.
- What percentage of your caseload focuses on my specific injury type and circumstances? Choose someone who specializes.
- What is your track record of case results? Ask about settlement amounts and trial verdicts.
- What will your investigative process look like for my case? How will you gather evidence? Look for a thorough strategy.
- What are all costs if I lose? Be cautious of attorneys who charge fees regardless of outcome.
- How responsive will you be to my calls and questions? Ensure good communication practices.
Finding the Right Personal Injury Attorney
Follow these tips to find the best attorney for your personal injury case:
- Seek referrals from friends, family, and other lawyers who can recommend someone reputable.
- Research lawyer review sites online to see ratings and client feedback.
- Look for members of The National Trial Lawyers group which verifies attorney qualifications.
- Find a lawyer who is licensed in your state and permitted to practice there.
- Search state Bar Association directories to check if any disciplinary actions were taken against an attorney.
- Schedule free initial consultations and compare credentials and case strategies.
- Ask plenty of questions and make sure you feel comfortable with the attorney.
- Hire someone experienced in handling your specific injury circumstances.
FAQ about Personal Injury Attorneys
How much do personal injury attorneys charge?
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, taking around 30-40% of the final settlement or court award. No fees are owed if there is no settlement.
Will my personal injury case go to trial?
The vast majority of these cases settle out of court before reaching trial. However, your attorney will prepare your case for trial just in case.
How long do I have to file a claim after an accident?
Each state sets its own statute of limitations on personal injury cases, often between 1-6 years. An attorney can let you know the deadline in your jurisdiction.
Should I give a recorded statement to an insurance company?
No. Make sure a lawyer is representing you first. Anything you say can be used against you later by the insurer.
What if I’m partly at fault for the accident?
Most states use comparative negligence rules so you can still recover damages proportional to the other party’s percentage of fault.
Can I fire my attorney if I’m unhappy with them?
Yes, but first address any issues openly with your attorney. You may still owe fees for any work done.
How soon after hiring an attorney will I receive settlement money?
It depends on factors like evidence collection and the pace of negotiations. Many cases take months or years to fully resolve.
Do I have to pay taxes on a personal injury settlement?
Tax rules vary based on case specifics. Your attorney can explain costs and help you minimize them where legally permissible.