Most people do not think about hiring a lawyer until they need one. At that point, the choices are often confusing and overwhelming. What type of lawyer do they need? Which lawyer should they choose? Can they even afford to hire an attorney?
If someone else’s carelessness injured you, a personal injury lawyer can seek compensation for you. Personal injury legal teams often pride themselves on being aggressive advocates for their clients, providing high-quality legalized representation in a personalized atmosphere.
The Type of Lawyer You Need After an Injury
Individuals whom negligent people injured can seek compensation through the personal injury claims process. A personal injury lawyer is what you need to assist you. A personal injury lawyer will protect your legal right to compensation from the person or entity that caused your injury.
What Services Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Provide?
Personal injury law is a broad group of claims covering different types of accidents and sources of liability.
A personal injury lawyer can:
- Determine who caused your injury and the associated insurance policies that can compensate you for your injuries.
- Establish a value to your claim based on factors such as the severity of your injury, the expenses and impacts you have incurred or will likely incur in the future, and the amount of wage loss or lost earning capacity you have experienced.
- Present your claim to the at-fault party’s insurance carrier and engage in settlement discussions with the insurer on your behalf to garner a fair settlement offer for your claim.
- File your claim as a personal injury lawsuit in civil court within the statute of limitations.
- Gather evidence and witness testimony to prove your claim.
- Argue your case in court.
- Assist you in collecting your negotiated settlement or court award.
Important Considerations When Choosing a Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury lawyers spend a long time obtaining the education and training needed to assist their clients in legal matters. However, even within the realm of personal injury law, not all lawyers specialize in all types of cases. When searching for the right lawyer to assist you with your claim, you need to consider:
#1. Experience with Cases Like Yours
Personal injury law involves assisting clients who were injured in nearly every type of accident you can imagine.
Some of the most common accidents that can give rise to a personal injury claim include:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including accidents involving cars, commercial trucks, motorcycles, rideshares, buses, bicycles, or pedestrians. About three million people are injured each year due to motor vehicle accidents, and more than 35,000 die. The most common causes of car accidents include drunk driving, speeding, distracted driving, alcohol impairment, and driver fatigue.
- Medical malpractice claims, involving negligence by a health care provider that results in an injury to a patient. According to a study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, about 10 percent of all U.S. deaths result from medical error. Some common medical errors can result in a medical malpractice claim, including diagnosis errors, prescription errors, errors occurring in surgery, failure to provide adequate follow-up treatment, birth injuries, and injuries arising from the failure to obtain informed consent for a procedure.
- Slip and fall accidents, which are the most common kind of premises liability claim. Premises liability is a subset of personal injury claims that involve the responsibility of residential, commercial, and public property owners to protect their guests from injury by regularly inspecting the property for hazards and promptly mitigating any hazards that are found. Common causes of slip and fall accidents include water or debris on the floor; loose, worn, or torn flooring; poor lighting; missing handrails or damaged staircases; and cracks in sidewalks or potholes in parking lots.
- Dog bite injuries. Approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the U.S., with about 800,000 of those resulting in injuries severe enough to require medical treatment.
- Worker’s compensation, which involves injuries or illnesses that occur in the workplace. These claims are not compensated through the personal injury claims process but rather through the employer’s worker’s compensation insurance policy. This policy provides benefits to injured or ill workers such as medical treatment of the injury or illness and temporary or permanent wage replacement benefits.
<liƒ>Wrongful death claims, filed on behalf of the family members of an individual who died because of someone else’s negligence.
When speaking with an attorney during a free consultation, you should be sure to ask about their experience with the type of accident or type of injury you have incurred.
#2. Success With Negotiated Settlements and Court Awards
About 95 percent of all personal injury claims settle. Out-of-court settlements save time and expenses for everyone, including the court. Additionally, many plaintiffs and defendants alike would prefer to have some control over the amount of compensation. In court, that decision is in the hands of a judge or jury.
Because of this statistic, however, many personal injury attorneys get comfortable in the routine of negotiating settlements. In fact, many of these attorneys have very little experience with litigation.
While the odds are significantly in favor of your claim resolving by settlement, there is no guarantee. You need to know how your attorney feels about litigation, and even more than that, you want to know your attorney’s success rate in obtaining court awards for their clients.
#3. Clear Communication
Personal injury attorneys need strong communication skills.
If you think about it, almost every aspect of the personal injury claims process requires communication skills, including:
- Explaining the process to potential clients to assist them in making an important decision in their case: whether to hire an attorney.
- Explaining the firm’s role in the personal injury process, the contingent fee billing method, and other pertinent information.
- Obtaining information about the client’s case, from the client as well as from others, including police officers who investigated the accident, medical professionals involved in the client’s care or who have expert testimony to offer, witnesses, and court staff.
- Representing their client’s case to the insurance adjuster and/or the court.
- Guiding the client through the process so that they can make informed decisions about their claim, and also providing regular updates so they know the status of their claim.
If you have difficulty getting the firm to make time for your free case evaluation or you can't understand the attorney’s explanations of the process, their communication skills are not strong.
#4. Guidance in How You Can Help Protect Your Claim
We cannot stress enough how important it is to have your attorney handle communication with the insurance company. This is not because insurance adjusters are bad people, but because their goal in your claim is entirely different than yours.
While both sides want to resolve the claim, you seek the maximum amount of compensation available to cover your expenses and impacts. On the other hand, the insurance adjusters’ goal is to reduce or eliminate your claim.
Some of the common tactics insurance companies use to reduce or diminish claims include:
- Offering a low settlement before you have had the opportunity to speak with an attorney, often with the warning that this is the most they will pay for your claim and that you must immediately decide on the offer.
- Convincing you to authorize the release of all of your medical records so they can search for pre-existing conditions that would reduce the value of your claim.
- Searching your social media accounts for information that can be used to reduce your claim, such as photos of you doing activities that they do not believe you should be able to do based on the severity of your injury.
#5. The Time and Energy to Focus on Your Claim
Not only do some lawyers focus almost entirely on settlements, but they fill their caseload up to the point where they have little time to provide personalized services for their clients. Studies have shown that greater amounts of psychological stress impair the process of healing from injury. The clients of a personal injury case are in the process of healing from their injuries, and the last thing most of them need is the stress of having an attorney who does not take the time to focus on their claim or update them on the progress.
During a free case evaluation to help decide whether you want that attorney working on your claim, ask them how much time they have, how they provide updates to clients and how often, and their feelings about the strength of your case. The first two questions will determine if they have time for your case, and the last question will help you determine how passionate about your claim they are.
You deserve a legal team that will zealously fight for your right to compensation, whether it is obtained through settlement negotiations or litigation. You need an attorney who will take the time to understand your case and the type of compensation you need.
#6. Financial Matters
Most personal injury lawyers provide their service via a contingent fee billing method. This means that payment for their services is contingent on the client obtaining a positive outcome to their claim.
When you and your attorney decide to begin working on your case together, you will be asked to sign a contingent fee agreement. This is a legally binding contract in which the lawyer is obligated to provide services to assist you with your claim. In exchange, they will obtain a set percentage of your settlement or award.
The contingent fee billing method provides several benefits for you and your attorney, including:
- You can obtain legal counsel without the need for upfront investment in the form of a retainer or worry about staying caught up with hourly billing cycles. You can focus on your healing rather than focusing on how to pay your attorney.
- Your attorney can get to work right away on your claim without waiting for you to pay a retainer, and they can continue working without delays due to late payments.
The attorney you choose to work with on your claim will explain the contingent fee billing thoroughly and answer any questions you have about it. Be sure you completely understand the agreement before signing it.
How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help Me?
The right legal team prides itself on the energy and passion they bring to their client’s claims and their ability to offer both high-quality and highly personalized services to their clients. A good personal injury attorney not only works with their clients but with their client’s friends and family as well, as these are individuals who have valuable information to offer about the impacts you suffered.
Contact a personal injury attorney today to discuss your legal options and how they can help.