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What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?

A personal injury lawyer represents individuals who have suffered a personal injury because of accidents and medical malpractice. They also represent the families of wrongful death victims.

What is an Injury Attorney?

A personal injury lawyer is a member of the American Bar Association. They help those who have been injured receive the maximum compensation possible. Personal injury practice areas include:

  • slip and fall accidents
  • workplace accidents
  • construction accidents
  • motor vehicle accidents, including truck accidents, car accidents, and pedestrian accidents
  • wrongful death victims

Personal injuries can come about because of someone else’s negligence. Many auto accidents fall into this category. For example, a driver is distracted, runs a stop sign, and hits a motorcyclist. Sometimes a personal injury case is an intentional tort. An example would be a motorist intentionally hitting another person’s car because they are angry with them. Intentional torts are criminal cases, as well as civil ones.

Personal injury lawyers help victims of all these accidents recover compensation for their pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical expenses, and lost wages. They also can help ensure the client receives enough money for long-term medical treatment, if necessary.

Sometimes a personal injury lawyer can help accident victims obtain punitive damages from the negligent party. Punitive damages go beyond compensating the victim for their losses. In personal injury law, punitive damages are designed to punish the individual who caused the accident. The award of punitive damages is less common than compensatory damages, and the criteria for these damages vary by state. A personal injury attorney will know when these damages apply.

A personal injury lawyer can help a victim file a claim with an insurance company and a personal injury lawsuit. They are experienced in tort law, personal injury law, and negotiating settlements with the insurance company or the negligent party.

A personal injury attorney can help accident victims understand what their legal claim is worth and can help them secure a fair settlement if the insurance company refuses to cooperate.

Most personal injury attorneys offer a free case evaluation during which they determine the strength of the potential client’s case. They also generally operate on a contingency fee basis. They receive contingent fees only if they gain compensation for their client’s injury.

Personal Injury Attorneys Perform Several Key Tasks

Personal injury cases are complex, and personal injury lawyers perform several tasks in representing their clients. The specific duties vary depending on the case and the specialty of the personal injury practice. They also vary depending on the phase of the case. A few of the primary tasks are as follows:

Personal Injury Lawyers Investigate Claims

A major part of the attorney’s job is investigating personal injury claims. Because the personal injury lawyer will only receive a payment if they recover compensation for their victim, they screen cases carefully during the free consultation. They only accept those they believe have merit.

A Personal Injury Attorney Gathers Evidence

Once the personal injury lawyer decides to accept a case, the lawyer and their legal team will gather evidence that supports their client’s injury claim. In gathering evidence, a personal injury lawyer may undertake these activities:

  • interview witnesses
  • take photographs of the accident scene
  • consult with accident reconstruction experts
  • look at medical records that describe the client’s injuries
  • establish who is the at-fault party and who is liable
  • examine accident reports and other relevant documents
  • hire independent investigators

Personal Injury Lawyers Negotiate with Insurance Companies

A good personal injury lawyer will review the insurance policy to determine what benefits the company promised and whether any exclusions apply. Accident injury lawyers understand that insurance companies are for-profit businesses and often seek to offer the lowest settlement possible. They are skilled negotiators and will work to recover money for the injured party.

Although someone injured in an accident can technically file an insurance claim themselves, they often will jeopardize their case by saying the wrong thing. An injury attorney also can advise clients on what to say and not say to insurance companies in written or recorded statements.

An Injury Attorney Often Sends Demand Letters

Demand letters state the injuries suffered and demand that the insurance company or at-fault party pay a certain amount of damages for the personal injury they caused. An injury attorney is skilled at writing these letters.

A Personal Injury Attorney Prepares the Complaint

If the insurance company fails to offer a fair settlement, the personal injury lawyer will begin the legal process. In many states, the first part of a personal injury case process is a written complaint against the negligent party. The attorney will file this complaint, which sets out the legal reasons why the defendant is responsible for the injuries. The defendant will have to respond to the complaint within a specific time period, usually 30 days.

A Personal Injury Lawyer Conducts Discovery

The discovery process in a personal injury lawsuit is a formal exchange of information between the two parties. It enables civil lawyers to know what each side will present at trial. Often the attorney for the plaintiff (or the injured person) will initiate this process by seeking information from the other side.

Personal Injury Attorneys Represent Clients at Settlement Conferences

Most personal injury cases settle before the trial. Taking personal injury lawsuits to court can be expensive, and the parties usually need clarification on what verdict and damages a jury might order. Lawsuits can also be stressful and many accident victims hope to settle out of court.

Settlement conferences allow the parties to reach a settlement before entering the litigation phase. The parties can hold a settlement conference at any point in the process. Sometimes they hold the conference as soon as the facts are known, but at other times they may wait until after the discovery phase or just before the case goes to trial. Sometimes a judge will oversee the conference. Often the clients do not attend the conference, and personal injury lawyers handle the negotiations at the meeting on behalf of their clients.

One typical example of a settlement conference is in a motor vehicle accident. The accident victim and the negligent driver’s insurance company may agree on compensation for the damages and injuries.

A Personal Injury Attorney Represents Injured Clients at Trial

If the parties cannot settle ahead of trial, the personal injury lawyer will help the accident victim pursue compensation in the courtroom, generally in front of a jury. Many personal injury lawyers are excellent litigators; however, not all those who practice personal injury law have courtroom experience. When you seek to hire a personal injury lawyer, ask them during the free consultation if they have courtroom experience.

How to find a personal injury law firm

Your choice of a personal injury law firm is critical to the success of your case. However, thinking clearly can be difficult when you’ve just had an accident. 1-800Ask-Gary is a free referral service that connects you with experienced attorneys and medical professionals. 1-800Ask-Gary offers referrals to truck, motorcycle, pedestrian, and car accident victims; those injured in workplace accidents; and victims of medical malpractice. Operators are available 24 hours a day and can provide referrals to professionals licensed in Florida, Minnesota, and New Mexico.