What Do Personal Injury Lawyers Do?
If you have been in an accident, you might wonder whether or not you should talk to a lawyer. You might also wonder whether getting help from a personal injury lawyer is necessary or if you can instead handle your claim on your own. A personal injury lawyer is a type of attorney who practices in an area of civil law called tort law. Tort law includes cases in which the plaintiffs have suffered civil wrongs because of the negligent, reckless or intentional actions of others. Personal injury attorneys represent injured plaintiffs in order to try to recover compensation for them.What types of cases do personal injury lawyers handle?
Personal injury lawyers might handle a variety of different types of claims. Some of the most common types of personal injury cases include the following:
- Car accidents
- Commercial truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Dog bites
- Other vehicle accidents
- Fires and burn injuries
- Premises liability
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Wrongful death
- Products liability
- Workers' compensation
This is not an exhaustive list. Personal injury claims might involve any case in which a person is injured and suffers harm because of the negligent or intentional actions of others.What do personal injury attorneys actually do?
The steps that a personal injury lawyer might take in a claim will depend on the type of case that it is. There are some general steps that apply to most personal injury cases, however. Here are some things that your personal injury attorney might do in your case.
1. Evaluate potential claims
Personal injury attorneys carefully screen potential claims that people present to them. Since most injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, they are careful about the claims that they will agree to accept. The evaluation process may include an investigation into the merits of the claims.
2. Gather evidence
Personal injury lawyers may gather evidence to support their clients' claims. They may hire accident reconstruction experts to show what happened in the moments leading up to the accidents by taking careful measurements and photographs and then conducting scientific analyses of the data. They may also get copies of the police reports about the accident and their clients' medical reports. The attorneys may use investigators to find witnesses and get their statements. Gathering the evidence can play an important role in the ultimate outcomes of the cases.
3. Negotiate with the insurance companies
When you have a personal injury attorney representing you, your lawyer will handle the negotiations with the insurance companies that are involved in the case. As a part of this process, they might review the policies and determine the maximum amount of money that might be available. Your lawyer might also advise you against signing any documents that the insurance company might send to you or giving recorded statements. Finally, the attorney may negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and send a demand letter outlining your legal claims and the amount of compensation that you are demanding to settle your claim.
4. Draft and file complaints
If the insurance company refuses to settle your claim for a reasonable amount or disputes liability, your lawyer may draft and file a civil complaint with the court that has jurisdiction to hear your claim. This document is a legal pleading that is filed to formally commence a lawsuit against the defendant or defendants. Once it is filed, it will need to be properly served on the defendant and the insurance company. The defendant will then have time to file his or her reply.
5. Go through the discovery process
After the complaint and answer have been filed, the case will go through a process called discovery. During this phase, both your lawyer and the defense lawyer will exchange the evidence that each side has in the case. Your lawyer may also send interrogatories to the defendant and conduct depositions.
6. Prepare for and go to trial
Personal injury attorneys continue to negotiate with the insurance companies throughout the pendency of their cases. Most of the time, the claims will be settled before they go to trial. However, good personal injury attorneys prepare their cases as if they are going to trial. If the insurance companies refuse to settle the cases for reasonable amounts, the lawyers may litigate for their clients at jury trials.How much money can a personal injury lawyer recover?
The facts of every personal injury case are different. There is not a single amount of money that you might expect to recover in your case. The amount that you might expect to receive will depend on such factors as the extent and severity of your injuries, the expected length of your recovery, your medical expenses and income losses, and other relevant facts. Your personal injury attorney will value your claim and give you a range of compensation amounts that you might expect a fair settlement offer to fall in so that you can have a better idea.What are the reasons that a personal injury lawyer might not take your claim?
There are several reasons why a personal injury attorney might not agree to take your claim. The fact that you were injured is not enough by itself. A lawyer will look at what happened in your accident to determine whether or not the other party's actions constituted legal negligence or an intentional tort. If the actions do not meet the legal standards, a lawyer will be unlikely to agree to represent you.
If your injuries were very minor or you suffered few losses, an attorney is also unlikely to accept your case. Lawyers can't accept claims based on a speculation of what could have happened. It also is expensive to present cases, and if your losses are minor, it might not make sense for an attorney to litigate your claim.
Another reason a personal injury lawyer might not agree to accept your case is if you have already had several lawyers or appear as if you are shopping around for the attorney who will give you the highest quote for a potential settlement. It is important for people to find personal injury lawyers with whom they can work well.Do you really need a lawyer?
It is possible for people to file personal injury claims and negotiate with the insurance companies on their own. However, it is not a good idea for people to take this approach in most cases. Tort law is complex, and personal injury attorneys have studied the law in law school and afterward in their practices. The law frequently changes, and your lawyer may be current with all of the changes that have occurred.
However, there are certain cases in which you might not need a lawyer. If your injuries were very minor or you only suffered property damage to a vehicle, you might be able to handle the negotiations with the insurance company on your own. However, if the insurance company denies your claim or if there are several parties that were involved, it might be a good idea for you to consult with a personal injury attorney. You should also talk to a lawyer if your injuries were serious and to evaluate any offers of compensation that you might receive. To learn more about your potential claim, contact the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat today to schedule a free case evaluation.