Personal injury law, or tort law, covers cases that involve harm to a person’s body, emotions, or reputation. It can arise from a variety of situations, like a physical injury. It includes automobile accidents, product defect accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, assault, and nursing home abuse.
Sometimes, non-bodily harm causes personal injury. In these cases, personal injury arises from emotional distress, defamation, false detention, arrest, imprisonment, etc.
Personal injury law is a form of civil law where one party sues another. This condition sets it apart from criminal law, where the government prosecutes someone. In personal injury cases, a crime may not have caused the injury. The injuries can result from recklessness or negligence of the other party.
When people want to recover compensation for damages wrongfully caused by others, they seek personal injury lawyers. A lawyer specializing in this area of law can help victims get favorable verdicts in recovering damages.
In 2020, the National Safety Council recorded at least 200,955 preventable injury-related deaths in the United States. A big chunk of these fatalities consists of motor vehicle accidents, accounting for 40,764 deaths.
IBISWorld, an industry think tank, reveals that there are over 62,000 personal injury law firms in the US. They are forecasting a 3.6 percent business growth in the personal injury law industry by 2023.
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Credible medical and legal publications, including Dolman Law Group and Steve Clark & Associates, have cited The Personal Injury Center. It is a trusted source for legal knowledge specializing in medical malpractice and personal injury lawsuits.
How can a personal injury lawyer help?
A personal injury lawyer provides legal advice and representation to victims of personal injury cases. Victims who sustained psychological or physical injury, or financial loss, can seek the help of a personal injury attorney.
Lawyers specializing in personal injury handle cases involving car accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, and more. They can help you through the legal system, file personal injury claims, and help recover the compensation you deserve.
The general duties of a personal injury lawyer are similar to those of a litigator or a trial lawyer. Litigators represent either plaintiffs or defendants in the courtroom. Like personal injury lawyers, they assist with the investigation, trials, settlements, etc. More importantly, they both help victims in seeking compensation for personal injuries.
Below are the primary responsibilities of a personal injury lawyer.
Personal injury lawyers study the facts and merits of the case. Lawyers that take on cases on contingency are meticulous in screening potential clients. Working on contingency means the lawyer only gets paid if the client receives compensation. They will not take on a case that has no chance of winning.
However, a responsible lawyer will determine if a claim is worth pursuing, whether they work on contingency or not. In most cases, an attorney will take on a case if they are confident in winning it for a client.
Evidence is crucial in personal injury claims. It establishes liability for who caused the incident and determines the extent of damages the victim suffered. A personal injury lawyer will help victims gather evidence to prove liability.
Besides interviewing clients to get their stories, they procure incident or police reports regarding the accident. They can also track witnesses and obtain statements essential to any claim.
Evidence may include medical records, bills, medical reports, employment documents, property damage reports, and employment reports. Lawyers may also retain other relevant proof for the claim, like camera footage or property damage.
Negotiate with insurance companies
Personal injury attorneys have the expertise to negotiate with insurance companies. They have the know-how to seek a fair settlement or agreement with the other party’s insurance company.
Lawyers extensively review policy details and determine the maximum damages a victim can recover. Generally, compensation for personal injury claims heavily depends on the case’s specific circumstances.
As a rule of thumb, victims are discouraged from communicating with insurance companies without the presence of their lawyers. It prevents the victim from doing anything that may jeopardize their claim, like giving a recorded statement.
Represent clients at trial
The victim can file a personal injury claim if the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement. The complaint lays down the legal arguments on why the other party is liable for the accident. It also states the value of damages the victim seeks as compensation for injuries.
Usually, the defendant has approximately 30 days from receiving the complaint to prepare appropriate correspondence.
If the case proceeds to trial, the personal injury lawyer represents the plaintiff in court. They have experience with court customs and processes and ensure that they carefully follow these steps.
When To Find a Personal Injury Lawyer
When people discuss legal matters, we often hear about torts. A tort is a civil wrong that imposes liability. It rises from the commission or omission of than act that results in injury or harm to another. An injury in tort law is any action that violates a person’s legal rights. Harm is the loss or damage that the tort victim suffers.
You can bring a tort against another party on three grounds. The most common basis for a personal injury claim is negligence. It occurs when an individual commits a wrongful act recklessly.
Neglect stems from a person’s failure to act with the level of care that another would have under the same circumstances. For instance, a driver ignores a stop sign and slams into another car. In most cases, negligence is an unintentional tort.
However, when a person commits a tort deliberately, it is an intentional tort. Common intentional torts are battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment.
The third ground is strict liability. It holds a defendant liable for committing an act, regardless of their intent or mental state during the incident.
In a strict liability case, you need to prove a product, animal, or action of the other party harmed you. One example is when using defective products results in injury. The manufacturer is liable even if they did not act negligently or intend for their product to cause harm.
There are various types of personal injury cases depending on the incident that caused harm. These will be explained in more detail below.
Defamation by libel or slander consists of statements that harm someone else’s reputation. Spoken defamation is slander, while written defamation is libel.
Generally, defamation law refers to First Amendment rights and the importance of free speech. A defamed person can sue the individual who said or wrote defamatory statements. But not all insults or false information is actionable, especially regarding social or political speech.
A victim suing for defamation must prove that the statement was published, false, harmful, and not privileged. Published statements include words said to another person, written words transmitted to others, or pictures shared with someone else. However, an entry in a private journal is not considered “published.”
Emotional distress or mental anguish are forms of mental injury. It is the state of mental suffering that happens due to negligent or intentional acts of another party. You can sue the other party for emotional distress if you have suffered a significant loss or a traumatic experience.
An intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) occurs when an individual, through deliberate acts, causes severe emotional pain to another. A victim may seek damages for both emotional and physical harm caused by the act.
IIED is not mutually exclusive from bodily harm in establishing this tort. For instance, when a victim experiences persistent anxiety and paranoia from a prank gone wrong, they can experience emotional distress.
On the other hand, negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) occurs when a person’s negligent act causes mental suffering to another. In most cases, a victim must also prove physical symptoms to sue for NIED successfully. Physical symptoms include sleeplessness, loss of appetite, or anxiety.
For example, a person experiences trauma or anxiety from witnessing a loved one involved in a car accident. Then, that person can sue the driver at fault for emotional distress.
This specific situation also falls under the zone of danger rule, which several states follow. The zone of danger rule is a second requirement for an NIED lawsuit. Plaintiffs suing for NIED must prove the following:
- The defendant’s action placed them at imminent risk of physical harm.
- The victims were frightened by the risk of harm.
Most states allow people to recover damages for accident injuries. These include injuries sustained in car or truck accidents due to another party’s misconduct or negligence. All US states, except Florida, require motorists to carry liability insurance if they cause harm to someone else.
Generally, motorists have a duty to use reasonable care when driving to protect other people on the road. Ignoring this duty may lead to a personal injury claim if a negligent car accident harms another person. Riders may also have liability in motorcycle accidents.
Examples of negligent behavior include driving under the influence of alcohol, driving while fatigued, or texting while driving. In essence, a motorist driving while distracted is considered reckless or negligent.
Battery and assault
Among the most common types of personal injury torts are battery and assault. It may seem like these are interchangeable terms, but there are technical distinctions between them under civil law.
An assault is a threat or action that causes the other party to fear imminent offensive contact. It can be entirely verbal and does not require physical activity. Meanwhile, battery occurs when there is physical contact with the other person’s body or something connected to them.
Most personal injury cases arise from reckless actions but without malicious intent. However, battery and assault cases are intentional torts. It requires the victim to establish intent to be successful in their claim. Otherwise, they may need to bring in a negligence claim.
For instance, someone rear-ends a car unintentionally because of distracted driving. This act can only be considered negligent because they did not intend to harm the other party. However, if the driver deliberately hits the car because of road rage, that may be battery and assault.
The tort of medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or healthcare provider fails to act with the appropriate standard of care and hurts a patient. The specific standard of care depends on the circumstances. The victim must establish the accepted degree of care and how the medical professional did not meet that standard. In addition, they should prove the doctor’s actions caused their injury.
Medical malpractice claims include the following:
- Surgical errors
- Misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose, which may lead to wrongful death
- Birth injury
- Pharmaceutical errors
The medical malpractice statute of limitations varies per state. Generally, a victim must file a claim between six months and two years.
Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
Seeking the guidance of an experienced lawyer gives victims an advantage in personal injury cases. Their legal knowledge, previous case history, and tactics when dealing with insurance companies can save claimants time and effort. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and privileges, especially when the legal system is intimidating and complex.
Having a lawyer on call also gives clients peace of mind and emotional support. With clients who may have endured a traumatic event, an attorney can make the whole process more efficient.
Personal injury attorneys oversee the legal details of their cases, allowing victims to focus on their recovery. Lawyers can also answer any question that you may have about your case.
There are many other benefits that you can get from hiring a personal injury lawyer.
Professionalism and objectivity
A clear mind always makes the best decisions. The immediate aftermath of an accident often leaves victims confused and emotional. Lawyers can see the best path forward and handle anything that comes up with an injury claim.
For instance, a car accident victim with serious injuries must decide on legal matters regarding their lawsuit. Lawyers can take on this burden to help you make the best options.
Efficiency and consideration
If you are recovering from severe injuries, you will have little time and energy to keep the case going. Your lawyer can step in and request your medical records, obtain police and medical reports, and communicate with insurance companies. They can ensure the processing of your claim and compensation goes quickly.
Personal injury lawyers also provide legal coverage, so you won’t have to worry too much about your financial situation. Most front the cost of medical bills and work with healthcare providers to create a payment plan. They may also pay for your case’s court fees and filing costs. In exchange, you give them a substantial percentage of your compensation for your claim.
Insurance companies typically have a team of lawyers who are well-versed in settlements. If you negotiate with them directly, you will likely get less than you need or deserve.
Haggling with insurance providers can be extremely difficult, especially for people without prior experience. Insurance companies use various strategies to persuade claimants to accept their first settlement offer. The mere hiring of a personal injury lawyer will likely produce heftier remuneration.
Working with a personal injury lawyer is your best bet when dealing with insurance providers. They have experience working with similar cases and can get you the best compensation.
If an insurance company refuses to pay damages for your injuries, you can take them to court. Personal injury lawyers can help collect evidence and testimonies, then represent victims in court effectively.
They have extensive knowledge of the personal injury process and easily navigate it. In addition, lawyers have experience speaking to a jury which can be advantageous in court trials.
Mistakes People Make When Hiring a Lawyer
Seeking legal representation is exhausting, as it can be unnerving and sometimes intimidating. Finding the right lawyer can make or break a personal injury claim. But knowing how to avoid common mistakes can guarantee you will have a productive attorney-client relationship.
Not checking a lawyer’s area of expertise
Most lawyers work in firms where many people have the qualifications to handle your claim. But it does not necessarily mean they have equal skills in handling personal injury cases. Lawyers have varied specializations. You want one with experience in personal injury cases.
Ensuring you are working with an experienced attorney in personal injury is crucial. If you prefer someone else to handle your case, it is essential to make this clear immediately.
Not discussing availability
Lawyers may be handling several cases at the same time. Besides being busy with other clients, attorneys can also dismiss a claim due to conflicts of interest.
Most states also impose a statute of limitations for tort cases. For that reason, it is critical to file personal injury claims on time. Your lawyer should have time to dedicate to your case and not be distracted by other cases.
Find out if your lawyer still has the time and resources to work on your case. Ask your potential lawyer how many cases they are currently working on to avoid miscommunication.
If the case drags on, it can affect how much the victim can recover for damages. Clarify with the lawyer if they are available within the timeframe you wish for your case to be resolved.
Not asking questions
Advertisements can sometimes be deceiving and should not be the only basis for choosing an attorney. Additionally, lawyers can easily intimidate clients, but asking questions is the only way to clear your doubts. Agreeing to everything a lawyer says and not asking questions can lead to grave situations.
A lot is on the line when filing personal injury claims, so always speak up about relevant and pertinent queries. It is best to always see eye to eye with your lawyer and establish rapport.
Some questions to ask lawyers to have a clear picture of the situation include the following:
- Will they be receptive to questions either in person or over the phone?
- How long have they been practicing in personal injury?
- What is their track record and success rate?
- Will they personally handle the case or just let an associate or legal assistant oversee it?
- What types of cases does the lawyer usually take on, and how much of their practice area involves personal injury?
- What strategies have they used for personal injury cases in the past?
- Are they comfortable taking this case to court if the insurance company denies a claim or offers an unfair settlement?
Not making your goals clear
There are different ways to resolve personal injury claims, so be specific about where you want the case to go. Before going into your first meeting with a lawyer, figure out why you are seeking legal representation in the first place.
In some cases, victims do not care about seeking damages. They want to go to court regardless of receiving a fair settlement offer. Meanwhile, others do not care and are eager to return to their old routines. Sometimes, people want an out-of-court settlement that will leave them out of the public exposure that comes with court trials.
It is crucial to clarify these types of things with your personal injury lawyer at the beginning. They will figure out what settlement offers they can realistically present and whether going to court is a possibility. It will help your lawyer choose the best action to represent you.
Let The Personal Injury Center Help
Finding the best personal injury lawyer can be a tedious and time-consuming endeavor. But knowing the do’s and don’ts can make everything pleasant for you and your lawyer.
The Personal Injury Center has a comprehensive database of legal resources that provides essential know-how with just a click of a button. Apart from providing you with valuable information, we help clients connect with lawyers suitable for their cases through a free consultation.
Finding the ideal personal injury law firm or lawyer through our site only takes three steps:
- Briefly describe your case
- Provide your contact information
- Choose attorneys to contact you
Book a free case evaluation with The Personal Injury Center today!
FAQs on Personal Injury Lawyers
Each personal injury case is unique. Two main things determine the average cost of legal representation: the lawyer's fee and other expenses.
A lawyer might spend out-of-pocket costs when working on your case. If you are successful with your claim, the lawyer gets reimbursed for those expenses at cost. Meanwhile, lawyer fees represent payment for the time spent on the case.
Compensation for personal injury cases includes two types: compensatory and punitive damages. A jury determines the damages a victim can receive, which varies per case.
The awarding of compensatory damages aims to restore the victim financially, physically, and emotionally. It is generally divided into two categories - monetary losses or special damages and non-monetary losses or general damages.
Special damages include present and future medical care, medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and funeral expenses. Meanwhile, general damages represent compensation for pain and suffering and loss of consortium for family members of personal injury victims.
On the other hand, the court may impose punitive damages to punish the defendant for inflicting injuries on others. It usually awards these damages when the defendant’s actions have been wildly outrageous or reckless.
Punitive damages are not automatic in personal injury cases. Typically, the court limits punitive damages to ten times the compensatory damages.
Statutes of limitations are the timeframes for taking legal action. Most litigants must file a claim within a specific timeframe, which varies per state. For personal injury cases, the time to file a lawsuit ranges from one to six years. Generally, the court will dismiss a claim once the statute of limitations has lapsed.