A personal injury lawyer handles claims that arise when someone suffers an injury that the law holds another party liable for.
The duties of a personal injury lawyer are extensive, and they handle many different types of claims.
Read on for critical insight into the role of a personal injury attorney and how they may be able to help with your case.
Types of Cases That Personal Injury Lawyers Handle
You can divide personal injury cases into three broad classifications: negligence claims, intentional torts, and strict liability claims.
A negligence claim is an assertion that another person injured you through their carelessness. Descriptions of the most common negligence claims appear below:
- Car accidents and other motor vehicle collisions;
- Slip and fall accidents;
- Medical malpractice; and
- Premises liability claims.
If someone dies as a consequence of misconduct, a wrongful death claim arises.
Technically, a wrongful death claim is different from a personal injury claim. A wrongful death claim may or may not be based on negligence.
Elements of a negligence claim
To win a negligence claim, you typically have to prove all four of the following facts:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. Every mentally competent adult owes everyone else at least a duty to use common sense to avoid injuring others.
- The at-fault party breached their duty of care to you.
- You suffered an injury.
- The at-fault party’s breach of duty is what caused your injury.
Your task of proving negligence will be easier if you can prove that the at-fault party’s breach of duty violated a safety law. Your lawyer can help with this. A truck accident lawyer, for example, should be intimately familiar with trucking regulations.
In an intentional tort, the at-fault party doesn’t act carelessly – instead, they act intentionally. Here are some examples:
- False imprisonment: Someone locks you in a closet (or even a bedroom) during an argument. The at-fault party does not have to be a police officer.
- Assault: Someone points a gun at you, for example. This is assault even if they don’t pull the trigger.
- Battery: Someone punches you in the face (without justification). Alternatively, someone sexually assaults you. A battery requires a harmful or offensive touching, but not necessarily an injury.
Many other types of intentional torts exist. Courts are more likely to award punitive damages for an intentional tort than for a negligence or strict liability claim. It takes a good lawyer, however, to convince a court to award punitive damages.
Strict Liability Claims
In a strict liability claim, you can win your claim even if you can’t prove that the perpetrator was at fault for your injury. Following are three examples of strict liability claims:
- Product liability claims: If you suffer an injury due to a defective and unreasonably dangerous product, you can win a personal injury claim without proving that the manufacturer, retailer, or distributor was at fault.
- Dog bites: If a dog bites you, you may be able to win a claim against the owner even if they were not at fault. However, state laws differ on how they treat this issue.
- Workers’ compensation claims: A workers’ compensation claim will probably arise if you suffer a workplace injury. In most cases, you don’t have to prove your employer was at fault to win.
Other types of strict liability claims exist as well.
Personal Injury Claim Resolution
Claims don‘t enforce themselves. Either you must enforce your personal injury claim, or you must hire a lawyer to enforce it. If your claim has substantial value, your best bet might be to hire a lawyer. Following is a list of some of the actions a lawyer will take to enforce a personal injury claim.
The Initial Case Consultation
Just about all personal injury lawyers offer initial case consultations free of charge. It might last a few minutes, or it might take over an hour. If you are seriously injured, they might hold the consultation in your hospital room. The lawyer will give you a frank evaluation of their estimation of the strength of your claim and, if possible, its likely value.
Advise You Against Committing Common Errors
Never talk about your case on social media. Don’t talk to the opposing party’s insurance company without your lawyer present. These are some of the many possible mistakes you might make if you don’t hire a lawyer to advise you against them.
Preliminary Claim Investigation
Your lawyer will perform a preliminary investigation of your claim. They might visit the scene of the accident, interview witnesses, and examine your medical records. They might also research the opposing party’s financial resources.
Send a Demand Letter to the Opposing Party’s Liability Insurance Party
One common way of resolving a personal injury claim is to file a third-party claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance company. This is common in car accident claims, for instance. Your lawyer will draft a demand letter justifying your claim, and they will send it to the insurance company. Hopefully, this will kickstart settlement negotiations.
Negotiate a Private Settlement
Negotiations resolve most personal injury claims. You will probably face a professional negotiator, such as an insurance adjuster. Your personal injury lawyer can act as your very own professional negotiator to help you reach a generous settlement.
File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
You might need to file a lawsuit even if you still hope to reach a settlement. You can always withdraw your lawsuit once you reach a settlement. Filing a lawsuit is a way of pressuring your opponent to see things your way.
Engage in Pre-Trial Discovery
Pretrial discovery is a way of gathering evidence prior to trial. You can cross-examine the opposing party’s witnesses, for example, ask them written questions, and examine documents and physical evidence. This is a great way to enhance your bargaining position if the facts are on your side.
Draft a Settlement Agreement
If you manage to reach a settlement, you will need a written settlement agreement. It will have to be carefully drafted. Your lawyer can do this, or they can review a settlement agreement drafted by someone else. Never download an internet template settlement agreement.
Represent You At Trial
Not all that many personal injury cases make it all the way to trial. If yours does, though, having a lawyer do the talking for you and prepare the evidence can be a decisive advantage.
If you do go to trial and you don’t like the judgment, your lawyer can prepare an appeal. Appeals court judges typically make their decisions based purely on documents submitted by both sides. In some cases, however, they allow oral arguments.
Most Personal Injury Lawyers Won’t Charge You Unless They Win Compensation for Your Claim
Just about any personal injury lawyer will handle your case on a contingency fee basis if they believe in it. Under a contingency fee arrangement, the lawyer’s fee breaks down to a percentage of your compensation (whether through litigation or settlement).
If you don’t win compensation, you pay nothing. Consequently, if the lawyer agrees to accept your case, you can be fairly sure they believe they can win it.