Has something happened where you believe that you need a personal injury lawyer? How do you find a personal injury lawyer? Also, once you find one how do you hire a personal injury lawyer? For both questions it really depends on your personal needs for hiring a lawyer.
Sometimes it seems like every other commercial during daytime TV or radio time is a commercial for a personal injury lawyer. Know that just having commercials on TV doesn’t mean that that lawyer is going to be attentive or the right fit for you and that they may just be out to win cases and make money.
What is a personal injury lawyer? Personal injury lawyers are lawyers that practice tort law, which the Law Dictionary defined as, “a civil wrong or wrongful act, whether intentional or accidental, from which injury occurs to another. Torts include all negligence cases as well as intentional wrongs which result in harm.” Any vehicle accident and workplace injury can be included in personal injury law.
What kinds of cases are Personal Injury?
Personal injury cases could have a number of different causes. Being involved in a personal injury case doesn’t mean that you intentionally did something wrong or that the other person did something wrong. Here is a list of cases that fit under personal injury law…
Different types of Personal Injury
- Defamation (not everyone does defamation cases as personal injury but they are incidents where someone causes harm to a person’s reputation)
- Defective Products (if a product causes harm to a consumer, the manufacturer or maker can be found liable)
- Intentional Acts (this includes assault & battery and any other type of injury intentionally inflicted to someone)
- Accidents (this covers most types of personal injury cases like, a slip & fall, vehicle accidents or things that happen at work)
When to contact a Personal Injury Lawyer?
- You’ve suffered severe injuries – If you were in an accident or have suffered significant personal injuries hiring a personal injury lawyer may be what you need to do.
- The insurance company won’t pay – There are instances where the insurance company may want to drag their feet on paying out insurance funds for a legitimate claim. Your insurance company may not want to cover your costs related to a car accident or for medical bills you’ve incurred as a result of an injury. A lawyer experienced in dealing with insurance companies can step in and make a formal demand for payment to help move the insurance company forward towards paying a fair amount for your claim of damages. In the event the insurance company still won’t pay, a lawsuit may be filed which will require an experienced litigation attorney.
- Multiple parties are involved and/or liability isn’t known – When it comes to accidents, incidents and crashes, persons involved tend to change their story about how things happened. Very often people who admit fault for causing the crash at the scene will change their story once insurance companies get involved. If it is unclear who is at fault an investigation may be required where evidence is obtained and prepared for presentation. This may require your lawyer to preserve evidence, travel to the scene and take statements from witnesses. Disputing fault for an incident is one of the most common ways insurance companies and/or their insureds prevent you from obtaining a fair resolution to your claim.
- You’ve received long-term or permanently disabling injuries – If you were injured or in a significant accident which caused you long-term or permanent disabling injuries, you will certainly need professional help. You are going to need on going medical care and may need wage loss support. An experienced personal injury attorney can help guide you to obtaining insurance benefits which may be readily available.
What to ask a Personal Injury Lawyer?
- What are their fees? – It’s important to know up front what the fees for your attorney will be. Do they get paid upfront or once your case is settled/over? If they work on a contingency fee basis it is your right to know exactly what your attorney will charge. Generally, a personal injury attorney will advance costs related to the case on your behalf and will only collect those costs from you in the event there is a successful resolution to your case.
- Do I have to pay if I lose? – Under a contingency fee contract you will never owe your attorney any money even if you lose. However, once lawsuit is filed there is the possibility you could be responsible for the other party’s fees and costs under certain circumstances. It is vital your attorney discusses these risks with you.
- How much time will be put towards my case? – Each case is different. Most of the time that is required for a personal injury case to reach resolution depends on the client’s medical condition and recovery from injuries. Injured persons must reach a certain point of recovery before a fair evaluation of their claim for damages can be made. If a lawsuit is required, the case will take longer.
- Will you personally be handling my case? – Often times personal injury clients can be made to feel like a file number. A personal injury case has many stages. There are times when a paralegal may be your primary contact. You should always be able to schedule a call with your attorney to go over details of your case.
- Have you worked on a case like mine? – It is important to know if the lawyer you are considering has experience handling a case like yours. You should feel comfortable or assured that the person you are hiring will know how to give your case their best. You have the right to ask your lawyer about his qualifications and experience.
- Is my case worth pursuing? – Your lawyer should be able to offer you a reasonable expectation of recovery. If at any time during your case your lawyer cannot reasonably assure you of this, he must inform you. Most contingency fee lawyers will not take your case if no recovery is likely or possible.
- Will my case go to trial? – Most personal injury cases do not go to trial. Before trial occurs, the parties will usually be compelled to mediation where the parties confer and attempt to resolve the case. At that point, it will be your decision as the client whether to accept the offer (if any offer is made) or proceed to trial or drop your case. Trials are a last resort as they are very costly and require a large commitment of time from both the client and their attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney will properly prepare you and advise you through this process.
- How long may my case take? – In most courtrooms the average time for a lawsuit to resolve is eighteen (18) months. Of course, this number will vary based on the issues involved in your case. If issues in the case are complicated or hotly disputed, your case could take much longer.
- What is the value of my case? – The value of your case depends heavily on establishing who is at fault. In Florida, parties can share fault comparatively. For instance, a jury could find you and the other person involved in a crash are both 50% liable. In situations such as those any damage award you receive will be reduced by 50%. The severity of your injuries and the amount of expenses and bills you have incurred as a result of the incident also play a large in determining the value of your case.
How do Personal Injury cases work?
- The Plaintiff is Injured or suffered a loss – The first criteria for a personal injury claim is an injury or loss where there is a reasonable expectation of recovery. When you first meet with an attorney, he or she should conduct an analysis of all aspects of your case (liability, causation and damages at the very least). Many times, some of the facts are unknown soon after an injury or loss occurs. However, it is vital during this early stage to consult with an attorney before evidence is lost or destroyed.
- Investigation, information gathering and notices – Once an investigation has occurred and the necessary information has been gathered and preserved, your attorney will send out notices to potential defendants and any insurance companies which may be providing coverage.
- A claim is made – When the Plaintiff has completed treatment for their injuries, has reached maximum medical improvement and/or when other losses have been determined, the claim can be valued, and a demand can be made. That value determination will depend not only on the strength of the case, but also on the potential defendant’s ability to pay as well as available insurance. Unless a demand for the entire policy amount is made, your attorney must meet or speak with you and get your approval for the amount in which a demand will be made.
- A Complaint is Filed and Served on the Defendant – If after a claim is made and the potential defendant and/or insurance company either does not respond or fails to make an offer that is acceptable to you the client, a lawsuit may be necessary. Filing a lawsuit and engaging in litigation requires a highly skilled attorney experienced in litigating claims all the way through a jury trial. Most lawyers do not litigate and do not take cases to trial. Before this process begins your attorney must meet with you to go over and the pros and cons of filing a lawsuit and any risks or obligations which may be required of you.
- The Discovery Process – Once the Complaint has been filed and served, the parties will then engage in discovery – where each side requests and discloses information. Discovery can involve answering written questions, producing various documents and sitting for a deposition (where oral questions are answered under oath). If the case involves a personal injury, the defense has the right to have you the client examined by a doctor of its choice. Rest assured, these hired doctors 99% of the time will give an opinion that is helpful to the defense. Depending on the case, discovery can take months or years to complete.
- Mediation – When discovery is over or nearing its end your case should be set for trial. Prior to any trial occurring the Court will compel the parties to mediation. Mediation is a process where an unbiased third-party mediator (usually a retired judge or experienced trial attorney) will listen to each side’s version of their case and facilitate the parties toward settlement. If the case fails to settle, the next step is trial.
- Settlement – Settlement can occur at any time. Sometimes cases settle the first day of trial. Every case is different.
- Jury Trial – Jury trial is essentially the final stage of the case. Jury trials should only be conducted by experience trial attorneys. Usually the attorneys representing any defendant work for the insurance companies and have tried many cases and deprived many legitimate clients from recovering for their losses. Jury trials are not for the light of heart and will be explored more in depth in a future post.
The only real question left is, do you need a personal injury lawyer? If you have suffered severe injury physically or mentally and insurance isn’t handling the problem, then you will definitely need a lawyer. An attorney can help you to know what your next steps should be and point you in a direction of medical attention if you haven’t already received it.
A personal injury attorney can also let you know if you truly have a case and if somehow you were at fault in a situation. Personal injury attorneys can be a sounding board or an advocate for you, if that is what you are needing them to be. Don’t think that just because your insurance isn’t working with you and the other party isn’t playing fair that that behavior is how a lawyer will be. Don’t let your case go unheard, reach out to a personal injury lawyer at Bodden & Bennett Law Group and get your day in court.