Personal injury cases arise when an individual becomes injured in an accident caused by another person or entity’s negligence, carelessness, or recklessness. Common accidents that form the basis of a personal injury case include motor vehicle accidents (involving cars, large trucks, or motorcycles), bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and premises accidents (including slip-and-fall accidents).
When someone is involved in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, the accident victim can suffer various injuries, including traumatic head and brain injuries, soft tissue injuries, broken bones, back and spinal cord injuries, and paralysis injuries. Moreover, if the accident involves a fire or some type of explosion, the accident victim could suffer a very serious burn injury.
All of these injuries can involve a significant amount of medical treatment. Therefore, the accident victim may need to spend time in the hospital, attend medical appointments, and go to physical therapy sessions. Depending upon the seriousness of the accident, the accident victim may suffer one or more permanent impairments due to the injuries they suffer in the accident.
In any kind of personal injury case, the accident victim (not the at-fault person or entity) shoulders the burden of proof. To recover monetary compensation for the injuries they suffered in the accident, the accident victim must demonstrate all of the necessary legal elements by a preponderance of the evidence. Put another way, the accident victim must show that it is more likely than not that each of the legal elements is true.
Specifically, the accident victim must show that the at-fault party owed them a duty of care and that the at-fault party violated (or breached) that duty of care, usually by acting unreasonably under the circumstances. The accident victim also needs to demonstrate that the at-fault person’s actions or inactions caused the accident. Lastly, the accident victim must show that they suffered one or more physical injuries and damages in the accident.
When it comes to taking on a personal injury case, not all lawyers are the same. For you to maximize your potential monetary recovery, you need a personal injury attorney who is both experienced and knowledgeable in representing you throughout your case. Your personal injury lawyer can first investigate the circumstances of your case and determine if you may be eligible to file a claim or lawsuit. If you are, your lawyer can file a personal injury insurance claim on your behalf, and if necessary, file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party with the proper civil court, seeking monetary compensation and damages.
When Should I Start Looking for a Personal Injury Lawyer to Represent Me in My Claim or Lawsuit?
There is a limited time in personal injury cases during which you are eligible to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. This deadline varies from state to state and is called the statute of limitations. In some locations, you may have as little as one or two years from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault person or entity seeking monetary damages.
Therefore, retain an experienced personal injury lawyer near you as soon as possible following your accident. Even while you are treating for the injuries that you suffered in your accident, an experienced attorney can investigate the circumstances of your accident and begin preparing a claim to file on your behalf.
Following your accident, your main priority should be to get well again and recover from your injuries to the greatest extent possible. An experienced personal injury lawyer can start working on your behalf even while you are finishing up your treatment and focusing on getting well again.
Qualities of a Good Personal Injury Lawyer
When it comes to retaining the best possible personal injury lawyer for you and your case, there are several very important characteristics and qualities for which you should look.
Some of these qualities include:
- Personal injury law is a significant component of the lawyer’s practice – When searching for legal representation in a personal injury case, seek an attorney who practices personal injury law regularly. These types of lawyers will have experience negotiating settlements with insurance company adjusters, filing lawsuits, and most importantly, taking personal injury cases to jury trials, mediations, and arbitrations. An experienced personal injury lawyer will prepare you for all of the essential parts of the litigation process, including depositions, trials, and mediations. An experienced attorney will also know a good settlement offer from a bad one and, based upon experience, they can help you decide whether you should accept a pending settlement offer in your case versus taking your case to trial or arbitration.
- The lawyer has a good track record of success – When retaining a personal injury attorney to represent you in your case, you want to make sure not only that the lawyer handles personal injury cases regularly but also that they have a good track record of success in getting favorable results for clients. Favorable jury verdicts and arbitration awards are often evidence of a good track record of success. It is also important to have a lawyer on your side who has a good reputation for success in the local community in which you reside.
- The lawyer has handled your type of accident case before – Not all personal injury cases are the same. Therefore, when seeking out a personal injury attorney to represent you in your case, find someone who has handled your specific type of accident case before. For example, if you suffered your injury or injuries in a slip-and-fall accident, you probably want a lawyer on your side who regularly represents victims of slip-and-fall accidents, as opposed to car accidents or construction accidents.
What Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Do for Me? How Can They Assist Me With My Personal Injury Case?
Once you have found the right personal injury attorney for you and your case, and you sign the attorney’s contingency fee agreement, the lawyer can begin working for you and pursuing monetary compensation for the injuries that you suffered in your accident.
First, if there is a dispute as to who or what caused the accident in which you suffered your injuries, your attorney can investigate the circumstances of the accident. In some cases, the investigation might involve speaking to eyewitnesses who were present at the accident scene and who observed first-hand exactly what occurred and how the accident happened. At other times, an attorney might need to retain the services of an expert, such as an accident reconstructionist, to determine exactly how the accident likely occurred. Having the necessary expert or experts on board in your case can sometimes make the difference between winning or losing the personal injury case on liability (or fault) grounds.
After investigating the circumstances of your accident and speaking with eyewitnesses who were present, your personal injury attorney can assist you in your case by filing the necessary insurance claims on your behalf. In the majority of states throughout the country, accident victims have a legal right to file a claim for monetary compensation and damages against the insurance company of the at-fault person or entity.
A personal injury attorney usually begins the process by drafting a settlement demand package and submitting it to the adjuster for the at-fault person or entity’s insurance company. If the accident victim suffered a particularly serious injury, such as a permanent injury, then the initial demand may be for the full limits of the insured individual’s policy.
Proving Your Claim and Damages
In addition to the settlement demand letter, the personal injury lawyer will typically include various documents as part of the complete settlement demand package. First, the lawyer may include a copy of the police report or investigative report, in the event one was prepared following the accident. These documents can offer some clarification on who was at fault for the accident if any questions arise.
In addition to this report, your personal injury attorney can include copies of your medical records and bills as part of the settlement demand package. That way, the insurance company’s adjuster can learn more about the nature and extent of your injuries, as well as the total cost of your medical treatment.
After some accidents, injured accident victims cannot work for a significant time due to their injuries. When that is the case, the personal injury lawyer can include lost wage documentation from the accident victim’s employer. This documentation will show how many days the injured worker was absent following their accident, as well as the amount of money they lost from not working.
Along with this documentation, the personal injury lawyer can attach any photographs that depict the accident victim’s injuries or property damage to the accident victim’s vehicle. Generally speaking, when an insurance company adjuster sees significant property damage to a car or truck, they will assume that the accident and resulting injuries were equally serious.
Finally, the demand package may include an impact statement that the accident victim prepares. This statement will typically include details about how the accident occurred, the injuries that the accident victim suffered, and the impact that the accident had on the person’s life, lifestyle, and wellbeing.
Negotiating Your Settlement
Once the insurance company adjuster reviews all of this documentation, they may decide to make a settlement offer on the case. However, in many instances, initial settlement offers that insurance company adjusters make extremely low. These offers are usually far below what the case is actually worth and do not fully compensate accident victims for the injuries that they sustained in the accident. When that occurs, the personal injury attorney can assist with negotiating a full and favorable settlement of the case. These negotiations may continue until the accident victim accepts the settlement offer or the parties reach an impasse.
In the event the parties cannot reach a favorable settlement in the case, the personal injury lawyer can file a lawsuit in the state court system on behalf of the accident victim. Just because an attorney files a lawsuit in the case, however, does not necessarily mean that a personal injury trial will take place. In fact, the great majority of personal injury cases settle at some point before the trial or alternative dispute resolution proceedings.
Even during the litigation process, including after written discovery and depositions, the parties may decide to settle the case. If the case does not settle, the court will typically schedule a pre-trial or settlement conference to try and facilitate a resolution.
If the personal injury case does not settle, the parties could take their case to trial, during which a jury will decide what, if any, damages the accident victim will receive. In the alternative, the parties might elect to take part in mediation or arbitration proceedings. During mediation, a neutral, third party mediator works to help the parties facilitate a settlement. In an arbitration proceeding, a neutral, third party arbitrator will decide the outcome of the case.
An experienced personal injury attorney in your area can assist you with all of the legal aspects associated with filing your insurance claim or your personal injury lawsuit. Your lawyer will do everything possible to help you pursue financial relief for the injuries that you suffered in your accident.
Those monetary damages might include compensation for all of your related medical treatment and physical therapy following your accident, as well as lost earnings from not working due to your injuries. You might also recover monetary compensation for your inconvenience, pain and suffering, permanent disability, loss of use of a body part (such as with a paralysis injury), loss of enjoyment of life, or loss of spousal consortium or companionship, due to the injuries that you suffered. Your attorney can evaluate the worth of your claim.