Personal injury law is also known as tort law. Working with personal injury attorneys can be different than working with other legal professionals in terms of how they’re paid and some other distinctions.
If you have a successful tort action, it means that an individual who harmed you compensates you for your losses.
The following are seven key things to know about personal injury and working with lawyers in this area of specialty.
If you’re going to hire a personal injury attorney, it’s because you’re in a legal dispute stemming from harm you suffered as the result of an accident or injury. You are indicating that someone else is legally responsible for the harm.
Personal injury cases are formalized through lawyers who represent you in a civil court proceeding.
If your case goes to trial, the court is to make a determination of whether others are legally at fault.
Personal injury attorneys specialize in tort law. As mentioned, tort law covers civil or private wrongs and injuries. We often think about car accidents as most commonly associated with personal injury law, but it can also cover breach of contract and defamation.
Legal cases that are considered personal injury include:
Personal injury attorneys will handle cases from the start through to appeal. They are litigators for the most part. They investigate claims and screen clients to determine whether or not they have a viable case.
Personal injury lawyers will collect evidence, research case law, and formulate legal theories.
Other particular tasks they do include drafting pleadings and motions, discovery requests, and both interviewing and deposing witnesses.
The tasks are all part of trial preparation, but the job doesn’t end with that. A personal injury attorney is an advocate for their client before and during a trial. This might include counseling them and dealing with legal obstacles.
These cases can be complex, so some personal injury attorneys will focus on a niche of tort law.
A personal injury case is different from other legal cases, and there’s a different way these legal professionals are usually paid as well.
Most professionals who practice personal injury law receive their payment under a contingency fee agreement. With a contingency fee agreement, the lawyer won’t receive a fee for legal services unless they’re able to obtain a recovery for their client. Most often, the fee is a percentage of the amount recovered from either a settlement or a court judgment following a trial. It’s usually around 33%.
There are possible variations of a contingency fee arrangement too.
For example, in the mixed hourly/contingent arrangement, the attorney receives a reduced hourly rate for the work they complete even if their client loses. Then, if the case is won or settled, the attorney gets a bonus. The bonus might be an additional hourly fee or a percentage of the total recovered amount.
In a sliding scale contingency, the percentage is on a sliding scale. The percentage goes up as the litigation progresses. If a case goes all the way to trial, the lawyer is paid more than if it had been settled.
A third way an attorney working in personal injury might be paid is called contingency hourly. The plaintiff’s attorney isn’t paid unless a recovery is obtained, but the amount the attorney receives is based on the amount of time they spend working on the case.
What a lot of people don’t initially realize is that the vast majority of personal injury cases don’t ever go to trial. They reach a settlement for a number of reasons.
First, there’s a high level of uncertainty involved in personal injury lawsuits. Surprises can pop up at any time, so it can be in the best interest of everyone to settle.
Not going to trial can save money and time too.
For plaintiffs, settlements help maintain a sense of privacy because courts are public.
On the side of the defendant, they don’t have to admit liability if they settle.
Settlements usually occur through negotiations involving insurance companies and attorneys representing both sides. Following negotiations, settlements include a written agreement, and in that, both sides agree not to take any further action.
They are resolving the issue through the payment of a sum of money they both find agreeable.
There’s a misconception that a personal injury lawyer will take any case that comes their way. In reality, it’s in their best interest to be selective about the cases they take, to save their own time and make sure that they’re making money. If an attorney is paid on contingency and they don’t recover anything for you because you don’t have a strong case, they don’t get paid for their time.
There are a lot of reasons a personal injury attorney might decline a case.
Sometimes it’s a technicality—for example, maybe the statute of limitations has run out.
Other reasons they might turn your case down include the fact that they don’t see it as viable, you weren’t seriously injured, or they think it would be too hard to prove fault.
Finally, no matter what, it’s important that you’re completely honest and transparent with a personal injury attorney. This reduces the likelihood of surprises coming out that could sabotage your case. If you’re working with someone you don’t feel comfortable being honest with, it might be a sign that you should find someone else.
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