Personal injury attorneys represent people who have suffered injuries in accidents caused by someone else’s negligence or carelessness. That negligence can be accidental or intentional. Injuries can be physical, mental, emotional, financial, or any combination thereof.
Personal injury attorneys specialize in an area of the law called tort law. Tort law’s purpose is to ensure injured parties get proper compensation for the loss and harm they suffered as the result of someone else’s legally liable act – made whole in legal terms – and to deter others from committing the same sort of offense in the future.
Tort law covers a wide range of private and civil legal actions including but not limited to:
- Medical malpractice
- Car accident
- Construction accidents
- Bad faith breaches of contract
- Defamation of character
- Wrongful death
Personal injury attorneys follow their cases from start to finish and can bring considerable resources to bear on their clients’ behalf. These include many services they perform before the case reaches the courtroom:
- Investigating claims – Personal injury attorneys often represent their clients on a contingency basis, meaning they only collect their fee if their client’s case is successful. It is important they do a thorough investigation to ensure the case has standing in court and has a reasonable chance of success.
- Gathering evidence – The attorney will gather evidence to support their client’s claim, including photographs, police reports, and witness statements. Some evidence is readily available, while other information may only be accessible through a subpoena.
- Conducting discovery – Both sides of any legal action must share the evidence they plan to bring to the case in the interest of fairness – a process called discovery. A personal injury attorney will review evidence attained through discovery and use it to make the best case for the client.
- Interviewing and deposing witnesses – As a part of the discovery process, the attorney will interview witnesses and depose those he believes will help his client’s case under oath. Depositions carry the same weight as testimony in court.
- Negotiating with insurance companies – A personal injury attorney will often handle all communication with the insurance companies involved in the case, including negotiation. This helps the client receive the best settlement possible.
- Sending demand letters – The attorney may also send a demand letter to the defendants in the case, demanding compensation for their client’s injuries.
- Preparing pleadings – Insurance companies often refuse the first offer for a settlement. The attorney may also demand arbitration to try reaching a settlement before going to court. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the attorney will then prepare pleadings and file a complaint against the defendant in court.
- Representation in court – Ultimately, a personal injury attorney is their client’s advocate in court, providing sound counsel and representing their interests.
Education and Certifications
In addition to the educational requirements all lawyers must meet, and passing the bar exam in their respective states, personal injury attorneys must also meet additional requirements. They can seek additional certification as civil trial advocacy specialists through the National Board of Legal Specialization.
Additionally, state bar associations may also require personal injury attorneys to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination and complete a certain number of hours of continuing education to maintain their licensure.
Personal injury lawyers are experts in oral advocacy, negotiation, and client development. Personal injury lawyers also handle stress and pressure well. These skills give them the confidence and success to require a contingency fee. A contingency fee means the plaintiff does not pay a fee until the lawyer recovers compensation on their behalf.