Breaking Bad is popular television series that details the life of fictional character Walter White. White was a high school chemistry teacher who turned to making and selling illegal drugs to pay for his cancer treatments. Anyone who has watched this series is likely familiar with Walter’s lawyer, Saul Goodman.
While it was Saul’s job to keep Walt out of legal trouble he could be seen breaking the law almost as much as Walter did. This was true not only in his work with Walt but in his unscrupulous and profit driven interpretation of what it meant to be an attorney. Often times this meant embezzling money from his clients, wrongly accusing companies money laundering and more.
The myth of the “ambulance-chaser”
Saul embodied the unethical “ambulance-chasing” lawyer that we have all come to recognize in some of our favorite movies and shows, and even advertised on billboards and radio jingles in real life. In television, Saul is good for a laugh; but when you or a loved one has been injured in an accident there is nothing to laugh about. A dedicated, ethical and professional attorney is essential to protect your and your loved ones’ rights.
Facts about personal injury lawyers
If you have been seriously injured in an accident you know that your needs are real. You know that you need professional, ethical and competent representation, not a Hollywood persona, to defend you and your family’s rights during this challenging time.
Fortunately real personal injury lawyers and law firms rarely resemble the Saul Goodman’s of television and the big screen. Because being a personal injury attorney requires an immense amount of education, a sharp mind and a mastery of the law, many talented people are drawn to the profession. Some interesting facts about becoming a personal injury lawyer include:
- All personal injury attorneys must complete at least 7 years of university level education beyond high school. This includes 4 years of undergraduate study and 3 years of law school.
- Many personal lawyers remain active outside their practices in continuing education, community volunteer work and working in non-profit organizations
- All personal injury attorneys must subscribe to a common set of ethics outlined by the American Bar Association. Failing to do so may result in an attorney losing their right to practice law.
Common Qualities of Personal Injury Lawyers
- Analytical Thinking. Personal injury lawyers must have the ability to use analytical thinking skills to analyze data, facts and all relevant elements of a case.
- Social Skills. While a lawyers primary function is to interpret the law and protect the rights of the client, building a strong relationship and solid rapport is essential.
- Objective Thinking. A competent attorney must have the ability to step outside any preconceived thoughts he or she might have about a case and think objectively. Considering the facts and data of the case is essential.
- Research Skills. Law in general and personal injury law in particular is an ever-changing subject. An attorney needs to be skilled in legal research methods to find relevant laws to their cases.
- Public Speaking. Because attorneys are hired by clients to represent them, it is essential that they can communicate in a clear and concise way.
The complexities of personal injury law
A personal injury attorney is responsible for many complex issues regarding their clients’ cases. Also, a personal injury lawyer holds a general responsibility to encourage businesses and workplaces, neighbors and coworkers, drivers and pedestrians to consider their actions before harm has been done to someone else because of the risk of financial compensation. Because of this it is not uncommon for laws to be changed or amended as the result of a personal injury law settlement.
- What happens when conditions in the workplace make you sick or injured?
- Who pays for medical bills when a texting driver harms a loved one?
- Does injury only result from physical harm, or can someone inflict life altering mental anguish upon you or a loved one?
The World without Personal Injury Law
A world without personal injury law and lawyers would be a much more dangerous place. Without personal injury law, we would be at an increased risk of the following:
- The manufacturing company you work for can expose you to toxic chemicals
- The inattentive neighbor can go without repaving their uneven sidewalk
- The insulting and demeaning boss can make workplace comments about your figure
- The maker of your children’s toys can put lead in the paint
- An employer does not have to give you time off or pay when you have been injured on the job
- A doctor can continue to practice medicine despite numerous botched procedures
Personal Injury by the Numbers
In a 2005 study regarding personal injury trials that went to court conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, they found Personal Injury lawyers have a record of success:
- Plaintiffs won in more than half (56%) of all general civil trials concluded in state courts
- The median final award personal injury cases was $28,000
- The median jury awards for product liability trials were 5 times higher in 2005 than in 1992; medical malpractice more than doubled from $280,000 in 1992 to $682,000 in 2005
Decrease in personal injury cases
Despite the widespread prevalence of advertisements for personal injury lawyers and their depiction in mainstream television, personal injury trials have actually been decreasing, according to the BJS:
The total number of tort cases (personal injury) declined by 40% from 1992 to 2005 in the nation’s 75 most populous counties
Top Five personal injury cases in 2005 by percentage
- Automobile Accidents 58%
- Medical Malpractice 15%
- Premises liability 11%
- Intentional Tort 5%
- Other (Product liability, animal, slander, false arrest, professional malpractice) 12%
What Can a Personal Injury Lawyer do for You?
- Investigate claims
- Gather evidence
- Provide consultation about the options for victims
- Negotiate compensation for victim
- Encourage new laws, statutes and ordinances to be passed for the protection of others
- Safeguard clients from insurance companies, other lawsuits, etc.
- Reference case law
- Interview witnesses
While personal injury lawyers often receive criticism or are portrayed negatively by the media they play a very important role in our society. Not only do they protect the rights of the injured and their loved ones, they can also be instrumental in encouraging the amendment and changing of laws that help make our world safer to live in.