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What Is A Personal Injury Attorney?

When a person has been injured, whether physically, emotionally or both, as the result of an act of negligence or wrongdoing, they often choose to retain the services of a personal injury lawyer. These legal professionals are engaged in protecting the rights of injured persons, filing claims and lawsuits, and managing all aspects of recovering compensation.

All personal injury cases hinge upon the legal concept of negligence, which is essentially when a person (or entity) acts or fails to act in a manner that another reasonable person would.

It is a broad concept, but can be applied to countless situations, such as drunk, speeding, reckless or distracted drivers, acts of medical malpractice, unsafe premises, or even dangerous dogs that have been allowed to roam freely. Establishing negligence is the first order of business for the personal injury lawyer, and he or she will review the facts in the case to make a decision about its merits. Some cases of negligence are very clear, and not in question, where others could are far more difficult to resolve.

Most injury cases are settled outside of court, but some must proceed to court when challenged, or when an insurance company will not pay adequate compensation to a victim.

Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and are commercial operations that answer to upper management and shareholders. The bottom line is the profits made by the company. Most people do not fully understand the processes that insurance companies employ when evaluate the value of, and pay out compensation for claims. Initially, an interview with the injured person takes place. Unfortunately, these interviews may have a hidden goal – getting the injured party to admit to some level of responsibility for the injury. Access to medical records is part of the process as well, and your entire medical history will be painstakingly reviewed to find out if there is any condition, illness or other situation that could have made the level of injury worse.

For example, if you had an existing back pain problem, were then hit by another driver, and your back injury was exacerbated, the insurance company could claim you already had a back condition and the accident was not the sole cause of the injuries you sustained. A personal injury lawyer works to protect the injured from these types of strategies, and is very familiar with how to manage requests for information from an insurance adjuster. In many cases, a person who is represented by an injury attorney will recover double or triple the amount in compensation than if the he or she had tried to resolve the case without legal help.

Insurance Companies and Personal Injury Lawyers

Insurance company personnel can often try to deter an injured person from contacting a lawyer, and will say that all that will occur is that some of the settlement money will be lost in legal fees. In fact, a personal injury lawyer takes a set percentage of the final settlement, which if it is far higher than the injured person would have recovered, is still significantly higher in value. How do they do it? They know how to correctly evaluate the long term consequences of the injury upon the person, and how state-specific laws or caps on certain damages can impact the amount sought in a claim or lawsuit.

For serious injuries, it is important that the injured person is adequately compensated. An individual who is facing disabilities, whether physical, mental or both, will be dealing with difficult challenges, and may never be able to work in his or her chosen profession again, or provide the income, love and care to the family as prior to the injury. These are all issues that must be evaluated and given a monetary value. A personal injury lawyer is a professional in this field, and can advise you of the actual value of your injury claim, and then proceed to pursue compensation that is fair. Insurance company personnel, such as defense lawyers, are aware that when a legal professional is on the case there is far less “wiggle room” and a much lower chance of getting an injured person to accept an unfair settlement.

Better Call Saul: Debunking the Popular Personal Injury Attorney Persona

Better NOT Call SaulBreaking 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.

Some examples:

  • 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

  1. Automobile Accidents 58%
  2. Medical Malpractice 15%
  3. Premises liability 11%
  4. Intentional Tort 5%
  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

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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.