Injury Attorneys Consumers Guide
Injured and looking for an attorney in your area? Check out this guide to help you with the decision making process. We’ve asked our expert clients to join us on answering your questions and providing the latest legal news and resources.
What are Injury Attorneys? Do I need one?
If you’ve experienced a personal injury or accident, then chances are injury attorneys can help. These legal representatives work to ensure that you have the money you need for medical bills, damages and living expenses while you recover.
Unless you already have legal experience, navigating your way through the legal system can be time-consuming and stressful. There’s no way to know whether an individual or insurance company is treating you fairly. An injury attorney protects your legal rights to ensure that you are fairly compensated for any losses due to an accident.
What are Injury Attorneys?
An injury attorney provides personal representation to those who have been injured due to negligence or wrong doing by an individual, company or government office. Injury attorneys specialize in tort law, which covers any type of civil wrong or damage to someone’s rights, property or reputation. Although personal injury attorneys are able to practice any type of law, their main focus usually involves work injuries, product defects and medical errors as well as various types of accidents including automobile, and slip and falls.
How do Injury Attorneys Differ from Other Attorneys?
Injury attorneys differ from other types of attorneys in that they specialize in personal injury law. When attorneys first become licensed in their state of business, they often choose a particular field of law. This specialization allows attorneys to gain the knowledge and expertise they need to provide the best representation possible for their clients. Many lawyers also take their law interest further in that they become state certified in order to become recognized specialists in their chosen law field. Depending on the state, personal injury attorneys may use a designation to advertise their specialist status to clients. When seeking personal representation for injuries, many people choose a personal injury attorney rather than a general attorney in order to ensure that they are dealing with someone very familiar with these types of legal claims.
What Different Types of Injury Attorneys are there?
Within the field of personal injury law, attorneys may also focus on a particular area. Personal injury claims cover a wide gamut of litigation to include all forms of accidents, wrongful death, medical malpractice, workplace injuries and product liability. As lawyers work different types of injury cases, they often become well-known for their client representation within the various areas of litigation.
Some lawyers may become experts in workers’ compensation law while others devote their entire practice to medical malpractice lawsuits. The different types of injury lawyers include those who focus on cases involving:
- Dog bites – when dogs bite others, their owners may be held financially liable for injuries. State laws vary, and some attorneys work solely with injury claims for dog bites.
- Car accidents – in the United States, many personal injury cases involve automobile accidents. Careless drivers may be held legally responsible when they are the cause of an accident. Attorneys that specialize in auto accidents help their clients receive compensation from auto insurance companies.
- Medical errors – or medical malpractice involves claims made by patients against doctors or other health care professionals. Attorneys that focus on these medical cases help injured patients receive compensation for their injuries or damages.
- Slip and fall accidents – lawyers that specialize in slip and fall cases represent injured individuals in their claims against property owners who failed to keep their home or office safe from hazards, which ultimately lead to injuries.
- Defamation cases – in claims of libel or slander, attorneys represent those who feel their reputation is injured due to untrue verbal or written statements.
- Product liability – attorney specialists in product liability cases deal with individuals who have been injured by a company’s products such as drugs, electronics or consumer goods.
- Wrongful death – these types of cases are handled by lawyers that help families financially recover from the wrongful death of a loved one.
- Workplace injuries – attorneys who specialize in workplace injuries are often workers’ compensation lawyers adept at navigating the worker injury laws in their state.
Why Injury Attorneys are Your Best Choice if you become Seriously Injured?
When seriously injured, you have the right to bring a claim against those who hurt you. But proving that the individual or company was at fault for your injuries may not be easy. Some insurance companies may be willing to settle outside of court while other insurers may not be willing to admit any type of fault whatsoever. In cases where responsibility is not clear, a lawsuit and court visits may be necessary.
In serious injury cases, legal representation is usually a must. Injury attorneys offer expertise and skill in negotiations to help their clients maximize any financial recovery. Defendants and insurance companies also take claims more seriously when they know an attorney represents you. Attorneys also ensure that their clients receive the total amount they are due in damages including any pain and suffering from emotional distress caused by their injuries.
What is a Contingency Fee, and is it Your Best Option?
Hiring an attorney can be expensive, and many people are hesitant to contact lawyers simply because they are concerned about how to pay the legal fees. Attorneys bill their clients based on an hourly rate, and many take an upfront retainer as a deposit before even beginning to work on the case.
Fortunately, a majority of injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. What this means is that the attorney will not be paid any legal fees unless they win the case or settle it before going to court. When hiring an attorney on contingency, a written agreement is created so that the lawyer takes a percentage of any settlement or award you receive. If there is no financial recovery, then no fees are paid. When an award or settlement is made, the attorney will receive the agreed-upon percentage, which is usually about 30 percent of the award.
Unless you have significant financial resources, a contingency fee may be the best option for your injury claim. The injury attorney takes all the risk and expense of handling the case without knowing whether he or she will recover any money by settlement or court award. Personal injury cases can be very expensive to litigate. Attorneys must pay to obtain copies of medical reports and police reports. They also cover filing fees, investigation costs, witness fees, postage, depositions and case exhibits. As the client, you have no out of pocket costs even if you lose the case.
In some circumstances however, a contingency fee may not be the right choice for certain claimants. In a very strong case where you can handle paying an hourly rate, you may find that an investment in the case is worth paying legal fees upfront. For instance, if an attorney only needs a $5,000 retainer to cover hourly costs, and an award of $50,000 is made, then you would come out ahead by only paying 10 percent in legal fees. If this same case was awarded and paid as a contingency fee, the attorney fees would total $15,000.
What Criteria Should I use to find a Good InjuryAttorney?
When hiring a lawyer, you want to make sure they are a good fit for your needs. Before hiring a personal injury attorney, you should consider the following criteria to ensure you find the best representative to handle your case:
- Make sure attorney handles your specific type of injury claim. General legal practitioners dabble in a broad range of legal claims so they may not have expertise in your case type. Specialists have the skill and advantage since they handle the same types of claims on a daily basis. So, if you have a medical malpractice claim, you want legal representation by an attorney that focuses solely on medical cases.
- Review attorney qualifications. When considering a lawyer, you want to evaluate how long they have practiced law, the types of lawsuits they’ve worked on and whether they have a lot of courtroom experience or mostly case settlements.
- Learn about their record of success. You want to learn about their history of settlements and verdicts. The more success an attorney has with taking a case to trial or obtaining settlements, they more likely the lawyer will provide positive results for your personal case.
- Determine if attorney can financially handle case. Because lawsuits can be very costly, you want to ensure that an attorney has the personnel necessary to properly handle the case. They should also have the finances in place to take care of all case expenses, especially if the firm is handling the case on a contingency basis.
How to Interview an Injury Lawyer and what are Good Questions to ask?
Because hiring the right attorney can make all the difference in whether you win or lose the case, it is vital that you thoroughly prepare for interviews. Asking the right questions will help you determine whether an attorney will be the best representative for your needs. Here are questions to add to your injury attorney interviewing arsenal:
- What are your qualifications? This is an important question to establish whether an attorney can handle your particular case or not. The attorney should be able to review their track record and define their legal expertise to demonstrate their suitability to take the case.
- What is the attorney’s process for representing your claim? Personal injury claims can take years to resolve. You want to understand how the attorney will handle your case and what he or she estimates will happen as you go through the legal process.
- What is the charge for legal services? Cost is an important aspect of any legal case. Find out if there is a retainer required and if refunds are made for any unused portion. Will there be any out of pocket expenses such as deposition or witness fees? If being handled on a contingency basis, make sure that there will not be any additional costs once the case is complete.
- Who will be handling the case? Many legal firms have teams of attorneys that work on individual cases so you want to make sure you know who will be the primary provider of legal services. Some senior partners hand off cases to junior associates. If someone other than the attorney interviewed will work on the case, you want to meet and learn more about their history as well.
What to Expect After Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
After hiring a personal injury lawyer, many people think that court will be the next step. Although some cases do eventually go to trial, attorneys often seek to avoid the stress and high costs of court by settling out of court. Although every situation is different, the goal is usually to get a settlement as quickly as possible. Personal injury cases can take time, however, so it is important that you understand what goes into the litigation process.
Initially, attorneys put in a lot of time obtaining medical records, official police reports, witness statements and pictures. This information is necessary to gather any evidence that will support the case and establish fault. During this discovery process, the injured party is usually receiving ongoing medical treatment so the legal firm will wait for a doctor’s release so that damage assessment can be made. Health care professionals and employers also take additional time to file all the appropriate reports that are needed to use for the injury case.
Ongoing correspondence is established with the involved insurance company, and attorneys begin negotiating to settle. Legal timelines establish how long parties to the case have to respond to each other’s communications, and all information must be in writing and filed with the court. When all discovery is complete for all parties, a trial date is requested. Depending on court schedules, it can take many months to receive a trial date.
Communication between attorneys and clients will usually be by mail or phone. When in-person meetings are needed, appointments are scheduled by the legal office. All correspondence received while a case is in litigation should be forwarded to the injury attorney so the firm stays apprised of any changes by doctors or insurers.
Because health status is so important in an injury case, it is always vital for the injured to obtain appropriate medical care when needed.