Most people rarely think about personal injury lawyers until they need one. If you’ve been injured in an accident or incident caused by someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional act, you can seek compensation through a personal injury claim. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand the available legal options.
What Is Personal Injury Law?
As explained by the American Bar Association, personal injury law focuses on another party’s liability for wrongdoing and compensation for resulting damages. The typical personal injury lawsuit involves negligence, which is the most common kind of liability claim in a personal injury case. A plaintiff establishes liability for negligence by showing the following:
- Legal Duty: The defendant (at-fault party) owed the plaintiff a duty of care, which is a general requirement that a person act toward others and the public with the watchfulness, attention, caution, and prudence that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would use. An example of the duty of care in a car accident case would be the requirement that a driver operating a motor vehicle do so safely and in accordance with traffic laws.
- Breach of Duty: A breach of a legal duty would result from a party’s unreasonable action or failure to act that resulted in the incident. Using the car accident example, the breach might be driving drunk, speeding, or otherwise failing to obey traffic laws designed to protect the safety of others.
- Causation: The breach of duty contributed to causing the plaintiff (the person filing the claim) harm. Harm includes losses such as physical injury, emotional distress, medical expenses and wage loss.
- Damages: The plaintiff incurred damages that can be proven, such as those listed above.
While negligence is the main source of personal injury claims, there are other legal bases for liability, including:
- Strict liability: California is a strict liability state, which means that some products and activities are so inherently dangerous that the injured party need not prove negligence to obtain compensation. Instead, a plaintiff need only prove that he or she was harmed by the dangerous product or activity. Some examples of strict liability cases include those in which an individual was harmed by a dangerous product or attacked by a dog regardless of whether the owner of the dog knew that it was vicious.
- Intentional actions: Even if a person is charged criminally for unlawful conduct causing harm (such as an assault), the responsible party may also be required to pay damages to the injured person through a personal injury claim.
Why Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
When it comes to filing a third-party insurance claim against the policy held by the defendant or filing a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant and/or his or her insurance carrier, a personal injury lawyer offers you the best opportunity to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your damages. Personal injury lawyers provide their clients with important services, such as:
- Legal advice. The legal world can be confusing and frustrating to those who are not familiar with it. A qualified personal injury lawyer has spent a lot of time practicing personal injury law to provide you with knowledgeable answers to your legal questions and has the ability to advise you about the law so that you can make intelligent decisions about your case.
- Filing paperwork. There are statutory requirements as to the paperwork that needs to be filed in your case, how you should file it, when to file it, and what information you should include. A personal injury lawyer handles this aspect of your case, ensuring that you don’t miss deadlines or fail to include important information in your paperwork.
- Maximizing case value. Many injured people accept the first settlement offered to them by the at-fault party’s insurance company because they are misinformed or unaware of the true value of their case. This is a mistake, as these initial offers usually fail to take into full consideration all the damages that have been sustained, and the damages that are yet to come in the future. A good personal injury lawyer looks at all of the damages, both past and future—including the non-economic and quality-of-life impacts–related to your injuries. It is very difficult to properly evaluate a personal injury case without the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
- Negotiation. Because the majority of personal injury cases settle before they reach the courtroom, a large part of a personal injury lawyer’s job is to negotiate with insurance representatives and even other attorneys to obtain the highest settlement available in your case. When injured parties do not have representation they are usually at a significant disadvantage in these negotiations.
- Investigation. Personal injury lawyers must be effective investigators and have work with experts or specialists who are capable of investigating cases. Between discovering all potential insurance resources, uncovering all sources of liability, and being able to prove liability through witness statements and the facts of the case, a good personal injury lawyer looks at every aspect to find details that will help him or her win your case.
- Hiring experts. A personal injury attorney is not likely to be working alone but rather with a legal team that will help build your case. Whether it’s a medical expert, an accident reconstructionist, or others who have expertise in accidents like yours, you can rest assured knowing that your personal injury attorney has partners to provide knowledge when the need arises.
- Representation. A personal injury lawyer represents your interests in all pre-trial and trial proceedings, attending all required hearings, and presenting the details of your case to others so that they can fully understand the impact that your injuries have had on your life.
- Collection. Once you’ve obtained a settlement or a jury verdict for your injuries, how do you receive the money? Your personal injury lawyer will oversee the details, ensuring that the compensation you need reaches you as soon as possible.
- Appeals. Sometimes, a plaintiff will receive a court award only to have the defendant appeal the ruling. A personal injury attorney can help you evaluate the merits of the appeal, finds solutions to avoid the appeal, help handle the appeal or refer you to an appellate lawyer who specializes in appeals so you can protect your award.
If you were injured in an accident, contacting a personal injury lawyer is your best opportunity to understand the legal process involved in making a claim and pursuing fair compensation for the expenses you face.