Legal Help and Advice for Your Personal Injury Claim

Anyone who is seriously injured in an accident should seek legal counsel.  A couple of questions to ask yourself before retaining counsel are:  “What settlement will I be happy with?” and, “Am I going to do better or worse with an attorney?”

When you’re injured, you need all the help you can get.  If your case involves intricate legal issues, it may be prudent to hire an attorney.  They will know how to deal with complex liability issues and complicated medical opinions.  The attorney will know the tactics used by the insurance company and will be able to protect their client.

If your case involves product liability or a suit against the government, you will most definitely need legal advice on how to proceed in this difficult environment.

Choosing the Right Lawyer

When seeking legal representation, the first thing to take into account is the type of personal injury lawsuit you are filing.  Attorneys who specialize in auto accidents will not be able to assist you with a product liability case.  You need to choose someone with experience in the particular area of law which best pertains to your specific case.  Be prepared to ask questions such as, “How long have you been practicing personal injury law”, or “What is your area of expertise”.  You may also want to make sure that the attorney who you decide to hire will actually be personally attending to you and not just a paralegal or legal assistant.  One of the best ways to retain a personal injury attorney is to find one based on the recommendations of other clients who have been satisfied with that attorney’s work representing them in a personal injury case.

Legal Fees

Attorneys typically do not charge clients for an initial consultation in representing them in a personal injury matter.  If the attorney agrees to represent you, it is commonly done on a contingent fee basis where the attorney receives no fee unless there is a recovery made.  In some cases, many attorneys will also take any out of pocket expenses on a contingency.  Attorneys may also accept a personal injury case for one flat fee.  In this scenario, it’s clearly in the best interest of the attorney to seek a quick resolution of the case.  Occasionally, some attorneys will bill their client at an hourly rate and it’s best for the plaintiff to seek a conclusion to the case as quickly as possible to minimize attorney fees that must be paid.

The Initial Consultation

When you initially meet with an attorney, you should treat your first meeting as a business consultation.  Give the attorney a chance to get to know you.  This opportunity will provide both of you the chance to evaluate each other on an informal basis.  Do not feel compelled to blurt out everything you want to say about your personal injury case.  Let the attorney do the talking.  During the initial consultation, you’ll want to share relevant information.  If the lawyer is interested in representing you, you will have ample time to relate all of your thoughts and opinions about the case.

The personal injury attorney will want to know about your insurance coverage and may ask if you have talked to any insurance adjustors.  They will also query as to whether anyone else has interviewed you about the accident or your injuries.  The attorney may inquire as to what documents you retain regarding the accident, such as police reports, medical opinions, witness testimony and details about the accident itself.

Managing your Lawyer

Attorneys are schooled and trained specifically on how to work in an adversary legal system.  Some attorneys seem to be more interested in winning than in the best interest of serving their client.  Communication is an important part of an attorney’s job.  Always remember that your attorney works for you.  When explaining your legal situation, give your legal counsel all of the information necessary to defend you.  Expect and demand clear communication with your attorney at all times.  Treat your relationship with the same care you would treat other professional relationships.  Do some research about personal injury law so that you can be prepared to ask intelligent and informed questions of your attorney.  Managing your lawyer won’t be an easy task, and you should be prepared to put in the effort to mold and manage that relationship or it may fall apart. 

Trials & Appeals

There are many factors that are presented to the jury as evidence in a personal injury lawsuit.  The important factors may include the doctor’s opinion as to the severity or permanency of the injury; the amount of medical expenses incurred in treating the injury; the amount of lost income and the extent and severity of any property damages caused by the accident.  Also taken into consideration is the extent of negligence of the person who caused the injury and that of the injured party’s own negligence, which may affect the damage award.  The opinion and evaluation of expert witnesses such as, accident reconstruction specialists, engineers, medical professionals may play a large part in helping the jury with their decision.

Depending upon the verdict and result of the case, both the plaintiff and defense have the right to appeal the case.  If the defense decides to appeal, the compensation award will not be paid out to the plaintiff until the appeals process if complete.  There is always a chance that during this process that the case may be overturned, resulting in no compensation to the plaintiff.  It is common for the defendant to appeal when the size of the award is considered excessive.  A personal injury plaintiff may need to continue to litigate the claim in an appellate court, either to affirm or reverse a trial court decision.  It is also possible to appeal the appellate court’s decision all the way to the Supreme Court, but this rarely happens.  If the case is returned to court for a new trial, whatever the outcome may also be subject to appeal.

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