What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?
First-time clients often ask what personal injury lawyers do. This question arises in a few contexts.
Some clients wonder if they can handle their cases themselves. Other clients want to know what personal injury lawyers do to earn their fees. And some clients simply want to understand the process the lawyer will use to resolve their cases.
Here is an overview of what a personal injury lawyer does to get you compensation after an accident.
The Role of a Personal Injury Lawyer
Injury lawyers have the education and training to apply tort law to the facts of your case.
When you meet with a lawyer during an initial consultation, this knowledge helps the lawyer:
- Analyze your case
- Assess the legal merits of your claim
- Estimate the compensation you might receive
- Develop a strategy to recover compensation for you
A lawyer might determine that you have low odds of recovering compensation after a slip & fall accident because you were trespassing when you got injured, for example.
Conversely, a lawyer might assess that you have a strong case for compensation after a car accident where the other driver ran a red light.
Armed with this information, you can decide whether to pursue a claim. If you decide to proceed with your claim, you and your lawyer will discuss legal strategies for getting compensation.
The lawyer will explain the risks and benefits of each strategy, and you will pick one to follow.
The Process of Resolving a Personal Injury Claim
Every injury case has unique facts. You will work with your lawyer to develop the evidence needed to prove your case. The lawyer may also engage private investigators and expert witnesses to gather and analyze evidence.
Once you gather your evidence, most cases follow the same general procedural pattern:
In most situations, the at-fault party has some form of liability insurance. Under these policies, the insurance company might pay the damages associated with legal liabilities covered in the policy.
Some examples of insurance policies that might contain liability coverage include:
- Auto insurance
- Malpractice insurance
- Homeowners insurance
- General business liability insurance
- Property insurance
- Product liability insurance
When the insured person or business causes an injury, the injured person can file a claim with the insurance company.
The insurance company assigns a claim adjuster to determine whether the claim falls within the scope of the policy. If it does, the insurer must pay the damages covered by the policy.
This seems simple, but insurance companies have a financial incentive to cut or deny claims. As a result, they often make the insurance claim process as complex as possible. Without a lawyer, the claim process can be frustrating.
Injury lawyers have experience dealing with insurers and knowledge of insurance company practices. This helps them assemble the evidence and legal arguments needed to support the claim. This minimizes the risk that the insurer will reduce or deny your claim.
If you prove liability, Georgia law requires the insurer to make a good faith effort to reach a “prompt, fair, and equitable settlement.” But insurers and claimants usually differ about what a fair settlement looks like.
The first settlement offer from the insurer may not cover your losses. You and your lawyer will need to negotiate with the insurer for a better offer. Fortunately, injury lawyers have experience negotiating with claim adjusters.
Typically, your lawyer will present facts and legal arguments to push the insurer to accept a higher settlement.
For example, suppose an insurer reduced your claim because it believed your back injury in a motorcycle accident was preexisting. Your lawyer could provide copies of your medical records and an opinion letter from a doctor to prove the accident injured your back.
Most cases settle; only about 3% of personal injury cases reach a trial verdict. But not all of these cases settle before filing a lawsuit.
A lawyer may recommend filing a lawsuit for a variety of reasons, including:
- A lawsuit provides leverage in settlement discussions
- A lawsuit stops the statute of limitations from running out
- The discovery process can compel evidence from the at-fault party
To file a lawsuit, your lawyer must conduct a pre-filing investigation to make sure the lawsuit is not frivolous. Filing a frivolous lawsuit can expose you and the lawyer to sanctions from the court.
The lawyer will prepare the pleadings to initiate the lawsuit. The pleadings briefly outline the basis of the claim and the relief sought. Thus, an injury lawsuit typically explains what happened in the accident, the injuries you sustained, and the damages you suffered.
Discovery begins after the pleading stage. During discovery, you will request evidence from the other party. You will also respond to the other party’s discovery requests. These requests can ask for documents, physical evidence, and deposition testimony.
Your lawyer will implement a strategy to get the evidence needed to prove your claim. At the same time, your lawyer will also develop the evidence required to limit your exposure.
For example, if the other party shifts blame to you by saying your actions led to your injuries, your lawyer will gather evidence to disprove that claim.
After the judge resolves motions by the parties, each lawyer presents their case at trial. Your lawyer will typically request a jury trial when you file the lawsuit.
At the close of the presentation of evidence, the jury will deliberate. If the jury finds in your favor, you will be awarded damages.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
No one can tell you whether to hire a lawyer. You always have the option of representing yourself in your insurance claim or even your lawsuit.
But lawyers have experience, knowledge, and training. Injury lawyers deal with billion-dollar insurance companies every day and know how to get the best possible deal for you.
To discuss what a personal injury lawyer can do in your case, contact Hasner Law, PC for a free consultation.