Unfortunately, people hurt other people all the time, both intentionally and negligently. While criminal charges may be filed and the perpetrator prosecuted in criminal court, in many instances, the victim in these incidents can also sue civilly and recover monetary damages for both actual costs incurred due to the incident and compensation for things like physical and emotional pain and suffering, physical impairment, or disfigurement. The result in a civil lawsuit does not depend on the outcome in a criminal trial, and with the help of a personal injury lawyer, plaintiffs (the party bringing the suit) can recover damages even if the other party was found not guilty in a criminal proceeding.
Do You Need an Attorney?
If you were injured by another person, you’ve likely incurred costs to diagnose, treat, and recover from your injury. Even if you have medical insurance, if your injuries are serious enough, your costs may far exceed the limits of your policy, leaving you with mounting bills and the resultant overwhelming stress. In fact, in the U.S., so many are drowning in medical debt that it is the number one cause of bankruptcy filings. Don’t let that be you.
Your best bet if you’ve been left with bills you can’t pay may be to file a civil lawsuit to recover your damages from the party at fault. In contemplating whether this is the best option for you, you may be wondering if you should retain an attorney to represent you. The answer is yes.
Personal injury suits are complicated and the other party will most likely have an attorney. Often an insurance company will be on the other side, in addition to the person who actually caused your injuries, and they always have experienced attorneys on their side. If the other party was on the job when they caused your injuries, their employer may also be an appropriate defendant. You can bet that company will lawyer up.
An experienced and competent personal injury attorney will help you fight for all of the compensation you are due by negotiating with the other party or parties and taking your case to trial if necessary. Attempting to file and resolve your case on your own, without knowledge of the law, rules of evidence and procedure, lacking negotiation experience, and being unfamiliar with the jurisdiction overseeing your case is a recipe for you to not receive all you are entitled to, or in the worst case, getting your case dismissed.
You should keep in mind that in Texas, you have two years from the date of your injury to file your personal injury suit. The sooner you get in touch with an attorney, the better off you’ll be.
What to Look for in a Personal Injury Attorney
Once you’ve decided that you want to consider the possibility of filing a lawsuit with the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer, how do you select one? Doubtless you’ve seen commercials and advertisements from attorneys. There are certain things, however, you should look for when deciding who to retain to handle your case.
All attorneys have to survive law school and pass the bar exam. But after that, anyone can hang a shingle and begin taking cases. So the very first thing you should consider is the level of experience the attorney has. And not just any experience. You want someone with experience in personal injury law and more specifically your type of injury. An attorney may be an excellent criminal defense lawyer with great results for clients in criminal matters, but that experience simply does not translate to personal injury. Car accidents are obviously different than medical malpractice, for example. Find someone who knows your type of case and has handled cases like it before. Just as you wouldn’t go to a podiatrist for a heart issue, you should select an attorney who practices in the type of representation you require.
It’s also important to find an attorney who is familiar with the court in which your case will be filed. Different jurisdictions have different practices, and failing to follow them can stall your case or cause your filings to be rejected by the court, costing you time.
Though most personal injury cases settle out of court, making negotiation skills of utmost importance, your case may end up in front of a jury if you and the defendant(s) are unable to reach an agreement. Litigation requires a specific set of skills that not all attorneys possess. Trial attorneys have to understand how to select and talk to juries, how to handle witnesses on the stand (when to push, when to back off), and have a good understanding of the law governing your case, as well as the rules of evidence and civil procedure.
Look for an attorney with a strong reputation in the community. Thanks to the Internet, sources abound for finding this information. Google and Yahoo! reviews are a good place to start. Avvo is the premier attorney ranking and review website and also provides background information and practice areas for attorneys. You can find reviews from former clients as well as endorsements from other attorneys in your community.
Look at the Team
Personal injury cases are not one-attorney endeavors. They require investigators who will track down evidence and interview witnesses and others involved. Personal injury cases also require a large amount of paperwork and court filings. You need paralegals and legal secretaries on your team too. In addition, your case may require the testimony of expert witnesses who can testify as to the type of injury you suffered and its long term consequences, an accident reconstruction specialist, or any number of other individuals. A good personal injury lawyer will know how to seek out those professionals and will understand which ones will benefit your case.
If you need a personal injury attorney, these tips should help ensure you know exactly what qualities to look for.