What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?
7 Tasks an Attorney Can Do to Help You
If you’ve been in an accident that caused you injury, a personal injury lawyer can help in multiple ways.
1. Fight for Justice
Perhaps most crucially, a personal injury lawyer can fight for justice if you’ve been injured by the actions (or inactions) of another.
Why? Because personal injury law relies on the concept of “duty of care.” If someone is harmed by someone else’s failure to uphold their duty of care, the other person or entity who breached the duty of care can be deemed negligent. This is a key part of obtaining justice in a personal injury case. If the other person or entity is negligent, and your injuries stemmed from their negligence, they can be liable for your injuries.
What does liability mean? Simply put, it means you can recover monetary damages from the negligent party as compensation for your injuries. In general, personal injury law allows you to recover compensation for:
- Medical bills (including doctor’s visits, emergency services, surgery, hospitalization, urgent care, prescription medication, rehabilitative services, and more);
- Wages lost from work, if your injury has caused you to lose time at work;
- Prospective medical bills, if you are likely to need ongoing medical treatment for these injuries;
- Prospective wages lost from work, if you are unable to return to work for some period of time while you recover (or ever); and
- Pain and suffering.
You can recover these damages from a negligent party (person, company, or other organization, such as a government body) because the law recognizes that it isn’t fair that you should bear these economic and noneconomic losses by yourself if you were not responsible for causing them.
2. Understand the Duty of Care
Understanding the duty of care can be complicated, as there are many subdivisions of personal injury law. Here is a brief rundown of the standard duty of care in various circumstances:
- Vehicle accidents, including those involving cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and trucks – Drivers must follow the law and engage in safe driving practices. They must pay attention at all times and make sure their vehicles are safe to operate. Vehicle manufacturers must take care to ensure that they are creating safe products. If products or parts are defective, they must stop manufacture and issue recalls. Governments and other entities that are responsible for roads must ensure safe maintenance and repair.
- Premises liability – People who own property are responsible for making the premises safe for certain people invited onto the premises. In public establishments such as stores, the public are invitees and the premises must be safe at all times; if they become unsafe, patrons must be warned and the unsafe condition must be fixed promptly.
- Product liability – Product manufacturers must make sure that their goods are safe for the public.
- Employers – Employers make maintain a safe workplace and follow all applicable laws and regulations.
3. Ascertain Fault
While what constitutes the duty of care is relatively clear, what constitutes a breach of that duty is less easily identified. More than one party can be at fault for an accident or event that causes an injury.
At times, negligent parties may argue that you caused your own injuries. This may be especially common in car accidents, where an at-fault driver (or their insurance company) may claim that the accident happened quite differently than it did.
A personal injury lawyer can gather all the available evidence. For vehicle accidents, they can obtain the police report, which is required if an accident causes injury, death, or property damage of over $1,000. For all accidents, including those involving a vehicle, an attorney can talk to witnesses. They can ask for surveillance camera footage. They can work with an investigative team and trained forensic analyst. They can interview experts, including doctors, about how an accident likely happened.
4. Figure Out What You Are Owed
Even when liability is clear and the other party is willing to settle, how do you figure out what kind of compensation you should request? Usually, your attorney will compile and add up your medical bills. Prospective medical bills are determined based on a doctor’s estimate of what you will need in the future.
Then, wages lost from work are calculated based on the amount of time you lost and your current wages. Prospective wages lost from work are estimated based on these factors and your medical prognosis.
If you are claiming pain and suffering, your economic losses are multiplied by some factor, generally between 1.5 and 5. A catastrophic injury such as a brain or spinal cord injury are most often assigned the highest multiplier, because the victims are likely to need medical care for the rest of their lives. A lesser but still painful injury, such as a fractured leg, may be assigned a multiplier at the lower end of the scale.
Assessing a just damages award can be complicated. An attorney can help you determine what you have spent, work with experts to arrive at estimates, and negotiate for the highest multiplier possible.
5. Negotiate for Compensation
Many personal injury claims are paid for out of the responsible party’s liability insurance. In the case of vehicle accidents, for example, Texas is a “fault” state. The person who was negligent and caused the accident must compensate the injured person for damages. This contrasts with the system of “no-fault” states, where a victim’s own insurance pays, regardless of who caused an accident. Texas requires all drivers to carry liability insurance.
It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to offer the lowest settlement possible. They may argue that your injuries aren’t as severe as you claim indicates, for instance. Or they may offer an initial low amount, hoping you’ll settle because you need the money.
A personal injury attorney knows all of an insurance company’s potential arguments. They also know your situation and case. They can negotiate strongly with the insurance company to make sure you get the highest damage award possible.
6. Explain the Law
Personal injury law is complicated and it’s impossible to summarize all rights and responsibilities of every category in a short article. Your first consultation with a personal injury lawyer is almost always free, and they can explain how the law applies to your particular case.
7. Bring a Lawsuit
There are cases when either an at-fault party doesn’t have insurance or the insurance company doesn’t offer an adequate settlement, in which case Texas law allows injured people to bring a personal injury lawsuit in court. A personal injury lawyer can prepare a case, litigate it, and obtain a fair settlement or court award.
If you need further assistance, call a personal injury lawyer for help and more information.