Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
When you suffer from a serious personal injury, it's easy to get caught up in your own physical pain and emotion. Add the distress of having to research and find a suitable personal injury lawyer, and pretty soon you'll be wishing you could represent yourself. Legal matters tend to be complicated and confusing, especially to someone who isn't familiar with the field, and suffering from a personal injury multiplies the severity of the situation tenfold. Avoid the headache that comes with personal injury by reading this guide on things you should know before hiring a personal injury lawyer:
Personal injury falls under the category of "tort law". Tort laws focus on civil wrongs inflicted on a person. These can include anything from auto accidents to environmental pollution. For the most part, tort laws focus on civil wrongs caused by initial negligence. The ultimate goal of tort cases is to absolve the client of liability in their case.
About Personal Injury Lawyers
A personal injury lawyer is an attorney who focuses on any physical harm inflicted on his or her client by another individual or enterprise. Like most practicing attorneys, a personal injury lawyer must pass the bar exam. Since the personal injury field is so specific and requires the attorney to follow both state and federal laws as well as adhere to a strict ethical code, most states usually require personal injury lawyers to also pass additional "multistate" bar examinations that include:
- Bar Examination
- Essay Examination
- Professional Responsibility Examination
- Performance Test
Most attorneys will be up front about their credentials, but if you want to know for sure, you can log on to the American Bar Association website and run a search on the lawyer in question.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer can Help
Personal injury lawyers help those who have suffered an injury inflicted by a:
- Government Agency
Common types of personal injury cases include (but are not limited to):
- Slip and fall incidents
- Auto accidents
- Medical malpractice
Since personal injury falls under tort law, it is usually focused on the negligence of the person or entity in question. Negligent accidents are any accidents that could have been avoided, therefore opening up grounds for prosecution. Personal injury lawyers must take into account any prior disclosure to this type of accident. In other words, if the client had been made aware of the risks involved in the activity prior to the accident, the personal injury lawyer cannot prove negligence.
Two types of fees come into play in most personal injury cases:
- Contingency fees
- Hourly fees
Most personal injury lawyers only charge their clients a contingency fee. Therefore, clients pay their attorneys only after a monetary settlement is attained. This is helpful when the client is struggling from their injury, and can't afford to finance an hourly attorney rate. Some attorneys will, however, charge an hourly rate. Like most legal matters, the hourly rate will change on a case-to-case basis, and will depend on:
- The experience of the attorney
- The state and county they are practicing law
- The type of case
If you can't afford to pay the hourly rates, you can look into legal funding companies. These companies pay your fees up front and then take a chunk of your earnings at the end of the case. Since the expense is so great, they should be considered a last resort. At the start of your case, it is best to be upfront with your attorney and find out how much they expect to make in damages, and what percentage they will take from this award.
Things to Avoid
Like all legal matters, hiring a personal injury attorney should be treated with great care and patience. For many years, tort law in general was handled with much severity and aggressiveness by practicing attorneys. In recent years, the government and special interest groups have pushed for mass tort reform in the U.S. You want to be sure the attorney you hire not only has experience with your type of injury, but has won settlements for similar cases in the past. When looking into hiring personal injury lawyers, look for red flags and try to avoid:
- Attorneys with outlandish hourly rates
- Attorneys with little to no experience with your type of case
- Un-credentialed, fraudulent attorneys
Legal matters are complicated for anyone who didn't get to spend three years knee-deep in law school, so don't feel discouraged with the amount of research required. If you have suffered from a serious personal injury, and believe that you deserve to be compensated for your losses, make sure that you know all the facts, and start working on finding a personal injury attorney that will be a good fit for you.