What Types of Cases Does a Personal Injury Attorney Handle?
A personal injury attorney in Michigan can be the best thing to happen to you on the worst day of your life. A personal injury lawyer provides legal advice and representation to people who suffered physical or psychological injury, from a wide array of causes. They are civil litigators that can guide you through some very tough and confusing times when you are in shock or injured and need to remain level-headed.
What Is Civil Litigation?
Civil litigation is the result of a dispute between two or more parties that they are unable to resolve, and one or more turn to legal remediation. They may seek money or some other specific performance and take it to the courtroom to let a judge or jury decide the outcome based on the law.
Lawyers who specialize in civil litigation are known as trial lawyers or litigators and can perform a broad range of functions for and on behalf of their clients, such as negotiation, mediation or arbitration, pretrial hearings, and depositions. If possible, they will attempt to settle the matter before going to court to save time and money. Personal injury lawyers specialize in one aspect of civil litigation.
Key Legal Skills
It is a challenging and diverse role and carries great responsibility; thus, certain knowledge and skills are essential:
- Personal and professional Skills
- Training in and knowledge of both procedural and substantive law
- Proficiency with legal research software and knowledge of research techniques
- Ability to integrate very complex legal and factual materials
- Analytical skills
- Logical reasoning abilities
- Strong written and oral advocacy skills
- High-caliber negotiation skills
- Exceptional interpersonal skills
- High levels of emotional intelligence
- Capacity to remain calm under pressure and deal with stress
- Client development skills
Attorneys follow the same path of training and education. They must earn an undergraduate degree and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) with a high score. After that, they must complete a law degree and pass written bar examinations.Lawyers can do additional specialist certification programs such as civil trial advocacy, which are accredited by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification, a non-profit organization. They are in turn accredited by the American Bar Association to provide board certification for attorneys.
Depending on the state, their state bar association may require additional qualifications for personal injury lawyers and must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), which focuses on professional behavior.
In addition, they may be required by the state bar association to take regular continuing education courses called Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes.
What is a Personal Injury Lawyer?
It is hard to miss the myriad of advertisements for personal injury lawyers appearing on radio, TV, print materials, billboards, social media and even in the ads before the movies, but as most of these ads target a specialty area, the public do not really understand the breadth and scope of the work they perform.
A personal injury lawyer is a civil litigator who provides legal representation to individuals who have been injured in an accident or some other way. They work in Tort Law, which includes negligent and intentional acts, and will pursue compensation for their clients.
Their clients are plaintiffs who are alleging physical or psychological injury due to the negligent or careless acts of another person, entity, or organization. They safeguard clients against victimization by insurance companies and the legal system and help them recover financial compensation for their losses, which may include medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, emotional distress or loss of consortium as well as legal costs.
The primary purpose of personal injury lawyers (practicing tort law) is to restore their client (the injured “plaintiff”) to the state prior to the injury or wrongdoing by compensating them for their losses, and in doing so to discourage others from committing similar offenses.
Personal Injury Lawyers usually work on a contingency basis, meaning that the client doesn’t pay a fee unless monies are recovered on behalf of the client. They charge fees as a percentage of the plaintiff’s settlement or award and is typically set around 30 or 40%. In most cases, they are only compensated if they win, which puts a lot of pressure on the personal injury lawyer to ensure that they can win the case, as some of them can take years to resolve.
What is Tort Law?
A tort refers to a civil wrong. Most cases in civil court are tort cases, dealing with private or civil wrongs or injuries, with the exclusion of contractual disputes. Tort law attempts to redress a wrong done to a person and to provide relief to the wronged party through full compensation for proven harm. In addition to monetary compensation for losses or harm, non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, it also allows for punitive damages in excess, which is aimed at punishing the defendant for their wrongful acts.
Tort law may be broken up into three categories, namely unintentional or negligent torts, intentional torts, and strict liability cases. Personal injury lawyers handle all three types of torts, in any claim that involves injury to body or mind.
Negligent (Unintentional) Torts
Negligent torts encompass harm done to the plaintiff when the defendant (tortfeasor) fails to demonstrate the care that a prudent person would under similar circumstances. Negligence cases require proof of duty of care, breach of duty, clear and proximate cause of injury and harm caused by the injury.
Most Common Personal Injury Accident Cases:
- Car Accidents – there are approximately 6 million car accidents a year in which 3 million people are injured, 2 million experience permanent injuries and a 6% fatality rate – thus, it is the most common personal injury cases handled.
- Motorcycle Accident – injuries are more severe due to the lack of safety and being thrown from the bike.
- Truck Accidents – their size and weight generate high velocity causing catastrophic damage and staggering numbers of fatalities
- Medical Malpractice – these are the most complicated personal injury cases and require significant amounts of evidence and research.
- Wrongful Death – if an injury caused by negligence becomes a fatality, the case becomes wrongful death (it can also be an intentional tort).
- Defective Products – negligence in manufacturing, marketing, and inadequate warning of potential problems or side-effects.
Other types of personal injury and transportation accident cases including:
- Aviation accidents
- Bicycle crashes
- Mass transportation accidents
- Boating accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Premises liability, including
- Negligent security
- Trip or slip and fall accidents
- Trampoline injuries
- Animal bites and attacks
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Child day-care negligence
- Construction accidents
- Legal malpractice
- Sports injuries
- Work-related injuries
- Brain injuries
- Burn injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Loss of Consortium or Companionship
- Insurance/bad faith claimsSocial security and disability claims
An intentional tort refers to a person intentionally causing injury to another by their wilful actions to cause harm.
Tort claims include injuries which occur from:
- Intentionally ramming another vehicle
- Defamation or slander
- Bad faith breach of contract
- Invasion of privacy
- False imprisonment
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
- Employee intentionally touches, strikes, or batters a customer (business liable)
The court may determine that not every injury-producing action is cause for an intentional tort lawsuit. If the behavior is willful and wanton but not specifically intended to cause injury or fear, it will be ruled as reckless
In strict liability torts, the focus is on the act itself and is not concerned with the culpability of the person inflicting the harm. If acts are committed that creates harm, such as in product defect cases, the person or company that committed the act are liable for the harm caused, regardless of their intentions or the care exercised.
What Do Personal Injury Lawyers Do?
Civil litigation can be extremely complex. There are rules of evidence and procedures that need to be adhered to and is always best handled by a personal injury lawyer, who can handle the case from inception to appeal if needed. Actions depend on the type of case and the stage of case progression.
Some of the important functions of a personal injury lawyer include:
- As they often finance the case (contingency), they take great care screening clients and the merits of the case.
- They investigate claims made by the potential client, either as a client or a defendant.
- Explains your rights in relation to the laws that apply to your complaint.
- Explains the importance of the statutes of limitations.
- Explains and evaluates the impact of comparative negligence.
- They will not take a case that they cannot be sure they will win, or where the potential settlement or awards does not justify the time and hours to win the case.
- Provides advice – the personal injury lawyer will be your advocate throughout the process and will provide advice on legal processes, insurance, and medical terminology and jargon and your rights and legal obligations. They may advise on the best course of action or assist with counseling. They can provide objective opinions on your case to help you make informed decisions, and not emotional, frustration, anger, or fear-based decisions.
- Completes a professional investigation – they may call in the help of investigators to document and investigate the scene of the accident, interview witnesses; or use accident reconstruction experts in causal disputes.
- Gathering Evidence – all documentation required such as incident or police reports, witness statements, media evidence (other’s or own), medical records, reports, bills, employment records, and property damage. This will be used to determine causality, liability, and damages.
- Sending Demand Letters – after investigating, may demand damages from an insurance company, individual or organization.
- Handle all communication with opponents – to prevent you from inadvertently giving damaging information or signing statements
- Review of insurance policy documents – the type of case will determine maximum levels of compensation available.
- Evaluate early settlement offers – evaluate the fairness of the offer and provide advice.
- Preparing Pleadings – sets out legal arguments and damages claimed in a complaint.
- Conducting Discovery –
- sending interrogatories to obtain information
- interviewing witnesses
- deposing both parties, witnesses, and experts
- other discovery requests
- Prepare motions to aid with discovery (e.g., court orders to get medical records).
- Formulate legal theories.
- Research case law.
- Connects with medical providers – act as expert witnesses and provide advice
- Assesses damages – their experience allows them a more accurate assessment of damages and the long-term effects of injuries. They may call in actuaries or economists to help assess impacts over the victim’s lifetime.
- Dealing with obstacles presented by their opposition.
- Finding solutions for obstacles in the legal system and proceedings.
Legal Processes and Judicial Forums
- Negotiation – with the opposing party, e.g., an insurance company, to avoid trial. They have experience and understand their negotiation tactics.
- Alternative dispute resolution.
- Mediation – getting both parties to work together to find a solution out of court with the help of a mediator (independent third party) who guides but makes no decisions.
- Arbitration – presenting the case in front of a neutral person (the arbitrator) whose decision is final.
If all other avenues of settling fail, they will help litigate the case in court by representing you and fighting for your rights. They are familiar with court proceedings and will ensure procedures and processes are followed.
Very few cases go to court as the majority are settled before suit is filed. Should you lose the case, they will file for Appeal and represent you.
When do You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Personal injury cases with minimal damage or reasonable offers do not require a personal injury lawyer, as you will share a portion of your settlement with the lawyer. Some cases start simple and turn complicated fast or start complicated.Reputable personal injury lawyers offer potential clients a free and confidential consultation to evaluate their case, so if you are not sure you have nothing to lose.
It is in your interest to get a personal injury lawyer involved if:
- Multiple parties are involved.
- Liability is not clear.
- Your claim is denied or other bad faith practices.
- The settlement offer is far too low.
- You have suffered serious injuries.
- Injuries are long-term in nature, or you are disabled.
- You are partially to blame for the accident.
Make sure you are comfortable with your personal injury lawyer – that you can trust to represent your best interest. Find a lawyer with the right qualifications, experience, reputation, and connections.
If you believe that you have been a victim of negligence, an intentional tort or strict liability and have suffered damages, call Eileen Kroll, a registered nurse and personal injury trial attorney, at Cochran, Kroll & Associates at 1-866-MICH LAW (1-866-642- 4529). Our law firm represents injured individuals and families on a contingency basis and never represent insurance companies. The statute of limitations is three years, so do not miss your opportunity to file.