How to Find a Good Lawyer for Personal Injury
In the overwhelming majority of personal injury cases, the benefits of hiring experienced personal injury attorneys is undeniable. There can be so many complex levels to the arguments surrounding these cases that a lawyer can be essential to help you navigate through the case and try and ensure a successful outcome.
Knowing what scenarios personal injury cases covers, what your rights are, and how to go about claiming those rights can be crucial to helping you understand the process before hiring a lawyer.
What Constitutes a Personal Injury Case?
One of the complexities of personal injury cases is the different types of incidents they can cover and the various state laws that may apply to some of those. Personal injury cases cover legal action when someone suffers an injury or another harm and another party bears responsibility for that injury or harm.
If you have been injured or harmed as the result of another’s actions, then there are usually two ways your case will proceed:
- Lawsuit. This is a civil case where your attorney will file a claim against the liable party (called the defendant as in criminal cases). The lawsuit will allege that the defendant acted in an irresponsible manner or were negligent and that this resulted in your injuries. There is a requirement on the claimant (the plaintiff) and their attorney to prove the negligence and liability.
- Settlement. Most personal injury cases never reach the lawsuit stage. In most cases, there will be admission of liability – or limited liability – and the liable party’s insurance company will then offer a settlement. If the settlement is accepted, then both parties must also agree that any settlement prohibits any further action. While this may sound like a lawyer will not be needed, the reality is that any initial offer from the insurance company is likely to be a low offer and will not adequately compensate you.
Examples of Personal Injury Cases
- Motorcycle accidents. Motorcycles are not included in Michigan’s no fault laws (though motorcyclists can buy a no fault insurance policy). If you have been injured in an accident where a motorcyclist was at fault, then you may have grounds for a claim.
- Car accidents. While Michigan has a no fault law as far as car accidents are concerned, it can get complicated and if you were a pedestrian or a passenger in a car, then you may also be able to file a personal injury claim.
- Medical malpractice. If you or a loved one has suffered harm as a result of medical malpractice, the liable party could be anyone from a nurse to the pharmacist who made a prescribing error. Cochran, Kroll & Associate, P.C. specializes in these types of cases and have vast experience in negotiating settlements or court litigation.
- Wrongful death. A wrongful death can happen in various scenarios, from construction site accidents to medical malpractice. Damages awarded may differ greatly from those in a standard personal injury case.
- Workplace accident. In most cases, personal injuries received in your workplace are covered by workers compensation insurance. However, in some circumstances, there may be third party liability. Hiring an attorney in a workplace accident case can be of great benefit.
- Premises liability. The best known type of premises liability personal injury are slip and fall accidents though this area can also cover many other scenarios where failure of duty or negligence have caused harm or injury.
- Product liability. Another sub-area of personal injury, product liability happens when any sort of product is defective or faulty. While there are many cases in this category brought by individuals, it is perhaps best known for class action lawsuits where there are thousands of plaintiffs such as the 3M Earplugs cases.
These are just some examples and each of those can have several sub-categories. Other common types of personal injury cases include dog bite cases, boating accidents and food poisoning.
- Duty. Did the defendant owe some form of duty to the plaintiff? This could be a legal duty of care in the case of medical malpractice where a certain level of care should be provided by the medical professional. Or a certain level of reasonable care should be expected, such as in operating a motor boat on open water.
- Breach of that duty. Once your attorney has established that the defendant had some duty of care towards you, they will then look to prove that the defendant breached that care in some way. Part of this is proving that a “reasonably prudent person” would have acted differently – and more responsibly – in the same situation. So, for example, would another doctor have acted the same way as the doctor whose actions led to your injury? Or would another car driver have paid more attention to road conditions or speed limits?
- Proof of causation. Once the facts surrounding the defendant’s negligence are proven, this must be linked to the evidenced injuries sustained by the plaintiff and a link between the two must be proven. Negligence alone is not enough to award damages; there must be proof that the negligence was the cause of the injuries or harm. The court will also consider whether there was awareness on the part of the defendant that their negligence could cause harm.
- Damages awarded. Once your attorney has proven these elements to the court, then the process will move to awarding damages. The court will consider a number of factors at this stage, including any initial medical expenses, any medical, rehabilitative, or counseling services required in future, property damages, etc. In some cases, the court may also consider awarding pain and suffering damages.
The awarding of damages may not be the end of the case. If the defendant believes that you were partly to blame, then the court may be asked to consider whether there was comparative negligence and, if so, to what degree you were responsible. Michigan uses what is known as Modified Contributory Negligence.
This means that if the court decides your share of fault is greater than 50%, then you are barred from seeking any non-economic damages such as pain and suffering or emotional distress.
For example, if the court awards you $100,000 in economic damages, and $50,000 in non-economic damages but the court then decides you were 60% to blame, then you would lose any right to the $50,000 portion of the damages and only receive $40,000 of the economic portion.
How Do I Choose a Good Lawyer?
When it comes time to choose an attorney, it can be a little overwhelming. An internet search will provide multiple hits and there are advertisements everywhere. So just how do you go about choosing the right attorney for your personal injury case?
In some cases, you may have a friend or family member who will make a personal recommendation. Making a checklist is an ideal way to whittle down the list.
- Does the law firm specialize in personal injury cases and have good knowledge of personal injury law in Michigan?
- Do they have particular experience that relates to your case?
- Do their attorneys have years of experience in negotiating with insurance companies and representing clients in court?
- Do they offer a contingency fee agreement where you do not have to pay any attorney fees upfront?
- Do they provide swift and clear answers to your questions?
- Do they offer a free initial consultation and do you feel comfortable discussing your case with them?
- Do they offer a guarantee that the lawyer you initially have meetings with will be the same one handling your case throughout?
Much of the information you will want to know can usually be found on a law firm’s website. Look for lists of the types of cases they specialize in, a section that gives some examples of cases they have previously won, blog entries that may give more detailed information on particular subjects, and the “our team” section which will list the various attorneys on staff, their specializations, and their experience. Once you have a final shortlist, you can use your free appointment to ask more detailed questions.
Statutes of Limitations
Generally speaking, the statute for limitations regarding personal injury suits in Michigan is two years. There are some statutes, such as product liability, that may differ slightly. A good personal injury lawyer will advise you on any and all deadlines relevant to your case.
Some Final Thoughts
The details and various laws and regulations can seem bewildering. With different areas of personal injury being covered by different laws and insurance regulations, your initial thoughts will normally be ones of confusion.
Finding a competent lawyer at an early stage can help you deal with the case and dispel the confusion.
Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. is a leading Michigan law firm that deals with all types of personal injury cases. Our success record speaks for itself and we pride ourselves in giving 100% to every one of our client.
Our initial free consultation gives us an opportunity to evaluate your case and for you to ask any questions you may have. If you feel you have a viable personal injury case, schedule an appointment with us today by calling (866)-466-9912.