A personal injury lawyer works as a civil litigator who argues cases involving physical and/or psychological injury that result from the careless or negligent act of another person, entity, organization, company, or government agency. Personal injury attorneys specialize in tort law, which involves private or civic injuries or wrongs, with monetary or non-monetary damages. The client of a personal injury lawyer is usually the plaintiff of the case.
A personal injury lawyer can practice in different fields of law, but they usually handle cases that are categorized under tort law. These include work injuries, accidents due to slips and falls, flawed or defective products, road accidents, and similar accidents. A personal injury lawyer works to ensure that their clients receive compensation due to losses they may have incurred because of their injury. The losses referred to include loss of the client’s capacity to earn, pain, suffering, and loss of ability to perform normal, day-to-day activities. The compensation from the case will help cover emotional distress, legal costs, loss of companionship, and attorney’s fees.
One of the most important jobs that a personal injury lawyer can do is to prevent the victimization of their clients by insurance companies and by the legal system. A personal injury lawyer is often called a trial lawyer, although many of their cases may be settled out of court, usually before a trial begins.
A personal injury lawyer performs several important duties to help their clients. He or she is obliged to comply with professional and ethical rules and codes of conduct set by professional associations. These associations oversee the licenses of legal practitioners. Only when lawyers have received their state bar licenses can they practice law, file complaints, prepare legal documents, argue cases, and provide legal advice to personal injury plaintiffs.
The sole responsibility of interviewing the clients and assessing the case falls solely on the personal injury lawyers. They are expected to identify the issues that are most relevant to the case and perform research so they can build a solid legal strategy. These lawyers are also expected to help their clients obtain justice and compensation for their suffering and losses because of their personal injury. Personal injury lawyers do this through legal advice, oral arguments, counseling, and advocacy. If both plaintiff and defendant of the case do not agree on an amicable settlement, the case will likely head to trial.
Personal injury lawyers must comply with a stringent set of legal ethics and principles during the execution of their client mandate. There are variations regarding guidelines set by different states and lawyers are expected to ensure that all legal issues are evaluated using due diligence. They are compelled to provide allegiance and confidentiality to their clients as they ensure that their client’s best interests are protected.
Law graduates who wish to practice their profession must first pass the written bar exams, along with written ethics exams. The type of exams given might vary from one state to the next. Most states require law exam applicants to have completed a tertiary degree and a degree in law from an accredited institution. If the law school is non-accredited, they must first meet a minimum set of requirements to gain permission to offer law courses.
Most states require applicants to pass prerequisite exams, such as the MBE (Multistate Bar Examination), a Multistate Expert Responsibility Examination, a Multistate Essay Exam, and the state bar exam. Some states may require a Multistate Performance test in addition to other exams.
After the lawyer is admitted to the state bar, they need to update their knowledge of their chosen field through continuous education. These courses are meant to keep personal injury lawyers updated regarding changes and developments in their area of expertise. The number of minimum hours required for the courses varies, depending on the state where they want to practice.
Lawyers who specialize in personal injury focus on certain areas of the law. Specialization means they can equip themselves with the knowledge and experience they need to be the best in their field of practice. Personal injury lawyers are also required to complete a special certification program so they can be considered specialists. This certification is granted by the American Bar Association. Lawyers are regulated by their individual states, but they are still required to comply with the rules governing professional responsibility as provided by the United States Constitution.
All these certification programs equip personal injury lawyers with the minimum standards of competence, knowledge, and experience they are required to achieve before they are considered specialists.
After passing the bar exam and obtaining their license, a personal injury lawyer can choose another field of practice if they so wish. However, legal ethics in the legal practice require that lawyers who are inexperienced cannot represent a client if they have not enlisted help or learned the issue prior to representation. Therefore, many lawyers prefer to focus on one area of law, so they can provide their clients with the highest quality representation. These areas may include accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, workplace injury, wrongful death, and the like.
Some lawyers, on the other hand, go a step further, devoting all their time and energy to just one area of litigation under the personal injury practice. This allows them to build their skills and knowledge through experience in arguing certain types of legal cases, including medical mistakes, car accidents, and work accidents.
A personal injury lawyer can choose to start his/her own private practice or join a firm as a legal associate. If preferred, he/she can also become a Partner to another lawyer or lawyers. Most of the time, private practice lawyers can provide more individualized treatment to their clients because they usually sign up for smaller cases, plus they also tend to charge a lower fee. Most small law firms have two to 10 lawyers working while mid-sized firms can have 10 to 50. Large legal firms often have over 50 lawyers.
There are certain factors that are considered for the calculation of professional fees. These include the time, energy, difficulty, prominence, energy, outcome, the lawyer’s experience, and the costs associated with the case. Usually, a lawyer could offer several payment options for their client, which may include flat fees, retainers, hourly rates, and contingency fees. Clients commonly choose the contingency fee because the payment is pegged on the positive outcome of the case. The lawyer will receive a percentage of the client’s award or compensation only if the trial is successful and a settlement is reached. In general, the fee is about 30% of the settlement amount.