Hiring A Personal Injury Lawyer: A Complete Guide
UNDERSTANDING YOUR CASE
Your first step is to develop an understanding of your case. You want to be able to speak with authority and understanding as you navigate the finer points of the lawsuit together with your attorney, and you want to make sure you’re keeping up with the details as they happen. There are a few basic points common to every personal injury lawsuit that provide a good place to begin your analysis
Type of Claim
The easiest question to answer is also the first one. What type of claim do you have on your hands? Put more informally—what happened to you? There are a variety of common injuries and incidents that personal injury lawyers can help you reach a settlement for, and it’s a good idea to seek out an attorney who has experience with your specific issue. When meeting with a potential attorney, this is one of the first questions you should ask. Potential claims include:
- Auto Accidents. Of course, there are many types of auto accidents, so you might want to sub-specialize with your attorney. For example, if you have been the victim of a hit-and-run, your attorney’s approach to the case will likely be very different than if you were in an accident caused by poor road conditions. However, in both cases, the fault lies with someone else and you may be entitled to damages. Auto accidents also include vehicles such as motorcycles, 18-wheelers, and even boats. A car accident attorney can help with all of these.
- Premises Liability. This primarily refers to slip and fall accidents, but can cover any sort of accident that happens on a business’ property due to the negligence of the owner. Premises Liability suits can also be brought against the owners of personal property.
- Workplace Injury. A workplace injury suit is right for those who are injured on the job. One of the more common places workplace injuries crop up is on construction sites, but injuries can happen at almost any workplace. An experienced attorney can guide you through the workers’ comp process and help ensure that you receive the maximum compensation.
- Medical Malpractice. Doctors are only human, and although we entrust our lives to them, it is an unfortunate truth that every once in a while something goes wrong. When that happens, you deserve to be compensated for suffering and incurred medical bills. A medical malpractice settlement can get you on the road to recovery.
- Wrongful Death. Absolutely nothing can compensate for the untimely loss of a loved one. But all too often, such a loss means those left behind are in a financial quagmire. Attorneys specializing in wrongful death cases can help you achieve a settlement that will get you back on your feet, so you can focus on the grieving process instead of paying the bills.
Taking it to Trial
The next question you must answer is whether you hope to take your case to trial, or whether your preference would be to reach a settlement. Whichever choice you make, you want to choose an attorney who will earnestly support you. Make sure you discuss your options with potential attorneys when making your choice and select someone who is enthusiastic about the way you want to proceed. Your attorney works for you, so he or she is bound to take things in the direction you want them to go. However, the results will be much better if the person you’re working with has passion and conviction.
Why Settle the Case?
In most cases, the defense will offer a financial settlement before the trial, and you and your attorney will have the opportunity to confer on whether to accept. According to the Bureau of Justice, as many as 96% of cases resolve at this point and never go before a jury. Why such a high rate of settlements? There are several factors influencing the decision:
- Risk of Losing. By accepting a settlement, you are guaranteed to walk away with financial compensation, even if it isn’t as much as you’d hoped. If you go to trial, you may end up with nothing. Many people don’t feel it’s worth the risk.
- Court Costs. There are expenses associated with a trial. A big win could render those expenses negligible, but again, nothing is guaranteed once you go before a jury.
- Delayed Compensation. If a plaintiff needs money quickly, he or she might choose to accept a settlement, which means receiving compensation immediately as opposed to waiting for a trial process.
Why Take Your Case to Trial?
If it’s so risky to go before a jury, why does anyone do it at all? The most important thing to consider is the settlement offer made by the defendant. In some cases this offer is too low to be acceptable to the plaintiff. This is particularly relevant when there is a preponderance of evidence supporting the plaintiff’s claims, and yet the defense refuses to offer a reasonable settlement. In such a case as this, it is often preferable to go to trial. The evidence provides the necessary confidence that the case can be won, and if it is, the financial award is likely to be significantly greater than what was offered. The decision of whether or not to take a case to trial should be discussed regularly with your attorney, and you must make sure you’re working with someone who is willing to hear your opinions on the matter. Choosing a lawyer who includes you in the decision making process is absolutely vital.