When most people picture an attorney, their image is of the personal injury attorney, the litigator standing in front of a court making a case to a jury that their client should be awarded a massive sum of money. Many lawyers who work in the personal injury field rarely see the inside of a courtroom. It’s often their skills in investigating, analysis and negotiation that keeps them out of court.
The personal injury lawyer is the person one calls when one feels they’ve been injured in some form by another person or entity. The lawyer handles tort cases, instances when a person or institution has breached a duty of appropriate behavior, and that breach of duty causes a tangible harm to another. The tort litigator will attempt to prove that their client deserves to be compensated by, or even protected from, the person whose action or inaction caused the harm.
A personal injury lawyer takes cases that aren’t limited to situations where there is a physical injury to someone. Injuries can arise whenever:
- There is an assault
- A medical professional doesn’t do their job up to a reasonable standard (malpractice)
- Insurance companies refuse to pay complete recompense for injuries
- When someone lies about another person and causes damage to another’s reputation (slander or libel)
- A company sells substandard goods that cause some harm (product liability)
The personal injury lawyer may specialize in one or more of these kinds of cases. For example, some lawyers take on cases involving car accidents. Some lawyers specialize in medical malpractice cases. By specializing, lawyers gain experience in one field and may often make a better living than if they had a more diverse practice.
Some lawyers may specialize in taking cases to court; however, most attorneys settle cases through negotiation without going to trial. A trial is a lengthy, time-consuming process, expensive to both parties. A personal injury lawyer will excel in investigating the facts around a case. They will make an analysis of the facts and determine the strength of their case. They will decide whether they can win a large sum via trial by jury, or whether their client is better served by settling the case out of court.
Personal injury attorneys must have a commitment to their clients above all else. They must be willing to work with people from all walks of life, be great listeners as well as great communicators. They must be able to understand complex issues from a variety of disciplines, especially if they plan to excel at litigating different kinds of tort cases. They must also be able to translate these complex issues into language a layperson can easily understand.
The American Bar Association certifies personal injury attorneys. A lawyer seeking certification must take and pass a certification program. The certificate indicates that a lawyer is interested in and competent as a personal injury lawyer, assuring clients that they are obtaining proficient representation in their case.