What Types of Cases Does a Personal Injury Attorney Handle?
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
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 a physical or psychological injury, from a wide array of causes. They are civil litigators who 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 can attempt to settle the matter before going to court to save time and money. Personal injury lawyers specialize in one aspect of civil litigation.
What is a Personal Injury Lawyer?
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 pursue compensation for their clients.
Their clients are plaintiffs who are alleging physical or psychological injury in their personal injury claims due to the negligent or careless acts of another person, entity, or organization. These attorneys protect clients from insurance companies and the legal system and help them recover financial compensation for their losses. These may include medical bills, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and legal costs.
The primary purpose of personal injury lawyers is to restore their clients to the state prior to the injury or wrongdoing by compensating them for their losses.
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. In most cases, they are only compensated if they win, which puts a lot of pressure on the personal injury lawyer to ensure they can win the case.
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.
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 the 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, the 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. On average, 3 million people are injured, 2 million experience permanent injuries, and there is a 6% fatality rate.
- 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.
- Slip and Fall Accidents – Negligent landlords, property owners, and other at-fault parties who don’t always make sure their properties are free of hazards.
An intentional tort refers to a person intentionally causing injury to another by their willful actions to cause harm.
The court may determine that not every 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 is ruled as reckless.
In strict liability torts, the focus is on the act and is not concerned with the culpability of the person inflicting the harm. If acts are committed that create harm, such as in product defect cases, the person or company that committed the act is liable for the harm caused, regardless of their intentions or the care exercised.
What Do Personal Injury Lawyers Do?
Personal injury lawsuits can be extremely complex. There are rules of evidence and procedures that need to be adhered to and are 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.
- Because 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.
- Explain your rights in relation to the laws that apply to your complaint.
- Explain the importance of the statutes of limitations.
- Explain and evaluate the impact of comparative negligence.
- They do not take a case they cannot be sure they will win, or where the potential settlement or award does not justify the time and hours to win the case.
- Provides advice – The personal injury lawyer is your advocate throughout the process and provides 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, medical expenses, employment records, and property damage. This is used to determine causality, liability, and damages.
- Sending demand letters – After investigating, your personal injury law attorney 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 investigators 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, your lawyer helps litigate the case in court by representing you and fighting for your rights. They are familiar with court proceedings and ensure procedures and processes are followed.
Very few cases go to court because the majority are settled before a suit is filed. If you lose the case, your attorney can file an appeal and represent you in the next stages of your fight.
At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. we offer potential clients a free and confidential consultation to evaluate their case.
If you believe that you have a personal injury claim, call the law firm of Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., at 1-866-MICH-LAW.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.