When you're seriously injured in an accident, you may need to hire a personal injury lawyer to handle your claim, but exactly what does a personal injury lawyer do?
Most people know that if you are hurt in a car accident, a personal injury lawyer can help you get compensation for your injuries. However, most personal injury lawyers can help with more than vehicle accident cases.
The accident injury lawyers at the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, cover several practice areas that fall under personal injury law. If another person or a company injured you, we encourage you to contact our team for a free consultation.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Protect Your Right to Recover Compensation
Whether you're hurt in a fall or an auto accident, by a defective product, or due to some other occurrence, you need to concentrate on your recovery. As you focus on emergency medical treatment and therapeutic care, your personal injury attorney focuses on protecting your legal rights. They will establish a barrier between you and all of the people who would disrupt your recovery or peace of mind.
While your personal injury case progresses, you can expect the following:
- As your medical bills begin to pile up, hospital administrators will want to know how you plan to pay them.
- If you were involved in a car accident, the investigating police officer will want answers.
- Your insurance company will need your statement. They'll want to determine if they owe you PIP benefits and if they are responsible for the other driver's damages
- The other driver's insurance company will need to know your version so they can figure out if they can walk away without paying you anything.
- If you fell on someone's property, the liability insurance company will want to know what happened.
- If you were injured on the job, the HR department and your boss will also have a few questions to ask.
While you might be able to handle these and other issues on your own, you have too much at stake to go it alone. During the confusing post-accident days, your personal injury lawyer intervenes on your behalf. As your legal representative, they force people to deal with them instead of bothering you. Your experienced personal injury attorney remains vigilant from the moment you decide you want their representation until you settle.
Personal Injury Attorneys Perform Complicated Jobs
A personal injury lawyer protects your legal rights. That sounds simple, but it requires that they recognize and anticipate legal issues before they arise and intervene on your behalf. For your personal injury lawyer, this often involves a continuous flow of tasks and a strategic approach.
Personal Injury Lawyers Will Discuss the Accident with You and Advise You of Your Rights
If someone else has injured you, you may be entitled to collect compensation for your injuries and losses. A personal injury lawyer can advise you about what steps you need to take to negotiate a settlement. If the insurance company refuses to come to a fair and reasonable settlement, a personal injury lawyer should be ready to take your case to court.
Your version of the accident becomes your lawyer's road map as they protect your legal interests. When your injury attorney discusses your case with you, they listen for facts and information that require additional clarification and follow-up. They will ask relevant questions about your accident circumstances, injuries, pain, recovery, disabilities, insurance, and other key information.
For example, if you were injured in an auto accident at an intersection, your legal council will want to know about lights, traffic signals, speed limits, or traffic signs that control access to the highway. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident, they'll need to understand the circumstances surrounding the fall. This includes the lighting, your shoes, obstructions to your path, or anything that could have caused or contributed to your fall.
Case Investigation and Discovery Are Important to Establishing a Claim
Part of preparing for settlement and trial is doing an investigation of the case and performing discovery. A personal injury attorney will investigate your case, which may involve hiring expert witnesses and finding all of the evidence available as a result of your accident. Many personal injury lawyers conduct on-site and in-person investigations themselves, while others hire independent investigators to do the work.
An investigator will:
- Track down and interview witnesses
- Obtain scene photos, videos, and diagrams if they exist
- Gather police and employer reports
- Get photos of involved vehicles
- Document adverse conditions at premises injury sites. If no pictures or videos exist, the lawyer may have someone go out to the accident site to take pictures of evidence left on the ground, such as skid marks, vehicle parts, and other evidence that cannot be picked up.
Records Obtained By Investigators Provide Context in Personal Injury Claims
These and other tasks provide evidence for the personal injury attorney to review and evaluate as they determine fault. Your accident injury lawyer will also need additional documents to help you get the compensation you deserve, including your medical records and medical bills. If you have an underlying condition that causes your injuries to heal slowly, such as diabetes or an immune system disease, your personal injury attorney may need additional records.
These records would be used to demonstrate that recovery will not be typical for you due to your underlying illnesses and/or that the injuries you sustained in the accident exacerbated your underlying condition. Finally, your personal injury attorney will prepare interrogatories—written questions—for the other party. They may also request depositions to ask the other party questions under oath.
Personal Injury Lawyers Will Discuss Your Claim with Insurance Companies
If you're in an auto accident, your auto insurance carrier and the other driver's liability carrier will want to talk to you. If you suffered a fall injury or an on-the-job injury, a general liability or workers compensation carrier will want information. They will all want recorded statements.
Your personal injury attorney will:
- Refuse the liability carriers' requests to control the flow of information that might undermine your claim
- Arrange and supervise your statement, or coach you ahead of time on what not to say
- Have additional conversations with your insurance company to encourage them to cover your medical bills and auto repairs
Accident Injury Attorneys Place Parties on Notice and Send Letters of Representation
To prevent them from contacting you, your personal injury attorney informs all relevant parties that they represent you. They notify each person or entity that all future contacts or inquiries must come through the law firm. This allows your personal injury attorney to track insurance communications and claim statuses, injury prognosis, medical treatment and bills, and other information critical to your case.
Sending Formal Letters of Representation
If a personal injury attorney sends their initial notice via phone or email, they will usually follow up with a formal letter of representation. They will send the representation letter to the drivers of other vehicles involved in an auto accident, employers of workers injured on the job, manufacturers of defective machines, insurance companies, and anyone else who may seek to contact their injured client about an incident.
Personal Injury Attorneys Will Review Insurance Policies and Subrogation Rights
Your personal injury lawyer will typically request a copy of your auto policy or other relevant policies from your insurance companies. Once they receive them, they can eliminate any concerns about your auto insurance coverage and benefits. Your accident injury attorney will review applicable PIP benefits, liability, medical payments, Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist (U/M) coverage, and benefits information from your health insurance carrier.
Reviewing and Documenting Your Insurance Companies' Subrogation Rights
Your personal injury lawyer will also review any applicable subrogation provisions in your health and auto insurance coverage. This will explain your duty to protect their subrogation rights and include your insurance companies as a party to any future lawsuits. As your representative, your personal injury attorney must know your insurance company's right to recover the damages they pay. When your lawyer settles your claim or files a personal injury lawsuit for damages, they will also protect your insurance company's interests.
Types of Cases that Personal Injury Lawyers Handle
Personal injury attorneys handle anything that involves someone being injured because of negligence. This includes:
- Motor vehicle accidents (like car accidents, truck accidents, etc.)
- Catastrophic injuries (like spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, etc.)
- Birth Injuries
- Trip & Fall Injuries
- Major cases of public harm (like the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit)
- Child Injuries
- Clergy Sex Abuse
- Construction Accidents
- Defective Medications and Bad Drugs
- Medical Malpractice
- Nursing Home Abuse
- Premises Liability
- Property Damage
- Workers' Compensation
- Wrongful Death
Your Legal Representative Can Pick Up and Arrange Testing For a Defective Product
If a defective product injured you, the product is important evidence. If it's in your possession, you shouldn't relinquish it except to your representative or their delegate. Your personal injury attorney will likely have it stored or submitted for non-destructive testing. It's important to secure the product before the manufacturer or their insurance carrier does. Defendants will sometimes conduct destructive testing, which can prevent plaintiffs from conducting meaningful tests to confirm a defect.
Your attorney's expert will determine the nature of any defects and if the product could have caused or contributed to your injuries. Non-destructive tests maintain the structural integrity of a product. They allow the plaintiff to leave the product intact for the defendants and their insurance companies to test.
If a defective product caused your injury, your product liability lawyer will search consumer sites, prior product liability lawsuits, and government sites seeking any similar incidents. This helps in establishing a pattern of negligence. Your product liability lawyer will likely also use expert testimony to bolster your claim. Once the expert tests the product, they should offer a detailed report outlining their findings.
Let the Experts Handle Analyzing Potential Legal Issues
When your personal injury attorney has gathered enough information and evidence, they perform a detailed liability analysis. This often involves extensive research. They will review applicable statutes, case law, common law, and relevant legal precedents.
The information will be used to establish a valid rationale for pursuing a claim against the responsible parties. It's a less time-consuming process when a case is a simple auto accident. If your injury involves complex issues, rare circumstances, or unusual legal theories, it will require an in-depth analysis.
Personal Injury Attorneys Will Request Bills, Records, and Economic Projections
As your treatment winds down, your personal injury lawyer will review your accumulated medical bills and request those that haven't been received. If you've reached maximum recovery, your accident injury attorney will also request narrative medical reports from your treating physicians. The reports will describe your injuries, treatment, initial diagnosis, prognosis, and disability information. It will conclude whether or not you can return to normal work and activity levels or if you have permanent impairments.
To evaluate your damages, your personal injury attorney needs confirmation from your employer of any income lost because of your injuries. Your doctor's report must support your income loss. In cases of severe injury, it may be necessary to account for the cost of a long-term loss of income and continued treatment. If your case involves a potential for substantial future medical treatment and wage losses, your injury attorney may hire an economist to project the values.
Allow Your Representative to Locate Medical Experts and Request Evaluation
Catastrophic and serious injuries often lead to complex diagnoses, treatments, prognoses, and disabilities that can profoundly affect your life. Your personal injury attorney may hire a medical expert to confirm the diagnoses and project future impairments, restrictions, and treatment.
Your injury attorney may discuss your case with medical experts in person or by phone. They will request a narrative report if the findings support your claimed injuries, restrictions, and disabilities.
Your Injury Attorney Will Confirm PIP Tort Exceptions
You have no right to make an auto liability claim against a negligent driver until your medical condition meets one of the Florida PIP exceptions. When your attorney verifies that you've met one of these thresholds, they will present a liability claim to the other driver's insurance carrier, which includes:
- Significant/permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Permanent injury
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or
Once you have reached maximum healing, or your personal injury lawyer has a good picture of the incident, and what they believe you will need to cover your past and future medical expenses, they will often attempt to settle your claim with the appropriate liability carrier. Personal injury attorneys often submit a packet of medical bills, reports, income loss documentation, and a liability analysis with a settlement demand.
If the defendants respond with an offer, this process initiates informal negotiations and may lead to a settlement. If the insurance company does not respond or responds with a lowball counteroffer, and the accident injury attorney believes that further negotiations will not result in fair compensation, they may prepare your case for trial.
You May Need to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit For Damages
When your accident lawyer files a personal injury lawsuit, it begins a new phase in their representation. Legal theories, allegations, and damage information are all formalized. The involved parties give up some control to a judge, who usually pushes for a settlement. When a case enters litigation, all parties and their insurance companies begin incurring legal expenses and fees. The increasing costs sometimes motivate defendants to settle.
If your case involves a workers' compensation claim, your lawyer will help you comply with any required reports and form submissions. If the insurance company refuses to pay your claim, your personal injury attorney will assist you with your petition for benefits. They will also represent you at any required hearings and help you obtain any lump sum settlements to which you're entitled.
Participating in Alternative Dispute Resolution is Common In Personal Injury Claims
National statistics show that personal injury attorneys settle 95% of the personal injury lawsuits they file. The courts understand this, and so they encourage mediation, settlement conferences, and other forums to resolve differences and settle early in the litigation process. Mediation is mandatory in all Florida injury lawsuits.
In mediation, you, your attorney, the insurance company representative, and the insurance company's lawyer come together in an informal setting. The adverse parties share information and try to move toward a settlement.
Personal Injury Attorneys Must Be Prepared for Trial
Due to most of the work on your case being done during the investigation and discovery phase, once an attorney is ready for settlement negotiations, they are also almost ready for trial. They must now file the lawsuit and make sure the evidence is in order and ready for admission before the court. The personal injury lawyer must ensure that the defendant (the negligent party you are suing) gets copies of all evidence the attorney plans to present at trial.
The defendant must also provide any evidence they plan to present at trial to your personal injury attorney. If the personal injury attorney feels that they need expert witnesses to describe certain aspects of your case at trial, like how much your future medical costs are likely to be, the firm will hire those witnesses on your behalf. Once everything is ready for trial, and if the insurance company still has not offered a fair and reasonable settlement, the lawyer will schedule a trial date with the court.
A trial sometimes takes only a few hours but can occasionally stretch out over several days. If your case goes to trial, your attorney will present your evidence before a judge and jury. If you request a bench trial, only a judge will hear your evidence and decide your case.
Understanding How Personal Injury Damages Work
You may be entitled to "damages," which are financial compensations for your injuries and/or losses. The value of your damages will be determined based on several factors. These criteria include the level of disruption to your lifestyle, the impact on your physical and mental health, and the financial losses you sustained. Personal injury cases involve three types of damages: general, special, and punitive.
Special Damages Typically Offer Compensation For Financial Losses
These are damages with a specific dollar amount attached. They may also be called economic damages and can include:
- Medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident
- Future medical expenses such as additional surgeries, therapy, or follow-up doctors' appointments
- Lost wages
- Future lost wages
- Repair or replacement of personal property
General Damages Require Subjective Calculation
These are damages that are not as easy to assign a specific dollar amount to. Courts or insurance companies will sometimes award these damages if you suffer from severe or long-term injuries or have lost a loved one in an accident. General damages may include compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of use of a body part or limb
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Wrongful death
Punitive Damages Are Intended to Deter Others From Acting in a Similar Manner
Courts only award punitive damages if the defendant's behavior was grossly negligent or intentionally harmful. This type of damage is used as a punishment for the defendant. For example, a court may award you punitive damages if they find that the defendant was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident and caused your injuries or the death of your loved one.
Courts may also award punitive damages in certain cases where the defendant committed an intentional tort, such as trespassing with the intent to harm you or your family. For example, if the defendant trespassed on your property and started a fire in your home knowing you were at home, a court might order the defendant to pay punitive damages in a civil case. Of course, the defendant may also face criminal charges for trespassing and arson in a criminal court.
Arranging for Payment in a Personal Injury Settlement
Once the lawyer settles with the insurance company or you receive an award through a court order, the lawyer will collect the award from the defendant. At that time, the attorney takes their agreed-upon fee, usually a percentage of your award. Your attorney will also ensure that your medical bills have been paid and will write you a check for the balance of the money from the settlement or court order.
How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Cost?
While there are many benefits to hiring a personal injury attorney, many people are still hesitant to seek legal assistance. Understandably, people recuperating from severe injuries may have reservations about hiring an accident attorney because they are concerned about the cost of legal fees. Personal injury lawyers understand this, so most work on a contingency fee basis instead of requiring a sizable investment up front.
A contingent fee is taken out of the compensation that you receive, either in the form of a settlement or court award. Contingent fees are usually a percentage around 33%, depending on the lawyer and the case. This amount is deducted from the compensation you attain. This ensures your attorney is motivated to get the maximum compensation possible for you since their fee is tied directly to it. In other words, if your personal injury attorney fails to get you compensation, they get nothing.
Why Should I Choose Dolman Law Group to Represent Me in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Dolman Law Group has successfully negotiated or tried a variety of prominent issues in the personal injury law field. Our team has an unrivaled work ethic and compassionate disposition that has enabled us to earn the respect of our current and former clients.
We believe that you should not have to pay for the negligence of another driver, property owner, manufacturer, or employer. That's why we have made it our goal to seek maximum compensation for injury victims in personal injury lawsuits. We encourage you to check out some of our most recent settlements, including a 6.7 million dollar wrongful death settlement.
At Dolman Law Group, we know that no two personal injury claims are exactly the same. You can rest assured that our team will relentlessly advocate for you in your personal injury lawsuit to obtain a settlement that actually reflects your losses. You will be kept informed of your claim's progress as we strive to secure a fair resolution.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney For Help With Your Injury Lawsuit
If you're struggling to recover from a serious accident, you need a personal injury law firm that's willing to work hard for you. Dolman Law Group is prepared to take on that challenge. Our personal injury lawyers have both the resources and experience to handle your case. For over a decade, we have diligently supported our injured clients throughout the process of filing a personal injury claim, even when that meant escalating a claim to trial to obtain a fair resolution. Our award-winning injury attorneys team will prioritize your needs as we negotiate for damages like medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress.
To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please call us at (727) 451-6900 or contact us online today. We look forward to providing you with customized legal advice and a reliable support system while you recover from your injuries.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765