What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?
If you are injured due to another party’s negligence in California, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim. By pursuing legal action, you can recover compensation for your injuries or any damages sustained.
The law can be complicated for those without experience, so it’s common to hire a trained personal injury lawyer to assist in your case. They will walk you through the steps of a lawsuit and help you secure the benefits you deserve.
Investigating the Case
In a personal injury lawsuit, an attorney will typically conduct their own investigation of the accident. They will find available evidence and hire expert witnesses to support your claim. An attorney may also hire another expert to conduct the investigation.
In whichever case, the individual investigating the case will do the following:
- Track down witnesses and conduct interviews
- Gather any official employer or police reports
- Obtain photos, videos, and other documentation of the accident scene
- Get photos of injuries or vehicle damages
- Look for any conditions at the site of the accident/injury that may have contributed to the accident/injury
If there is no existing evidence from the scene, an attorney may hire someone to take photos or videos of any proof that was left behind. This could include vehicle parts, skid marks, damaged property, or any other evidence which cannot be collected or picked up.
How Does Evidence Help a Personal Injury Claim?
All of the information provided by the investigation will be used to help your attorney determine which party was at fault for the accident. Additional documentation may also be necessary to increase the amount of compensation you recover.
Medical records and medical bills must be provided to show expenses and how the injuries have affected your life. You will certainly need to provide more information if you have an underlying condition that interacts or interferes with your injury.
For example, if your medical records could prove that you have an affliction that causes injuries to heal slower, you may be eligible for additional compensation. You can also receive benefits if the accident injury aggravated or worsened your underlying condition. Both of these could mean larger settlements, but require more evidence to prove.
An attorney will also request depositions and prepare written questions for the other party. This will allow your team to interrogate the defendant—or another witness—under oath.
Negotiating With Insurance Companies
Regardless of the nature of your accident, your testimony will likely be in demand. In a car accident, workers’ compensation, or personal injury case, insurance representatives from both parties will want to speak with you. They will try to get recorded statements of you saying certain things to use as evidence.
When you hire a personal injury attorney, they will take the following steps to ensure you are not taken advantage of:
- Prevent communications to control the flow of information which might affect your claim
- Work with your insurance company to persuade them to cover your expenses
- Help you put together your statement and provide guidance on what you should or shouldn’t say
A lawyer will act as your personal advocate to prevent any manipulation or intimidation tactics by insurance companies.
Your Lawyer Will Protect You
Accidents can be traumatic. Navigating the legal system directly after you are severely injured can add to the stress of the situation.
A personal injury attorney will notify all relevant parties that they are representing you, meaning all future inquiries or contacts must come through the law office. This helps your legal team keep an eye on any communications, injury prognosis, claim statuses, medical bills, and other critical information.
Personal injury lawyers may begin communications by calling or sending an email. After that, they will typically follow up with a formal letter of representation. This will be sent to employers of the workers who were injured, other drivers involved in an accident, insurance companies of involved parties, those who manufactured defective machines, and any other people who want to contact the injured client.
Reviewing Insurance Policies
Your lawyer will do what they can to get information about your auto policies or other coverage. This usually involves requesting copies from your insurance company. This will help them eliminate any issues or concerns that you may have about getting benefits.
Attorneys can also review PIP (personal injury protection) benefits, liability, medical costs, and coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorist accidents. This information will help the attorney prepare for all portions of the injury lawsuit.
Reviewing Subrogation Rights
In personal injury cases, there is also something called subrogation that allows an insurance company to pursue the guilty party after they have compensated the plaintiff. Your lawyer will need to know the subrogation rights of your insurance company to help them recover benefits after the case has been settled.
Lawyers Can Help Test Products
If you were injured by a product malfunctioning or not performing the way it was supposed to, you should hold on to that product as evidence. Do not give it to anyone aside from your injury attorney. They will likely store the product or test it in a non-destructive manner to preserve it.
It’s important to have the product safe and tested appropriately before the defendant gets it. The defendant may test the product in a way that ruins it so no significant results can be determined.
The expert hired by your personal injury attorney will look to see if the defects of the product caused or contributed to the client’s injuries in any way. By using non-destructive tests, the plaintiff can ensure that the defendant and insurance companies also get to test the product, but not until the necessary information has been gathered.
If your injury appears to be linked to device malfunction, a personal injury or product liability lawyer will look for similar issues on government or consumer sites. If a pattern of negligence can be established, your case against the defendant will be stronger. The expert who tests the product may also be used as a witness in your case after testing occurs.
Trust Your Experts
Some injury cases require an in-depth analysis of all relevant details. Determining liability in a simple auto accident may not take as long as a complex issue with multiple involved parties.
Personal injury attorneys—and any experts they hire—will use their knowledge to perform extensive research on the accident. This often involves comparing the details to case and common law, applicable statutes, and relevant legal precedents.
Personal Injury Lawyers Seek Out Evidence
Your injury attorney will constantly compare different pieces of evidence to build the strongest possible case. If you reach maximum recovery and cannot work, a lawyer will collect medical records and employment information corroborating your timeline.
Descriptions of your injuries, diagnosis, treatment, and resulting disabilities can be used to increase the total amount of compensation earned in an injury lawsuit. If it appears that your injuries will lead to a long-term income loss or continuous medical bills, an attorney may even hire an economist to calculate the amount of money you will lose.
Finding the Right Personnel
The lasting effects of a catastrophic or serious injury must be properly diagnosed if you are to receive full compensation for your injury case. A personal injury lawyer may request opinions from medical experts they know or trust, in addition to the information you already got from your doctor. This can help them predict future impairments or restrictions. It also makes it easier for your injury lawyer to discuss findings with the medical expert(s).
Filing a Lawsuit
Some personal injury cases are more complex than others, making them more difficult to settle. When two parties cannot reach an agreement, your lawyer may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.
At this point, all pieces of evidence, settlement projections, and legal theories are formalized and placed in front of a judge/jury. Litigation will take longer and incur more expenses on each side, which sometimes encourages plaintiffs to settle.
Upon entering a trial phase in your injury claim, your lawyer also takes on a new responsibility. They will represent you at required hearings, help you petition for benefits from the insurance company, and help you retrieve the settlement you are owed.
Settling a Case
Courts are well aware of the fact that most injury claims end in out-of-court settlements. They often encourage mediation and conferences between parties to settle disputes early. You and your attorney will meet with the other party and their legal representative to try and resolve the issue before it goes to court.
Lawyers Must Prepare for Trials
Since most of the investigation will occur before the trial phase, there are not too many additional steps when moving into the courtroom. If you fail to settle your case with the other party, your lawyer will prepare all the evidence for admission before the court. The personal injury lawyer must also ensure that the other party gets a copy of all the evidence that will be presented.
When You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer
In the majority of personal injury cases, you should expect to hire legal counsel. The cost of a lawyer is almost always justified by the additional benefits awarded as a result of their experience and expertise.
In general, a lawyer can help walk you through the claim process and represent you in court if necessary. If you are dealing with a significant amount of money, your injuries may have an impact on your life, or the guilty party is refusing to pay, you should hire a personal injury lawyer.
Below are some of the signs that you should hire an attorney.
- Multiple parties: If you are involved in a personal injury accident that may have been caused by more than one party, assigning fault can be especially difficult. An injury lawyer may be necessary to help you identify all guilty parties and receive the proper compensation. In California, the percentage of fault an individual holds for an accident directly correlates with how much they will have to pay. Cases with multiple defendants can add up to a higher total compensation amount.
- Settlement offer: If you receive an immediate settlement offer, that could imply the defendant knows they are guilty. They may be attempting to get you to settle early with a lowball settlement. Without the knowledge and experience of a legal professional, you may not be able to determine whether or not you are truly receiving worthwhile compensation.
- Denied claim: If you are certain of the other party’s guilt but the insurance company will not claim responsibility, you may need to speak with a lawyer. Lawyers for personal injury claims will conduct their own investigation to find solid proof of the other party’s guilt. An injury lawyer will also be able to provide you with an informed opinion of whether or not they think you have a case for compensation.
Here at Chain | Cohn | Clark, we are not afraid of defendants of any size. We have deep connections and resources in the area that will allow us to protect you from tactics like intimidation.
When You Don’t Need a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you are involved in an accident where the damages are minimal, there are no severe injuries, and the liable party offers a settlement that appears to be reasonable, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney. Personal injury lawyers typically work on a contingency fee, meaning they get paid based on the settlement you are awarded. If you already have a decent settlement heading your way, it doesn’t make sense to give a portion of that away.
However, remember that some cases are more complicated than they seem. Insurance companies will often offer a quick settlement that is much less than you deserve in the hopes that you will accept it and move on. Personal injury lawyers can help determine whether or not the settlement is fair, and help you pursue more if it’s not.
It can be difficult to know for sure whether you should hire an attorney in cases when injuries appear minor at first and later turn out to be chronic or disabling. And factors like insurance policies can come into play in ways you didn’t expect. If you have any doubts whatsoever, you should contact a personal injury attorney for advice.
Chain | Cohn | Clark Personal Injury Lawyers Fight for You
Injury lawyers in California do a lot to ensure that you get the benefits to which you are entitled. At Chain | Cohn | Clark, we go above and beyond the competition in dedicating our resources to our clients’ cases. Our Bakersfield personal injury lawyers have decades of combined experience representing individuals just like you.
We limit the number of cases we take on at one time, so we can focus on building the strongest possible case. In addition, we are always available to hear the details of your claim. Reach out anytime for a free case evaluation.