Personal injury lawyers are known for helping people injured by someone else’s negligence to obtain compensation with a lawsuit. Their work depends on identifying physical injury cases with merit and developing the evidence required to prove that the defendant injured their client through negligence or intentional actions.
Despite all of the work that goes into preparing a case, a claim may be unsuccessful. There’s always the potential for a case to fail. The defendant’s legal team might establish an effective defense, or a judge could dismiss the lawsuit based on technicality.
In most instances, if a personal injury attorney loses the case for their client, the attorney doesn’t receive a fee. In other words, if the client doesn’t win compensation, they do not have to pay their attorney. This is called a contingency fee.
What Is a Contingency Fee?
Overwhelmingly, personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee means a lawyer’s payment is contingent upon winning the case for their client.
Under a contingency fee arrangement, the client agrees to pay their lawyer a percentage of their award. If the attorney is unsuccessful, no payment is due. There are no hourly billing or upfront fees.
Contingency fees vary based on several factors, including the size of the case, its expected value, the lawyer’s experience, and other circumstances. The agreed-upon fees reflect the lawyer’s expectations.
Do Personal Injury Lawyers Have to Take My Case?
Personal injury attorneys do not have to take every case. They almost always offer a free consultation and case evaluation, which allows them to sit down with a potential client, learn about the circumstances that led to their injury, and examine any evidence the client has assembled.
During a consultation, the attorney uses their experience and knowledge to weigh the merits of the client’s case. If they believe there’s a good chance that they can win a lawsuit, they will offer their services to the client.
The attorney likely won’t take on a case that doesn’t seem viable. No one wants to spend their time and money fighting a losing battle.
Are Certain Law Firms More Likely to Take My Case Than Others?
If you have an open-and-shut case, any personal injury law firm will likely agree to take on your lawsuit. However, claims that aren’t as clear-cut may get buy-in from one firm but a solid no from another firm.
Factors that determine whether an attorney will agree to take on your case include:
It makes sense to consult a lawyer with experience handling cases focusing on the type of injury the client has suffered.
For example, a lawyer whose practice revolves around personal injuries sustained in car accidents may be less likely to take on a case concerning sexual assault because their lack of background in that area might reduce the chances of a successful claim. In this situation, the attorney may refer the client to another lawyer.
Expectations for Trial
Some lawyers spend very little time in the courtroom. Instead, they negotiate settlements for their clients with insurance agencies or the defendants themselves. If a personal injury lawyer suspects your case will go to court, and they don’t have much experience in courtroom trials, they may refuse your claim.
Merits of the Case
If your claim has significant holes, it’s more likely to fail. The personal injury lawyer can refuse to handle the case if they believe there’s insufficient evidence to develop an effective strategy to win compensation. In this situation, the lawyer believes other cases have more significant potential for success.
The expected value of your case plays a big part in a lawyer’s decision to take it on. If the personal injury attorney doesn’t see much value in winning your case, they are unlikely to accept it. Cases with little anticipated compensation fall into this category.
Current Case Status
In some cases, lawyers may be overbooked. They may have too many current cases to take on another one. However, in this situation, they probably won’t agree to have a consultation unless they know another lawyer in their office who could handle the case for them.
What Should I Look for in a Personal Injury Attorney?
As with any significant decision you make, it’s best to do your research before deciding on a personal injury lawyer. Below are a few steps to follow when you’re considering attorneys.
Create a List of Personal Injury Lawyers
Begin by developing a list of personal injury lawyers in your area. You can review your local yellow pages or do an internet search. As you write down each law firm’s name, also record their website address. Nowadays, firm websites are the most comprehensive source of information.
Determine Whether the Lawyer Handles Cases Similar to Yours
Each website should provide a list of practice areas that the firm handles. If you’re seeking a personal injury lawyer to take a medical malpractice case, you’ll want to ensure that they have an established practice for medical malpractice lawsuits. Highlight the names of all personal injury lawyers you find who handle medical malpractice suits.
Review Prior Case Settlements and Verdicts
Lawyers want to show off their results like any other service provider. Frequently, they list significant verdicts or case settlements they have obtained for their clients. Read through the list to find if there were any wins for clients in cases similar to yours. Record any notable settlements or verdicts on your list of potential lawyers.
Read Client Reviews
Websites typically only feature the top reviews written by clients. To get a well-rounded selection of a law firm’s reviews, check Google’s local reviews and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for additional comments from prior clients. Be wary of law firms that have more than a few negative reviews.
Verify Your Lawyer’s Experience
Most lawyers have a short bio on their firm’s website that lists pertinent information, such as their education and work on other cases. While the biography shouldn’t form the entire basis of your decision, it can help you understand the attorney’s focus on and history with personal injury lawsuits.
Schedule Consultations With Your Prospects
Once you’ve narrowed your list, it’s time to make some calls. You should schedule consultations with the top three law firms you’ve identified in your research. Consultations allow you to present your case to the lawyer and determine which one fits your needs best.
What Should I Bring to a Personal Injury Consultation?
Preparing for your consultation is essential. You don’t want to waste your lawyer’s time, and you don’t want to waste your own. For the best results, here are the things to bring.
Details About the Circumstances of Your Case
It’s often helpful to write down the circumstances that gave rise to your injury. Writing down the facts of your case is a great way to remember everything.
You can reference your notes if you forget any crucial points when speaking with a lawyer. They can also keep your notes for further review after the consultation.
Prepare any documentation of your injuries, including medical bills, medical treatment plans, police reports, and other information. Records of your injury make it easier for a lawyer to understand the extent of the damage you’ve sustained.
The lawyer will likely need to gather additional evidence if they take on your case, but having the basic documents helps them determine whether your case has merit.
A List of Questions
You likely have questions concerning your case. Write them down to ask your personal injury attorney during the consultation.
Common questions include:
- Is my claim reasonable? Does it have a chance of success?
- What is the expected value of my case?
- How long will it take for my case to settle? Will it need to go to court?
- What fees will you charge for handling my case?
Preparing a list of questions can help you get the most from your consultation and fully understand what’s to come.
How Do I Pay My Lawyer?
If a personal injury lawyer agrees to take your case, they believe it has merit, and they have the potential to win your claim. However, nothing is certain. There’s always the chance that new facts will arise or something will keep you from obtaining compensation for your injuries.
Lawyers understand the risk involved when they take on a personal injury case. The contingency fee arrangement encourages people to pursue their claim, even if they don’t have the money at hand to pay upfront fees. It’s a means of allowing everyone to access the legal process.
A personal injury attorney working on contingency receives payment only after they win your case. The award from your lawsuit is sent directly to the lawyer, and they will take their agreed-upon fee before giving the remaining balance to you.
What If I Lose My Case? Can I Pursue It Again Through Another Claim?
If you lose your case in court, your lawyer may decide to file an appeal. However, the appeal process may take up to a year or longer. An appeal does not mean you get to present your entire case in front of another judge and jury.
Instead, an appellate court will perform a legal analysis of the case. The legal analysis allows the judge to determine whether the trial court made legal mistakes. They may consider additional evidence concerning your claim if it is available.
Most personal injury cases don’t go to court. They are settled beforehand without the need for a trial. However, each case is different, and the defendants in your claim can decide to pursue a trial, especially if they believe the evidence is in their favor.
What Types of Damages Are Available in Personal Injury Cases?
A personal injury attorney can pursue two types of monetary damages. They include economic damages and non-economic damages. The third type of compensation, punitive damages, is awarded by a court.
Economic damages compensate a personal injury victim for out-of-pocket costs related to their injury.
Monetary damages include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Time off work
- Inability to work in the same capacity in the future
- Costs related to household activities like cleaning or childcare
Your personal injury attorney can outline the economic costs incurred through medical bills, your physician’s testimony, and documents from your workplace.
Non-economic damages can’t be attributed to specific receipts and are subjective. Common non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and disability or disfigurement. The more severe your injuries are, the more likely your attorney is to pursue non-economic damages.
A judge awards punitive damages based on the circumstances of a case. Punitive damages punish a defendant for particularly negligent actions and discourage similar behavior.
If your case settles before it goes to court, you will not be eligible for punitive damages.
How Long Do I Have to Pursue a Personal Injury Claim?
Each state has a statute of limitations, which limits the time an injured person has to file a lawsuit. Statutes of limitations can vary from three to ten years. While you have time to pursue a case, the earlier you begin, the better.
Your lawyer will need time to establish your case strategy and compile evidence before filing a lawsuit. In addition, time tends to erode memories, and you don’t want to forget pertinent facts about your case.
Should I Contact a Lawyer if Someone Injures Me?
Accident victims injured by the negligence of others should seek legal counsel. Do your research and find a lawyer in your area who handles similar cases. Assemble your evidence and schedule a consultation. Your lawyer can tell you if pursuing a legal claim is worth your time and effort.
Obtain legal advice from two or three attorneys before pursuing a claim. Different perspectives about your case can help you understand the potential compensation you may recover and decide on your next steps.