What will your personal injury attorney do?
This is how your personal injury attorney works to get the best outcome for your case.
Updated by David Goguen, JD
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Whether your personal injury case is eventually settled (like most) or on trial, your personal injury attorney will be busy trying to get the best possible outcome for you. After all, most personal injury attorneys are paid on a contingency fee basis, which means the attorney will not get any fees back for your representation unless you receive compensation from the culpable party. Let’s look at some important aspects of the role of an attorney in a typical personal injury case.
Investigation and initial demand
Your lawyer will first seek as much information as possible about your case. This is all relevant information about the type and extent of your injuries and a determination of fault for the underlying accident, including:
medical treatment history
official government reports.
Next, the attorney will likely make a claim against the liable party’s insurer (for example, in the case of a car accident, the car insurance of the culpable driver).
If this initial demand leads to a settlement offer, your lawyer will examine this with you and give you recommendations on how to react. The first settlement offer is rarely the final offer. Remember that your attorney will wait until they fully understand the scope of your injuries and other losses (including all future medical care you will need and how your injuries will affect your ability to work) before accepting a settlement application .
If, after settlement negotiations, your attorney is unable to get an amount that you are willing to accept, your attorney will next initiate the process. (Learn about your options when you find yourself at a dead end in personal injury settlement.)
The litigation for personal injury
A personal injury lawsuit begins with filing the complaint, a legal document that sets out your legal arguments, the facts in support of those legal arguments, and the relief you requested.
After you lodge the complaint and serve it on the defendant (the person you are suing), the defendant will submit a response to your complaint (the “Response”).
Next begins the “discovery”. This is the stage of the litigation when the two sides exchange information that could serve as evidence during the trial. In most personal injury cases, exposure consists of testimony, document requests, and interrogation, and the process can take months.
After the discovery, the process is discontinued. Your attorney can file a variety of pre-trial requests (for example, to try to prevent the accused from using evidence during the trial). It is very rare for a personal injury claim to reach the litigation stage. A comparison is possible at any point in time during this process, including up to (or even during) the process.
Your personal injury attorney handles all aspects of the litigation phase and keeps you informed of the progress of your case.
Points to consider after hiring a lawyer
Your attorney may not be able to respond to your phone calls or emails right away. Lawyers have an ethical obligation to respond to their clients within a reasonable time, but must handle other cases, prepare testimonies, and attend court hearings.
One thing your lawyer should never do is let you in the dark about what is going on in your case, especially if the other party makes an offer of settlement. Without your consent, your lawyer will not be able to accept or decline an offer of settlement without first being able to do so by you.
Use caution when discussing your case with anyone other than your attorney or a representative from your law firm. If you get a call from an insurance professional or someone you don’t know, do not speak to them about your case. If they have legitimate questions or concerns about your case, you can refer them to your attorney.
Unless your lawyer advises you otherwise, do not sign any document pertaining to your case or change doctors on any such note.
Keep your lawyer updated. For example, when you have finished your medical treatment, let your lawyer know. If the defendant or someone on behalf of the defendant tries to contact you, let your lawyer know. If you receive additional medical bills or other documents supporting your claim for damages, notify your lawyer and send them copies of the relevant documents.
If you have money problems as a result of your personal injury, notify your attorney. They can suggest financial support options and advise you on how to deal with creditors.
After receiving a legal recovery
Whether you win the trial or reach a settlement, your attorney will make arrangements to collect the money the defendant has to pay. This could mean contacting the defendant’s insurance company and having a check mailed to your law firm. Or it could involve filing motions under the recovery procedure. Learn more about how to seek your damages or judgment.
With your case settled, you will likely sign settlement and clearance forms. Essentially, these forms say that in exchange for compensation, you agree to drop your lawsuit against the defendant (or promise not to sue them in connection with the underlying accident).
Learn more about working with your personal injury attorney.
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