A personal injury lawyer provides legal counsel and representation to people who claim to have suffered an injury as the result of the negligence or intentional malfeasance of others. The injury can be either physical or psychological. The wrongdoers can be other people, businesses, or governmental entities. The area of the law that they specialize in is known as tort law and deals with civil wrongs where someone has been injured due to the breach of a legal duty owed to them by someone else. These lawyers are also often referred to as trial lawyers even though most cases are settled out of court.
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A personal injury attorney spends a good deal of time interviewing prospective clients to determine if they have a case worth pursuing legally. Once they take a case, their responsibility is to make sure their clients receive compensation and justice for the injuries they have sustained. They must do this will abiding by a strict code of legal ethics that prevents the lawyer from putting their own interests ahead of their clients.
To become a personal injury lawyer, a person must pass a comprehensive written examination that determines their mastery of the principles of law, legal procedures, and ethics. These tests, known as bar exams, are administered by each states legal bar association. Not everyone can take these tests. Most states require test applicants to have a four year degree as well as a legal degree from an accredited law school. California allows accepts applicants from non-accredited law schools that meet certain specific requirements.
Passing the bar examination does not mean that all educational requirements have been met. Every lawyer personal injury as well as other specialties, is required to accumulate a certain amount of continuing education credits. This ensures that the lawyer stays up to date with current legal rulings and statutory changes. Lawyers can use their continuing legal education (CLE) courses to sharpen the focus on their specialty. Limiting the kinds of cases they accept allows them to gain even more specific experience. For example, some lawyers only accept car accident victims as clients. To be officially listed as a specialist in a certain field of law, the lawyer must complete an accredited certification program.
Lawyers who deal solely with personal injury claims determine their fees in a number of ways. The time spent on a case is often a very important factor. The difficulty of pursuing the claim can often demand higher fees, as can cases with a lot of attached filing costs and legal fees. The expertise of a lawyer also plays a part in how much they charge, as the most successful lawyers are able to charge a premium for their time and representation.
Legal fees for lawyers specializing in personal injury cases are paid in one of three ways. Contingency fees, a popular choice for plaintiffs who cannot afford any upfront fees, are a set percentage of the recovery that the plaintiff will receive in court. In this case, the client usually has no obligation to pay until successful resolution of the case. This is the most common method for payment in personal injury cases, and helps to keep frivolous lawsuits from clogging the court system. Some lawyers charge hourly rates, recording the time that they spend working on the case and charging accordingly. Others work on a retainer basis, where a set amount of money is paid up front before representation begins.
Hiring a personal injury lawyer can be a very important decision depending on the extent of the injuries and expected compensation for those injuries. A good lawyer should be able to receive the maximum economic reward for their client. This award often comes during a settlement negotiation.