An accident that leaves you injured can be a major shock, leaving you physically impaired, nervous about what’s next, and chewing on questions about how you’ll pay for your injuries and what your economic and noneconomic future will look like. While nothing can change what’s happened to you if your accident was caused by the negligence of another party, then filing an injury claim for damages can help you to recover compensation for your losses. Before you file a claim on your own, though, it’s important that you understand the role of a personal injury attorney, how an attorney charges, and why working with a California personal injury lawyer will help you to maximize your compensation award. Here’s what you should know—
The Role of an Attorney
A personal injury attorney wears many hats throughout the claims process, including that of an investigator, negotiator, and even litigator in some cases. Here’s what you should expect your attorney to do throughout your personal injury claim—
- Investigate an accident. One of the most crucial roles of an attorney is that of an investigator. Before your claim can move forward, your attorney will need to conduct a thorough investigation to make a determination about things like fault and causation. Not only should your attorney travel to the scene of the accident themself, but they may also hire accident reconstruction experts and other professionals to help piece together what happened. During this phase, your attorney will also make sure that any evidence is preserved by sending spoliation of evidence letters or filing requests for access to evidence.
- Prove liability. Once your attorney has all of the evidence that’s relevant to your case, they will use it to determine what happened, who’s to blame, and who should be held liable, or legally responsible, for your damages. Liability in a personal injury claim is based on the theory of negligence—the failure to act with a reasonable degree of care; the same degree of care that a person of ordinary prudence would exercise in the same situation. Your attorney will need to prove that the at-fault party acted negligently and that the negligence was the proximate cause of your harm. Without an attorney, you may have a difficult time proving negligence and causation, weakening your case.
- Prove damages. Even if your attorney can prove liability, your claim won’t be worth anything if they can’t establish that you’ve suffered actual damages. Damages in a personal injury claim can be both economic and noneconomic and might include lost wages, property damage expenses, medical bills, pain, suffering, and emotional distress. Your attorney will need to be able to prove that you would not have incurred these losses but for the accident/your injuries caused by the defendant’s negligence. Without an attorney, you may not fully understand what your claim is worth.
- Issue a demand letter. Once your attorney has established liability and knows the value of your losses, they will file a demand letter against the at-fault party’s liability insurance provider. This letter outlines the case, explains the fault of the defendant/policyholder, and names an amount that is being demanded in compensation.
- Negotiate a settlement. After a demand letter is issued, an insurance company will review it and respond with a counter-offer. This kickstarts the negotiations process, which can take weeks or months to conclude. During negotiations, both sides will try to reach an amount that they believe is fair and just. If you don’t have an attorney on your side, your claim could be lowballed and you could end up accepting a settlement that’s far less than you deserve.
- Litigate a case. While most personal injury claims end in a settlement that’s reached through negotiations, sometimes, negotiations fail and the only way for a claimant to receive the amount they believe they deserve is to file a lawsuit. If your case goes to court, having an attorney on your side will be essential. Your attorney will file your case, prepare your case, and litigate your case.
How Are Personal Injury Lawyers Compensated?
Personal injury lawyers are compensated on a contingency fee basis. This means that they only get paid if their client’s case is successful and the claimant actually recovers an award for damages. The amount that the attorney is paid is a percentage of the damages award. Therefore, the greater the award, the more the attorney is paid. Attorneys are therefore strongly incentivized to do everything possible to maximize a client’s compensation award.
Call Fisher & Talwar Today for a Free Consultation
To learn more about the role of a personal injury attorney and when you should work with an attorney after being involved in an accident, call the experienced California personal injury law firm of Fisher & Talwar directly today. You can reach us by phone or online to schedule your free consultation.