What is a Personal Injury Lawyer, and What Do They Do?

Key Points:

  • A personal injury lawyer’s job is to advocate for clients who have been injured in an accident caused by someone else.
  • A personal injury lawyer is paid on a contingency basis, which means you only pay if you receive a settlement.
  • Personal injury lawyers work directly with insurance companies to keep clients from being taken advantage of.

What Is a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Personal injury attorneys help clients who have been injured by another person or entity. These lawyers work to obtain financial compensation for the injuries their clients have sustained. Even though money can’t take away the pain a person suffered from an injury—whether physical or mental—it can help ease the financial losses a person can face after an injury. A personal injury claim can help provide financial security.

Personal injury lawyers are also tasked with protecting their clients’ legal interests and advocating for their rights. In many cases, this means protecting their clients from being taken advantage of by insurance companies. An insurance company is not going to provide a high settlement straight out of the gate, and many settlement offers don’t even begin to cover the medical expenses and financial losses that an injured person faces after an accident. A personal injury attorney’s main role is to help clients get a fair settlement.

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What Do Personal Injury Lawyers Do?

A personal injury claim has a lot of moving parts. Lawyers who handle personal injury claims must assemble these parts and make sure they are in working order for a claim to be successful.

Typical work required from a personal injury attorney includes:

  • Investigate potential claims. Personal injury lawyers usually work on a contingency basis—that means they only get paid if they successfully obtain a settlement for a client. Because of this, a personal injury attorney will carefully evaluate a potential client’s accident to determine whether they have a valid personal injury claim.
  • Listen closely to a client. In order to advocate for their client, personal injury lawyers must take the time to learn about the accident from their client’s point of view. An attorney can’t provide sound legal advice until he or she has a good understanding of the facts surrounding the claim.
  • Gather evidence. A personal injury lawyer can use a variety of evidence to establish a claim, including accident reports, photos and video footage, medical records, and witness testimony.
  • Build a claim. To create a successful personal injury claim, a lawyer will need to research cases and statutes, obtain and examine evidence, draft legal documents, and show that the other party was responsible for the client’s injuries.
  • Communicate with insurance companies. Once an injured person hires a personal injury attorney, the attorney will handle all communication with the insurance company directly. This helps to keep a client from being taken advantage of by the insurance company.
  • Keep a client from jeopardizing their claim. A personal injury lawyer also needs to educate their clients on what to do—and what not to do—during a claim. Otherwise, a client could unknowingly hurt their case by allowing an insurance company to take a recorded statement or posting something unwise on social media.
  • Settle the client’s claim. A personal injury lawyer will send a demand letter to the insurance company and negotiate back and forth with their representatives to obtain a fair settlement. This doesn’t usually involve a trial—most of the time, a personal injury claim is settled without anyone ever having to set foot inside a courtroom.
  • Go to trial if the claim won’t settle. If a client’s claim cannot be settled outside of court, a personal injury lawyer will go to trial and explain to a judge and jury why you should win.

What Qualifications Do Personal Injury Lawyers Have?

Becoming a personal injury attorney doesn’t happen overnight—the profession requires a great deal of training and qualifications, including:

  • Law school. After a person earns an undergraduate degree, he or he must complete an additional three years of law school in order to become educated on all aspects of the law. Admission to law school is competitive and requires getting a high enough score on a specialized test called the LSAT.
  • Passing the Georgia Bar Exam. The Bar Exam isn’t just another standardized test—it is a two-day exam that assesses a person’s in-depth knowledge of the law. Most law students study for the Bar Exam for months through a rigorous Bar preparation course.
  • Training from experienced personal injury lawyers. New personal injury attorneys also learn about the law from seasoned attorneys who know the ins and outs of personal injury law. An experienced attorney can provide a novice lawyer with real-world knowledge and advice that isn’t taught in school.
  • Continuing legal education. A personal injury lawyer’s training doesn’t stop after passing the Bar Exam—he or she must also complete a certain number of continuing legal education courses each year to keep updated on key cases and changes to the law. This training isn’t optional—a lawyer who doesn’t complete these courses will face a suspension of his or her law license.

What Laws Do Personal Injury Lawyers Need to Know in Georgia?

In addition to an understanding of law as a whole, a Georgia personal injury lawyer should be familiar with the state’s traffic laws. When it comes to car, truck, or motorcycle accidents, proving that the other party violated a traffic law during or leading up to the accident can be the smoking gun that establishes a client’s case. This means that a personal injury lawyer needs to know traffic laws (such as lane-changing laws, rights-of-way, and hands-free driving laws) like the back of their hand.

A Georgia personal injury lawyer should also be familiar with the local ordinances in the cities and counties that surround them. What is appropriate in one county may not fly in another, which is why it is critical that a personal injury lawyer learn these local rules.

Why Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

Why Would Someone Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

People who are injured in accidents don’t always need the help of a personal injury attorney—some minor cases are cut and dry. Many claims, however, can benefit from a personal injury attorney’s help.

Insurance Companies Are Not an Injured Victim’s Friend

An insurance company might seem like it is on the victim’s side in a personal injury claim. After all, it’s the insurance companies that write the settlement checks to accident victims. However, it’s important to keep in mind that insurance companies aren’t charity organizations—they are multi-million dollar businesses.

At the end of the day, there’s only one thing that an insurance company is looking out for: its own wallet. Attorneys who represent insurance companies are trained on how to maximize profits by reducing payouts. A personal injury lawyer’s job is to work with these companies to negotiate a settlement that is fair to a client.

Increase in the Amount of Compensation

For a person who has little or no experience with insurance companies, the settlement process can be daunting. Negotiating with an insurance company can be extremely nerve-wracking for the average person. This fear can cause injured people to accept a low settlement offer because the negotiations process is too intimidating.

A seasoned personal injury attorney is trained to spot the facts that will help your claim. Personal injury lawyers deal with insurance companies all day long, and are familiar with their tactics and what makes them tick. This can all add up to a higher settlement amount for a client who may have otherwise settled for the company’s initial offer.

Personal Injury Claims Are Complex

Personal injury claims are definitely not user-friendly for the average person. Personal injury laws are not always black and white, and can be difficult to interpret. There are complicated procedural rules that must be followed and strict time limits that must be met. All of the work that goes into a personal injury claim can be extremely time-consuming.

It’s understandable, then, that a personal injury claim can quickly become too complicated for the average person to take on alone. There’s too much at stake in a personal injury case to try to handle it by yourself.

How Do Personal Injury Lawyers Make Money?

Personal injury attorneys, on the other hand, make money in a completely different way—they receive a percentage (usually 30% or 40%) of the personal injury settlement they obtain for you. This also means that if you don’t get a settlement, your attorney won’t get a dime. That’s why personal injury attorneys have an even stronger motivation to fight hard to obtain a good settlement for their clients—the more they win for their clients, the more money they take home.

There’s no doubt about it—hiring an attorney can be expensive. Attorneys often charge hundreds of dollars in consultation fees before they will even speak to a client. In addition, attorneys frequently require clients make an upfront payment called a “retainer” before the attorney will begin to work on a case. Retainer fees can be thousands of dollars, which can be difficult or even impossible for people who are struggling financially.

The cost of hiring an expert witness can also be thousands—or even tens of thousands—of dollars, and clients are charged for filing fees, and even copies. After all of these fees are paid, the client must pay for the attorney’s work, which can cost hundreds of dollars per hour.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Being a Personal Injury Lawyer?

For many personal injury lawyers, the most rewarding aspect of their career is the constant ability to help people who are in genuine need of assistance. Personal injury attorneys enter a client’s life during one of the most difficult times, and take the burden of a personal injury claim off the victim’s plate so they can focus on recovering.

At the end of the day, personal injury attorneys can go to bed knowing that they are helping their clients in a time they need it most.

The ability to help those in need isn’t the only perk of the job in this area of law—personal injury attorneys also benefit from:

  • Good work/life balance. While personal injuries certainly work hard, they don’t have to spend their entire lives in the office, and can spend time doing the things they love with the people they love.
  • Large earning potential. Contingency arrangements mean that large settlements are also beneficial to the attorney, and substantial settlements can mean a high earning potential for personal injury attorneys.
  • Job security. Some jobs, like those in real estate and finance, can be volatile. A dip in the economy—or, as we now see, a global pandemic—can leave people jobless without much notice. Personal injury attorneys, on the other hand, can count on pretty decent job stability. Unfortunately, injuries will always occur, and victims will continue to need an attorney to protect their rights.

What Types of Accidents Result in the Biggest Amount of Personal Injury Claims?

According to the motor vehicle accidents make up the largest percentage of all personal injury claims by far—with 54% of all cases filed in the United States from motor vehicle accidents.

While car accidents are the most common, motor vehicle accidents also include truck, motorcycle, and even bicycle accidents. These accidents are highly dangerous compared to other forms of personal injury claims. In 2019 alone, accidents on Georgia’s roads resulted in 1,507 deaths. The injuries that a person can sustain in a motor vehicle accident can be catastrophic. Personal injury lawyers are essential to motor vehicle accident claims because insurance companies will do everything they can to pay as little as possible.

Personal injury claims come in all shapes and sizes because there are so many ways that someone can be injured by another person’s actions. Although motor vehicle accidents are the primary cause of personal injury claims, countless types of accidents can result in injuries. Other common personal injury claims include:

  • Dog bites
  • Slip-and-fall accidents
  • Workplace injuries

Why Does Experience Matter When it Comes to Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer? 

When selecting an attorney to handle a personal injury claim, experience is everything. This is not an area of law that a lawyer should dabble in every now and then. Personal injury law is complex, and an attorney who is not well-versed in the quirks of injury law can easily make mistakes that can seriously damage a client’s claim. Having a deep understanding of personal injury law is essential to every step of a personal injury claim, from assessing claims and gathering evidence to negotiating with insurance companies and even going to trial, if necessary.

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How is a personal injury case decided by the judge or jury? 

Both the judge and jury are required to make a non-biased determination based on the evidence presented and the applicable laws.  

The best way for a law firm to advocate for its personal injury clients is to focus on that practice area alone. Personal injury law isn’t just The Millar Law Firm’s primary practice area—it’s our only practice area and has been for decades.

If you’ve been injured in an accident in or around Atlanta and have questions about personal injury claims, our legal team is here to provide the answers. To schedule a free case evaluation, call (770) 400-0000 today.

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