We Know: All About Personal Injury Law

What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

A personal injury lawsuit is a legal case in which a plaintiff, usually just one person but sometimes several or even a large group (in class-action cases), sues someone else for mental, social, or physical damages. Most people engaging in personal injury lawsuits have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and are suing an insurance company. Many others sue employers, large corporations, or even individuals because they feel they have been injured.

What Do Personal Injury Lawyers Look For in a Lawsuit?

Because almost every personal injury lawyer works on a percentage of your personal injury settlement (standard is 30%), the two things they will be looking for in your case is a reasonable expectation of winning, and "deep pockets" -- a company or individual that can afford to pay a large settlement. Whether your case is with merit or not, if it can't pass those two benchmarks, it is unlikely that a lawyer will take the case.

This should not lead you to believe that personal injury lawyers are dishonest. Some are, but many personal injury lawyers entered this field of law because of a genuine interest in helping ordinary people. And there are personal injury lawyers who take on cases that don't pass the deep pocket and winnable tests simply because they believe in a cause. However, the reality is that lawyers have to make enough money to pay a lot of expenses, and they can't do it without a reasonable income.

How Can I Find a Great Personal Injury Lawyer?

First, it may not be a good idea to hire a personal injury lawyer from a television advertisement! These companies tend to be large, impersonal law firms that truly are in it for the money, and you may not get the personal attention you deserve.

Instead, start looking in the paper for lawsuits won. Call around to personal injury law firms in your area, and ask about a free consultation (almost all personal injury lawyers do this). You definitely want a lawyer who specializes in personal injury, and you want someone who makes you feel comfortable.

But in addition to being comfortable with your lawyer, you should look for one who seems to have a no-nonsense attitude -- polite, but asks lots of questions about your situation and your injury. Ask about payment of expenses like medical consultations and professional witnesses; you should not pay these up front, and many firms don't even ask you to pay it if and when you receive a settlement.

Ask your lawyer whether he or she has won other cases like this one, and if so, how they did it and how much the settlements were. And ask them what their win ratio is. A low win ratio doesn't mean you should not hire the lawyer, but you definitely want to know why the ratio is low; you will only get one shot at the personal injury lawsuit, and you want to have the best lawyer possible for your suit.

When Does The Money Come Through?

This is a question you should ask your lawyer, particularly if you need money immediately for medical expenses. Many personal injury lawsuits drag on for two, three, or more years, and the larger the suit the longer it will take. Insurance companies and corporate lawyers, though, know you need money right away for medical or personal expenses, and they will use this to try to force you into settling.

You do have options. It may be worth it to use a company that advances money to you against your lawsuit's settlement (this is not a loan -- it is illegal for companies to loan money in anticipation of a settlement). They do this based on the merits of your lawsuit, and if you lose you do not have to pay this money back. You can find a number of companies like this online. Be certain to find out their payment terms; these loans can cost a significant amount of cash out of your settlement. If you don't need all the money in the loan, see if you can take out a smaller loan.

Another option: your lawyer may also be able to break your case up into a couple of pieces -- one piece to be settled quickly for your immediate medical expenses, and the other piece to cover your damages, pain and suffering, or other losses.

Remember, a company that is offering a settlement is usually a company that knows it's going to lose. Patience is your best policy.

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