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Personal Injury Lawyers - What They Do and When to Hire One

Updated: Jun 16, 2022

If you’re coping with the aftermath of an accident or injury, you might be wondering whether you should hire a personal injury attorney. In some cases, the answer is no.

For example, say you slipped and fell at a local restaurant and suffered minor scrapes or bruises. Or maybe you were rear-ended in a minor fender-bender, with just some cosmetic damage to your car.

Mishaps like these are frequent. Most folks can handle them on their own. And hiring a personal injury attorney is hardly necessary.

Conversely, slipping and falling onto a hard ceramic floor can cause a broken bone or a concussion. And even a minor rear-ender can leave you with a painful neck injury.

Such an injury can require ongoing medical treatments that generate huge medical bills. And if it results in chronic pain or limited range of motion, it can degrade your ability to earn a living, as well as your overall quality of life.

In sum, if you’ve suffered more than a minor injury in an accident, you should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can. He or she will be your personal advocate, and among other services:

  • Provide a roadmap of what to expect and how to react as things unfold

  • Advise you about what you should and shouldn’t do within the next 24 hours, next week, next month, and further down the road

  • Explain what are your rights and responsibilities

We’ve assembled a list of common questions to help as you consider whether or not to hire a personal injury lawyer. Click on any one of the following to learn the best answer to each:

  1. What is a personal injury lawyer?

  2. What is personal-injury tort law?

  3. What kinds of cases does a personal injury attorney deal with?

  4. What are the qualifications of a personal injury lawyer?

  5. What is the difference between a “trial lawyer” and a personal injury lawyer?

  6. What is the difference between a “civil attorney” and a personal injury attorney?

  7. What is a typical personal injury case?

  8. What do insurance adjusters do?

  9. What is ambiguous liability?

  10. What does it mean to settle a case?

  11. What happens if I file a personal injury lawsuit?

  12. How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?

  13. How and where can I get the fastest settlement for my personal injury claim?

  14. What are personal injury quality-of-life issues?

  15. How much does it cost to hire a personal injury lawyer?

1. What is a personal injury lawyer?

Personal injury attorneys (PI attorneys) are dedicated to providing legal advice and l representation should you be physically or psychologically injured by the negligence of another person—or by a company, government agency, or some other entity. This area of legal practice is called “tort law.”

Some PI attorneys limit their practice to a specific area of tort law (e.g. medical malpractice or workplace injury). This is a benefit to you as a client because such a sharpened focus allows a PI attorney to acquire professional knowledge and experience that can be brought to bear upon your case.

2. What is personal-injury tort law?

Per the ABA, personal-injury tort law is designed to protect you if you’re injured or harmed because of someone else’s act (or failure to act). In a successful tort action, you’re adequately compensated by the party who caused the harm you’ve endured.

Every tort claim has two basic issues. These are liability (is the defendant legally answerable for the damages you sustained?) and damages (what is the nature and extent of the harm done to you?).

3. What kinds of cases does a personal injury attorney deal with?

You should consult a PI attorney if you or a loved one is injured in an automobile collision, slip-and-fall mishap, by a defective product, a workplace incident, as a result of medical malpractice, a daycare event, an animal attack, or any other circumstance that results in acute or chronic pain and suffering.

4. What are the qualifications of a personal injury lawyer?

It takes a great deal of skill and commitment to become a PI attorney.

Like all lawyers, PI attorneys begin by earning a college degree, most commonly in political science, social science, history, or English. They then pursue a general law degree (JD) and must pass their state’s bar exam after earning it.

Another hurdle is the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). Required in many states, this test is designed to measure a lawyer's understanding of professional conduct relative to professional contempt, censure, or criminal wrongdoings.

Some PI lawyers further their professional studies with a master's program specifically dedicated to personal injury law (LLM).

After completing these academic and examination requirements, a lawyer must achieve several years of successful legal, courtroom, and practical experience as a “junior” lawyer at a legal firm to be fully considered a PI attorney.

Along with an expansive knowledge of procedural law, a PI attorney must have an extraordinary ability to synthesize complex facts and evidence: one that’s complemented by exceptional interpersonal and conflict-resolution skills.

5. What is the difference between a “trial lawyer” and a personal injury lawyer?

There are many different kinds of “trial lawyers.” PI attorneys are one of them. So sometimes PI attorneys are referred to as such. In other words, all PI attorneys are trial lawyers; but not all trial lawyers are PI attorneys. And although most personal injury claims are settled out of court, a PI attorney is best qualified at representing your interests at trial, should one be necessary.

6. What is the difference between a “civil attorney” and a personal injury attorney?

Much as all PI attorneys are trial lawyers, each is also a civil attorney.

A civil attorney is one who deals with non-criminal legal disputes. These typically involve one party seeking compensation from another for some kind of damage. Some examples of civil concentrations (besides personal injury law) are family law, corporate law, employment law, and property law.

7. What is a typical personal injury case?

Most personal injury actions have to do with automobile accidents, so they provide a good example of how the tort system works.

In a “fault” state, you make a negligence claim if you’re injured by a driver who failed to exercise reasonable care.

This goes the logic: Drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care on the road. If they breach that obligation and hurt you, personal-injury tort law says that you can recoup your losses. (The system is very different in states that have “no-fault” laws.)

Car accidents are only one kind of tort case. There are numerous others including trespass, assault, battery, negligence, products liability, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. There’s also nuisance, defamation, invasion of privacy, and more (see source).

8. What do insurance adjusters do?

An insurance adjuster will investigate your claim to determine the extent of the insurance company's liability. He or she may interview you and any witnesses, consult police and hospital records, as well as inspect any property damage that might have occurred (See source).

You must remember that no matter how warm, friendly, and sympathetic they might overtly appear, insurance adjusters work for the insurance company, not for you. And so they’ll do whatever they can within the law to limit your compensation for whatever injuries you’ve sustained.

Unless you’re a lawyer yourself, insurance adjusters will almost certainly have an advantage over you if you go it alone. They know the law, and they know that you don’t.

As well, insurance adjusters are savvy at convincing you that a lowball offer is a generous one: something you might want to believe, because amidst the pain, suffering, and life disruption that’s the aftermath of an accident—you just “want it to be all over.”

You need to take all of this into careful consideration if you have pain, medical bills, and/or property damage that might cost you a great deal of money, limit your ability to earn a living, and/or diminish your quality of life.

A PI attorney who’s accomplished in the applicable tort law, and experienced at challenging insurance adjusters, is your best assurance of realizing fair and just compensation for your pain and suffering.

9. What is ambiguous liability?

If it’s unclear where the blame lies for an accident, then you have ambiguous liability. You’ll need to prove your innocence and that someone else was at fault for your injuries. Both require assembling evidence.

E.g., for an automobile accident, you’ll need police records, accident photos, the official accident report, applicable medical records, and any eyewitness testimony—all of which must be presented in accordance with tort law.

In many accidents, liability is shared among multiple parties. A PI lawyer can identify who they are and help you secure just compensation from each.

For example, in the case of medical malpractice, you might have grounds to file a claim against both the hospital and the physician. Or in a truck accident, you might seek compensation from both the truck driver and the company for which he works (see source).

10. What does it mean to settle a case?

Settling a case means that you agree to accept a certain amount of money in return for dropping your action against the defendant. When you settle a personal injury case, you sign a release that absolves the defendant of any further liability.

Your PI attorney will help you decide whether to accept a settlement offer, including a realistic assessment of whether a lawsuit based on your claim will be successful (should you choose to go to trial in lieu of settlement). But the decision whether or not to accept a settlement offer is solely yours—not your lawyer’s.

Settlement can take place at any point in a lawsuit once it is filed: before or during the trial, and even afterward—if the jury has yet to reach a verdict (see source).

11. What happens if I file a personal injury lawsuit?

If you choose not to settle and instead file a personal injury lawsuit, you become the plaintiff in a court case wherein the party or entity that injured you becomes the defendant. At least two lawyers will be involved. Yours and the defendant’s

The two lawyers typically begin by gathering facts. This is called discovery. Along with exchanging pertinent documents among themselves, they’ll pose written questions to you, the defendant, and possibly others. These are called “interrogatories.” They also might ask for “depositions,” which are questions asked in person and answered under oath.

After discovery, many cases get settled instead of tried. In fact, only a small percentage of personal injury actions ever go to trial (see source).

12. How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?

Statutes of limitations differ from state to state. Time limits for filing a personal injury lawsuit can be as short as one year in some. If you miss the statutory deadline for filing your case, it will be thrown out of court (see source).

13. How and where can I get the fastest settlement for my personal injury claim?

Wrong question! This is a bad thing to be concerned about.

Bear in mind that the speed and frequency with which a law firm goes to settlement is not positively correlated with the quality or fairness of those settlements. In fact, quite the opposite is probably true.

A settlement is an agreement negotiated for you by your attorney with the party responsible for your accident (probably their insurer) in lieu of going to trial. The vast majority of cases go to settlement to avoid the time, cost, and stress of a trial. This is usually good both for you and the party responsible for your loss.

Many law firms that do a lot of advertising on television and radio do a very profitable business “rushing to settlement” by brokering deals that are very attractive to defendants, and then foisting that settlement upon you as the best deal you could have possibly gotten.

Rushing-to-settlement results in a smaller award for you and less profit to the law firm. But there’s a huge compensation for the law firm: by doing lots and lots of cases this way they realize large profits over time, in effect “making it up in volume.” It’s a great business strategy for them. But it’s very dangerous for you.

14. What are quality of life issues when it comes to personal injury cases?

Do you play guitar?

If your ability to do so has been debilitated by your accident, your PI attorney will ask: How big a thing is guitar-playing in your life? If you just strum in the basement out of earshot of your critics—that’s one thing. But if you do weekend gigs with a garage band, then it’s not “just only rock-n-roll,” even if you don’t make a cent doing it.

What about volunteer work?

Maybe you leverage lifelong hobbies like carpentry or woodworking to help others through your church or a service organization. How do diminished physical stamina and limited range of motion affect your ability to pursue those hobbies? And by extension, how does that affect others in your church or service organization and—ultimately—the people they help?

How about your emotional state?

Can you still enjoy whatever it was you were doing when you were injured? And is whatever it was crucial to your livelihood or some other aspect of your lifestyle or well-being? Do you have flashbacks? Are you fearful or hypervigilant? Has your emotional state changed subsequent to the accident in other ways—even if just subtly? Is that affecting relationships with your family or friends?

15. How much does it cost to hire a personal injury lawyer?

Galindo Law doesn’t charge any upfront or out-of-pocket fees. We’re only paid a percentage of the settlement we’re able to secure for you. So by working with Galindo Law, you incur zero financial risk—with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Remember, when it comes to a personal injury claim, you’re not asking for charity. You deserve to be adequately compensated for your loss

Or, if you prefer, email us. And thank you for reading our blog!


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