Lawyers across all categories of practice have a reputation for putting in long hours of work. Even at smaller firms, it is not unusual for attorneys to put in more than 40 hours a week tirelessly fighting for their clients.
Most of us have a pretty good idea of what lawyers do while in court. From cross-examinations to presenting evidence to objecting when the opposing side’s lawyer strays too far in their inquiries, these stereotypes are more than just film-fantasy. However, while every lawyer spends time in court, and some spend more time than others, the reality is that court appearances are just one small part of what they do.
So what do personal injury lawyers spend their time doing? And what exactly will they do after taking on your case? Here are just a few of the daily duties and above-and-beyond actions personal injury lawyers take on to help their clients win the settlements that they deserve.
Walking You Through the Accident
The very first thing that a personal injury attorney will do after taking on your case is to walk through what happened with you. This step serves a number of purposes. Of course, it’s important for your attorney to learn what happened so that they can represent your case. However, they may also be able to help you better understand or realize what happened.
In the moment, it can be easy to miss important details. This is especially true of auto accidents and other traumatic events. However, your brain may notice more than you realize.
Personal injury lawyers are well-versed in accidents of all kinds. They may be able to help you realize the details you had previously overlooked. These details could be vital to proving your case and getting you the settlement that you deserve.
Knowing all of the details of your case will also allow your attorney to better field the many calls and inquiries you are likely to receive in the days and months following an accident. Not only will these inquiries be fielded, but your personal injury lawyer will speak with involved parties to gather important evidence for your case.
Helping You to Understand Your Rights
If you have ever watched an arrest, whether real or staged on television or in a movie, you have heard the famous, yet real, line; “you have the right to remain silent.” But what does that really mean? Is it only the guilty party that has the right to not talk to the police? And what other rights do victims and those responsible for accidents have?
Your personal injury lawyer will be your go-to guide to all things legal pertaining to your case. He or she will advise you of your rights from the time the accident happens through the settling of your case.
Knowing your rights can help keep you from accidentally admitting blame for something you did not do. It will help you avoid paying medical bills that hospitals might have you thinking you are responsible for, even if someone else is at fault for your injuries. It can also help you better deal with the onslaught of inquiries you may receive from insurance companies looking to do anything that they can to avoid paying out claims.
Why It Is Important to Know Your Rights
It can be incredibly frustrating to have to remain silent when various parties, from the police to others involved in an accident, to insurance companies, are asking you endless questions about what happened. This is especially true in situations where you know that you had no part in causing an accident, and were instead the victim.
But it’s important to understand that many parties involved have more experience with the legal side of car accidents, workplace injury suits, and other personal injury cases. They may ask questions designed to get you to admit to things that you did not do. Or convince you to admit confusion, or otherwise compromise your case.
Having an attorney that you trust to guide you through the complicated laws and legal process not only takes some stress off of you but can also make all the difference in getting a case decided in your favor.
Building Your Case
Sometimes accidents are clear and easy to analyze. One person, or a group, are responsible, and another individual or individuals are victims. Negligence or criminal intent may be easy to spot, and seemingly easy to prove.
However, even the cases that seem very easy to understand require lots of evidence and a strong case to prove in court, or even to prove to insurance companies.
The main role of a personal injury attorney is to build your case and to present it. Depending on the specifics of your case, your attorney will gather a variety of types of evidence and testimony to help ensure that you get the settlement that you are owed.
Tasks a personal injury attorney will take on to build your case include:
- Hire an expert witness, like medical professionals, industry experts, etc. who can add credibility to your case in court.
- Perform their own on-site investigations into the circumstances surrounding your case. For workplace injuries, your attorney may visit the site of the accident to get a better understanding of what took place. Lawyers may also visit the location of auto accidents to see whether details of a case make sense. Sometimes a personal injury attorney will carry out this investigation on their own, while other times they may hire a private investigator for these tasks.
- Take their own photos of accident sites as well as any involved vehicles or other property.
- Compile all medical records and bills related to your injuries.
- If an underlying condition that you have, like diabetes or heart disease, may have complicated your injuries, your attorney may request medical documentation of these conditions as well.
- Prepare questions for the other parties involved in the case.
- Set up meetings with employers for worker’s compensation cases or insurance companies and facilitate conversations. If needed, he or she may coach their client ahead of these meetings on what to say or what not to say.
Preparing You for Court
Television and film make court look like an exciting place to be. In reality, it is rarely that. Instead, court can be intimidating and confusing. Even if it seems obvious who is at fault for an accident, victims may face harsh questioning. The facts and events of an accident can be painful to listen to. Facing the person or persons who caused your pain and suffering can be traumatic. And failing to follow the rules of the court could be detrimental to your case.
Luckily, your personal injury lawyer is there to help. He or she will explain exactly what you can expect when you go to court. They will help you learn the rules. They will even coach you through answering questions and talking in court to avoid hurting your case. No detail is spared, down to helping you to figure out what to wear in court in order to appear professional before the judge.
Acting as a Gatekeeper for Their Clients
From the moment that your accident takes place to the moment your case is settled, it can feel like there is an endless stream of people waiting to ask you questions. Some of these questions are more intrusive than others. While many individuals will be looking to help you, others may be trying to find out whether you could be to blame for a portion of the accident.
One of the biggest ways that a personal injury lawyer will help you following your accident is to field these inquiries. As soon as he or she takes on your case, your attorney becomes your wall against all questions. Anyone who needs to speak to you about the case will first go through your lawyer. They will help block anyone looking to incriminate you from speaking to you directly, where possible, And they will help answer endless repeat questions about your situation to other parties.
Individuals your attorney may speak to on your behalf include:
- Hospital administrators calling about your medical bills. Even if your case is pending, hospital administrators will be eager to get your medical bills paid.
- Law enforcement may have immediate and ongoing questions about your case. Unfortunately, you may be confused immediately after your accident. Or law enforcement may ask questions in a way that is designed to throw you off guard in hopes of getting the truth. This can often lead individuals to incriminate themselves, even when they are not at fault. Attorneys know all of these tactics and will help shield you from them.
- Insurance companies, including your own and that of the person responsible for the accident will want to speak with you. In most cases, insurance companies will be doing whatever they can to avoid paying out claims. This could include getting you to agree to lower payouts or admitting to fault.
- If you were injured at work, HR or management may want to speak to you. Like insurance companies, they may be looking to get you to admit to things that did not occur in an effort to avoid paying.
Even if you were not seriously injured in an accident, dealing with these and other calls can be a challenge. In most cases, they add even more stress to an already difficult time. Having an attorney there to not only field calls and inquiries but also help guide you through talking to various parties can help set your mind at ease. It can also help ensure that you do not accidentally incriminate yourself or say something that could compromise your case.
Keep Your Case From Going to Court
Having to fight for a settlement in court is almost always a last resort. Going to court means that it will take longer to receive a settlement. Cases may experience delays in court that could push your case back and stretch it over a year or more, leaving you to deal with your injuries and bills on your own in the meantime. You will have to appear in court, which is not only time-consuming but can also be stressful and emotional.
Taking a case to trial also means additional legal fees that you may be responsible for. Even if you are working with an attorney on a contingency fee agreement, you may need to pay for additional photocopies, photo prints, and other fees.
Before it gets to that point, your lawyer will do everything that he or she can to settle your case out of court for the full settlement amount that you are seeking. They will work with insurance companies to demand payment and to prove why you deserve your settlement and they are responsible for paying it.
Of course, if an agreement cannot be reached, going to court may be necessary to get the compensation and justice that you deserve.
Why Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer is the Right Thing to Do
Personal injury lawyers do so much more than just fight for your case in court if it gets to that point. From building your case through gathering evidence and testimonies to guiding you through the legal process and acting as your gatekeeper against prying insurance companies, attorneys are a vital resource and tool when accidents strike.
Unless you have a legal degree and experience in court, trying to take on the many aspects of dealing with your case on your own, without a lawyer, is a big mistake. No matter how clear you feel the details of your case are, and how clear it is that you are the victim of someone else’s negligence or actions, it may not be enough to get your case decided in your favor.
Whether you are facing expensive medical bills, vehicle repairs, or ongoing physical and emotional pain, getting the settlement you deserve starts with hiring the right personal injury lawyer.