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What does an Injury Attorney do?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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An injury attorney specializes in legal disputes involving negligence and damages. Negligence can be a very broadly defined concept in legal circles, but in general negligence occurs whenever a person or company fails to perform in a safe manner and causes an injury or damage. Negligence can be direct, in the case of a reckless driver, or indirect, as in a store manager not ordering an employee to clean a spill. An injury attorney gathers the facts surrounding the injury from the client and determines every party who may be at fault for the negligence.

To better understand what this type of attorney does, it may be helpful to recreate a common (but in this case fictional) personal injury situation which may lead to a lawsuit.

Let's say Bob is a regular customer of a local grocery store. One day, as Bob walked down an aisle in the store, he tripped over a loose floor tile and shattered his kneecap. The store manager called an ambulance and Bob was admitted to the hospital for treatment. He would spend another three days in traction at the hospital and three weeks in recovery at home. Because Bob feels the store was at fault for the accident, he may contact a local personal injury attorney to find out his legal options.

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Bob's injury attorney will investigate the accident site and discuss the situation with potential witnesses, including any video footage. He may discuss a cash settlement with the store manager which would satisfy Bob's medical needs and lost wages. he may also file an official lawsuit with the court, naming the store manager, the store owner, the flooring manufacturer or the employee who failed to report the loose tile as defendants. Because few people or companies wish to face an expensive court battle, they will generally offer a substantially higher cash settlement once an experienced attorney appears.

If Bob decides not to accept the out-of-court settlement offer, then the injury attorney will prepare for a court date. After demonstrating how the store manager knew about the dangerous floor or how a poor adhesive caused the tile to loosen, the attorney may convince a jury to award damage payments above and beyond Bob's actual medical and wage bills. If a judge and jury agree that the company or individual needs to be punished financially for their negligence, 'punitive' damages may also be awarded; this is why many personal injury attorneys initially sue for millions of dollars.

An injury attorney is not paid by the hour for his or her services. They generally work on a 'contingency fee' basis. If the settlement is accepted or the court rules in favor of the attorney's client, the attorney receives a generous percentage of the final judgment. Some personal injury attorneys are entitled to 40% of the judgment, which means if substantial punitive damages are added, the client and attorney could both become very wealthy.

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anon349111
Post 6

Thanks for all the great advice. I need help with a personal injury and should start looking for a lawyer stat!

anon345473
Post 5

I would like your opinion on this. I work for a company where, for over 25 years, we the "employees" have tried to get proper lighting placed above a door that is followed by steps. The steps were painted a dark brown. It was impossible to see the steps at night.

Every time we mentioned it to our supervisors, they had all these excuses and nothing was done. I was the unfortunate one who fell down those dark steps, resulting in back and nerve damage. After I got hurt and hired an attorney, the company decided to fix the lighting and paint the steps. Do you think this lawsuit is frivolous?

anon335444
Post 4

@SauteePan: I generally agree with you, but I urge you to look into the case of the lady who sued McDonald's for the coffee incident. It is in McDonald's best interests to play the incident down as a negligent or greedy woman, but she spent several days in the hospital and required skin grafts of the area. It wasn't a light burn; it caused intense, thorough nerve damage that was proven to be a direct result of coffee that was left far, far hotter than reasonably expected of a food item intended to be consumed.

I believe we have become a trigger-happy society when it comes to lawsuits, but this particular one was by no means frivolous.

Moldova
Post 3

@Bhutan -I don’t totally agree with you. I know that doctor’s malpractice insurance is high, but I don’t know if capping the damages is right because some of these cases can be really heartbreaking where there is no amount of money that could ever make it right.

Seeing a birth injury attorney because your child was born with severe birth defects or was injured during delivery is very traumatic. In fact many hospitals are not allowing the parents to video tape the delivery in case there is a problem. They don’t want the problem showing up on a video tape.

Also, a catastrophic injury attorney would not take the case unless there were sufficient grounds to win because they only get paid if they win.

Bhutan
Post 2

@SauteePan - I agree with you and I feel that it is because of these personal injury attorneys that doctor’s malpractice insurance is so high.

While not all claims are frivolous there should be a stipulation that if you lose in a case you are required to pay all attorney fees and court costs. I also think that the damages should be capped at a certain amount if not we are going to lose a lot of doctors and in exchange we will have more personal injury lawyers.

SauteePan
Post 1

I want to say that I feel that there should be some tort reform in the United States. There are too many negligent and personal injury cases filed in which there is really no injury.

Some companies just settle instead of fighting the cases because they don’t want the adverse publicity. I remember years ago there was a case at McDonald’s in which a women was awarded several million dollars because she was burned with some coffee.

While the restaurant should have made sure that the coffee was not scolding hot, they did have warnings on the cup and most people understand that coffee is supposed to be hot.

Cases like this bring out people that seek a personal injury attorney not because they were injured but for what they can collect in damages. It sends the message that people can collect money from large organizations for frivolous lawsuits.

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