What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?
A personal injury (or PI) attorney does many things, and we handle many PI cases. Although most cases follow similar procedural paths, a PI attorney’s day can be very different from one day to the next. The common theme for every day is doing the most you can to help your client reach his or her goals.
A PI attorney talks to many people who have questions about or are interested in filing a PI case. A PI attorney may talk to many people who, for one reason or another, do not have viable legal claims or have genuine legal claims against a party, but the potential damages or awards are so minimal that it wouldn’t justify filing a case.
If a PI attorney wants to take a case and the potential client signs a representation agreement, the PI attorney will contact the potential defendant or its insurance company and let them know of the representation and tell them not to contact the client; it’s now the attorney they need to talk to.
The PI attorney will learn as many facts as possible from the client, including who are potential witnesses and the nature and extent of any injuries. An investigation will start, and the lawyer will gather any relevant documents and speak to witnesses to learn as much as possible about the incident and the harm it did to the client.
Prior to filing a lawsuit, the PI attorney will often try to settle a case by contacting the defendant or its insurance company. If this is unsuccessful, a lawsuit will be filed in the appropriate court.
The PI attorney will also file discovery requests, seeking information and documents from the defendant. The defendant will probably file an answer to the complaint, may try to have the complaint dismissed on procedural grounds and will ask the plaintiff (the party filing the lawsuit) to respond to its own discovery requests. Part of discovery is depositions, in which parties and witnesses are asked questions under oath by attorneys for both sides.
Either side may file motions concerning procedural issues relevant to the case. The attorneys will write responses and may argue in favor of their clients in front of a judge on these motions. If a lawsuit survives the motions filed by the defendant and discovery is complete, the case will be on track for a trial.
If the case hasn’t settled by now, there’s a very good chance it will before the trial starts. The defendant’s motions may have narrowed (but not eliminated) the plaintiff’s legal claims, and discovery has given both sides a good handle on the facts of the case, its strengths and weaknesses, and the strengths and weaknesses of witnesses. Given all this, and wanting to avoid spending the time, resources and expense of a trial, most times both the PI attorney and the defense attorney will have frank discussions with their clients behind closed doors until both sides come to an agreement.
If there is no settlement, there will be a trial. A jury may be picked or the judge may decide the case. Both sides present evidence, including witness testimony, supporting their side of events, and the attorneys do their best to poke holes in the other party’s case. If the lawsuit doesn’t settle during the trial, or there’s some serious procedural problem arising during the trial, both attorneys sum up the case to the fact finder (jury or judge) and a decision is made.
Every case, like every client, is unique. The PI attorney works to guide a case down its path to a conclusion. The PI attorney does his best to make sure the client has the best opportunity for a positive outcome, whether that’s a fair settlement or a decision at trial in the client’s favor.
If you have any questions about personal injury cases or want to talk about your particular situation, contact our office for a free consultation.