FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2011-01-22
When you hire an attorney, the attorney’s job is to act as your advocate. If you are injured in a serious accident, your attorney will seek compensation for your injuries and affiliated losses. For example, if you are forced to take time off from work to recover from your injuries, your attorney will work to ensure that you are compensated for the lost time. If you require ongoing medical treatment, your lawyer will strive to ensure that the parties cover your medical costs.
While the goal of all personal injury attorneys is to get their clients the compensation they deserve, not all personal injury attorneys employ the same approaches to achieving it.
After you hire a personal injury lawyer, your lawyer will generally begin by sending a demand letter to the insurance company of the party responsible for your injuries. These letters serve to inform the insurance company of the accident and your injuries, and detail your claims for compensation. Such letters also serve as a starting point for negotiations. Once the relevant insurance company understands your claims, the company can begin to discuss compensation.
Presuming that the insurance company is unwilling to offer reasonable compensation, as is often the case, your lawyer will then file a lawsuit. What happens upon the filing of a lawsuit, though, largely depends upon the type of lawyer you have hired.
If you are working with a personal injury lawyer who is not truly a trial attorney, the negotiations will continue. The attorney will push the insurance company to offer greater compensation, and the insurance company will push back. However, the insurance companies (who are often familiar with the local lawyers) understand that there is little risk that the case will actually proceed to trial, and may therefore continue to undervalue the claim. Ultimately, these cases often result in a settlement that is only worth a small portion of what could have been available based on your injuries.
In contrast, if you are working with a trial lawyer who has a demonstrated track record of taking cases through to trial, the insurance companies understand that your claims must be taken seriously. Trials are expensive and time consuming for insurance companies, and they may result in costly verdicts. Accordingly, when negotiating with trial attorneys, insurance companies have stronger incentives to offer fair settlements. Furthermore, if the relevant insurance company refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, your attorney will take the case to trial to ensure that your interests are protected.
Before selecting a personal injury lawyer, make sure that you are familiar with his or her background, and make sure you’re choosing a trial attorney.