Most people know about personal injury law from the plaintiff's side. This area of law addresses unintentional or intentional acts that were not meant to cause serious harm. For instance, suppose you and a friend are at a picnic, and you pull their chair away just as they sit down. They fall and crack their tailbone. You intended to pull the chair away but didn't mean to hurt your friend.
Acts that harm someone without meaning to are torts. Plaintiffs in personal injury cases want to be restored to where they were before their injuries. For instance, your friend wants payment for medical treatment, lost wages, and maybe some compensation for pain and suffering.
In a personal injury claim, plaintiffs hire lawyers since they have to prove harm by the other party. Most personal injury cases are insurance claims. Do insurance companies need defense attorneys?
Personal Injury Defense
Most personal injury attorneys are plaintiff's attorneys. They represent victims of auto accidents, slip and fall injuries, and intentional torts like your friend. However, insurance companies also have some of the best lawyers available. These attorneys are there to evaluate the plaintiff's claim. They review the plaintiff's medical bills, police reports, and witnesses to determine whether the company should settle or go to trial.
Personal injury defense attorneys may also defend individuals in lawsuits. For example, your automobile or homeowners insurance may provide you with legal representation. Depending on state laws, they may need to hire an outside attorney to avoid a conflict of interest.
Making a Personal Injury Defense
If you need to defend yourself in a personal injury lawsuit, your attorney should have extensive experience defending tort actions. The plaintiff is the one who has to prove causation, so the defense focuses on limiting the defendant's liability. Common defenses to a personal injury claim include:
- Contributory Negligence: States have differing laws on the nature and amount of contributory negligence. Generally, it is a theory that reduces the defendant's liability by claiming the plaintiff was partially responsible for contributing to their own harm.
- Statute of Limitations: All states limit the time a plaintiff has to file a personal injury claim. Defendants will challenge that date if possible.
- Causation: In many types of cases, such as product liability claims, proving a defective item or drug caused the injury requires expert witnesses. A good defense attorney will have their own witnesses to counter this testimony.
- Assumption of Risk: Some types of claims involve injuries resulting from high-risk activities or situations. A defense attorney will ask if the plaintiff signed a liability waiver or if a disclaimer was posted at the location, relieving the company of responsibility.
If your friend sues you and your homeowner's insurance for the cracked tailbone suffered at your picnic, your defense attorney might claim they were drinking, thus contributing to their loss of balance. Legal professionals can handle these arguments.
Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer for Defense
Unless you're a medical professional or property owner, you'll unlikely need your own personal injury defense lawyer. If you are such a person, you should consult a personal injury law firm and ask for referrals to defense firms. Most firms are plaintiff firms, but some medical malpractice or premises liability lawyers can handle personal injury defense.
Your insurance company may provide an attorney if you're in a car accident or similar situation. The lawyer also represents the insurance company, and they may not have your best interests foremost. A settlement may be best for everyone, but you should be sure.
Before an accident, check your insurance policy and see if you have a right to private legal counsel. If not, and you need legal advice, contact a personal injury defense law office in your area.