You've probably heard of personal injury law, but maybe you're not exactly clear what this area of the law covers. Well, personal injury law - also called "torts" in the legal community - is the broad term used to describe certain types of wrongdoing that aren't covered by contract law. Personal injury claims can be based on anything from slipping and falling in a store parking lot to suffering injuries during surgery.
Terms Related to Personal Injury Law
As is true with any area of law, there are certain terms that are useful to know when discussing personal injury law. These terms include:
- Plaintiff: The person who initiates a lawsuit.
- Defendant: The person that a plaintiff sues.
- Claim: A request sent to an insurance company for benefits.
- Litigation: The act of bringing a case to court.
- Cause of Action: The grounds for a plaintiff to bring a lawsuit against a defendant.
- Damages: The money the plaintiff wants to recover in the lawsuit. Damages can be awarded to compensate the plaintiff for a variety of reasons, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- Settlement: A sum of money the plaintiff accepts instead of going to trial.
What Do Plaintiff-Side Attorneys Do?
Personal injury plaintiff attorneys specialize in bringing lawsuits against individuals and businesses on behalf of an injured party. They can review the case, determine whether the person is actually liable for the injuries, evaluate the extent of the damage, file important court documents, and advise their clients on whether it's better to settle or go to trial. Plaintiff's attorneys may also recommend other resources to their clients, such as social workers, medical professionals, or financial advisors.
Most plaintiff attorneys represent individuals and must understand a broad array of legal topics in order to adequately advise their clients. Since most of their clients are individuals without the resources of a large corporation, plaintiff attorneys are often paid on a contingency basis. This means that the attorney will only get paid if they either reach a settlement for their client or if their client wins in court. Upon a favorable outcome for their client, the plaintiff's attorney will get a percentage of the damages award.
A contingency fee is agreed upon before the damages are awarded, usually when you sign a representation agreement (also called a fee agreement). It's important to understand that whether the plaintiff is successful or not, they usually still have to pay various legal costs, such as filing fees, or other costs like those incurred when attempting to serve parties to a case.
Common Practice Areas in Personal Injury Law
Personal injury law covers a variety of accidents and injuries. In addition to obvious injuries - such as being bitten by a dog, slipping and falling, or car accidents - there is a wide range of personal injuries for which a plaintiff can sue. A plaintiff can file a lawsuit based on injuries that result from defamation, assault, battery, false imprisonment, and invasion of privacy. Other common practice areas involved in personal injury lawsuits are:
- Medical Malpractice: Claims against health care professionals who injure patients.
- Product Liability: Claims against manufacturers of products that cause injuries to consumers.
It's important to also note that most personal injury cases involve insurance companies, so a personal injury attorney must often be familiar with insurance law as well.
More Questions About Plaintiff-Side Personal Injury Law? Talk to a Lawyer
Do you have a personal injury case? The best way to find out is to discuss the facts of your situation with an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands the laws of your state. Reach out to a qualified lawyer near you for an honest assessment of your injuries as well as confidential advice regarding your estimated damages and who's on the hook to pay for them. You can also learn more about state-specific laws on our personal injury legal answers page.