You have probably heard of personal injury lawyers. California has over 90,000 lawyers, and a sizable number practice injury law. Personal injury attorneys also have high visibility on television and billboard advertisements.
But what does a personal injury lawyer do, and when do you need one? All lawyers receive some education in the principles of injury law. But injury lawyers focus their practices on this area of law, gaining experience by helping accident victims recover fair compensation for their injuries.
Injury Lawyers and Tort Law
Injury lawyers practice tort law. This field of law covers all the legal cases, rules, and doctrines that govern what happens when one person or entity damages another person or entity. This damage can include:
- Bodily injuries
- Emotional or mental injuries
- Reputational damage
When you suffer these injuries, an injury lawyer helps you pursue financial compensation from the person who caused them. Many lawyers help clients with all three types of losses. But most lawyers focus on bodily, emotional, and mental injuries.
Tort law is divided into three areas. Many personal injury lawyers will handle cases from all of these areas. These areas have different applications and standards for imposing liability. The three areas of tort law include:
Intentional torts happen when a victim gets injured by an intentional act. To prove intent, you need to prove the at-fault party intended the action. You do not necessarily need to prove that they intended the consequences.
For example, a battery happens when someone intentionally causes harmful or offensive contact with you. Thus, if someone intentionally throws a beer mug at a bar and hits you in the head, you have likely suffered a battery.
Some intentional torts also constitute crimes. Personal injury lawyers will handle the civil lawsuit against the at-fault party. If you win, you get paid by the other party. Criminal prosecutors will handle the prosecution of the crime. If the prosecutor wins, the at-fault party could pay a fine to the state or go to jail.
Importantly, you can still win your civil case even if the at-fault party is acquitted in criminal court. This is because the burden of proof standard is much higher in criminal cases than in civil tort cases.
Negligence happens when a person or business fails to exercise reasonable care and harms a victim as a result. It has a similar meaning to “carelessness.” Negligence differs from intentional torts because the at-fault party does not need to intend to act negligently.
Instead, the party bears fault if they knew or should have known that their actions were unreasonably dangerous. Thus, negligence can happen when the at-fault party never considered the risk of their actions in a situation where a reasonable person would have known the risks.
Negligence forms the basis of most accident cases, including car accidents, medical malpractice, and premises liability. An injury lawyer must show that the other party:
- Owed the victim a duty of care
- Breached the duty of care
- Caused an injury associated with losses that the law can compensate
You must also prove that you suffered damages as a result of the at-fault party’s actions or inaction.
Strict Liability Torts
Strict liability torts cover specific situations involving unreasonably dangerous situations like:
- Owning a dog or other potentially dangerous animal
- Putting a potentially hazardous product into the marketplace
- Using explosives
In these situations, you do not need to prove the at-fault party intended the act, knew about the act, or even neglected to prevent the act. You only need to prove that the harmful event happened and connect it to the at-fault party.
The Process of Resolving an Injury Case
Injury lawyers apply tort law to real-life situations to help victims recover compensation for their injuries. In many cases, an injury case will involve an insurer. Here are some examples of how insurance policies apply to injury cases:
- Homeowner’s insurance covers slip and fall accidents and other forms of premises liability
- Auto insurance covers collisions with cars, pedestrians, and bicycles
- General business liability insurance covers injuries suffered in shops, restaurants, and other businesses
- Malpractice insurance covers injuries resulting from medical negligence
Your injury lawyer will usually start your case with an insurance claim. The claim notifies the at-fault party’s insurer of your injuries and explains why their policyholder bears the liability for it.
The insurer assigns a claims adjuster to the case. The adjuster investigates the claim by talking to the policyholder and reviewing any documents you provide. The investigation helps the insurer decide whether to pay or deny your claim.
When the insurer pays your claim, the injury lawyer will negotiate with the adjuster to get a fair settlement. When the insurer denies your claim, the lawyer will respond to the claim denial to try to overcome it. If you hit a roadblock with the adjuster in negotiating a fair amount or overcoming a claim denial, your lawyer may need to file a lawsuit.
Litigating an injury claim begins with preparing and filing the pleadings. The insurer will defend the at-fault party in court since the insurer will have the primary financial responsibility to pay any damage award. You and the at-fault party will exchange documents and testify at depositions in preparation for trial.
In the meantime, your lawyer will continue to try to settle your case. If the case does not settle before trial, they will present your case to a jury.
Talking to a San Diego Personal Injury Attorney
If you suffered an injury due to someone else’s actions, California law may entitle you to compensation. Most San Diego personal injury lawyers offer free consultations to new clients. This discussion will help you understand your legal rights. Using that knowledge, you can decide whether to proceed with an injury claim.
Injuries can disable you from working and erode your quality of life. To discuss your injuries and the compensation you can seek for them, contact Mission Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation at (619) 777-5555.