What is a Personal Injury Lawyer?

A personal injury lawyer is just like other types of lawyers who advises, represents and advocates on behalf on their clients. What makes this type of lawyer different from a criminal or entertainment lawyer is the area of law he or she specializes.

Tort Law

Tort law includes civil or private injuries or wrongs such as breach of contract, automobile accidents, dog bites, or defamation. Tort law has two goals:

  • To make the injured party “whole” again.
  • To discourage other people from doing the same offense.

Under tort law, a personal injury lawyer can represent a plaintiff or defendant in a personal injury case. If the personal injury lawyer represent a plaintiff, he or she is fighting for compensation such as:

  • Past reasonable medical expenses.
  • Future medical expenses.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Legal costs.
  • Loss of earning capacity.
  • Attorney fees.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Loss of companionship or consortium.
  • Receiving a fair settlement from defendant or insurance companies.

Personal Injury Lawyer’s Duties

Personal injury lawyers often handle more than one case at a time. Regardless of the number of cases, he or she has, the duties are still the same. He or she:

  • Investigates claims.
  • Talk with potential clients.
  • Accept or decline to represent clients based on evaluating the merits of a case.
  • Gather evidence.
  • Build a case based on a legal theory.
  • Research a particular case law.
  • Writes a letter to opposing parties to inform them about the intent to sue.
  • Draft and file any lawsuits.
  • Conduct discovery. This is where a lawyer exchanges information with opposing counsel. The purpose is to gather additional evidence. It also includes deposing and interviewing witnesses and parties to the case.
  • Draft and file any motions and pleadings.
  • Prepare for trial.
  • Present evidence at trial.
  • Counsel clients.
  • Negotiate settlements.

Typically, a personal injury lawyer completes all these tasks on a contingency basis. This means they work for free until the case is resolved. If the lawyer wins the case, he or she receives a payment. The payment could be anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of the award. A “win” can be a jury verdict or a negotiated settlement. However, if a personal injury lawyer doesn’t win or settle the case, he or she doesn’t receive any money.

Cases that Require a Personal Injury Lawyer

Some cases that are considered simple may not require the assistance of a personal injury lawyer. However, there are many situations where having a lawyer is vital to a client’s case. These cases include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Medical malpractice.
  • An insurance company that refuses to pay a client.
  • Premise liability cases.
  • Wrongful death lawsuits.
  • Libel, defamation and slander lawsuits.
  • Product liability cases.
  • Cases involving permanent injuries and emotional distress.

In many situations, what begins as a simple personal injury case can become very complex. However, a personal injury lawyer’s job is to represent his or her client and find the best way to resolve the legal dispute.

What is Wrongful Death?

What are wrongful death lawsuits and when might they be brought against another person? A wrongful death lawsuit is a type of civil action that can be brought against a company or person responsible for another’s death.

Wrongful Death and Negligence

Normally, wrongful death lawsuits are filed by surviving family and brought against, for instance, a car company for selling a faulty vehicle or a liquor store owner for selling alcohol to a minor that lead to a roadside fatality.

Wrongful death claims usually involve wrongdoing or some form of negligence. A wrongful death lawsuit can be brought against anyone from a doctor or highway engineer to car manufacturer.

If a car manufacture, for example, knowingly ships out vehicles with faulty parts, then the car manufacturer might face a wrongful death lawsuit subsequent to a fatal accident tied to those faulty parts.

Alternatively, a physician who prescribes too high a dose that ultimately leads to a wrongful death could face a wrongful death lawsuit.

Although some cases of wrongful death are indeed murder, many cases of wrongful death involve simple negligence.

Civil Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

In most cases a close family member or spouse can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased. If found guilty of wrongful death, the defendant bringing the wrongful death lawsuit will be “made whole” and awarded civil damages.

Civil damages are simply monetary awards given to the plaintiff from a guilty defendant. Civil damages can be general or special – general damages are typically more intangible and include compensations for emotional distress as well as pain and suffering.

Special damages include more quantifiable payments. Lost wages and even future income that would have been generated by that family member had s/he not suffered a wrongful death could both be considered special damages.

Before contacting a law firm, make sure that you document all of the facts surrounding the timing and circumstances of the wrongful death. Contact any witnesses who could help strengthen your wrongful death lawsuit as well.

Individual circumstances and the amount of negligence largely dictate how much compensation in civil damages the surviving kin receive for a wrongful death.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in California

In California, hospital and funeral bills are part of the special damages that are paid to the surviving kin. Future financial support that would have been generated had the wrongful death not occurred also constitute civil damages payable to surviving kin.

A very common rationale behind filing a wrongful death lawsuit is to address medical malpractice that resulted in wrongful death. Medical malpractice is a form of negligence and, if proven in court and linked to a wrongful death, could entitle surviving kin to general and special civil damages.

In California, if the wrongful death occurred in a patient who had less than a 50-50 chance of survival, then the wrongful death lawsuit has a much worse chance of standing up in court. The reasoning behind this is that negligence by a physician would be harder to link to a wrongful death if the patient were already in a poor state of health.

Also, since the California Supreme Court has ruled that a fetus is not a person, wrongful death lawsuits are not applicable in this area.

Finally, California has a statute of limitations for wrongful death cases. This means that if surviving kin or a spouse fails to file a wrongful death lawsuit in the two year timeframe following the wrongful death, then the California civil court system might not hear the case.

Do You Need a Restraining Order?

A restraining order is a court order or injunction to do or cease doing particular acts. In practical terms, a restraining order is normally used in cases involving domestic violence, assault, stalking and harassment.

Within the United States, every individual state has some restraining order related to domestic violence cases. Most states have their own rules for restraining orders related to sexual assault and stalking.

Most restraining orders in California have an expiration date. This basically means that in the state of California, the day that your restraining order ends you are no longer protected legally.

If you continue to be concerned about your safety or the safety of your loved ones, you may file for renewal in your restraining order. A renewal of a restraining order can sometimes render the restraining order permanent.

Purpose of a Restraining Order

Normally a restraining order is used to put distance between someone being harassed and the person supposedly doing the harassing.

Thus, by court injunction, an abuser may be ordered to remain a certain distance from the school, home or workplace of the person who successfully filed the restraining order.

It is important to bear in mind that a restraining order is a civil order that does not result in dirtying up the criminal record of the supposed abuser.

Domestic Violence Victims

Victims of domestic violence frequently file restraining orders against their abusers. Domestic violence can include a whole range of actions, including: harassment, kidnapping, burglary, threats of violence, stalking, and assault.

If you have been subjected to any of these actions, you might be eligible to file for a restraining order against your abuser. A restraining order is a court injunction in which the judge will sign an order of protection that forces the abuser to comply with the law.

Consequences of a Restraining Order

A restraining order can prevent the abuser from contacting you or your family by phone or direct contact. Further, a restraining order could also force the abuser to leave a shared residence. A judge may decide to tell an abuser to leave even when the abuser owns the deed to the home.

If you are a parent and the victim of domestic violence, through a restraining order you may be awarded custody of minor children under your care. In addition, a restraining order can affect child support payments as well as visitation rights.

Depending on the state in which the restraining order is filed, the abuser may have to pay for things like utility bills, doctor’s appointments and even a loss of earnings related to the incident that brought about the restraining order.

In cases of extreme domestic violence, a judge could order the abuser seek treatment or order a police escort to come along with an abuser as he removes his personal possessions from the place of residence.

Signs that You Need a Restraining Order

Of course, it’s only natural to get a restraining order if you are the victim of domestic violence, assault, stalking or harassment. Sometimes, however, things aren’t as clear-cut.

The primary purpose of a restraining order is to keep the abused party safe from future harm. If you are concerned about the safety of yourself or your family members, it might be time to look into getting a restraining order.

Especially if the abuser has a long history of abuse, getting a restraining order and going through the right judicial channels and possibly police protection, could be the deciding factor in keeping you and your loved ones safe.