In 2018, law school applications rose by 8%. Those applicants are getting ready to graduate in the next year.
If you’re planning to be one of those graduates, you’ll be looking for a new job. You’ll have plenty of areas of law to explore. You could work for the district attorney’s office. You could decide to work for the federal government in the Justice Department.
Another area of law that gets a lot of attention is personal injury law. Getting a job at a small to mid-sized law firm that handles a lot of personal injury cases is within the realm of possibility.
Read on to learn more about this area of law and how you can help people and get paid well at the same time.
What Is Personal Injury Law?
Most law school graduates have visions of what their legal careers will look like. They picture themselves working for a big firm, making a ton of money. They sometimes see themselves teaching or practicing law to protect the rights of others.
Not many think of personal injury law. Personal injury law is known as tort law. This area of the law remedies harm done to an injured party (mental, emotional, physical). The injuries usually occur because of negligence and they have a financial reward.
Personal Injury Lawyer Fees
Attorneys on average earn about $122,000 a year. Not all attorneys earn this amount. Some personal injury lawyers don’t come close to this amount.
That’s because of how personal injury cases work. Personal injury lawyers don’t work on an hourly basis. They work on contingency, meaning that they get paid when they win a case.
The law firm will front the costs of the case. They’ll take a percentage of the settlement, which ranges between 30%-50%.
Get to Know Insurance Companies
Your job as a personal injury attorney is to get the maximum settlement for your client. You’re also incentivized by working on contingency.
You’re going to be working a lot with insurance companies since they’re likely going to pay the settlement. You’ll need to hone your negotiation skills and be aware of how insurance companies work.
They would much rather settle than go to court, so use that to your advantage as much as possible.
Assessing a Personal Injury Case
One of the most important skills you need to have is the ability to assess a personal injury case. You’ll need to know the statute of limitations in your state.
In workman’s comp cases, your client has so many days to report the injury to their employer and you have so much time to file a case. In standard personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is usually two years to file a lawsuit.
You need to weigh the amount of time it takes to work the cases, the costs of the case, and the potential settlement award. This is essential because you need to run a business and help clients.
At the heart of personal injury cases is the ability to prove negligence occurred. You probably learned about negligence in Torts class in your first year.
You better go through your books again and remember the four elements of negligence. This is a big part of assessing if you have a case or not.
Duty to Care
Businesses and practitioners have a duty to care for their clients, patients, and customers. An accountant has a duty to care for their clients and provide up to date tax advice.
Health professionals have a duty to care for their clients by providing advice within their scope of practice.
Deviation From Standard
You might have a client in front of you who suffered injuries because of medical negligence. One of the areas of negligence is if there is a deviation in the treatment received.
For example, a patient was diagnosed with a chronic disease and the doctor prescribed treatment outside the norm. That is a deviation from the standard.
You have to understand how a certain area of medicine is practiced to understand what is normal and what isn’t. If there are experimental treatments involved, you have to assess if the patient knew that and the risks involved.
The best way to know and prove if a deviation from the standard is present in a case is to talk to medical experts. These should be people who practice in the same area of medicine.
Direct Cause of Injury
The injuries suffered by your client have to have been directly caused by the defendant. This can be difficult to prove without a lot of evidence to back up the claim.
Let’s say you’re working a workman’s comp claim. The employee comes to you with documented injuries sustained at work. They didn’t report the injury to the employer until several days have passed. It could make your cases much harder to prove in court.
Damages From the Injury
The final piece of the four elements of negligence is the amount of damage suffered. You get to claim that monetary damages should be awarded to your client for their pain and suffering.
Practicing Personal Injury Law
You shouldn’t overlook the job opportunities in personal injury law when you graduate from law school. Personal injury lawyers have a bad reputation, but they actually help a lot of people defend their rights.
If you want to have a successful personal injury practice, you need to know how to assess personal injury cases and how to determine negligence. Failure to assess cases costs you a lot of time and money that you won’t get back.
If you found this article useful, head over to the Law section of this site for more tips to build a law practice.