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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

Florida personal injury lawyers

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WHAT DO PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS DO AND HOW MUCH DO THEY CHARGE? starstarstarstarstar

Many people who have been injured in any kind of accident or crash wonder what personal injury lawyers do and how much do they charge.  The answers, like much in life, can be simple or complex depending on the situation.

Simply put, personal injury lawyers are there to be your advocate in all or more of the following ways: 

  • Advise you about your case

Understand the nature and extent of your injuries and be able to converse with you about your losses, as well as make recommendations to you

To guide you through the process of obtaining compensation for your injuries

  • Assemble evidence and witnesses

Often this involves using investigators and experts to obtain statements, photographs, video, measurements, site inspections and background investigations.

  • Determine what laws apply to the liability part of your case

There may be statutes that are involved or “common law” liability

  • Determine who the parties are that might be responsible for your injuries

That might not be as clear as it seems at first. Sometimes those who may be legally responsible are not always the ones who were involve in the incident. Often the law requires employers or other to be responsible for the acts of their employees or agents.

Sometimes there is something called a “nondelegable duty,” which means that even when an owner or business contracts to have someone do a particular job, the business is still responsible for how it is performed.

  • Owners of cars are generally responsible for the injuries caused by their car even if they were not the driver under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine
  • Employers are generally responsible for negligent acts of their employees if they are committed in the course and scope of their employment
  • Determine what recoveries are available

There may be different remedies and avenues of recovery available depending on the nature and type of your case

  • Decide what expert witnesses might be necessary

Many cases require the involvement of highly skilled or expert witnesses.  Sometimes these are physicians, sometimes engineers or others.  Only through the skilled evaluation of a trial attorney can you know what you may need and when you may need them.

  • Figure out how and when to deal with insurance companies

Most of the time there will be an insurance company on the other side defending and providing coverage for the defendant(s). Insurers are highly skilled at defending cases and avoiding payment of the full measure of damages they owe on behalf of their insureds. 

They make more money by paying less in the claim.  It’s simple math.  Experienced personal injury attorneys know the best means to recover the most from insurance companies to help their clients. 

Sometimes this means getting a case settled before litigation (when a lawsuit is filed) and sometimes it requires filing suit or going through trial

  • Determine whether, where and when to file suit

A skilled personal injury trial lawyer will determine whether it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit and when it should be filed. Other things your lawyer will do will be to determine where the suit should be filed, who to include as parties (plaintiffs and defendants), what claims to make in the lawsuit, and what laws apply.

Decide what discovery should be served on the other side.

  Discovery includes written requests for information and answers to questions, demands to produce documents and electronic items, and admissions that can be requested from the other side.

  • Who should be deposed and when

A deposition is a sworn statement under oath before a court reporter and the lawyers representing the parties in the case.  The lawyer who sets the deposition questions first, and all other parties who are represented are then allowed to ask questions. 

Depositions play a large role in cases because they are sworn testimony, often videotaped, which can be shown or read at trial.  Parties are bound by their testimony. 

You will probably have your deposition taken. 

Your lawyer will prepare you for that deposition in advance and will be present with you when it is taken.

  • Prepare you for compulsory examinations

If you are the injured party bringing the case, the defendants are usually entitled to have you examined by one or more doctors of their choosing.  Your lawyer will prepare you for this and in some circumstances have someone present when the examination takes place

  • Prepare you and your case for mediation

Most cases are required to be mediated.  Mediation is a process where the parties meet with a mediator and sit down with an attempt to settle the case before trial. 

Mediation has a high success rate but sometimes there can be multiple mediations before a case is resolved.  Sometimes cases are not settled at mediation or even afterward, and they must go to trial

  • Attend and argue motions before the court

Depending on the case, there are likely to be motions filed on a variety of issues.  Some are case-dispositive motions (win or lose based on the ruling) and most are not, generally dealing with discovery (what you can or cannot obtain from the other side or a third party) or evidentiary issues

  • Prepare your case for trial

Your attorney will prepare your case for trial. That will involve developing an order of proof of what will take place at the trial, who will be called as witnesses and in what order, what evidence will be introduced and through which witness, whether any depositions need to be read or played for the jury, what jury issues may be important, drafting legal briefs and motions in limine (motions to prevent certain evidence from being introduced or mentioned at trial that may be irrelevant or prejudicial) and other evidentiary issues.

  • Based on the facts of your case and the evidence developed, your lawyer will craft questions for the prospective jurors, an opening statement, direct examinations, cross examinations, jury instructions and closing arguments.  There are many other tasks that he or she will need to complete before and during trial, but this is a very brief overview of the process.
  • Prosecute or defend an appeal following a verdict

If the case is tried, one side may file an appeal with the appellate court which oversees the trial court where the case is filed. This may be done by the lawyer handling the case or by an appellate lawyer, an attorney who specializes in appeals. 

Appeals generally add one to two years to the outcome of the case.  On appeal the appeals court may affirm the judgment (rule that it was correct), reverse and remand (send it back for a new trial) or reverse as a matter of law (rule that there are legal issues which require it being reversed without a new trial).  If the case is remanded for any reason, there will be another trial.

  • Deal with any medical liens, subrogations or rights of reimbursement

If you have had any health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or other third party payor pay any of your medical bills, there’s a good chance that they have a right to be reimbursed for what they paid.  Your lawyer will need to make sure that these claims are satisfied

As you can tell, there are many things personal injury lawyers do for their clients.

The things listed above just scratch the surface of what each case requires. Some cases are much more dependent on expert witnesses (medical malpractice, negligent security and product liability cases), and some cases are legally complex. Sometimes there are statutes (codified laws) that govern the case.

Almost every client asks about what personal injury lawyers charge. The reality is that most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee.  That means they are paid a percentage out of any recovery that they get you. 

Depending on the jurisdiction, case, law and facts, that may be as little as 25% or as much as 50%.

Most personal injury attorneys also advance the costs of your case. That’s very important, because many cases are very expensive. It’s not unusual for depositions to cost $2,000-3,000 each.

There are filing fees, travel costs, expert witnesses, exhibits, copying costs, investigators, online database research and many more expenses that can add up quickly. Most trial lawyers bear these costs and are reimbursed for them out of the recovery.

It’s important to talk to your personal injury lawyer up front about the costs and fees if he or she has not already discussed that with you.

Because there are so many aspects to evaluating, investigating, preparing, filing, deposing, mediating and trying personal injury cases, each one is different. They are complex and require skills that are developed over years of practice.

A good personal injury lawyer is part therapist, part investigator, part detective, part doctor, part manager, part choreographer, and director and lead actor in a major production.

They need to understand the technical parts of a personal injury case and be able to communicate that to a judge and jury. Those who are capable of doing that are at the top of the profession.

It is always important to find out whether your potential personal injury attorney has handled cases like yours. How many have they handled and tried? Do they have a good track record? Are they known and respected in the legal community? 

Are they board certified? Have they been recognized within the trial lawyer community as having skills in the field? These are the kinds of things you want to determine as a client before you hire a personal injury attorney.

Your case may never see the inside of a courtroom. But trial lawyers who have a recognized track record almost always obtain better settlements than attorneys who do not try cases. 

The insurance companies know who the top lawyers are in any given legal community and their offers reflect that knowledge.

And who know? Your case may be tried before a jury one day. That’s why you want to make sure you are with a trial team you trust and is looking out for your best interest at all times.