The law defines personal injury as an injury to the body, mind, or emotions. This is in contrast to an injury to property. Personal injury lawsuits fall under US civil and tort law. Tort law concerns acts that cause harm but are not necessarily illegal as with criminal law.
Personal injury lawyers, also known as plaintiff lawyers or trial lawyers deal with cases concerning:
In order to practice law as a personal injury lawyer, a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor Law degree is obligatory. In addition to passing the state’s bar exam, most states require the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). Some states require the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) as well.
To be certified as a specialist in personal injury, a lawyer must enroll in a specialty certification program accredited by the American Bar Association. Like with most specialized areas of law, continuing legal education courses in personal injury are essential for remaining up-to-date with the progression of this field.
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A personal injury lawyer files legal complaints, offers legal advice, prepares legal documents and represents his client in court. A personal injury lawyer’s primary purpose is to see justice and compensation served to the injured party. Frequently, a personal injury lawyer will settle out of court on behalf of his client. However, if an agreement cannot be reached between the plaintiff and the defendant, the case must be settled in court.
Within the personal injury field, lawyers will choose to specialize even further because certain cases demand a more detailed level of expertise. For example, a personal injury lawyer may regularly litigate malpractice cases and would specialize in anesthesia negligence.
Personal lawyers must have a strong code of ethics, a dedication to justice and a compassion for their clients. They must also be effective advocates for their clients. They must possess strong research and analytical skills as well to adequately gather and examine data in support of their client’s case.
Unlike other lawyers, personal injury lawyers don’t charge an hourly rate. Instead, they accept a percentage of their client’s compensation for punitive damages as payment. In high profile cases, personal injury lawyers may earn as much as 40% of their winning client’s compensation. Payment is made on a contingency basis meaning the plaintiff only pays if the lawyer recovers money on his behalf.
The average annual salary for a personal injury lawyer is $73,000. Those employed by a larger law firm tend to earn more, topping the pay scale between $81,000 and $164,000 a year. Those employed by non-profit organizations earn the least while a government employed lawyers earn on average $70,000 at the state and local level and up to $121,000 at the federal level.
For many law firms, personal injury cases form a large portion of their revenue. Therefore, future job prospects continue to look promising for this specialized field. However, there are proposed changes in tort law which could limit compensation and decrease litigation. If this tort reform occurs, it would cause a decline in personal injury cases.
Lawyer Career Specialties