Here at Hastings & Hastings, we have been practicing personal injury law for over 36 years. We are official approaching four full decades of service here in the Valley of the Sun. In this time, we have represented thousands of accident victims. When it comes to personal injury law, we take a client-focused approach to everything we do. This begins from the moment you step foot into one of our 11 convenient office locations to the moment we shake your hand and congratulate you on closing your case and reaching a favorable settlement.
One of the things we have learned over our many, many years practicing personal injury law, is that many people aren’t sure what personal injury law is all about! They may think that personal injury law is just about car accidents or they may think that they would never be able to afford the services of a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney. Both of these ideas are incorrect!
At Hastings & Hastings, we are YOUR discount accident lawyers. We offer representation across a wide range of personal injury cases and best of all, anyone can afford representation. In today’s blog, we want to clear up any misconception that people may have about personal injury law by going over some personal injury basics.
What is Personal Injury Law?
We will begin by defining personal injury law. First off, all personal injury cases are civil matters, rather that criminal matters. The differences between civil and criminal law are very important.
Criminal Law: Criminal law is applied when an individual is accused of committing a crime and breaking the law. In criminal law, the government prosecutes the cases on behalf of the people of the United States. If a federal law has been broken, the cases is prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office. If a state law has been broken, the case is prosecuted through the state.
One of the primary differences between criminal and civil cases comes down to the role of the victim. In a criminal case, it is not the victim’s responsibility to pursue the case. In fact, in some criminal cases there may not even be a specific victim. An example of such a case would be an instance of driving while intoxicated.
Civil Law: In a civil case, one person (the plaintiff) files a claim that another person or entity (the defendant). Unlike in criminal law, the government is not involved in the prosecution of a civil case. In a civil case, the plaintiff alleges that they have been wronged in some way. In a personal injury cases, they are making the claim that the defendant, either through negligence or knowing action, caused their injury.
A second major difference between civil and criminal law comes down to the burden of proof. In a criminal case, the prosecution must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest level of proof required in the United States legal system. It requires that there is no doubt that the defendant is guilty.
In a civil case, the burden of proof required is a “preponderance of the evidence.” This is a less much less severe requirement than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In a personal injury case, the plaintiff has suffered an injury that they believe the defendant is legally responsible for. Often, a personal injury is resolved before a formalized court proceeding is necessary. This is termed a “settlement,” and typically follows a series of negotiation resulting a formal written agreement of terms.
How do I Know if I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
If you have been involved in an accident of any kind that resulted in an injury, you should explore your legal options. From car accidents to dog bites, every type of injury case is different. The first question most facing most individuals following an accident is, do I need a lawyer? To answer this questions, we encourage individuals to ask themselves – can I handle this case on my own?
Let’s look at a basic car accident case involving two drivers. We will consider a hypothetical incident of medium severity. In this accident, both vehicles suffer body damage, and you (the potential plaintiff) suffered a broken leg, some bruising, and possibly a concussion. What do you do immediately following the accident? First, it is important to begin gathering evidence immediately. You may believe that the other party was responsible for the incident, but you are going to have to prove this.
Handling this case will involve pulling police reports, gathering evidence, compiling medical documentation and billing, coordinating with insurance providers, making statements on the record, negating, arranging rental vehicles, all while recuperating from injuries.
A personal injury attorney will coordinate and manage all of these elements and more. Hiring a personal injury attorney allows you to focus on the important matter of healing from your injuries and recovering.
It is also important to note, insurance providers will want to close any insurance claim quickly and cheaply. They may not have your best interests in mind. A personal injury attorney will be invested in your case in ways that insurance provers will not be.
Can I Afford a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Almost all personal injury lawyers charge what is called a “contingency fee.” In a contingency fee arrangement, the lawyer is paid a percentage of the value of the settlement when it is reached. If a settlement is not reached or the case goes to court and doesn’t win, at Hastings & Hastings, the plaintiff will not owe the lawyer anything.
It is important to be absolutely clear about the details of a lawyer’s contingency fee before agreeing to hire them. Some lawyers will raise their fee should the case need to be filled and again should it need to go to court. Some lawyers may charge should a case go to court and fail. Spend time speaking with a prospective lawyer ensuring you know we exactly how their contingency fee works.
It is also important to know exactly how high their contingency fee is. Typically, a personal injury lawyer will charge anywhere between 33-40 percent of the total value of the settlement.
Here at Hastings & Hastings, we do things a little differently. Hastings & Hastings is home to the Discount Fee, which means more money for you when a settlement is reached. If no there is no recovery from a case, we do not charge a fee. All costs are waived. In addition, our Discount Fee does not go up even if the case has to go to court.
So, what does this mean when answering the question – can I afford a personal injury lawyer? It means you CAN afford a personal injury attorney. It means anyone can afford quality representation regardless of their financial status.
What is the First Step in Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney?
The first step in hiring a personal injury attorney is scheduling a legal consultation. At Hastings & Hastings, we offer free legal consultations. Just click HERE to schedule one! At a free legal consultation, you will have the opportunity to talk about your case with an experienced and qualified attorney. They will be able to advise you on the best course of action to take.
A final note, most personal injury matters have a statute of limitations of just TWO YEARS. This means if you wait too long to file a case, you will lose your legal right to do so! The statute of limitations is even shorter if you have been injured by a dog bite. It is just ONE YEAR.
If you have been involved in an accident, do not hesitate. Begin exploring your legal options today. Schedule a free consultation with Hastings & Hastings.