June 3, 2016

The difference between a trial attorney and a personal injury lawyer

The moment one even thinks about getting involved in a lawsuit, they’re overwhelmed by advertisements for personal injury attorneys. Billboards, commercials, newspaper ads – you name it, there’s an advertisement for a personal injury lawyer on it. So, when it comes down to making a decision and hiring someone for your case, where do you start? What’s the difference between a trial attorney and a personal injury lawyer, and why does it matter to you?

The message you give your insurance company

While personal injury claims are not uncommon, 95-96% of these cases are settled before trial. While this means that you’re not likely to see a courtroom, it does mean you can give yourself an advantage by hiring the right representation. Basically the difference between a trial attorney and a personal injury lawyer is that a trial attorney’s job is to be your defense in the courtroom itself; a personal injury lawyer has likely never seen a courtroom, and never will in their life.

But if your case isn’t likely to go to court, what does it matter? Well, when an insurance company decides how they’re going to approach your case, they look at it from all angles. Insurance companies are sophisticated businesses who know the law firms that go to trial and also know the law firms that do not. Remember that for insurance companies, it is often all about risk vs. reward based on numerical data. Insurance companies use all sorts of facts when they value a case, and their legal duty is to protect their insured (the at-fault person or business). 

If the attorney facing the insurance company has never tried a case, then the likelihood that a trial will occur is low, and so the risk to the insurance company is low. Here, there is no risk of a trial, and thus no risk of a jury verdict. So, a lower offer will likely settle the case.

On the other hand, if the insurance company knows that the attorney representing the injured party is a real trial attorney, then the risk to the insured (the at-fault person or company) is much greater. Here, the insurance company will likely know that they will have to offer more to settle the case.

Doing the right research

Another difference between a trial attorney and a personal injury lawyer is that a trial attorney will start preparing your case as if it will eventually end up in a courtroom from the beginning. It is only through experience in trial that attorneys learn what evidence is needed to properly prove a case and get a positive result, what arguments the insurance company might make and how to combat those arguments, and how to tie it all together so that, if needed, the injured victim has the best chance at a good recovery at trial. Again, if a trial attorney is doing this methodically from the beginning, the chances for settlement increase, and the chances for higher offers from insurance companies increase.

Be ready from the beginning

The final benefit is that if settlement negotiations do break down and the client does want to go to trial, the attorney is ready. Sometimes, “personal injury” attorneys will do everything to settle a case, and if it doesn’t settle, they have to try to refer their client to a trial attorney just before the trial. In this situation, the client may meet their trial attorney for the first time shortly before trial. Doesn’t is seem to make more sense to just hire the trial attorney from the start?