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Personal injury lawyers are often referred to as trial lawyers or plaintiff lawyers. They're litigators in the civil courts as opposed to the criminal courts. They're retained privately by people who have been injured as a result of the intentional or negligent acts of other people or business entities. Some types of lawsuits that a personal injury lawyer might be involved in are motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, medical malpractice, product liability and defamation cases.


The objective of personal injury attorneys is to make their clients whole again by obtaining financial compensation for the damages that they suffered. Some of those damages might consist of:

  • Past medical bills and medical bills reasonably expected to be received in the future
  • Past lost earnings and earnings reasonably expected to be lost in the future
  • Any permanent disfigurement
  • Any permanent disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of a normal life
  • Loss of consortium, care and guidance
  • Funeral and burial bills in wrongful death cases

How They Are Paid

Personal injury cases can be highly complex, and they can also be costly. Most people don't have the financial resources to pay the legal fees and litigation costs in these types of cases, so nearly all trial lawyers take personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. What that means is that the client doesn't pay a single penny to retain the lawyer. If the case settles, or a verdict is rendered in the client's favor, the attorney is paid a previously agreed upon percentage of that settlement or verdict. That figure is ordinarily about one-third of any sums derived from suit or settlement. Since the attorney usually advances the costs involved in litigation, he or she is reimbursed those costs from the gross proceeds of the case too.

Motor Vehicle & Transportation Accidents

These are the cases most frequently filed by personal injury attorneys. The cases involve car, truck motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrian accidents. Commercial providers of transportation services also have personal injury cases filed against them. Those providers might include airlines, railroads, bus companies, taxi cab companies, transportation networks or even ferry lines.

Premises Liability Cases

These cases might involve slip-and-falls, trip-and-falls, fires, explosions, structural collapses, negligent security and even dog bites. They're probably the second most frequently filed type of personal injury case. They're filed against both businesses and homeowners.

Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical negligence cases are brought against doctors, hospitals, nurses, dentists, chiropractors and other professionals or entities involved in the healing arts. These are usually the most expensive cases to bring. It's not at all unusual for litigation costs in medical malpractice cases to exceed $100,000. 

Product Liability Cases

The law of product liability involves placing an unreasonably dangerous product into the hands of a consumer who is then injured or killed while using the product. Those who can be held liable under product liability law include:

  • Designers
  • Manufacturers
  • Distributors
  • Wholesalers
  • Retailers

The law can deem a product to be unreasonably dangerous in one of three ways. The defect might come in the form of:

  • Design defects from the drawing board before the product is even manufactured
  • Manufacturing defects during production or assembly
  • Marketing defects like improper labeling, inadequate instructions or insufficient warnings

Defamation Cases

Defamation consists of libel and slander. Libel involves the written word and slander involves the spoken word. A defamation lawsuit might be brought by a trial lawyer against a person or business entity when a communication is made that harms a victim's reputation or induces negative or hostile sentiments about the person. These are difficult cases for plaintiff lawyers to bring. In protecting the interests of free speech and political discussion, the U.S. Supreme Court distinguished between remarks made about a public person and a private person. For a public person, the allegedly defamatory remarks must be knowingly false or made with reckless disregard for the truth. Less constitutional protection is allowed when allegedly disparaging remarks are made about a private person. 

Personal injury cases can be so highly complex, that many lawyers only focus on certain types of cases. For example, an attorney might limit his or her practice to amusement park accidents, truck crashes, airplane crashes or even certain types of birth injuries. A personal injury practice can be extremely lucrative, but many personal injury lawyers will remark that the most rewarding aspect of their work is intrinsic. It involves helping injured people and their families obtain the justice and compensation that they deserve through the courts.