A personal injury lawyer is an attorney who represents a victim who has been injured. Personal injury lawyers represent clients in a civil law system, such as the tort law system of the United States. A personal injury lawyer is different from a criminal lawyer or criminal prosecutor, who prosecutes or defends clients in criminal actions.
In most jurisdictions, individuals are entitled to sue a person who they believe caused injury. For example, in the United States, a person who is damaged or injured by negligent or intentional actions is entitled to sue under a body of common law called the tort law system. Most other countries have related legal systems that allow victims to obtain compensation for injuries they suffer.
Tort law and civil law systems are designed to put the injured individual back into the position he would have been in but for the injury. This means that if a person is injured and suffers medical expenses, pain and suffering and damages, the victim can sue the person who caused the injury to recover those damages. Punitive damages may also be appropriate to punish the individual who caused the injured.
When an injured person decides to sue to collect damages from the responsible party, he must hire a personal injury lawyer. That lawyer then files the required papers with the court to institute the lawsuit. The parties then either settle out of court, which is common in personal injury litigation, or the case proceeds to trial.
The personal injury lawyer then helps the plaintiff prove the elements of the cause of action. This may be based on either negligence or intentional wrong. For example, a victim can sue a person who did not behave responsibly and caused an injury as a result of his irresponsible behavior, or he can sue a person who intentionally hurt him.
In many jurisdictions, personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis. This system exists in the United States and Canada, as well as several countries in the European Union. When an attorney works on a contingent fee basis, he recovers only if his client wins the case and he is paid a portion of the damages the plaintiff recovers.
A personal injury lawyer may represent a client who was injured in a car accident, in a medical malpractice suit, as a result of assault and battery or as a result of a slip-and-fall injury. There are numerous other situations in which a personal injury attorney may represent a victim. Any civil wrong, or tort, action may be brought by a personal injury lawyer.