Personal injury lawyers and insurance defense lawyers both practice law and represent clients. They offer legal advice, appear in court, and fight to protect the best interests of their clients. The main difference is who they represent.
What Is a Personal Injury Lawyer?
A personal injury lawyer represents individuals who have sustained injuries, financial losses, and other damages because of another party’s intentional torts, negligence, or other wrongdoing. A personal injury includes physical injuries. It also includes harm to a person’s emotions and reputation.
A personal injury claim can arise from any type of accident or situation that causes injury. Common personal injury cases include, but are not limited to:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including cars, bicycles, trucks, pedestrians, motorcycles, buses, trains, etc.
- Product liability claims for harm caused by defective products
- Construction accidents and workplace accidents
- Medical malpractice claims
- Assault and intentional acts
- Boating and cruise ship accidents
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Premises liability claims, including slips, trips, and falls, swimming pool accidents, bed bugs, electrocutions, dog bites, etc.
A personal injury attorney also represents families who lost a loved one because of an accident or personal injury. The family can file a wrongful death action seeking compensation for the damages caused by their family member’s untimely death.
What Damages Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me Recover?
In most cases, personal injury victims can recover compensation for their losses. Losses can include economic damages, such as:
- Medical bills
- Help with household chores and personal care
- Loss of wages, salaries, benefits, and other income
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy costs
- In-home and long-term nursing care
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Decrease in future earning potential
A personal injury lawyer can help them recover compensation for non-economic damages, including:
- Mental anguish
- Physical suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Emotional distress
- Diminished quality of life
- Impairment and disabilities
In some cases, the lawyer might seek punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit. These damages do not compensate you for your losses. Instead, punitive damages are awarded as a punishment for the at-fault party’s egregious conduct.
What is an Insurance Defense Lawyer?
An insurance defense lawyer works on insurance-related issues, including personal injury claims. The insurance lawyer might work for a defense law firm representing insurance companies or as in-house counsel for an insurance company.
Insurance companies handle several different types of insurance claims related to personal injury cases.
Examples of personal injury insurance claims include, but are not limited to:
- Liability insurance claims
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) no-fault insurance claims
- Property damage claims
- Uninsured motorist claims
- Underinsured motorist claims
- Workers’ compensation claims
- Homeowners’ insurance claims
- Bad faith insurance claims
Typically, a claims adjuster handles the insurance claim in the beginning stages. An insurance defense lawyer joins the team if the injured party files a personal injury lawsuit.
The insurance company typically hires an insurance defense attorney to handle the lawsuit filed against their insured. The defense lawyer responds to the lawsuit and represents the defendant (the alleged at-fault party) in court.
What Does the Insurance Defense Lawyer Do?
The goal of an insurance defense lawyer is to resolve the claim without creating liability for the insurance company. In other words, pay nothing to the injured party for the claim.
The insurance defense attorney heads the team of investigators, adjusters, and insurance professionals handling the claim. They coordinate the investigation of the claim to gather evidence to use against the injured party. The lawyer devises a defense strategy to win the case.
For example, suppose the insurance defense lawyer discovers evidence that the injured party did not see a doctor until a month after the accident. The lawyer might raise the defense of failure to mitigate damages at trial.
Failing to mitigate damages means that the injured party did not take reasonable steps to avoid increasing damages. Examples include delays in medical care and failing to follow the doctor’s instructions. The result could be a denial of damages that the court believes could have been avoided had the injured party taken reasonable steps.
Another example of a defense used in personal injury cases is contributory negligence.
The insurance defense lawyer may allege that the injured party is partially to blame for causing their injuries. If so, the victim’s compensation could be reduced by their percentage of fault. In some states, the victim might not receive any money for their claim.
Seeking Legal Advice for a Personal Injury Claim
You could be entitled to substantial compensation for damages if you sustained an injury. However, an insurance defense lawyer might fight your claim.
Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations and accept cases on a contingency fee basis. Therefore, you have nothing to lose by talking with an injury lawyer, but you might have a lot to gain.