Personal injury law focuses on cases connected to physical and psychological injury. Mainly this involves vehicular accidents with intoxicated or negligent drivers. A personal injury attorney‘s work is to advocate for their client’s rights and ensure they get fair compensation from the negligent party and/or their insurance provider for injuries suffered. Most personal injury attorneys work full-time in an office, including prepping for cases that can force them to work long hours. They might also be forced to travel to meet with their clients.
When you become a personal injury lawyer, expect to work for a private practice, albeit this is before you gain experience, which you can use to become a senior partner in the practice or start your own practice. In private practices, personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning they aren’t paid unless they win cases. To get to the point where a private practice hires you, you ought to have studied for roughly seven years. Four of those years will comprise an undergraduate degree, and the remaining three you should take a law degree in an approved law school. You’ll also need to pass the bar examination. That said, let’s look at this and more in our ultimate guide to personal injury law for law school students.
How Do You Become a Personal Injury Attorney?
Get A Bachelor’s Degree
The first step in personal injury law for law school students is getting a Bachelor’s degree. You must first get a bachelor’s degree to be admitted to law school. Although most law schools accept a bachelor’s degree in any area, the preferred areas for aspiring lawyers include English, History, Political Science, Social Science, etc. It’s also recommended that you participate in mock trials organized either by a law firm or school. A mock trial gives you an opportunity to spend time working alongside car accident lawyers to learn how court proceedings work.
Take and Pass the LSAT
After completing a Bachelor’s degree, the next step in personal injury law for law school students is taking and passing the LSAT (law school admission test). This is a multi-choice assessment that evaluates whether or not you possess skills typically used by lawyers, such as critical thinking, logic, research, and task management. Getting admitted to a prestigious law school is tricky; your GPA (grade point average) and LSAT score play a key role.
Get a Law Degree
The third step in personal injury law for law school students is getting a law degree. Apart from your Bachelor’s degree, you need a further three years of learning at this level. The first year covers general law topics like contracts, constitutional and criminal law, legal writing, and torts. The second and third years are dedicated to elective topics, including those that cover how to be an accident injury lawyer, such as advanced torts and civil litigation.
Keep in mind that to be admitted to the bar, virtually all US states require you to get your law degree from institutions like Harvard and Stanford certified by the ABA (American Bar Association). While studying in law school, consider interning in personal injury law firms to help you learn how court proceedings specific to personal injury work. As a matter of fact, most top law schools require you to intern before you graduate.
Take and Pass the Bar Exam
The fourth step in personal injury law for law school students is taking and passing the bar exam; this is a requirement to practice any type of law in most US states. Note that there is no specific bar examination for personal injury attorneys; it’s a standard exam for all lawyers, including criminal defense attorneys. The format and questions in the bar exam vary because state bodies set the exam. However, in most cases, expect to be tested on federal and state laws. Of course, to proceed to the next step, you need to pass the bar exam.
Take and Pass the MPRE
The fifth step in personal injury law for law school students is taking and passing the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam), which is a requirement in most US states. This multi-choice assessment is meant to gauge your comprehension of professional conduct. The test isn’t geared towards measuring your ethics but rather your comprehension of the rules that govern professional conduct and how the rules apply to you in instances such as censure, contempt of court, and even criminal practices while on the job.
Pursue CE (Continuing Education) in Law
The sixth step in personal injury law for law school students is completing CE (continuing education). CE is a requirement in most US states for a personal injury attorney to maintain their admission to the bar. You can pursue CE education via the CPD (Center for Professional Development offered by the American Bar Association. Some law schools offer CE courses; you can check if your alma matter offers the same. Continuing education is essential because it helps you stay updated with regard to advancements in the law profession.
What’s Next After Acquiring the Necessary Education?
Practice as a Personal Injury Lawyer
After acquiring the necessary education, the next step in personal injury law for law school students is practicing in an auto accident law office. This determines your future as a personal injury lawyer; therefore, learn as much as you can from established personal injury lawyers. Even if you don’t get a permanent job, the experience will help you move forward; your chances of landing a job in another law firm are pretty decent.
Stay Connected and Gain Experience
As you advance, improve your resume by joining local legal committees, offering free legal aid to persons that can’t afford personal injury attorneys, diversifying your legal knowledge, and liaising with healthcare and insurance providers. This experience can help you earn a good reputation in the industry and help you identify your strengths. As a result, you can connect with prospective clients and prove to them you can deliver.
Keep in mind that if you decide to set up your own practice several years down the line, the connections you’ve made throughout your entire career will allow you to build a team of all the professionals you need on board. Like most other professionals, who you know when practicing law is as important as what you know.
Always Be Willing to Learn
As a law practitioner, it’s vital that you be willing to always learn more. Therefore, don’t be hesitant to learn from other lawyers dealing in drunk driving accident cases. Also, read current law journals and learn how established personal injury lawyers handle their cases.
How Much Can You Earn as a Personal Injury Attorney?
Upon attaining the right degrees and certifications, you can choose to set up your own practice or join a legal practice. However, the average salary of a personal injury attorney is high, with some of the established practitioners earning seven-figure salaries. According to the BLS, most plaintiff attorneys earn between $50,000 and 400,000. Apart from the high salary, you can also expect benefits such as health insurance, gym memberships, and pensions. As you advance in the legal profession, you can expect to receive bonuses on top of your salary.
Which Types of Cases Can You Expect to Handle as a Personal Injury Attorney?
Accidental Fall or Slip
This type of personal injury is common amongst factory workers and senior citizens. According to a report by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), over three million people are admitted to healthcare centers due to falls or slips. The slip can happen in public spaces or workplaces due to another party’s negligence. As a result, the victim is warranted to demand compensation for the personal injuries suffered.
Assault (Inadvertent and Unintentional)
Personal injury claims that arise from assault in public spaces or workplaces require representation by a personal injury attorney. Persons who suffer emotional or physical abuse can gather details and consult a personal injury lawyer for representation. According to the BJS (Bureau of Justice Statistics), in 2018, there were more than six million cases involving assault. The process can be intimidating for victims hence why they need an attorney.
Automobile Accidents and Injuries
One of the areas of interest in personal injury law for law school students is automobile accidents and injuries. According to data from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), in 2020, more than eight million vehicles were involved in accidents. Although other involved parties like investigation teams and insurance providers help figure out the cause of the accident, the role of a truck accident attorney in representing victims can’t be overlooked. The cause of vehicular collisions varies from intoxication and reckless driving to over-speeding. The challenge is for victims to prove that they were wronged. Victims of car accidents include drivers, motorcyclists, passengers, pedestrians, etc.
Damage from Products
Personal injury cases can also arise due to damage from products, mainly design and manufacturing defects. According to the New York Times, in 2018, pharmaceutical giant Johnson andamp; Johnson was ordered to pay over 4.5 billion dollars to 22 women and their families because their products contained asbestos which caused cancer in victims.
Defamation, Libel, and/or Slander
Another claim that is common and falls under personal injury is defamation, libel, and/or slander. In law, defamation is defined as when a party or parties make false accusations or malicious statements against another party or parties via spoken or written word. The law seeks to remedy how a person’s words can negatively affect another person’s livelihood or reputation. On the other hand, libel is documented defamation, for instance, in a published article or book. Libel also includes visual depictions and statements made on audio and audio-visual platforms. Finally, slander is spoken defamatory statements. A conversation between two people can’t be defined as slander, but when a person decides to make damaging remarks against another in public, they can be sued for slander.
In specific instances, a person can hire a personal injury attorney to get compensation for emotional distress, also known as mental anguish. The law defines mental anguish as a state of mental suffering that happens due to an experience caused by the negligence of another party. What’s more, the people present when a person suffers emotional distress, as well as the victim’s loved ones, including their spouses, kids, relatives, and friends, can also claim emotional distress as a result of seeing their loved one suffer. Mental anguish can cause the victim to exhibit feelings of anxiety, depression, humiliation or shame, insomnia, self-harming thoughts, and other emotional responses due to trauma. As a result, such persons should be compensated to receive the professional care they need.
Medical negligence cases arise when healthcare practitioners are liable for a personal injury to a patient. The injury may be intentional or unintentional, but either way, the victim should be represented by an attorney. According to a report by the NPDB (National Practitioner’s Data Bank), there are more than 50,000 cases involving medical negligence in the US.
When a person suffers injuries in the workplace, they’re due compensation. Injuries can be brought about by the failure of their employer to follow OSHA (occupational safety and health administration) guidelines to secure the work environment and provide workers with the necessary protective gear. When such injuries happen, companies want to keep it quiet to avoid getting a bad rap which is why victims need representation from a personal injury lawyer. The lawyer will ensure they get fair compensation, including days not worked.
In conclusion, these are the steps to practice personal injury law for law school students, including the expected compensation and the types of cases handled by personal injury lawyers. The above review should come in handy if you’re a Bachelor’s degree or law student and aspiring to become personal injury lawyer in the future.