You need legal aid, but navigating complex legal jargon can be tricky. Naturally, you don’t want to waste your precious time looking for the wrong kind of legal representation. It seems like there are a million different ways to refer to someone who practices law, but what are the differences between them? You need clear answers when you’re dealing with a personal injury, so check out this guide on the common terms for law practitioners, how the right legal professional can help, and the necessary steps to prepare for your civil trial.
Difference Between a Lawyer and an Attorney
In the United States, a lawyer is simply someone who has completed law school and passed the bar exam. An attorney is a lawyer who practices law in civil and criminal courts. All attorneys are lawyers, but not all lawyers argue cases in court. Instead, they advise clients and help them file legal paperwork outside of the courtroom.
Common Terms Related to Legal Practitioners
Often shortened to Esq., this post-nominal title is almost entirely used by legal professionals, but the term only has legal status in New York. In California, this title does not necessarily indicate that an individual is qualified to practice law. Theoretically, anyone in the state could use this title. Thus, you should do your research and verify someone’s status as a legal professional before trusting your private information with someone who uses this title.
This title, which you may sometimes see after a legal professional’s name, is an abbreviation of Juris Doctor. The title signifies that an individual has completed a professional doctorate in law, and it is given to all students who complete law school in the United States. Legal professionals need the title of J.D. to take the bar exam. However, the title does not indicate that someone has registered for the bar exam. Currently, only Wisconsin allows individuals with this title to practice law without passing the bar exam.
People often use this term to describe legal professionals who represent their clients in court. However, it doesn’t have any legal status in the United States, so it is not an official title. Individuals and organizations that have no legal certifications but are heavily involved in certain political issues may publically refer to themselves as advocates of their respective causes.
What Kind of Legal Professional Do You Need?
If you are seeking damages for a personal injury in California, then the case will involve courtroom hearings. In turn, you will need to work with an attorney. Even if you’re not sure about going to court, you will most likely consult with a legal professional who represents clients in civil cases to explore your options.
What Should You Do After a Personal Injury?
Take Care of Your Health
Before you even consider the details of a lawsuit, you need to see a doctor to diagnose your condition and ensure that you don’t exacerbate any injuries. Although you may think that you only broke a bone or tore a muscle, many accidents cause head trauma, which is not always immediately noticeable. Undiagnosed head trauma can quickly result in death, so it’s especially important to see a medical professional as soon as possible. The other party might not be liable for any conditions that you develop as a result of improperly caring for your original injuries. A comprehensive medical check won’t only benefit your recovery, but it will also provide a written record of your injuries, which your legal representative will use to help you receive a better settlement.
File a Police Report
Per California law, drivers must call the police and file a police report after a collision. Even if contacting the police isn’t required in your situation, you should still file a police report immediately following your injury. This will strengthen your case by creating another written record of the incident. Since filing a false police report is a crime, you want to make sure that you are honest and transparent about all of the details of the incident. If you don’t precisely remember an aspect of your accident, then you shouldn’t make anything up.
Contact Your Insurer
Even if you weren’t at fault, if you’ve been in a motor vehicle accident, then you need to contact your insurance company right after speaking to the police and getting medical attention. Although there is no guarantee that your insurance company will cover all of the damages, this will get the insurance claim process rolling. The insurance company may completely deny your claim or fail to fully meet its obligations. In that case, your legal representative will do everything in their power to appeal your claim and get you the compensation that you deserve.
After filing a lawsuit, the judge and all other parties will pore over any and all evidence to see who was at fault. Even the tiniest shred of evidence can significantly affect your compensation package. You should speak to as many witnesses as possible, get their contact information, solicit written statements, and try to get them to testify in your favor. Moreover, you must take plenty of pictures of the scene and all things that may have contributed to your injury. If your injury affects your ability to work, then you should gather old and recent pay stubs to prove that the incident has affected your income.
The longer you wait, the less evidence there will be, so it’s important to act quickly and pursue all leads. Whenever you get a new piece of evidence, you should store it securely, make multiple copies, and immediately share copies of the evidence with your legal representative. Failure to do this may cause you to inadvertently lose crucial evidence, which could put your case at risk.
Communicate With Your Legal Representative
It’s a good idea to contact a reputable legal representative soon after your injury. They will educate you about your options and make sure that you don’t make any missteps that could negatively influence the outcome of your lawsuit. You should always reach out to your legal counsel if there are any new developments. They’ll be happy to go over new evidence or answer any questions that you may have. You and your legal representative are a team, so don’t keep them in the dark. Before doing anything related to your case, you must speak to your legal advocate first to avoid any unforeseen issues.
Stay Quiet About the Case
You and your legal advocate are the only people in your life who need to know the details of your case. The court can use in-person conversations, social media posts, emails, and other communications as evidence against you. Even an innocent text message to your mother noting an improvement in your condition can undermine your case. Until the lawsuit is over, you cannot assume that anything that you do, write, or say is private.
Avoid Strenuous Activities
Nobody wants to be liable for any damages related to your injury. Thus, the relevant insurers and the opposing side’s legal counsel will do everything in their power to downplay the extent of your injuries. They will send private investigators to take pictures of you as you go about your daily routine, and they might even gather video evidence from your workplace, gas stations, and public places to use against you.
With that in mind, you should avoid going to the gym, playing sports, doing any heavy lifting, or spending much time outside until the case concludes. You may even want to avoid carrying jugs of water or heavy items at the grocery store. Although it may sound excessive, you should also cover your windows until the lawsuit is over to stop the other party’s investigators from taking pictures of you in your home.
Get a Better Outcome With the Right Legal Representation
You will not know what your settlement will entail until your case is over. As the court tries to determine your compensation package, they will take the negligence of each party, medical fees, property damage, emotional distress, disability, missed wages, and various other factors into account. Insurance companies have good legal counsel, and the respondent will likely hire an experienced legal professional to get them out of paying damages. You cannot fight the other parties’ legal representatives alone, so you need to contact a reliable personal injury attorney today to increase your odds of getting a fair settlement.