Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence Law
A Personal Injury lawyer deals with claims for compensation made as a result of accidents, diseases or the clinical negligence of the medical profession.
What does this type of lawyer do?
A PI lawyer may represent either a claimant (the injured party) or a defendant. Law firms tend to specialise in either one of these areas.
If specialising in claimant work they may work directly for the individual (or a group of people in the case of a multiparty claim or class action) or, if the individual/group possess legal expenses insurance, on their behalf through their insurers or if they are union members, through their union if the claim is related to their work.
If they specialise in defendant work they will often by acting on behalf of the defendant’s insurers. For example, in the case of a motor vehicle accident, the insurer will be the motor insurance company or in the case of clinical negligence within the NHS, the NHS itself.
What skills are required?
PI work is not for those with ‘delicate sensibilities’. The PI lawyer may be dealing with people who have suffered atrocious injuries or on behalf of the families of those who have died as a result of injury, disease or clinical negligence.
As a result the PI lawyer will need to be able to be empathetic to the individuals involved and their families in what may be very difficult circumstances, whilst at the same time remaining professionally objective and have the ability to vigorously fight the client’s case in court.
PI lawyers need to be able to cope with the technical and medical details of a case, so without needing to be an expert, a natural interest in matters technical or medical would be helpful.
As with many areas of law the ability to manage a large amount of written material including case bundles and witness statements will be essential as will excellent time management skills. The timetable of the courts will have to be taken into account when managing conflicting demands upon a busy schedule.
Last but by no means least the PI lawyer must be an excellent communicator and negotiator. Their communication will be with clients from many and varied backgrounds and also with other professionals including insurance company representatives, medical and other technical specialists and, of course, other legal professionals.
There have been huge changes in the area of personal injury in the last few years as a result of the Jackson Review and the focus on costs, and lawyers working in this area are having to respond. Those firms committed to staying in the market, are reorganising their processes to maximise efficiency in an attempt to remain profitable and compete with increasingly dominant firms in the market. Others are looking to move into higher value work which remains more profitable and there is the suggestion that some will look to move into related areas such as clinical negligence. However, it is likely that a large number of firms will move out of the sector and some will be bought up by others.
The student guides to the legal profession have useful information on working in Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence law. Look at:
- Chambers and Partners Student Guide: http://www.chambersstudent.co.uk
- Lawcareers.net: http://www.lawcareers.net
- Target Law: https://targetjobs.co.uk/career-sectors/law-solicitors