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Know the Difference Between Types of Attorneys

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In law school, or while reading the law as an extern, the same classes/subjects are studied by all prospective lawyers. And each newly sworn lawyer makes the same oath to maintain ethics and professionalism.

  • First-year students must master the concepts of “Contracts, Torts, and Criminal Law,” across all American Bar Association approved schools.
  • Same goes for most State Bar certified schools.
  • So in general, most licensed practitioners are masters of the basics. (“Jack of all and master of none.”)

So does it matter which type of attorney is chosen for your particular legal claim? Well, first you must understand how massive law is now insofar as its various subdivisions are concerned. Yes, there are specialists. Lawyers such as those who handle patent law are one class.

But there are also trial lawyers who focus only on a particular area of tort law, like mass torts.

Imagine the law is like a giant skyscraper. Each room of the building represents an area of legal knowledge like:

  • “Negligence Law,” which would be a small room in the basement. And then, in that tiny room, maybe a desk drawer would contain the legal know how to navigate a bodily injury insurance claim, mediation, and trial.
  • “Wills and Trusts” with its sub-areas would be in a small room down the hall and so forth.
  • And then for argument’s sake, make the first few top floors criminal law.
  • All the lower floors would be civil law, and you can start to see how the law is stacked.

So to answer the original question, yes, as a general rule, it does make sense to hire a personal injury lawyer for a PI case. But only so long as your lawyer is reasonably competent in their particular practice.

After all, you need someone with above average skill for the type of case you have.

Lawyers certainly are not all the same. Therefore, it does matter which type of legal expert you selected.

  • Some lawyers are general practitioners who handle cookie cutter types of cases. Usually, the cases they handle are not always that complex.  This kind of specialist will be the one you call for a canned divorce or bankruptcy, or a traffic ticket infraction, for example.

The takeaway from all of this is that a particular type of lawyer still may not always have the requisite training for your specific claim or case. So as a seeker of help, you must familiarize yourself with some best practices for consumers.

Then you’ll be able to hire the right type of help sensibly.  So for now, we will drill down into a few of the many types of lawyers. So let’s try and understand the similarities and differences as discussed below.


What is a General Practice Lawyer (“GP”)?

Numerous types of attorneys have specialized knowledge in one particular area of law. And some even practice in a few different areas that are related. As noted, general practice lawyers do not just specialize in one particular area. In fact, GP’s usually practice simultaneously in some different areas of law.

It is not uncommon for a general lawyer to practice in several or all of the areas of law listed as follows:

  • Security law
  • Administrative Law
  • International law
  • Criminal law
  • Real Estate law
  • Corporate and Commercial Law
  • Civil Litigation Law
  • Tax law
  • Family law
  • Labor and Employment Law
  • Constitutional law
  • Immigration law
  • Environmental law
  • Intellectual Property Law

While there are some GP’s that limit the types of law they practice, this is rare. So there are some that accept cases and cash from virtually any kind of client, in a multitude of legal claims.

  • But by far the most popular and notorious lawyers in our culture are the specialized tort or personal injury lawyers.
  • Movies like “Rainmaker” with Matt Damon are a testament to the reputation of the ambulance chaser injury attorney.

What Are Personal Injury Attorneys?

A personal injury attorney [Click Here] specializes in cases that involve a personal injury to your mind, body, and soul.

In cases like this, compensation is sought from those legally liable, for intentional, or negligent damages including:

  • Psychological injury
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage such as with automobile accidents
  • Physical trauma such as with a surgery that is botched
  • Medical expenses

In law school, these types of attorneys fall under your “Negligence Courses.”

But this area of law has many subdivisions and experts, from:

  • Mass torts
  • Vehicle airbag defects
  • Exploding gas tanks
  • Commercial vehicle accidents and so forth.

The bond between these attorneys is that they know about handling cases of “tort law.”

So what is a tort anyways?

A tort lawyer is a personal injury law specialist.

  • A tort is a civil action that has been made against a particular group of people or person that justifies filing the money damages suit, according to the Cornell University Law School.
  • A crime is not considered to be a tort. (watch the video here.) A crime is a wrongdoing against the public or state in general (Learn more.)

So one who is guilty of committing a crime may be punished with jail time. But when a crime is determined, the guilty party or their insurance agency may still have to pay monetary compensation.

Compensation is money that gets paid to the party or parties that suffered the injury as reparations for the criminal OR civil act.

  • The District or City Attorney prosecutes crimes. The punishment can be a fine, imprisonment, or both.
  • A civil, or private lawyer sues for money in torts. There is no jail time.

Are you getting this so far? Personal injury attorneys often elect to take only accept specific kinds of negligence law cases. Most of them avoid hourly billing. So they don’t usually take on criminal clients at all.

Some areas of law he or she may choose to specialize in include the following:

  • Medical accident
  • Automobile accident
  • Work-related accident
  • Dental accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Assault/Battery/Rape

What are Some Differences between General Lawyers and Personal Injury Attorneys?

  • A general practice lawyer doesn’t just apply their skills to one particular area of law. So this means they know a variety of different case types.
  • A tort attorney has specialized knowledge and skill in cases that involve personal injury and tort laws. So this means the knowledge they have about cases of bodily harm is more in-depth than a “GP.”

A general practitioner can be a tort specialist, and arguably can be a better lawyer. After all, he understands better how all the law interrelates.

For example, elder abuse law cases have elements of crimes and can even involve some probate issues. But in some cases, a GP lacks the specialized knowledge for a complex area of law, such as an asbestos case. So it can be a crap-shoot. That’s why you should hire ELFPI. PI cases are more targeted, and that’s what we do.

To learn more about these issues, contact us at (213) 596-9642.

Intentional Conduct Claims Litigation Considerations

What are The Three Essential Questions in an Intentional Act Insurance Claim?

This article attempts to explain the situation so even a nonlawyer can understand. First, there is no automatic bar to coverage just because there was some intentional conduct. So there remain three essential questions. Also, this kind of application often includes defendants allegedly acted intentionally. So they are believed to have no insurance or prima facie coverage. (proving alleged facts are adequate to support the effort).

The fact is that while insurance companies deter policyholders claims of this nature using intent may be denied, but that may not be the case at all. Before rejecting an intentional conduct claim, the insurance company should take the allegations seriously since the language of the policy and jurisprudence could prove liability.

The three intentional conduct claim considerations include:

  • Act or Injury: What was the intentional conduct the act or the injury? This is important because general liability policies often include language about “expected or intended” exclusions. There are also some states that have laws excluding coverage for acts of willful conduct. The issue is whether the insured intended to harm, or if the action alone is sufficient. One claim we often plead in California is “recklessness,” which may or may not be intentional.

The most common example is when a driver hits a pedestrian due to speeding. Then it is a question of whether the driver exceeds the speed limit without intending to cause harm. When the pedestrian brings a legal claim for injuries due to intentional conduct by the driver, it is not uncommon for the insurance company to deny coverage.

Can You Challenge Denial of Insurance Coverage?

Depending on the state laws the driver may be able to challenge the insurance coverage denial. Of course, it would be malpractice on the attorney’s part to only plead intentional conduct or only one cause of action for that matter. So a mixed bag pleading is almost always par for the course.

In the state of California, a recent court case involved State Farm v. Frake (See also Google Scholar Here). In that case, the defendant struck his friend in a manner not intended to cause harm. So the court weighed the facts and ruled against coverage.

The insurance companies used this ruling to carry on with their fallacy. Their argument is no coverage exists in cases of intentional conduct ever. But when the facts show there was no intent to harm, such as speeding, there was no intent to cause injuries. So coverage would apply in that case. But there is no exact rule. In any event, when the injury or damage was unintended, coverage may apply.

The law continues to change, and it is important for policyholders to examine any allegations, since insurers may not openly offer insurance claim support.

  • Allegations of Intentional Actions: In some cases, the claim of intentional actions may not only be against the person or their insurance company, but against a company who employs the individual. After all, corporations are historical “persons,” even before the politically charged case of Citizens United reaffirmed this fact. For example, what if your insurance agent is accused of fraud? In this situation, the legal action may get brought against the agent and the company for damages. The claim against the business is liable for employment of the agent and the alleged fraud.

Was Your Claim’s Denial Intentional?

In many cases, the courts have ruled that the insurance company for the business must pay the claim. In some situations, if the senior management or board of directors were not aware of the agent’s misconduct. So there was no intent to harm by the company itself.

  • Insurance Coverage: When intentional conduct is alleged in the complaint, the kind of insurance policy must be considered. In the event of a speeding driver striking a pedestrian, the coverage would be the bodily injury in a general liability policy. In any case, insurance coverage involving personal injury coverage would apply. But some policies may include coverage for libel, slander, malicious prosecution and other types of intentional torts.

Does Insurance Cover Defamation?

But when suing for slander or another inentional tort, the plaintiff must prove willful conduct. The facts will not determine automatic coverage in this situation in most states. But the carrier should pay the settlement and avoid trial. And this remains true even if there is willful acts exclusion. Same goes for fraud or criminal acts.

In fact, coverage can remain because some conduct could be viewed as negligent. So it’s covered. Or it could be because of an exception to public policy considerations, for example. So policyholders must assess the allegations. Next, they must look to the language of the underlying policy. Then they consider the law to determine if insurance will pay for litigation in the case. If you have a question about coverages, hire a lawyer to help you proceed.

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