Why You Can’t Hire Any Lawyer to Handle Any Legal Matter
When you have a legal problem that needs to be resolved, and you need legal counsel, you may believe that you can hire any attorney to represent you. After all, the law is the law, right? Not true. While some general practitioners can typically provide basic representation on a variety of issues, it’s always in your best interests to retain an attorney with knowledge and experience in the matters relevant to your case. Let’s look at the differences between practicing as a personal injury lawyer and as a criminal defense attorney, so that you can see more clearly the importance of hiring the right counsel.
The Similarities between Practicing Criminal Defense and Personal Injury
Though there are many ways that a criminal defense practice differs from representation after a personal injury, attorneys handling these different types of claims do engage in some of the same efforts and typically possess many of the same skills:
- Both must generally have strong trial skills—Though more cases are settled or resolved through plea bargains than actually go to trial, a trial practice is typically an integral part of working as either a personal injury or criminal defense attorney.
- Both must typically have strong negotiation skills, either for securing a reasonable settlement or working out a plea bargain
- Both must know how to gather and evaluate evidence, both for purposes of negotiation or trial
The Differences between a Personal Injury Attorney and a Criminal Defense Attorney
The first difference to be noted comes from a close look at the descriptions of each. A criminal defense attorney does just that—defends his or her client against charges brought by the government. A criminal defense attorney only represents individuals against whom legal action has been brought. The goal of a criminal defense attorney is either the reduction of charges or an acquittal, where his or her client is found to be “not guilty” of the charges.
A personal injury attorney, conversely, initiates legal action on behalf of his or her client. The goal of a personal injury lawyer is to recover all past, present and future losses suffered by his or her client as a result of the wrongful acts of another person (known as the defendant).
While both criminal defense and personal injury attorneys must have strong knowledge of courtroom procedure, they play by somewhat different rules. In a criminal proceeding, the Rules of Criminal Procedure determine the course of the proceedings, whereas personal injury claims are governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure.
Other differences in the conduct of criminal and civil proceedings that require different skills and knowledge include:
- The burden of proof—In a criminal proceeding, the prosecution must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the skilled criminal defense attorney must have a solid understanding of what constitutes “reasonable doubt.” In a civil proceeding, the burden of proof is typically “a preponderance of the evidence,” which simply means that the injured party’s version of the facts is more believable than the defendant’s version.
- The source of the law—As a general rule, personal injury law is determined by the “common law,” found in opinions written by judges over the centuries. While the rulings of judges can be used to interpret or construe the criminal law, the basis of a criminal prosecution is violation of a statute, or written law enacted by a legislative body.
It’s also important to understand that criminal defense attorneys are typically compensated differently than personal injury lawyers. Most criminal defense lawyers simply bill hourly for their time, whereas personal injury attorneys commonly charge a contingency fee, taking a percentage of the amount recovered as their fee.
Contact the Proven Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to anyone who has a potential personal injury claim or who is facing criminal prosecution To speak with a knowledgeable lawyer, contact us by e-mail or 844-402-2992 call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.