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A compensation lawyer works in cases where a plaintiff seeks damages from a defendant. Such cases usually go through a civil court system. While the term compensation lawyer can cover a wide variety of cases, in the United States it often specifically refers to cases involving an employee taking legal action against a current or former employer.
Employee cases taken on by a compensation lawyer can involve anything from injuries suffered at work to unfair dismissal or discrimination cases. More general compensation lawyers are involved in personal injury cases where an accident is the result of a company's negligence. Such lawyers can also deal with cases where somebody in a traffic accident feels they are being offered inadequate compensation from the other party's insurers.
Exactly how cases involving a compensation lawyer work vary from region to region and from country to country. Generally, such cases are conducted on the principle that the loser of the case is responsible for paying the legal costs of the winner. When a plaintiff is paying their own legal costs before the verdict, this often means they are advised to follow the principle that you should never start a case you are not prepared to see all the way through the legal process.
Because plaintiffs in worker compensation and personal injury cases are often not in a position to pay legal fees up front, many law firms specializing in such cases operate on a “no win, no fee” basis. Under such arrangements, if the plaintiff wins, the defendant will pay their legal fees. If the plaintiff loses the case, the lawyer will not charge a fee.
Naturally, this means the lawyer will not usually take on a case unless it is likely the plaintiff will win. However, some law firms will insist that the plaintiff pays an up-front premium for an insurance policy which pays the lawyer's fees if the case is lost. In some legal systems a losing defendant may have to pay back the costs of the premium. Some people have argued this system is open to abuse as it encourages lawyers to take on cases involving spurious claims because, despite the “no win, no fee” system, they are certain to be paid whatever the outcome.
There are several formal and informal requirements for becoming a compensation lawyer. It is best suited to those with an aptitude for working with people as it involves a high degree of face-to-face contact with client. It requires an expertise in a specific area of law, for example personal injury or employment law. This expertise often best gathered by specializing in the field during the latter stages of initial legal training. There may also be a requirement within the relevant state or country to have formal qualifications in employment or personal injury law.