- You need to prove that your injury was caused through some negligence by the other party
- The reason you are seeking a financial recovery is to offset the medical costs, lost work time, or other damages associated with your injury
- Your claim is typically against an insurance company or other large business, not the individual(s) who caused the injury
While every case is unique, winning any personal injury case will require evidence and some familiarity with the law. It also requires understanding each of the points above and how they affect your case. Let’s look at each point and how to address it in detail.
“Negligence” is the key to virtually all personal injury cases. You aren’t saying the person set out to cause you an injury; you’re saying that they were careless in some way, and their carelessness caused the injury. If you can prove this, you have a strong claim.
Here are examples of negligence in different types of claims:
- Another car hit your car in a parking lot. The driver of the other car wasn’t breaking any laws, but said he didn’t see you because he was looking down at his car radio. Looking at the radio while driving is careless, and his negligence is what caused the accident.
- A drunk driver is speeding down the street while you are legally crossing an intersection. The driver sees you too late and tries to stop but still hits you, causing multiple injuries. The driver was breaking two laws (DUI and speeding) and that’s why you were hurt. It was their negligence, or even recklessness, that caused the injury.
- A store owner opens shop on a rainy day to find that the roof is leaking over the candy aisle. He calls someone to repair the roof, then gets distracted by customers. He never takes the time to put signs out and he doesn’t close the aisle. Later, you slip on a puddle in the candy aisle and break your wrist when you fall. The store owner had good intentions, but was inattentive and forgetful in dealing with the immediate hazard. Thus, it was his negligence that caused the broken wrist.
These are just a few examples. Negligence also applies to medical device companies who don’t address potential safety risks in their products; dog owners who don’t control their animals; and anyone else who doesn’t act with care in regards to the safety of their customers, guests or those around them.
To win your personal injury case you will need to prove negligence on the part of the other party. And to do that, you will need to gather facts about what happened beyond just how you injured yourself. You or your lawyer can do this by:
- Asking witnesses at the scene
- Reviewing police reports (for a car accident)
- Reviewing company documents or records (if the claim involves a business)
- Requesting security camera footage
- Asking an expert to analyze what happened and give expert testimony
- Compelling the other party in the suit to complete an interrogatory and get their full story
Note that many of these actions involve filing a motion with the courts. For example, you may need a court order to subpoena (request) security camera footage. This is why claims handled by an experienced personal injury lawyer are so much more likely to succeed.
Proving Your Damages
Simply proving who caused the injury isn’t enough. You also need to document the full cost of the injury (known as “damages”), so that the court can see why you deserve the amount you’re requesting. The types of damages you can seek include:
- All immediate and long-term medical costs associated with the injury
- The cost of rehabilitation or physical therapy if necessary
- Money to make up for lost wages from work time you missed
- The cost of physical damages such as car repairs
- Additional compensation to offset any permanent injuries, disabilities, or an inability to work in the future.
Additionally, in some cases you may seek damages for pain that you suffered, particularly physical pain. Emotional trauma is generally viewed with more skepticism by the courts, except where it caused hard costs (the cost of psychological treatment, for example) or is directly associated with a physical injury.
When choosing a figure, it’s important that you don’t just add up your existing bills. Remember, unless you have already made a 100% recovery, it’s hard to predict the cost of future treatment, and there could always be unexpected complications down the line. This is why a good attorney will generally:
- Make sure you see a specialist who is familiar with your specific kind of injuries
- Add in the cost of all secondary or ongoing treatments
- Wait until you have completed some treatment and have seen improvement before putting together a total sum
Dealing with an Insurance Company
Finally, it’s important to bear in mind who is sitting across the table from you in a personal injury suit. It’s almost never the individual driver, homeowner, dog owner, doctor, or business owner involved in your injury. Instead, it will be their insurance company.
Insurance companies fight personal injury lawsuits for a living. In many ways, this is their whole business—staving off liability wherever possible. They have no problem paying a fair settlement when they can clearly see they would lose at court; paying you is cheaper than a court battle, and the cost is built into their business model. But they will not give in to what they see as frivolous or unfounded lawsuits. Unless you can show them that you’re highly likely to win in a courtroom, it won’t be easy to win your case.
Unfortunately, this means more than just gathering the evidence above. Insurers will look for ways to discredit you. They will also use negotiation tactics to try to rattle you into accepting a smaller amount than you really deserve. For example:
- If they call you and start the conversation with, “How are you today?” and you say, “Fine,” they will use this against you.
- If you give them a recorded statement they will find the one sentence that makes it sound like you are less injured than you really are.
- They may offer you fast money before you know the full cost of your injury, hoping you will blindly sign away your right to more.
- They may delay processing your claim or giving you an answer at all, while you face ever-increasing medical bills and become desperate for money.
- In many cases, they will try to blame you for your own injury or even try to portray you as a liar.
It’s very hard to deal with insurers and their lawyer in a calm, level-headed way—and they know this. This is why the best action you can take in any personal injury case is to get a good attorney of your own. Once you do, the insurance company must only speak with your attorney, and you protect yourself from falling into their traps.
Have you been injured? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.