October 5, 2014 • Personal Injury FAQs
You must have seen advertisements for law firms in New York telling you how they would love to help you ‘get back the money you deserve’. Well, it is the duty of law firms to promote themselves in every way they can but as an educated and reasonable citizen, it is your duty to be forewarned about the possibilities of your case not being strong enough to stand up in trial. Ergo, no compensation; no matter which attorney you hire to fight your case.
Why is this so? Because what most law firms very cleverly leave out of their advertisements is the fact that unless you can prove negligence, causation, and damages, you do not have a case that will stand up for trial.
For every personal injury lawsuit, the first and foremost step is to prove that the defendant was negligent and guilty of not having done enough. In a medical malpractice case, you have to prove that the doctor in charge was guilty of not having provided the standard medical care to his patient, or of not having disseminated enough information about the procedure and its side effects to his patient so that he or she could make an informed decision. In a car accident, the onus is on the prosecution to prove that the accident was a result of the defendant’s negligent driving.
The next step in a personal injury lawsuit is to show that there exists a direct cause between the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s injuries. The whiplash injury in your neck – was that because of the defendant rear-ending your car or because you were driving around without a seat belt? Did the doctor’s unprofessional behavior cause your injuries, or is your current state a result of your own personal bad health which nobody could have seen coming?
These are crucial questions in a trial, and it is necessary that the prosecution be able to prove beyond a doubt that a link exists between the defendant’s wrongdoings and the personal injury suffered by the plaintiff. It is not necessary that the defendant’s negligence be the only cause of the injury; it can be one of the causes, but as long as ‘causation’ can be proved your case will still be alive.
After having proved the defendant’s guilt, and the causation between the defendant’s lack of professional conduct and the injuries suffered by the accuser, you now have to provide proof of damages in court to justify the compensation amount you are seeking.
The jury will look at the nature and extent of the injuries suffered by the accuser, and take into account the effect these injuries will have on his life―days away from work, the risk of permanent disability, the amount of money that will have to spent on medical care etc.―and then come up with a compensation amount they think does justice to the plaintiff.
No Assumptions to be Made
So, the next time you see a lawyer promising you a huge win, remember that all compensation claims have to be proven before you can actually see the money. Even if you think you are entitled to be paid for your losses and harms, do heed your lawyer’s advice and proceed accordingly.