Nature, Extent, and Duration of Injury
In a personal injury case, the nature, extent, and duration of the injury or injuries are the most important factors in determining the amount of damages awarded. A severe case, perhaps involving skeletal, ligament, or nerve trauma, is more likely to qualify for greater compensation than a more minor case of whiplash or back strain, though these latter conditions can also be quite painful. The thorough medical documentation of severe injuries through x-rays and CAT scans also contributes to their likelihood of garnering higher damages. Soft tissue injuries, while no less real, are more difficult to detect by standard procedures and less likely to require extensive scans and tests. The permanence of injury and extent of treatment and/or rehabilitation are also important factors. Generally speaking, the stronger the documentation, the greater the potential for damages to be awarded.
Liability is the degree to which an individual is responsible or at fault. In personal injury law, it is possible for a defendant to be completely or partially responsible for injuries suffered by another, and compensatory damages can be adjusted to reflect this proportionality of responsibility. If the plaintiff is found to share in the responsibility, the amount of damages awarded may be reduced. In some instances, there may be more than one viable defendant and damages may be assessed in proportion to each defendant’s culpability.
Comparative and Contributory Negligence
Comparative and contributory negligence are defenses – legal strategies – with the aim of mitigating the amount damages a defendant may be ordered to pay a plaintiff. These defenses are based on assessing the plaintiff’s responsibility for those personal injuries/property damages named in the case. One of three versions of the comparative and contributory negligence defenses may be applicable to a case, depending on the laws of the state where the case is venued. Pure contributory negligence is all or nothing. If the defense can prove the slightest bit of responsibility for the accident/injury on the plaintiff, then he or she recovers nothing. Even if the evidence shows that a defendant was speeding and ignored a stop sign, causing an accident, if the plaintiff is considered one percent at fault for failing to swerve or brake quickly enough, then the plaintiff may be entitled to no damages.
More common are the two versions of comparative negligence. In pure comparative negligence, any damages awarded to the plaintiff will be reduced in direct proportion to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault, no matter what the ratio. If you are 20 percent at fault for an accident, you could recover 80 percent of your damages. If you are 80 percent at fault for an accident, you could recover 20 percent of your damages. In a case with more than one defendant, responsibility for payment of the damages awarded to the plaintiff would then be further divided among the defendants according to the assigned proportion of responsibility of each.
Limited comparative negligence is the last of these defenses. Under limited comparative negligence, in order to receive damages, the plaintiff must be 50 percent or less at fault for the injury. As in pure comparative negligence, after the damages are awarded, they are adjusted according to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault before being paid out. If a jury awards $100,000 in damages as a result of a car accident, but finds the plaintiff to be 30 percent at fault for not signaling, the plaintiff would be entitled to $70,000 in damages – $100,000 minus 30 percent. This portioning applies up to 50 percent at fault for the plaintiff; 51 percent liable and the plaintiff is ineligible to collect any amount.
Credibility of the Parties
Another factor that may have an impact on value of your claim in a personal injury case is something known as “jury appeal.” Jury appeal refers to how well the jury likes you: how appealing you are. This is a complex interaction of your own and the jurors’ personality elements that can be significant in determining the likelihood of receiving the damages to which you are entitled. Some characteristics that can help you win over a jury include a clear, detailed, articulate description of the events surrounding your case. Juries are also more likely to be convinced by the right combination of evidence and truthful, anecdotal recounting of the accident.
Of course, the jury’s perception of the defendant is also very important. In short, an unappealing defendant – someone viewed as untruthful or reckless or attempting to shirk responsibility – raises the plaintiff’s jury appeal. For this reason, a good Los Angeles personal injury attorney will always try to find inaccuracies in the defendant’s version of events with the aim of diminishing his or her credibility and increasing the chances of a positive outcome for the plaintiff.
Age of the Plaintiff
It is perhaps at first surprising to learn that the age of a plaintiff can demonstrably affect the amount of damages awarded in a personal injury case. The logic follows the understanding that a younger person suffering a severe injury is subject to many more years of pain, suffering, and mental anguish than an older victim. Additionally, the monetary loss is greater to a younger person, understanding that such a person has a greater number of wealth-building years ahead.
Finally, the testimony of witness can greatly affect the outcome of your case. Ideally, a witness should be able to describe the events of the accident in detail to help establish liability on the part of the defendant. Witnesses with the purpose of establishing damages should be able to clearly describe the condition of the victim prior to the accident so as to fully demonstrate the change in quality of life that the victim has undergone. It is essential that the witness be viewed as reliable by the jury. Because both the plaintiff and the defendant often support their cases with expert witnesses, the plaintiff must be sure that the experts utilized on his or her behalf are very well-versed and highly-regarded in their respective fields.
If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance, call Sheridan & Rund at 310-640-1200, toll free at 888-640-6789, or contact us online. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery of funds. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed before an applicable expiration date, known as a statute of limitations. Please call right away to ensure that you do not waive your right to possible compensation.