A personal injury lawsuit seeks to compensate one who is injured for damages such as lost job earnings, loss of future earning capacity, past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering and damages for disfigurement.
In a wrongful death action, the family of the deceased can bring an action against the one who caused the death for funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support to the family, loss of affection and/or consortium, and loss of financial support.
In both cases, the injured needs to prove that the tortfeasor, or the one who caused injury, had a duty to the injured, and that they breached that duty by causing the injury. Resulting damages must also be proved.
Often their can be a number of significant intervening factors which can affect who is ultimately liable for an injury. Therefore, it is necessary to show that the alleged wrongdoer was the proximate or direct cause of the injury. Further, the injured can also be partially at fault for their own injuries and depending on the jurisdiction this can bar the injured from recovering damages, or can seek to reduce the damages in comparison to the percentage of fault.
After an injury or death, it is important to retain a lawyer as soon as possible who can reconstruct the accident scene to determine who was at fault. Police reports are often inaccurate, and experts need to be retained to interview witnesses, conduct tests on vehicles and of the location of the accident, and determine what happened in the accident. Without swift action, important evidence can dissipate.
Once the lawyer has a case and can prove that the alleged wrongdoer was negligent and caused injury or death to his or her client, he can then negotiate a settlement with the insurance companies.
If, however, the insurance companies challenge their clients’ liability, a lawsuit will need to be filed on behalf of the client alleging Duty, Breach of Duty, Causation, and Damages. Mediation between the parties will often be a useful step in attempting to resolve the matter prior to intensive litigation leading to trial. Proving damages will require intensive compilation of earnings and potential future earnings, lost wages, medical bills, both past and future, and the like. Actuarial information may also need to be obtained to determine how long the injured client will potentially live, or how long a deceased client was likely to have lived barring the accident.
Experts, like doctors, will often need to be called to testify in court as to extent of injuries, lifespan, earning capacity, pain and suffering and the like. Insurance companies will hire their own experts who will provide differing opinions on the issues of the case. Depositions and direct testimony of witnesses, including statements elicited by the police, will also need to be compiled and brought out in trial.
Once a trial is concluded the jury will return their verdict as to liability and monetary damages. Either party has the right to appeal the decision of the jury to a higher court if the decision was arrived at due to some procedural or evidentiary defect during the trial, which was preserved for appeal.
The lawyer will assist the client in determining what is in the best interests of the client when deciding on whether to accept settlements or whether to try the case to a jury and through possible appeal to the appellate courts.