The two main components you need to have to file a successful personal injury claim are liability and damages. Liability is the legal term for holding at-fault parties responsible for the damages they cause. For liability to be established, you need to prove that another party failed to act reasonably under the circumstances then existing.
The second component, damages, is the money you are legally entitled to receive from the at-fault party to make up for the losses you have suffered. Damages consist of economic and non-economic losses. The economic losses that you are entitled to be compensated for in a personal injury claim are the full amount of your medical bills and your lost wages. The non-economic losses you are entitled to be compensated for are your bodily injuries, depending on their degree and duration, your past and future physical pain, your past and future mental anguish (i.e. stress and/or anxiety), and your past and future inconvenience. Damages are calculated on a case-by-case basis and are different for every person as each case is unique.
An experienced personal injury lawyer is intimately familiar with how to gather the evidence needed to prove both liability and damages. As we have previously discussed how we prove liability, this blog focuses on how we go about proving damages.
Proving damages in a personal injury case
In most cases, an injured party’s medical treatment is the most effective form of proving injuries. Your lawyer will read through the medical records and bills, speak with your treating doctors, and gather their opinions regarding whether the claimed injuries were caused by the accident, whether the medical treatment was necessary to treat the injuries, whether any future treatment will be needed, and whether the cost of the medical treatment was reasonable.
Your medical records and opinions from your providers are very important as they will help prove that your injuries were caused by the subject negligent act and that all treatment was necessary to treat your injuries.
The at-fault party typically raises two common defenses: the injuries were not caused by the negligent act or that the injured party over treated for the injuries sustained in the accident. For example, to break the causal relationship between negligent act the at-fault party’s insurance adjuster or insurance defense lawyer will review the injured party’s medical records and medical history for pre-existing injuries/conditions in the problem area, and blame those pre-existing injuries or conditions for the claimed symptoms and injuries. The defense will also review the medical records for gaps in treatment and argue that the gaps or delay in treatment show that the claimed injuries may not have been caused by the negligent act. Conversely, the defense will argue that the injuries are not as serious as claimed and that the injured party over-treated and incurred unnecessary medical bills. An experienced personal injury lawyer will anticipate and prepare for these possible defenses that the other party may pursue.
Your claim will be stronger if you seek medical attention as soon as possible after your accident. If you didn’t seek medical attention immediately after the accident, but symptoms of an injury have since emerged, the same advice applies: seek medical attention promptly.
Another key to strengthening your personal injury case is to describe every symptom you are experiencing to a medical professional, so there is a thorough documentation of your injury as it progresses. It is common for people to only tell their doctors about the injury that is hurting them the most at that time. However, it is important to give a history of all your injuries and resulting pain to your doctor. Also, take photographs of your injuries after the accident and during treatment, as they can stand as powerful evidence behind why you sought out specialists and what the accident caused.
If you feel pain or discomfort at any point after your accident, see a doctor. Though this may seem repetitive, it is a point worth emphasizing. If you take too long to seek medical attention, insurance adjusters will assume that your injury must not be that serious– even though that may not be the case. While injuries like lacerations and broken bones are easy to spot and diagnose, others, like concussions and soft tissue injuries, may not show any symptoms until days after the accident.
Damages have been proven! What comes next?
You’ve gotten to the point where you’ve proven liability and damages. Now, it’s time to begin the personal injury claim settlement process, bringing you one step closer to receiving the compensation you legally deserve to make you whole.
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