I have been representing people in “personal injury” matters for over a decade and have been fortunate to be involved in a number interesting, compelling, and successful cases. “Personal Injury” cases can take many forms — automobile and motorcycle accidents, slip and fall incidents, nursing home abuse, medical malpractice – just to name a few. But what all of these cases really comes down to is one person being injured due to a mistake made by someone else. Maybe it is the teenage driver who blows through a stop sign and hits another car, motorcycle or pedestrian. It could be the doctor, hospital or nurse who makes a mistake during a patient’s hospital stay that leads to a botched surgery and a significant injury. Perhaps it is the nursing home staff that has neglected one of its residents and left the resident living in deplorable conditions with deep and penetrating bed sores. At its core, every “personal injury case” has someone being harmed by the actions or inactions of another.
The party pursuing the claim, the “plaintiff”, regardless of the facts involved in that particular case, always has to prove two things: (1) Liability (or fault) and (2) Damages. For example, if you are hurt in a car accident, you have to prove that the other driver is at fault or caused the motor vehicle accident. In a “slip and fall” situation, an injured customer has to prove that there was a substance on, or defect in, the floor that caused his fall and the store owner knew or should have known about it. In a “medical malpractice” scenario, the injured patient has to prove that the doctor performed her surgery in a way that was below the accepted “standard of care” in the medical community.
In every “personal injury” case I have ever been involved in, the thing the client wants more than anything, is full recovery from his or her injuries — like the accident, fall, or botched surgery never happened. Fix the broken bone so it does not cause pain in the future. Make it so surgery is not necessary or the herniated disc in his or her back disappears. The legal system can not magically fix a person’s injuries and it can not put a person in the position he or she would have been in if the accident, fall, or surgery never occurred. What the legal system can do is provide financial compensation for those injuries. That financial compensation is measured in “damages.”
“Damages” can be shown in two (2) ways, either as “economic damages” or “noneconomic damages.” “Economic damages” are fairly easy to calculate and present in support of a personal injury claim. “Economic damages” are the financial losses like medical expenses, property damage and wages lost as a result of the injury suffered by the plaintiff. “Noneconomic” damages are not as easy to determine but are a significant component in every personal injury case. “Noneconomic damages” are the non-financial losses that would not have occurred but for the injury giving rise to the cause of action, including pain and suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life. When a back injury caused by a car accident leaves a forty (40) year old man unable to pick up his kids or take a walk with his wife, how much is that worth? When a knee injury caused by a fall at a restaurant leaves an athlete unable to run without a limp, how much is that worth? When a botched surgery leaves a woman unable to bear children, how much is that worth?
Our legal system can not “fix” any of the injuries, pain, suffering or disfigurement caused by someone else’s mistakes. The legal system can provide financial compensation for those injuries. Your lawyer is the only one that cares about you and your case. If you are hurt because of someone else’s mistakes, make sure your attorney has the knowledge and experience so you are compensated and treated fairly.