It is an unfortunate reality that tens of thousands of individuals will be injured in some type of accident or incident before the end of this year. Many individuals have heard a variety of things about personal injury claims as a result of an injured coworker, family, or friend. Others are fortunate enough to have avoided any experiences with personal injury and the realm of tort law and are unfamiliar with these types of claims which allow recovery for intentional, negligent, and reckless acts. In most personal injury cases an injured party will encounter many of the same terms. Injured parties should have a basic understanding of these commonly used terms: fault, burden of proof, and damages.
In personal injury actions, proving fault is necessary to recover for any injuries. Successfully proving an individual is at fault requires a showing of the following four elements. First, a plaintiff (the person filing a suit) must show that a defendant had a legal duty to comply with certain standards designed to protect them. The next element is to show that the defendant breached the duty of care that was owed. The third element requires a successful showing that the injuries were caused by the defendant’s actions. Finally, the plaintiff must show that there were damages, which are the injuries that a plaintiff suffered. Once a plaintiff successfully proves the elements listed above, they may recover for any injuries sustained.
Burden of Proof
To put it simply, the burden of proof is the level of convincing that is necessary for a jury to believe that your lawsuit is legitimate and that you are entitled to a monetary recovery. The burden of proof in personal injury claims are “by a preponderance of evidence.” This means that a plaintiff must show that it is more likely than not that your version of the events are accurate. The burden is met if a plaintiff’s evidence is 51% stronger than a defendant’s evidence. A plaintiff is entitled to use any permissible evidence to meet their burden.
Damages refer to the amount of money that is awarded in personal injury actions. Damages typically fall within three categories: general damages, special damages, and punitive damages. General damages are damages that require a jury to determine the amount of recovery. The reason a jury must determine the amount of damages is because these damages are not capable of an accounting. Some examples of general damages are pain and suffering or loss of romantic relations with a spouse. Unlike general damages, special damages are those damages that are capable of an accounting. Examples of special damages may include medical bills, damage to motor vehicles, and lost wages. Finally, punitive damages are damages awarded for the sole purpose of punishing the wrongdoer. The intent behind punitive damages are to prevent future similar actions.