The Two Primary Phases of a Personal Injury Claim

liability, damages, DuPage County personal injury attorneysEvery year, millions of Americans are injured in car and truck accidents, slip-and-falls, and countless other types of incidents. These injuries result in billions of dollars in medical expenses, lost wages, and negative impacts to the injured parties and their families. In many cases, fortunately, accident victims are able to obtain compensation from those responsible for causing their injuries, but the process of recovering damages can often be complex. If you have been injured and are considering filing a personal injury action, it is important to understand the two basic phases involved in making your claim.

Liability

The first step in collecting compensation for your injuries is proving that the party against whom you are making your claim is actually liable. As the claimant—or plaintiff—it is up to you to provide evidence of negligence or wrongdoing by the other party—known as the defendant. In establishing his or her liability, you will need to convince the judge or jury by that:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care, meaning that he or she had some responsibility for your safety;
  • The defendant breached that duty;
  • You suffered documented injuries and losses; and
  • The breach was the proximate cause of your injuries.

Each of these elements must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, which is a standard of proof that indicates that your version of events was more likely than not to be true. In many cases, a defendant will admit liability before the trial begins, as he or she realizes what the evidence will show. Alternatively, a court could enter a default judgment for liability if the defendant does not respond properly to the claim or refuses to comply with orders to appear.

Damages

Once liability has been determined, the claim can move into the second basic phase: calculating and proving damages. During this stage, you will need to prove your economic and noneconomic losses so that you can be fully compensated. Calculating damages—even seemingly straightforward losses such as lost wages—can be complicated and often require the assistance of financial experts. With convincing supporting evidence and testimony, you may be entitled to collect compensation for:

  • Medical expenses;
  • Lost wages;
  • Reduced earning ability;
  • Property damage;
  • Scarring and disfigurement; and
  • Pain and suffering.

In the most extreme cases, punitive damages may be appropriate as well. However, punitive damages are relatively uncommon, and, in Illinois, require “clear and convincing proof” that the defendant acted with malicious intent or “reckless and outrageous indifference” to safety and the rights of others. Clear and convincing evidence is a higher standard of proof than the preponderance of the evidence standard in other elements of a personal injury claim. It means that based on the evidence presented, your version must be highly probable and very likely to be true, rather than just more likely than not.

Guidance From the Beginning

If you are thinking about filing a personal injury claim for damages and losses stemming from an auto accident, contact an experienced DuPage County personal injury lawyer before you take action. We will help understand the process and all of your available options for pursuing the compensation you need to put your life back on track. Call 630-920-8855 to schedule your free initial consultation today.

Sources:

http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/circuitcourt/criminaljuryinstructions/crim%2004.00.pdf

http://illinoiscourts.gov/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2015/118058.pdf

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=073500050K2-1115.05

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