What Makes a Good Personal Injury Case

PERSONAL INJURY = INJURY TO PERSON

Not just injury to a vehicle.  The injury may be physical, emotional or mental.  Need evidence to prove the injury.  Testimony of the injured person.  Hospital and doctor bills and records.  Counseling bills and records.  Physical therapy bills and records.  Prescriptions.  Devices such as crutches, neck brace, cane, walker, wheel chair, etc.

DAMAGES: WHAT ARE THEY?

  • Damages are an economic injury (Examples: medical bills and other costs of medical treatment, physical therapy, prescriptions.
  • Hedonic damages: the loss of enjoyment of life, change in what you are able to do.  Day in the life video.
  • Loss of consortium:  damages to your spouse – you can’t do the household chores anymore – a derivative claim.

Causation – the link between the act and the consequence

The plaintiff  (injured party) must establish causation to prevail.  Often used as a defense: example – Plaintiff has pain in the back from old age, not from the crash caused by the defendant at 30 miles per hour.  Time is important.  Did it happen just after the crash or 3 weeks later?  Intervening cause – plaintiff fell down or a 2nd crash a week later,.

What is the value of the case?

  • More injury  demonstrated by more treatment = more value.
  • When the plaintiff returns to work too soon, skips treatments or trys to tough it out without adequate treatment the value of the case is less.
  • The value is increased by effective legal representation. 

What about insurance?

  • Adequate insurance helps the defendant.  Insurance has the duty to defend and to indemnify (pay the claim up to the policy limits).  Who is your lawyer?  How much does the lawyer cost?
  • If insurance is not sufficient – bankruptcy for ordinary negligence but not intentional tort like assault or DUI.
  • Plaintiff (injured person) should carry Uninsured and Underinsured coverage.  Forty percent of AZ drivers have no insurance.  Follows the person (household) NOT the vehicle.

Workers’ Compensation

  • ON THE JOB INJURY (AT WORK, NOT ON THE WAY TO WORK).  From the days of railroad injuries – You are assured compensation from your employer without proving negligence BUT you have no right to sue the employer.  The Industrial Commission hears claims.
  • THIRD PARTY LIABILITY (i.e. you are delivering pizza when Joe Blow goes through a red light and T-bones you).  You were injured on the job but you CAN sue Joe Blow.
  • Must bring TPL case within 1 year.  If you don’t the case against Joe Blow belongs to the work comp carrier, not to you.

Statutes of Limitation

  • General Tort = 2 years from date of injury.  Must file the suit or case becomes worthless.  Then only 90 days to serve defendant.  Trial date = years later.  Under $50K is arbitration case.  Over $50K is jury trial case.
  • Suit against STATE of AZ or political subdivision – City, County, Sheriff, Four H Club  = SPECIAL RULES – 180 DAYS FOR NOTICE OF CLAIM, AND 1 YEAR STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS.
  • The Lesson – don’t wait.  Better to act sooner rather than later.  Interview the witnesses before they forget.

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