If you’ve suffered an injury and someone else is responsible, you may consider filing a personal injury lawsuit. Essentially, your goal is to demonstrate that through intention or negligence, some other individual or entity was the direct cause of your injury.
If you win such a case, you could be awarded all medical costs associated with the injury, as well as compensation for your pain and suffering; the responsible party may even face punitive damages.
What Does It Take to Win a Personal Injury Case?
But what is it that makes a personal injury case successful in the first place?
The Factors for Determining Negligence
It’s possible that you sustained an injury in a purely accidental or coincidental sequence of events. For your case to be successful, you have to demonstrably prove that certain factors were present in the case:
- The defendant must have had a responsibility to not cause you harm. For example, all vehicle drivers have a responsibility to operate their vehicles in a way that preserves the safety of the people around them.
- The defendant must have breached that duty. For example, the driver may have been drinking that night, or they may be speeding recklessly through a high-traffic area.
- This breach of duty must have caused your injuries. It must be conclusively demonstrated that this errant behavior directly or indirectly resulted in your injuries. The chain of causation here can sometimes be difficult to prove, especially in complicated cases with many independent variables playing a role in the final outcome.
- Your injuries must have resulted in actual damages. “Damages” can be a somewhat subjective term. Can you prove that you missed wages or were forced to pay medical bills because of your injuries?
The Biggest Variables to Consider
Ultimately, the outcome of your case will likely hinge on these two important variables:
- The quality and quantity of evidence you collect will play a massive role in whether your case is successful. If you have video footage from multiple different angles showing the events leading to your injury, as well as eyewitness testimonies and accident reports that agree with them, you may have an open-and-shut case. If your documentation is debatable, or if you and the defendant have a very different version of what transpired, the case will inevitably get more complicated.
- The quality of your legal representation also matters, especially if the defendant is well-defended. A skilled lawyer will be able to help you find more evidence and properly present the evidence you do have. They’ll be able to counter the points of the defense and maximize your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.
You may also consider your level of success in a personal injury case as being relative to how much compensation you receive. There are many variables that could affect how much compensation you receive, even in victory, including:
- Compensation sought. You’ll rarely be rewarded more compensation than you initially seek. However, you may end up limiting the compensation you receive if you don’t ask for enough. For example, if you’re only seeking compensation for your medical bills, you may not be rewarded any damages for your pain and suffering.
- Medical bills. The number of your medical bills, including estimates of medical costs in the future, will also impact what you receive in most cases. This is one of the most objective and reliable metrics for determining how much an injury really costs.
- Injury severity. The severity and nature of your injury also matter. If you’re bedridden or unable to move freely in some way for an extended period of time, you’ll be considered to endure more pain and suffering than someone with just a few bumps and bruises.
- Comparative negligence. In most states, comparative negligence applies to many personal injury cases. Basically, the idea is that an accident can be the fault of multiple people simultaneously; for example, a business owner may have been responsible for creating unsafe conditions, but a customer in that business could be responsible for conducting themselves unsafely as well. If you’re found to be partially negligent in connection to your injuries, you’ll receive a smaller settlement.
- Attempts to mitigate damages. Judges will also consider the extent to which a defendant attempted to mitigate damages after the accident. For example, did they provide you with immediate medical attention and try to support you afterward?
Not every personal injury case has an equal chance of success. Some will inevitably have more evidence, better representation, or higher stakes. If you’re not sure what your chances of success are, your best bet is to talk to a lawyer. Most lawyers offer a free initial consultation, where you can talk about the details of the case and determine your chances of success moving forward.