HAVE YOU BEEN SERIOUSLY INJURED IN AN ACCIDENT?
HAVE YOU BEEN SERIOUSLY INJURED IN AN ACCIDENT?
Lake Charles Personal Injury Attorneys
Personal injuries are life changing. Injuries can cause significant pain, and decrease your quality of life. A personal injury can also result in financial devastation. When injuries are caused by negligence or wrongdoing, the responsible party must compensate victims and their family members for damages.
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How Personal Injury Lawsuits Work
To recover compensation, victims must prove the defendant was responsible for hurting them and must demonstrate the extent of their damages. The personal injury attorneys at Broussard & Hart, L.L.C. can conduct an investigation, find expert witnesses and put together a strong case to present in court. Your attorney can also send a demand letter to the insurer requesting compensation for all losses. The demand letter is the basis for negotiating a settlement amount that provides for your needs.
Types of Personal Injury Claims
Victims may file a personal injury claim any time they are harmed due to:
- Negligence or carelessness. Drivers, doctors and property owners all have obligations to protect the safety of others.
- Failure to live up to a legal obligation, such as the obligation to warn patients of the side effects of drugs.
- Violation of safety laws, such as speed limit laws or laws requiring fences around swimming pools.
- Intentional wrongdoing.
Personal Injury Compensation
Personal injury victims are entitled to be “made whole” by individuals and companies who hurt them. Victims should be compensated for:
- Medical expenses
- Wage losses
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Personal Injury Damages
When an injury is caused by another, the law allows the harmed party to seek compensation, or damages, for the effects of the injury. Personal injury damages that may be awarded include medical bills, lost wages, property damages or pain and suffering. The goal of personal injury law is to restore the injured party to the quality of life he or she enjoyed prior to the injury.
There are two main types of damages that can be sought in a personal injury case; compensatory and punitive damages.
The goal of compensatory damages is to make up for an injury. There are two types of compensatory damages; special damages (also call pecuniary or actual damages) and general damages.
- Special damages are those that can be calculated with some kind of mathematical certainty. Special damages include past lost wages, future lost wages, past medical bills, future medical bills, property replacement and/or repair, rehabilitation costs, and substitute transportation.
- General damages cover losses that cannot be calculated such as mental anguish, disfigurement, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life. Consortium loss is the human loss that comes from the injury to a loved one – a child, parent, or spouse. Consortium losses include the loss of companionship, society, services, and/or sexual intimacy.
The goal of punitive damages is to punish a defendant for acts of gross negligence or intentional misconduct that cause personal injury to the plaintiff. They are not calculated by the extent of the actual injury alone, but rather are meant to punish the defendant and to discourage him or others in similar situations from allowing or causing the same sort of accident to happen in the future. An example of punitive damages is when a drunk driver causes injury or death, or when an adult sexually abuses a minor.
Court Costs and Attorney’s Fees
If a plaintiff prevails in a lawsuit that has been filed – either through settlement or trial – he or she may recover some of the expenses of having to file the lawsuit and/or take the case to court. Court costs can include filing fees, process server fees, deposition costs, court transcript costs, expert witness fees, and payments to translators. There are some instances in which a plaintiff may also be able to recover some attorney fees, but this is not common.
Types of Compensation
Compensatory damages are awarded in personal injury cases for “actual losses” based on the proven harm, loss, or injury suffered by the plaintiff. Actual losses cover out-of-pocket expenses; for medical expenses, property damage, and loss of income. General damages may also be awarded for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and lost opportunity for the future enjoyment of life.
Personal injury losses may include:
Medical bill damages can include past and future expenses incurred due to the injury.
Property damages can include replacement or repair of any property harmed in an accident. A good example of property damage is automobile damage. A plaintiff may be awarded not only the costs of repair and loss of value to the car, but also the loss of value to assets contained within the car and reimbursement for temporary transportation. The first step in obtaining property damages is to hire an appraiser. The appraiser will determine the property value before and after the accident. If the property is used for one’s job, the plaintiff may be compensated for loss of income.
Loss of Income
Loss of income or “lost wages” are determined by the income that would have been gained except for the injury. This may include:
- Lost wages due to medical treatment of the injury
- Loss of one’s future earnings in cases where the plaintiff can no longer work due to the injury
- In cases of wrongful death family members may sue for the lost income that the victim would have earned based on his or her age and current salary. For example, a younger person would have a greater loss of future earnings in the event of an untimely death.
Pain and Suffering
Personal injury cases are extremely painful. Victims and their families experience a range of emotions as they navigate injuries and losses. While each individual experiences pain differently, the law looks at several factors to determine the amount of emotional damages. Factors to determine the amount of damages awarded include:
- Amount of medication the injured person required
- The types and length of treatments necessary
- The duration of the recovery period
- The testimony of family and friends about the change in the victim’s quality of life, comparing the victim’s condition and normal activities prior to and after the accident
If the injury is permanently disabling, it’s important to seek out expert testimony to support the victim’s claim and help determine the most suitable value of damages to be sought.
Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress
Mental anguish and emotional distress covers the mental responses caused viewing a traumatic event. Common symptoms of mental anguish include:
Because of the subjective nature of this type of compensation, Louisiana has instituted guidelines such as the “zone of danger” test which takes into account how physically close the plaintiff was to the accident and the “physical manifestation rule” which requires that the emotional distress be exhibited by physical reactions such as depression, anxiety intense enough to cause ulcers, or loss of appetite and weight.
Loss of Consortium
The loss of consortium refers to the inability of the victim to engage in the activities related to companionship with his or her spouse or loved ones at the level he or she once enjoyed.
Loss of opportunity, or loss of chance, damages refer to the inability to obtain a benefit or avoid a loss due to an injury. These opportunities may include a job opportunity or the opportunity to improve one’s medical condition.
Amount of Damages
The monetary compensation imposed by law for loss or harm resulting from injury to person, property, or reputation is known as “damages”. While there is no simple equation to determine the amount of damages a victim may be owed, an experienced attorney can help you sort through the myriad factors involved in making sure that your case is not settled for less than it is worth.
The attorneys will first meet with you to discuss the details of your case in full depth of detail. Some of the monetary factors to be considered to determine the worth of your injuries include property damage, lost income, and the amount of medical expenses you have incurred. Personal elements of your case would encompass the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and lost opportunities for the future. Our knowledgeable attorneys will also consider other key factors in your case such as the availability and credibility of witnesses as well as the degree of liability and perceived credibility of the defendant. Finally, your attorney will actively pursue the supportive opinion of experts in any relevant field to prove the extent of your injuries if necessary.
Although the amount of damages awarded in a personal injury case is never guaranteed, it is imperative that a victim has an attorney that is capable of pursuing each case to a beneficial result.
Factors Affecting the Amount of Damages
Nature, Extent, and Duration of Injury
In a personal injury case, the most important factors which determine the amount of damages awarded to the injured person are the nature, extent, and duration of the injury or injuries. A severe case involving skeletal, ligament, or nerve trauma is more apt to qualify for greater compensation than a minor case of whiplash or back strain, painful as the latter conditions might be. Furthermore, severe injuries are strongly supported by medical documentation such as x-rays and CAT scans, whereas some soft tissue injuries involving only muscle are difficult to detect by standard procedures. Other medical elements contributing to the viability of one’s personal injury case include the permanence of the injury as well as the extent of treatment required, such as surgical intervention and/or long-term rehabilitation. Clearly, cases that can be supported by solid medical documentation have the potential for greater monetary damages to be awarded.
In a personal injury case, the defendant’s liability (or degree to which he or she is at fault) must be determined. If an individual is completely responsible for an injury suffered by another, the compensatory damages awarded to the victim will be the full amount requested. If, however, the victim is found to be partially at fault in the incident, the amount of damages awarded may be reduced. In some instances, there may be more than one viable defendant and damages may be assessed in proportion to each defendant’s culpability.
Comparative and Contributory Negligence
Comparative and contributory negligence are defenses available to mitigate the amount that a defendant may have to pay to a plaintiff for damages. Each of these defenses is based on an assessment of fault towards the plaintiff. Depending upon the laws of the state where the case is venued one of three different versions of these defenses may be applicable. Pure contributory negligence is, by far, the most oppressive to the plaintiff. In those states that allow this defense if a defendant can prove that the plaintiff is one iota to blame for the accident, then he or she recovers nothing. For instance, if the evidence shows that a defendant was speeding and went through a stop sign and that the plaintiff was only one percent at fault because he or she didn’t swerve or brake quickly enough, then the plaintiff may be entitled to no recovery.
Less oppressive to the plaintiff and more prevalent are the two different versions of comparative negligence. The first version is what is commonly known as “pure” comparative negligence. Louisiana uses “pure” comparative negligence. In “pure” comparative negligence, the award of damages to the plaintiff will be reduced in direct proportion to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault, no matter what the ratio. For instance, if you are 30 percent at fault for an accident, you could recover 70 percent of your damages. If you are 70 percent at fault for an accident, you could recover only 30 percent of your damages. All of the other parties alleged to be at fault would then be responsible for paying you 30% of your total damages, apportioned between them in proportion to the amount of fault assigned to them.
The last of these defenses is also fairly common amongst the states. It is known as “limited” comparative negligence. Texas law employs limited comparative negligence. With this version, in order to be able to receive any damages the plaintiff must be no more than 50 percent at fault for the injury. If the plaintiff is no more than 50 percent liable, but is still partially at fault, then the award of damages will be adjusted according to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault and the plaintiff’s award will be reduced accordingly. For example, suppose a jury awards you $100,000 in damages as a result of a car accident, but it finds you 30 percent at fault for your injuries because you did not properly use a signal. After applying comparative negligence, you would be entitled to $70,000 in damages – $100,000 minus 30 percent. In the above example, the judge or jury determines the degree of the each party’s negligence and apportions to each party a percentage of the total damages suffered, based on each party’s percentage of fault for causing your injury. If you were found to be 51 percent liable, you would be unable to collect any amount.
Credibility of the Parties
Another factor that may impact upon the value of your claim in a personal injury case is something known as “jury appeal.” This complex combination of personality elements is significant in determining the likelihood of receiving the damages to which you are entitled. Characteristics that can help you win over a jury include being clear, detailed, and well-spoken in describing the events surrounding your case. Juries are also more apt to be convinced by statements that are supported by documented evidence in combination with a truthful, anecdotal recounting of the accident.
The jury’s perception of the defendant is also very important. If the defendant is viewed as untruthful or reckless or attempts to shirk responsibility for the accident, a jury is more likely to be sympathetic to the plaintiff’s side. A good attorney will always try to find inaccuracies in the defendant’s version of events to diminish his or her credibility as much as possible and increase the chances of a positive result.
Age of the Plaintiff
It is perhaps an unfortunate fact that the age of a plaintiff can demonstrably affect the amount of damages awarded in a personal injury case. The logic in the system lies in the understanding that a younger person who suffers a severe injury is subject to many more years of pain, suffering, and mental anguish than an older victim. The monetary loss to a younger person who has a greater number of wealth-building years ahead is also estimable.
The witnesses who testify on your behalf can greatly affect the outcome of your case. Ideally, a witness should be able to describe in detail the events of the accident to help establish liability on the part of the defendant. Witnesses whose purpose is to establish damages should be able to clearly describe the victim’s condition prior to the accident so as to fully delineate the change in quality of life that the victim has undergone. It is essential that the witness be viewed as reliable by the jury. Since both the plaintiff and the defendant often rely on expert witnesses to support their cases, the plaintiff must be sure that the experts utilized on his or her behalf are very well-versed and highly-regarded in their respective fields.
If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance, call Broussard & Hart, L.L.C. at 337-439-2450 or Toll Free at 866-281-4774 or submit an online form. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery of funds. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed before an applicable expiration date, known as a statute of limitations. Please call right away to ensure that you do not waive your right to possible compensation.