This is an excerpt from one of the recent episodes of 'Do I Need a Lawyer?' hosted by: Gary Martin Hays.
There are 3 things we have to prove in these personal injury claims:
(1) Someone was negligent in causing the wreck (besides our client);
(2) This person's negligence was the proximate cause of our client's injuries;
(3) We have to prove the damages our client sustained in the wreck.
This may sound somewhat complicated so let me break down each of these 3 elements for you:
Negligence: this essentially means who is at fault.
We have to prove that someone (besides yourself) was at fault for causing the wreck.
The injured party has the burden of proof in showing that the Defendant driver was negligent in causing the wreck.
Examples could include:
Following too closely
Driver distractions due to using a cell phone or adjusting the radio
Speeding or traveling too fast for conditions
Driving under the influence of alcohol or some illegal drug
Failure to yield while turning left
Driver fatigue because they drove their tractor trailer more than Federal law allows
Once we prove the other driver was negligent, then we must show that this negligence was the proximate cause of your injuries.
Here is an example:
You are at a complete stop at a red light.
The Defendant is not paying attention to the road ahead and crashes into the rear of your car. Your head hits the steering wheel causing a huge cut on your chin and you chip a couple of your teeth.
The Defendant's negligence was the proximate cause of the wreck and your injuries.
When we prove that the Defendant was negligent and his negligence was the proximate cause of the wreck, we must now prove what damages were inflicted upon you.
Damages could include compensation for:
Medical bills, including:
-emergency room physician
-medical doctors and specialists
This is easy to prove as all of these health care providers/suppliers will issue an itemized statement for the services they provide to our clients.
Typically, if someone misses a week of work due to a car wreck, it can be proven with a couple of check stubs showing the time missed from work, a doctor's disability slip, and a wage verification form signed by the employer.
It can be very problematic, however, if someone misses time from work but is paid "under the table" and there is no record on the books. It gets even messier when there is no mention of this work on the tax returns.
You would not have to be driving around from doctor's appointments to physical therapy to the pharmacy to get your prescriptions filled if the Defendant had not caused the wreck.
This is clearly money that is coming out of your pocket that you would not have lost if the car wreck never happened.
You should be compensated for this loss.
Gas is expensive.
Parking in some of the private lots can also add up.
Keep track of your round trip mileage to these appointments and save those parking receipts!
FUTURE medical expenses
No one has a crystal ball to tell you everything the future is going to hold for you medically. However, doctors can sometimes tell us to a reasonable degree of medical certainty what they anticipate you will incur should you eventually need a surgery or have to undergo some additional tests.
The key component to making a claim for these future medical expenses is to get a doctor's narrative addressing the medical needs, why they are necessary, how they were caused by the wreck, and the costs of the procedure(s).
FUTURE lost wages
The standard for proving future lost wages is simple, yet can sometimes be a difficult hurdle to overcome.
The way a jury measures future lost income is for them to determine what the plaintiff would otherwise have earned in his job or profession but for the injury.
The future lost earnings cannot be speculative and you must have documentation to substantiate your claims.
Sometimes the defendant's conduct in causing the wreck or his actions immediately after the wreck are so egregious that the law allows us to seek additional damages known as punitive damages.
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish, penalize, or deter the Defendant from repeating the conduct.
For example, punitive damages can be sought in wrecks where:
- The Defendant causes a wreck and attempts to flee or does flee the scene of the collision.
- The Defendant was driving their vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
There is a legal presumption under Georgia law that a person is driving under the influence if their blood alcohol level is above .08.