What are liability and damages, and how do I prove them?

There are two equally important components your lawyer must prove to win your injury case: liability and damages. It is important to understand what they are, and how they figure into a personal injury lawsuit.

Liability: Proving liability simply means proving someone else is legally responsible for causing the incident that injured you. You must prove the other driver was liable for causing a crash; an apartment complex was liable for failing to provide adequate security when you were shot; or a doctor was liable for causing an injury due to a botched surgical procedure or failure to diagnose a disease.

Your lawyer establishes liability by conducting a thorough investigation into the incident to identify eyewitnesses and other critical witnesses; identifying the key legal issues; collecting and analyzing documents and other materials; anticipating and evaluating the defenses the other side will raise against you; taking sworn testimony of witnesses at depositions; and if necessary, working with experts in a given field to provide expert testimony at trial.

However, while vital to your case, proving someone else is responsible for causing a given incident is only half the battle. In order to recover compensation, you also must prove what your injuries were, and how they have affected you and will continue to affect you. That component is called your damages.

Damages: If you cannot prove liability, a jury will never even get the chance to consider what your damages are because the judge will dismiss your case. Once your lawyer has established that the opposing party (or parties) was liable for your injury, s/he must next present evidence of your damages. There are two main categories of damages: “special damages” and “general damages.”

Special damages are those which have a fixed monetary value—e.g., some sort of documented cost you can show to a jury, like a medical bill. Special damages usually include past and future medical bills and, if claimed, lost wages.

General damages are those damages which do not have a fixed certain value, but rather are items that the jurors themselves must assign a monetary value to. This includes physical and psychological pain and suffering; the mental anguish associated with living with the consequences of the liable party’s negligence; and other intangible types of damages.

Proving special damages is relatively straightforward: you show the jury the client’s medical bills and enter them into evidence. General damages, on the other hand, are trickier. Your lawyer will present the jury with your own testimony about the pain, fear, and stress you experienced at the time of the incident itself, as well as during the time since it happened. That will go some distance with the jury. However, to award the best possible compensation for your pain and suffering, jurors need to hear from more than just the injury victim—who, after all, is the person seeking compensation in the first place. First responders and other witnesses who were at the scene of the incident and observed you in pain can be very effective.

But the real way to connect with jurors and to impress upon them the true lasting impact an injury has had on your life is through the testimony of people other than you. Friends and family are a good start, but others in the community can have a more profound impact since they are generally considered to have less of a vested interest in the case. The most effective damages witnesses are coworkers, bosses, workout partners, neighbors, church members, and anyone else who can testify about the physical and emotional differences they have observed in you from before and after your injuries.

A case may have great liability, but difficult damages, or substantial damages, but tricky liability. It is important to have a skilled attorney who knows the intricacies of the rules of evidence and of the law applicable to your case. Call an experienced personal injury lawyer at Rafi Law Firm today, or click here, for a free consultation.

2019-11-01T07:46:19-05:00