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Basic Terms of a Personal Injury Lawsuit


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Like all professions, lawyers employ a distinct language, and their meanings can be puzzling to those outside the profession. This post is meant to explain some of the legalese common to personal injury case law.

 

 

 

In order to succeed with your personal injury lawsuit , the law states you have to prove that a defendant owed you a duty of care, that (s)he breached that duty, and that the breach resulted in injury to you.

 

 

 

The defendant is the person you claim caused your injury. The person bringing the lawsuit, you, is called the plaintiff. A duty is conduct regulated by law e.g. all drivers have the duty to stop at a red light. Breaching a duty means the defendant was negligent, e.g. (s)he ran a red light.

 

 

 

Negligence is defined as “the failure to do something which a reasonably careful person would do or the doing of something which a reasonably careful person would not do under circumstances similar to the facts of your case”(Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions (IPI) – Civil 10.01.).

 

 

 

The legal term to describe an injury resulting from defendant’s negligence is proximate causation. This is defined as “a cause that in the natural or ordinary course of events produced your injury.” IPI 15.00. While a car accident involving a perfectly healthy plaintiff is an easy-to-prove proximate cause fact pattern, other patterns may be more difficult.

 

 

 

For example, suppose the driver of a car has been actively seeing a doctor for low back pain before a car accident occurs. Two months later, the doctor recommends surgery. Is the reason for the surgery related to the pre-existing condition, to the car accident, or to both? Under the law, exacerbation of a pre-existing condition is an acceptable basis for succeeding with your injury claim.

 

 

 

Finally, assuming that you have proven duty, breach and proximate causation, the remaining question is the damages in your case (what your case is worth). While other types of damages exist in personal injury lawsuits , we generally refer to four different and separate types of damages, divided into two categories:

Like all professions, lawyers employ a distinct language, and their meanings can be puzzling to those outside the profession. This post is meant to explain some of the legalese common to personal injury case law.

 

 

Economic damages – medical bills (without regard to whether insurance paid those bills) and lost wages.

 

Non-economic damages – pain and suffering and disability/loss of a normal life.

 

 

 

I’ve used the word “prove” above. What does “prove” mean in a legal sense? Under Illinois law, to prove something means to establish that it is more probably, or more likely, true than not true. You have proven a fact when there is a 50 percent or greater likelihood that the fact is true. This is a much different and lower standard than is required in a criminal case, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

 

Thousands of personal injury accidents occur every year, some of which permanently effect a person’s life and the live’s of family members. Should you or a loved one suffer an accident, please contact experienced Chicago personal injury attorneys at Lipkin & Higgins for a free consultation and evaluation of your case.

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  • Posted On April 9, 2012
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