The Basics Of Damages, Negligence, And Collectability In Personal Injury Lawsuits

Posted on: 26 January 2015

 Most people simply lack the legal understanding to be able to accurately gauge whether or not they have a strong enough case to pass muster in a typical American court. If you have sustained an injury due to a circumstance beyond your personal control, you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine whether pursuing legal action is a good idea or a waste of time. Following are the basics of damages, negligence, and collectability. A good lawyer will examine all of these issues before deciding if you have a viable case.


This is an area where most people who are not legal professionals develop significant misunderstandings. For instance, if you fall and break your angle, you may believe that you will automatically be awarded a sum of money by the court -- but it doesn't quite work that way. Before a judge will rule in your favor and award you a financial settlement, you'll have to be able to show damages. For instance:

  • You'll need documentation of all medical costs not covered by your insurance.
  • You'll need documentation of any property loss that you may have suffered as a result of the injury.
  • You'll need documentation of loss of income. If your job is a physical one that you couldn't do while injured, it should be fairly easy to prove to the court that the injury resulted in lack of income. However, if you were able to keep working after becoming injured, you probably won't have a case.

The preceding are the two main forms of damages sought by the majority of those who file personal injury lawsuits. Other types of damages exist, however, such as:

  • Pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Loss of enjoyment.

Each of these falls within the legal definition of general damages and are subject to both the individual perception of the judge who is hearing the case and applicable state laws. You may be awarded damages for loss of enjoyment, for instance, if you can prove that you no longer engage in activities that were important components of your quality of life prior to the injury. General damages may be difficult to prove, particularly if loss of income or property damage can't be proven to the court.


Like damages, negligence is something that has to be proven to the court before a financial settlement will be awarded -- just being hit by another driver and becoming injured as a result is not enough to warrant a ruling in your favor. You and your attorney will have to be able to prove that the other party was negligent. Examples of basic negligence include:

  • Exceeding the speed limit of the roadway in which the accident occurred.
  • Being out of control of the car.
  • Failure to use the car's equipment, such as driving in the dark without the headlights on.

If the other driver was taking reasonable care, you may not be able to establish grounds for damages in court. A "presumption of negligence may apply, however, if the other driver was under the influence of intoxicants, driving on the wrong side of the road, or entered a pedestrian area in the vehicle.


A skilled attorney will look closely at the ability of the other party to pay damages provided they are awarded by the court. For instance, you could have the best case in the world, but if the other party has no insurance and no assets, it may be a waste of your time and money to pursue compensation for damages in court.

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