Some people, fortunate as they are, go through life without sustaining any kind of serious injury. Of course, it is worth setting some parameters for what “serious” means. For example, pretty much all of us will get a cut here or there. Most of us will get a few bruises. But a serious injury is one that profoundly impacts your life in a negative way. A broken leg would count. As would a dislocated shoulder.
When you sustain a serious injury, it makes things more difficult and often in a way that you don’t appreciate when you haven’t had one. Things that you had taken for granted before the injury are all of a sudden, not an option. For example, you may have got used to hopping in the shower and taking five minutes to be ready. If your leg is broken, not only are you not hopping anywhere, but the five-minute shower is out too.
As much as a serious injury hurts us physically, much of the damage is unseen. Some people, if you get injured, will say “Lucky you, I’d kill for a week in bed!”. Mostly they will be joking, one hopes. Because as much as you may look at the idea of a long time in bed as a treat, it gets boring. An enforced stay in bed – or even on the couch – gets really old. The fact that you couldn’t get up and wander over to the fridge, or walk the dog, is all you can think about.
For many of us also, there is the emotional hurt of being injured, which can come from a number of sources. You enjoy playing in the garden with your kids, but now you can’t run and you feel like you’re disappointing them. You can’t go to work, so you feel like a burden on a number of people. And then there’s the injury itself, and how it occurred. How many of us have got an injury and then said, “If only I’d…”?
This can be the case even if an injury was not in any way your fault. “If I’d left the house five minutes earlier that car wouldn’t have been there”. “If I’d asked someone else to move that bag from that doorway, I wouldn’t have hurt my back.” We go through scenarios, telling ourselves that what we’re going through is our fault. Even if, realistically, it is anyone else’s but ours.
Why Does It Matter Whose Fault It Is?
When we suffer an injury, as we have seen, there are numerous ways to which it affects our lives. Most, if not all, of those, are negative. There is the pain, the restriction, the recrimination and the self-criticism. Depending on your job, there can also be the loss of earnings and in some cases the loss of a contract altogether. There’s the old saying “it never rains but it pours”. When you suffer an injury, that’s how it feels.
And this matters. It matters because, if that injury was not your fault, you are being made to feel a range of negative emotions because of someone else. Because someone who is not you did something they should not – or didn’t do something they should have – you’re restricted.
And, as much as there is a fashion against litigation in some circles, it has to be considered. Along with all of the other things to worry about while you’re healing, you shouldn’t be put in a situation where you feel you have to accept a financial hit.
It is true that in some areas there has been a tendency towards vexatious litigation. That is to say, people who do not have a genuine case for damages will put in a claim for compensation they aren’t entitled to. In some cases, the defendant, fearful of damage to their reputation if the case gets to court, settles privately. However, the extent to which this happens has been exaggerated.
When talking about personal injury claims, one example that is often referred to is the “Hot Coffee” case. This refers to a case where a customer at a fast food chain purchased a cup of coffee. On taking the lid off the cup, she spilled the contents in her lap, suffering third-degree burns in the process. The customer sued the chain, eventually winning but seeing the damages reduced in the courtroom.
While this case is often seen as an example of frivolous litigation, the facts of the case show that the chain acted negligently. And yes, it is true that frivolous lawsuits are occasionally brought and even settled. What this should not obscure – but often does – is that many personal injury claims have merit.
Should you be injured in a result where someone else is at fault, you have a case. No number of frivolous past cases should be taken as an indication of frivolity on your part.
What this should not obscure – but often does – is that many personal injury claims have merit. Should you be injured in a result where someone else is at fault, you have a case. No number of frivolous past cases should be taken as an indication of frivolity on your part.
What If I Do Have A Case?
If you feel that the accident that injured you happened due to negligence or malice on the part of another, it’s time to act. The first question you must ask yourself is “How do I choose the right injury lawyer specialist?”. There are many firms out there handling personal injury cases. As previously mentioned, some of those cases are frivolous. Your decision should be guided by how seriously the firm takes your case.
A serious personal injury specialist will look to get to the core of the facts. What injuries resulted from the accident? What WAS the accident? Where and when did it take place? What were the circumstances that led to it? How has it affected you in terms of your earning ability? How has it affected your family life and future plans? All of these factors can govern whether you will be compensated and for how much.
What Are My Chances Of Bringing A Successful Case?
Part of this does depend on the lawyer or firm that you retain to take your case. Some firms may take a more aggressive approach to demanding compensation, which might sound good initially. You must, however, take into account how this will play in the eyes of whoever hears your case. If it is judged that you are pursuing damages in a speculative way rather than because you deserve them, it may hurt you.
This is why it is essential to look for lawyers who will bring your case on its merits. The questions listed above are important. They are how a lawyer, and then a judge or tribunal, determine a chain of events. What the lawyer needs to show is that:
- An accident has taken place.
- That there is someone involved with a responsibility to ensure your safety.
- That there are steps they should have taken, and did not take, to prevent injury to you.
- That you had reason to believe those steps had been taken or no reason to believe they had not.
- That the accident resulted in an injury to you.
- That the injury, or injuries, you sustained, have caused you material difficulty and as such entitle you to compensation.
Loss of earnings is a consideration in deciding how much compensation you may be due. It may be the main consideration, especially if you had a career prior to the accident and have had to give that career up. But there will also be questions of emotional distress, the medical expense to yourself and expense incurred in bringing a case.
It is easy to feel as though you are being impertinent by seeking these damages. It may feel even more so if it reaches the stage where you are questioned by representatives of the defendant. They may well try to paint you as someone who is “out for what they can get”, and the defendant as an innocent under attack. It is their job to do this, just as it is your lawyer’s job to look out for you.
It can be difficult to separate emotions from facts in a legal setting. In everyday life, we don’t like asking for money. Doing so in court can feel like that indignity is being multiplied. A courtroom setting has a way of making everybody feel guilty, but you are not the one at fault here. You are not asking for anything that is not rightfully yours. All you are asking for is redress for the damage done to your life.
It should also be recognised that bringing a case is not a guarantee of compensation. Even an eminent lawyer cannot guarantee that. What they can do is advise you of your chance of success. And in a case where there is a clear example of negligence causing injury, you’re well placed. Courtrooms and hearings are designed to get to the facts and interpret them without bias or emotion.
It’s OK to not be OK with a situation. We are asked again and again in life to accept an unfair hand and move on. More often than not, we do. But if you tell yourself that you should just move on and accept an injury that is someone else’s fault, stoicism ends there. You deserve a fair chance in life and no amount of hostile questioning changes that fact.