Beyond Actionable Injuries, Making Your Case
To prove a successful, actionable cause of action, an attorney must prove to a jury that a person’s personal injury warrants the damages award the individual seeks.
In most personal injury cases, the Texas’ Statute of Limitations begins a 2-year countdown from the date of an accident. Failure to file a claim after the 2-year mark waives an injured party’s ability to get fully compensated. Anyone involved in an accident should file a claim as soon as possible, especially if considering a lawsuit. Waiting to file a claim allows time to pass and detailed memories about the accident to fade. The same applies when seeking medical care. If an injured person waits to receive medical treatment, the delay makes it more difficult to trace the injury to the accident. Waiting to receive medical treatment may also be detrimental to a potential case because it may be used to show an injured party failed to mitigate damages or injuries, weakening a potential case. Finding an attorney to handle these matters early on can help an injured person navigate legal requirements and protect a potential claim.
From chemical explosion accidents to every day car accidents, personal injury cases have a wide range of causes of action. The elements for a type of personal injury claim is typically clear and stated in the law. A more difficult challenge is proving damages.
Actionable Injuries: What We Can Prove
Knowing the elements of recoverable damages is merely the first step in what can be a complicated process to achieve the best possible recovery. In trial, attorneys must present sufficient evidence to convince a jury the damages are justified under the law. This is a more significant hurtle to leap.
For example, there is often conflicting evidence about the severity of injuries, or about what exactly caused the accident that led to the injuries. In many cases, it is up to the jury to decide which version of the evidence to accept.
The jury can decide to refuse to award an injured person damages, or find that only part of the damages at issue were because of a defendant’s actions.
It is ultimately a question of factual sufficiency. In personal injury cases, it is up to the attorney to examine the facts of a case and convince a jury that the injured person’s case deserves the awards the injured person seeks. The injury must rise to the level of compensable physical pain and suffering.
The plaintiff must produce evidence supporting his or her claim, and persuade the jury and judge that the evidence proves he or she should be awarded damages.
Texas courts have recognized a distinction between cases in which the plaintiff has presented uncontroverted “objective” evidence of an injury caused by a defendant’s negligence, and cases in which the plaintiff’s injuries are more “subjective” in nature. For example, the presence or absence of pain is an inherently subjective question for which the plaintiff bears the burden of production and persuasion.
In Houston, courts have “upheld jury awards of zero damages even when subjective and objective evidence of injuries existed, so long as the verdict was not so contrary to the great weight of the evidence as to be manifestly unjust.” In other words, even when there is evidence of a person’s injuries, a jury may still decide to give an injured party nothing.
On the other hand, when there is “uncontroverted, objective evidence of an injury and the causation of the injury has been established, appellate courts are more likely to overturn jury findings of no damages…”
In conclusion, personal injury attorneys can seek and may win their clients a damages award for any injuries they can prove and trace back to defendants.