If you have been injured in an auto accident, it is important to understand what lies ahead in terms of obtaining compensation for your losses. In this article, we take a look at two important concepts that relate to proving damages as a result of your collision.
The Burden of Proof
The first thing to understand about auto accident litigation is what is called, “burden of proof.” When thinking about the burden of proof in accident cases, there are two primary points to keep in mind:
- The burden of proof rests with the accident victim. This means that if you were to file a lawsuit and do nothing else, the defendant would win because you would have failed to prove that the defendant was at fault. It is your personal injury attorney’s job to affirmatively demonstrate that the defendant is responsible for causing your injuries and financial losses.
- A personal injury lawsuit is a “civil” lawsuit, and in civil lawsuits, the burden of proof lies at the “preponderance of the evidence.” This is very different from a criminal trial, where the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You can think about the preponderance of the evidence as requiring that it be more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for your injuries. However, in Florida, a jury can apportion damages between the defendant, multiple defendants, or even the plaintiff under Florida’s comparative negligence rule.
Certain claims (such as a claim for punitive damages) may implicate a higher, “clear and convincing,” burden of proof, and some situations may require the defendant to prove an affirmative defense. However, the rules discussed above are the general ones to keep in mind when thinking about what it takes to win a personal injury claim.
Proving the Amount of Damages
Once you’ve met the burden of proof and established that the defendant was at fault in causing the collision, the next step is to prove how much physical and financial damage you suffered as a result. Most people do not realize the full extent of losses they are entitled to recover in a personal injury claim. These include (but are not limited to):
- Past and future medical expenses
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Lost wages and lost future earning capacity
- Damage to your vehicle
- Damage to other personal property (your clothes, watch, jewelry, glasses, phone, etc.)
- Pain and suffering
- Damages for emotional effects of permanent scarring or disfigurement
Of course, you need to be able to demonstrate that you actually have – or will – suffer these damages. If the judge or jury isn’t convinced, you will not be able to recover. This again is where your personal injury lawyer earns his or her fee. At Timothy Armstrong, P.A., we have years of experience helping our clients fight for maximum compensation for their losses. For a free case evaluation, contact attorney Tim Armstrong today.