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Factors Affecting The Amount Of Damages Awarded

Nature, Extent, and Duration of Injury

In a personal injury case, the most important factors that determine the amount of damages awarded to the injured person are the nature, extent, and duration of the injury or injuries. A severe case involving skeletal, ligament, or nerve trauma is likely to qualify for greater compensation than a minor case of whiplash or back strain, painful though these conditions might be. Furthermore, severe injuries are strongly supported by medical documentation such as x-rays and CAT scans, while some soft tissue injuries involving only muscle are difficult to detect by standard procedures. Other key medical elements include the permanence of the injury as well as the extent of treatment required, such as surgical intervention or long-term rehabilitation. Clearly, cases that can be supported by solid medical documentation have the potential for greater damages.

Factors that often come into play in personal injury accidents include:

For more information about all the legal options available to you, call Coplan & Crane Ltd., at 1-800-394-6002 or submit an online questionnaire. We offer a free case evaluation to all potential clients. Our firm has offices in Chicago and Oak Park and serves injury victims and their families throughout Illinois and the Midwest.

Defendant Liability

In a personal injury case, the defendant's liability - the degree to which he or she is at fault - must be determined. If an individual is completely responsible for an injury suffered by another, the compensatory damages awarded to the victim will be the full amount requested. If, however, the victim is found to be partially at fault in the incident, the amount of damages awarded may be reduced. In some instances, there may be more than one viable defendant and damages may be assessed in proportion to each defendant's culpability.

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Contributory and Comparative Negligence

Contributory and comparative negligence are legal concepts that refer to responsibility for compensating an injury victim after an accident. In each case, what matters most is who's at fault. Contributory negligence examines the role an injured person played in causing their own injury. In particular, a defendant (the person being sued) may take legal action against the plaintiff (the person filing a lawsuit) if the defendant believes the plaintiff's actions resulted in the plaintiff's injury.

Comparative negligence involves determining exactly how much each person was at fault in causing an accident. The laws for comparative negligence vary from state to state. Illinois has a "modified comparative negligence" system. Under this system, the plaintiff can only recover money if they were less than 50 percent at fault for causing an accident. If the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at fault, they are not eligible to receive damages (financial compensation) for their accident.

Some other states have a "pure comparative negligence." Under this form of comparative negligence, if a defendant can prove that the plaintiff is partly to blame for an accident, then he or she recovers only the percentage that they were not at fault. For example, a jury awarded $100,000 in damages for an accident and the plaintiff was found to be 80 percent at fault, the plaintiff would only recover 20 percent or $20,000 of the damages awarded.

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Credibility of the Parties

Another factor that may impact upon the value of your claim in a personal injury case is something known as "jury appeal." This complex combination of personality elements is significant in determining the likelihood of receiving the damages to which you are entitled. Characteristics that can help you connect with a jury include being clear, detailed, and well-spoken in describing the events surrounding your case. Juries are also more apt to be convinced by statements that are supported by documented evidence in combination with a truthful, anecdotal recounting of the accident.

The jury's perception of the defendant is also very important. If the defendant is viewed as untruthful or reckless or attempts to shirk responsibility for the accident, a jury is more likely to be sympathetic to the plaintiff. A good attorney will always try to find inaccuracies in the defendant's version of events to diminish his or her credibility as much as possible and increase the chances of a positive result.

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Age of the Plaintiff

It is perhaps an unfortunate fact that the age of a plaintiff can demonstrably affect the amount of damages awarded in a personal injury case. The logic in the system lies in the understanding that a younger person who suffers a severe injury is subject to many more years of pain, suffering, and mental anguish than an older victim. The monetary loss to a younger person who has a greater number of wealth-building years ahead is also larger.

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Witness Testimony

The witnesses who testify on your behalf can greatly affect the outcome of your case. Ideally, a witness should be able to describe in detail the events of the accident to help establish liability on the part of the defendant. Witnesses whose purpose is to establish damages should be able to clearly describe the victim's condition before the accident in order to fully delineate the change in quality of life that the victim has experienced. It is essential that the jury view the witness as reliable. Since both the plaintiff and the defendant often rely on expert witnesses to support their cases, the plaintiff must be sure that the experts used on his or her behalf are very well-versed in the issues involved and highly regarded in their respective fields.

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