Liability is the foundation of a personal injury case. Typically, the victim of a personal injury would file a claim for damages through the at-fault party’s insurance and await a response. When the person filing is partially liable, there are more questions to consider. However, having some responsibility for the accident does not automatically make you ineligible for damages. Suppose you suffered an injury in an accident and have questions about your role and your right to compensation. In that case, a personal injury attorney can help you understand the steps you should take next and what damages are available to you.
How Does Utah Handle Personal Injury Cases With Shared Fault?
Most states apply the comparative negligence rule to cases involving shared fault. In theory, this rule allows the injured party to recover a portion of damages from an accident involving negligence as long as they are not entirely responsible for the accident and resulting injuries. Additionally, each state determines which type of comparative negligence rule to apply. For example, the pure comparative negligence rule allows the claimant or plaintiff to recover damages as long as their share of fault is less than 100%, but only a handful of states follow this rule. Instead, most apply modified comparative negligence, which only allows you to recover a portion of damages if you are less than 50% or 51% liable.
Modified Comparative Negligence and the 50% Bar Rule
Like most states, Utah adheres to the modified comparative negligence rule with a 50% bar for recovering compensation. When applied, the court determines what percentage of the fault belongs to both parties and the final value of all damages. For example, suppose the court finds you 49% at fault for your injuries and values your losses at $10,000. In that case, you would still receive 51% of $10,000. However, if the court determines you were 50% liable for the accident, you would no longer be eligible for an award.
What Are the Recoverable Damages?
The value of damages can vary drastically among different personal injury cases. The factors that influence the type and amount of damages you can receive include the severity of the accident, your injuries, and the type of claim. For example, most personal injury claims come from auto accident cases, and this type of accident can range from minor to severe, even resulting in a wrongful death claim. Therefore, to calculate the value of your claim, you have to consider the economic and non-economic damages available.
Economic damages have an inherent monetary value and tangible supporting evidence. Common examples include the following:
- Medical costs. You can claim the cost of emergency care, including ambulance and emergency department expenses, medications and medical devices, surgeries and hospital stays, and outpatient care, including ongoing rehabilitative therapy.
- Loss of income. If your injuries inhibited you from going to work, you could claim lost wages. If you suffered an injury severe enough to cause permanent impairment, you could also claim the loss of earning capacity or missed promotional opportunity.
- Damaged property. Some personal injury claims also include damaged property. For example, if your injuries are the result of an auto accident, you can claim the costs to repair or replace your vehicle.
- Out-of-pocket expenses. Some injuries and circumstances can result in a need for household care or transportation costs to travel to medical visits. You can even claim the price of any structural changes made to your home to accommodate a temporary or permanent disability.
You can use medical bills, pay stubs, applicable receipts, estimates, tax returns, and expert testimony to prove these losses. Sometimes the process of collecting that evidence is tedious, but it is essential to your case.
Non-economic damages have no immediate financial value, but you can apply a monetary amount to the psychological effects of your accident. Some common examples of non-economic damages include:
- Physical pain and suffering caused by your injuries
- Emotional and mental distress
- Anxiety or depression
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Losing the ability to enjoy your life as you did before the accident
- Loss of consortium if your injuries had a profound impact on your intimate life with your spouse
Calculating and providing these damages can be complex. Attorneys typically use the multiplier method, which determines the value of non-economic losses by calculating the economic damages and multiplying them by a number from 1.5 to 5. A larger number would imply more significant non-economic damages. Additionally, you need to provide evidence, typically in the form of expert testimony, the extent of medical treatments, and statements from people who are part of your daily life and can testify to how your injuries affect your life. Finally, your attorney will likely ask for your written statement about how the accident and injuries impacted you physically and mentally.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help You Build a Case?
Hiring a legal representative to handle your case relieves you of a heavy burden. Rather than spending all your time arguing with insurance companies and trying to collect evidence to support your claim, you can focus on recovering from your injuries and rebuilding your life. Some things your attorney will do for you to build your case include:
- Act as your representative in all discussions with the insurance company and the legal defense team
- Gather, complete, and file all the paperwork needed to file your insurance claim or lawsuit
- Access experts to help build your case, such as medical and mental health specialists or accident reconstruction specialists
- Negotiate with the insurer for a fat and fair settlement
- Prepare your case to go to trial in case you cannot reach a settlement
- Interview eyewitnesses and investigate the accident to gather the evidence needed to support your claim of negligence
- Collect all the supportive evidence for damages
- Calculate and adequately value your non-economic damages
A personal injury attorney becomes someone you can rely on for compassionate support and valuable legal advice. They protect your right to compensation and ensure no one takes advantage of you. However, they also understand the struggles that personal injury victims face and can sympathize with your situation. That support is invaluable as you navigate the legal process and deal with pushback from greedy insurance companies.
When Do You Need To Schedule a Personal Injury Lawyer?
There is no time too soon to contact a personal injury lawyer with questions about your case. Reaching out in the immediate aftermath is likely best because that is when the details are the freshest in your mind. At Siegfried and Jensen, your consultation is free, and there is no pressure or obligation to hire us. At the very least, you can walk away with peace of mind and a better understanding of the legal options available to you. We have worked with victims of personal injury in Utah and surrounding states since 1990, and we understand how important it is to have legal representation when you are fighting for the financial means needed to rebuild your life after a devastating accident. When you hire the personal injury team at Siegfried and Jensen, you have the comfort of knowing that we offer compassion for our clients and will fight to protect your rights. Contact us at (801) 845-9000 to schedule your free case review today.