When someone causes harm to another person, the law must somehow resolve the situation peacefully. A lot of Americans mistakenly believe that lawsuits are somehow inherently wrong or improper. In truth, they are in our Bill of Rights. To better understand how personal injury law works, it may help to take a brief look at the historical developments that led to the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Seventh Amendment
The Seventh Amendment says that when there is a controversy between parties worth more than $20, “the right of trial by jury shall be preserved.” This was passed by Congress in 1789. Of course, this Amendment has its limitations, as the Supreme Court has never extended it to apply to states. Still, the majority of states have similar provisions in their own State Constitutions, which require disputes to be determined by a jury. Likewise, today there are jurisdictional limits that can require small disputes to be litigated before a sole judge, such as small claims actions. The limits vary by location.
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Jury Trials are Fundamentally American
Over the years, many types of cases have been reduced to trials before judges or arbitrators. Nevertheless, in the vast majority of cases where a person suffers an injury or loss of some substantial value, the victim will have a right to request trial by jury. Contrary to what many believe, many countries – including a lot of Western nations – do not use juries.
It is important to remember that in colonial America, the colonists wanted to keep the British out of their dispute resolution as much as possible. Many felt resentment toward the British for how they handled disputes, wanting to create a way to resolve them among their peers. Hence our country has long valued letting communities resolve disputes that affect them.
Why Personal Injuries Demand Compensation
There are also economic and practical reasons for adjudicating serious injury claims before juries. For instance, when a person is reckless or careless, causing harm to others, it affects more than just the direct victim. Consider the following:
● Economic Impact of Injuries. The LA Times estimates that auto accidents cause an approximately $1 trillion in economic losses each year. This includes property damages, lost productivity at work, and health costs.
● Fairness. Most people would agree that it is patently unfair to force a person to endure a physical injury without some redress. If someone else causes your pain and injuries, it is only just and fair that the person responsible be held accountable for making you whole again.
● Peaceful Resolution. Without a civil justice system, people would quickly turn to ‘self-help’ to get justice. Imagine a society where the only way to get justice is through physical violence. Hence our system of government encourages peaceful resolutions through the courts.
Damages a Victim can Recover for Injuries
After a personal injury, the victim has a number of options for seeking compensation. In the vast majority of cases, plaintiffs and defendants are able to use the civil justice system to resolve disputes without ever going to trial. The litigation process encourages settlement by allowing the parties to discover information, exchange facts and evidence, and work toward a mutually agreeable outcome. It is true, of course, that some cases do not settle. When the parties are simply unable to come to an agreement, a trial may be necessary. When this happens, we trust everyday members of our society to hear the evidence and render a final judgment.
Depending on the type of injury, plaintiffs can often seek:
● Money to pay medical bills
● Money to reimburse for lost income and wages
● Money to help with assistive devices and adaptive medical equipment
● Money to repair damaged property
● Compensation for the loss of enjoyment of a normal life
● Compensation for personal pain and suffering
● Compensation for turmoil and emotional distress
● Compensation for the loss of a loved one (wrongful death)
● Punitive damages to punish wrongdoers and discourage future wrongful conduct
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Getting Help With an Injury Claim
Sadly, it is not easy to seek compensation from others. The process has gotten very complex, and insurance companies and large corporate defendants often fight very hard to deprive innocent victims of their basic rights to redress. Therefore, it is almost always in your best interests to discuss your case with an attorney.
At Heninger Garrison Davis, LLC, our attorneys take the time to carefully get to know our clients. We work hard to protect the rights of innocent victims. We never take a fee unless we succeed in getting compensation for victims, and consultations are always free. If you or a loved once have been seriously injured by someone, give us a call today to schedule your own personalized free consultation.