You are sitting in your car, stopped at a stop sign, patiently waiting for the right moment to go. Suddenly, the distracted driver behind you rear-ends you. You go through the hassle of filing a report and you exchange information. Shortly thereafter, feeling some slight pain from the accident, you head over to a medical center just to make sure that everything is okay. To cover the costs of the medical bills, you file a lawsuit against the reckless driver.
While the lawsuit in this case seems pretty straight forward, you need to make sure that you hire a competent attorney that will claim the requisite damages on your behalf. This is especially important because if the damages are not requested at the appropriate times, these damages may be waived. Once a trial court has made its findings of fact, unless those findings are blatantly wrong or were made in manifest error, a reviewing court cannot reverse them.
Because the trial court has the duty to hear the findings of fact, the plaintiff’s attorney must submit any testimony or evidence of damages at this level and in a timely manner. At the trial court level, evidence needs to be submitted regarding not just medical bills, but also testimony and any evidence of lost wages, lost earning capacity, the full extent of any medical injuries, and any pain or suffering if these damages are to be awarded. A plaintiff can recover more than just the exact medical bills that have been paid to that point, but the proper evidence and/or testimony need to be presented. If any general damages are sought, they must be requested at the trial court level and entered into the record. If any on-going physical therapy will be required, records of this need to be presented so that it can be properly taken into account. If the plaintiff will not be able to work because of injuries incurred, evidence of this must also be presented so that the trial court can make a proper judgment.
Here is a brief example of how a plaintiff in a personal injury case may needlessly forego his full award of damages: A young college student hits an older man in Louisiana who is stopped at a stop sign. A report of the accident is filed by police, information is exchanged and the man goes to the hospital to have x-rays taken because of back and neck pain that stemmed from the accident. After finding that the student who hit him does not have insurance, the older man brings his claim to court in order to recover damages. He submits some medical bills, but that is all. His attorney does not help him submit any indication of general damages, any evidence of lost wages or any testimony of pain and suffering. Once the testimony has been heard and the evidence submitted, the trial court simply awards damages in the amount of the medical bills, nothing further. Upset over the judgment, the man appeals, claiming that the evidence was incomplete.
However, it is unlikely that the man will have any success with his appellate claim. As long as the plaintiff had adequate time and opportunity to present his evidence, the judgment will likely not be reversed on appeal. The trial court is best suited to review the facts of the case, and the appellate court will not reverse the findings of the trial court unless the findings are found to be clearly wrong or lacking a reasonable factual basis.
In most cases, this means that if the proper evidence of damages was not presented to the trial court, the plaintiff will be unable to collect on those damages. To help avoid a situation like this, you must make sure that you hire an attorney well versed in the area of personal injury law, who can properly advocate on your behalf and help you present appropriate and complete evidence and testimony to the trial court.
If you have been involved in a personal injury case, make sure that you obtain suitable representation that will help you receive the full extent of damages owed to you.
Contact Berniard Law Firm to speak to an attorney that specializes in personal injury cases who will be pleased to aid you on your road to full recovery. You can call Berniard Law Firm at (504) 521-6000.