Defense in a Personal Injury Case
What is a Defense in a Personal Injury Case?
You are alleging that a third party, known as the defendant, was the one who caused you injury when you submitted a claim for personal injury of any kind. The defendant has the ability to argue in court that they are not responsible for the harm that you have sustained or otherwise defend themselves in any way they see fit.
In cases like these, attorneys will typically choose one of these four types of defenses:
- Claim the victim caused the accident
- Claim the victim failed to mitigate the accident
- Fail to state a claim
- Affirmative defense
At various stages of the proceeding, the defendant in question may raise any one or all of these possible defenses. Below, you’ll find an analysis of each option.
Claiming the Victim Caused the Accident
This is the first line of defense that we encounter in the vast majority of personal injury cases, ranging from those involving premises liability to those involving automobile accidents. This defense rests on the fundamental premise that the victim actually acted negligently, and as a result, you are the one who is responsible for what took place.
This is a common defense for a couple of different reasons. In the first place, it may absolve the defendant of all responsibility for paying any damages. Two, it flips the accusation on its head by putting the onus of responsibility on the person who was wronged. This alters the atmosphere of the case and may sway the jury’s decision in favor of denying your claim.
However, even if the court finds that you were partially responsible for the accident, it is highly unlikely that you will no longer have any possibility of making a financial recovery of any kind. This is due to the fact that Georgia operates under a principle known as “comparative negligence.”
Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, even if the victim was the one who acted irresponsibly and put themselves in harm’s way, this does not excuse the other party from their responsibility for the accident.
The court considers each party’s level of carelessness in arriving at a verdict regarding the proportion of responsibility that should be assigned to them. Following that, you have the opportunity to win a recovery based on this number.
Take, for instance, the scenario in which you were hurt in a car accident that was caused by an intoxicated driver. Although they are primarily at fault for the accident, you were also breaking the law when it occurred because you turned right on a red light. It is possible that the judge will decide that the drunk driver was 80% responsible for the accident and that you were 20% responsible for the accident. If your claim is worth $10,000, you would be awarded $8,000, which is the portion of the loss that is attributable to the drunk driver.
Claiming the Victim Failed to Mitigate the Accident
Even if you were the one who was injured in the accident, you are still responsible for paying for some of the damages. Even if the damages are not your fault, the law expects you to act in a reasonable manner in order to mitigate them to the greatest extent possible.
For instance, if someone started a fire in your kitchen, a reasonable person would immediately contact the fire department to report the incident. If, on the other hand, you chose to observe the blaze from the outside, you would be contributing to the escalation of the damage. The person who started the fire can then defend themselves by arguing that you did not take adequate measures to limit the damage.
The following are some examples of common cases of failing to mitigate:
- Because you delayed getting medical attention after an accident, your injuries are now more severe than they would have been otherwise.
- You are claiming that you have lost wages, but you turned down work that paid.
- You did not take any action that could have lessened the severity of the damage to either the property or the people involved.
Even if the defendant did nothing to mitigate the damage, they are not completely off the hook. It merely lowers the total amount that they are required to pay you.
Failing to State a Claim
This is a more formal way of saying that the accident is not the defendant’s fault or that it does not meet the legal definition of negligence.
In a lawsuit for personal injury, you are required to demonstrate not only that you have sustained an injury but also that another party was negligent and that the other party’s negligence was the direct cause of the injury. It’s possible that the defendant will try to prove that your injury was caused by something else or that they weren’t negligent in any way at all. If they are successful, you do not stand a good chance of winning anything.
This defense essentially asserts that you do not have the right to file a lawsuit in the first place. Even if the defendant admits that they were responsible for your injury by “affirming” it, this does not change the fact that they have a valid legal defense against having to compensate you for your losses. This could be due to the fact that the time limit on your claim has passed, or it could be due to some other legal technicality.
The affirmative defense has the potential to result in the complete dismissal of your case in the event that it is successful. However, this happens very infrequently. If you retain a skilled attorney and submit your claim as soon as possible after the occurrence of your accident, it is highly unlikely that you will be confronted with an affirmative defense.
How Can I Get Past These Obstacles?
The advantage of filing a claim for personal injury is that, in comparison to other types of cases, it is much simpler to provide evidence of liability. To win, it is not necessary to demonstrate “beyond a reasonable doubt” that your claim is true. You need only demonstrate that, in light of the evidence, it’s most likely that the defendant was responsible for causing your injury.
Simply having a seasoned attorney working on your side is the most effective way to prove your case and win against the opposition. Competency in the law cannot be replaced by anything else.
If you were involved in a personal injury accident, contact The Brown Firm for a free consultation.
We will discuss your case and find out how we can best assist with the recovery of your losses.
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