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Using Proximate Cause, Circumstantial Evidence in a Personal Injury CaseThe strongest argument that you can make in a personal injury case comes from having direct evidence of the actual cause of an injury. Your first-hand account or the testimony of a witness can directly connect the negligence of another party with the incident that led to your injury. Unfortunately, some cases lack direct evidence of what caused an accident, such as a wrongful death incident that no one witnessed. You can use proximate cause and circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant’s liability, but the court will need to be convinced that it is the most plausible explanation.

Proximate Cause

As opposed to the actual cause, proximate cause is a factor that led to an injury or death, even if it was not the direct cause. The proximate cause may be an act of negligence or recklessness that set in motion the events that resulted in an injury. Courts determine that a factor is the proximate cause of an injury if the injury could have been avoided if not for that factor. For instance:

  • When you are in a car accident, the other vehicle may have been the actual cause of your injuries; but
  • If a faulty car part caused the other driver to lose control of the vehicle, the equipment malfunction would be the proximate cause of the accident and the party that made or installed the equipment is liable.

Circumstantial Evidence

When you do not have direct evidence of what caused an accident, you can present circumstantial evidence that you believe infers the cause of the accident. Circumstantial evidence may be observations or witness testimony that reasonably points towards the cause of an injury. A court will accept circumstantial evidence as establishing a fact if that fact is the only probable conclusion that it can draw from that evidence.

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Deciding Whether to Take a Public Injury SettlementMany personal injury cases end with a settlement before heading to court. By filing a personal injury claim, you may receive a settlement offer from the liable party or its insurer. Accepting a settlement is quicker and less expensive than filing a lawsuit, although you would likely receive more compensation in a successful lawsuit. However, there are situations where it is wiser to file a lawsuit than accept a settlement. A personal injury attorney will consider several factors when advising you on your case:

  1. How Much Is the Liable Party Offering?: The insurance company would prefer to pay you the minimum amount necessary in response to your injury claim. You must consider whether the settlement amount will fully cover your injury expenses. The insurer may dispute the extent of your injuries or whether certain treatments are necessary for your recovery. Some insurers have a maximum payable amount for injury claims. You may need to file a lawsuit if the insurer cannot or will not offer enough compensation for your injury.
  2. How Much Do You Need For Pain and Suffering?: An out-of-court settlement can include compensation for pain and suffering if your injury caused a decline in your quality of life. However, compensation for pain and suffering can be a subjective amount, even if both sides agree that it should be part of the settlement. There are different formulas to quantify pain and suffering compensation, and some of the values in the formulas depend on how severe you consider the injury to be. By filing a lawsuit, you can let the court decide the appropriate amount of pain and suffering compensation.
  3. How Strong Is Your Case?: Illinois uses comparative fault when determining the amount to award in a personal injury lawsuit. Even if the court finds in your favor, it can decrease your award if it determines you were partially at fault for the incident that caused your injuries. You will receive nothing from the case if the court decides that the defendant was not at fault or that you were more than half at fault for the injury. If there is serious doubt about who was at fault, you may risk receiving less from the lawsuit than you would from the settlement.

Contact a McHenry County Personal Injury Attorney

Before deciding whether to accept a settlement, you should speak to a Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury lawyer at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, to determine if it is a fair offer or if you would benefit more by filing a lawsuit. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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How Social Media Can Hurt Your Personal Injury CaseReceiving the monetary compensation that you deserve in your personal injury case depends on convincing the court of the extent of your injury and the negative effect it has had on your life. You present detailed medical reports as evidence of your physical condition and have other people testify on how the injury limits your activity and enjoyment of life. The defense’s job is to try to discredit your evidence and show that your pain and suffering is not as bad as you claim. In recent years, defenses have turned to social media to find evidence against personal injury claimants.

Contradictory Statements

Under no circumstances should you discuss the details of your personal injury case on social media – publicly or privately. When talking about your injury, you may say something that contradicts the case you are presenting in court, such as:

  • The circumstances that led to your injury;
  • Your physical limitations as a result of the injury; and
  • The emotional suffering that the injury has caused you.

Never assume that a conversation on social media will remain private. The defense is looking for evidence that may cast doubt on your motivations for the lawsuit and need for compensation.

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Tort Immunity Makes It Difficult to Collect Injury Compensation from PoliceWhen can a police officer be held liable for causing a traffic accident that results in personal injury to another party? Illinois gives officers tort immunity in situations where they are responding to an emergency. The officer’s driving actions could be negligent, reckless or illegal, but the police department would be protected from civil penalties as long as the officer was in the process of enforcing the law. While it may be necessary to allow officers to respond to emergencies without worrying about civil repercussions, it can deny car crash victims the chance to receive compensation when someone else was at fault for their accident.

Exceptions to Immunity

A court will allow you to file a personal injury lawsuit against a police department if you can prove one of two circumstances:

  • The officer was not engaged in executing the law at the time of the crash; or
  • The officer’s conduct showed a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.

It can be difficult to prove either of these exceptions. Courts tend to give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt when they claim that their actions were necessary or part of their job. A recent case shows how much leeway the law gives police officers who are involved in car accidents.

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Five Types of Catastrophic Injuries and Their EffectsThere is no legal definition for a catastrophic injury in a personal injury case, but general consensus defines it as an injury that permanently affects your ability to work or enjoy your life. Suffering a catastrophic injury may entitle you to substantial compensation if another party was at fault for the accident. You will need the money to pay for expensive medical treatments and therapy, as well as to replace your lost income or to train you for a new career. Your lost quality of life is more difficult to quantify, though compensation for pain and suffering should help. Here are five types of catastrophic injuries, each debilitating in its own way:

  1. Brain Injuries: Suffering a fractured skull or concussion can result in traumatic brain injuries. A minor brain injury can cause headaches, dizziness and troubling thinking, but the prognosis for recovery is usually good. A severe brain injury can cause longer-lasting or permanent symptoms, such as problems with memory, speech, or bodily functions.
  2. Spinal Injuries: Spinal cord injuries are often associated with paralysis, loss of feeling and the inability to control bladder and bowel functions. The severity of the symptoms depends on where the injury occurred and whether it is a complete or incomplete injury. The injury will affect a greater part of the body when it is higher on the spinal cord. An incomplete injury may allow some feeling and movement, while there is a low chance of recovering from a complete injury.
  3. Limb Loss: Victims can lose body parts when they are severed as the result of an accident or when the extent of the damage forces doctors to amputate. In some cases, a severed body part can be reattached, followed by painful rehabilitation. Otherwise, losing a finger or limb will permanently change how a person functions.
  4. Organ Damage: A ruptured organ, such as a liver or kidney, is often a medical emergency because it can cause internal bleeding. The victim may be able to recover with time, but there can be long-lasting symptoms if doctors had to remove part of the organ due to damage or infection.
  5. Severe Burns: Third-degree burns can cause severe disfigurement, chronic pain, loss of sensation, or disablement of part of a body. Even if the long-term effects are purely cosmetic, that may still diminish the person’s quality of life.

Contact a McHenry County Personal Injury Lawyer

No amount of money may ever feel like enough to pay for a catastrophic injury, but you need the compensation for practical purposes. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can tell you how much compensation you can expect to receive for your injury, based on similar cases. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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