Damages are the most difficult topic for any attorney: how do i convey adequately to a jury what my client has experienced? Compensatory damages are supposed to “make you whole” to put the injured party back in the same place you were prior to the injury.
Negligence in its most simple terms is a breach of an owed duty and damages proximately caused by that breach. Proximate cause is best understood as a chain of events that in a natural and direct sequence that are more likely than not to cause such injury. Damages, entitling the person to lost wages, medical bills, permanent injury, scarring, loss of use of a part of the body and pain and suffering, are called compensatory damages. Medical expenses seem the most obvious damage to recover, but are often some of the most fought.
In North Carolina our jury instruction states that all medical expenses reasonably incurred as a result of the defendant’s negligence should be awarded. The reasonableness of the medical expense – both the amount as well as the necessity of having that particular treatment is often in dispute by insurance defense attorneys. Medical testimony is necessary to demonstrate the correlation between the actual injury and the negligent conduct. Depositions are often taken of physicians where their professional opinions as to the relationship of the collision and the injury is asked; “Dr. Smith, do you have an opinion, satisfactory to yourself and to a reasonable degree of medical certainty whether the automobile collision of XXXX date was a cause of Mr. Jone’s herniated disc?” These complex opinion questions lead to the necessary evidentiary proof of plaintiff’s injury. Lost wages are more complex and encompass more than just the actual amount of “lost wages” but also include the amount of lost future income, loss of ability to earn wages and loss of wage earning capacity. Again, the injured party must prove the amount of a loss as more likely than not to be true.
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Harms are also difficult to prove. The courts do little to assist jurors with determining the value of harms. Instead they instruct the jury that they are to use logic and common sense to determine the amount of pain and suffering and that no specific number was correct. Again the victim of the collision must prove his/her damages are more likely than not to be true. When proving negligence it is imperative to have medical testimony as to every issue in the case that is to be proven.