THE PURPOSE OF INJURY LAW
Making wrongdoers give hurt people money for the harm and loss they cause is a little controversial. The money is often called “damages” or “damage awards”. (As shown below, “award” is really an improper way to describe money given to people hurt by others). It’s understandable businesses and insurance companies are generally against it: they don’t want to pay others what they could pay themselves in profits. But from a human standpoint, injury law is necessary. It is also important. And it’s not what a lot of folks think.
The goal of injury law, or tort law as it’s called, should be looked at from two different perspectives: the hurt person’s viewpoint and the wrongdoer’s standpoint.
THE HURT PERSON'S VIEWPOINT
Injury law is not “money for nothing.” It’s far from it. The purpose of damages, which is the money given in injury cases to the hurt person, is to compensate- to balance or equal out- for harm and loss caused by the wrongdoer. Money compensates for harm and loss in three important ways:
1. It fixes what can be fixed;
2. It helps what can be helped;
3. It replaces what cannot be fixed or helped.
Very briefly, fixes what can be fixed means repayment of medical bills that went to heal the injury or repayment of wages lost while the hurt person was recovering in the hospital or held out of work by the doctor. Helping what can be helped can mean future therapy or additional surgery needed to promote healing or reduce disability in a permanent injury; it could provide a specialized van for a paralyzed person so they can get around so they don’t have to rely on others as much. Replacing what cannot be fixed or helped is the value of harm and loss to the person, like time lost from doing things the person enjoys (like spending time with family and hobbies), permanent disability from doing simple things everyone takes for granted (walking short distances, lifting grocery bags, dressing and bathing) pain, loss of self-image, sadness and other harm and loss caused by serious injury. This is also called “pain and suffering” or “noneconomic damages”. Some folks think giving money for this harm and loss is “out of control.” But if you seriously think about it, aren’t these the things that really make life worth living? We are blessed to live in a society that values safety over money. When someone strips us of part of who we are or stops our lives in their tracks, injury law protects us by assuring us of fair compensation for harm and loss.
THE WRONGDOER'S VIEWPOINT
Injury law encourages us to watch out for others’ safety. For example, getting caught running a red light is a fine of a few hundred dollars. That risk can be a small price to pay for some. But when folks know if they run the red light and hurt someone, they’ll be called to account for all the harm they do - which can be thousands of dollars or more- folks are much more inclined to follow the rules, to do what’s right, to be mindful of others, even if it’s not convenient for them. And the law generally protects wrongdoers from paying outlandish amounts of money. Before a hurt person gets a dime from a jury, he must prove 4 very important things:
1. A rule protected the hurt person from being hurt;
2. The wrongdoer broke the rule;
3. Because the wrongdoer broke the rule, the wrongdoer caused harm and loss to the hurt person;
4. The hurt person had harm and loss.
Also, the verdict is reduced by any proportion the jury finds the hurt person’s own carelessness contributed to the event causing the injury. This is called comparative negligence. So if the jury decides the hurt person contributed 20%, the verdict is reduced by the judge by 20%. If the jury finds the hurt person contributed more than 50%, the hurt person gets nothing.
In sum, injury law is important and necessary because it keeps everyone safe by creating rules and meaningful consequences for breaking them.
Contact our offices toll free at 888-230-1841 or 864-582-0416 today to learn more about how we can benefit you with your case.