Winning a personal injury claim requires more than just negotiation skills. It also requires evidence, even if you never go to court. Evidence is anything you can use to make the fact you are trying to prove more or less likely to be true.
What You Have To Prove To Win a Personal Injury Claim
Legal elements of a personal injury claim are the facts you must prove in order to win your case. The nature of these legal elements varies according to what type of claim you’re trying to prove.
For example, you might be trying to prove a negligence claim, or you might be trying to prove a product liability claim. Different types of personal injury cases require you to establish different legal elements.
Most personal injury claims, however, are based on negligence. Negligence is the legal term that essentially means carelessness.
In a negligence claim, you must prove the following four legal elements:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care;
- The defendant breached their duty of care to you;
- The defendant’s breach of duty was the proximate cause of the injury that you suffered; and
- You sustained damages.
You must submit evidence to prove all of these elements of negligence.
The Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case
In most personal injury cases, you must prove your claim by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a formal legal standard, but all it really means is that you must establish that your side of the story is more likely than not to be true. Even a 51% likelihood is enough. If you are claiming punitive damages, however, you need to meet a higher burden of proof.
The Illinois Rules of Evidence
The Illinois Rules of Evidence limit the types of evidence you can submit to an Illinois court. In some places, they are quite counterintuitive. Your attorney will be familiar with the applicable rules and will know what is admissible.
Types of Evidence Used To Prove a Chicago Personal Injury Claim
Evidence can be divided into the following types:
- Real evidence: A knife, fingerprints, a wound on your body, and a DNA sample all qualify as real (or physical) evidence.
- Demonstrative evidence: Photographs, CCTV footage, and charts used by an expert witness qualify as demonstrative evidence.
- Documentary evidence: Examples include a waiver of liability with your signature at the bottom, a medical report, or an email.
- Testimonial evidence: Testimonial evidence is the evidence of a witness. There are two main types of witnesses used in personal injury trials. One is an eyewitness; the other is an expert witness. An eyewitness must have personal knowledge of facts, while an expert witness must have demonstrated expertise regarding a relevant issue.
Remember that just because you can classify evidence does not mean that the evidence is admissible. Evidence becomes admissible only if it complies with the Illinois Rules of Evidence.
The Pretrial Discovery Process
A problem you might face at the beginning of your claim is that you lack access to sufficient evidence to prove it. It can be difficult to obtain convincing evidence of nursing home neglect, for example. In many cases, the defendant holds most of the relevant evidence. The problem here is that the defendant is not very likely to be willing to hand over this evidence to you.
However, if they won’t hand over evidence or settle for a reasonable amount, Illinois law provides a way for you to proceed and win your claim. This is called the pretrial discovery process. This process allows you to compel the defendant to produce evidence that is in their possession. They can also compel you to produce evidence.
Filing a Lawsuit: The Prerequisite To the Discovery Process
To kick off the pre-trial discovery process, you must first file a formal lawsuit in the appropriate Illinois court. This requires you to file a formal written complaint. Just because you file a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean you will end up at trial. In fact, you probably won’t. You might file a lawsuit for the sole purpose of gaining access to the pretrial discovery process.
The Discovery Process
The pretrial discovery process gives you four legal weapons you can use against the defendant to gather evidence:
- Depositions: Out-of-court questioning of witnesses under oath
- Interrogatories: Written questions that the defendant must answer within a certain time frame
- Requests for Production: A demand that the defendant produce evidence for you to inspect
- Requests for Admissions: A request that the other side admit to certain facts; the parties typically cooperate in this particular activity in order to simplify the case
The defendant can issue the same types of demands against you. Either one of you can appeal to the court to institute coercive measures if the other side refuses to cooperate.
A Chicago Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You Identify and Collect Admissible Evidence
Don’t try to resolve a large or complex personal injury claim on your own. An experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer should know these rules by heart, and they can challenge your opponent if they try to submit inadmissible evidence. Don’t hesitate to contact Attorneys of Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers for a free initial consultation at (312) 929-2884.