The Civil Justice System and Personal Injury Cases
The justice system has been instrumental in American society, and it is essential in navigating a personal injury case. When people think of the American justice system, they often consider the criminal side. However, the American civil justice system is just as important. Although tort reform endeavors to limit aspects of the civil system, our courts are where all people have access to justice and their constitutional rights are upheld.
Personal Injury Cases Seek Justice
The very definition of justice demands fairness and equality. It is only fair for the person responsible for injuring another to be held accountable. It is also reasonable for the person accused of being at fault to have his or her day in court to prove otherwise.
Our civil justice system balances the playing field. It operates according to a set of rules and procedures. Those rules apply to everyone, no matter how much money or power they have. Because parties to a personal injury case must operate by the same rules, the courtroom is equal and no one is allowed the upper hand.
Accountability, Reparation, and Prevention
Personal injury is about seeking compensation from those who caused injuries to another. A personal injury case relies on the justice system to:
- Hold accountable those who are responsible
- Repair harm
- Prevent future injuries
In holding accountable those responsible, the civil justice system focuses on what will most benefit the person who was harmed. When a person is hurt in a car accident, by a defective product, or in any other personal injury situation, he or she likely has stacks of medical bills and lost income. Entire lives are altered for months or years, sometimes forever. A personal injury case seeks to obtain compensation from those responsible to make the injured person whole again. Although tort reform (PDF) has successfully limited the amount that plaintiffs can recover in some states, justice may still be attained through some amount of damages.
The civil justice system has in place an array of damages that may be recovered to repair harm done. Those damages differ among jurisdictions. In general, plaintiffs may be able to recover for the following:
- Medical costs
- Lost income
- Physical pain
- Mental anguish
- Physical impairment
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of use of property
One of the most important functions of the justice system is to prevent future injuries. In civil courts, this occurs by dissuading people from negligence and recklessness with the threat of monetary penalties and injured reputations. A corporation that knowingly exposes customers to a dangerous product is held accountable in court, and bad corporate behavior is hopefully curtailed.
Upholding Constitutional Rights
The civil justice system also works to protect Americans’ 7th Amendment right to a trial by jury. Any party in a personal injury case may elect a jury trial. While a jury may mean additional time and costs, it also means that the case will be analyzed by the parties’ peers. The United States justice system has a foundation of fairness and equality, and the civil system upholds that by ensuring all parties’ rights are valued.
Many members of the American Association for Justice specialize in personal injury cases, fighting to ensure that their clients receive justice when they've been harmed. AAJ is committed to protecting our 7th Amendment rights and keeping the courthouse doors open to everyone,
Jared Staver is a personal injury attorney and member of the American Association for Justice. His law firm, the Staver Law Group based in Chicago, specializes in car accidents, workplace accidents, and medical malpractice, among many other areas of personal injury.