Understanding the Common Defenses Used in Personal Injury Cases

As you can imagine, defendants in personal injury cases (and their attorneys) will do everything possible to try and convince the court that the accident wasn't their fault, that the plaintiff's lawyer hasn't proven their case, or that the plaintiff did something wrong or wasn't really hurt. The most common defense used against a personal injury lawsuit is contributory negligence. This means that the defendant will attempt to blame the plaintiff for all or most of the injuries. In DC, Maryland, and Virginia, contributory negligence is the rule.

This means that if a plaintiff is found to have any amount of fault for their accident, they cannot recover compensation from the defendant. However, the District of Columbia applies comparative fault to crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists. Additionally, if a plaintiff signs a liability waiver, they may lose their right to seek compensation. But these disclaimers do not permanently prohibit individuals from filing a lawsuit if the defendant was grossly negligent or caused the injury or accident on purpose. The statutory limitation period is the legal time you have to file your claim.

In most state and civil lawsuits, this deadline is two years. A very common defense is “you're to blame too” - meaning that the defendant could claim that you were also negligent at the time of the accident. This defense activates New York's pure comparative negligence rule, where a jury assigns a percentage of fault to each party involved. This is known as a surrogate cause. The defendant could also claim that you are not responsible because you knew the risks of what you were doing.

This is known as the risk-taking doctrine and it protects places that allow people to participate in potentially risky or dangerous activities, such as playing or watching a sport. If the jury agrees with this defense, you will be denied compensation. If they partially agree, then your compensation could be limited due to comparative negligence. If you pay to do something potentially dangerous, such as going to a trampoline park, you may have to sign a liability waiver. Or some establishments place a liability waiver on the back of the ticket and say that you're okay with it by paying the ticket price.

In New York, the validity of a liability waiver depends on several factors, including several statutes that make certain exemptions from liability unenforceable. If you signed an exemption along with paying for admission to a recreational activity, such as a pool or gym, then this exemption is void. In addition, neither a minor nor their parents can waive their right to sue someone for negligence. Years ago, family members couldn't sue each other for injuries - this type of defense was created when a child tried to sue a parent - but New York later got rid of this defense of family immunity. When filing a personal injury lawsuit, plaintiffs can only seek compensation for harm caused by another person's negligence. Analyzing personal injury law can be complicated due to burden of proof and how each element is proved.

For example, some injuries may have been avoided if the plaintiff had worn a seatbelt; therefore, defendants will argue against these injuries by saying that the plaintiff did not prevent them. The term “beyond a reasonable doubt” describes the burden of proof required to win a criminal case but it is not commonly used in personal injury cases. Fortunately, lawyers can defend plaintiffs against these unjust accusations by showing that any new injuries are unrelated or that past injuries were aggravated. If someone has suffered serious injuries in an accident caused by another person's negligence then it seems logical that they should be held responsible for any losses incurred. Understanding how burden of proof applies to personal injury cases can change how we view those television and movie scenes. In personal injury cases, plaintiffs must demonstrate that their claims are “more likely than false” compared to what the defendant's case. Personal injury law can be complex and difficult to understand without expert guidance from an experienced attorney.

It is important for victims of accidents caused by another person's negligence to understand their rights and how they can protect themselves from unjust defenses used by defendants in court.

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