How To Prepare a Plaintiff’s Case for Negligence
Your task as a plaintiff in a negligence case is quite simply to prove all of the elements of your case and to secure all damages to which you are entitled. We have discussed the elements of a negligence case. You must be prepared to prove all the components of negligence. If the facts of a motor vehicle case are disputed, you must present witnesses to support your view of the facts, and to discredit the opponent’s theory and the opponent’s witnesses. But don’t bring more than two fact witnesses to court; the judge is not likely to take the time to hear from more than two witnesses, unless the witnesses offer further information. If there is damage to your car or other property, have multiple copies of photographs of the damage, and multiple copies of any repair estimates or receipts. If there is personal injury, you should present photographs and medical receipts. Review Chapter __: Subpoenas, Witnesses, and Evidence to learn more about how to present your evidence, and the sorts of evidence that are most effective.
Beyond proving liability on the part of your opponent, you must also show damages. As a plaintiff, you want to present the highest amount of damages possible. There may be classes of damages that are available to a negligence plaintiff beyond the simple property damage and medical bills. In a negligence case, a plaintiff is entitled to recover those damages that flowed naturally and proximately from the negligent conduct.
Consider presenting evidence of all of the following classes of damages:
- Damage to property. This may seem obvious, but this would include damage to a car in an automobile accident, but also damage to personal property in the car, as well as clothing that was damaged in the accident.
- Medical expenses. Again, this may seem obvious, but this would include any doctor’s visits (less any insurance benefits that you receive) but would also include prescription medicines, medical supplies such as pain relievers and other pharmacy products. Just be prepared to show that the expenditures are related to your injury.
- Lost wages. This is a class of damages that plaintiff’s often miss. If you missed work following an accident due to your injuries, or because you needed to visit the doctor, your lost wages may be recoverable.
- Pain and suffering. Damages for pain and suffering are typical components of larger negligence cases. If you feel you are entitled to significant damages for pain and suffering, you are probably better off with a lawyer in superior court, not in small claims court. However, technically, damages for pain and suffering can be awarded in small claims court.
Damages in negligence cases cannot extend too far though. In small claims court, a plaintiff is very unlikely to be awarded any of the following:
- Punitive damages of any kind.
- Legal fees, unless specifically allowed by a statute.
- Damages for emotional distress.
- Damages for reputational loss.