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Personal Injuries & Perspectives In Maryland

Posted on: January 20, 2016

The Black Corvette

Today, while I was on the way to court, in Fairfax, VA, a maniac in a black corvette driving at no less than 100 mph and changing lanes erratically cut me off. He almost killed me and whoever else was behind me. Thankfully, it was a near miss, and I am still alive. Yet, there’s no real recourse. I didn’t have a chance to get his license plate. It all happened to fast. And so,  I have no recourse against this jerk whoever they are. Maybe one day when every car has a camera, we’ll be a little safer. But today, that dark rider is just out there breaking the law, and that behavior will continue until he/she wrecks some pour soul.

But thank goodness our country has a justice system that will inevitably protect the person this loser ultimately maims or kills through his reckless driving. Because sooner or later, it’s going to happen.

Personal Injuries and Perspectives

People who are injured by someone else’s negligence or even recklessness are entitled to seek compensation from that individual by law. The law values humans, their pain, and their injuries and upholds the rights of the injured. The law is designed to allow for fairness and to promote justice. This is the basis of the field of tort law (personal injury law.) Unfortunately, in the world of personal injury, despite its simple foundation, the air is rife with media criticism and misunderstanding. What fosters this criticism? Well for one, I think, misperceptions about the law are out there. Sensationalized news stories promote cynicism or call out outrageous verdicts. Insurance carriers regularly run television advertisements discussing claims fraud, even though it’s really not all that common. With all the smoke and mirrors being thrown about, misconceptions about injury and pain seem to be regular occurances and can have unintended consequences to those who really need the protection of the law.

When Rights Get Skewed

Personal injury law stands for the proposition that people who injure others should be held accountable. Even more importantly, injured folks should be compensated for their injuries in the best and really only way our society knows how to; with money. The negligent jerk described above, if he hurts someone’s spouse or kid, as I’m sure he eventually will, won’t be able to take it back. He certainly won’t be able to undo the pain he’s caused. Our justice system is the only way we can even begin to approach making the injured victim become whole again. This is the whole reason we have judges and juries, to decide matters like this. And the amount of damages awarded, (it should be noted) changes with every case and depends upon just about every fact of the case. (and is decided by a judge or a jury, no less)

For example, who can forget the McDonald’s hot coffee case? The damages were a topic of ridicule for years to follow. The plaintiff herself was made a mockery by the media. All this in spite of her true, genuine, and severe injuries and first degree burns to her genitals. The general public has no conception of the actual injuries suffered in that case. Were they to research it on their own, they would be stunned.

Fast forward to last October and the media found itself eating its words (headlines) calling a Connecticut woman “The Worst Aunt Ever” for a perfectly legitimate matter of insurance. The point is that injured individuals have the right to seek compensation. This is a fundamental right in this country to protect citizens of this country. The judge and jury assess the amount of damages and so claimants should not be stigmatized or judged because of the amount of damages they are awarded. Nor should they be stigmatized as litigious, spiteful or petty, for merely making a claim, when they are entitled to do so by law.

Sensationalized Suits

The trouble with the promotion of so-called nonsensical civil lawsuits is that the purpose of the justice system is undermined. Filing a lawsuit does not mean, and cannot mean, that all of the facts are on the table. Initiating a lawsuit begins a phase of litigation called Discovery. Discovery is the mechanism for making the defendant (and his or her attorney) cooperate. Without legal counsel or without a lawsuit the defendant does not even need to acknowledge the plaintiff or his or her injuries. Oftentimes, a determination of all the relevant facts cannot even be made UNTIL the lawsuit is filed and discovery is commenced. Many companies and powerful corporations have habits of stonewalling claimants and refusing to turn over relevant and valuable evidence to them, absent a subpoena, which in many cases even forces the claimants to have to file a lawsuit, when matters could otherwise be resolved amicably if everyone was just honest with each other and put all the facts on the table.

The bottom line is, once counsel is involved and the judge is refereeing the case, the lawsuit really gets its wings. A plaintiff does not have to be sure that they have the right defendant, that the defendant is liable, or that they are going to earn big money to begin a lawsuit. They need to be sure that they have been injured and that someone else might be responsible and that the suit is being filed in good faith, against who they believe to be the right party, with a good faith legal basis to make the claim. Sometimes claimants turn out to be right and the jury agrees with them. Sometimes they don’t and they lose. And that is the purpose of our justice system. To sort the wheat from the chaff, and ideally like the financial markets we hope, the system will eventually arrive at the right answer.

No, not every lawsuit ends in justice. Yes, some lawsuits may be a waste of time. But that is the ultimately point of having a system that can sort through all that and get the right asnwers.  Most impotantly, it is important to have a general understanding of your rights as an injured party and the function of a personal injury lawsuit. The system serves to benefit the injured and make the Plaintiff whole, insofar as they can PROVE THEIR CASE.  If they can’t prove it, then the system kicks them to the curb.If the personal injury system goes unused, that benefit is forfeited, plain and simple.

Very much like gun laws in this country, you can choose to own a gun or you can choose not to, but that choice is still yours. As is the choice to seek compensation if you are wronged. And if such a system is ever abolished, then a valuable right will be lost.So before you judge all lawyers as money hungry (insert insult here) or all claimants as (insert same insult) just imagine if it was you or your family who was injured. Then ask yourself if you would fight for justice to make things right. I know I would. And if you are hurt and you want me to fight for you too, call me. Because while the world isn’t fair, maybe we can make a difference.

Justin Katz is a personal injury lawyer who represents injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
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