Jurors are hearing testimony in a case that involved an allegedly intoxicated UK student who struck and killed a 4-year-old child.
Initially, jurors heard from the deceased boy’s father. He gave some general details about the day, but he could remember little about the accident itself. An eyewitness who claimed he “had a clear view of what was going on” testified that the driver appeared to be speeding when he struck the child. Additionally, a police investigator testified that the driver said he was fatigued after staying up most of the night and that he was mildly intoxicated. Another investigator discussed physical evidence found at the scene.
Defense lawyers disputed the severity of the wreck and the driver’s speed at the moment of the collision. They also disputed his level of intoxication. He blew a .05 after the accident, which is above the legal limit for a minor but well below the legal definition of intoxication.
Over 95 percent of civil and criminal claims settle out of court. So, trials only happen in rare and extraordinary situations. The above story certainly qualifies as both, in terms of responsibility for the accident and the appropriate amount of compensation, which is usually restitution in a criminal case.
There is some dispute as to whether the at-fault driver was intoxicated or not. Furthermore, it’s difficult or impossible to determine the amount of emotional and financial support a 4-year-old boy would have given loved ones over the coming decades.
In many civil claims, these issues are not seriously disputed. As a result, a Lexington personal injury attorney is usually able to settle such cases with a demand letter. Attorneys usually send these letters once medical treatment is at least substantially complete. At that point, lawyers can usually determine the claim’s settlement value, a number which is like a new car’s sticker price. Both figures serve as a starting point for settlement negotiations.
If liability and damages are relatively clear, the insurance company has a legal duty to settle the case within about a month. However, there is often at least some question in one or both of these areas.
In terms of liability, comparative fault, a doctrine that shifts accident blame to victims, is the most common legal defense. As for damages, disputes often arise over the necessity of current treatments and the probability of future medical expenses.
Even if such issues are not very convoluted, insurance companies often use them as an excuse to drag their feet. The longer an insurance company keeps settlement money in its bank account, the more interest it earns.
The Legal Process in a Civil Claim
So, largely to pressure the insurance company into a settlement, most attorneys file legal paperwork rather quickly. If they did not do so, the case would languish, and settlement might not ever happen.
Almost immediately, most insurance company lawyers file procedural motions that challenge various aspects of the case, such as the sufficiency of the proof. As long as attorneys have diligently collected evidence and are otherwise prepared, these motions usually fail. People who do their daily homework typically do well on subsequent tests.
Discovery is usually the next phase. Kentucky law requires both sides to place all their cards on the table in terms of their claims and defenses. During discovery, many victims must give oral depositions and submit to independent medical examinations.
By the time discovery ends, both parties are fairly certain about the strengths, and weaknesses, of their positions. This knowledge usually sets the stage for a successful mediation. Before they work with a third-party mediator, both sides usually have a pretty clear idea of how the talks will end.
These talks usually happen over the course of a full day. After each attorney makes brief opening remarks, both sides retire to separate rooms. A mediator then conveys settlement offers and counter-offers back and forth between them. Usually, the sides gradually come closer toward an agreement, so a mediator can gently, or sometimes not so gently, push them together.
Out-of-court settlements are good for victims. Because the case ends sooner, victims get paid sooner. Additionally, mediation gives the parties more control over the outcome.
Personal Injury Trials in Fayette County
Since the above story involves a criminal trial, prosecutors must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But in civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. So, a little evidence usually goes a long way.
A complex personal injury trial, like a wrongful death trial, might take several days or even several weeks. There are normally a number of eyewitnesses and expert witnesses. However, the case could settle at any time. In fact, a significant number of the cases we handle settle immediately after the jury is sworn in. At that point, things get real for the insurance company.
If there was a substantive mistake at trial, like a juror Googling the accident or an incompetent witness testifying, an appeal might be possible. Appeals usually do not succeed unless the complained-of error was completely off the rails.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We routinely handle matters in Fayette County and nearby jurisdictions. #goodelawyers