Personal Injury In Arizona: An In-Depth Guide

Calculating Your Damages in Small Claims Court

Calculating damages in a personal injury case in small claims court can be complex. Familiarize yourself first with the small claims rules and restrictions in your jurisdiction for better chances of success. Once you’ve understood the process, calculate your damages as follows:

  1. Identify the monetary limit for small claims court in your jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction has a cap on damages awarded in small claims court. This limit varies from state to state. Make sure your claim is within these limits.
  2. Calculate your economic damages. Economic damages are the financial loss you have suffered as a result of your injury caused by the accident. These may include:
    a. Medical expenses. Compile all injury-related bills, including costs for doctor visits, surgeries, medication, medical equipment, and rehabilitation.
    b. Lost wages. Calculate the income you lost if you missed work due to your injury.  You may include used sick leave or vacation time, as well as any potential loss of future earning capacity.
    c. Property damage. If your personal property was damaged because of the accident, make sure to add the cost of repair or replacement in your calculation.

Calculating Your Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are non-material losses you have suffered due to your injury. Proving and determining these damages can be more difficult in small claims court. They can include:

  1. Pain and suffering. Assess the physical pain and psychological distress you suffered as a result of the injury. 
  2. Loss of enjoyment of life. Consider the impact of your injury on your ability to participate in activities you used to enjoyed.
  3. Emotional distress. Assess for psychological effects of the injury, such as anxiety, depression or sleep disturbances.
  4. Document your damages. Collect evidence of both economic and non-economic damages. These may include medical records, receipts, pay slips, written statements from witnesses, and photos or videos of your injuries or the accident scene.
  5. Prepare a demand letter. A demand letter details your damages and the compensation you seek for the injuries caused by the accident. Be clear and concise and include supporting documents. It’s best to ask a personal injury lawyer to check your demand letter if you will write it yourself. This letter will be sent to the responsible party or parties and/or their respective insurance companies to give them ample time to respond before proceeding with your small claims case.

Remember that each jurisdiction has specific rules and procedures for calculating damages in small claims court. Thus, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with local requirements.

‘Intervening’ and ‘Superseding’ Causes in a Personal Injury Case

In a personal injury case, intervening and superseding causes are events or actions that happen following the defendant’s initial negligent act that also contribute to the plaintiff’s injuries. These concepts play an important role in determining liability and can affect the outcome of a personal injury case. Here’s a short explanation of each term:

  • Intervening Cause. An intervening cause is an event or act that follows after the defendant’s initial act of negligence, contributing to the plaintiff’s injury, but does not completely break the chain of causation. It happens between the defendant’s negligent act and the plaintiff’s injury, and the defendant may still be held liable for the resulting damages. Intervening causes are often foreseeable events that the defendant could have anticipated and prevented.
  • Superseding Cause. A superseding cause is an independent event or act that occurs following the defendant’s initial negligence and is so unexpected or unforeseeable that it breaks the chain of causation and relieves the defendant of liability. This means that the superseding cause is considered the primary cause of the plaintiff’s injury and the defendant is no longer liable.

“Respondeat Superior” in a Personal Injury Case

Respondeat superior” holds employers or principals responsible for the negligent actions of their employees or agents in a personal injury case, as long as those acts happened within the scope of their employment or representation. The expression “respondeat superior” is from Latin word, meaning “let the master answer.” 

In a personal injury case, respondeat superior may apply if:

  1. There is an employer-employee or principal-agent relationship. The person causing the injury must be an employee or agent of the defendant (the employer or principal). Independent contractors are usually not covered under respondeat superior.
  2. The negligent act occurred within the scope of employment or agency. The employee or agent’s acts causing the injury must happen during the performance of their duties or while acting on behalf of the employer or principal. Acts reasonably related to the employee’s job responsibilities are included here.

The application of respondeat superior is different for every jurisdiction, and some exceptions and limitations may apply. Consult with a skilled personal injury attorney familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction to understand how respondeat superior may apply in your case.

The “Last Clear Chance” Rule in Personal Injury Law

“Last Clear Chance” rule can be applied in certain jurisdictions, particularly in cases involving contributory negligence. This rule allows a plaintiff (the injured party), who was also negligent, to recover damages from the defendant (the other party) if the defendant had the last clear opportunity to prevent the accident, but did not do so. It is an exception to the strict rule of contributory negligence, which can stop a plaintiff from recovering any damages if they were even slightly at fault for the accident.

For this rule to apply, the following elements must be present:

  1. The plaintiff must have been endangered due to their own negligence.
  2. The defendant must be aware (or should have been aware) of the plaintiff’s dangerous situation.
  3. The defendant must have had a clear opportunity to avoid harming the plaintiff.
  4. The defendant did not take the necessary steps to prevent the accident or harm when he had the last clear chance to do so.

Speak with an attorney in your jurisdiction to understand how the last clear chance rule or other negligence doctrines may apply to your personal injury case.