We continue our series on the anatomy of civil personal injury trial in Oregon.
“Resting your case” means that you have submitted all of the evidence you feel is necessary to prove all of the elements of your claim. In a civil personal injury claim in Oregon, there are three basic elements to a negligence claim: 1. Fault; 2. Damages; 3. “Causation” (which is the connection between the fault and the damages elements). When an attorney “rests,” he must be sure that all elements of the claim or proven. Otherwise, the opposing attorney can ask the court to direct a verdict against the plaintiff, which essentially dismisses the case. Let’s take a closer look at how an attorney would prove the elements of a civil personal injury case in Oregon.
This part of the case involves proving responsibility. In an auto collision injury claim, both fact an expert witnesses may be used to establish responsibility. Often times, accident scene photographs, measurements, and other demonstrative aids will help the jury consider evidence of who caused the collision. In some cases, actual physical evidence, like skid marks, road gouges, or damaged vehicles may come into play.
In most cases, an expert opinion is required to establish damages. For example, in most cases, a plaintiff must have an expert opinion to show that he suffered a certain injury as a result of the collision. A plaintiff also must have an expert opinion to show that the medical care he underwent was both related to the collision, and necessary to treat the injuries from the collision. Finally, a medical expert is required to prove that the amount charged for the medical care was “reasonable.”
Another element of proving damages involves “non-economic” damages, which represent compensation for the loss of health as a result of the injuries. Often times, whether the injury will cause permanent impairment is a significant issue, and in order to establish permanent impairment, a plaintiff must provide a medical opinion that his or her injuries caused some form of permanent impairment.
Other kinds of damage can be proven with a lay person opinion. For example, a plaintiff could prove the amount of income she was earning at the time of the collision by simply testifying to the jury about her earnings. Although this is “good enough” to allow a jury to consider a lost wage claim, it is a better practice to provide supporting documents, like wage earning records, and even tax returns. Also, if an injured plaintiff is making a claim that her injuries will cause a future loss of income, the medical cause of the inability to perform future work requires an expert opinion, and the calculation of the amount of the future loss may also require an expert economist to testify.
This is often the most overlooked element of an Oregon auto injury claim. In some cases, it is obvious that a significant auto collision caused an injury. However, when it comes to proving the nature and extent of the injury, and how much it will interfere with a plaintiff’s life in the future, expert opinions are critical. Many times, an insurance defense attorney will contact a medical expert known to testify in a certain way to support an argument that a plaintiff does not have permanent injury. A plaintiff must be ready to establish that the injury she claimed developed as a result of the collision, and whether not there is injuries are permanent.
Once a plaintiff sufficiently proves all of these elements, her attorney can “rest the case.”
If you have an injury claim in Oregon or Washington, and have questions about whether your case will go to trial, call us at 503-325-8600. We handle injury cases every day, and can give you an idea of all potential scenarios.