A Primer on the Civil Justice System for People Following a SCI

A Primer on the Civil Justice System for People Following a SCI

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On average, the typical US citizen isn’t fully versed on the details of the US civil justice system. While this is not a problem for most people, if you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury and plan on filing a personal injury lawsuit, it is in your best interest to understand how the civil justice system works. To help educate everyone involved, we’ve put together an overview of the civil justice system that you can refer to as needed.

Federal vs. State Courts

In the United States, the court system is divided into two separate court systems. There is the Federal Court, which is also known as the Supreme Court. This includes the lower Federal Courts. And then there is a State Court system. The State Court system has a strict organized hierarchy. Superior Courts are at the top of the State Court System, with a judge that rules on the various cases. Typically, most civil cases (personal injury lawsuits) are handled by the Superior Courts in the State Court System.

Plaintiff vs. Defendant

It is important to know the terminology used in the civil court system. The injured party who is filing the personal injury lawsuit (you) is considered the “plaintiff.” The person or entity you are filing the lawsuit against is the “defendant.”

What Is a Civil Case?

If you’ve become paralyzed due to a car accident, an injury that occurred on the grounds of a public entity or government property, on private property, medical error or in any other manner where someone might be at fault, it is considered a civil case. While many civil cases are over property, money and contracts, many civil cases are also over the personal health of the plaintiff. This is called a personal injury lawsuit. In a civil case such as this, the plaintiff will seek financial compensation for their injuries.

How Is the Civil Suit Amount Calculated?

As for the amount asked for in a personal injury lawsuit/civil case, this is determined by multiple factors – medical bills, future medical costs, wages lost, home modifications and medical equipment that will be needed over the lifespan of the plaintiff. These are just some of the expenses considered. This varies as well depending on the plaintiff.

How Long Will It Take for My Case to be Resolved?

This can be a difficult question to answer. In many civil cases, a spinal cord injury-related personal injury lawsuit can be resolved within months. Most lawyers want to resolve the case as soon as possible in order to avoid the statute of limitations expiring, as well as to get to the financial compensation you need as soon as possible to pay for your rehabilitation needs, and will opt that you settle out of court. If your case goes to trial, it will likely take longer.

The above is a general primer on how the US civil court system works. While a spinal cord injury will turn your life upside-down, the civil court system has remained the same for hundreds of years. As lawyers with personal spinal cord injury experience, we are here to help.


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