Who Pays When a Personal Injury Lawsuit is Won?
Personal injury lawsuits allow victims harmed by negligent and wrongful acts to recover financial compensation for their damages, including their medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering, among other economic and non-economic damages. Who pays these damages, however, is always a matter of who can be held at-fault and liable.
Generally, the party that more likely than not (the burden of proof in civil lawsuits) caused a victim’s injuries will be held responsible for paying damages. Because every case is unique, however, the party who pays when a personal injury lawsuit is won will vary depending on the circumstances involved.
Below, our Florida personal injury lawyers provide a few examples of liability and how compensation payment may work in different types of cases.
Victims of car accidents pursue personal injury claims and lawsuits against the party responsible for their injuries. In many cases, this at-fault party is another driver who caused accidents and injuries as a result of their negligence (i.e. violating traffic laws, driving distracted, driving while under the influence, etc.). Although cases are filed against at-fault drivers, they are typically defended against and paid by that driver’s auto insurance provider.
While many car accident lawsuits involve payouts from the at-fault drivers (or more accurately their insurance company), there may be other circumstances where claims are paid by other parties. These can include, among others:
- Product manufacturers – Manufacturers can be held liable for defective products that led to a crash, such as defective tires or faulty airbags.
- Victim’s own insurance – When victims are harmed by drivers who are underinsured or uninsured, they can pursue compensation by filing claims with their own insurance provider (if they have UM/UIM coverage) who will pay them for their damages.
- Government entities – Government entities may pay lawsuits when their negligence caused injuries, such as when they fail to adequately maintain roadways.
- Drinking establishments – Under dram shop laws, bars and drinking establishments may be held liable for victims’ damages when they serve alcohol to a minor or “habitually addicted” person who later causes a drunk driving accident.
Victims harmed in accidents involving trucks and commercial vehicles will be paid compensation awarded in a lawsuit by the responsible party. These parties may include:
- Truck drivers – Truck drivers who cause wrecks due to their negligence or failure to comply with safety regulations can be held liable for serious injuries and damages. Because trucking companies are responsible for the conduct of their employees, it is often the case that the trucking operator pays victims harmed by negligent drivers.
- Trucking companies – In addition to paying victims harmed by their drivers, trucking companies can also be held liable for compensation payouts when they commit various acts of negligence or safety violations, including improperly loaded cargo and violations of hours-of-service rules.
- Maintenance companies – When a trucking operator contracts out maintenance work for its fleet to a third party company, victims may be paid – in part or whole – by maintenance companies that failed to meet standards and comply with regulations.
- Manufacturers – Jus as with car accidents, manufacturers of defective truck parts can be held liable for paying victims.
Product liability laws allow victims injured by unsafe and defective products to recover compensation, which may be paid by:
- Manufacturers – Product manufacturers have an obligation to ensure their products are safe for their intended use. Design flaws, manufacturing errors, poor quality control testing, and even failures to provide adequate warnings can result in manufacturers being held liable. These may include manufacturers of consumer products, pharmaceutical companies, or automakers.
- Distributors and retailers – In some cases, distributors and retailers can be named as defendants in product liability cases, particularly when they failed in some way to address potential hazards they knew or should have known about. A retailer that sells used vehicle parts, for example, can be held liable for damages if they provided a consumer with faulty or dangerous products they knew, or should have known, would pose risks.
Medical malpractice cases may involve a number of defendants who can be held liable for damages. Depending on the circumstances, these may include:
- A doctor – Doctors can be held liable for serious injuries and damages when they fail to treat patients in accordance to acceptable medical standards, or when they intentionally cause harm. Doctors are commonly employed as independent contractors, which means the hospitals at which they work may not always be held liable, and carry their own medical malpractice insurance.
- Medical professional – Injuries caused by negligent nurses, medical staff, or even administrative employees who make errors are often paid by the hospitals or facilities that employ them. This is because hospitals and health care providers are responsible for their employees’ conduct.
- Hospitals – Hospitals and other medical centers can be held liable for injuries caused by their employees, as well as negligent acts they commit. These may take the form of negligently allowing a medical professional with a known history of malpractice to use their facility, administrative or medical record errors, failing to maintain equipment, failing to address potential dangers on their premises, or failing to ensure hospital protocol and government regulations are being followed.
- Government – When medical malpractice takes place at a federally funded medical facility, such as the VA or a military hospital, victims may be able to pursue claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act against the federal government. FTCA claims entail unique rules and procedures.
Help for Seriously Injured Victims
It bears reminding that in many cases, at-fault parties are insured. This means insurance companies will be involved in defending their policyholders when lawsuits are filed against them, including their insured drivers, companies, and even doctors. As corporations, these insurance companies do everything in their power to pay as little as possible, and will often capitalize on their resources to dispute liability or deny and underpay claims. For this reason, it is important for victims to work with experienced injury attorneys who can level the playing field and fight to compel insurance companies into paying what victims are rightfully owed.
At Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Littky-Rubin & Whitman, our award-winning trial attorneys have extensive experience helping seriously injured victims and their families explore the most viable path for compensation, including who can be held liable for their damages. Contact us if you have questions about your rights or wish to discuss a potential claim during a free case evaluation.