Rarely if ever would a judge determine a monetary amount for a personal injury claim. While a judge can act as the jury (i.e. the trier of fact), an overwhelming amount of attorneys representing injured clients request a jury (as do the person or entity that caused the injury). More likely, the person or entity that would determine the amount of monetary compensation for a personal injury victim, would be an arbitrator or a jury, depending on the estimated monetary value of the claim from the outset.
A claim filed in an Arizona superior court requires the claimant to determine whether the claim is subject to arbitration or not subject to arbitration. Claims with an estimated value of $50,000 or less would be subject to an arbitration while claims with an estimated value greater than $50,000 would be subject to trial, almost always a trial by jury. An arbitrator in Arizona is a randomly selected attorney that has been practicing for five years or more.
Regardless of whether the case goes to arbitration or trial, the factors that are relied upon in determining the monetary compensation for any given injured victim is the same. A jury and an arbitrator must apply the law to the facts presented to them.
It is important to understand that an injured victim is compensated for his or her loss or damage in an amount to make the victim whole; i.e. an amount that places the victim in the position he or she was in prior to the injury sustained. An arbitrator’s decision or a jury’s verdict may result in compensation to the victim (provided the victim is able to prove his or her case).
The compensation received is not considered “gain” because the victim gained nothing and is merely being placed back in their pre-injury status. Understanding this underlying principle is paramount when understanding the types of damages a victim may be entitled to in a personal injury lawsuit.
Under Arizona law, a victim of a personal injury is entitled to the full cost of his/her medical expenses, now and in the future, pain, discomfort, suffering, disability, disfigurement and anxiety already experienced and reasonably probable to be experienced in the future. These victims are also entitled to recover for loss of earnings to date, any decrease in earning power or capacity in the future as well as the loss of enjoyment of life (the participation in life’s activities to the quality and extent normally enjoyed before the injury). Depending on the nature and extent of the injury, a victim may be entitled to loss of credit, loss of consortium (love, affection, intimacy, etc.).
The damages are specific to the losses actually suffered by the victim and are still subject to the rigors of proof and must be causally related to the conduct of the wrongdoer. Any compensation determined by a judge or jury is entirely reliant upon these referenced factors and is not arbitrarily premised on a whim.