Most personal injury cases are simple. There is a plaintiff and a defendant. The plaintiff is the person filing the claim. The defendant is the person at fault. But not every personal injury case works out this way. Sometimes there are multiple plaintiffs. Sometimes there are multiple defendants. How does the court system approach higher profile cases like these? The easiest way to provide an adequate explanation is by providing examples.
According to the Metro West Daily News, there was a serious hit-and-run car accident in Framingham several days ago. Seven people were injured during the collision and subsequently taken to the hospital. Two women were then arrested and charged. Generally, only one person is charged for a hit-and-run, but in this case both women left the vehicle and fled the scene.
Lieutenant Rachel Mickens explained, “The driver and the passenger (of the vehicle that struck the parked vehicle) both got out and fled on foot.”
To make matters worse, one of the women struck a bystander who began recording in the aftermath of the incident. The driver of the vehicle who struck the parked vehicle was also intoxicated. These facts led to several criminal charges — but could also lead to serious civil liability.
Each of the seven people has the right to sue both women who were involved in the hit-and-run, as does the witness who was assaulted. The women face years in jail and steep fines if convicted (and restitution to the victims), but they could also face very high penalties in civil court (and perhaps even punitive damages).
The women were charged with leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in an injury, intimidation of a witness, disorderly conduct, and driving to endanger. Prosecutors could easily add charges later if the women prove uncooperative or fail to take a plea deal. Convictions in criminal court will make it far easier for plaintiffs to win in civil court.
These cases are still somewhat small though. Often, one or multiple damaged parties will sue one or more companies. These cases involve months or years of ongoing litigation, appeals, and payouts that can reach millions of dollars. It’s also more difficult to win cases against massive corporations that have access to legal help that individuals probably don’t.
New lawyers who haven’t yet made a name for themselves are more likely to start with small court cases or try to win settlements outside of court. Bigger lawsuits and bigger cases are far more likely to win the attention of lawyers who have experience. They want to grow their firms so they take on new clients and tackle bigger adversaries with a more aggressive approach likely to fuel a win in court.
In court, it doesn’t matter whether your case is small or large. Certain cases must be made against one company at a time, but usually the courts want to perform their duties more efficiently to decrease the taxpayer burden — and that means doing them together.