Legal Guide

In Which States Are You Most Likely to Win a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Not all personal injury lawsuits are created equal. An important factor that can influence the timeline, compensation, and trial process is the state that your accident occurred in. Personal injury lawsuits are subject to state laws pertaining to how long you have to file a lawsuit, what kinds of evidence you need to provide, how much compensation you can be awarded, and what you can be compensated for, among other caveats. Some states have more generous and flexible laws than others.

No matter what state you were injured in, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer about your case. A good personal injury lawyer will have vast and accurate knowledge of state laws and limitations that can affect your case and its outcomes. Consulting a personal injury lawyer who practices in the state your injury occurred should be one of your first steps following your injury.

Which States Have the Most Generous Statutes of Limitations?

States set a definite length of time that you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. The statute begins the day you are injured. After the statute of limitations from that date has passed, you will not be able to file a personal injury lawsuit, with few exceptions.

The states with the longest statute of limitations are:

  1. Maine: 6 years
  2. North Dakota: 6 years
  3. Missouri: 5 years
  4. Nebraska: 4 years
  5. Utah: 4 years
  6. Wyoming: 4 years
  7. Florida: 4 years

Most states have a statute of limitations of two to three years. However, some are less lenient: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee only allow injured victims one year to file a personal injury lawsuit. Furthermore, Colorado and Kentucky allow a one-year extension of the statute of limitations specifically for auto accident lawsuits.

Although you should speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following your injury, generous statutes of limitations are helpful. They allow more time to both collect evidence and prepare for a lawsuit, and your Indianapolis personal injury lawyer can help you discern the impact of a long term injury.

Which States Have the Lowest Burden of Proof?

A burden of proof is a threshold that an injured plaintiff must meet with appropriate evidence before the defendant can be found liable for negligence. The basic burden of proof in every state is 51%. This means that the trial jury must agree that at least 51% of the plaintiff’s argument is accurate and true, and no more than 49% is false. A defendant can provide evidence that contradicts the plaintiff’s case and influence the jury’s assessment that the plaintiff has met the 51% threshold, but does not have to meet that threshold themselves.

There are three burdens of proof that must be satisfied for a plaintiff to be awarded compensatory damages:

  1. Proof beyond reasonable doubt: while mostly important to criminal cases, this burden is met when there is no other reasonable explanation for the injury.
  2. Clear and convincing evidence: this is the most important burden in an injury lawsuit. It addresses that the provided evidence is substantially more true than false.
  3. Preponderance of the evidence: this burden applies to the truthfulness of the plaintiff’s account.

Rarely, a state may set a different burden of proof for very specific circumstances. For example, Florida’s burden of proof on slip and fall injuries has a much higher threshold that the plaintiff must satisfy: to be awarded compensation, the plaintiff must prove that the property owner had prior knowledge of the hazard that resulted in a fall. A personal injury lawyer can advise further if your state has varying burdens of proof, like taking photos after a car accident.

Which States Cap Awarded Damages in Personal Injury Lawsuits?

There are three types of damages awarded in personal injury lawsuits: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Most states have laws limiting the compensation a plaintiff can receive for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress, capped at varying amounts.

Eleven states impose caps on non-economic damages in all personal injury cases. These eleven states are:

  • Alaska: $400,000
  • Colorado: $300,000
  • Idaho: $250,000
  • Kansas: $250,000
  • Michigan: $960,500 (as of 2022; is adjusted annually to reflect inflation)
  • Maryland: $875,000 (as of 2023; is raised $15,000 annually. Higher caps exist for wrongful death lawsuits)
  • Mississippi: $500,000
  • Ohio: three times the awarded economic damages, with an overall cap of $250,000. Caps are higher for lawsuits with multiple plaintiffs. No caps exist for wrongful death lawsuits.
  • Oklahoma: $350,000
  • Oregon: $500,000
  • Tennessee: $750,000

The majority of states do not cap non-economic damages in general personal injury lawsuits. Wrongful death lawsuits are rarely capped. Twelve states prohibit any caps whatsoever on non-economic damages, regardless of the type of lawsuit:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

On the other hand, some states have different damages caps for different types of lawsuits. For example, twenty-six states cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. Six states also impose caps on economic damages, which are awarded for medical costs, property damages, lost wages, and other monetary expenses resulting from an injury:

  • Colorado
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • Virginia

Understanding the damages caps in the state you were injured in is essential to setting expectations for your compensation. Damages caps vary greatly between the states, for different types of lawsuits, and are constantly changing: some states increase their damages caps annually by different amounts, and some states have had recent legal battles to determine the constitutionality of their damages caps.

Factors That Can Determine Your Lawsuit Outcome by State

States with longer statutes of limitations that follow the basic burden of proof and have high or no caps on non-economic damages can have more positive lawsuit outcomes on the plaintiff’s behalf. Still, winning a personal injury lawsuit depends heavily on your own case and the evidence provided. State laws tend to be more forgiving in car accident and wrongful death lawsuits, and less in medical malpractice and slip and fall lawsuits. Winning your lawsuit will hinge upon the proof provided in court.

 A personal injury lawyer will not only be able to guide you through the limitations of state legislation, but also maximize your possible compensation given these factors. Contact an attorney in the state you were injured in to discuss your personal injury lawsuit.

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