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THE CHRISTIAN AND PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS
When a person presents a personal injury claim or lawsuit, such person seeks compensation for injuries and damages caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of another person and/or entity.
damages claimed typically include past and/or future:
Loss of earnings / earning capacity;
Permanent impairment; and/or
Pain, suffering, emotional distress, and/or inconvenience.
[Infrequently, punitive and exemplary damages for egregious wrongdoing]
The Old Testament of the Bible contains the Torah (which governed Jewish spiritual and legal matters). The Torah provided for similar types of damage compensation to the injured person:
“…he who struck him [the injury victim] … shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed.” Exodus 21:19
Loss of Earnings:
“…he who struck him [the injury victim]…shall only pay for the loss of his time…” Exodus 21:19
Thus, generally, compensation should be neither more nor less than what is needed to restore the injured party to his or her pre-accident condition.
Commenting on verse 19:
“This was a wise and excellent institution. The same provision is made in the civil law; and most courts of justice still regulate their decisions in such cases by this Mosaic precept.” Adam Clarke
“And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let [the servant] go free for the sake of [i.e., to compensate for] his tooth.” Exodus 21:27
Non-Economic Damages (Pain and Suffering; Punitive Damages):
"If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman's husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.” Exodus 21:22
Even though there was no financial damage, the perpetrator must make a payment to the victim, impliedly for punitive and exemplary damages and/or possibly pain, suffering, inconvenience and/or emotional distress.
The LORD commanded that judges be appointed to resolve disputes:
“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates…” Deuteronomy 16:18
"If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them…” Deuteronomy 25:1
Many personal injury cases are resolved before a lawsuit is filed. Even after a lawsuit is filed, most injury cases are ultimately resolved by settlement before trial. But whether settled out of court or not, in this author’s opinion, generally speaking, there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits a person from seeking compensation for damages related to a legitimate personal injury claim.
Whether or not to seek an out-of-court settlement versus filing a lawsuit in a court of law depends on several factors:
1. The adversaries willingness to fairly compensate the injured victim (Matthew 5:25);
2. The strength and validity of the case (Proverbs 25:8); and
3. The emotional and financial cost of a lawsuit (Luke 14:31-32).
Therefore, the decision to file a lawsuit should not be made hastily (Proverbs 25:8). Further, one ought not to file a lawsuit for purposes of revenge (Leviticus 19:18).
The Bible does not prohibit lawsuits. Scripture prohibits only unjust lawsuits. For example, the Bible forbids punishing someone for an act he did not commit and for which he had no responsibility (Deuteronomy 24:16).
But what if the person who causes a Christian harm is also Christian? For answers and commentary to that specific issue, see the article: May a Christian sue another Christian? Does the Bible permit Christians to file a lawsuit at all?
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