No one expects to have an accident. So, when it occurs, an accident leaves you with physical pain and mental anguish. An accident can also leave you financially crippled. And it hurts more when you know the accident occurred because someone was negligent. Many questions race in your mind, and you wonder, “What legal recourse can I take? How can I get compensation for my lost workdays? Should I sue now or later?” The list goes on.
At the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we get many of these questions. That's why we have prepared this FAQ to answer some of them. If you need more assistance, you can call us at 904-494-8242 to have one of our experienced lawyers review your case and advise you on your legal rights and options.
What Should I Do After Having an Accident?
When you get involved in an accident, it's crucial to have the presence of mind to do the following:
Call 911 to request medical care and the police for assistance.
Record details about the accident - While at the scene, take as many details as you can. Write a clear description of the scene. Also, take photos of both the scene and the injury.
Are there witnesses? — If there were witnesses to the accident, take their contact information. You might need the witnesses to testify in your case.
Details you should take after the accident — In the days and months that follow the accident, write down everything you do or experience that relates to the accident or your injuries. Write down the dates of any medical treatment, where you were treated, the cost, and the name and contact details of the person who treated you. Also, note down any time taken off work as a result of the injury.
Plus, note any peculiar experience resulting from the injury. Write down any experience of pain, sleep loss, or other ailments that arose from the accident or injury.
Communication with your insurance company — Keep records of any emails and phone messages with your insurance company. Ensure all correspondences with your adjuster or insurance company are in writing.
Communication with the at-fault party — Don't speak, correspond, give a statement, or authorization of any kind to the at-fault party's investigator or insurance company. More importantly, don't accept any monetary settlement from the at-fault party, their insurance adjuster, or insurance company right away. Often their first offer is well below what they are authorized to give because the offer is negotiable.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney — As soon as you can, contact a personal injury attorney to evaluate your case, advise you of your legal rights, and to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Q. What Kinds of Damages Can I Sue For?
The Personal Injury law recognizes three categories of damages for which you can sue and get compensation. These are economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages cover all expenses directly related to the accident or injury. You can easily attach a dollar amount to these expenses because they are the actual amounts you spent or will spend as a result of the injury. Such costs include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Medical bills
- Medical equipment
- Property damage
- Home and vehicle modifications due to the injury
- Lost wages and future earnings
- Loss of earning capacity, and
- Wrongful death and funeral expenses
The non-economic damages in a personal injury case are more subjective such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental distress
- Physical impairment that results when you can no longer use one of your limbs or body organs
- Disfigurement, and
- Loss of life enjoyment (For instance when you lose a family member, partner, or spouse)
Punitive damages are uncommon because the civil court system is not intended to punish wrongdoers, as does the criminal court. In some circumstances, a civil court can award punitive damages against a company whose actions were intentional or reckless. The punishment serves as a deterrent to the company and an example to other companies, so they don't harm other people in the future.
Q. Can I Bring a Personal Injury Lawsuit on Behalf of a Spouse Killed in an Accident?
Florida personal injury law allows you to institute a personal injury lawsuit for the death of a relative caused by another person's negligence. A spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, kids, and siblings can claim for wrongful death against the at-fault party.
And, depending on the relationship with the decedent, you can seek damages like
- The financial support you would have received from the deceased
- Value of household services the decedent would have provided
- Loss of companionship, love, care, affection, and comfort
- Loss of consortium, and
- Funeral and burial expenses
Q. How Long Will it Take to Settle My Injury Case?
It is difficult to know how long your case will take to be resolved because many factors affect its timeline. Some elements will be within the control of you and your lawyer, while others will depend on the insurance company, other people involved, and even the courts if the claim goes to trial.
That said, our attorneys can give you a general perspective of a typical personal injury case and how long your case might take. Here we discuss some of the factors that may influence the duration of your case.
The extent of your injuries — You can accurately assess your damages and the total value of your claim when you reach your maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is the point at which your doctor believes your medical condition is stable. So, the more serious the injuries are, the longer it will take to heal, and the longer your case will take to get settled.
Value of your claim — A claim that is worth only a few thousand dollars is often immediately settled compared to one that runs into hundreds of thousands of dollars. And this is because when big money is at play, the insurance company will go to greater lengths to fight to reduce the claim. So you need more patience when your claim is high.
Method of settling the case — Typically, two methods are available to settle your personal injury case. You can settle through alternative dispute resolution or by filing a lawsuit. Within the alternative dispute resolution, you can settle through mediation or arbitration.
Mediation takes the fastest time to resolve a claim, usually within a few months. In a mediated settlement, your lawyer negotiates with the other party, and they agree to a settlement.
If mediation fails, arbitration is the next best alternative, though it will take longer. Here your lawyer and the other party fail to agree, so they go to an arbitrator.
Incase both mediation and arbitration fail, your final option will be to file a lawsuit. If the lawsuit progresses to trial, then you should prepare to wait for a longer time. Typically, the hearing starts about a year after the accident, but the trial itself can last within a couple of days or weeks.
In summary, it means some cases are settled shortly after the accident, while others take longer. The timeline in your specific case can vary greatly. It could take four months, a year, or even several years. Our lawyers at Clay County Personal Attorney can review your case and give you a probable timeline.
Q. Are There Time Limitations to My Injury Claim?
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Florida is four years from the date of the injury. After the expiry of the four years, the courts will likely refuse to hear your case, and you lose your legal right to recover damages.
However, the period could be shortened if you are filing against a government urgency, your injuries are realized long after the accident, among other special circumstances. Please discuss this with your lawyer to evaluate the case and advise you on the way forward.
Q. Can I Sue if I'm Partly at Fault for the Accident and Injury?
You can still sue even if you are, in part, responsible for the accident or injury because Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. If you are awarded damages, the court will reduce your award relative to the percentage of your fault. For instance, if the court finds the injury was 30 percent your fault and 70 percent the fault of the defendant, you will receive an award that's 30 percent less than what the damages would've been.
Q. How Much is my Claim Worth?
People often ask how much their claim will be worth, but that question has no direct answer because each case is unique. However, some factors that will affect the worth of your claim are:
The level of injuries — The more serious the injuries are, the higher the value of the claim. For instance, courts consider more severe injuries such as internal bleeding or broken bones.
Medical expenses — The total cost of your current and future medication, including therapies, if needed as a result of your injury will affect your claim’s worth. Higher medical expenses translate to a higher claim.
Lost earning capacity — If you miss work due to the injury, you will get compensated for the lost wages, including for your future earning potential. So the longer you fail to work, the higher will be your claim. In the unfortunate event that you are disabled and cannot work anymore, then your compensation will be a lot higher.
Pain, suffering, and emotional stress — Serious, permanent injuries and loss of loved ones cause more physical pain and mental anguish, so that it will result in higher rates of compensation.
The level of the other party's liability — How much liability for your injury does the other party carry? Is the defendant 100 percent at fault, or do you share some level of negligence in causing the injury? The level of liability the other party carries is a crucial factor in estimating your claim's worth because your damage settlement will be reduced in proportion to your level of fault in causing the accident.
How has the court resolved and settled similar cases before? Although each case is unique, you can look at how the courts have resolved similar cases previously to get the range within which the awards fall.
Our lawyers could give you an idea of what to expect from your injuries when they review your case.
Q. Will I Get More Money if My Injury Case Goes to Trial?
After looking at your case, our Personal Injury Attorney will advise you on the best way to recover maximum benefits, whether it be through a trial or an out-of-court settlement. Sometimes an out of court settlement is better than a trial because of the following reasons.
Trials are time-consuming — It can take several months or years before you get to trial. And during the trial, you might need to testify, call witnesses, or do both. This takes a lot of everyone's time and costs money, especially if you need to bring witnesses from afar. The trial can force you to take time off from work and generally takes you away from your other activities.
A trial might also extend if the defendant appeals the verdict, meaning more time wasted and extra expenses to you. Meanwhile, you might still be incurring more costs on medicine and other costs related to the injury as you wait for the delayed payout.
Trials are expensive — By common practice, most personal injury lawyers increase their hourly fee by a certain percentage if the case proceeds to trial because a trial takes substantially more time and work. You might also need to pay additional charges to expert witnesses, making the whole process more expensive.
You might need to testify — The defendant's lawyers will likely want to cross-examine you. They might ask difficult, personal questions about your mental and physical conditions both before and after the accident. Testifying can be quite emotional and stressful.
You can have a private settlement — A trial is open to the public, and transcripts of all testimonies become public records. On the other hand, an out of court settlement agreement can have a provision to seal the terms and keep the case details private.
A jury can be unpredictable — You and your lawyers might think you have an airtight case, and the defendant's liability is evident, but you never know how the jury will decide the case. The jury is unpredictable. Even the smartest lawyers sometimes lose cases. And when you lose, sometimes, the judge can order you to pay the defendant's attorney's fees. So you end up owing the defendant money other than getting any money yourself.
Q. Is There a Limit to My Monetary Award in a Florida Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Florida law does not cap the amount of money for economic damages that you can be awarded in a personal injury claim. Therefore, you can recover your full economic damages. This also applies to non-economic damages.
However, there is a limit for punitive damages (which are awarded to punish seriously unethical behavior). The limit for punitive damages is three times the amount of compensatory damages (which involves financial losses) or 500,000 dollars (whichever is greater).
Q. Who Pays if I Win My Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Some accident victims, out of kindness, are hesitant to pursue a personal injury claim against someone who doesn't have a lot of money or assets. In most cases, and almost all that go to trial, the defendant has insurance. So it's the defendant's insurance company that hires an attorney and pays for the settlement. The money you receive comes from an insurance company and not the defendant. That's the main reason people pay for insurance in the first place – to pay damages in case of negligence. Therefore, you don't have to worry that the other person's assets will be at risk.
Q. Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for My Case?
If you were injured in any one of the following situations and another party is partially or fully at fault, you likely need a personal injury lawyer to help you get compensated.
- You were hurt in a motor vehicle accident
- Defective goods harmed you
- Professional negligence caused you harm
- You were injured on someone else's premises, and
- You lost a loved one through the negligence of another person.
It is, therefore, a good idea to have a personal injury lawyer work for you while you relax and concentrate on recuperating.
In fact, while you are taking things easy at home, our experienced lawyers will be working hard to build the evidence needed to win your case. Specifically, they will:
- Gather all the evidence of your injuries including accident reports, photos, and witness statements
- Compile medical records
- Calculate the costs of your injuries
- Try to prove that the other party was at fault
- Contact the insurance company and demand a settlement, and
- Go to court to fight for your legal rights, if need be
Q. Can I Represent Myself in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
It's ok to file and represent yourself in a personal injury lawsuit. It's perfectly within your legal rights. But it can be stressful and burdensome. Also, representing yourself in a personal injury lawsuit diminishes your chance of winning the case because the other party will take advantage of your lack of resources and knowledge of the law. You can up your odds of winning if you have an injury attorney on your side.
Injury attorneys are law professionals who specialize in helping you seek damages when you get injured in an accident. They can assist you in taking the at-fault party to court, seek a larger settlement, and advise you on any issues relating to your case.
Q. How Do I Prove Negligence in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
In a personal injury case, the burden of proof falls on you as the plaintiff. You must provide sufficient evidence to show that the defendant, through negligence, caused your injury and so is liable for damages.
Your evidence must prove these five elements:
- Foreseeability, and
Each person owes a duty of care to the people around him or her. The other people could be fellow drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, retail store patrons, a doctor/patient relationship, tenant, or in any situation in which one person relates to another.
That means everyone has a duty to act or not act in a way to avoid causing harm to other people. So, a defendant will be considered negligent if he or she breaches that duty, and it causes you injury in a way that could have been reasonably foreseeable.
Q. What Kind of Questions are Asked During a Deposition?
Occasionally, your injury claim might go to trial. And the defense attorney will want to ask you some questions. Often, defense attorneys aim to pin your injuries on a pre-existing condition or something else, which could make it possible for them to deny you any payment.
So when in court, you need to answer these questions honestly and truthfully. They can make a massive difference in the final settlement you get. And that's one reason why you may need a personal injury attorney to assist you in preparing for the questions and being present during the actual questioning.
Some of the questions you will likely be asked will focus on:
- The types of illnesses and injuries have you had before the accident
- Whether you were previously involved in other lawsuits and legal claims
- Witnesses to the accident
- Whether you filed an insurance claim
- The nature of your injury
- Your job history
- How the injury has affected your life
- When you had your last treatment
Contact an Florida Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you or a loved one is involved in an accident because of the negligence of another person, contact us at the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney to find out how we can help you get fair and rightful compensation for your injuries. You can call us at 904-494-8242 to schedule a case consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers to discuss how to proceed and represent your legal rights.