Most of the catastrophic injuries in Clay County, Florida, are a result of negligence or carelessness caused by another person. Catastrophic injuries come with a lot of questions, uncertainty about the future, and it can be tempting to handle the lawsuit on your own. However, it will only benefit your insurance provider if you do not seek the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer. The truth is that you do not know what is going to transpire during a personal injury lawsuit. By consulting the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, you are allowing yourself to have the support you need to file an auto accident lawsuit alongside the associated benefits.
What is a Catastrophic Injury?
The American Medical Association (AMA) defines a catastrophic injury as a severe injury that can have serious financial, emotional, and physical consequences. It can cause long-term disability, hence, permanently preventing you from working and enjoying life the way you did before the accident. Moreover, it has a significant effect on the lives of your loved ones who must make sure you receive adequate attention and care, hence, causing emotional and financial burden to all people involved.
Auto accidents are one of the leading causes of catastrophic injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are approximately 6,000,000 car accidents in the U.S every year. Common causes of auto accidents include texting or talking on a phone while driving, fatigue, drunk driving, over-speeding, and poor weather conditions.
Different Types of Catastrophic Injuries Resulting from Car Accidents
Catastrophic injuries often affect the spine or brain and require expensive medical attention. Because of the costly expense of this type of injury, it is wise for victims to know different types of catastrophic injuries and the consequences they could have on the victims. It will also help you know both your rights and treatment options.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
A TBI happens when delicate brain tissues are damaged after a hard object hits the skull. The damage could take place on the brain's side where the trauma took place, or on the opposite side if the brain was knocked from side to side. Additionally, the injury can be made worse if there was intracranial pressure or bleeding.
Loss of consciousness is a severe effect of traumatic brain injury. Victims could be in a coma for a couple of weeks or even months after the car accident. Other victims never regain full comprehension and consciousness of their surroundings and remain in an intensive care unit for the rest of their lives.
Other devastating effects of TBI include:
- Loss of memory
- Communication challenges
- Balance and coordination challenges
- Inability to focus and comprehend instructions
Spinal Cord Injury
Damage to your spinal cord could be as disastrous as brain damage. This is because your spinal cord regulates communication between your brain and the rest of the body. When the communication is disrupted, then the functions of the body parts are affected.
Body parts are affected depending on the injury's location on your spine. Below are potential consequences of different forms of spinal cord injuries:
- An upper spinal injury could result in loss or paralysis of sensory abilities in the trunk, legs, and arms. Additionally, it could lead to functional loss in the excretory, digestive, and respiratory organs, and
- A lower spinal injury could cause loss or paralysis of sensory abilities in legs and loss of sexual, bowel, and bladder abilities.
Most auto accident victims have severe burn injuries. The burns can take place if the vehicle catches fire, particularly if the victim is stuck inside the car for long. Another form of burn is friction burns that can occur if the victim is removed from the vehicle and then slides across the road swiftly. In both cases, burns can result in severe damage to skin layers, tissues underneath the skin, bones, and muscles.
Burns can permanently change your life since they may require months of medical procedures. You may also lose body parts that were seriously disfigured or damaged. Consequently, some burn victims suffer mental and emotional effects that prevent them from interacting with their loved ones or working.
Another form of catastrophic injury caused by car accidents is the amputation of the victim's limb or extremity. This can take place in various ways. For instance, a victim's body part can be removed by the accident's debris, in a rollover crash or as a result of impact with the vehicle's part. Additionally, a victim could have bones that are fully shattered or crushed and may require amputation to prevent further damage or because the limb can't be saved or restructured.
Losing any part of the body can be life-altering; amputees have few abilities and have to learn a lot of tasks. Although a prosthetic can assist with the abilities, a prosthetic limb is very expensive and requires therapy to learn to use.
Internal organ damage is another type of catastrophic injury. Sometimes the damage can lead to the emergency need for transplant or removal of damaged body organs. Internal bleeding could also take place and may require your doctor to carry out surgery as soon as possible to halt the hemorrhage.
Steps That You Should Take After an Auto Accident
Although not all road accidents are similar, there are general steps that every victim must take to make sure they are reimbursed for their catastrophic injuries. Below is a summary of what you should do in each stage of the accident:
- At the Accident Scene
At the accident scene, your priority should be the health of all people involved. Call medical practitioners if any victim appears injured. More often than not, injuries can happen even from minor accidents. It's both vital for health reasons and the success of a claim for compensation that you seek immediate medical attention.
Even if the accident is seemingly minor, call law enforcers and request that police would be sent to the accident scene. Having a police officer report developed during the auto accident helps determine who is legally responsible for the accident.
Remember to acquire the name, driver's license number, address, car licenses, and insurer's details from all motorists involved. Also, gather the names of all witnesses and their contact information.
Also, take photos of the scene, cars involved, traffic signal locations, debris, skid marks, and any other proof. You can also take note of the road and weather conditions during the vehicle accident.
Finally, do not make any statement that can be used against you later.
- Seek Medical Attention
Seeking timely medical care for your injuries is vital. Tell your treating doctor that you were involved in an auto accident. Follow all the prescribed treatment to the latter.
If your signs and symptoms don't go away, don't hesitate to seek a second opinion. It's also wise to keep a journal that documents any symptoms, pain, treatment, and medication taken. This is because the realization of your claim will depend primarily on how thorough your medical record details your injuries, how they are linked to the road accidents and their effects on your finances, life, and career.
- Dealing with Insurance Company
The next step is contacting your car insurance provider and reporting the accident. Your insurer will assign both a claims adjuster to deal with different aspects of the claim and a claim number. The insurance company will request you to present details about the motor vehicle accident. They may also sometimes ask for a recorded statement of the events.
If your claim includes vehicle damage, the insurer will send a person to analyze the level of damage as well as determine if the vehicle is repairable. Depending on your coverage plan, the insurer could provide a rental vehicle.
You can also report the motor vehicle accident to the at-fault driver's insurance provider. However, you need to be cautious when talking to this insurance company. This is because the firm is representing the responsible party and will not put your interests first.
Also, it is wise to avoid giving a recorded statement. The insurance firm could ask you to sign an authorization permitting it to get access to your medical and employment details. Instead, tell the insurer that you will surrender all medical details once you've completed treatment for your injuries.
- Hiring an Experienced Legal Representative
Dealing with the insurer can be very challenging in any situation. Moreover, after the accident, it can be more challenging to provide all the required documentation to the insurance company in time as well as engaging in claim settlement negotiations. A personal injury lawyer will ease the weight by collecting the essential documentation and developing thorough and precise settlement demands for your claim.
Settling Your Catastrophic Injury Case
Most auto accidents in Florida don't go to trial. This is because the parties involved reach an agreement before trial as a way of avoiding the time-consuming and costly litigation. The most effective way to acquire a fair settlement for your injury is presenting a persuasive demand letter and follow-up negotiations. Below are practical tips on how to settle your claim.
In a demand letter, you should describe the medical treatment and the facts of the accident as well as pave the way for claim settlement negotiations. A demand letter is your opportunity to present the case to your insurer, outside the court.
A detailed demand letter should contain a narration of events before and at the time of the road accident and an account of wages lost, medical expenses incurred, and medical treatment options received.
Normally, the demand letter should request an amount that is more than what you would realistically accept. This gives both you and your lawyer a room to negotiate.
Negotiations after an Initial Offer
Once your insurance provider receives the demand letter, it will review the demand letter together with any other documents submitted. Then, the insurance provider will send you the first offer. Usually, the initial offer is very low. Just like the amount requested in the demand letter is more than what you can accept, the insurance firm will extend an offer that is less than what they are willing to pay the claim. As a result, you should not accept the initial offer.
With the assistance of your lawyer, you should respond to the insurer by writing a response that declines the initial offer. The responsive letter should include reasons that make the offer unacceptable. For example, the initial offer may not include pain and suffering or all medical expenses.
The letter should respectfully but enthusiastically remind the insurance company of the main elements of your demand letter. It should also end with a counter-demand. There are several factors you can put into consideration when reducing your offer. One of the simplest ways is subtracting the initial offer from the initial demand. For instance, if you had demanded $4,550, and the insurer countered with an initial offer of $2,520, the new demand could be $2,030.
Back and forth negotiations are likely to go on for a while. If the negotiations stop making progress, it could be advisable to provide more information like photographs of scars or injuries or a letter from your doctor.
If negotiations stop, it can be brilliant for all parties involved to engage a neutral third party to facilitate the settlement. You can hire a mediator who is a lawyer experienced in settling personal injury lawsuits.
A professional mediator will be in a position to highlight both the weaknesses and strengths of all parties. This will help resolve the difference between all the parties as well as encourage a peaceful agreement.
Accepting the Offer
Irrespective of the method used, the insurance company, at some point, will make a reasonable settlement. Before accepting that offer, make sure it offers you fair compensation after deducting the attorney's fees and will cover all unpaid bills. If the settlement offer is verbally made, make sure you follow up the response with a written response.
Normally, the insurance company will not send you a check until it receives a release that is signed by you. A release is a legal document that indicates that after accepting the offer, you won't file any claim for damages resulting from the car accident.
Since the release prevents future recovery, the plaintiff should be sure that their injury has reached full improvement before signing the release and accepting compensation. If you're contented that your catastrophic injury is resolved, send the signed release together with a letter stating that you will be expecting to receive a check as soon as possible. If you have a lawyer, the insurance company will send your attorney the check who should disburse the funds to you.
Damages Awarded After Suffering a Car Accident Catastrophic Injury
Damages awarded in a personal injury lawsuit are meant to make you whole after your injury. Well, sometimes it is not possible to make you whole, and it is hard to put a dollar figure on things such as pain and suffering. However, the purpose is to put you back into the position you would be in if the accident did not occur.
The damages available vary depending heavily on the case's facts and the type of the case. Discussed below are different categories of personal injury damages.
Compensation for Medical Expenses
If you must undergo treatment, testing, or receive medical attention like physical therapy or hospital stays, the respondent should compensate you for costs incurred. In other words, the medical portion of compensation includes all expenses you have to pay when receiving treatment. It also includes future medical expenses.
Another type of damages awarded is lost income or lost wages. It involves compensation for work missed because of the catastrophic injury. If you are permanently not in a position to work, the defendant may be required to pay the lost income/wages you would have made during your lifetime. This also applies if you're disabled in a way that reduced your future capability to make money (even if the ability has not been taken away entirely).
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering can be defined as mental and physical anguish caused by your injury. It can be a fractured skull, depression, embarrassment, loss of ability to enjoy life or anything else that isn't a welcomed repercussion.
The following factors will be used to determine damages for pain and suffering:
- The seriousness of the catastrophic injury
- Your age
- Whether you had preexisting medical conditions
- Amount of economic loss incurred
- The potential for ongoing consequences
Occasionally, the accident can have emotional consequences on you. Emotional distress damages compensate the victim for the psychological effect the injury has had on their daily life. It is subjective since it varies from one person to another. It can be manifested through insomnia, fear, anxiety, depression, crying jags, and humiliation. Typically, it is proved by psychiatric records and post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis.
Loss of Consortium/Companionship
This type of damage is awarded to family members of a victim whose life has been affected in a substantial way by the motor vehicle injury. It is meant to compensate for the lost relationship with the plaintiff.
Although punitive damages are paid to the victim, they are not meant to make you whole. Rather, they are intended to punish the at-fault party for the egregious wrongful act. It is also worth noting that punitive damages aren't awarded in all cases.
What Happens if You are Partially At-Fault for the Car Accident?
The State of Florida uses the rule of pure comparative fault if both parties are found responsible for the accident. In almost all auto accident cases, the court will calculate the total dollar amount of the damages and the percentage of responsibility belonging to each party based on evidence.
Under the comparative fault rule, your damages will be reduced by the percentage equivalent to your share of liability. For instance, you are supposed to receive a total of $200,000 as damages, but the court decides that you are 50% accountable for the car accident because you were speeding. In this case, you will get 50% of the total of $200,000.
Why it is Essential to Hire a Lawyer in a Catastrophic Injury Lawsuit Resulting from a Car Accident
A car accident comes with a lot of questions. Who will pay for the damages and costs incurred? Who is responsible? A competent personal injury lawyer can be instrumental in negotiating the confusing world of coverage claims. This is because they are:
- Familiar with Law
Engaging a lawyer immediately after a motor vehicle accident means you have an expert who is knowledgeable about laws and procedural rules working for you.
Your lawyer should guide you to understand the statutes of limitations, which can prevent you from filing a case against the responsible driver. For example, in Florida, you should file your claim within four years from the date of the accident. If the victim died as a result of the catastrophic injury, you should bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible driver within two years from the date of the victim's death (if it's different from the accident's date).
The lawyer can also file a claim on your behalf and know how best to mitigate defenses raised by the respondent. Moreover, once the case starts, the attorney will prepare the case for trial.
- Attorneys Do the Legal Work
Assuming you are in a position to negotiate a coverage settlement, this is the last thing you would want to do. It is time-consuming and should be left to experts. Lawyers have handled different types of insurance providers and claims. Consequently, they have experience in getting evidence such as witness statements, police records, medical bills and records, and lost wages information to support your personal injury claim.
If your case goes to trial, the lawyer will file all the essential paperwork to begin a court case as well as handle the respondent’s lawyers on your behalf.
Find A Competent Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
No matter how and when the auto accident occurred, you deserve fair and full compensation for any catastrophic injury you are enduring if the accident was another person’s fault. Fortunately, the law allows you to seek compensation by bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party. If you want help with seeking compensation for your injuries, contact our experienced lawyers at Clay County Personal Injury Attorney at 904-494-8242 today!