The state of Florida offers an idyllic lifestyle, but the high rate of accidents lead to bodily harm is alarming for residents. You may encounter minor to severe injuries that yield physical and emotional pain, not to mention requiring extensive treatments to get back on the mend. Medical interventions are not cheap, especially for people without health insurance, and even so, the copays may drain your savings, leaving you in financial ruin.
Severe injuries will also put you out of work, and this means no economic contribution to your family. Personal injury cases are not always easy to navigate, and you may find yourself being bullied by the aggressor, so they avoid paying for damages. Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney has a wealth of experience helping clients in Middleburg, with personal injury claims. We understand the ins and outs of this intricate system, and we are ready to help you seek compensation.
Legalities for Filing a Personal Injury Claim in Florida
File the Claim on Time
Florida law allows victims up to four years to file a claim, and three years if you are filing a petition against the government. Failure to file a claim within this duration means the court can dismiss the suit unless there are mitigating factors such as a late diagnosis. A person who suffers from another illness directly related to the injury can still file a claim after this window expires.
Prove the Defendant's Negligence
Most accidents occur due to another party's negligence, but you, the plaintiff, has the burden to prove this negligence. You must verify the defendant breached their duty of care owed to you as per the requirements of your work. For instance, a construction company must provide a safe working environment where staff can work without falling off the scaffolding or objects falling on their heads.
Seek Medical Assistance
The most important thing when pursuing a personal injury case is to seek medical attention as soon as possible. You must do whatever it takes to mitigate the injury, so things don't get worse. For instance, if you break a limb, you must go to the emergency room and have the bone repositioned with a cast. Getting treatment is an important responsibility that should not be postponed for whatever reason. Also, keep your medical records handy to support your claim.
Call your Insurance Provider
Florida is a "no-fault" state, which means when an accident happens, all entities involved must turn to their insurance carriers for claims regardless of who is at fault. The courts don't get involved in car accidents unless the victims incur serious injuries. Your vehicle must have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance in addition to the regular insurance policy.
This insurance covers medical expenses for everyone without waiting to determine who caused the collision. It also takes care of lost income as you receive treatment and other related, costs such as childcare. The latter coverage helps in situations where one's injuries prevent them from caring for their younger ones, for instance, when they are hospitalized. This cover extends to all occupants of the vehicle during the crash.
While this "no-fault" law makes it easier for accident victims to get treatment, the PIP insurance cover has a cap on medical costs. Most covers go up to $10,000, and the victim's health insurance covers the rest. If your injuries supersede the PIP cover or they meet the injury threshold of this policy, you are welcome to sue the other driver and get compensation.
Seek Legal Counsel
It is expedient to hire an experienced lawyer to represent you even when the other party is evidently at fault. The processes can get complicated, and this will frustrate your efforts to hold the other party accountable. Your Middleburg personal injury attorney will follow the necessary steps and file documents on your behalf. For example, they must notify both insurance carriers of the pending claim.
Insurance companies will put up a battle to avoid honoring these claims or at the very least, avoid paying the full settlement you are seeking. They may trick you into making official statements about the incident and hold this against you when legal proceedings commence. We advise clients to refrain from divulging key details or recording statements without consulting with legal counsel.
Our Middleburg personal injury attorney understands the local system very well, and we are ready to provide the legal assistance you need to win. Most of these cases are not clear-cut, but we are keen to explain various options to help you arrive at the most agreeable outcome.
Maintain a Post-Accident Journal
The recovery process may take anywhere between weeks, months, and years, depending on the extent of your injuries. Keeping a post-accident journal helps you maintain accurate records of doctor appointments, medical procedures, expenses, etc. More so, this practice enables you to piece together a heartfelt narration of the healing process and how these injuries have impacted your life.
What Should I Do After a Car Accident?
Once you are involved in a car accident, you need to get the following important information:
- The name, license number, and insurance details of the other driver
- The license number of all vehicles in the crash
- Pictures of visible injuries to you or fellow passengers
- Images of the crash scene
- The official police report and other official documents
Drafting a Demand Letter
The next step after gathering relevant evidence of the accident is writing a demand letter to your insurance carrier. Having an itemized bill with corresponding receipts and signatures (as explained earlier) helps your compensation claim, so that the defendant cannot dispute the quoted amount.
A Middleburg personal injury attorney will use this budget to write a demand letter to the insurance company asking for compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, childcare costs, etc. These demands must be accompanied with proof such as a letter from your employer confirming you have been out of work. This note must also indicate how much income you have lost since the accident. Include proof of childcare costs, such as a receipt from the daycare center your children attend.
Your attorney will compute how much settlement you deserve and ask the insurance carrier to respond within a stipulated deadline. In many cases, insurance companies have up to thirty days to communicate back with an offer or otherwise.
The insurance carrier may decide to settle your claim immediately, ignore it, or present a lower offer hoping you are desperate enough to cosign. If your attorney and the insurance company cannot agree on a settlement, the court will go to trial so a judge in Clay County can decide the matter.
How Long Will My Personal Injury Settlement Take?
Court cases involving personal injury claims can be deliberated upon quickly or take longer, depending on the particulars. While every personal injury case differs in one way or another, most victims are awarded damages within one or two years of filing. The process ensues as follows:
Retaining an Attorney
After incurring a severe cost such as traumatic brain injury, organ damage, or disfigurement, you will need typically expensive rounds of treatment. Lying in a hospital bed, going for surgery, and returning for appointments can mean not working for several days or weeks. You must retain an attorney to help you claim compensation.
The attorney will launch the paperwork immediately and keep the other side informed as necessary. Please beware, improper process, filing in the wrong jurisdiction or venue, or other mistakes could derail the case and trigger motions before discovery begins.
Launch the Discovery Process
Gathering the facts of your injury claim can take up to six months or longer. Your attorney will require police accounts of the accident, witness statements, deposing key witnesses, and medical records. They will also need to prove related expenses, such as having to pay for childcare because you were recuperating at home or in a medical facility.
Even if Florida is a no-fault state, disputes about how the accident happened are bound to occur. The other driver may claim you failed to obey traffic signals or another form of negligence. The defendant's lawyer will aim to vacate the charges of negligence, so their client is freed from this responsibility. They may also downplay your injuries and the resulting impact on your life, and that of other passengers involved.
If the disputes cannot be resolved, your attorney will ask to reconstruct the scene or gather more research to present before the jury. Meanwhile, the insurance carrier will receive a demand letter and respond as they deem appropriate. A medical expert may be called upon to give a prognosis of your injuries and how they continue to affect your overall health. They may also present a Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) dossier to back up their summation.
Trying to Reach a Settlement
As mentioned previously, the insurance carrier may honor the claim immediately, but this is not always a great outcome. Our Middleburg personal injury attorney has seen cases where clients accepted an offer too quickly and then changed their minds when the bills kept coming. We advise you get an experienced attorney to help you compute a settlement figure that will recoup all expenses now and later.
Florida has no cap on how much economic and noneconomic damages you can claim. Nonetheless, legal guidelines cap punitive damages at $500,000 or three times the compensatory award (medical bills, lost wages, other expenses). This process may call for arbitration, negotiation, or mediation to reach an agreeable sum. If you cannot agree, your attorney will file a lawsuit and do so within the statute of limitations.
The concerned court will set trial dates as per their schedule and sometimes these dates may change without much notice. We advise clients to be patient as we file motions and arguments, and even when the jury trial begins. The case will then be heard before a jury, and it will be presided upon by a judge in Clay County. Settlement discussions will also unfold during the trial, after which the board will reach a verdict.
If the defense appeals and wins, the final settlement may be lower than what was recommended by the jury. As your lawyers, we know every trick in the book and will not allow this to happen. Our goal is to present evidence to prove the defendant is guilty, so the jury votes to have them pay.
Collecting the Settlement
After a successful trial, efforts to raise the money awarded to you will begin shortly. The judge may order the defendant to pay a lump sum or installments, and this is hinged upon your case. Simple cases like a slip and fall may not involve a generous payout, so that the defendant may pay in one check.
More complex cases where vital organs like the spinal cord are damaged will have to attract a more significant settlement to pay for specialized treatment. The judge may order the insurance company to pay installments until the debt is paid in full.
Factors Affecting the Outcome of Personal Injury Cases
On the whole, the timing and court proceedings are influenced by the particulars and the entities involved. The defendant may not wish to invest their time and energy in endless court proceedings, which may take away valuable time from their job. They may also be concerned about their public image and want this problem to go away without making waves.
Please note, wishing for a trial or an elongated trial does not always translate to more significant settlements. The defendant's attorney will do everything they can to win, and this means not having to pay restitution or paying the least amount possible. Therefore, patience while litigating personal injury claims is highly desired, but so is making smart decisions.
Find a Middleburg Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you suffered personal injury at work, in a traffic accident, cycling to the beach, or due to medical malpractice, you will need to seek medical attention. Your injuries may keep you from working for several weeks to months at a time, thus costing you income for your household. If your recovery takes too long, you could lose your job, and in extreme cases, you may never work again.
Injuries can also trigger complications or death, proper medical care notwithstanding. Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney in Middleburg, handles cases where negligent drivers hurt clients or hurt in the workplace. We understand the system well, know how to quantify damages, where to file the necessary paperwork, and more importantly, how to defend our clients' interests. Contact us today at 904-800-7557, so we can start helping you before the statute of limitations expires.