Catastrophic injuries are the most damaging, most life-changing and most debilitating injuries you can ever experience. With the assistance of a proficient personal injury lawyer, you can know whether the injury qualifies as "catastrophic" and how you'll have the financial responsibilities handled. We (Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney) are a personal injury law firm operating out of Jacksonville, FL. Our lawyers are well-versed in claims related to catastrophic injury, medical malpractice, faulty equipment, and pedestrian accidents among others.
What Does “Catastrophic Injury” Mean Under Florida Laws?
Florida Statute 960.03 defines “catastrophic injury” as a permanent impairment comprising of various factors. These factors include closed-head or severe brain injury and amputation of a leg, a foot, a hand or an arm. Spinal cord injury that involves severe paralysis of the trunk, a leg or an arm is also considered as a catastrophic injury under FL Statute 960.03.
Disturbances on the brain affecting cerebral function, communication or motor abilities qualify as a catastrophic injury. Your case could be treated as catastrophic injury if you experienced third-degree or second-degree burns on 25 percent or more of your total body surface. The claim could also be handled the same way if the injury allowed you to receive disability income benefits. FL Statute 960.03 also considers injury that leads to industrial or total blindness as catastrophic injury.
The term "claimant" refers to the individual that deserves compensation after an injury under FL Statute 960.03. Crimes committed by an adult or juvenile that lead to death or injury are considered felonies. A catastrophic injury inflicted on a Florida resident outside Florida is still compensable as if it occurred in Florida.
In Florida, a hearing officer is tasked by the Attorney General to oversee a catastrophic injury claim. An "intervenor," on the other hand, is an individual that rushes to the rescue of a victim of a crime. As the victim, you may make a claim regarding "out-of-pocket-loss," which constitutes the unreimbursable or unreimbursed expenses you incurred while seeking any form of treatment. An injury event may also result in you losing a tangible property.
Why Do Catastrophic Injury Claims Qualify for Compensation?
Unlike other forms of personal injury, catastrophic injuries are different since they have permanent or long-term effects on the victims. They are also different on a legal basis as stipulated in Florida Statute 960.03. Expect the nature of the injury, medical expenses and recovery length to be greater than usual. You deserve more compensation for your catastrophic injury to cover the severe damages you suffered.
Catastrophic injury claims usually involve conflicts between the claimant and the defendant's insurer. The insurer might refuse to cover your damages when you first approach them. Your insurance company may also do the same and expect you to seek compensation from the defendant's insurer.
Are You Guaranteed a Hefty Compensation for Your Severe Injuries?
The defendant's insurance policy plays a critical role in determining the damages you'll receive for your injuries. If you're filing a lawsuit against an individual for damages, the individual should have a policy limit that can compensate you. You may consider taking legal action aimed at the person's assets if the policy limit isn't big enough. You can demand a higher settlement amount as you sue a corporation for severe injuries you experienced when working with them.
In every personal injury case, "reasonable costs" are set to determine the amount of damages you can receive as a victim. The costs are directed towards the medical therapies or procedures you need to recover. For instance, if your medical therapy bill is $700, but the set reasonable cost for the same treatment is $500, you'll only be granted $500 as compensation.
Note that your patience may determine the amount of financial compensation you'll be awarded. Opting for a quick settlement will likely make you get a small amount of money than that you'll get for being patient. Your compensation may be split into small payments (which you'll receive within a particular time frame) or be offered as a lump sum. The good thing about legally binding settlements is that the other party won't use any means to default making payments.
Why Hire Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Catastrophic Injury Claim in Florida
As you hire a personal injury lawyer, you may believe that you only need the legal help for a short timeframe. Your catastrophic injury case may a few months or several years to resolve. You should be comfortable with the legal expert and be assured that the expert is knowledgeable about the defenses/tactics for supporting your case.
You'll need a personal injury lawyer if you're sure that the other party is to blame for your injuries, but the insurer doesn't want to compensate you. A lawyer will assist you to gain an experienced and objective opinion on how to pursue the matter. Legal help also comes handy if your case involves multiple parties. The legal expert will identify all parties with shared liability in the case and build your case against them.
For instances where the defendant’s insurer decides to offer you a settlement, you should involve your lawyer before accepting the compensation. Some insurance companies have a history of getting rid of cases quickly by convincing you to take financial compensation that doesn’t match the losses you suffered. A legal expert can handle all aspects of your case. Explained below are the common functions a personal injury lawyer in your catastrophic injury case.
Offer Legal Advice
Your personal injury lawyer helps you understand and pursue ways you can recover financial compensation. Expect the legal counsel to walk you through the personal injury law system. The expert will encourage you to prepare necessary documentation highlighting the relationship between the injury and the events that led to the injury.
Explain Your Legal Rights
The lawyer will explain how different legal issues surrounding your catastrophic injury case affect your rights. Pay attention to any information you get concerning your rights since any form of negligence may affect your injury claim. Your attorney may assist you to decide whether to sue if you were partially to blame for the catastrophic injury.
Accompany You in Court for Legal Representation
Expect your attorney to be with you whether your catastrophic injury case is settled before filing a lawsuit or the case proceeds to trial. Your lawyer will help you recover the damages in the civil suit. You'll find it difficult representing yourself in a civil trial since the litigation usually involves close adherence to specific rules of evidence and procedures.
Thoroughly Assess the Damages
While it’s common for you to only think about the immediate impacts a catastrophic injury has on you, you’ll need accurate estimates to get financial compensation. Your personal injury attorney must have handled a case like yours in the past. The legal counsel can help establish accurate estimates of your catastrophic injuries. The lawyer may also involve an actuary or economist to assess the long-term effects of your accident.
Help You Throughout Different Legal processes
Catastrophic injury cases involve various legal procedures, which can be best navigated with the help of a personal injury attorney. Your lawyer can help you make informal negotiations with the defendant's insurer before or after filing the case in court. You may also have your case litigated if you find the settlement offer unsatisfactory or if the court denies your claim.
What Kind of Evidence Do You Need to Support Your Claim?
Save all copies of police reports, receipts, medical records and other documentation that may be useful in your case. You may write down a narration of the event that resulted in you experiencing catastrophic injury. Testimonies from the people that were present during the event may also help support your case. Discussed below are the documents you may need and ways you can find them.
Private Investigation Reports
You can obtain private investigation reports through the discovery process. Discovery, in this context, refers to a civil action process that requires one party to provide the other litigant with relevant information regarding your case. Through your lawyer, you may ask for this information before having your claim argued before a jury or judge. The data revealed in this process may cause your civil suit to be settled before the actual trial.
Medical reports constitute doctor care records, medical history reports, rehabilitation reports, autopsy reports, and emergency room records. They should provide proof that you were under the care of a medical professional or that you suffered catastrophic injury as a result of a particular event. They should also reveal the amounts the facility charged you for treatment.
A client or victim statement should only be obtained if the person has the best memory of the circumstances that lead to catastrophic injury. Your personal injury lawyer should determine whether you or the other witness spoke about the event details to another party. Sharing such information may negatively affect the value of your catastrophic injury claim.
Background on Past Safety Concerns or Violations
Your attorney can request past safety records and inspection records for the event that lead to catastrophic injury. Such documents may prove that the defendant knew that their machinery was faulty when they allowed you to operate it. Your lawyer can build a strong case against the defendant by citing that the machinery has a history of safety violations.
Photography or Video
A photo or video indicating circumstances that made you suffer catastrophic injuries may suffice as evidence. The images or video must have been captured before, during or after the accidents to show how the event unfolded. Such footage is retrievable from security cameras installed at workplaces or near the scene of the accident.
911 Dispatch Calls
911 dispatch calls are usually made when you’re urgently in need of help. They can give the actual account of how a catastrophic injury occurred if you or someone else made them seeking for help. They also capture the emotion of the caller at the time a catastrophic injury event is taking place. The principal investigator can rely on 911 dispatch calls to examine elements of your injury.
Getting Organized to Use this Evidence to Make Your Claim
Consider getting a box to store a folder of your documents and physical items that may be of value to your claim. Misplacing or losing such items may sabotage your catastrophic injury claim. Keep track of the things in your possession and those you’ll need to acquire using a spreadsheet. You should also maintain both a digital copy and a physical copy of any relevant items.
Can You Sue for Damages of Both Economic and Non-economic Nature?
A Florida Court may award you millions of dollars for damages when you sympathetically take the stand in the court, with the help of your lawyer, proving your claim. Note that the judge or jury won’t be persuaded into making this decision based on emotion. Their work is to pay for your pain and suffering but not bankrupting the entire system.
In Florida, damage caps offer limits on the amount of compensation you can be awarded for personal injury cases. Florida Courts have no limits when it comes to settling economic damages, which include lost wages and medical bills. The same notion applies to non-economic damages, which include mental anguish, pain, and suffering.
For punitive damages on all personal injury case, Florida Courts observe certain limits. You’ll likely be compensated three times the amount for medical bills, financial losses and wage losses. Punitive damages, in this case, are awards meant to punish bad or unethical behavior. You may be awarded such damages if your lawyer proves the catastrophic injury you experienced was as a result of someone else’s bad or unethical behavior.
What are the Conditions for Awarding Punitive Damages in Florida?
In Florida, your case must meet certain conditions for a court to award you punitive damages. They are as follows:
The defendant had no intention to subject you to catastrophic injury but was aware that there was a higher likelihood for you experiencing the injury and acted dangerously for financial gain. (Your punitive damages will be four times the value of both economic and non-economic damages or $2 million)
The defendant willfully intended to harm you. (There’s no limitation on the amount of punitive damages the court will award you)
For all other claims, you may be awarded punitive damages limited to three times the value of economic and non-economic damages. The court may also award you $500,000 for your catastrophic injury claim. However, your situation may have certain exemptions.
Should You Have Your Case Settled in or out of the Florida Court System?
The Florida personal injury case process gives you various options for seeking compensation if you experienced catastrophic injury due to someone else's negligence. One of the options involves settling the matter in court while the other involves using an arbitrator/mediator to solve the case outside of the court system.
It's common for you to be uncertain about how you'll recover your lost wages, pay medical bills or heal the intense pain and suffering you experience. Reasonable compensation can assist you in your recovery. Your lawyer should use the evidence of your injuries to help you settle with the other party. You may decide to have your case settled through arbitration, mediation or court involvement.
What Does Mediation Involve?
Through your lawyer, you may need to enlist a mediator to help settle any insurance negotiation. A mediator, in this context, is an impartial third party who helps both parties agree on a reasonable solution. You'll have to sit down with the other party, in the presence of the mediator, to discuss your perspectives on the case. Each side will speak to the mediator in private.
Always remember that a mediator can’t make a legally binding agreement. You’ll need a lawyer’s help to make any reached agreements lawful. Mediation is usually a cost-effective and quicker alternative to going to court. A mediator evaluates the perspectives of both parties before persuading them to agree on a certain compensation amount.
What Does Arbitration Involve?
Unlike mediation, agreements reached by arbitration can either be legally binding or nonbinding. A panel of arbitrators or an arbitrator acts in the same way a judge does. Expect the expert to review evidence from both sides and decide on how you should be awarded compensation. Note that arbitrators have fewer limitations than judges when reviewing evidence and making decisions. You may reject decisions made by arbitration if they’re nonbinding.
Is Going to Court the Best Option?
Arbitrators and mediators have significantly low rates for helping parties reach a fair settlement. Going to court can be a great option if they fail to help you reach an agreement for the catastrophic injuries you suffered. A catastrophic injury case should be handled in a civil court since the injuries are usually severe. Evidence presented by your attorney helps determine the court decisions.
What are the Stages of a Catastrophic Injury Lawsuit in Florida?
When you decide to have your catastrophic injury pursued, you may try to figure out how long the case will take to resolve. You'll find it close to impossible trying to predict the length of your case since every party, issue or fact pattern, in cases similar to yours, differs. The legal process always begins with you engaging your attorney on the matter you're facing. Take some time off work or school to explain events that lead to your injuries.
You should begin the initial process and paperwork with your personal injury attorney. Consider letting the other side know your motives for filing a claim through your attorney. The statute of limitations usually determines the timeframe for you to file a lawsuit against a person or corporation for hurting you. In Florida, you have up to four years, from the date of your incident, to file the lawsuit.
The Discovery Process
The discovery process, which involves collecting and gathering witness statements, depositions and documents, may take six months to one year or even longer. Such a process helps investigate any disputes regarding the event by relying on prognosis from a medical practitioner or any other relevant expert. Once adequate information has been collected, the other party or insurer should receive a demand letter prompting them to respond.
With the help of your attorney, you should draft a demand letter addressed to the party that owes you financial compensation for injuries you experienced. State the facts to the corporation or individual that harmed you since this letter may be admissible in court as evidence. Remember to make your financial demands reasonable. It would help if you also demanded the party to respond within a reasonable timeframe and send the letter through a certified mailing system.
During the court motions, judgment may be entered depending on factors such as accuracy of the discovery process and jurisdiction. The motions may even occur before the discovery process. You'll need to be present during these motions with a lawyer by your side.
Attempt Settlement or Trial
Common ways of settling a personal injury case include arbitration, mediation, and negotiation. You may have a lawsuit filed if these methods fail to work. During the trial, the other party may agree to settle. If the verdict is in your favor, the defendant should present you the amount the jury quotes. Your lawyer may also appeal (which calls for a new settlement or trial) if the verdict isn't in your favor.
Have Your Catastrophic Injury Case Handled by a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me
Catastrophic injuries may leave you or your loved ones facing lifetime rehabilitation or permanently disabled. The entire situation can be daunting as you figure out how to attend to the financial responsibilities associated with the injury. Ways you decide to reach a settlement agreement depend on the kind of legal help sought. Consider involving a personal injury lawyer in every step taken to be awarded damages.
If you're having trouble seeking compensation for your catastrophic injuries, seek help from our company (Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney). We are an experienced personal injury law firm serving injury victims across Jacksonville, FL with the best legal representation you can find. Our expertise cuts across cases involving auto accidents, pedestrian accidents, worker's compensation, and medical malpractice among others. Call our Jacksonville injury attorney today at 904-800-7557 for a free case evaluation.