Florida residents who have been injured and seek the assistance of a personal injury attorney often have one primary question: “How much is my accident injury claim worth?” There is no hard-and-fast rule as to how much compensation you may get from a personal injury lawsuit, because there are several factors that must be taken into consideration.
Answers to some specific questions can help you determine the potential size of your lawsuit, which does not always translate into the actual monetary award that you may recover. These questions include:
- How serious is your injury?
- How much medical attention did your injury require?
- Did you require surgery to treat your injury?
- How long were you out of work or do you anticipate being out of work?
- How much did you lose in wages?
- Did you suffer property damage?
- What was the value of the property that was damaged?
- Did you suffer permanent scarring or disfigurement?
- Will you require rehabilitation therapy?
- Can you return to your original line of work after recovery?
These questions may help your personal injury attorney determine how much your overall costs will be after an accident. This will allow them to help negotiate a settlement or gain an understanding of the potential damages to demand in a lawsuit against the person, or persons, responsible for your injury.
Understanding Severity of Injuries
One of the common causes of injury is a car accident. In Florida, there were more than 400,000 crashes during 2018. More than 250,000 people were injured in these car crashes. After a car accident, there are numerous injuries reported, ranging from broken bones, glass embedded in the victim’s face or body, or traumatic brain injuries. Any of these injuries can be disfiguring or have a long-term impact on your overall health. Victims who suffer these types of injuries may require weeks or months of recovery time.
When someone is involved in a roadway accident involving a tractor trailer, the injuries can be catastrophic. Trucks weigh significantly more than cars and in some cases, may carry hazardous materials that could burn accident victims. Victims who were injured in a truck accident often require hospitalization, and may require weeks or months for a full recovery from their injuries.
Motorcycle operators, bicyclists, pedestrians have little protection when struck by an automobile. There were more than 25,000 auto accidents reported during 2018 that did not involve a car, but instead struck someone who was either walking or operating a two-wheeled vehicle. These types of accidents often have higher fatality rates meaning families may have to consider a wrongful death lawsuit.
Slip and fall injuries that occur on someone else’s property can wreak havoc on your life. Falling down the stairs could mean broken bones, head and neck injuries and injuries to your back. These types of accidents could mean weeks of pain, rehabilitation therapy, time lost from work while recovering. In some cases, victims suffer long-term pain, particularly when there are back, or neck injuries involved.
Workplace injuries involving a defective product can cause burns that are disfiguring. Being struck by a forklift on the job could mean crushing injuries or broken bones. Depending on the circumstances of the injury, victims may be able to recover damages outside of worker’s compensation claims.
As you can see, the type of accident, as well as the severity of injuries, can vary from person to person. Because of this, it is impossible to determine without evaluating an individual case how much a person might recover during a personal injury lawsuit.
Understanding Negligence in Accident Injury Claims
Many victims of an accident do not understand what is required to determine if someone behaved negligently. Negligence is an important element of any personal injury claim. Before you can file a lawsuit against someone for a personal injury claim, you first must prove their behavior was negligent, and their negligence was responsible for your injury. The standard for behavior is a required level of “reasonable care.” Reasonable care means the person has a responsibility to do things in a certain way to help avoid causing someone else an injury. There are different levels of reasonable care, some of which are:
- Motor vehicle operation – Drivers have an obligation to maintain control and drive with reasonable care. This means obeying traffic signals, being aware of the impact of weather on visibility or roadway conditions and making sound judgments about traffic conditions. Drivers have an obligation to be driving free of substances that could impair their ability to operate safely, operate their vehicles without the distractions caused by electronic devices, and avoid driving if they are overtired.
- Protection of visitors – When a business has foot traffic, the property owner owes it to those whom they are doing business to maintain their premises in a manner that helps avoid accidents. Property owners have a responsibility to repair broken staircases, frayed carpeting, handrails, and otherwise keep the property free from hazards. A failure to provide a safe environment to visitors would be considered a breach of reasonable care standards and could result in a property owner being liable for injuries that are sustained on their property.
- Care owed to patients – Physicians, anesthesiologists, and those who operate or work in nursing homes owe a duty of care to their patients. In cases of nursing home abuse, this means that duty of care was breached. Whether a nursing home resident is the victim of a medical issue caused because of improper administration of medication, failure of staff to notice a decline in health, or physical or emotional abuse is occurring, there may be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.
- Safety of employees – Your employer has a duty to ensure anyone who is operating equipment in the workplace is properly trained and is not operating such equipment in a manner that is likely to cause injury to another party. While some believe you may only file a worker’s compensation claim if you suffer an injury on the job, there are some cases where other parties may be responsible for your injury allowing you the ability to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Expenses That Factor into the Value of Accident Claims
One reason most people consider filing a personal injury lawsuit is to recover financially after they have recovered from their physical injuries. Those who have never suffered a serious injury often do not understand the monetary losses involved. Recovering financially after a serious injury can take months, and even years, depending on the injury and the costs associated with the care of an accident victim.
Medical care costs are sky high, no matter where you live. In Florida, admission to a medical facility with a back injury can result in a hospital bill in the range of $24,170. This is assuming that no complication requires surgery or other procedures. The more complex the injury, the higher the bill. For example, if a back injury ultimately results in a spinal fusion being required, the costs could soar to as high as $173,600.00.
In addition to the high cost of medical care, victims of an accident often require medication to prevent infection and fight pain. In some cases, victims may need nursing care, specialized medical equipment ranging from braces to hospital beds, and may also require rehabilitation therapy. The medical costs associated with recovering from an accident can be staggering and leave a family feeling financially vulnerable after an accident.
Outside of medical costs, victims of an accident often lose significant time from work. While they are recovering from their injury they often cannot work, even part time. Victims who are their family’s primary breadwinner are often faced with overwhelming stress due to being unable to work and provide for their families. A personal injury lawyer can help you understand how to go about calculating your lost wages as part of your accident injury claim.
Property Damage Losses Impact Injury Claims
Property damage may sound like it has no place in a personal injury claim. However, whether you are in an auto accident, slip and fall on someone’s property, or you are attacked by a dog, you might recover damages for your personal property. Car accident victims may recover the cost of repair or replacing their vehicle and might recover the cost of renting a car while they either repair the car involved in the accident, or shop for a new vehicle.
Additionally, the cost of personal property damaged in the car may also be recoverable. For example, if your phone screen shattered, a car seat was ruined, or you had sporting goods in your trunk that are damaged or destroyed, you might recover the cost of the items.
When you slip and fall on a staircase, floor, or other uneven surface on someone’s property, or you are attacked by their dog, if your clothing is destroyed or damaged you may also be entitled to compensation for those damages.
Insurance Companies and Accident Injury Claims
Nearly all of us are familiar with how insurance works. We pay a monthly or annual premium and when we suffer a loss, we file a claim with our insurance company. Unfortunately, insurance adjusters do not always agree with us about the value of a claim we may submit, and they will often make offers to make the claim go away.
Oftentimes, especially early in the process, you may get a low-ball offer in the hopes you will accept a settlement. This is often done because an adjuster is working under the assumption, correctly so, that you are losing money and may face financial difficulties.
One of the challenges with a quick settlement is the insurance company often makes an offer well before the extent of your losses are known. Here is what most personal injury attorneys will tell you—never accept an early offer from an insurer without understanding what you are accepting and the terms of accepting the offer. You should always keep in mind that insurance company adjusters are more concerned with the bottom line of the insurer than they are with helping you regain your financial footing after an accident.
Florida car insurance operates on a “no fault” basis. This means if you are injured in a car accident, you will file a claim with your own insurance company. Many of us have the minimum in personal injury coverage (PIP), which is $10,000 per person. This amount may not come close to covering your losses. Additionally, if your injury is serious, disfiguring, or results in your being incapacitated for 90 days or more, you may still have the option of filing a personal injury claim against the responsible party.
Seek Legal Advice Following an Injury
Accident injury claims are complicated and there is no easy answer to how much your accident claim may be worth. Because the type of accident, circumstances surrounding the accident, and the extent of injuries vary so much from incident to incident, the only way to ensure you are getting the compensation that you may be entitled to is to seek help from an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Victims of car or motorcycle accidents, workplace accidents, or those who have a loved one who suffered abuse in a nursing home often have questions about how they are protected under Florida law. The best option for getting the right answers is to talk to an experienced attorney who can answer any questions you may have, as well as explain your rights under Florida’s personal injury statutes.
Recovering physically after an accident is difficult, and having to deal with the additional stress associated with high medical bills, time lost from work, and the emotional trauma that is common after an accident can take their toll on you. You should reach out to an attorney who offers a free consultation about your personal injury claim and make sure you fully understand your options before you make any decisions about accepting a settlement offer from an insurance company.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765