The Basics of a Personal Injury LawsuitPersonal injury law is also known as tort law. It is the area of the law that provides an avenue for an injured person to secure relief, also called damages, through the civil courts. Generally speaking, any injury suffered by an individual could be pursued through a personal injury lawsuit. Common examples of injuries that result in personal injury claims include:
- Negligent acts: If an individual commits a negligent act that results in harm to another person, this could be the basis of a personal injury lawsuit. Common examples include car accidents, dog bites, medical malpractice, and slip and fall accidents.
- Intentional acts: If someone intentionally harms another person, such as assault or battery, this is also a basis for a personal injury claim. These are called intentional torts.
- Product liability: Some injuries that occur due to a defective product could be handled through a personal injury lawsuit.
- Defamation: These are less straightforward as they don't result in physical injury but instead harm to a person's reputation. If someone's statements cause reputational damage, the damaged individual may be able to recover through a personal injury lawsuit.
How to Increase your Chances of SuccessYou can increase the chance of winning or securing a settlement from a personal injury case. The guidance below will help ensure you are prepared for your personal injury lawsuit.
Seek Medical Attention ImmediatelyBe sure to get medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. First, this is important for your wellbeing, which should be your first priority. Second, making sure you receive timely medical attention ensures that the defendant doesn't have a defense to your injury claim. If you delay in seeking medical attention, the defendant may claim that your injuries were from an intervening incident. Alternatively, they may argue that your injuries were aggravated due to the delay and that they aren't responsible for any result of the aggravation.
File a Police ReportAnytime you are injured because of someone else's actions, make sure to get a police report. Police reports serve as valuable documentation of the event. They also ensure that a citation is issued if any party violated a law. This constitutes important evidence of a party's fault. A police report will also document the names and contact information of witnesses. If you are unable to secure a police report, be sure that you collect the contact information for any witnesses.
Watch Your WordsBe mindful of what you say to the other party. Make sure to avoid statements that could imply the accident was your fault. For example, saying something like “Oh, I am so clumsy!” could be viewed as an admission of fault. Also be careful of what you say on social media. Social media posts are increasingly being used as evidence in lawsuits.
Diligently Track PaperworkEvery piece of paper relating to your accident may become important at a personal injury trial. Medical bills, doctors' statements, and documentation of time off work—all of these could serve as proof of damages. Make sure you have an effective filing strategy to keep track of these documents. Your lawyer will want to perform a thorough review of all documentation as they create a strategy for your case.
Be Strategic With Insurance CompaniesWhether or not to involve your insurance company of the insurance provider of the other party can have many implications in a personal injury case. Make a thoughtful decision before filing an insurance claim, and be cautious of what you communicate to the insurance company. While your dealings with the insurance company are not part of a lawsuit, any statements you make could be used as evidence in the case.
Be Stingy With Your SignatureDon't sign any paperwork without reading it and understanding its significance. It would be a shame to sign a document only to find later that it included an agreement to limit your ability to recover damages or waived your right to file a lawsuit.
Don't DelayThere is a time limit for filing a lawsuit called the statute of limitations. In Florida, any claim for recovery due to negligence must be filed within four years of the injury. If more than four years have passed, you may not be able to file a lawsuit to seek recovery for your injuries.
Understanding DamagesIt may be very clear to you that you have been injured. What might be less obvious is what the monetary consequences of your injuries are. These monetary consequences are called damages and can be very complicated to calculate. The main types of injuries recovered in a personal injury case include:
- Medical treatment: Medical costs include the cost of medical care resulting from the accident, including the cost of emergency transportation, hospital stays, doctors' bills and medications. They also include the estimated costs of future medical care, including assistive devices like wheelchairs or ongoing care such as physical therapy or an in-home nurse. You may need to enlist medical professionals to speak to the future implications of the injuries.
- Loss of income: If you missed work because of the accident or will miss work in the future, you are likely entitled to your lost salary and wages. This also includes loss of future earning potential. For example, if your injury limits your ability to perform certain job duties or to work full time, you are entitled to compensation for the loss of this earning potential.
- Property damage: If your property was damaged in the accident, you should be able to recover for repair or replacement of the damaged property. These damages are particularly common in car accident cases where the vehicle is damaged or destroyed.
- Pain and suffering and emotional distress: You may be able to recover money for pain and suffering or emotional trauma that is ongoing or from the time of the accident. Whether to award these damages will be at the discretion of the jury.
- Loss of enjoyment: If you are no longer to participate in activities that were previously an important part of your life due to your injuries, the jury may decide to award damages to compensate you for these losses.
- Loss of consortium: This action must be brought by a family member of the injured individual seeking compensation for the loss of their relationship with the victim, including an intimate physical relationship.
- Punitive damages: Punitive damages are not intended to compensate for any specific injury. Instead, they are meant to punish the defendant for egregious behavior. Punitive damages are only allowed in Florida when the defendant's actions were intentional or grossly negligent.
Chances of Winning the LawsuitOne of the most important steps you can take for your personal injury lawsuit is to define what you consider “winning.” Do you only consider it a win if the jury finds in your favor for the full amount of requested damages? Would a jury decision in your favor for less than the requested damages be a win? Is winning settling before trial for a sum you and your attorney have agreed is reasonable? If your definition of winning includes settlement, the chances of securing a win are much higher than a win at court. The Bureau of Justice Statistics maintains historical data on the number of personal injury cases that were resolved in court. According to these statistics, juries decided in favor of the plaintiff in 54 percent of state court personal injury jury trials. The average total award was just over $30,000. Plaintiffs received over $1 million in 6 percent of jury cases. An even more important statistic is the number of cases that settle before going to trial. While conventional wisdom states that approximately 95 percent of cases are resolved by settlement, a statistical analysis has found that the settlement rate is likely somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of cases. No matter which data you believe, it is clear that the majority of cases are settled before they reach trial. This takeaway is important, because it means that “winning” the lawsuit is more likely to be reached through a satisfactory settlement. A settlement is very likely to include some form of damages for the injured party but is often a compromise between what the plaintiff is requesting and what the defendant believes they owe. While the payout may not be a windfall, it provides a better guarantee of recovery than a jury trial. Be sure you select an attorney who can discuss settlement strategy as proficiently as they can discuss trial strategy.
Legal Guidance Can HelpIf your goal for your personal injury lawsuit is to secure the maximum amount of recovery, work with an attorney who understands all aspects of a personal injury lawsuit. This includes determining fault, calculating damages, and creating a settlement and trial strategy. The guidance of an attorney will help you increase the chances of successfully recovering damages to address your injuries. They will also help you manage difficult communications with insurance companies or opposing counsel. Be sure to consult with your attorney regularly throughout the process of preparing your case, and provide new information is it becomes available. Don't be afraid to ask questions. The better you understand the case, the more you will be able to assist the attorney by providing helpful information. By ensuring your attorney has a full understanding of the facts and circumstances of your case, you can help improve the odds of a favorable outcome for you and your loved ones. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/florida-personal-injury-lawyer/