Nobody expects to be injured. Even less, nobody expects an injury to put them in a serious financial bind. The fact is that accidents do happen, people get injured, and injuries are expensive.
If this has recently happened to you or a loved one, you probably have some questions about the entire process. Admittedly, it is an area of expertise that most people go their entire lives without needing to know very much about. This article will clarify the basics about what a personal injury case is, what you should know about the law, and how to proceed.
What is a Personal Injury Claim?
Personal injury is an area of law known as civil law. This means that the case is not criminal in nature, but instead seeks to use the law to hold another party accountable for the damage they've caused. Personal injury cases arise when a person is injured due to an accident or negligence and they are seeking compensation for this burden.
Most often, a personal injury case is resolved in one of two ways: in a settlement or in a court case. When someone is injured and is seeking for another party to pay for their damages, they simply ask them to pay. If the party refuses responsibility or an amount cannot be agreed upon, then the injured party can take them to court for a jury to decide.
Most personal injury cases are resolved in this way. A settlement is when the parties involved (the injured, the defendant, their insurance companies, and both sides' attorneys) agree to an amount that the injured will be paid by the defendant's insurance. This is most commonly reached during the process of negotiation. This may be achieved informally through a series of written and verbal correspondence or through a more formal meeting known as mediation. Once a settlement is reached, the agreement is drafted and filed with the court. This action not only binds both parties to the agreement but also prohibits future lawsuits or a bid for more money. Often, this route is the easiest and most economical for both parties involved.
When an informal settlement cannot be reached—or when the defendant denies liability entirely—the injured party and their lawyers can file a civil complaint to force the defendant to pay. This is more commonly known as “filing a lawsuit.”
The lawsuit will state that the defendant acted carelessly, negligently, or maliciously, which then caused an accident or injury. The injured party must also include how the defendant was negligent, why they had a duty to act responsibility, and exactly how their actions caused them to be harmed. They must also show proof of the damages they are seeking.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
Statutes of limitations are state-mandated time restrictions on how long someone has to file a lawsuit. This time limit begins from the date of the accident. This prevents someone from filing a lawsuit ten years after their injury when everything would be nearly impossible to prove.
Florida's Statute of Limitations on a Personal Injury case varies by type. They are:
- Personal injury cases: 4 years
- Injury claims against a government: 3 years
- Wrongful death cases: 2 years
This is, of course, the maximum amount of time that an individual has to file a lawsuit. For a case to be as successful as possible, a personal injury claim should be started as soon as possible.
Will I Need Evidence?
Just like any other court case, personal injury claims revolve around evidence. One cannot simply claim to be injured or claim their bills add up to $100,000 without showing proof. Therefore, it is best to document everything, every step of the way.
Take a car accident for example. If you are injured in a car accident, you should immediately begin collecting evidence of the incident and your injury, if you are able to. This means ensuring you get a copy of any paperwork, taking as many photos as possible, and seeing a doctor right away to record your injuries.
Later, you attorney will gather your medical bills, work statements, and other supporting documents as proof of the money the injury has or will cost you.
What Are Damages?
“Damages” is a term used in personal injury to describe what the injury has cost the victim. Most often, this refers to a monetary damage, but it can also be emotional damage or physical damage. Damages in personal injury cases are divided into a few categories:
Special damages: These include damages that can easily be calculated, like medical bills or time off work.
General damages: These include damages that are harder to put a monetary value on, but still cost the victim something, such as pain and suffering.
Punitive damages: Punitive damages are a monetary award designed to punish the defendant for their actions. This is most often awarded against negligent companies.
For more information on this term or any personal injury term, visit out Legal Glossary page.
Will I Make Money Off My Case?
Perhaps. The most important thing about a personal injury case is not that you make money, but that you aren't left with a mountain of debt. Injuries, treatments and even pain and suffering can be expensive. If a person does not exercise their right to compensation and has no other form of health coverage, they will be left owing current and future bills for all their damages.
When a settlement is reached, that money is used to pay doctor and healthcare bills that have accumulated. The attorney is also paid out of this money. Anything that is left over goes to the injured victim. This amount will vary based on how much the settlement was for and how much everything else adds up to. It will also depend on whether the injured was awarded general damages, like payment for pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.
Speak to an Experienced Attorney
Personal injury cases are rarely straightforward and never easy. This is mostly due to the insurance company's zeal when it comes to protecting their profits. If you have been injured due to someone else's negligence, speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney is a smart move. Injury claims do not require an attorney. The injured party can negotiate directly with the insurance company. However, personal injury attorneys are experts in this field, handling thousands of cases a year. Often, this is the injured person's first time. It has also been proven that those who hire an injury attorney receive larger settlements on average.
If you are not sure what to do or just need advice, you can always schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an attorney. This meeting will allow the injury attorney to evaluate your case and for you to ask any questions you have. From there, both the injured and the attorney can decide what to do next with no obligation toward anything.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765