What are Personal Injury and Torts?In short, a personal injury is an injury to the body or mind. The injury can result from negligent actions and even intentional behavior. Personal injury cases involve two primary legal concepts: liability and damages. The person who injured you—the defendant—must be liable for your injuries and damages for you to have a valid personal injury claim. Personal injury is a tort claim filed in civil court. A tort is an action that results in injury or harm that civil courts can impose liability. The following are the three categories torts can fall into:
- Intentional tort: This is when someone purposefully does something to injure or harm another party. Some intentional torts include assault, battery, false imprisonment, trespassing, and intentionally causing someone emotional distress. Even if the state tries and convicts someone of an intentional tort, you can still sue the defendant in civil court for financial damages.
- Negligence tort: This is when injury or harm results from another party's failure to take appropriate action when they owe a plaintiff a duty of care.. A negligence tort does not require the at-fault party to have acted with intent to harm, rather they did not follow the proper standard of care when performing a certain action. This can include not obeying traffic rules, misusing a dangerous tool, or not leaving a wet floor sign on your residence.
- Strict liability tort: This is when the defendant is liable for an action regardless of intent or their mental state when performing the action. Strict liability commonly applies to product liability cases. A designer, manufacturer, or seller can share liability for their role in the harm caused by a defective product despite not intending to harm.
Types of Personal Injury Cases We HandleRegardless of the type of injury you sustained, you are entitled to damages. In some cases, where the defendant acted grossly negligent, such as by driving under the influence, purposely taunting you, stalking you, and engaging in other grossly negligent acts so much that it caused you to sustain physical or emotional injuries, you may also be entitled to punitive damages. The following are some of the types of personal injury cases that you can pursue compensation for:
- Vehicle accidents: This is any accident that occurs between two vehicles, including car accidents, truck accidents, boating accidents, airplane accidents, motorcycle accidents, and bicycle accidents. Vehicle accidents fall into two categories: true accidents and accidents caused by negligent behavior, such as driving under the influence, distracted driving, or drunk driving.
- Pedestrian accidents: These are often thought of as vehicle accidents, as most pedestrian accidents involve both pedestrians and motor vehicles.
- Medical malpractice cases: This is when a healthcare provider causes an injury to a patient by deviating from normal medical standards of care. These could include a misdiagnosis, doctor error during birth that causes harm, and errors in surgery, such as leaving foreign matter in a patient's body or amputating the wrong body part.
- Slip-and-fall cases: These cases may involve individual defendants if you were injured at someone's home, against a private commercial business—such as a store or manufacturer—if injured at a place of business, or against a government or governmental entity—such as a state or national park—if injured due to unsafe conditions in a public place. This type of accident falls under premises liability law.
- Defamation cases for libel or slander: These are more difficult to win, as the injured party must prove that their reputation was sullied by the defendant's untrue statements. Libel is easier to prove because it's written, whereas slander involves the spoken word.
- Dog and other animal bites: While minor bites may seem inconsequential, they could potentially lead to serious illness if the animal is sick. Animal bites may also cause extensive physical damage or even death.
- Workplace accidents: These are accidents that occur while you are performing a work task while on the clock. An employer can be liable for damages for a workplace accident, whether it occurs due to a lack of appropriate safety equipment, the negligence of an employer or co-worker, broken equipment, or other negligent behaviors. Following a workplace accident, you could file a worker's compensation claim.
- Products liability: This type of case involves a plaintiff who sustains an injury from a defective product. Products, including drugs, food, and other consumer products, may have defects such as improper warnings, harmful designs, or manufacturing defects.
- Wrongful death: You might sue for wrongful death if a loved one dies due to another person or company's actions or inactions. A wrongful death lawsuit may stem from a deadly car accident, a medical malpractice claim, nursing home neglect, a construction accident, or another workplace accident.
- Nursing home abuse: The circumstances of these cases vary widely and may involve an unattended patient sustaining an injury while walking around or a caretaker dropping a patient onto the floor. Nursing home abuse also includes failing to keep patients clean and failing to ensure that patients maintain a healthy diet.
- Accidents that cause traumatic brain injuries: Direct impact during a personal injury accident, such as a car accident, slip and fall, or pedestrian accident, can result in damage to the brain that can lead to a traumatic brain injury (TBI). These can include concussions, contusions, and coup-contrecoup brain injuries. TBIs can cause memory problems, vision changes, depression, anxiety, difficulty thinking, and balance issues.
- Food poisoning: This is when you contract an illness from contaminated food. It could come from a restaurant, food at a company or church picnic, or even food bought from the grocery store if the store did not properly store the food.
- Exposure to asbestos: Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral useful in offering chemical and heat resistance, strength, and fireproofing for products. However, being exposed to too much can lead to you contracting cancer, asbestosis, or mesothelioma. Even if the exposure occurred many years ago, you might still have a viable personal injury claim.
- Exposure to chemicals such as Round-Up or Agent Orange: While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will pay for some illnesses caused by Agent Orange, it doesn't necessarily cover everything. The VA will also try to deny disability to those not engaged in active land combat, though if the veteran fights hard enough in court, they may get benefits.
Settlements and Lawsuits for Personal Injury ClaimsMost personal injury cases will involve at least one insurance company. Your personal injury attorney may try to settle with the insurance company. However, insurance companies are notorious for making low settlement offers to close a claim. In those situations, personal injury attorneys often take the case to court to see if the court will order a higher payout. It's often best to settle outside of court, which will end the whole process much sooner and usually much cheaper. If your case has to go to trial, it will take much longer to wrap up. However, if the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement amount, it's worth taking your case to trial. If you've suffered catastrophic injuries in your accident, it's likely in your best interest to file a personal injury lawsuit and take your case to trial. With minor injuries or non-catastrophic injuries, you'll heal quicker. Catastrophic injuries often require additional therapy and medical care that could cost the insurance company hundreds of thousands of dollars rather than thousands of dollars.
Class-Action Lawsuits in Personal Injury CasesIf you must take your case to court because the insurance company refuses to offer you a fair settlement, you may not be the only person injured by the entity. In this case, you could choose to file a class-action lawsuit. In a class-action lawsuit, you will be one of several plaintiffs looking to recover compensation from the same defendant for injuries or harm, and you will all share in the amount of money paid out. A personal injury attorney may receive more compensation from this type of case because the defendant may have to pay a higher amount. Since most personal injury attorneys don't charge on an hourly basis but rather a percentage on a contingency basis, this does not affect the amount of compensation that you will receive. In fact, you may actually get more in a class action suit if the attorney takes less than the standard 33 to 40% from each member of the class-action suit.
Why You Should Retain a Personal Injury AttorneyYou may think that settling with insurance companies is an easy process that you can handle yourself without the help of an attorney. However, failing to retain counsel may result in you securing less compensation. Insurance companies, even your own, look out for their bottom line, which means they will pay out the least amount possible. Thus, when making a claim, even against your own insurance, you should retain a personal injury attorney to handle the negotiations and review any settlement offers. They will have a firmer grasp on the tactics used by insurance companies to limit your settlement. With their vast experience, they can counteract any bad faith tactics and put you in a better position to receive fair compensation. Studies have shown that when individuals retain an attorney, settlements are higher. Furthermore, an attorney can take your case to trial if an insurance company is particularly stubborn with a low-ball offer. This can be leveraged against an insurance company that will realize this and wants to avoid a lengthy court case by offering a more fair settlement offer. A trial can be especially beneficial in cases involving serious or catastrophic injuries and long-term care. Getting an insurance company to pay for ongoing care, including occupational or physical therapy and follow-up doctors' appointments is difficult. If the defendant is found liable in a court case, their insurance company will have to pay the full complement of your damages.
Fees and Costs to Expect in Personal Injury CasesWhile many personal injury attorneys cover their client's fees and costs up-front, some may require you to pay those out of pocket. Attorney's fees are what you pay an attorney to represent your rights in settlement negotiations or in court. Personal injury costs are the actual money it takes for all components of a lawsuit, which attorneys don't turn a profit on. For example, if the fee for filing a dog bite personal injury case is $400 in court, the attorney will charge you $400 for this. Similarly, if you go to mediation or arbitration and the mediator/arbitrator charges $450 per hour, the attorney will charge you $450 for this. Other costs in a personal injury claim may include:
- Lawsuit filing fees with the clerk of court, which are set by Florida Statute 28.241
- Personal service of the summons, which depends on the price of the process server
- Postage and copies
- The cost of arbitration or mediation is based on the hourly rate the mediator or arbitrator charges
- The cost of taking depositions, which may include travel, office space, and equipment rental
- The cost of court reporters depends on what the court reporter charges and may be an hourly, a daily, or a flat-rate fee
- The cost of any investigators depends on their charging structures
- The cost of expert witnesses, which is an hourly or a flat-rate fee
Choosing a Personal Injury AttorneyIf you live in an area with many personal injury attorneys, choosing the right one is often difficult. First, check if an attorney is registered with the Florida Bar Association and, if so, if they are in good standing. If the attorney has any blemishes on their record, they will be listed on the Bar's website. Look at some of the attorney's settled cases. Often, personal injury attorneys will tell you the type of case, how much the settlement was for, or how much the court ordered the defendant to pay. Always ask a personal injury attorney what upfront costs you will need to pay. While requiring the payment of up-front costs doesn't necessarily mean that an attorney is not a good attorney, it could mean that you might not be able to afford to pursue the lawsuit, depending on the amount of the costs. Ask the attorney how they will be charging you for their time.
Contingency Fees Make Personal Injury Lawyers AffordableMost personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means they will take a percentage of your compensation award as their attorney's fees. Some attorneys won't charge you anything if they don't win your case. You can set up a contingency fee agreement to determine what your personal injury lawyer can receive following a successful case.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Personal Injury ClaimPersonal injury cases can have long processes of settlement negotiations and court cases, all while you have to focus on your recovery. While you can do it all alone, you will likely make a mistake caused by the stress of everything on your plate and a lack of knowledge regarding the legal process. It could be challenging for you to receive full compensation for all damages, including medical bills, lost work, and pain and suffering. Hiring a personal injury lawyer can help relieve stress by giving you an experienced professional that can handle the negotiation process and allow you to focus on recovery. The experienced personal injury lawyers of Dolman Law Group have been working with Florida personal injury accident victims for over a decade. While other personal injury law firms may look for settlements to end cases swiftly, we are willing to work to get you fair compensation no matter how long it takes. We have the resources and investment necessary to handle challenging negotiations and lengthy court cases. Allow us to aid in your pursuit of compensation with our specialized attention, consistent communication, and commitment to you receiving fair compensation. We offer legal advice on a contingency fee basis, which means we do not get paid until you do. Contact us for a free consultation to see if our personal injury attorneys are the right fit for your case. We can make a contingent fee arrangement that allows for you to receive top-notch legal advice without having to pay heavy fees out of pocket at the outset. Call us at (727) 451-6900 or leave us a message on our online contact page. 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/