The Aftermath of Suffering an Accident Injury
It is a situation no one wants to be in: You are suffering from injuries after an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. The best-case scenario is that your injuries are minor, and your biggest worry is having to deal with the administrative burden of insurance companies. Given that 39.5 million individuals require a medical consultation for injuries each year, it is much more likely that your injuries will affect your ability to go about your normal life.
If you or someone you love is suffering from injuries after an accident, you can position yourself for recovery. First, it is important to understand the basis of a personal injury lawsuit. You can make sure that you don’t undermine your case. And you can understand how to calculate damages and the best way to recover those damages.
Read on to learn more about your options for recovery and what you should do after you are injured in an accident.
Understand Personal Injury Law
As you consider your options and next steps after an accident, it is important to understand what types of injuries qualify for recovery under personal injury law. Personal injury law is broad and allows for civil recovery for almost any accident, as long as you were injured and the accident was due to the negligent or intentional actions of another party. The most common accidents resulting in a personal injury claim are car accidents. Other types of accidents include medical malpractice, product liability, slip and fall accidents, and injuries at the workplace.
One of the key components to a personal injury case is the requirement that the other party acted negligently or intentionally. In Florida, negligence is generally described to jurors as the failure to use reasonable care. This means that the defendant must have done something that a reasonably careful person would not do under similar circumstances or failed to do something that a reasonably careful person would do.
The following are common negligence scenarios:
Failure to obey traffic laws is an indicator of negligence. Examples include speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances, running traffic signals (such as stoplights or stop signs), and distracted driving.
If a product fails to work in a safe manner, such a failure could constitute negligence. For example, if the charger for a computer overheats and lights on fire, this is likely due to negligent construction or testing. The manufacturer should be responsible for injuries and property damage resulting from the fire. If the brakes on a semi-truck fail, the truck is likely to be involved in a crash with other vehicles. The manufacturer may be responsible for the injuries to the truck driver and any other drivers involved in the crash.
Healthcare Professional or Medical Facility
If a healthcare professional acts outside of the recognized standard of care while treating a patient, the provider may be responsible for any injuries that are sustained by the patient. For example, if a doctor fails to respond to signs of fetal distress during childbirth, he or she may be responsible for injuries to the mother and the baby. If a doctor inadvertently prescribes the wrong medicine, he or she should be responsible for any negative effects of the prescribed medicine as well as any worsening of the original condition.
Employers are responsible for maintaining a safe working environment for employees. This includes providing reasonable safety accommodations. If a roofing company fails to provide its employees with proper fall protection, the employer may be liable for any injuries sustained in a fall.
Business owners are required to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition, while private property owners must disclose nonobvious, dangerous conditions. If a business has a leaking roof and fails to fix it or clearly block off the wet area, the business may be responsible if a customer slips and falls.
Understanding negligence is important, as you will want to gather evidence of negligence as soon as the accident occurs. A skilled attorney can help you develop a strategy for demonstrating negligence at trial.
Strategies for Successful Personal Injury Claims
You can help ensure a successful financial recovery. Consider the following:
Focus on Safety
After an accident, your first priority should be your own health. You should seek immediate medical attention, even if you don’t feel like you have been injured. The adrenaline from the accident may be masking the pain associated with your injuries. Other injuries may be present without pain for some time, such as damage to internal organs.
Making sure you receive medical attention is critically important for your health. Failure to seek prompt medical attention may also limit your ability to recover damages. The other party or insurance company may argue that your failure to seek timely medical help made your injuries worse.
Be Diligent About Documentation
Documentation can become incredibly important after an accident. It will help you establish your case and will ensure that you avoid agreeing to anything you may regret down the line. You should do the following:
- File a police report. Anytime you suffer an injury because of someone else’s actions, get a police report. We commonly think to file police reports after car accidents, but it is a helpful step for all accidents. A police report can serve as credible, third-party documentation of the accident. It will include the names, contact information, and accounts of witnesses and may describe the accident scene, as well. Importantly, it will also detail any citations issued to the other party for failure to comply with laws.
- Document the scene. If you are unable to get a police report at the time of the accident, be sure to document the scene yourself. Take pictures of the area, focusing on anything that may have contributed to the accident. Get the names and contact information for witnesses. Make sure you get reliable contact information for the other party.
- Keep paperwork organized. It is impossible to know which document or piece of paperwork may be important to your case down the road. Make sure you keep all paperwork organized for your lawyer to review. Paperwork could include police reports, medical bills, diagnoses, documentation of time off work, and communication from insurance companies. These documents will all help establish fault and calculate damages.
- Don’t sign until your lawyer explains it to you. If you are asked to sign any paperwork, make sure you read it thoroughly and consult your attorney before signing. Some documents may sneak in language that waives your right to claim certain damages or to file a lawsuit in the future.
While paperwork can be tedious, keeping it in order will pay dividends when it comes time to pursue recovery.
Focus on Careful Communication
There will likely be no shortage of questions about your accident. You will probably field questions from the police, friends, family, insurance companies, and potentially even the media. While you might be inclined to tell every detail of your situation, you need to be thoughtful before you speak out.
Any statement you make may be twisted and turned by the other parties. If you make an off-handed statement about being clumsy, they may use this to imply that you were at fault. If you post pictures on your Instagram account showing you playing a sport or climbing a mountain, they will try to argue that your injuries aren’t severe. If you make inconsistent statements, they may be able to dispute your ability to accurately recall the events.
Make sure to work with your lawyer on any public statement about your case to avoid your words coming back to bite you later.
Calculate Damages Caused by the Personal Injury
Calculating damages is much more complicated than adding up your doctors’ bills, and all the documentation you diligently saved will come in handy. While every accident is unique, common damages include:
- Medical expenses: These include straightforward expenses, such as medical bills and emergency transportation, as well as the cost of future care. Future care might include long-term rehabilitation, an in-home nurse, or a wheelchair.
- Loss of income: Your injuries may require that you miss work, and you should be entitled to those lost wages.
- Loss of future earnings: Your injuries may limit your ability to work full time, perform job duties, or otherwise advance in your career. If so, the injuries limit your future earning potential, and you are entitled to recovery.
- Pain and suffering and emotional distress: Being part of a traumatic event can cause long term suffering and emotional trauma, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, someone bitten by a dog may have lifelong anxiety whenever he or she is in the presence of dogs. You may be able to recover for these ongoing issues.
- Damage to property: You are entitled to recover for any damage to your property. The most obvious property damage is to a car involved in an accident. You could also damage property in a fall, or a product malfunction may destroy any number of belongings.
- Loss of enjoyment: Your injuries may keep you from participating in activities that were previously an important part of your life. If you used to play the piano but are now unable to due to an injury to your hands, you should be compensated.
- Punitive damages: In addition to the above damages, a jury may award punitive damages. These are meant to punish the defendant rather than to compensate for a particular injury. Florida law only allows an award of punitive damages if the defendant’s actions were intentional or grossly negligent.
Calculating damages can be complicated and may require input from outside experts, such as an economist or medical experts. While this might seem like a lot of extra work, it is important to think about all of the ways your life has changed and ensure that you include those in your damages request.
Prepare a Strategy for Recovery
There are two options for recovering damages in a personal injury case: (1) settlement or (2) a verdict at trial. While both have their benefits, a settlement is much more common in personal injury cases. In fact, 60 to 80 percent of personal injury cases settle before trial.
It can shock some individuals that their case may not go to trial, so it is good to accept this possibility early in the process. There are pros and cons to both settlement and trial. While there can be bigger payouts at trial, they also come with higher costs and higher degrees of uncertainty. Settlements provide certainty, but often involve some amount of compromise on the amount of damages you have requested. You may find that your strategy changes as the case progresses and different evidence is uncovered.
It will help to go into the process with an open mind so that you can work with your attorney to determine the most effective strategy based on the facts of your case.
Work With a Skilled Florida Personal Injury Attorney
One of the most beneficial steps you can take after an accident is to hire a knowledgeable attorney. An attorney can help you compile evidence of the other party’s fault, calculate damages, hire experts, communicate with insurance companies, and prepare a strategy for recovery. A good attorney will be with you every step of the way throughout the process, with the clear goal of helping you recover compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
The earlier you involve an attorney, the better. He or she can help you avoid missteps, and the mere presence of an attorney will ensure that the other party and insurance companies take you seriously. Once you have hired an attorney, stay involved. No one knows the details of your case better than you do. Ask questions, and make sure you understand and support the decisions that your attorney makes about your case.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765