A personal injury claim is a claim by a person that another person or entity has acted negligently (taken an action contrary to that which a reasonable person in similar circumstances would take), and in doing so, has caused an injury or damage to the person’s body.
In Florida, and all other states, a person is entitled to be compensated monetarily if the person can show that they have been injured by another person or entity’s negligence, and that they have suffered damages as a result.
Florida recognizes the following types of damages:
Compensatory Damages: The monetary compensation that represents the various losses a person has suffered after being injured by someone else’s negligence. Compensatory damages are made of of Special (or actual) Damages and General Damages.
Special or Actual Damages are damages that compensate the injured person for economic losses such as, compensations for bodily injuries, including past and future effects of injuries on the person’s overall health and function, permanent disfigurement, medical costs previously incurred, future medical costs, past lost wages or earnings, loss of future earning capacity, and damage to property.
General Damages are damages that compensate the injured person for non-economic losses such as past physical pain, future physical pain, mental distress or anguish, inconvenience, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of domestic or household services.
Punitive damages are not designed to compensate the injured person, but instead are awarded to punish the party who is responsible for the other person’s injury and damages. Punitive damages are also awarded to deter similar conduct or actions in the future. Punitive damages are not available in every case, and in order to be entitled to punitive damages, an injured party must show that the other party acted with an extreme indifference or reckless disregard for the rights and safety of the injured person.
If you have been injured, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention to treat your injures and ensure that they are not made worse. Even if you feel the injury is minor, the minor or moderate pain could be a sign of something more serious, and it is better to be safe than sorry.
After you have sought treatment from a medical professional, then you should speak to an experienced personal injury attorney to determine whether or not you have a potential personal injury claim. The personal injury attorney will investigate the facts of your accident, talk to you about your injuries and your treatment, and investigate the party who may be at fault in causing your injury.
If you decide to hire a personal injury attorney, he or she will complete an initial investigation of your case. After the investigation, the attorney will inform you as to whether or not he or she believes you have a potential personal injury claim. If the attorney believes that you do not have a potential personal injury claim, that does not always mean you do not; different attorneys have differing opinions. You may want to speak to another personal injury attorney to get a second opinion regarding whether you may have a potential claim.
If the attorney does in fact believe that you have a potential personal injury claim, then he or she will likely request all of your medical records (both past and present), speak to any witnesses to your accident or the cause of your injury, and perform further investigation as may be necessary in your specific case. After this investigation is completed, your attorney will likely make a demand to the other party and/or their insurance carrier.
A demand is a formal notice to the other party and/or their insurance carrier. The notice usually contains a detailed account of the accident and the injuries that you suffered as a result. It will also have a detailed account of the medical treatment that you have received since the accident, and the amount of covered and uncovered costs of such treatment. The demand may also detail how the injury has affected your life and how it will likely continue to affect your life. Attached to the demand will likely be many medical reports, opinions and other information that will support your demand.
At the end of the demand (and only after getting your approval), your attorney will provide a dollar figure to the other party and/or their insurance carrier. That dollar figure will be the amount that you are offering in order to settle your claim in full. Most of the time, the party or their insurance company will respond to your demand with a lower figure than that which you offered. If the claim cannot be settled after negotiations between your personal injury attorney and the party or their insurance company, then your attorney may consider filing a lawsuit against the responsible party and their insurance company.
If negotiations with the party or their insurance company’s representative are not successful, then it will likely be necessary for your attorney to file a lawsuit against the responsible party and their insurance company. A personal injury lawsuit begins by your attorney filing a complaint on your behalf with the appropriate court.
Once the complaint is filed, your attorney will soon be in contact with the attorney who works for the responsible party or their insurance company. The attorneys will conduct discovery, which involves exchanging documents and other materials, taking depositions (statements under oath) of people who witnessed the events that led to the injury, and speaking with medical professionals to assist in evaluating the extent of your injuries. The attorney representing the other party or their insurance company may request you to undergo an Independent Medical Examination (IME) so that another medical professional (other than your treating medical professional) can evaluate your injuries.
At some point after the lawsuit has been filed, you and the other party and/or their attorney will likely attend a mediation during which a neutral, third-party mediator will discuss the case with both parties in an attempt to facilitate a settlement. Mediation is not binding on the parties, but is often required before your case can proceed to jury trial.
If further attempts at settlement have failed, then your attorney may want to take your case to a jury trial. During a jury trial, your attorney will present your case to the jury and ask for a certain amount of money to compensate you for your injuries. If punitive damages are involved, your attorney may also ask for an additional monetary award as would be sufficient to punish and deter the responsible party for their conduct. The attorney representing the other party and/or their insurance company will attempt to argue that their client was not responsible for the cause of the injury (or was only partially the cause), and that your injuries are not as significant as you claim. After both parties have had the opportunity to present their cases, the jury will determine whether or not the other party is liable and to what extent.
More than one person can be responsible for the cause of an injury, and sometimes, the one who is partially at fault is the person who has suffered the injury. Florida follows comparative negligence, which means if you are partially responsible for your injury, then the amount that you recover will be reduced in proportion to your responsibility. Therefore, you may still be able to recover damages for your losses even though you may be partially responsible for the cause of your injury.
Be sure to inform your personal injury attorney if you have ever suffered a prior injury to the same or similar part of the body. If you have suffered a prior injury to the same part of your body, you may still have a potential claim. However, a prior injury to the same part of the body may affect your claim and how the insurance company or other party will evaluate your potential personal injury claim. If you fail to inform your attorney of this fact before the other party or their insurance company finds out, then your potential claim may be severely damaged.
Florida, like all other states, has a Statute of Limitations, which limits the time you have to file your claim for personal injury.
In most personal injury cases, you must file your claim within four (4) years of the date of the events which caused your injury. However, certain actions, such as medical malpractice, or an accident that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean has a Statute of Limitations of two (2) years.
The Statute of Limitation refers to the time you have to file your claim in court; informing the other party or their insurance representative will not satisfy the requirement, you must file your claim in court prior to the Statute of Limitations running, or your claim will be barred. The Statute of Limitations for your claim may depend on the circumstances of your case. It is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after you realize that you may have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence so that important rights do not slip away due to the Statute of Limitations.
If you have been injured by the negligence of another, then it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. Most of the time, the person who negligently caused an injury will have insurance, covering them for the losses they have caused. The insurance carriers who must defend the other party and pay any settlement or award have attorneys and adjusters working hard on their side. These adjusters and attorneys will stop at nothing to negate their client’s fault in causing your injury, and to minimize the extent of your injuries.
To receive the compensation that you may deserve, you need to have someone working just as hard for you. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney will assist in preliminary negotiations with the insurance company’s adjusters. Attempting to negotiate with the adjusters yourself could leave you with little to nothing because the adjusters will not take your claim seriously. If a lawsuit is filed, combating the claims of the other party’s attorney requires extensive legal and practical knowledge. If you do not employ someone with this knowledge, you may not receive full and fair compensation for your injuries.