What You Should Do Now: In order to increase you chances of recovery, you should do the following:
Take notes on the specifics of the accident, the date, the time, witness names and telephone numbers, and your injuries.
Obtain evidence of the accident, take pictures, file and obtain reports, seek medical attention, request copies of your medical files, retain receipts for out-of-pocket expenses.
Locate witnesses and stay in contact as they may help prove your case.
Notify all parties who may be responsible for the accident and your injuries, including insurance carriers, and any government agencies.
You may try to resolve your personal injury claim on your own with either the at-fault individual or with an insurance representative of the at-fault individual. In the case of a minor injury with no permanent disability, it may be economically advantageous to handle the claim without a lawyer. However, in those instances where there is a dispute as to fault, or a dispute as to the extent of the injury, you should seek the assistance of a lawyer. In this instance, you should not give statements or make commitments to a representative of the other party without legal advice.
You should immediately notify all insurance carriers of your personal injury claim. If it is an automobile claim, you should not only notify the other parties’ insurance carrier, but also your own automobile insurance carrier. The failure to notify your insurance carrier of an accident on a timely basis can void your insurance coverage for the accident. Different benefits are dependent upon the type of accident and the type of insurance coverage held by the different parties. For example, PIP insurance is no fault insurance coverage for reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to an automobile accident. Additionally, insurance policies may have insurance coverage for Medical Payments; Property Damage; Comprehensive and Collision Coverage; as well as General Liability coverage. If you are employing a lawyer, it is important for you to bring to that lawyer all of your insurance policies including automobile, health, and disability. Caution should be used in resolving these claims early as not all of your damages may be known at the time you reach a settlement.
Intentional Acts: A personal injury may be caused by the intentional acts of others. Typically, these claims involve issues of assault and/or battery. For the most part, criminal courts are usually involved in these actions. Additionally, you may make a civil claim for money damages against the person who intentionally injures another.
Negligence: By and far, most personal injury claims involve negligence. Negligence is defined as a failure to use reasonable care. A person will be liable for a personal injury if the person fails to use reasonable care and the failure to do so is the proximate cause of the personal injury. Most personal injury claims involve automobile accidents; bus, plane or train accidents; premise liability or professional negligence. Premises liability cases may include slip and falls, building defects, failure to provide adequate security, or the like.
Comparative Fault: Even if you believe that you may have party caused the accident or your own injury, you can in Florida as in most states, still receive compensation from anyone else who was also careless and partly responsible for your injury.
Damages: Determining how much your personal injury claim is worth is a critical aspect of your case. Often times the total extent of an injury cannot be determined for some length of time. This would be true in the case of injuries to children; injuries that cause psychological problems and injuries that aggravate pre-existing conditions. For a personal injury claim, you are entitled to bring a claim for all of the following: (1) out-of-pocket medical expenses; (2) wages lost because of being disabled; (3) inability to earn wages in the future; (4) pain and suffering; (5) disfigurement; (6) disability and inability to lead the same life one led before the incident; and (7) damaged property. The value of the personal injury claim increases in those cases in which the injury is more painful; the medical treatment is more invasive; or the longer the time it takes for recovery. If the claim is for the death of an individual, the Florida Legislature has established who may make a claim for that wrongful death and what damages each person may claim.
A personal injury lawyer can be more objective about your case and the damages that you are entitled to than you can. Furthermore, personal injury attorneys are used to working with insurance companies and will not be intimidated or confused by their settlement tactics or practices. In the event that trial is necessary, a personal injury lawyer can zealously represent you in Court and obtain the best possible result for you.
Proving Fault: The determination of fault for causing the injury is the most important factor affecting the amount that you may recover for your claim. The value of your claim will be reduced by the percentage of fault that you may be found to be for the accident or injury. For example, if the value of your personal claim is $10,000, but you were 25 percent at fault for the accident, you would be entitled to $7,500. Various rules of fault apply in different types of personal injury cases. General liability issues for several different types of actions are below:
Automobile Accidents: The most common personal injury case involves the automobile accident. These cases are handled under general negligence principles, whereby the Plaintiff must prove that the Defendant was negligent, that the negligence caused the accident, and the accident caused the injuries to the Plaintiff. Whether a person was negligent will depend on whether a party failed to abide by a traffic law and what the witnesses and police officers may state contributed to the accident.
Mass Disasters: The rare case is one involving a single event that injures or kills many people at the same time. This type of case could be an airplane crash, the sinking of a ship, or the collapse of a building or bridge. These cases are generally handled under general negligence principles, where the Plaintiff must prove that the Defendant was negligent in the operation or maintenance of the airplane, ship, building or bridge, that this negligence caused the accident, and the accident caused the injuries to the Plaintiff.
Premise Liability: In this case, a customer, invitee or visitor is injured while on or in the premises of a building, location or store. Owners must keep their premises reasonably safe for customers while keeping them clean and properly maintained. Examples could be merchandise falling on customers, sharp objects that cut customers, or a wet floor that causes a slip an fall. A slip or trip and fall on a dangerous floor, steps, or uneven floor surface could impose liability on the storeowner. Each case turns on whether the owner acted reasonably so that the accident was not likely to happen and whether you were careless in not avoiding the accident. In reviewing this type of case, a Court will decide whether the owner was aware of the condition that caused your accident and how long the condition was in existence. Furthermore, the Court will need to review your actions and ascertain if there was anything you could have done to avoid the accident.
Products Liability: These cases involve personal injuries caused by defective or dangerous consumer products. The doctrine of “strict liability” may apply in your case, which would allow recovery against the manufacturer of a consumer product, which is defective or dangerous without having to prove that the manufacturer was actually negligent. Examples may include lawnmowers without safety guards, automobile tires whose treads separate at high speeds or prescription medicine that causes unintended side affects and injuries. In short, the product is or was used as intended but a defect or unknown dangerous condition caused an injury to the user of the product.