If you have been injured in an accident or incident due to the carelessness, negligence, or recklessness of another party, you likely have a thousand questions running through your mind. Let’s take it one step at a time and take you through the personal injury lawsuit process.
The laws in every state are slightly different; therefore, it’s always best to hire a personal injury attorney who is experienced in the state’s laws and regulations. In Florida, there are a few things to remember concerning the personal injury lawsuit process:
4 Key Things to Know About the Personal Injury Process in Florida
- You have four years in which to file a claim (three years if you are filing a claim against a government).
- Florida is a no-fault state, which means that courts are not generally involved with car accident cases unless catastrophic injuries are involved (which means you need a lawyer more than ever).
- Because Florida is a no-fault state, you will be expected to use your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, which covers up to $10,000 first before filing a lawsuit.
- In Florida, a driver has a legal duty to act in a reasonably safe manner by abiding by all traffic laws. If you fail to do that, then you can be held liable for any resulting damages.
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The Personal Injury Lawsuit Process: Step by Step
Step 1: Contact an Attorney
Hire an attorney knowledgeable about Florida personal injury law who can help guide you through the process. Their initial consultation with you is free, and they will only get paid if they take your case, and a settlement is reached. As you undergo treatment for any injuries sustained in the car accident, keep very good notes and receipts for any bills received and payments made. Keep a record of all medical bills, medical records, photos, videos, police reports, and documentation concerning lost wages due to the injury(ies), and anything else that might be of importance to your case.
Step 2: Contact Your Insurance
If you have been involved in a car accident and have sustained injuries, your first step should be to contact your insurance company to see if your injury will be covered under the medical insurance portion of coverage. You can also ask the insurance company(ies) of the other party(ies) involved to pay the expenses. To do that, a formal letter (known as a Demand Letter) should be sent to that insurance company. Your personal injury attorney will help you prepare this letter, and the letter should include the cause of the accident, your injuries and medical treatment provided, and pain and suffering involved, and lost wages caused by the accident. Depending on the circumstances, more information could also be included.
Step 3: File a Complaint
If the insurance company doesn’t accept the Demand Letter and declines to pay your claim, your attorney would need to file a complaint in the Florida court system. The complaint will outline all the evidence as stated in the Demand Letter and will ask the court system for a judgement.
Step 4: Discovery
You and your attorney will need to go through all the evidence, including all the paperwork and any photos/videos you have collected through the time following the car accident. All the information will then be put forth as a formal deposition. In a deposition, you swear that the information you have given is accurate and truthful. During this process (known as the Discovery phase), either party may file a motion to delay the case, agree to a settlement in the case, or dismiss the case altogether.
Step 5: Finalize Treatment
If the medical treatment for your injury(ies) goes on for a while, it is best to wait until you are fully healed to ensure that the settlement will include ALL the expenses. This could, however, send your case into the trial phase.
Step 6: Go to Trial
Typically, only about four or five percent of all personal injury claims make it to a trial as many end up being settled out of court, which would be the preferred way as going to trial can be expensive. Taking your case to trial means that a judge or jury would listen to your side of the story and also the defendant’s side. Your attorney will have to present the facts and evidence to them, concluding that the defendant breached Florida’s Duty of Care in your case. After listening to arguments from both sides, the judge or jury will be the deciding factor as to whether you receive the requested compensation or if your case doesn’t have any merit and it will be dismissed.
Step 7: Formal or Informal Settlement
If your case is decided outside Florida’s court system, that would constitute an informal settlement. If a judge or jury decides the fate of your case in the courtroom, that is considered a formal settlement. A formal settlement generally takes a longer period of time than an informal settlement.
Step 8: Obtain Compensation
With an informal settlement, it is possible to receive your monetary award within two weeks. With a formal settlement, payment is expected to be made by the defendant within 21 days. However, keep in mind that every case is different, and the time taken to receive compensation may be a little longer.
If you have been injured in a car accident in Florida, make sure you hire an attorney who is very familiar with Florida personal injury laws. A knowledgeable attorney can make all the difference in your case and can help put you at ease, knowing you have an experienced lawyer on your side.