The Legal Process for Personal Injury Claims
Learn How Your Lawyer Will Help Your Injury Claim Every Step of the Way
Getting back on your feet after being injured in an accident can be a daunting, even overwhelming, task. The good news is that you do not have to do it alone. An experienced Florida injury law firm can provide vital assistance by guiding you through the legal process and helping you build the strongest possible case to obtain monetary damages.
At Searcy Denney, we have decades of legal experience in personal injury cases to help the people that we represent maximize the compensation available under the law. We have a solid reputation for success and a strong track record that includes billions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients.
Our personal injury lawyers take the time to understand each client’s specific individual circumstances and develop a strategy that meets their specific goals. We are skilled negotiators who make every effort to resolve cases efficiently and on optimal terms. Our attorneys are also seasoned trial lawyers ready to take cases all the way through trial, if needed, to get clients the full remedies they deserve. We’re also prepared to help with processes such as mediation and arbitration.
The money damages typically available in these cases include compensation for medical bills, property damage, missed wages and any impact on your future earning capacity. Although it may vary based on the circumstances, there is a general legal process for an injured person seeking compensation from those responsible.
Sending the Demand Letter for Restitution
The process starts with informing the person or entity who caused the injuries – and often their insurance companies – that you intend to hold them accountable for their actions or failure to act.
The key is to work with a proven Florida accident lawyer who can evaluate your case, identify those liable for your injuries and help you weigh your rights and options. An experienced attorney should give you a direct and honest assessment of the situation.
Some accident cases can be resolved without ever having to file a lawsuit or go to court. The purpose of a demand letter is to make those responsible for the accident aware of their liability. It is also to demand that they compensate you accordingly. This often leads to some back and forth discussions in which one or both sides make offers to settle the matter without formal legal action.
How Your Attorney Will Begin the Negligence or Accident Lawsuit
If settlement negotiations do not happen or the parties are not able to reach an agreement, the next step is to file a lawsuit. The document filed in court is formally referred to as a “complaint.”
The complaint lays out some of the basic arguments as to why you are entitled to compensation and asks the court to order the person or entity you are suing (the “defendant”) to pay money damages. It also alerts the defendant of the lawsuit and gives the defendant an opportunity to respond.
Pre-Trial Hearings and Procedures
Preliminary hearings may be required to resolve procedural issues, jurisdiction questions and other matters. It is vital to have the assistance of an experienced Florida accident lawyer who can help you avoid some common pitfalls that may otherwise sink your case.
For example, a shipping company sued after one of its drivers is involved in a truck accident may argue that the lawsuit was filed in the wrong court or that the person suing has not provided the basic legal grounds required of a lawsuit.
The parties may also continue or restart discussions about resolving the case before it goes to trial. That may include opting for arbitration or mediation, which are two alternatives to traditional litigation.
In mediation, the parties take their case to a neutral third party (a mediator) who is specially trained in resolving disputes. This is often an attractive option because a mediator can resolve all or part of the case more quickly and efficiently than a judge, in some cases. Arbitration is a similar option in which one or more arbitrators weigh in on the case. Arbitration decisions, unlike mediator recommendations, are typically binding on the parties.
The Complex Discovery Process for Florida Personal Injury Claims
During the time leading up to the trial date, both sides are required to turn over evidence to each other in a process called “discovery.”
That includes police reports, witness statements, physical evidence from the site of the accident and certain medical evidence detailing any injuries. It also extends to information about any expert witnesses that each side plans to rely on at trial.
In a car accident case, for example, Florida accident lawyers for either side may want to formally interview those involved in the accident and other witnesses in a deposition. Lawyers for both sides are usually present at these interviews and a transcript of the deposition is made available for each side.
The parties can also ask each other questions directly by using a list of inquiries called “interrogatories.”
Going to Trial in Florida
A trial can last anywhere from one day to several weeks, depending on the nature of the case.
This is a formal proceeding in which each side presents its case by providing evidence and calling witnesses to testify. A judge conducts the trial and guides the jury, who generally determines whether the person or entity being sued is, in fact, liable for the accident by way of negligence or strict liability.
An effective Florida accident lawyer can make or break a case at any stage, particularly at trial. It is important to have someone in your corner who understands how the process works and knows how to present your case in the most clear and compelling way.
How Your Florida Injury Lawyer Will Prove Negligence
Negligence is a common legal theory that often comes into play in personal injury cases. Generally, it works to hold people and entities legally responsible when they do not live up to what courts commonly refer to as a “duty of care.” Negligence may be based on specific actions or a failure to act, depending on the circumstances.
Florida law imposes a variety of duties of care. Drivers, for example, owe passengers and others on the road a duty to operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner. That includes obeying traffic laws, maintaining appropriate speeds and refraining from dangerous activity like drinking or texting behind the wheel. Property owners, on the other hand, owe a duty to visitors and others to keep their premises in a generally safe condition and to warn them of any hazards that may exist in order to prevent a slip and fall or other accident.
The manufacturers of various consumer products – from cars to household items and everything in between – owe a duty of care to the people who purchase or use their products. That includes designing and manufacturing the product in a reasonably safe way and marketing it so that its approved uses and any hazards are made clear.
To prove negligence, you have to show that the person or entity that you believe is responsible for the accident breached a duty of care. You must also show that this caused the accident and your injuries. Additionally, it is important to detail the full extent of those injuries and the medical bills, missed wages and other financial impacts of them. Do not hesitate to contact a Florida accident law firm to discuss your specific situation and get the help you need to prove your case.
Florida is a “comparative negligence” state. That means a person injured in an accident can still recover a portion of his or her money damages if he or she is partly to blame for the injuries. Take, for example, a driver injured in a car accident who is deemed 25 percent to blame for the crash because he was speeding at the time his car collided with a drunk truck driver. That person can still obtain 75 percent of the available damages under the comparative negligence system.
What are Strict Liability Claims in Florida?
Strict liability is a separate legal theory that is not based on a duty of care. Instead, these types of cases are based on the claim that a person or entity is legally liable for certain accidents regardless of whether it was caused by negligence.
Strict liability is most commonly used in product liability cases. A manufacturer who produces a commercial product for sale has an implied responsibility under the law to ensure that the product is safe for people to use. The manufacturer is considered strictly liable for injuries proved to be caused from defects in either the way the product is designed or the way it was produced.
Although strict liability removes the need to prove a breach of a duty of care, an injured person does have to establish liability in order to get money damages in products liability cases. That includes showing that the product was “unreasonably dangerous” at the time of the injury. In other words, you have to prove that the manufacturer should have been aware of the danger posed to people using the product in a foreseeable way. You also have to establish that the defects directly caused you to be injured.
Florida law also imposes strict liability on dog owners whose pets bite another person. The owner is strictly liable for a dog that attacks a person, regardless of whether he or she was negligent or whether he or she knew that the dog was prone to attack. There is one caveat, however: The victim must have been in a public space or lawfully present on private property at the time of the incident.
Mediation and Arbitration for Personal Injury Claims
Taking your case to trial does not always guarantee the best results. For many victims, personal injury mediation or arbitration is a faster, cost-effective, and confidential way to receive fair compensation.
- Mediation: When the injured person and the insurance company try to reach an agreement with the help of an unbiased mediator.
- Arbitration: A neutral third party, usually a retired judge or lawyer, hears arguments from both sides and determines the outcome and the amount of the financial award.
If you have the opportunity to participate in mediation, you have the right to work with an attorney to protect your interests. At Searcy Denney, our personal injury attorneys have helped Floridians injured in accidents recover billions in damages. We assist clients by negotiating for the full compensation available under the law.
The Personal Injury Mediation Process in Florida
Mediation is a collaborative process. Both parties have the opportunity to present their arguments and work together under the supervision of a neutral third party to reach a favorable outcome. The mediation process is structured to allow for both sides to make a fair argument.
- The mediator makes an opening statement. It includes information relevant to both you and the insurance company.
- Each side is allowed to tell their side of the story. In most cases, your attorney will present a prepared statement. Our personal injury mediation attorneys use charts, graphs, and other visual aids to demonstrate your claim’s value.
- After everyone has spoken, you have the opportunity to discuss options and solutions in private. When you are ready, the mediator will present these options for discussion.
- The negotiations and decision-making phase will continue until both sides reach an agreement and settle the case.
Our Florida personal injury lawyers have decades of combined experience fighting for the people we represent at the negotiating table. We understand the strategies that insurance companies often employ to try to reduce or avoid payouts.
The Arbitration Process for Accident Claims
If you feel you may be unable to reach an agreement during settlement negotiations, arbitration is sometimes an option. Arbitration is an alternative to a trail. A neutral third party serves as the arbitrator and determines the outcome of the negotiations. While it may sound simple, arbitration is a complicated process. There is a 10 step process required before the proceedings can even begin.
Every case is unique, and the decision to arbitrate should be made with the assistance of an experienced Florida accident lawyer. There are procedural requirements, filing deadlines, and other bureaucratic pitfalls that may work against you.
Talk With a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, you have the right to seek compensation from those responsible. The assistance of an experienced Florida accident lawyer can go a long way in making your personal injury case.
At Searcy Denney, our personal injury attorneys help injured people and their families put the pieces back together following an accident. We offer contingency fee arrangements in which we do not get paid unless you will your case.