There are many steps involved in a personal injury lawsuit. The first is to reach out to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible so that the proper evidence and documentation can be collected. Your evidence will make or break your case. As a Florida personal injury attorney, I can help those who have recently experienced an injury in Florida collect the necessary documentation to make a solid case.
Requirements for a personal injury lawsuit
It may seem obvious, but to sue for personal injury, you must be injured, and it must be provable. This is why collecting the correct evidence early on is so important.
You must also prove that the person or business owed you a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused your injury. For example, a store has a duty to keep the floor clean and safe for customers; by leaving the floor wet, the store is in breach of its duty of care. If you fall and become injured on the wet floor, you may have a personal injury case. If you are not injured, you do not have a case.
Types of personal injury cases
There are many different types of situations that can cause personal injury. The most common include:
- Automobile accidents or any vehicular accidents
- Pedestrian accidents (Florida law considers those operating bicycles, using roller skates, and using other personally operated modes of transportation to be pedestrians for legal purposes)
- Accidents involving recreational vehicles
- Accidents while engaged in recreational activities, such as hang gliding, waterskiing, cliff climbing, etc.
- Defective products
- Slip and falls
- Injuries due to unsafe environments in public places such as amusement parks and music venues, or private places to which you are invited
- Injuries on rental properties
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse
Even if you think you may be at least partially at fault, you may still be able to file a personal injury claim. Florida follows a “pure comparative negligence” standard when a case goes to court, meaning fault is distributed between parties. So if you are determined to be 50% at fault, you will still receive 50% of the financial award. Being partially at fault does not negate the option of settlement.
First steps in filing your claim
Make an appointment to see us and bring all your evidence. Bring with you any police reports on the accident and a detailed description from your perspective of what happened. Include any eyewitness testimonies, and try to describe the conditions at the time that could have contributed to the occurrence (for instance, for a car accident, dark or rainy; for a venue, no exits clearly marked). Any additional details that will help demonstrate negligence on the part of the other party would be helpful.
Documentation regarding your medical condition should include:
- Medical records (request thorough documents from your healthcare providers)
- A log of visits to healthcare professionals
- Any correspondence with healthcare providers, insurers, Medicare/Medicaid
- Medical bills, including medical insurance coverage, premiums paid, and payments insurers have made
- Receipts for payments you have made toward your health
- If the patient is deceased, the death certificate and/or autopsy report
Additional documentation and evidence might include:
- Pay stubs and tax returns to substantiate income
- Evidence of time lost from work due to your health, leading to income loss
- Psychology records if mental health issues are related to the injury
- Photographs of the patient before and after injury and any other helpful photos
- Information regarding any additional damages (loss of housing, damaged family relationships, etc.) that can be attributed to the injury
If there is anything that you think might hurt your case, be sure to tell your lawyer. Your attorney must be prepared with strategies to counteract any possible negative information, such as being in a restricted area when the accident occurred or having an existing medical condition. Remember, the pure comparative negligence standard applies in Florida, and your lawyer should be fully prepared.
What to expect
The next step when constructing a personal injury case is determining how the injuries will impact you in the future and what factors we can seek compensation for, which include:
- Medical costs, current and future
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Other expenses resulting from the accident, such as necessary changes to your home to accommodate your injuries
- Loss of companionship in the case of serious permanent injury or death
In my experience, I have found that sometimes more than one party can be sued for an injury. As I dig deep into the details of the causes of your injury, I look for opportunities to hold accountable those who are truly responsible. For instance, if you are injured by a faulty product, you may be able to sue both the manufacturer and the designers, depending on the type of negligence.
Once we file a “complaint,” to initiate the personal injury lawsuit, a “summons” is served to the defendant to inform them of the lawsuit. It is also possible to go directly to the insurance companies involved and make a demand first rather than starting with filing a lawsuit. This can save time and begin the negotiation process immediately.
If a lawsuit is filed, the defendant has the opportunity to reply in writing to each point in the complaint. After this, the “discovery” process begins, in which both parties ask questions of each other and are given the opportunity to examine each other’s evidence.
Most cases will end in negotiating a settlement after discovery. You will want a personal injury lawyer who has a long track record of negotiating significant financial awards for injured clients. I work vigorously to uncover every possible expense or complication for my clients to help them get the maximum settlement for their injuries. I’m not afraid to go to court if necessary, and I have a track record of winning significant awards.
It is important that you reach out to a personal injury lawyer shortly after your injury, in order to receive guidance on collecting evidence. However, it may not be prudent to file a lawsuit immediately. This is because your condition may worsen, and it’s important to wait until your condition has reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI) so that I can accurately determine the long-term financial impact, cost of medical care, and the effect on your ability to earn wages.
That said, there are also statutes of limitations to keep in mind – that is, a period of time (between 2 and 4 years, depending on the type of case) in which you must initiate the lawsuit, from the time when you discovered the injury. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to determine the best time to initiate the suit for your situation.
It is critical to have an attorney who you trust will fight for you. Every case I take on becomes personal to me as if one of my own friends or loved ones has been injured. If you are a Florida resident or have been injured in Florida, contact me today, 24/7, to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.