The Stages of a Personal Injury Claim in Florida

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By Marcus Fernandez

Personal injury is an area of law that allows an injured person to recover monetary damages from the responsible party. The injured person, the “plaintiff,” must produce evidence proving that the “defendant” caused the accident and injuries. Car accidents, defective products, and slip-and-fall incidents are only some of the types of personal injury claims. It’s a complex area of law but the information here will give you a better understanding. The stages of a personal injury claim can feel overwhelming but a personal injury attorney can assist you.

What is a personal injury claim?

A claim for personal injuries usually arises through one of the following three ways:

  • Negligence. Car crashes, for example, are typically caused by someone behaving below the level of care that is prudent. The burden in a personal injury claim is on the plaintiff to prove negligence on the part of the defendant.
  • Strict liability. The party responsible for designing or manufacturing a product may not intend to injure anyone. Nonetheless, the law makes them liable when the product proves to be defective and causes injuries.
  • Intentional harm. An assault or form of intentional behavior that inflicts harm may be actionable through a personal injury claim.

Common types of personal injury claims include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective consumer and commercial equipment
  • Nursing-home and hospital-abuse
  • False imprisonment and assault
  • Workplace accidents and toxic substances

The personal injury law in each state is different, so consult a Tampa personal injury attorney for accidents or injuries arising in Florida.

Types of damages awarded in personal injury cases

Economic or special damages compensate a plaintiff for out-of-pocket expenses, including medical treatment, lost wages, hiring someone to help around the house while recovering, and other expenses that can be proven with receipts or bills.

Non-economic or general damages compensate a plaintiff for pain and diminished quality of life. These types of intangible damages cannot be documented with a receipt.

Florida law does not cap the award for personal injury claims. The statute that capped damages in medical malpractice cases at $500,000 was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court in 2017 because it allowed a higher award in cases where a plaintiff suffered catastrophic injuries. The court ruled the law unconstitutional.

What should you bring to a first meeting with a personal injury attorney?

Your personal injury attorney will ask you questions about the accident and your injuries. So, it can be helpful to bring with you the following documents and information:

  • Police and accident reports.
  • Photographs depicting the accident location and your injuries.
  • A list of the names and contact information for all doctors, hospitals and other health care providers that treated you.
  • Names and contact information of insurance companies that contacted you about the accident or incident.

Feel free to bring with you any notes or other documents that may help you to recall details about the claim.

Stages of a Personal Injury Claim

Florida’s process for handling personal injury claims is similar to other states. Below, follow a claim chronologically:

  • Gather Evidence. Immediately following an accident, it’s important to collect as much information as possible to support your case. This includes taking photographs of the accident scene, any property damage, and visible injuries. Collecting contact information from witnesses and obtaining official reports from authorities such as police or workplace supervisors can provide additional validation.
  • Seek Medical Attention. After leaving the accident scene, you should seek immediate medical attention, even if you don’t feel injured. This is because some injuries may not be felt for hours or days after an accident. Seeking treatment as soon as possible will not only ensure that your health is protected, but will also ensure that you have documentation directly linking your injuries to the accident.
  • Putting the defendant on notice. Your personal injury lawyer prepares a demand letter that notifies the defendant that you are making a claim because of an accident or incident. The letter includes a brief description of what occurred and instructs the defendant to forward it to their liability insurance company. Next, the defendant’s insurance company should reach out to your attorney.
  • Settlement negotiations. If the defendant’s insurance company contacts your attorney, this step offers them a chance to negotiate a settlement before the lawsuit starts.
  • Summons and complaint. If a settlement cannot be negotiated, your personal injury attorney will file a summons and complaint in court to begin a lawsuit.
  • Answer. The defendant then serves an answer that denies or admits the allegations of liability raised by the plaintiff.
  • Discovery. The deposition is a common discovery device used by both sides in a personal injury case. This testimony gathers information about the claim and evidence in the case.
  • Motions. Any of the parties in a lawsuit may file motions with the court asking for different types of relief, such as dismissal of the lawsuit or protection from unreasonable discovery demands.
  • Pre-trial conference. The court in which a personal injury lawsuit is pending usually schedules a conference to bring the attorneys for the parties together with a judge to attempt to settle the claim before trial. If settlement does not occur, the case proceeds to trial.
  • Trial. Your attorney and the defense lawyer present evidence to persuade jurors or a judge to decide the case in favor of their respective clients.

Most personal injury claims end with a negotiated settlement, but the stage in the process when it happens differs depending on the circumstances.

Learn more from a Tampa Personal Injury Attorney

You have the right to seek compensation for injuries suffered in an accident or incident that was someone else’s fault. Learn how to protect that right and pursue a personal injury claim by contacting a Tampa personal injury attorney for a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Should I Do Immediately After an Accident?

    Ensure your safety and seek medical attention for any injuries. Report the accident to the police and gather evidence, including photos and contact information of witnesses. Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.

  • How Long Does a Personal Injury Case Take?

    The duration of a personal injury case varies based on the complexity of the case, the willingness of parties to settle, and court schedules. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years.

  • Can I Still File a Claim If I Was Partially at Fault?

    Yes, you can still file a claim even if you were partially at fault. Florida follows a comparative fault rule, which means your compensation may be reduced by the percentage of your fault.

  • What Happens If My Case Goes to Trial?

    If your case goes to trial, both sides will present evidence and arguments before a judge or jury. They will then decide the outcome of the case. While trials can be lengthy and complex, a personal injury lawyer will guide you through the process and advocate on your behalf.