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