If you were injured by the negligence of another, you might be worried about how you can recover. The Florida Personal Injury Guide was created to aid residents in the pursuit of maximum compensation from the insurance companies.
After an accident that leaves you injured, you may be feeling frustrated that you are drowning in medical bills and are unable to go back to work because someone else was careless. We understand and we’re here to guide you through your case.
Accidents We Represent
At Perenich Law Injury Attorneys, we handled a wide variety of personal injury cases and have deep and extensive expertise in each category. If you are suffering injuries from any of the following incidents or accidents, you may be eligible for compensation and we encourage you to set up a free consultation with us as soon as possible. We handle:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Bus accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bike accidents
- Slip and falls
- Dog bites
- Construction accidents
- Wrongful death
- Nursing home negligence
- Boating accidents
- Product liability
- Medical malpractice
Each of these accidents carry with it their own unique set of injuries. They range from minor injuries such as bruises or cuts, all the way to the worst injuries including paralysis, traumatic brain injury, and in the worst of the worst cases, death. What you should be aware of in cases where there is a surviving victim, your compensation will go up in relation to how severe your injuries are. You will be compensated in a way that covers your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
First Steps After an Accident
The very first thing you should do after an accident, and probably will want to do, is seek medical attention. There are some instances where people get in an accident of some sort and try to shake it off and get on with their day. They walk away from the scene of the accident and ignore the pain they’re in. That is a huge mistake. Not only are you risking your wellbeing, you’re risking losing any compensation. An essential part of determining how much your case is worth revolves around the state of your wellbeing. A doctor needs to document your condition and your treatment plan. If you go to the insurance without ever having seen a doctor, they could throw away your case. They’ll say you couldn’t possible be all that injured if you’ve avoided seeking medical treatment.
After an accident, there is evidence that you need to document. If it’s an auto accident, there might be tire marks on the road. If it’s a slip and fall, there might be a liquid that you slipped on. If it’s a dog bite, there may be a broken gate the animal escaped from. Every accident has a cause and you need to do your due diligence to document it. Whether you do it yourself, having a police officer on the scene do it, or call upon a friend or even an attorney to do it for you, it is an essential step. The only reason you would not be able to do it yourself is if you are too injured to take photos and videos of the scene. Either that or you were taken in an ambulance. In those instances, you will have to rely on help from others.
Do Not Delay
A successful case is both well-planned and prepared timely. When you are told not to delay, that doesn’t necessarily mean to rush through the process. What you need to know is that in Florida, after most accidents you have a statute of limitations of four years from the date of the accident to bring your claim. Now, if you were to procrastinate and talk to an attorney three and a half years after your accident, your case will not be as strong or as valid as it would be if you called an attorney a few days after your accident. Just because you have the time doesn’t mean you should take it. Your witnesses will forget what happened to you after a few years. Your evidence could complete disappear after a few weeks. If you were injured on a construction site, even waiting a few days could be detrimental to your case if it’s an active site that changes daily. Also be aware that if you’re involved in an accident with a government entity such as a government bus, or slipping on government property, your statute of limitations may be shorter. To be sure, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to get them on your case with plenty of time to make it a success.
Dealing with Insurance Companies
There is one big misconception that you should be aware of. If, for instance, you are pursuing a slip and fall claim or a dog bite claim at a friend or acquaintance’s house, you might be worried about having to bring a lawsuit against them. That is a huge misconception with these cases. You’re not actually suing your friend, you’re pursuing an award from their insurance company. This money is not coming out of your friend’s pocket. Their insurance company is providing them coverage, and they bought coverage for these exact reasons. There’s nothing to feel guilty about if you have a reason to bring a claim.
The people you need to be concerned with are the insurance adjusters. The person they designate to take your case is more than likely going to talk to you after the accident and ask for a recorded statement. The worst thing you can do is comply. This is not like a job interview where you’re trying to sell yourself. The questions the insurance adjuster asks you is going to very much be designed to get answers from you that will paint you in an unfavorable light. They want to get you to back yourself in a corner and take the blame for the accident. They are not looking to help you out, they’re looking to deny or reduce your claim. The best thing you can do is refer them to your attorney.
Florida Compensation Laws
Florida follows pure comparative negligence rules which basically means you can collect a reward even if you are 99% at fault for your accident. If you were to be found 99% at fault, that means you only get to collect 1% of the compensation you are rewarded. An example of how this rule works would be if you were walking across the street, and you glanced at your phone after you looked both ways, but a car blows a stop sign coming around the corner, didn’t see you and you didn’t see them. Let’s say in that case you’re 20% at fault. Then your injuries are awarded $100,000. You would be collecting $80,000 to account for your part in the accident. With the help of a skilled attorney, they will reduce or eliminate fault on your end of the accident and help you get full and fair compensation.
Frequently Asked Questions | Florida Personal Injury Guide
Do I Have a Personal Injury Claim?
I’ve been asked about what steps there are involved in a personal injury lawsuit in Florida. It’s important, first of all, that a person who’s injured in an accident gets medical treatment. The next thing to do is begin to protect legal rights by retaining an experienced trial attorney who can prosecute the case. Along the case, the person will be getting medical treatment and the attorney will be investigating the claim, gathering medical records and then ultimately engaging in a dialogue with the insurance companies to negotiate with the claim. If those efforts are unsuccessful, then an experienced trial attorney won’t hesitate to file a lawsuit and take the case all the way to a jury trial if necessary.
Should I Talk to the Insurance Company?
I’ve been asked, “Is it okay to give a recorded statement to the insurance company?” The answer is unequivocally no. Do not engage in a dialogue with the insurance company. The insurance company has one goal, and that is to settle the claim with the least amount of effort and money. Some of them will send investigators right to the scene with a check in hand to offer to the client. Don’t take that money and don’t communicate with the insurance company. It’s better that you contact an attorney first so that we can talk about your case, and we will assist in a discussion with the insurance company to protect your interests.
What If an Attorney Dropped My Case?
There are a host of reasons why an attorney may discharge a client, and sometimes the attorney ethically cannot even reveal all of those reasons. For example, in the situation of a conflict of interest, an attorney has an affirmative duty to discharge a client and to keep any information he or she may have learned in the prosecution of the case confidential. Don’t assume just because you’ve been dropped by your attorney that that means you don’t have a viable case. Please give us a call. Let’s sit down, talk about your case, and determine whether or not this is something that we should take on and prosecute.
Can I Be Compensated for Emotional Damages?
Florida Law allows for people who’ve been injured by the negligence of others to recover all of their losses. Commonly, we think about that in terms of monetary losses including missed time at work and medical bills. Many times, people come to our firm and they don’t even want to talk about their accident because they’ve suffered horrendous emotional trauma because of an injury. An injury can be extremely painful, limit your lifestyle, and it can affect your relationships. All those things are what we call the emotional damages. All of the emotional damages are fully compensable under Florida law in a personal injury action.
Our job is to work them up. We want to have mental health counselors or therapists help document those losses and talk to the other family members and see how sometimes an injury can change the personality of our clients, and it has a ripple effect that can be adverse and reach far into the future. Our job, when we have a personal injury claim, is to make sure that we get compensation for all the damages, including the emotional damages.
Is There a Minimum Amount of Medical Bills?
A client once asked me if there was a minimum amount of medical bills that one has to have in order to prosecute a claim for personal injury. The answer is that there’s really no legal minimum. A person can be injured and they can have all of their medical bills paid for by health insurance, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a claim. The most important thing that a person can do when they’re injured in an accident is to get medical help, regardless of what that person may think the cost would be. The next step is to get an experienced trial attorney who can help investigate and prosecute the claim.
How Long Do We Have to Resolve the Claim?
When I meet with new clients, one of the main questions I get asked is, “How long will it take for my case to get resolved?” That can be a complex question to answer.
In general, when we represent people on personal injury cases, we have a four-year statute of limitations that applies. A different statute of limitations applies to medical malpractice claims and some other claims as well. We want to make sure, when we pursue that claim, that we know within reasonable certainty what harms, losses, and damages you have sustained. We also need to know that, to be able to show what the long-lasting effects of the injuries are, and how those losses and injuries will impact a person’s life in the future and their future earning capacity.
We want to be able to make those determinations so what we tell our clients is, as soon as we have a very solid idea and we’re able to determine what your losses are from the injuries that you have sustained, then we’re going to be in a position to pursue the claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company. In general, that might take a year or less. Sometimes it can take up to two years. Sometimes, if the case is quite complicated, it can take longer than two years.
We want to make sure that, when we decide to pursue the claim and file our demand with the insurance company, that we have a very good understanding of what your losses are, how those injuries affect you in your day-to-day life, in your relationships with your family, and in your occupation. Those are the things that we’re going to want to know, and when we have a very good understanding of what that is; we’re going to be able to pursue that claim.
What if I Have Preexisting Conditions?
Many people misunderstand preexisting conditions to mean that once you’ve been injured in that part of your body, you can never make a claim for any other injury from that point going forward. The fact that somebody has suffered an injury does not insulate them against future injury.
If you have been subjected to injury because of trauma to any part of your body, that part of your body is not stronger because of the injury, it’s made weaker, which means that it’s more vulnerable to being injured even worse by subsequent trauma. Contrary to the idea from the insurance companies that somehow once somebody has a preexisting condition or preexisting injury, that they’re insulated from injury, they are actually made vulnerable to greater injury, and the extent that we can prove that trauma has caused a worsening of a condition, aggravation or exacerbation of a condition.
A client who has a bad back, but has never been given a surgical recommendation before gets in an automobile accident in Clearwater, and then the doctor says they have to have surgery. It doesn’t matter that they had a bad back before, that surgery and all the medical expenses associated from the new accident are completely compensable, regardless as to whether or not the client had preexisting conditions.
Can I Switch Attorneys?
I’ve been asked if a client can change his or her attorney midway through the prosecution of the case. The answer is yes, absolutely. The client is the one who owns the case. The client has the absolute right to accept a settlement offer that’s been proposed and has the absolute right to know all of the settlement offers that have been put on the table, and to instruct the attorney whether or not to accept the settlement. Attorneys have to take their marching orders from clients, and it’s important that a client is comfortable with his or her attorney. One of the things that sets us apart is that we make sure that the client is informed on all aspects of the case.
Should I Take the First Settlement Offer?
You may be unsure if you need a lawyer if you have received a call from the insurance company of the negligent person who caused your injury, and they made an offer. You may think that offer is good enough and that there really doesn’t have to be anything else. What you may not understand is that there are certain consequences of accepting an offer from an insurance company, not to mention that the insurance company is never going to pay anything close to full and fair value on a claim.
As Clearwater injury lawyers, we have a reputation of prosecuting our claims fully and completely, including going to court and having the jury determine the value of a claim, not the insurance company. That’s important to understand, because the insurance company who talks to an un-represented client thinks they can get away with something before lawyers from our firm can come in and assess the true value of the loss.
It takes time to understand the extent of the injuries, and how those injuries are going to affect somebody. Keep in mind, when you settle a claim, you don’t get to come back in five years and say, “I didn’t know that my doctor was going to tell me that I needed surgery.” We’re going to make sure that we’re accounting for all of the damages that will affect somebody, not just in the present but for the rest of their life. It’s a very bad idea to even consider accepting a claim that is just offered from the insurance company the first time.
Will I Have to Testify in Court?
You may wonder, “If my case goes to trial, will I have to testify?” Sometimes that question is based on the client’s anxiety about getting up in front of people and having to go into a courtroom and open up their life and testify. What I tell my clients is to not worry about that; we’re going to be with you every step of the way. If your case does go to trial, there is a very good chance that we will be putting you on the witness stand to testify. I tell my clients that it’s very simple – all you have to do is tell the truth. That is what the jury is looking for, and your credibility and honesty will shine through in that courtroom.
You’re going to know exactly what the questions are going to be, not only from me, but you’re going to have an excellent understanding and idea what the opposing attorney will be asking you as well. There’s nothing to fear when you have the truth on your side. There’s no need for any worry or anxiety.
Will My Injury Case Go to Trial?
You may be curious if your case will go to trial. We’re not going to know that until we know more about your case. We take great pride in doing everything possible to try to resolve a case without it having to go to trial. Trials are time consuming, expensive, and many clients don’t want to go through the process of a jury trial. However, we don’t know right away if the insurance company is going to be reasonable and understanding.
If they don’t accept your damages, for whatever reason, and it’s an unwarranted position, then we will indeed recommend that we file a lawsuit. Many times when we file lawsuits, the cases don’t end up going to trial. We go through alternative dispute resolution, which is mediation or arbitration to trying to avoid trial. It’s required under many circuit civil cases that we undertake, and we’re doing everything we can to try to avoid putting our client in the risk of having to go through a trial.
Nonetheless, we will indeed go to trial. We try cases frequently, and we’re going to do everything we can in a courtroom to prevail if that case does go to trial. We’re not going to know the answer to that question at the beginning of the case, but we’ll have a better understanding of the answer to that question as the case progresses and as we learn whether the insurance company is going to be reasonable and understanding and paying proper, reasonable compensation for your losses, injuries, and for how those injuries have affected you.
Call Our Clearwater Office Today
If you were hurt in an accident, please call our experienced Clearwater personal injury attorney today for a free consultation! We are here to help you get the compensation you deserve.