If you or a loved one have been injured by some else’s negligence as a result of an auto accident or a slip and fall, you have the right to you might to pursue a personal injury claim to obtain compensation for your losses. Pursuing a personal injury claim can be a confusing, daunting and intimidating process, particularly if it is your first time. However, if you know what to expect during the personal injury claim process the process will be more predictable.
The Claim Process Works
Personal injury claims are first brought as formal legal demands seeking a settlement without filing a lawsuit. If your attorney feels a settlement offer is inadequate, an attorney will file a lawsuit in Court of Law.
The Claims Process:
The following is a typical timeline of a personal injury claim:
- The actual event leading giving rise to the claim.
- Seeking out medical attention.
- Selecting and retaining a personal injury lawyer
- Contacting and opening a claim with the insurance company
- You continue to receive medical treatment and undergo valuations to determine the effects of the incident upon our body.
- The insurance company investigates the claim (liability = fault) and obtains medical information regading the injuries
- The insurance company makes an offer and it is accepted (if it is reasonable), or a lawsuit is filed (if the settlement offer is inadequate)
- Discovery phase of lawsuit
- Accepting a mediation or arbitration with an independent third party
- Going to trial
Seeking Medical Attention
It is imperative that medical attention be sought as soon as possible soon after an accident or injury. Many times injuries like whiplash and concussions are not evident and visible, therefore, you should have get checked by a physician even if you do not feel you were injured.
Step should be taken to document your visible injuries by taking photos of your bruises, swelling, cuts, and abrasions as these types of injuries can heal quickly and should be documented as early as possible.
Under Florida law, you may lose your entitlement to $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection(PIP) if you do not see a physician within 14 days of the accident. Many people delay getting medical treatment hoping the pain will go away, however this can have a significant negative effect on the benefits ultimately available to them in their case. Additionally, a jury evaluating this matter may question the severity of the injuries if there is a significant delay in obtaining medical attention after the accident occurs.
Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have a minor injury or simply have a property damage claim you can probably handle the claim yourself. However, you should consider hiring a personal injury lawyer under the following one or more circumstances:
- The injuries you sustained are significant or permanent in nature.
- The medical bills you incurred in receiving treatment are high
- The at fault party or their insurance company is delaying a claim decision or are denying the claim.
- Your injuries prevent you from working.
A personal injury lawyer that handles car accident cases can evaluate your case and determine the best course of action you can or should take.
What is your case worth
Many times insurance companies will attempt to settle personal injury claims with you before a lawyer gets involved. This is an attempt by the insurance company to settle your case for less than it is worth. If you accept their offer in exchange for a release of rights, then your claim is closed. It does not matter if one week later you realize your injuries were much worse than originally anticipated.
If you retain a lawyer, he will not know how much your case is worth until you have had the necessary medical treatment and seen the necessary specialist to determine the treatment you currently need and the treatment you will need in the future. Those needs will have an impact in the value of your case. Once you have completed your treatment and have reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI), which is when you have reached the point at which further improvement is not expected by your physicians, your case can be demanded. Your attorney will:
- Gather all medical records for treatment received to date and bills associated therewith to include as part of the demand.
- Gather all documents reflecting past wage loss and future wage loss.
- Gather all medical records that delineate the anticipated future medical treatment.
Filing a Lawsuit
If a fair and adequate settlement amount is not offered to adequately compensate you for your loss, then a lawsuit should be filed regarding your personal injury claim. There is an applicable statute of limitations that must be adhered to and your attorney will have to file the lawsuit within the applicable time frame.
The Discovery Phase of a Lawsuit
Once the lawsuit is filed, the discovery phase of the lawsuit begins and they have the right to serve interrogatories, request the production of certain documents, compel your presence at a medical examination with a doctor of their choice, and conduct your deposition. Your lawyer will also take depositions of all parties and witnesses. A deposition is your testimony under oath in front of a court stenographer. The purpose of depositions is to ensure everybody is on the same page when they give their testimony in court. It is imperative to be transparent with your lawyer, as lying under oath can result in perjury charges.
All personal injury cases in Florida must be mediated. Once discovery has been conducted sufficiently, the parties proceed to a mediation. Mediaiton is a process where you and your lawyers arrange a meeting with a third-party mediator approved by both sides. A mediator is a neutral third-party that is not a judge deciding the outcome, but is there to facilitate negotiations.
Most cases resolve either in pre-suit, or if a lawsuit is filed, they resolve at mediation. However, if the case does not resolve at mediation and then the matter proceeds to jury trial. During , mediation usually resolves the issues between two parties. If it does not, both parties will go to trial in a courtroom in front of a jury. During a trial, a jury is selected, evidence is presented and the jury decides liability (fault) and damages (amount of award due ). The length of the trial varies from case to case. The length of time it takes to get to a trial can take one year to several years.