If you've been injured in an accident due to someone else's negligence, you're probably aware that either the at-fault party or their insurance company should pay for your medical expenses. What many people don't know is that they may be responsible for much more. If you are considering a lawsuit and you live in South or Central Florida, contact Weinstein Legal for a free consultation. While this article is packed with useful information, you can learn more by speaking directly to an experienced personal injury lawyer, so call today.
The Four Elements of Personal Injury Cases
If you're considering pursuing damages, you should know that there are four elements that determine whether or not a claim is viable.
1. Duty of Care
The defendant must have a duty of care to the plaintiff. That duty of care may involve the duty to drive safely in a car accident case, the duty to maintain a safe premise in a slip and fall case, the duty to provide sound medical care in a medical malpractice action, etc.
2. Breach of Duty
Once the plaintiff has established that there was a duty of care, they must show that the defendant somehow breached that duty. For example, a reckless driver would be a breach of their duty of care to other drivers.
In order to successfully sue the plaintiff, the defendant must show that their negligence caused the accidents. Not all negligent acts result in accidents, and it's possible that both parties were exercising some level of negligence. If both parties were negligent, Florida's pure comparative negligence law still allows the plaintiff to seek damages. It just reduces the amount of the claim proportionately to the defendant's negligence.
Personal injury law requires that the plaintiff suffered some level of economic damages. This may be in the form of lost wages, medical bills, property damage, etc. The law also allows the defendant to recover damages for pain and suffering, which are damages that did not result in a cost but are nonetheless real.
During your free initial consultation at Weinstein Legal, we will go over the facts of your case and determine how they apply to the four elements. If you have a viable case, our law firm will represent you on a contingency basis, which means no out-of-pocket costs.
Types of Damages in Personal Injury Lawsuits
Personal injury damages fall into three categories. Economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Any financial cost can be considered part of economic damages. This can include a stay at the hospital, the cost of rehabilitative therapy, additional home care, and more. If you are unable to work for a period of time, damages should include any lost wages and future lost income. Economic damages can involve a lot more than just medical expenses and lost wages, so it's in your best interest to allow a professional attorney to review your case.
Non-economic damages are meant to compensate the victim for intangible losses. With most accidents, the way it personally affects the victims' lives is significant. Non-economic damages include items like physical pain, loss of capacity, mental anguish, and loss of companionship (in wrongful death cases). Because there are no receipts attached to these costs, it takes an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine the true costs of non-economic damages.
The court might award punitive damages if the defendant's behavior was egregious or intentional. For example, a defendant who was highly intoxicated at the time of an accident may have to pay punitive damages. Under Florida law, punitive damages cannot exceed three times the amount of other damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Not all cases will result in punitive damages. Ask your attorney about the likelihood of this type of recovery.
How to Improve Your Chances of a Successful Lawsuit Outcome
No two accidents are alike. If you've been involved in an accident, you should contact a personal injury lawyer immediately. While the following list should not be considered legal advice, it may help you in your pursuit of damages.
- Get to a place of safety - Staying in a place that's dangerous to you could lead to additional injuries. Move if you have to.
- Call 911 - Whether you're in a car accident, a slip and fall, or some other type of accidental injury, you'll want paramedics to respond to the scene to check on your injuries.
- Take photos of the scene - From a safe vantage point, take photos or videos of the accident scene. Things will look very different after a few moments, and this may be a valuable piece of evidence.
- Ask witnesses to remain - Independent witnesses can also strengthen a case. Ask them to remain or get their contact information.
- Seek medical attention - If the EMTs don't transport you to the hospital, follow up with your doctor as soon as possible.
- Don't accept a settlement - Insurance companies will frequently offer you a fast settlement, but they expect you to sign a waiver. Once you take that money, you will not be able to pursue further damages. Contact the Weinstein Legal Team for a cost-free review of the insurance company's settlement offer.
Why Avoiding a Lawsuit Should NOT Be Your Primary Concern
Many people are hesitant about suing another party, but this shouldn't worry you. Most personal injury cases settle out of court, but in some instances, litigation is necessary. A lawsuit may be necessary if the insurance company won't come to a fair settlement. However, a skilled personal injury lawyer can minimize the interference in your daily life.
Frequently Asked Questions About Florida Lawsuits
These are some of the most common personal injury questions asked by our clients. For a free consultation where we can discuss the specifics of your face, contact one of our three South and Central Florida law offices.
How Long Do You Have to Sue Someone?
The statute of limitations affects the period of time you have to file a lawsuit. This is important because if you wait, you may not even be able to file a claim if the time period elapses. In Florida, the statute of limitations is four years from the time of the accident. With wrongful death cases, it is two years from the date of death, and with medical malpractice cases, it's two years from the date that the accident was discovered.
What is the Lowest You Can Sue Someone For?
Small claims court usually handles cases for $8,000 or less. However, if you have minor or inconsequential injuries, the insurance settlement offer may take care of them. It may still be worth your while to speak to a personal injury attorney. Your injuries may be more costly than you anticipate.
How Long Does it Take to Sue Someone?
It all depends on the complexity of your case. However, most cases settle before they reach court. You may still be looking at over a year, depending on the strength of your case and the position of the defendant.
How Much Does it Cost to Sue Someone?
Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis and will cover the costs. That means that they collect their fees and their costs when the case finishes. Contingency fees are established by the Florida Bar, but you should always ask an attorney what their contingency fee schedule is prior to committing to them.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Sue Someone?
You are not required to have representation, but your likelihood of success is drastically reduced without an attorney. Attorneys spend painstaking hours learning about your individual case, but their extensive experience makes them better equipped for the complexities of a personal injury lawsuit. While you will have to split a portion of your settlement with a lawyer at the end of a case for their fee, you are much more likely to receive a larger settlement even after the fees are deducted.
South and Central Florida Personal Injury Attorneys
Weinstein Legal is a personal injury law firm that fights for the rights of its clients. Call today for a free consultation in one of our three Florida offices:
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