Answers To Your Personal Injury Law Questions
No one expects to get into a car accident or any other serious accident. When it happens, most accident victims have numerous questions about what to do and what the legal process looks like.
At Badgley Law Group, we represent clients throughout Orlando and central Florida in a range of personal injury claims. Our attorneys have the answers you need. We will help you through every step of the process personally. Peruse the questions and answers below and contact an experienced lawyer from our firm.
What should I do immediately after injury?
Every personal injury incident is different. Nevertheless, what you do immediately after it happens can have significant consequences on your well-being and your future claim. If the injury is sudden and severe (e.g. following a serious car crash), the first thing to do is call 911 and/or law enforcement. You’ll receive emergency life-sustaining care at the scene before proceeding to the hospital for more comprehensive treatment.
Even if you do not consider your injures significant, it is vital that you see a doctor as soon as you can. This is not just important because the injuries may be life-threatening. It also creates a document trail that will prove useful when you eventually file a compensation claim.
If your injuries allow you, gather as much evidence from the incident as you can. Take photos of your injuries and the scene. Obtain the contacts of any witnesses. Do not accept liability even if you believe your own negligence may have partially caused the incident. Get in touch with an Orlando personal injury lawyer who will liaise with the insurance company and at fault party on your behalf.
What do I do when the insurance company contacts me?
Insurance companies are subject matter experts in the claims process and handle numerous injury cases each day. You as the injured party likely do not have a similar grasp and could even be dealing with the first claim in your life. It is therefore important that you exercise great caution in your dealings with insurers.
If the insurance company offers a settlement or asks for a written statement, you should not agree before getting in touch with an Orlando personal injury attorney. The insurance company will frame questions in a way that could see you say something you did not intend to or was not aware would be detrimental to your case.
An attorney ensures that if a statement has to be provided, the wording is appropriate.
Do I have a case?
Since personal injury attorneys usually charge on a contingency basis, the first thing we’ll do is to examine all the facts and determine whether there is a realistic chance for compensation. A personal injury claim must have three elements: evidence of injury, liability of the party that caused the injury, and the at-fault party’s (including through their insurance company) ability to pay.
What determines how much money I get?
Personal injury cases vary widely and there is no guarantee that you’ll get a specified amount of money. The courts will not necessarily award you the damages you ask for. Ultimately, the compensation will depend on a number of factors.
- The seriousness of the injury – The more badly hurt you are, the more costly the treatment is likely to be and therefore, the more money you are likely to get.
- How long treatment is expected to last – Longer treatment usually means a bigger medical bill so the court will factor this in the payout.
- Impact on your ability to earn an income – If you have been in accident that temporarily or permanently makes it difficult or impossible for you to earn a living, you will likely get more money than someone whose injuries do not significantly prevent them from working.
- Insurance of the at-fault party – This would, for instance, apply in vehicle accidents where your own insurance might not be able to cover the full cost of your treatment. The money you can get from the other party depends on what and how much insurance they had.
- The financial ability of the at-fault party – One of the reasons the victim of a car crash will pursue the driver’s employer, the vehicle manufacturer or (in distracted driving) the phone maker is because the at-fault driver does not have sufficient financial resources or insurance to pay for the damages.
What damages can I claim?
Personal injury cases have two types of damages: economic and noneconomic. A victim can be awarded damages for past and future losses. Economic benefits include wage loss, deterioration of vehicle value, medicine prescription costs, travel costs for doctor appointments and insurance co-pays. Examples of noneconomic damages are emotional distress, pain, suffering and loss of life enjoyment. For serious injuries, noneconomic costs may actually exceed economic damages.
When can I expect my case to be concluded?
The time each case takes depends on several factors. In a nutshell, how long your case eventually lasts mainly depends on how resolute the other party is in not paying the claim. On average, cases will take anywhere between 12 and 36 months. The overwhelming majority of personal injury cases are settled before they get to trial.
One of the ways you can increase the chances of a settlement is (with assistance from your attorney) gather all the requisite evidence including expert opinion that would make your case compelling.
Insurance companies will make a pragmatic judgment call by settling cases where they see a high likelihood of losing at trial. As opposed to incurring huge costs and time yet still end up eventually paying benefits, the insurer will cut its losses by settling. If the case gets to trial, you can expect the timeframe for conclusion to be considerably longer.
Who will pay for my immediate medical costs?
Serious injuries can ramp up medical bills fast both for the immediate emergency treatment as well as long-term care. Government benefits and your health insurance cover may be unable to cope with the avalanche of bills that could rapidly accumulate into the tens of thousands of dollars.
The personal injury claim is supposed to cover these costs. However, claims will take a while to be paid even in cases where they are settled before trial. Many health care providers are well aware of this and will continue to treat you on the premise that they’ll be paid once benefits are eventually received.
In the event that your doctor is unwilling to continue treating you without payment, get in touch with Badgley Law Group to explore what options are available to you. As persons who regularly liaise with medical professionals, our personal injury attorneys can provide recommendations on which providers would be open to treating you until your case is resolved.
How do I know what my medical costs will be?
It may be difficult to draw a realistic estimate of future medical costs before your treatment is concluded. Thus, the attorney will monitor your medical progress over the following weeks and months by gathering reports from your doctor. This continues until you are at the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI) i.e. your medical condition has been resolved or your recovery has plateaued.
The doctor may then assign a permanent impairment rating in accordance with American Medical Association guidelines. A settlement demand is thereafter prepared and presented to the insurance company. If the insurer fails to offer a reasonable payment, the case goes to trial where it could remain for months or a couple of years.
What is the ‘Collateral Source Rule’?
The collateral source rule is a principle in Florida state law that prohibits the defense attorney from using evidence of collateral payments (such as insurance benefits covering your medical bills) as a basis for reducing economic damages due to the claimant. This rule does not however apply to government benefits such as Medicaid or Medicare.
The rationale is that your personal health insurance cover was a deduction from your income and you should not therefore be penalized for planning for and taking charge of your future medical costs. This is as opposed to Medicaid or Medicare where you have a right to it without having to earn it.
What happens when more than one party is to blame for my injury?
Most personal injury cases will involve two parties: the victim and the at-fault party. Sometimes though the fault lies with more than one person and could even include the victim. For example, if a pet-sitter removes the leash from a dog that has already been identified as dangerous, you can bring a suit against the dog owner (under the strict liability rule) and the pet-sitter.
What if I was partially responsible for my injury?
Florida is a comparative negligence state. That means when a person is injured, the court makes a determination of how many persons were at fault and to what extent. Therefore, if the other party was the main cause of the accident but you are deemed to have been 25% responsible, the amount awarded to you will be reduced by 25%.
What if I lose the case at trial?
We evaluate cases beforehand to see what are the chances of winning. However, no attorney can guarantee success as the decision ultimately lies with the jury. If you lose the case, we may submit a motion requesting a new trial. This will usually be denied unless something very serious took place during the trial. From this point, you can file an appeal at the Florida District Court and, in rare cases, the Supreme Court of Florida.
Should I use a personal injury attorney or represent myself?
There is no legal obligation to use an attorney in a personal injury claim. While your case will be determined by the facts and circumstances of the event, getting a lawyer increases your odds of victory and the amount of compensation.
How much will hiring a lawyer cost me?
We handle personal injury claims on a contingency fee. This means we obtain our fee and costs from the compensation that’s paid to you. Thus, if there is no recovery there’ll be no attorney fee. You never had to dip into your pocket to pay us.