Florida Personal Injury Lawyers
Meet the team that has won over $100,000,000 in verdicts and settlements for our clients. We are your allies, advocates and trusted advisors. If you have been injured, speak to one of our Florida personal injury lawyers today.
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“My legal team was very caring about my situation, kept prompt contact about developments in my case and got my case settled quickly. I recommend them to everyone I meet in need of representation.”
“Maria took care of me. She corrected anything that needed to be corrected and communicated with me every step of the way. I don’t know how I would have got through this difficult time if it wasn’t for her.”
“Viles & Beckman has provided my family and I superlative legal services. Their high degree of professional ethics along with exceptional thoroughness delivers results. I highly recommend Viles & Beckman!”
When Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
If you’ve been involved in an accident that has resulted in injury, you are likely feeling overwhelmed. You may be unsure of what to do. We can help you understand your options and determine your next steps. We have experience helping clients who have been injured like you. We believe in personal attention and dedicated service. When you have a question, we have an answer. If you’ve been hurt, contact one of our personal injury lawyers to get the help you need right away.
If you found us after searching for ‘personal injury lawyer near me’ you likely already know we are based in downtown Fort Myers, Florida. While we’re based in Fort Myers, we handle accident cases all over the state of Florida. Contact us now for a free consultation. (239) 677-4283
We understand the frustration of dealing with an injury and the financial fallout that comes with expensive medical bills. Losing your ability to work after an injury and being pressured or ignored by the insurance company is something no one should go through. No matter how you were injured, a Florida personal injury lawyer from Viles & Beckman may be able to help you recover your losses.
What is Personal Injury Law?
Personal injury law is the body of law that protects you from suffering physical, mental and economic damages because of the negligence of another person or entity. If you have been injured, there is a very real chance you have the right to be compensated. The only way to know for sure is to talk to a Florida personal injury lawyer. Don’t risk dealing with the insurance company on your own. Work with a team that will aggressively fight for maximum compensation and a fair and fast resolution of your case. We understand you are concerned about finances, especially if you have medical bills piling up. Don’t let not having any money prevent you from getting top-notch legal assistance.
How It Works
We Won’t add to Your Financial Stress
If you choose to hire us, rest easy knowing that we work based on a contingency fee. Put simply, if you don’t receive compensation, you won’t owe us anything. We know that many victims are concerned about finances after an accident, and we don’t want those concerns to keep you from getting the legal representation you deserve.
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Personal injury law (also called “tort law”) relates to civil cases in which an injured victim, or the family of an injured victim, will pursue compensation for losses caused by the negligence of another person or party. These laws were established to help victims who have suffered damages or injuries (that were not their fault) and secure the financial compensation they need to continue living in the same comfort they had before the accident. If you’ve been injured and it was not your fault, a personal injury lawsuit can benefit you.
What does it cover?
An injured victim will often be unable to work for a number of days or weeks, sometimes indefinitely. Multiple trips in and out of the hospital can drive a family into debt for years. A personal injury lawsuit can help you recover financial compensation for: Economic Damages – Medical expenses – Lost wages – Property damages – Out-of-pocket expenses – Any other tangible expenses Non-Economic Damages – Pain and suffering (emotional or physical) – Mental distress – Loss of quality of life Punitive Damages Punitive damages are not pursued to compensate for a specific loss but rather as a means of punishment for gross misconduct on the defendant’s behalf.
Where does it apply?
Personal injury law covers a wide range of different situations and environments in which a person could be injured or harmed: Accidents: An accident resulting from another person or party’s carelessness or negligence that causes harm to another person. Common claims of this are car accidents where another driver was at-fault, a slip and fall that occurred on a poorly kept property (premises liability), or a medical professional’s failure to provide proper care (medical malpractice). Intentional Acts: Situations where there was deliberate conduct on behalf of the defendant that harmed another person. Common claims are assault, battery, even nursing home abuse. Product Defects: When a product or a device is defective, unsafe, or did not come with proper use instructions, injury can occur — prompting a product liability claim. This can include vehicle components, medical devices (pacemakers), or any other consumer products. Animal Attacks: Pet owners have a responsibility to ensure visitors’ safety in their animals’ proximity. An animal attack can cause severe damage, lead to infection and emotional trauma.
Types of injuries
Virtually any injury that can be suffered due to another party’s negligence is covered under personal injury law. Common types of injuries we see in personal injury claims are:
- Back Injury – Often caused in car accidents and slip-and-fall incidents. A back injury can be as simple as a sprain or strain, or much more severe like spinal cord injuries and paralysis.
- Burn Injury – Coming into contact with fire, heat, radiation, chemicals, or electricity can damage the skin, nerves, and surrounding tissues.
- Catastrophic Injury – Severe back and spinal cord injuries such as a broken back, severed spinal cord, paralysis injuries, and quadriplegia. Or head and brain injuries like concussions, head trauma, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), brain damage.
- Child Injury – Children are more vulnerable to injury than adults. They might suffer harm in various ways, such as birth injuries, medical malpractice, car accidents, dog bites, or playground injuries.
- Herniated Disc – A type of back injury, often caused by a slip and fall injury or car accident. Although pain may not be severe at first, pain can affect your everyday life and your ability to return to work overtime.
- Hip Injury – Anyone can injure their hip, no matter their age. There are sprains and strains, breaks and fractures, bursitis, labral tears, and more that can present serious injury.
- Internal Injury – Not all injuries can be seen on the surface of the body. Trauma is a serious accident that can cause internal injuries like bleeding and damage to internal organs.
- Soft Tissue Injury – There are two basic types of soft tissue injuries: acute and overuse/overexertion injuries. Acute injuries can result from a car accident or a slip and fall, while an overuse injury can result from poor ergonomics in the workplace.
- Traumatic Brain Injury – Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a disruption in the brain’s normal function caused by an impact. A traumatic brain injury can occur by either blunt force trauma to the head or a sudden acceleration and deceleration force (often seen in whiplash injuries).
- Whiplash – Neck injuries like whiplash are some of the common types of car accident injuries. Movement of the neck and head can be seriously affected. Even though it may not seem painful at first, whiplash can result in pain, stiffness, dizziness, and migraines for months, even years.
If you are considering filing a personal injury claim or even wondering if you may have a case, you should discuss your situation with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
What is personal injury law?
Personal injury law (also known as tort law) has two basic components: liability and damages. Is a defendant liable for damages you sustained in an accident and, if so, what is the extent of your damages? If you can prove both liability and damages, you will be awarded monetary compensation for your loss. What is a tort? According to Cornell Law School: “A tort is an act or omission that gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability. In the context of torts, ‘injury’ describes the invasion of any legal right, whereas ‘harm’ describes a loss or detriment in fact that an individual suffers.” Torts fall into three categories:
- Intentional tort: Injury or harm that is inflicted by a conscious or planned act (e.g. battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional pain).
- Negligent tort: Injury or harm that is inflicted by a failure to behave in compliance with ordinary prudence—can be actions or omissions (e.g. causing an accident by not obeying traffic laws, failing to put a warning sign up when a floor is wet).
- Strict liability: Injury or harm is inflicted by an action, regardless of intent or mental state (e.g. possession of dangerous animals, engaging in abnormally dangerous activities, defective products).
What are the types of personal injury cases?
Generally speaking, personal injury cases most often involve the negligent acts of others. Here are a few examples:
- Transportation accidents: automobile, motorcycle, truck, bicycle, aviation, mass transit, boating, and pedestrian.
- Premises accidents: negligent security, slip and fall, animal bites, attacks, nursing home abuse, construction, commercial incidents, and medical malpractice.
Do I need a personal injury lawyer?
Although you are not required to hire a lawyer to help you deal with your personal injury case, in most cases it is advisable. And hiring an attorney with expertise in and experience with personal injury law almost always makes sense. Personal injury attorneys bring many things to the table (e.g. knowledge of the ins and outs of personal injury law, insurance company strategies, etc.). In particular, here are four scenarios that require that you hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you: Did you suffer a serious injury or permanent disability? Serious/permanent injuries can bring a lifetime of pain and crippling medical bills. It is important to understand that insurance companies are NOT on your side. They will be represented by a team of lawyers and you need the same type of protection on your side. Are you unsure of who is at fault? If you were involved in an accident and you are not sure who is at fault, it is important to talk to an attorney. In cases like these, the other party’s insurance company will be looking to put the blame on you. Hiring a lawyer will help protect your rights. Were there multiple parties involved? In an accident that involves multiple parties, all sides will certainly have attorney representation. You can not afford to be the only party without this type of protection. In addition, should multiple parties be deemed to be at fault, a lawyer will have the skills to ensure you get the compensation you deserve from all negligent parties.
What is negligence according to personal injury law?
Negligence is the most important concept of personal injury law. If you are unable to prove negligence, your case will fail. So, just what does negligence mean to a court of law? According to Cornell Law School, the definition of negligence is: “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. The behavior usually consists of actions, but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act.”
How do you establish what a reasonable person would do in a specific situation?
To establish negligence in your personal injury case, you must prove each of the following four elements of negligence: Element #1: Duty of Care (also called Standard of Care) Duty of care means that the defendant had an obligation to act with a certain degree of caution and good sense. For example: In a slip and fall injury case, a property or business owner has a legal obligation to discover and remedy hazards within a reasonable amount of time. Element #2: Breach of Duty Once you prove a defendant had a duty of care, you must prove that they breached (violated) that duty by acting recklessly or failing to do what is reasonable. For example: In a slip and fall accident, the defendant neglected to put out a warning sign that the floor of their property had just been mopped and was wet. Element #3: Causation After proving a breach of duty, you must show that the defendant’s reckless action or inaction led to your injuries. The defendant’s neglect can not be loosely tied to your injuries—it must be the “proximate” (direct) cause. To prove causation, you may need to present testimony from an eye witness or maybe a doctor, etc. For example: Your slip and fall accident happened because you were not warned that the floor was wet. You stepped onto the wet floor, slipped, fell, and broke your hip. Element #4: Damages With this last step, you will need to show proof of actual and future damages and translate this into a monetary amount. The total damages need to reflect things like monetary loss, as well as any pain and suffering you have experienced. For example: To prove your damages due to your slip and fall accident, you must provide evidence such as medical bills and records, pay stubs to prove lost wages, testimony from witnesses regarding how your injury will affect your ability to work, etc. So far, we have been discussing negligence as if only one person can be at fault for an accident. However, in the real world, each party to a personal injury tort can be partially responsible. This is called comparative negligence.
What is comparative negligence?
Investopedia defines this legal term as follows: “Comparative negligence is a principal of tort law that applies to casualty insurance in certain states. Comparative negligence states that when an accident occurs, the fault and/or negligence of each party involved is based upon their respective contributions to an accident. This allows insurers to assign blame and pay insurance claims accordingly.” There are three types of comparative negligence: pure comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence, and slight/gross negligence. Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that you can collect damages no matter how much you were at fault for your own injuries, as long as someone else was partially responsible. For example: If you were 80 percent responsible for your injury and the defendant was 20 percent responsible, you could collect 20 percent of the total damages.
What types of compensation can I receive?
There are several types of compensation you can seek when you become a plaintiff in a personal injury claim.
- Medical expenses
- Loss of income
- Loss of earning capacity
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium (deprivation of association and fellowship between two married people)
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
How does a personal injury case work?
Your personal injury case will most likely proceed in one of these two ways:
- A defendant does something to injure the plaintiff.
- The plaintiff determines that the defendant breached a legal duty of care.
- Settlement talks occur: Most cases of disputes over fault are resolved through negotiations that lead to an informal early settlement. This is known as “settling out of court.” A settlement takes the form of a written agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant and no further action is taken.
- A formal lawsuit is initiated: A personal injury case is a civil complaint (as opposed to a criminal one) from a private individual (plaintiff) against another person, corporation, business, or government agency (defendant), alleging injury or harm as a result of carelessness or irresponsibility in connection with an accident. This action is known as “filing a lawsuit.” In this scenario, the case is presented in court in front of a jury. The jury decides if any compensation is to be awarded to the plaintiff.
There is no law that requires an at-fault party to compensate the people they harm. The victim must take the first step to bring a claim against those who are responsible for their damage—and they must do so within a specified amount of time. This type of time limit is called the statute of limitations.
What is the statute of limitations in a personal injury case?
According to Investopedia: “A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum time the parties involved have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offense, whether civil or criminal. However, the length of time the statute allows for a victim to bring legal action against the suspected wrong-doer can vary from one jurisdiction to another.” These time deadlines exist to ensure that lawsuits are brought within a reasonable amount of time in the interest of justice. Should you fail to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out, your claim will most likely be barred and you will not be able to hold the at-fault party liable for your losses. As mentioned in the Investopedia quote above, the statute of limitations vary from state to state. In Florida, the statute of limitations for torts (civil injury claims) vary depending on the following circumstances:
- The nature of the claim.
- When the “clock” starts.
- The alleged at-fault party (i.e. private party or public entity).
- Other factors that in some limited cases extend the statute of limitations for victims.
In general, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case in Florida are as follows:
- Personal injury: four years
- Medical malpractice: two years
- Assault/Battery: two years
- Product liability: two or four years
- Wrongful death: two years
- Workers’ Compensation: two years
When does the “clock” start ticking?
For most personal injury cases, the statute of limitations begins on the date of injury (e.g. the date of a car accident or the date of a dog bite). However, in some cases, a person might not realize they have been damaged right away or it may take some time to link an injury to its cause (e.g. a medical misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a medical condition). In situations like these, the statute of limitations begins at the time of discovery. Also, there may be some personal injury scenarios that are beyond the control of the victim (e.g. a victim’s mental competence or the at-fault party has fled the jurisdiction). In cases like these, it may be possible to toll the statute of limitations temporarily. This pauses the clock in the interest of justice so the situation can be sorted out properly.
Are there other considerations that may extend or shorten the statute of limitations in Florida?
Florida Statute Section 95.11(3)(a) states that the personal injury statute of limitations is four years from the date of occurrence. However, there are circumstances under which the filing deadline can be extended or shortened. Here are a few examples:
- Type of case: Claims involving medical malpractice, product liability, and wrongful death are subject to different statutes of limitation.
- Age of victim: Minors under the age of 18 are often given additional time to file claims (usually seven years).
- Type of injury: Some injuries or conditions take years to manifest—most notably occupational diseases or medical malpractice. In cases like these, the statute of limitations is more forgiving.
- Claims against the government: Personal injury cases filed against public entities are subject to different rules, which may include a shorter statute of limitations.
- Sexual abuse: With this type of claim there are often hidden or latent injuries which are recognized by the state of Florida. Time limits for survivors of sexual abuse can be extended as follows:
– Seven years after the victim turns 18. – Four years after the victim is no longer dependent on the abuser. – For victims who were abused under the age of 16, the statute of limitations can be waived indefinitely.
What are the most common types of accidents that develop into a personal injury case?
Personal injury law mainly focuses on bodily injury. Emotional or psychological injury can come into the equation—but the primary focus is physical injury. Here’s a list of common injury complaints:
- Abdominal injury
- Auditory or visual impairment
- Back injury
- Broken bones
- Dog bite
- Herniated disc
- Knee injury
- Nerve damage
- Organ failure
- Significant body laceration or disfigurement
- Skull fracture
- Spinal cord injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- Whiplash and neck injury
Here’s a list of common accidents that can turn into a personal injury claim:
- Automotive accident
- Bike and pedestrian accident
- Boating accident
- Dog bite
- Intentional act
- Medical malpractice
- Motorcycle accident
- Premises liability
- Product liability
- Truck accident
- Worker’s compensation
- Wrongful death
Has an insurance company denied or delayed your claim?
Insurance companies know that most lay people do not understand the complicated personal injury laws. Because of this, they will often just flat out deny legitimate claims. Another method insurance companies use to intimidate and mitigate their losses, is to endlessly delay the finalization of your claim. They fully understand that money is tight and medical bills are rolling in, so they delay to pressure you into accepting a fraction of what your claim is truly worth. If either of these situations happen to you, it is time to hire a lawyer.
What kind of help should I expect to get from a personal injury lawyer?
A personal injury lawyer performs many important duties—the most common of which include:
- Explaining your rights under tort law.
- Providing advice based on knowledge and experience.
- Completing a professional investigation of your accident.
- Connecting you to medical providers.
- Providing an accurate assessment of your damages.
- Negotiating a satisfactory settlement.
- Representing you in court if necessary.
What does a personal injury lawyer cost?
Your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer is usually free. Should you decide to retain an attorney to represent you with your case, you will not be charged any upfront fees and you will not pay an hourly rate. Your attorney gets paid only if your case is successful and you receive a monetary settlement/award. This is called a contingency fee. A contingency fee is based on a percentage of the settlement amount. This percentage rate varies from state to state. Following, are the contingency fees for the state of Florida:
- If the case is settled out of court, the attorney gets 33.3 percent of any money awarded up to $1 million.
- If the case goes to court and a settlement is awarded by a jury, the attorney gets 40 percent of any money awarded up to $1 million.
- If the case is settled for more than $1 million, there are additional percentage limits.
A study conducted by the Insurance Research Council found that the people who have suffered injury in a car accident due to driver, manufacturer, and/or government negligence win 3.5 times more settlement compensation if they are represented by a personal injury lawyer. The study further states that in 85 percent of cases where an insurance company did settle an injury claim, the injured party had hired an attorney.
Steps In A Personal Injury Case
A wide array of scenarios can cause injuries leading an individual to bring a lawsuit against another party to recover damages related to injuries. At Viles & Beckman our practice areas include:
More than 400,000 traffic collisions occurred on Florida’s roads and highways in 2018, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), with more than 12,000 of them in and around Fort Myers in Lee County. When auto accidents caused by driver negligence result in injury, victims turn to a qualified personal injury attorney to sue for damages related to their injuries.
Truck accidents rank among the most dangerous and deadly of all traffic collisions. The size and weight of large trucks and semis create a dangerous impact when a collision occurs, causing more property damage, more severe injuries, and a higher likelihood of fatality. The FLHSMV estimates more than 45,000 commercial vehicle accidents on Florida’s roads in 2018, many of them involving heavy trucks
Florida’s warm climate and scenic background make it the perfect location for motorcycle enthusiasts. Fort Myers area bikers have the added enjoyment of panoramic ocean views while cruising around on their bikes. Yet, approximately 10,000 motorcycle accidents occur on Florida roads each year. Although motorcyclists can and do cause accidents, many bike accidents are a result of negligent motorists. When a severe motorcycle accident results in serious injury, victims need legal counsel to hold careless drivers accountable.
The FLHSMV estimates almost 6,500 bicycle accidents, including 148 fatalities, occurred across Florida in 2018. Whether riding a bike for fun or as a form of transportation, cyclists risk collisions with cars driven by negligent motorists. With no protection, those on bicycles, especially children, run the risk of severe injuries or death. While helmets can protect cyclists from head injuries, they don’t protect from all the other injuries which might occur. A severe bicycle crash can quickly turn an enjoyable activity into a life-altering event.
Like all of Florida’s coastal cities, Fort Myers offers great sites for shopping, dining, and exercising outdoors. Yet, those on foot must be careful to avoid reckless drivers who might collide with them, even in crosswalks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports pedestrians are more than one and a half times more likely to be killed in a traffic crash than those in motor vehicles. In 2018, approximately 9,300 traffic collisions involved pedestrians, resulting in almost 700 fatalities across Florida, with 23 of those fatalities in Lee County. Distracted drivers pose special risks to pedestrians.
Florida has hundreds of miles of coastline, as well as rivers and canals, which tourists and residents use for boating, fishing, and watersports, making boating accidents commonplace. Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) estimates more than 65 boating accident-related fatalities each year and thousands of accidents and injuries. Most of these accidents are preventable and attributed to inattentive boat operators, excessive speeding, reckless operation, and alcohol use. Those who suffer injury as a result of a boating accident might be able to hold the boat owner liable in Florida court.
Premises Liability Cases
Florida property owners have a legal responsibility to maintain a safe environment for patrons and visitors to their properties. When they fail to uphold their duty, accidents happen. Premises liability cases can include a wide range of accidents which include theme park accidents, slip and fall accidents, elevator accidents, escalator accidents, swimming pool accidents, and any other accident which might occur on another party’s property. Slip and fall accidents are of special concern in Florida because of the large senior population; unintentional falls are the number one cause of injury for those over age 65.
Nursing Home Neglect Cases
Florida is the state with the highest senior population as well as the highest percentage of seniors living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Unfortunately, a quick internet search uncovers story after story of elder abuse and negligence in Florida nursing care facilities. The elders you love deserve to be treated with dignity and the utmost respect in addition to receiving exceptional care. When resident rights are violated, we are here to help you stop the abuse and hold parties financially liable for their actions.
Defective Product Cases
When companies introduce new products to the marketplace, they have a responsibility to ensure those products are safe for use or consumption. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) collects data and warns consumers of dangers related to a wide variety of products such as chemicals, home decor, kitchen items, furniture, toys, and children’s products. Any party involved in bringing a product to market might be liable for injuries in a Florida court. Defective consumer products might be a result of poor design, poor manufacturing, or the failure to provide information to consumers about the hazards of a particular product.
Many people involved in accidents don’t sustain injuries and can return to their daily routine without seeking medical treatment or suing for damages. Yet, when accidents are severe and lead to injury or death, victims and their families can face astronomical financial loss. When accident victims seek compensation for damages, they might recover the following losses in a settlement or verdict in their favor:
Florida is a no-fault insurance state, so victims who are involved in a motor vehicle accident will seek compensation under their mandatory personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Unfortunately, these policy limits are typically low and barely make a dent in the cost of medical treatments for severe accidents. With a personal injury lawsuit, victims can recover damages beyond what insurance pays for including ambulance and emergency services, hospital stays, radiology, surgery, and prescription medication. When a severe injury causes a lifelong condition or requires extensive recovery, victims might also pursue future medical expenses to cover things like long-term healthcare, physical therapy, and assisted devices such as crutches, wheelchairs, and artificial limbs. Victims of nursing home abuse might require trauma counseling as an added expense.
Injury, treatment, and recovering can require weeks or months away from work for a full recovery. Those with labor-intensive jobs might face work restrictions even after many weeks of healing and rehabilitation. Injured victims can claim lost wages as part of their lawsuit, to recover income associated with time away from work. When an injury prevents a victim from returning to work, he or she might also claim the loss of future earnings due to permanent disability.
In addition to medical expenses and lost wages, many injured victims suffer non-economic losses for which a Florida court might award damages. These intangible losses are difficult to calculate and cannot be measured by adding up receipts, bills, and pay stubs from work. Non-economic damages which a court might award to a defendant in a personal injury lawsuits include physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of quality of life, scarring and disfigurement, and loss of consortium with a spouse.
When you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to recover damages in a Florida court, he or she will pursue the best course of action for your individual circumstances. If you have been harmed because of another party’s negligence, then your attorney can guide you through a series of steps to help you recover damages. This process includes the following:
When you schedule an initial consultation with our firm, we will review your case and determine your eligibility for compensation. You can share details with your attorney and he or she can offer advice on the best way forward.
Viles and Beckman and other firms investigate events and accidents to build a strong case against the defense. This might include interviewing eyewitnesses, obtaining relevant documents such as police reports and medical reports, and reaching out to experts who can support the facts of a particular case.
Valuing Your Claim
Your attorney needs to place a monetary value on all damages you suffer as a result of injury to determine fair compensation. This includes adding up medical bills, pay stubs, and other relevant receipts, as well as placing a value on the non-economic aspects of your claim.
Filing an Insurance Claim
Insurance claims are not part of every personal injury lawsuit, but if you are involved in an auto accident, you will have to deal with your insurance company. You will need to file a claim under your Florida PIP policy. With other types of accidents and injury, you might have to file a claim with a property owner’s commercial or homeowners’ insurance carrier. Your attorney can help you with these claims, and handle communications and negotiations. In some cases, you might be able to recover damages without taking legal action.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
When insurance companies deny your claim, try to undermine your claim, or act in bad faith, you need a personal injury attorney to file a lawsuit to seek compensation. Sometimes this may result in a settlement; other times, your attorney may need to litigate your case so you can receive the full and fair compensation you deserve.
If you or one you love has suffered injury or harm as a result of another party’s negligence, you deserve compensation for the losses you have incurred as a result of your injury. If you live in the Fort Myers area, contact the skilled legal team at Viles and Beckman at (239) 677-4283. We advocate for our clients’ rights to recover the maximum amount of damages possible for their cases. We handle cases on contingency, collecting attorney fees from any compensation we secure for our clients.
What is a personal injury?
A personal injury claim is a legal action taken to obtain compensation for injuries you sustained because of someone else’s negligence or wrongful conduct. It is not the same as a criminal prosecution. The success of a personal injury claim depends upon whether you (the “plaintiff”) can prove that the party who acted negligently or wrongfully (the “defendant”) violated a legal duty and, in so doing, caused you harm. Let’s look at a car accident for example. Whenever you get in your car, you have a legal duty to other drivers to follow traffic laws and drive safely. If you hit another vehicle with yours, the driver of the other vehicle may claim that you violated your duty. If that driver suffered injuries in the accident, you may have legal liability for damages. But personal injury claims cover far more than car accidents. Any time you sustain an injury or loss because of someone else’s negligent or wrongful actions, you may have the right to pursue a personal injury claim.
Do I need an attorney?
Let’s begin by saying that you are never required to hire a personal injury attorney. The choice to hire a personal injury attorney is one that only you can make. That said, it is never a bad idea to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney after sustaining an injury that wasn’t your fault. An experienced personal injury attorney helps you navigate interactions with insurance companies, particularly an insurer of the person who harmed you. Insurance companies have one thing in mind—profits. When it comes down to it, these companies will try to resolve your case as quickly and inexpensively as possible. In most cases, this means that they will not offer you the compensation you deserve off-the-bat. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you negotiate with insurance companies to achieve a more favorable outcome or, if necessary, to take legal action to assert your rights to fair compensation.
How much will a personal injury attorney cost?
Most personal injury attorneys handle cases on a contingency basis. In other words, we only get paid if you get paid. In these arrangements, the attorney and the client agree at the beginning of the case that the attorney will receive a percentage of any final monetary recovery.
I was injured in an accident. How do I pay my bills?
One of the scariest parts of an accident is worrying about how you are going to pay your bills. The thing about accidents is nobody plans for them. Medical bills can add up quickly and unless you have money set aside for unexpected medical costs or have great medical insurance, the thought of paying for these expenses can cause an enormous amount of stress. Thankfully, there are many resources available to help with medical costs. These include:
- Personal injury protection coverage (PIP): PIP is part of your auto insurance policy. In the event of a car or truck accident, PIP helps pay for your medical costs. PIP will only cover 80 percent of your costs meaning you will still be responsible for a 20 percent copay.
- Worker’s comp: If you are injured on the job your employer’s worker’s compensation insurance should cover the cost of any medical treatment. If you are in a car accident while on the job, your worker’s compensation insurance will help manage your care.
- Private health insurance: Being in an accident does not preclude you from using your private healthcare insurance to pay for medical expenses (although in many cases, your health insurer will require you to resort first to your PIP coverage).
What is PIP?
In Florida, the law requires all drivers to carry personal injury protection, more commonly known as PIP. This insurance can help cover medical bills and lost wages in the event of a motor vehicle accident. The law requires all drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 PIP coverage. Florida is a so-called “no-fault” state. That means your own PIP coverage covers your initial medical expenses resulting from an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Your PIP insurance will cover your injuries while the other driver’s PIP will cover their injuries. If you have passengers in your car your PIP benefits may extend to them as well. Your PIP insurance will also cover you if you are a pedestrian involved in an accident. If you exceed the limits of your PIP coverage, depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may also have the right to pursue a claim against the at-fault party. To receive benefits under your PIP policy, you must visit a qualified medical professional within 14 days of your accident. If you miss this window, you will not be able to use any of your PIP benefits, and you may lose the ability to use other insurance also. To qualify for the entire $10,000 limit you must be diagnosed with an emergency medical condition. If you are not diagnosed with an emergency medical condition you will only be able to use $2,500 of your PIP coverage. Keep in mind that PIP is a form of insurance specific to car accidents. As we said above, personal injury law covers many other types of accidents that have nothing to do with motor vehicles. In those cases, your options for seeking compensation from at-fault parties will differ from those in the car accident context.
The insurance company called me. Should I talk to them?
You were recently in an accident that was obviously someone else’s fault. You have pictures, the other party apologized, and you just want to get your settlement and move on. There’s no harm in talking to the insurance company, right? Wrong. No matter how straightforward your case is, insurance companies will use an array of tactics to try to discredit your case. They’ll look for inconsistencies in your story, try to get you to admit some fault, and bring up your medical history. If an insurance agent contacts you, refer them to your attorney. If the other party’s insurance company calls you and you have not hired an attorney, you can refer them to your insurance company. The same logic goes to overtures from the at-fault party’s attorney. It is their job to save the insurance company money. If you have hired your own attorney, the law prohibits other attorneys involved in the case from contacting you.
What type of compensation can I recover?
Every case is different. The damages you will be able to recover will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. Some of the most common damages for personal injury cases include:
- Medical costs
- Lost wages
- Vocational retraining
- Home modifications
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment
- Loss of consortium
I’m partially to blame for my own injuries. Can I still sue?
The short answer is, yes. Being partially at fault does not bar you from filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida.
How long do I have to file a lawsuit?
Florida’s statute of limitations outlines how long victims have to file a lawsuit after they have been injured in an accident. The amount of time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit depends on what type of injury they sustained. That’s why it’s always important to talk to a lawyer if you are planning on making a personal injury claim. For most personal injury claims, including auto accidents, the statute of limitations in Florida is four years from the date of the accident (statutes of limitation vary from state-to-state). But, for cases of medical malpractice or wrongful death in Florida, a plaintiff only has two years to file a lawsuit.
Will I have to go to court?
Most personal injury claims are settled outside of court. But not all of them. You want a personal injury law firm that is prepared to take your case to court and aggressively fight for the compensation you deserve. But of course, the decision of when to settle and when to go to court is always yours.