Unlike many other law firms, we do not dismiss case inquiries just because they involve relatively modest damages. Likewise, we are not afraid to take on extremely complicated or unusual cases. our combined experience, with more than 40 years of practice in Florida personal injury law, has equipped us to competently and strategically handle virtually any kind of personal injury claim.
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:
Generally speaking, personal injury cases most often involve the negligent acts of others. Here are a few examples:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
There are several types of compensation you can seek when you become a plaintiff in a personal injury claim.
Your personal injury case will most likely proceed in one of these two ways:
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.
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:
In general, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case in Florida are as follows:
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.
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:
– 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.
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:
Here’s a list of common accidents that can turn into a personal injury 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.
A personal injury lawyer performs many important duties—the most common of which include:
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:
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.
The value of your case depends on a number of factors that are particular to your specific injury situation. On average, personal injury settlement amounts range from $3,000 to $75,000.
The Florida statute of limitations for automobile, truck, and motorcycle accident cases is four years. However, it is in your best interest to make your claim as soon as possible.
If all parties agree to a settlement, Florida law 627.4265 requires insurance companies to pay the claim within 20 days.
Florida places a limit on emotional distress damages. Generally, you can receive emotional distress damages only when they have arisen as a result of physical harm that you have suffered.
The amount of pain and suffering is usually computed by the “multiplier method.”
For example: A plaintiff incurs $3,000 worth of medical bills and their level of pain is about three; the pain and suffering figure is $9,000 ($3,000 x 3 = $9,000).
1. Take photos of your injuries.
2. Visit a doctor.
3. Follow all medical care plans.
4. Attend all follow-up medical appointments.
5. Write a narrative of the accident while it is still fresh in your memory.
6. Make a list of witnesses and contact information.
7. Follow any instructions from your attorney.
Many different scenarios might lead to an injury caused by another party’s careless behavior. Victims might suffer harm from a defective product, a slip, and fall at the grocery store, or from a serious traffic accident. Severe injuries can be life-altering events that devastate victims and their families. In addition to the physical pain of injury and recover, the aftermath of an injury often includes emotional and financial stress from missing work while medical bills continue to accumulate.
The personal injury attorneys at Viles & Beckman understand the emotional and financial consequences of sustaining a serious injury and we are here to help you through this challenging time.
If you, your child, or another loved one has suffered an injury as a result of another party’s negligence, contact us at (239) 334-3933 for a free consultation to discuss the merits of your case and determine your eligibility to recover damages.
We have championed injury victims' best interests since 1995, and we wouldn't use or legal abilities any other way.
Florida recognizes Attorney Marcus W. Viles's reputation for legal excellence. As a result, he upholds this prestigious title.
A successful case outcome starts with preparation. We sit with every client to grasp the personal injury matters they are dealing with.
Because of the fact that our firm works on a contingency fee basis, our clients don't owe us a dime until we win their case.
While we are proud to call Fort Myers home, we are also more than happy to help injured people living anywhere in the Sunshine State. In fact, we’ve even been known to travel all around the country just to meet our clients’ needs.
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.
Special thanks to Viles & Beckman,LLC. The firm took great thought and time into recovering funds for my recovering and continued care needed as the result of a car accident. I hope I never need them again but they'll be my first call.
Tiffany and Amy have been great. They have helped me every step of the way and answered all my questions and concerns within a timely matter. I couldn’t have for better people to help me out.