Almost 40 million unintended injuries require a doctor’s visit every year. When an accident strikes, managing anything other than the immediate medical issues at hand can seem impossible. Reading about the legal process well ahead of time can help to keep you in the right frame of mind when a misfortunate event happens.
Accident or Injury Occurs
While you are still at the scene of the accident, it is important to make a record of as many details as possible. Take multiple pictures from a variety of angles to capture the location, property damage, injuries, and any objects involved. In the event of an automobile accident, this includes photos of street signs, each vehicle, as well as any parts that have become separated from the cars.
In a slip and fall accident, this includes pictures that show negligence on the property manager’s behalf. Photos that reveal a lack of proper warning signage, missing railings, as well as wet or damaged flooring can help you in a case. Establishments have various occupancy limitations that they must post. If you’re trampled or otherwise injured in a crowded space, make note of that limit.
Speak to witnesses. They may have noticed factors that contributed to the accident that you couldn’t see while it was happening. Ask for their names and contact information as well. You may think of additional questions to ask after the accident when your mind is clear.
If the accident happened at a business, get the names of present employees and notify management. Request a copy of their incident report.
Call the police. Car accidents that result in injuries have to be reported, but it is useful to report any harmful accident.
Officers are experienced in investigating, and they know what questions are pertinent in a variety of accident situations. They will also create an official record of the incident. This can help to confirm what you have noted yourself.
Initiating Medical Treatment
The most important action you can take after an accident is seeking immediate medical attention. Even if you do not notice any signs of injury, it is wise to have a medical professional examine you. An expert may observe signs and symptoms that most people aren’t trained to see.
Don’t ignore any changes you notice in the days following an accident. Soreness, bruises, and headaches are known to develop after accident victims have left the scene. Some of the most serious health conditions, such as internal bleeding and brain injuries, also aren’t immediately obvious. Seek treatment as soon as further issues arise and continue to keep documentation.
In Florida, you have two weeks to seek medical attention after an accident. The Florida PIP 14-day rule requires this. If you do not seek medical attention within 14 days, your personal injury protection provider may deny your claim.
Consultation with a Personal Injury Attorney
Insurance companies’ goals are to settle any claim as quickly as possible and to offer you as little compensation as possible. Insurance company representatives will speak to you sympathetically and can often come across as if they are your advocate.
However, they have their own expert legal teams whose primary goal is to protect the insurance company. It is in your best interest to speak to an attorney who specializes in personal injury claims.
Personal injury attorneys will review your case and give you valuable feedback as well as options for you to select from. They will assist with weighing the pros and cons of each course of action. You can consult a personal injury attorney free of charge before hiring one to represent you.
Almost all personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means they do not get paid per hour. They get a percentage of the amount they recover for you. If they do not recover anything, then you do not pay.
You will meet with your lawyer to share all the details of your accident, including your account of the event and medical records. It is important to disclose your medical history as well so that your lawyer knows how to approach the case.
As medical records and bills accumulate, you should continue sharing them with your attorney. Updates can help to reveal the true extent of damage. The law firm will thoroughly evaluate all of the information gathered to devise a strategy and determine how much compensation you can seek.
Negotiation Process Starts
Once the other party is found liable, that party’s insurance company and your personal injury attorney can attempt to negotiate a settlement. This process can be lengthy because of ongoing medical treatment and other accident-related expenses that arise in the months following an accident. Those expenses, your lost wages, as well as your pain and suffering are factors your attorney will use to seek maximum compensation for you.
If settlement negotiations are successful, your attorney will notify you about the compensation offered. At this point, you can advise your attorney about how you would like to move forward. If you accept the terms of the settlement, you will sign the required paperwork and await compensation. Your lawyer may renegotiate at your request if you’re unhappy with the terms.
If the other party refuses to negotiate or to accept fault, your attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit, if Necessary
Your attorney will draw up the legal papers and will file them in court. A copy of this document will be delivered to the defendant via an impartial party called a process server. Defendants have 20 days to provide a response.
During the discovery phase, all parties have the opportunity to review evidence and investigate each other’s claims and defenses. Attorneys exchange case-related documents, recordings, photographs, and any other relevant materials on behalf of their clients.
Mediation and Arbitration
Mediation is a process where both sides agree to use a neutral third party to mediate in the case. Both parties can mutually agree to mediation, but it can also be court-ordered. The mediator is usually an attorney well-versed in personal injury cases.
Mediators try to resolve the differences between the victim and the insurance company lawyers. It is important to note that mediators are not arbitrators. They cannot make a decision on the outcome. They merely facilitate both parties in reaching a mutually acceptable outcome. If mediation does not get the case resolved, then the case either goes to arbitration or trial.
An arbitrator is an independent entity, often a lawyer or former judge. The arbitrator decides the case’s outcome and the amount of compensation to be paid. Arbitration is a complicated process and your attorney will advise you whether you should pursue this route.
Before the arbitration, parties must decide on an arbitrator and who will be responsible for the associated fees. They also decide whether the arbitrator’s decision is binding and if they will arbitrate the whole case or just certain issues.
The arbitrator’s role is similar to a judge. The arbitrator hears the evidence, reviews documents, and decides if the victim is entitled to a judgment in his or her favor. Once this determination has been made, an arbitrator will decide how much the plaintiff is entitled to and the timeline for payment.
If mediation is unsuccessful, a trial may be the next step. A trial could last months or be over in just a few days. Potential jurors are randomly selected if a personal injury victim elects a jury trial. Before the trial begins, jurors are questioned to ensure that they are competent and unbiased.
Once jurors are chosen, attorneys deliver opening statements, which are general overviews of the case. Throughout the trial, evidence will be presented and witnesses may be questioned by both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s lawyers. Jurors will have a chance to discuss events and facts of the case before coming to a determination. In the end, the judge will deliver a verdict including compensation owed.
Hire an Experienced Attorney for Legal Representation
If you are injured at the fault of another person, your best starting point is to connect with an experienced personal injury attorney. The attorneys of Viles & Beckman have years of experience representing victims of personal injury to receive the compensation they need to recover. You can meet with our staff for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Contact us today online or at (239) 360-5127.
About the Author of this Page: The above information was written or reviewed by one of the attorneys at Viles & Beckman LLC who have a combined experience of nearly 60 years: Marcus Viles, Michael Beckman or Maria Alaimo. The information provided in this article comes from years of experience trying legal cases outside and inside courtrooms throughout Florida along with extensive research.