Personal Injury Process Overview

Lawsuits and navigating the court system in Florida are complicated. That’s why it is important to seek our help prior to filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida. However, below is a brief overview of the complete process of a personal injury claim from the initial accident through filing an appeal. Keep in mind this is not a substitution for proper legal advice specific to your case.   

Immediately after the accident

The very first step is to assess any injuries you or anyone else may have sustained and seek immediate medical attention.

If your injuries were not so serious that you are immobilized or incapacitated, gather as much information about the scene of the accident. Take photos and ask any witnesses to remain at the scene to provide statements.

Make sure to file a written report. After a car accident, this means contacting the police as soon as possible. If the accident was a slip and fall in a store, make sure to file a written report with the store manager before leaving.

Hire A Lawyer

If you’re going to hire a lawyer to handle this process for you, this would be the best time. The faster, the better. Hiring a lawyer at this stage will allow them to build your case from the ground up and gather all the most relevant evidence before it disappears. 

Seeing a doctor

After your accident and ideally after you hire a lawyer, you will begin your medical care to evaluate and treat the injuries you sustained in the accident. This step is crucial in building your case to receive the maximum settlement or verdict, as the ultimate value driver of a personal injury case is your medical care. Many people who are involved in an accident do not experience pain right away. You may realize that you are sore 2-3 days after an accident.

Tell your medical providers about every physical problem you may have experienced, even if you think the pain isn’t severe. Follow up on any referrals and avoid delaying treatment. Medical records are essential for documenting the extent and nature of your injuries. Do not minimize your injuries when speaking to your doctor. For example, don’t say you’re fine if you’re not fine. 

Ask your doctor what to expect during your recovery, whether or not you will need surgery, how the injury may limit you in the future. and how long your recovery is expected to take.

The Demand Letter

The demand letter is a formal letter that the plaintiff in a personal injury case sends to the defendant’s insurance company. It’s a letter that outlines the cause/liability of the plaintiff’s injury, the medical treatments required to remedy the plaintiff’s injury, a description of the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, and the monetary losses suffered by the plaintiff. The insurance company will usually have 30 days from the date of the demand letter to review the claim and decide if they are going to make an offer to settle, If the defendant’s insurance company agrees to pay a fair settlement amount, then the claim is settled. However, if the defendant’s insurance company denies the claim or makes a low settlement offer, the claim proceeds to the next step which is a lawsuit. 

The Complaint

If settlement negotiations have failed, your lawyer will need to file a lawsuit against the responsible party and their insurance company. The initial filing with the court that opens a lawsuit is called a complaint which is a document that includes all of the information outlined in the demand letter and requests that the court render a judgment for a specific monetary amount.

After filing a lawsuit, all defendants must be served with the complaint and a summons. A summons states the amount of time the defendant has to file an answer with the clerk’s office. The opposing party then has a certain amount of days to respond by filing an answer. 

Discovery

After we file the complaint, the discovery process begins. During discovery, the parties request information from one another that is relevant to the case. Common types of personal injury claim evidence include medical bills, photographs, videos, insurance claims, police reports, and work information.

Prior to trial, your case may be set for depositions during which attorneys for both sides and a court reporter will be present. The party being deposed will then be asked questions about the facts of the case while under oath. 

Settlement

Just because settlement negotiations failed before the lawsuit was filed doesn’t mean that the case can’t still be settled. In fact, very few personal injury cases actually go to trial. It is more common for the parties to settle at some point during the lawsuit. However, if the parties can’t reach a settlement, the case proceeds to trial. 

Trial

This is the stuff you see in the TV shows. During trial, the plaintiff and defendant both present evidence and arguments to the judge or jury. It is during this stage of the process that the plaintiff’s attorney attempts to demonstrate that the defendant had a duty of care to the Plaintiff, that the defendant breached his or her duty of care to the plaintiff, the accident was the cause of plaintiff’s injuries, and the extent of the injuries. Following each party’s closing argument, the judge or jury renders a verdict in the case. If the court finds that the defendant is at fault for the plaintiff’s injury, it will require the defendant to financially compensate the plaintiff for his or her injury.

Bad Faith Claim

If during the settlement negotiation process you, for any of several statutory reasons, filed a Civil Remedy Notice (CRN) the jury delivers a verdict in your favor and awards damages to you in an amount greater than the amount you demanded to settle the case, you can then pursue a separate action against the insurance company for bad faith and possible be awarded extra damages if successful. 

Filing an appeal

If your case is dismissed prior to trial or if you lose your case, filing an appeal may be the best next step. There are time limits for filing an appeal, so notify your attorney as soon as possible. After you file an appeal, your attorney will submit a brief to the state court of appeals, and the court will issue an opinion on whether or not any errors were made at the trial court level.

If you’re in an accident, call Jaime “Mr. 786Abogado” Suarez today!

Jaime Suarez

An experienced legal personal injury defense professional in Miami, who is dedicated to helping accident victims with personal injury cases involving automobile accidents, brain and spinal cord injuries, slip and fall accidents, prescription errors, wrongful death, and accidents at work.

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