According to the BLS, there were nearly 3 million non-fatal work-related injuries reported in 2022. If you have suffered an injury or illness due to the negligence or wrongful actions of another person, employer or not, you may have a valid personal injury claim.
The personal injury claims process can seem complicated, but understanding the basic steps can help. Here is an overview of what to expect when filing a personal injury claim in Florida, where car accidents are the most common type of personal injury claim, resulting in 20,000 injuries in 2022.
Initiating a Claim
The first step is to document and gather evidence related to your injury. This includes taking photos and videos of any property damage, getting copies of medical records and bills related to treating your injuries, and making note of any lost wages from missing work. If there were any witnesses to the accident or injury event, gather their contact information as they may be key to proving fault later.
Next, you will need to send a demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance provider. This letter should identify who was injured, when and where the incident occurred, what damages resulted, and how much compensation you are seeking. The letter should state you plan to file a lawsuit if an adequate settlement is not reached.
At this point, the at-fault party’s insurance provider will likely make a settlement offer. It may not adequately cover your damages, but negotiating is typically the next step. You can counter their offer with a demand that accurately reflects the severity of injuries, length of treatment, property damages, lost income, and other applicable losses you endured.
Going to Court
If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiations, the next phase is filing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. Your attorney will draft a complaint that outlines your allegations and requests compensation to be paid by the defendant. The complaint must be filed before the statute of limitations expires in Florida or you lose your right to sue.
The defendant must then be properly served notice of the pending lawsuit. They have twenty days to file a formal response, at which point the discovery process begins. This pretrial process involves deposing parties and witnesses under oath, requesting relevant documents, securing expert testimonies, and more.
Injury Claim Trial
If a settlement is still not achieved by this point, the personal injury claim will need to go to trial before a judge or jury. Your attorney will present evidence, question witnesses, establish negligence claims against the defendant, and request damages amounts to cover your losses. The defense will argue against your allegations and provide evidence to weaken your claim.
Settlement or Verdict
By now months or even years may have passed since your injury occurred. Yet the end of litigation is nearing. Approximately 90% of personal injury lawsuits settle out of court before a final verdict is reached. According to Allen Law Firm, P.A. in Gainesville, FL, this is because out-of-court settlements are “quicker, cheaper, easier, and far less stressful than full-blown trials”.
If a settlement is reached, you agree to drop your legal claim in exchange for them paying the negotiated amount. If not, the judge or jury will decide if the defendant is liable for damages and require compensation accordingly. Those damage awards can then be collected through various means if not readily paid.
Appealing if Needed
If you disagree with the final verdict, you can file appeals to higher courts in Florida’s judicial system. However, this extends the process further and there’s no guarantee a different judgment will be reached. It’s best to avoid appeals if the results are reasonably fair based on the reality of your claim.
Understanding the lengthy process ahead of filing a personal injury claim puts you in the best position to pursue a legitimate case. Being prepared for months or years of procedures can also help secure a reasonable settlement or court award to cover your damages. With realistic expectations of the process in Florida, injured victims can best weigh their options and decision to sue.