Each year, millions of people are injured in accidents that occur through no fault of their own. In many of these cases, the individuals who are injured incur significant economic and non-economic losses that have a negative and significant effect in their lives. Fortunately for victims, Florida personal injury law allows people who are injured by the negligence of others to recover for their losses by filing a legal claim. The information below is designed to answer commonly asked questions regarding personal injury law and the process of filing a claim. For specific advice regarding a particular case, accidents victims should contact an attorney that practices personal injury law in their area.
What is Personal Injury Law?
Personal injury law is the area of law that operates to help people that have been injured in accidents caused by the negligence of others. In the context of personal injury law, negligence occurs when a person fails to conduct himself or herself with the degree of care that would ordinarily be exercised by a person in the same or similar circumstances. As a general principle, personal injury law seeks to put an injured victim in the position he or she would have been but for the accident in which he or she was involved through the payment of monetary compensation. For example, a person whose car sustained $1,000 in damage in an accident caused by another person would likely be entitled to $1,000 as well as with any other ancillary losses they sustained as a result of the accident. In cases where accident victims sustain noneconomic damages such as physical and emotional pain and suffering, the settlement or award they receive takes these kinds of losses into account and attempts to compensate them for these losses by approximating a monetary value.
What Kinds of Accidents Lead to Personal Injury Cases?
Almost any conceivable type of accident could potentially lead to a personal injury case. That being said, there are certain accidents that regularly occur in the course of modern life that tend to result in the vast majority of personal injury cases. These include the following:
|· Car accidents
· Truck accidents
· Slip and falls
· Motorcycle accidents
· Medical malpractice
· Workplace accidents
|· Defective product accidents
· Bicycle accidents
· Pedestrian accidents
· Sports accidents
· Recreational accidents
· Boating accidents
Consumers should be aware that certain types of personal injury cases fall within a more specialized category of law. For example, cases involving caused by medical mistakes are often referred to medical practice cases, while those involving defective consumer products are often called product liability cases.
Do I need to Retain an Attorney after an Accident?
Many people who are involved in an accident wonder if it is worth the time and expense of retaining a personal injury lawyer. After all, many accident victims are often offered significant cash settlement by insurance companies within days or weeks after an accident. Importantly for victims, people who are represented by legal counsel often obtain significantly more compensation that those who choose to represent themselves. There are several reasons that this occurs, including the following:
- Properly evaluating the value of a personal injury case is a complicated issue that requires an understanding of the various types of damages available to accident victims. Many people who have been injured in accidents grossly undervalue their claims and accept the first offer they receive. An attorney familiar with personal injury cases will advise victims as to what their case is worth and communicate with any insurance companies that are involved, ensuring that victims obtain the compensation they deserve.
- The fact that an attorney is involved makes litigation a realistic possibility. The reason insurance companies and other parties settle is to avoid the cost associated with litigating a case. For this reason, being represented by legal counsel significantly improves a victim’s bargaining position.
- An attorney can present evidence of damages in such a ways as to accurately reflect the value of a case, both in settlement negotiations with insurers and in court, should a case go to trial.
Another reason to retain an attorney is that it will ensure that accidents victims do not say or do anything that may admit partial or total liability for an accident. It is important for accident victims to remember that insurance companies are in the business of making money and train their representatives to avoid liability whenever possible. Therefore, when an accident victim is being interviewed, the insurance adjuster may ask questions designed to get him or her to inadvertently admit legal liability. When a victim is represented by counsel, his or her attorney will handle all communication
Can I Afford an Attorney?
Many people who have been injured in preventable accidents wonder whether they will be able to afford the legal fees associated with retaining an attorney. The good news for accident victims is that the overwhelming majority of lawyers that practice in personal injury take their fees on a contingent fee basis. This means that any legal fees that are collected by the attorney are paid as a percentage of any settlement or award collected on behalf of their client. Usually, this percentage ranges anywhere between 20 and 33 percent of the amount recovered, depending on factors such as whether the case goes to trial or a lawsuit is even filed.
By utilizing this type of fee structure, personal injury attorneys can ensure that accident victims are able to secure legal representation regardless of their ability to pay an attorney. If the attorney is unable to recover compensation, no legal fees are incurred. Furthermore, this type of arrangement aligns an attorney’s interest with that of his or her client, meaning that personal injury lawyers are incentivized to obtain as much compensation as possible for their client.
Finally, a contingent fee arrangement prevents victims from having to personally pay for the often considerable costs associated with litigation. In many personal injury cases, victims are required to conduct a significant amount of investigation and present substantial evidence in order to establish that their accident was the result of negligence. Sometimes, this kind of evidence can take the form of expert witness testimony, which can cost well into the hundreds of dollars per hour. In cases requiring expert medical or other specialist witnesses, these fees can be even higher. Fortunately, when an accident victim retains a personal injury lawyer, the attorney or his or her firm will cover the up-front costs associated with litigation.