Filing a personal injury lawsuit in the state of Florida can be a confusing process. After suffering injuries and trauma from an automobile accident, dog bite and the like, getting the proper treatment and compensation for pain and suffering is the primary concern. Hiring a specialized personal injury attorney who understands the laws and processes involved, will help you gain closure to recover and move forward in life. Because the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida can be complex, it is important to understand the steps involved so that you can properly pursue your claim and get the compensation you deserve.
If you or a family member has been injured, the basic steps to take are these:
Seek medical attention: Your first priority should be to seek medical attention for your injuries. Even if you did not do this immediately, you still need to be professionally evaluated. Not only is this important for your health and well-being, but it is also important for your legal case. If you do not seek medical treatment, it may be difficult to prove that your injuries were caused by the accident.
Gather evidence: It is important to gather as much evidence as possible to support your claim. This may include photographs of the accident scene, witness statements, and any other documentation that may be relevant to your case.
Consult with an attorney: It is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before proceeding with a lawsuit. An attorney can help you understand your legal options, advise you on the best course of action, and represent you in court.
File a complaint: To initiate a personal injury lawsuit in Florida, you must file a complaint with the court. This document outlines your legal claims and the damages you are seeking. Your attorney will handle this for you.
Serve the defendant: After a complaint has been filed, the defendant must be served with a copy of the complaint and a summons. The defendant then has a certain amount of time to respond to the complaint. Again, this step will be handled by your attorney
Discovery: The discovery process is a pre-trial phase in which both sides exchange information and gather evidence. This may include exchanging documents, taking depositions, and conducting interrogatories (written questions).
Trial: If your case does not settle during the discovery process, it will proceed to trial. At trial, both sides will present their evidence and arguments to a judge or jury, who will then decide the case.
It is important to note that the timeline for a personal injury lawsuit can vary widely depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s schedule. It is also worth noting that most personal injury cases settle out of court, rather than going to trial.
Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims in Florida
Florida’s statute of limitations gives the plaintiff four years from the start date of the accident or incident, to file a civil lawsuit seeking compensation “for an action founded on negligence”. Negligence is defined as the failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury or loss to another person. There are four areas:
- There is a duty in the circumstances to take care (i.e. the obligation of a person to exercise reasonable care in the conduct of an activity).
- The standard of care exercised by the defendant if the circumstances didn’t meet the standard of care, which a reasonable person would meet in the circumstance.
- The plaintiff suffered a loss or injury which a reasonable person in the circumstances could have been expected to foresee (damage).
- The damage was caused by a breach of duty (causation).
When filing a personal injury lawsuit in the state of Florida, time is of the essence. If you file a case after four years, the defendant can point this out, causing the case to be thrown out of court. You’ll have lost leverage and the ability to seek damages and recover compensation for injuries. According to the personal injury attorneys at Vanguard Attorneys in Tampa, FL, you should not delay because valuable evidence can be lost over time.
Compensation for Personal Injuries in Florida
If you or somebody you love has suffered an injury, property damage, or any other type of loss, you may seek financial compensation from the party that caused or otherwise contributed to your injuries or losses. Some people figure they can deal with the insurance company on their own, but when injuries are involved, you need a professional negotiator who knows exactly how to deal with the insurance company. The insurance company wants to deal with consumers instead of lawyers, because they can get away from paying out far less settlement money.
In the legal world, compensation is known as “damages.”
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship or consortium
- Medical bills
- Loss of earnings
- Cost of future medical care
- Loss of future earnings
Wrongful Death Damages
- Emotional distress of surviving family
- Loss of consortium and companionship
- Loss of financial contribution
- Funeral and burial expenses
Depending on the circumstances, sometimes the court will award punitive damages. These are only given to an injury victim when the negligent behavior of another party was reprehensible or despicable.
Injuries You Can Sue for in Florida
- Car accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Work injuries
- Wrongful death
- Brain injuries
- Nursing home abuse
- Bicycle accidents
- Dangerous or defective products
Florida’s Comparative Negligence Law
As previously defined, negligence is the obligation of a person to exercise reasonable care in the conduct of an activity. Florida follows a pure comparative negligence rule that can affect the outcome of a case. The defendant can claim that the plaintiff is partially to blame for the accident and his or her own injuries. By Florida law, if the plaintiff is partly responsible for the incident or injuries, it can affect the amount of compensation received from the at-fault party.
For example, you were hit while driving but were texting on your phone at the same time. In this case, you hold a level of responsibility for the accident. If the vehicle damages were $5,000 and you were found 10% responsible, then you would receive $4,500 in compensation, while paying $500 for your part of negligence.
No-Fault Car Insurance in Florida
Florida follows a no-fault insurance system for car accidents. This means that the driver’s own auto insurance company pays for his or her damages, injuries, and potential loss of wages. This occurs regardless of who is at-fault.
Florida requires all drivers to have a minimum of $10,000 in liability insurance. Notwithstanding, you can’t file a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident, unless you have suffered from severe injuries:
- Permanent injury
- Significant/permanent scarring or disfigurement
- Significant/ permanent loss of bodily functions
How Much Does It Cost to Hire an Attorney?
Most lawyers in Florida charge on a contingency fee basis. This means that they do not get paid for their legal services unless the victim recovers compensation. It should be noted that there is a difference between “legal fees” and “legal costs.” Fees relate to compensation, while costs relate to copy charges, fees paid to witnesses, phone charges, and other costs related to litigation. The victim may be held responsible for covering these costs if they receive compensation or not.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit can be a daunting process, but it is an important way to hold the responsible party accountable for your injuries and seek compensation for the damages you have suffered. An experienced personal injury attorney can guide you through the process and help you get the best possible outcome for your case. If you have any further questions on How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Florida, or would like to discuss the specifics of your case with a qualified injury lawyer, contact us today for a free legal consultation.