What to expect when pursuing a personal injury claim in Florida
If you have been involved in an auto accident, it can seem to be overwhelming: your car is damaged and/or undriveable, you are experiencing pain that you never had before, the medical bills appear to be never-ending, and you keep getting calls from seemingly questionable insurance companies. To top it off, you may be completely in the dark and confused as to what exactly a personal injury case entails. We have outlined the basic steps involved in a personal injury case so that you can rest assured knowing where your case falls compared to a typical personal injury case timeline. However, please read this while keeping in mind that each case is unique, and because of this, not every single case follows this timeline closely or even at all.
At The Eberst Law Firm we will always be available to answer any questions you have about your case as we want you to feel as comfortable as possible throughout your case. Our experience handling thousands of personal injury cases gives us the expertise needed to confidently and accurately answer questions about even the most difficult cases.
Seek Medical Care after Injury
Obtaining medical treatment from the beginning of your case is vital for many reasons. To start, it is important to make sure that you are receiving the proper treatment right away so that you can immediately start moving toward recovering from the injuries that you sustained from the crash. Similarly, if you wait too long after a crash to seek treatment, insurance adjusters (and potentially a jury one day) will likely question the severity of your injuries. It is important to have documentation of your medical concerns and conditions to substantiate your injury claim. If you claim to have suffered injuries because of the crash, but there are no medical records available for your insurance company to review, you will have an enormously more difficult time recovering a settlement from the crash.
What type of treatment do personal injury victims undergo?
The treatment that accident victims receive is unique and varies from person to person depending on the type of injuries, injury severity, and more. However, clients involved in an auto accident usually seek initial treatment at a hospital and/or urgent care with some victims being transported by ambulance. Then, at any point throughout their treatment they could treat with more conservative providers such as Chiropractors or Physical Therapists. It is not uncommon for accident victims to treat with more specialized physicians such as Orthopaedic Specialists, ear nose & throat specialists (ENT’s), neurologists, and more. Additionally, many accident victims require diagnostic testing at MRI facilities to obtain an accurate evaluation of any injuries to their neck, back, or any other body parts that may have been injured during the crash.
Consult with a Florida Personal Injury Attorney
Seeking the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney will help to ensure that you achieve the best settlement for your case. An attorney will meet with you and ask you how your incident happened, evaluate your injuries and treatment, and analyze your medical bills and records. It may take months for your attorney to obtain all of your medical records and bills, and depending on where you are with your treatment, even longer to determine the next step for your case.
After you have signed the contracts with your attorney, the attorney begins to send Letters of Representation out to the insurance company; after receiving these letters, the insurance companies should cease all contact with you as they have been instructed to communicate with the attorney’s office on your behalf. Your attorney will begin doing investigative work on your case such as contacting any witnesses, obtaining the police report, and gathering scene and property damage photos.
When should my attorney try to settle my case?
Once you have reached what is called Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), your case will typically be nearing settlement. Once you have reached this stage, typically an attorney will choose one of two courses of action:
Sending a Settlement Demand & Negotiating
Most personal injury cases settle in the “pre-suit” stage (the stage a case is in prior to a lawsuit being filed). According to The Law Dictionary, 95% of lawsuits settle in pre-suit. This may seem contradictory, as many people are under the impression that as soon as they hire an attorney, the attorney will file a lawsuit. However, lawsuits are only immediately filed in rare situations with extenuating circumstances, such as when there are severe injuries or wrongful death.
What is a settlement demand?
It is common for attorneys to send a “demand” to an insurance company, which is essentially an organized packet of information containing the client’s medical records, bills, and any other supplemental information along with a demand letter that outlines the treatment and hardships the client has gone through and continues to go through because of the crash. Within this demand letter, the attorney asks the insurance company for a lump sum of money to settle the case and specifies a date for the insurance company to do so. Depending on how cooperative an insurance company is, the attorney usually chooses one of two paths: negotiate with the insurance adjuster for the best settlement or file a lawsuit.
At The Eberst Law Firm, we have the experience and expertise needed in order to discern the best path for your case that will result in the best outcome for you.
Filing Suit & Potentially going to Court
When an attorney files a lawsuit, the case has officially progressed to the “litigation” stage. During this stage, the attorneys working on behalf of both the plaintiff and defendant go through a “discovery process” where they investigate the other side’s claims and obtain information from one another. This process includes each side both asking and answering questions from the opposing side.
As the discovery process nears completion, the parties from each side will usually start discussing settling the case. This could mean discussion occur between lawyers from each side, but sometimes the discussions are amongst the attorneys for the plaintiff and more seasoned insurance adjusters who have been reassigned the claim.
If a case doesn’t resolve even after a lawsuit has been filed, it may potentially go to mediation/arbitration, or ultimately, trial.
How long does an attorney have to file a Florida lawsuit?
It is important to retain an attorney as soon as possible for several reasons, one of the most important reasons being that your lawsuit needs to be filed within the Statute of Limitations. In Florida, individuals usually have four years starting from the date of incident to file a lawsuit founded on negligence.
At The Eberst Law Firm, we have been involved in thousands of cases that went to mediation, arbitration or court. We are also well-versed as to the statute of limitations and how they apply to each and every case.
For some more basics regarding what to do after you have been involved after an auto accident, be sure to visit our FAQ page.