A Step-by-Step Guide for Filing a Personal Injury Claim in Florida
April 15, 2023 | Winters & Yonker, P.A. | Personal Injury
Personal injury claims are an essential part of the Florida legal process. Filing a personal injury claim, however, takes advance planning. If you have suffered an injury due to someone else’s wrongdoing, you might need to file a personal injury claim to obtain damages (financial compensation). Following is a rundown of the process.
Step 1: Gather Evidence at the Scene of the Accident
If it is safe to do so, take photos of the scene of the accident as well as any injuries or property damage. Try to get the contact details of any witnesses. In a traffic accident, exchange contact and insurance details with the other driver.
Step 2: Seek Immediate Medical Care
You need to seek immediate medical care for the sake of your health. In addition, there are sound legal reasons why you need to seek medical care quickly:
- The opposing party will use any delay against you by asserting that your injuries must not have been that serious if you delayed treating them.
- The opposing party will likely use any delay to assert that the accident did not cause your injuries. They could assert, for example, that you didn’t get hurt until after the accident.
Err on the side of caution. Remember that some injuries, such as brain damage or whiplash, can take time to manifest symptoms.
Step 3: Schedule an Initial Consultation With a Personal Injury Lawyer
Almost any personal injury lawyer will offer you a free initial consultation. If your claim seems strong enough, they might even visit the hospital to speak with you. The primary purpose of an initial consultation is to determine whether your claim is viable and to estimate its likely value. Remember, if your lawyer doesn’t win or settle your case, you won’t owe them a dime in legal fees.
Step 4: Gather Evidence To Support Your Claim
Over the next few weeks, gather as much evidence as you can concerning your claim:
- Obtain a copy of the accident report, if any. The police usually create an accident report for a traffic accident, for example.
- Obtain copies of your medical records.
- Seek documentary confirmation of your lost earnings from your employer.
- Retain (and copy) all documentation related to your claim, such as medical bills and payments for child care.
- Keep a journal where you add daily entries that describe in detail the pain you suffer and how your injuries affect your daily life.
Your lawyer can help you determine which additional evidence you should seek.
Step 5: Send a Demand Letter to the Responsible Party
When should you file a personal injury claim? When you have gathered enough evidence to understand its full value. It is likely that an insurance company, not the at-fault party, will bear ultimate responsibility for paying your claim. Have your lawyer draft a formal demand letter and send it to whoever is responsible for paying your claim. Hopefully, this will kick-start the negotiation process.
Step 6: Seek a Negotiated Settlement
At this early stage, you might not have enough evidence to compel a generous settlement. Give it a try anyway. At first, the opposing party may either deny your claim altogether or issue you a “lowball” offer that you should not accept. Your medical bills may be mounting, but don’t let the other side use that against you. There are other ways to handle outstanding medical bills.
Step 7: Initiate a Lawsuit
You might not know how to file a personal injury lawsuit if your claim is ineligible for small claims court. Fortunately, your lawyer will. Once you file a lawsuit, you have beaten the statute of limitations deadline, and you can begin the process of pretrial discovery.
Step 8: Participate in Pretrial Discovery
Pretrial discovery is a process by which each party demands evidence that is in the hands of the other party. Mostly, it should be you demanding evidence from the defendant. You can cross-examine their witnesses, submit written questions, and demand to see documents and physical evidence. The opposing party might ask you to submit to an independent medical exam by a doctor of their choice. Seek court assistance if the opposing party refuses to cooperate.
Step 9: Try Mediation
If the discovery process fails to yield enough evidence to compel the opposing party to settle with you, you might want to bring in a third-party mediator to facilitate an amicable settlement. The court will probably be pushing for this.
Step 10: Draft and Sign a Settlement Agreement—or Go to Trial
If you reach an acceptable settlement, your lawyer will draft a settlement agreement, and both sides will sign it. The settlement agreement will be a binding legal contract that obligates you to drop your claim and obligates the opposing party to pay the agreed amount.
If you cannot reach a settlement, it will be time for the last resort-–trial. Only a very small percentage of all personal injury claims go to trial. Nevertheless, the best way to avoid a trial is to prepare to win one.
Take Note: Recent Changes in Florida Personal Injury Law
On March 24, 2023, Florida enacted major changes to its personal injury law. Following are some of the highlights:
- The statute of limitations deadline to file a negligence lawsuit was reduced to only two years after the accident that generated the injuries. This deadline does not apply to non-negligence cases, such as strict liability and intentional misconduct.
- Florida has switched from “pure comparative negligence” to “modified comparative negligence with a 51% bar.” That means any party at least 51% responsible for an accident receives no compensation. This change excludes certain types of claims.
Florida has also enacted certain other changes to its personal injury law; your lawyer should know them.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Guide You Every Step of the Way
Seek a free initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer to help you determine the value of your claim. An experienced personal injury lawyer has seen it all before, and they can guide you through every step of the personal injury process. Additionally, it is likely that they will be able to secure several times as much compensation as you would be able to secure by working on your own.
Contact the Tampa Personal Injury Law Firm of Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers for Help Today
For more information, please contact Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer in Tampa today. We have five convenient locations in Florida, including Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, New Port Richey, and Lakeland.
We proudly serve Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, Polk County, and its surrounding areas:
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Tampa Office
601 W Swann Ave, Tampa, FL 33606
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater Office
600 Bypass Dr Suite 224-D, Clearwater, FL 33764
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – St. Petersburg Office
111 2nd Ave NE Suite 350, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – New Port Richey Office
5006 Trouble Creek Rd Unit #200, Port Richey, FL 34652
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Lakeland Office
1543 Lakeland Hills Blvd Suite 18, Lakeland, FL 33805