Read over our quick 5 question case check to see if you qualify!
Were you personally involved in an accident or incident that caused you harm?
The law requires you to have “Standing” before you even start your case. This really means that you have a legal connection between the incident that caused you harm and the harm that was done. Without Standing, you do not have a case and you will not qualify for a personal injury settlement!
Did you suffer a personal injury that is unrelated to a contract?
Florida has gone round and round with the difference between what damages you are allowed to claim when you are a part of a contract and why a personal injury case is different. You may think those two things are completely different but you are wrong. For example, when you hire a doctor to perform a surgery he is acting under a service contract. Same with a lawyer. When they malpractice why are you entitled to very similar damages (mainly you can get pain and suffering) you get in a car accident case, but you do not get in a contract case? This analysis revolves around the concept of negligence and reasonable care. It also includes an analysis of the concepts of liability, culpability, intentionality and negligence. The easy analysis cases are car accidents, slip and fall cases, dog bites, boating accidents, bike accidents, etc. If you suffered any of those things you will have taken the first step (you will have Standing) and the second step (you will have a personal injury related to negligence and not a contract) to getting a personal injury settlement.
Were you at fault?
You can be even more than 50% at fault in most accident cases (not true in cases where the injured victim was driving under the influence) and still get a personal injury settlement! However, the settlement will be far smaller if the defendant can push off blame on the injured victim. When determining if you have a personal injury case, be quick to gather the evidence to prove fault. Otherwise, the insurance company for the other side will be gathering as much information to make you look at fault. Don’t fall into the common trap of believing the accident report controls the situation. It does not. The accident report almost NEVER comes into a personal injury trial. You must gather the right information related to proving fault early or suffer a far reduced injury settlement.
Did you suffer any damages related to the accident?
This may also seem like an obvious question and answer, but it is almost the most complex thing in any injury case settlement. Here is why: Every human being grows old over time (assuming you stay alive!). As we grow old we hit our peak physical condition in our late teens or early twenties. After that we hold steady till our early thirties, then we start to slowly decline. No matter how “in shape” you try to stay, you cannot outrun Father Time. Further, life has a way of putting in speed bumps that harm our physical well-being. Everyone has twisted an ankle. Many people have strained their backs picking up something heavy. Some people have injuries from Young Turk high school or even college sports team participation. That means that when you are injured in a car accident or a slip and fall the defendant is going to try and pin all that prior “life” wear and tear on your pain now. They will never believe or submit to the jury that your present pain is in any way related to your new injury. In fact, we recently tried a case for a young woman who had a prior MRI that showed she did NOT have a herniated disc in her back. However, the defense continued to harp on the fact that the prior MRI showed some “natural degenerative changes” which they claimed were the problems and NOT the car accident that totaled her new car! Sounds like it shouldn’t happen, but it does in every single case. It is the place the defense harps on the most. Therefore it is imperative you see a doctor that will properly document your injury and distinguish your prior history from your present injury case. Only when this is exceptionally clear will you get a personal injury settlement.
The only thing we are discussing above is medical damages, but you must also prove all the damages you suffered. This will include any property damages, any economic impact to you which includes your employment and ability to work from the time of the accident forward. It includes any medical bills caused by the accident and which will be needed in the future. It includes the pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life and a lot of other difficult to pin down damages which all must be documented and explained to the insurance adjuster on the other side. Without a clear understanding of all your damages, you can’t expect the insurance company to give you a personal injury settlement.
Does the other side have the ability to pay? Do I have protection if they don’t?
It may make sense to start with this question because if the answer is NO to both questions you don’t even need to do the above analysis. You will need to gather the insurance information related to the defendant. Do they have insurance (called Bodily Injury Protection or BI for short) and how much do they have? If they don’t have insurance or they have a very small policy, then you jump to the second question about your insurance/protection, before returning to the Defendant and his situation. What I mean by that is as follows: If we take a typical car accident case, where the Defendant only has $10,000 of BI coverage, the injured person should first look to their own insurance policy and see if they have UM/UIM, which stands for Underinsured Motorist/UnderInsured Motorists Insurance. This is the coverage you buy when you are afraid of underinsured drivers on Florida’s roadways. Who is underinsured? A HUGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE! Do not rely on the Defendant having enough insurance, call your agent and get BI and UM/UIM today! If however, you do not have UM/UIM, then in our example we would return to investigate the defendant’s assets. It is highly unlikely that the Defendant would have only a small amount of insurance but a huge amount of assets. That almost never happens because people who have large assets usually insurance against losing those valuable things! But, it does happen. It actually happens a lot on boats. For some reason, many people think boating is less dangerous than riding in a car. That is simply NOT true. We have a concentration in boating cases and we have seen terrible injuries from the most incidental boat-on-boat contact. Sadly some of those defendants were not properly insured and their vessel is now subject to being sold at auction to pay for the damages.
If you have properly answered all 5 questions you will have a good shot at getting a personal injury settlement. BUT before you go off to play with the insurance adjuster on your file please remember these 2 things: First, getting the right doctor upfront increases the value of your case dramatically. If you ever need help finding the right doctor please call us. Even if you do not want to pursue an injury case. We want our friends to get good medical care and also get solid documentation right upfront. Second, remember that you will almost NEVER get the settlement that a lawyer would get. There have been studies on top of studies, but the fact is that just having an ESQ. write your demand and negotiate the case, with no other service is worth a 300% increase in the value of the case. It goes up higher when your lawyer has a solid reputation in the community.