Personal Injury Claims in Florida
There are several types of personal injury cases. Dismuke Law focuses its practice on handling cases involving injury due to the negligence of others. Whether you’ve been involved in a car crash or slip and fall accident, understanding the types of accidents and what to expect from the aftermath can help you get back on your feet again.
Recovering emotionally, physically, and financially from an accident takes time, and an experienced attorney can help you get the compensation you need to get back to your normal life again. David C. Dismuke is a Florida Bar Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer and focuses his practice on personal injury cases throughout Central Florida.
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What Constitutes Personal Injury?
In the United States, injuries fall under tort law, which involves one party (the plaintiff), bringing another party (the defendant) to court over harm caused to body or mind, each with the representation of a personal injury attorney. There are four necessary conditions to prove in a case.
- The offending party had a responsibility to the other person. To use an example, imagine Steve is driving in Lakeland, and another driver rear-ends him. Assuming Steve had a right to be on the road, the second driver had a responsibility to drive safely and obey traffic rules.
- The offending party failed in their duty. If the second driver knew Steve was in front of him, yet failed to brake properly, then there is a clear breach of duty. The driver should have stopped, kept a safe driving distance, and practiced defensive driving. However, even if the other driver did not know about Steve being in front of him, if he reasonably should have, there may still be a liability on his part. The other driver may still be held liable for negligence.
- The plaintiff suffered harm as a result of the negligence. If Steve needed hospitalization as a result of the crash, there might have been a host of social, emotional, and financial problems that followed. This misfortune may lead him to seek a personal injury attorney to pursue the other Lakeland driver in court.
- The injured party suffered monetary damage of some sort. More often than not, injuries cause a loss of money, which is a necessary component for personal injury suits. More severe injuries tend to lead to higher settlements.
Call Our Lakeland Personal Injury Attorneys
If you are ready to find out how Dismuke Law can assist you, please do not hesitate to call our offices. We believe in standing up against large corporations and insurance companies, helping regular people – good people – recover fair compensation for the injuries they have experienced. Our Lakeland personal injury attorneys aren’t afraid to face any opponent in these cases, if it is in the best interests of our clients.
Contact our team today by calling (863) 292-6922.
How Long Will My Personal Injury Case Take?
While there are exceptions to every rule, typically you can settle your personal injury claim at any time as long as you are willing to accept less money. What is important to consider is the amount of money you may be giving up for a quick settlement. A personal injury case can take anywhere from days to years. The most common factors in determining how long a personal injury case will take are:
Is Liability Clear?
If the defendant denies liability for the accident, it can significantly delay a claim as the insurance company is unlikely to make a reasonable offer until the liability is determined. Often in these situations, it is necessary for your attorney to take the depositions of the defendant(s) and any witnesses. It may even become necessary to hire an accident reconstructionist to review the evidence and recreate the accident to determine who was at fault.
Have You Reached Maximum Medical Improvement from Your Injuries?
Maximum medical improvement “MMI” is a term used by treating physicians to describe the stage of recovery from an injury at which point your body has recovered to the fullest extent that it will likely ever recover. As you continue to treat, your medical bills continue to increase, making it impossible for an attorney or insurance representative to determine the full value of your personal injury case until you have reached MMI.
What Are the Insurance Coverage Limits?
Typically, the more insurance coverage that is available, the longer it takes to get a full-value offer. Insurance companies are unlikely to cut big checks without thoroughly investigating a claim; which may include taking your deposition, having their own retained physician examine you, or even hiring a surveillance team to follow you. Often, insurers will intentionally delay settlement in an attempt to get you to accept less money for a speedy resolution.
Understanding the Balance
For your attorney to properly begin the negotiation process with the insurance company, they will have to collect all of your medical records and bills from your treating physicians. The information contained in your medical records (i.e., complaints, diagnoses, and treatment plans) is the most important variable in determining the value of your case. Typically these documents are obtained from your treating physicians by way of a written request and are received through U.S. mail. The process of collecting these records can be timely but is vital to your case.
Once a settlement demand is sent to the insurance company with the relevant medical records and bills, it takes some time for the insurance company to read each of the documents and evaluate the claim. Typically it takes about 20-30 days to receive the first offer from the insurer. More often than not, the first offer is a “lowball” offer made in an attempt to dissuade the claimant from moving their case further. This means that it becomes necessary to either send a counter demand or to file a lawsuit.
Filing a Lawsuit
While filing a lawsuit typically adds to the value of your case, it can also cause a significant delay in the settlement timeline. From the time a lawsuit is filed, the process server has 120 days to obtain service on the defendant(s), at which point the defendant(s) has an additional 20 days to file an Answer to the lawsuit. The filing of an Answer begins the discovery portion of a lawsuit, which typically includes an exchange of written questions, the scheduling of depositions, and the hiring of experts. While negotiations can occur throughout the process, the insurance company does not typically give their best or highest offer until the discovery is complete and both parties have gathered all discoverable information.
Considering all of the factors mentioned above, there are no concrete answers for how long a personal injury case will take. If you have questions about your case, call Dismuke Law at 1-800-ASK-DAVE for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys who will work hard to bring your case to the swiftest resolution possible without compromising the value of your claim.
Why You Should Never Speak with an Insurance Adjuster without a Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been the victim in an accident, it is important that you receive fair compensation for any injuries or damages you incurred. One thing that could stand in the way of this is speaking to insurance adjusters without an attorney.
It’s no secret that insurance companies will try to do everything in their power to pay out the least amount possible for your injuries, which is why you need a lawyer on your side who will fight to make sure you receive every dollar you’re entitled to.
Tricks Used by Insurance Adjusters
Of course insurance companies want to pay the least amount possible for any claims their customers file. Insurance is a business, after all, and maximizing profits means collecting as much money as possible and paying out the least.
These are some of the tactics that insurance adjusters use to avoid paying you the full amount you deserve:
Contacting you after your accident
Insurance companies will contact you immediately following your accident and try to get you to agree to a settlement. This offer is almost always a mere fraction of the full amount you are entitled to. By trying to get to you early, insurers hope that you will accept whatever amount they offer to save yourself the “hassle”, possibly without even knowing the full extent of your injuries. Don’t fall for this. In a survey conducted by Nolo, it was found that people whose cases were handled without lawyers received an average payout of $77,600, while those who did not hire legal representation received an average of $17,600. That’s a sixty thousand dollar difference! Don’t let an insurance adjuster cheat you out of this money.
Trying to deter you from hiring a lawyer
Insurance adjusters will also try to tell you that the settlement they are offering is superior than what you could get with an attorney. They will tell you that the amount of contingency fees you would owe your lawyer would leave you with even less than the amount they offered. This is just not the case. Even after these costs, you will still be much better off than if you had gone through the process without representation. In fact, the aforementioned survey also found that, even after deducting contingency fees, people who hired attorneys received payouts that were an average of three times larger than those without representation.
Convincing you to sign restricting documents
Another trick insurance adjusters use is trying to get you to sign documents that will strip you of your rights to negotiate for a higher settlement amount. By signing these kinds of documents, you have limited your potential settlement amount to whatever the insurance company is willing to offer. Don’t fall for this. You should never sign anything from an insurance company without reviewing the documents with your attorney.
Misleading you into giving a statement
Insurance adjusters will sometimes try to record you during a phone call or conversation. They may try to say that calls are recorded for “quality assurance” or something similar. Don’t let them. They will do everything in their power to use statements you make against you. Even just one accidentally misspoken detail could be enough to drastically hurt your settlement. If the insurance company tries this, you should say that you won’t make a statement without your attorney present.
This is not to say that insurance is not important. If you drive a vehicle, auto insurance is an essential that you simply must have. However, it is something of a necessary evil. Try as they might, insurance companies can not get away with paying you less than you deserve unless you allow them to. Don’t let them cheat you out of the compensation you rightfully deserve.
Trust a Qualified Attorney at Dismuke Law
The best defense against these deceitful tactics is to have a personal injury lawyer on your side who will fight for the best possible outcome on your behalf. Dismuke Law is home to a team of highly qualified professionals who specialize in handling car accident cases.
Can I Appeal My Personal Injury Judgement in Florida?
Losing a personal injury case can be heartbreaking for either party. Whether the lawsuit is over a car accident, wrongful death, premises liability, legal malpractice, or a workplace accident, both sides often feel that they are in the right and that they deserve a judgement in their favor. Nonetheless, lawsuits almost always end with one party winning the case and the other party losing.
However, if you find yourself on the losing end of a personal injury case, you may not be out of options. Depending on the details of your case, you may be entitled to an appeal.
What is an Appeal?
An appeal is a request for a higher court to review the judgement handed down by a lower court. It is important to know, though, that an appeal is not a second trial of your case.
When reviewing your case, the appellate court looks over the transcript, documents, and evidence from your trial in the lower court to find out whether or not any legal errors occurred. If any legal errors in the initial lawsuit are discovered, the appellate court then looks to determine if those errors had a negative impact on the outcome of your case.
How do I Know if my Case can be Appealed?
Dissatisfaction with the judgement you received is not enough to constitute an appeal. In order for you to appeal the initial verdict, there must have been legal errors in the proceedings of your case that were detrimental to its outcome.
Errors that would constitute an appeal include:
- Prejudicial errors
- Mistakes made by the judge regarding the law
- Incorrect jury instructions
- misconduct/errors committed by lawyers or the jury
- No substantial evidence
- You can ask the appellate court to look into whether or not there is substantial evidence to support the lower court’s decision
How the Appeals Process Works
If you intend to appeal a court ruling on your personal injury case, the first thing you must do is file a notice of appeal with the trial court within 30 days of the judgement.
Within 10 days of filing your appeal, the clerk of the lower court will send the trial record from your case to the clerk of the appellate court.
The trial record typically contains the transcript and all court documents filed in the trial court. However, if you only want certain documents included, you can tell the lower court which documents to exclude.
Then, you must file a written document detailing the error(s) made by the trial court. The other party will also be able to make a response.
The court may arrange for oral argument, giving each party the opportunity to deliver their cases before the court.
After all of this has been concluded, the appellate court will make its judgement.
Contact a Qualified Attorney at Dismuke Law
When considering appealing a personal injury judgement, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced attorney who can review your case and help you determine the best course of action.
If you have received a personal injury judgement that you believe was negatively affected by legal errors, or if you have any further questions, give us a call at 1-800-ASK-DAVE. We’re here to help.
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