If you are looking to hire a personal injury lawyer to help you with your claim, there are typically four main issues they will look for when deciding whether or not to accept your case: liability, causation, damages, and insurance coverage. It is important to work with your lawyer so they will be able to establish and prove the facts of your case so you can walk away with a favorable outcome.
The first issue your lawyer must consider in every accident is whether it can be proven the other party was at fault. Lawyers call this establishing liability.
The insurance company will look for every opportunity to argue the injured party was at least partly at fault in an accident to reduce the amount of money they may pay. Comparative fault allows victims of accidents who may have contributed to causing their injury to be reimbursed for the percentage of the damage caused by others. An insurance company will try to place as much blame as possible on the injured party to reduce their liability and eventual payout. For example, if you are hit by a vehicle while walking in a crosswalk a second after the walk signal has ended you may be partially responsible for your injuries. If you are found to be 10% at fault and awarded $100,000 from a jury, your award will be reduced by 10% fault.
The second issue which must be proven is whether someone’s negligent act caused your injury. This is referred to as causation. In most accident cases proving causation is not an issue when there was a collision with visible damages to your vehicle. However, there are two main areas involving auto accidents where causation issues arise.
The first issue involves cases where there is no evidence of impact on your vehicle. This happens most commonly in minor impact rear end collisions where complaints typically involve neck and back injuries with minor soreness and soft tissue damage. Most insurance companies have set up special teams to handle these types of claims, which they often refer to as MIST cases (minor impact soft tissue). Insurance companies believe they can convince a jury that you were not likely injured because the car shows little to no evidence of an impact. As a result, these types of cases often have minimal settlements.
The second area where causation issues may be argued by the insurance company arise if you have been injured in a prior accident or been treated for a prior injury, most commonly in the back or neck. If so, you can expect the insurance company to question whether the accident caused the current injury or whether it simply aggravated a pre-existing condition. The reason insurance companies will focus on proving prior injuries is because juries may award lower damage verdicts when you suffer an aggravation of some preexisting condition then if you had developed a completely new injury.
Once you and your lawyer have discussed liability and causation, the issue of damages must be evaluated. Damages can include both financial losses and other damages.
Financial Losses Include:
- Wages and your ability to earn money
- Medical expenses that must be paid
- Unpaid medical expenses incurred and those you more likely than not will need in the future
Financial losses will require your lawyer to understand your current medical treatment and any medical treatment your doctor believes you will need in the future. In proving any lost wages or wage earning capacity, your lawyer will need to obtain evidence of your earnings and evaluate whether an expert can establish that you will suffer a loss of earning capacity in the future.
Other Damages Include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring or disfigurement
These types of damages are sometimes called intangible damages. You will need to work closely with your lawyer so they can appreciate the magnitude of your injury and how it has impacted your quality of life.
Finally, your lawyer must determine if the at-fault party has the ability to pay the losses you have suffered. This usually comes down to insurance coverage and investigation of the defendant’s assets, if necessary.
Based on the circumstances of your case, your lawyer may be required to do one or more of the following in order to investigate coverage:
- Request and obtain sworn policy information from any insurance company providing coverage to the driver, the owner, and any other entity that has legal responsibility for the vehicle, including any excess or umbrella insurance policy.
- Request and obtain sworn policy information from your auto insurance company regarding any uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage available on your own policy. If your insurance company maintains you rejected uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your policy, require them to produce any rejection form to make sure it complies with the requirements of Florida’s insurance laws.
- Conduct an asset check of any assets owned by the vehicle owner, driver, or any other entity legally responsible for the at-fault vehicle.
We always urge clients to carry as much uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as they can afford in order to protect themselves against irresponsible drivers with little to no insurance. At Jim Dodson Law we pride ourselves on working closely with our clients to help determine liability, injury, damages, and insurance coverage.
We make ourselves available to our clients and work closely with them to learn more about the events and circumstances that changed their lives. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of someone else’s actions, call us at 727-446-0840. We will work with you every step of the way and you won’t pay a dime until we win for you.