While every injury claim is unique, most cases follow a similar timeline. It will be much to your advantage to have an experienced personal injury attorney at your side throughout every stage.
In fact, the first step for many injured accident victims seeking compensation after a crash or a fall, after seeing a doctor, is meeting with an attorney. When you meet with your attorney, be sure to provide them with thorough details about your accident and injuries. Your attorney will then ask you specific questions about the accident and decide whether or not to take your case.
Answer your attorney’s question completely and honestly. Your attorney needs accurate information in order to pursue the claim in the way that is most advantageous to you. Remember that everything you say to your Florida accident lawyer is held in strict confidence, so you do not need to be embarrassed about revealing details of the accident, your medical concerns or other personal circumstances.
After listening to the details of your accident and injuries, your personal injury attorney can give you an honest assessment as to whether or not you have the grounds for a Florida personal injury claim.
In some cases it makes sense to file a lawsuit as soon as the extent of the injuries and damages is clear. In others, it makes more sense to try resolving the dispute without litigation. We will describe both processes.
Filing a Demand in a Personal Injury Claim
Often, the same results can be accomplished by presenting an effective argument to the defendants before filing a lawsuit as would be achieved by spending the additional money to file a lawsuit and litigate the issues. In those cases, your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation of the facts, possibly utilizing expert engineers or physicists, compile pertinent information from your medical records, and present the strong points of your case in a demand package. This demand package presents insurance companies with a review of the facts and acts as a starting point for negotiating a settlement.
Filing Suit in a Florida Personal Injury Claim
Every lawsuit begins with the filing of a complaint. This document is filed with the court and served on the opposing party(ies) to explain the nature of the legal action between yourself, your insurance company, the other parties involved in the accident and their insurance companies. Your personal injury attorney should direct such a conversation.
The initial papers, or pleadings, include:
- Your complaint. Your complaint is the formal document outlining the accident, your injuries and the compensation you (the plaintiff) seek.
- Summons and service of process. This is an order for the defendant to appear before the court in which your case will be held. It notifies the other party that you intend to sue them for your injuries and damages.
- Answer. An answer is the other party’s response document to your complaint. It will address every part of your complaint to either admit or deny each part individually. It may also raise defenses.
- Counterclaim. Similar to a complaint, a counterclaim is what the other party will file against you, should they have their own complaints regarding the same incident.
- Reply to counterclaim. Your reply to the counterclaim works the same as an answer does to the original complaint, but to the counterclaim.
- Cross-claims and replies to cross-claims. These occur only when there are multiple parties involved that could be “aligned” as plaintiffs or defendants.
The next step of your personal injury claim involves your personal injury attorney, who will direct the process of filing all necessary paperwork, including claims and answers to counter-claims. The phase of the process is called the discovery phase.
Discovery is exactly as it sounds; the process of uncovering all pertinent details about the case. The American legal system in no fan of surprises, meaning evidence and relevant information must be known to both sides long before the trial begins. Discovery is the process by which both sides exchange copies of interrogation questions to be used in trial, evidence to be submitted, and documents to be employed and witness depositions.
At this point, your injury claim can be resolved in one of two ways, before trial or at trial.
Resolving a Florida Personal Injury Claim Before Trial
A case can be resolved before trial either by motion or by settlement. If a motion can end your case, your personal injury attorney will file a motion (a request that the court take a certain action) for the court to rule on a particular matter that could end all litigation. Such motions are successful when the other side is lacking convincing evidence, key facts are not disputed and can therefore be decided by a judge, or the defendant does not file an answer in his or her allotted time limit.
To end your case by settlement, an agreement must be reached between the parties. Generally, the plaintiff agrees to dismiss all pending legal actions in exchange for a sum of money, but every case is different. Sometimes, an agreement is made with only some of the parties and others leave the issues to be decided by a jury.
Letting the Jury Decide
Through trial, a judge or jury will hear all evidence regarding the accident and decide who is at fault and whether or not you deserve compensation for your injuries.
The phases of a trial are as follows:
- Jury selection;
- Opening statements;
- Witness testimony;
- Closing arguments;
- Instructing the jury;
- Deliberation; and
You will be most involved with witness testimony because you will likely be called to testify about how you were injured, what has changed since the event that caused your injury and how your life has been impacted. Your attorney will work with you to ensure that you are well prepared for your time on the witness stand, but the most important thing to remember is the truth.
Of course, the verdict is the most exciting and nervewracking time of trial. In rare cases, the verdict can be challenged based on the judge's rulings during trial or an error made by a party, but most of the time, the verdict stands as it is read.
If you have or a loved one have suffered a personal injury related to a Florida accident caused by the negligence of someone else, contact a Florida personal injury lawyer. An experienced lawyer can help you get the financial compensation that you deserve, allowing you to focus on recovery.