How the Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline Works in Florida
You might not realize it as you go about your daily routine in South Florida, but the risk of personal injury accidents is all around you because of the negligence of other people. The threat of motor vehicle collisions is high, including car, truck, and motorcycle crashes that are common in congested urban areas. Other traffic-related incidents, such as those involving pedestrians and bicycle riders, also lead to devastating injuries. Plus, slip and fall accidents, dog bites, and medical malpractice are responsible for serious trauma to victims.
Your losses could be massive if you were hurt in an accident, so it is reassuring to know that you have legal remedies under Florida law. You can recover compensation, but there is a process and certain requirements you must meet. Because of the impact on your rights, it is critical to retain a Florida personal injury attorney for assistance. Some background will also help you understand how the personal injury lawsuit timeline works in Florida.
The Scene of the Accident
The accident is ground zero as far as the chronology of a personal injury lawsuit, kicking off the entire process of steps, legal requirements, and court proceedings. Many different causes and contributing factors may be to blame, but the main reason these incidents happen is negligence by others. Their misconduct causes accidents that send 24.2 million people to the ER every year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Plus, accidents are the fourth leading cause of death in the US, resulting in almost 225,000 fatalities annually.
The scene of the accident will be a valuable source of evidence for your personal injury lawsuit, so you should attempt to collect important information. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you should:
- Take pictures of dangerous factors that caused the accident.
- Get a copy of the police report, if any.
- Talk to potential witnesses.
Seek Medical Care
Getting proper medical treatment is a priority after any type of accident, and you may not have much say in the matter if first responders arrive and transport you to the hospital. In other situations, you may need to determine the care you need for your injuries. When they are life-threatening, you are bleeding excessively, or you lost consciousness, a trip to the ER may be necessary. If you need same-day treatment, you could head to an urgent care facility for lacerations, broken bones, or minor injuries.
There are two reasons to seek proper medical care immediately after an accident:
- You want to recover from your injuries as quickly as possible, and this is only possible when you get a diagnosis and treatment right away.
- If you delay medical care, the message you send is that you were not hurt badly. This could harm your rights in an insurance claim and a personal injury lawsuit.
Set Up a Consultation with a Personal Injury Lawyer
The earliest stages of the case are the best time to retain an attorney to represent you in a personal injury lawsuit, as the process starts to get extremely complicated in the days following the accident. You will be contacted by insurance companies, bombarding you with offers to settle and pressuring you to sign documents to release your rights. All of this stress is occurring during the same time that you are trying to recover from your injuries and get your life back.
The situation is avoidable when you have a personal injury lawyer to handle important tasks immediately after the accident, deflecting these attempts to take advantage of your vulnerabilities. Legal counsel is also essential for the next stages in the timeline. The most complex aspects of your case, filing an insurance claim and pursuing a lawsuit, are yet to come.
Investigating and Collecting Evidence
In personal injury lawsuits, the most critical factors you must prove are fault and damages. As mentioned, negligence is behind most accident claims. Under this theory of liability, you must show that the at-fault party directly caused the incident through a breach of the duty to exercise reasonable care. You must prove your physical, financial, and emotional losses for damages.
Therefore, the investigation stage of the timeline is critical. Your attorney will work to gather such evidence as:
- Your medical records involving diagnosis, surgery, treatment, testing, treatment from specialists, and other care;
- Additional pictures and physical evidence from the scene;
- Results from a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test, in drunk driving accident cases;
- Insurance documents and reports of prior incidents;
- Video footage from surveillance cameras; and,
- Statements from witnesses.
Part of the investigation may also involve consultation with experts, including medical experts, accident reconstruction specialists, and financial analysts.
Filing an Insurance Claim
The next step in the personal injury lawsuit timeline is reaching out to the at-fault party’s insurance company and filing a claim for payment. With many accidents, the person or entity responsible will carry insurance to protect their interests. Businesses, homeowners, and property owners all have insurance that pays compensation to victims who are hurt by the policyholder’s negligence.
Filing an insurance claim involves preparing a demand package, in which you describe how the accident happened and itemize your losses. The insurance company reviews the information and conducts its own investigation, and you may receive a counteroffer in response. Many personal injury claims settle at this stage, after negotiations and reaching an agreement.
However, some insurers will refuse to pay a fair amount as compensation because they are trying to protect their own financial interests. Your claim affects the company’s bottom line, so you will need to take your case to court.
Suing for Damages in Court
It is likely that your attorney will file a lawsuit shortly after the accident, during the same time period that you are dealing with the insurer and discussing settlement. Filing on a timely basis is necessary because of Florida’s statute of limitations, which is two years as measured from the date of the accident. This deadline is a recent change to the law, as the statute of rules used to be four years.
To initiate litigation, you will prepare and file a complaint that includes:
- A statement of facts about the accident and your injuries;
- A description of how the defendant is liable for your losses; and,
- A request for relief, in which you ask for monetary damages to reimburse you for your losses.
As you file the complaint with the court clerk, you will also make arrangements to officially serve the defendant with the process. To meet legal requirements, an officer of the court will deliver the complaint and summons.
Discovery and Depositions
Along with your lawyer, you have already gathered significant evidence to support your personal injury lawsuit. However, during litigation, you also have access to discovery tools that enable you to get additional details from the defendant. There are multiple options for written discovery:
- Interrogatories are written questions posed to the other side, which must be answered in writing and under oath.
- A request to produce documents allows you to access paperwork that is in the possession of the other side unless it is privileged.
- Requests to admit facts are used to get the defendant to admit or deny statements of fact.
Depositions will also be part of the personal injury lawsuit timeline, and you will be required to attend. Your attorney will be at your side to prepare you, provide support, and offer legal advice. Plus, you must conduct depositions of the defendant and witnesses to gather important details about your case.
Mediation and Negotiations
With many personal injury lawsuits, the case will be referred to mediation as a way to further settlement discussions. You may have already negotiated extensively with the defendant and come up with no resolution. However, mediation is a more structured approach to settlement. During the session, a trained mediation professional will be present to guide the discussion. These individuals have special skills that bring parties closer together on agreement, often enabling settlement where you never thought it was possible.
Mediation may be required, but it is not binding. Mediators do not make decisions, they only guide conversations. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you can continue with your lawsuit.
Personal Injury Trial
Once discovery, depositions, motions, and other pretrial activities are complete, the court will set a date for trial. The proceedings generally work as follows:
- The attorneys for the parties will select members to serve on the jury, which involves questioning potential jurors for bias and related factors.
- As the plaintiff, you will go first in presenting your case. Your lawyer will call and question witnesses, as well as get physical evidence and exhibits admitted into the record.
- During the presentation of your case, opposing counsel will have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. Your attorney will prepare you for cross-examination by defense counsel.
- When you rest your case, the defendant will present its own evidence and witnesses. Your lawyer will have the chance to cross-examine these individuals.
- Both sides will present closing arguments, and the judge will issue instructions to the jury.
- The jury deliberates and renders a verdict.
Trust Your Florida Personal Injury Lawyer to Tackle the Process
It is informative to know how the personal injury lawsuit timeline works in Florida, but you can count on our team at Rosen Injury Law, P.A. to handle all legal tasks. We have years of experience negotiating with insurers, but we have the litigation skills to take your case to trial. Please contact us today to set up a case review. A personal injury attorney can describe the details of the process after learning more about your situation.
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