This is the most common question that our law firm receives on a daily basis. During the initial free consultation we will attempt to determine if, from the available information, you in fact have a case; but often times we will not know the answer to this question until we have gathered additional information. In any event, in general, to determine if you have a personal injury case we would first need to determine if we can prove four legal and common sense elements: Negligence/Fault, Injuries, Monetary Damages and Insurance/Available Assets.
For almost all personal injury claims (excluding dog bites) such as automobile accidents and fall accidents, we must prove that the other party, defendant, acted in a negligent manner towards you – that the defendant was at fault in causing your accident.
A simple example would be that in an automobile accident we would need to show that the other person/defendant ran the red light and that was the cause of your accident. In a slip/trip and fall case, we would need to show that the defendant knew or should have known there was water on the floor but failed to clean it up and/or failed to adequately warn you of it, or failed to inspect the floors of their store in a timely manner.
The Florida Standard Jury Instructions defines negligence as “the failure to use reasonable care.” Reasonable care is the degree of care which a reasonably careful person would use under similar circumstances. Negligence may consist of either in doing something that a reasonably careful person would not do under similar circumstances, or in failing to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under similar circumstances.
We then need to prove that you sustained an injury that was caused by this accident. This injury can be a physical injury and/or an emotional injury.
An example would be that in your automobile accident you broke your arm. This type of injury would certainly be sufficient to show that you in fact sustained a clear injury from this accident. In some cases, proving that your injury was directly caused by the accident can be more complicated and heavily disputed by the insurance company. For instance, if prior to this accident you had been treated for back problems and the accident made your back problems worse, we would need to clearly show how this accident in fact made your back problems worse. This can be proved through your doctor’s records and testimony, and through your own testimony.
In simple terms, in order to have a valid viable personal injury claim we would need to be able to show that you were in fact injured in this accident.
In general. monetary damages are such things as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The easiest to prove is typically medical bills. If you were in an accident, you were injured from this accident, and you received medical care from the injuries you sustained in this accident, then you would be entitled to be compensated from the at-fault party/defendant for your medical bills.
In regards to wage loss, we would need to show that you were unable to work because of the injuries you sustained in this accident. This would be proved based on records and testimony of your treating medical doctor, your own testimony, and possibly the testimony of your employer and co-workers.
The law regarding pain and suffering is rather complicated and is an issue that really can only be addressed on an individual case by case basis. The law changes depending on the type of case/claim you have and it depends on each individual person. Having said that, in most personal injury claims (excluding automobile accidents) you are entitled to monetary damages for pain and suffering, loss of the enjoyment of life and inconvenience that this accident has caused.
It gets a little more complicated for an automobile accident in the State of Florida. Generally speaking, in order to receive compensation for pain and suffering damages in an automobile accident, we would need to prove that you sustained a permanent injury or significant scarring from this accident. This is a factual question for a jury to determine.
This is really more of a common sense category. If the person that caused your accident did not carry any insurance that would be applicable to your accident, and this person does not have substantial personal assets, then from a practical standpoint it may not make financial sense to sue this person. The probability of actually collecting from this person may be negligible. This is something that would need to be addressed on a case by case basis but is certainly a major consideration in deciding if it makes sense to pursue a case against the at-fault party.
Please keep in mind that we would look at all sources of insurance including whether or not you or a somebody else carried uninsured motorist coverage that could be a source of money for you.
This is the second most common question we receive from potential clients. In most personal injury cases you are entitled to the following categories of damages for the past and future: medical bills, wage loss and pain and suffering damages (called non-economic damages).
Usually we will not know the value of each of these damages you have sustained until you are completely finished with all of your medical care and are as good as you are going to get – this is called Maximum Medical Improvement (“MMI”).
At that point in time, we will know what your past medical bills are, and will get your medical provider to estimate how much it may cost for your future medical care. We should also know how much you have incurred in wage loss and be able to estimate approximately how much you may lose in wages in the future.
In regards to your pain and suffering damages, how much money you should be entitled to is very subjective. Based on our experience with thousands of cases, we will suggest an amount of money for your loss that we believe is reasonable and appropriate for what you have been through, based on what past juries have awarded in other similarly situated cases.
We will do our best to provide you with a range of what we believe your case is worth based on the above factors and any other information that is available to us at that time. Please keep in mind that every case and client is unique and therefore the value of every case must be analyzed on an individual basis by an experienced personal injury attorney.
Please keep in mind that the above summary should not be substituted for an in-person analysis by a qualified attorney and understand that the above only gives the very basics of the law in this area, that the law and the interpretation of the law changes, and that many aspects of every case are based on what a jury finds in an specific individual case and circumstances.