In this article we will discuss how to build a personal injury case in Florida. You should know there are numerous cases that can be brought from accident injuries. The potential claims and causes of action are almost too numerous to count. Cases can arise from car accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, product liability, medical malpractice, and the list goes on. Virtually all arise form some duty under the law, a general breach of that duty and damages resulting from this breach. Many actions, although not all, are pursed when there is first some kind of liability insurance to go after. This makes it easier and more convenient for the plaintiff.
For the purposes of this article, there is not much technical difference between a car accident and a slip and fall, and an injury caused by a defective product. All are potentially compensable personal injury cases, and all will need appropriate medical care and demands to be written at the conclusion of treatment. So in many respects, they are functionally the same and approached virtually the same. Florida personal injury attorneys usually treat these accident cases in much the same way, as well as approach the “building” of a personal injury case related to them similarly.
The term “building” a personal injury case is used and it is an appropriate one. Much of the success (or failure) of a personal injury claim claim is directly related to the care, effort, and energy invested in the early and middle stages of a case and the medical treatment.
It is much like building a house; you cannot put the roof on and hope to make up for a weak foundation or walls. Each stage and step must be performed carefully to achieve a proper result at the end. All claims will have some legal duty, and this must be “breached” in some way by the at-fault party. Again, often times this breach under the law is clear (i.e. rear-end collision), but can also be simply arguable. Finally, there must be damages. This is the final and most important step in the analysis. Damages can often make up for other deficiencies in a case (i.e. questionable liability, etc.). Damages are a double edged sword; the more injured you are, the more the case is worth from a dollar standpoint.
For example: imagine the worst, total loss automobile accident, that did not cause any injuries, is not worth much. To recover money damages in Florida, you must be hurt and you must sustain a physical injury. Conversely, a low-speed minor car crash that somehow caused multiple broken bones, is likely worth a lot. You cannot avoid the issue of damages, they are vital to every personal injury case. In Florida, personal injury damages include: medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, etc. More often than not substantial damages can make an otherwise marginal case attractive to a Florida personal injury attorney, if one is later retained. Likewise, the lack of damages in an otherwise good case, may tend to make a Florida attorney pass on the case. Again, you cannot avoid the issues of damages, or their importance to your personal injury case in Florida. Remember, the more injured you are the more value your case has. Damages reign supreme!
After establishing that you have a personal injury case, your Florida personal injury attorney will determine which, if any, insurance policies might apply. Sometimes, two or more insurance policies might be applicable to the same accident. As long as there is some legally recognizable or arguable duty and a breach of that duty (especially something that would factually resonate with a jury), there is potentially a claim in Florida. Also, remember at the pre-suit stage (before a lawsuit is filed), you are dealing with an insurance company. Insurance companies like Allstate, State Farm, Progressive, and GEICO are in the business of assessing risk and liability. If there is potential “exposure,” they may act accordingly and attempt to settle within the policy limits. Insurance companies also consider the costs of defense, exposure of their insureds to litigation, and even negative publicity the claim or lawsuit might generate. These are some of the many factors that an insurance company may consider when evaluating claims for possible settlement in Florida.
The goal of every Florida personal injury attorney is to effect certain settlement if possible (if it involves an acceptable sum of money to the client). There are many uncertainties with proceedings litigation, and juries can make irrational decisions. Verdicts can be too low, or you could receive a defense verdict; at which point there is a chance that attorneys fees and costs could be assessed against you. A settlement is always a sure thing; it’s money in the bank. The insurance company sends you a check, there is not trial, it is the end of the road. This certainty is also a negotiating point to an insurance company as well. Instead of uncertainty and a possible large verdict, legal fees, costs and interest; the matter is finished with a settlement release. It is not always required to argue simply the facts to an insurance company, but anything that could sway them or persuade them to settle the claim in your favor.
An important strategy point to note is that insurance companies have a duty to defend their insureds; not to expose them to needless litigation, and to settle within policy limits, if they can. Further, they pay verdicts if they are rendered in litigation (and even cover “excess judgments” beyond their policy limits if the litigation was caused by them acting in bad-faith). Specifically, if an insurance company in Florida decides not to settle and then a jury verdict is rendered for an amount more than three times the policy limits, the insurance company would very likely be on the hook for the full amount of the verdict even if it exceeds the policy limits because they did not act in good-faith as required under Florida law.
The Longo Firm, P.A.
Micah J. Longo
12555 Orange Drive, Ste. 233
Davie, FL 33330
Tel: (954) 862-3608
Fax: (954) 944-1916