Under Florida law, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is four years from the date that the injury occurred. The personal injury claims process can be a bit confusing to anyone outside the legal profession and educating clients is something that Florida personal injury attorney James O. Cunningham takes very seriously. To that end, we've provided a more detailed explanation of the personal injury claims process so that everyone can gain a better understanding of the sequence of events when someone files a personal injury claim.
- You incur injury because of another party's negligence.
To establish negligence, the injured party must show that the tortfeasor (the person responsible for your injury and damages) had a responsibility to protect others from unreasonable risk, failed to honor that responsibility and that failure resulted in injury and damage to you.
- Seek medical treatment for your injuries.
First and foremost, seek medical attention for your injuries. Do not wait. You have a responsibility to mitigate your damages. This means that you must do everything within your control to seek appropriate treatment for injuries and other damages. Failure to do so will affect the outcome of your claim.
- Retain the services of an experienced Florida personal injury attorney.
Having the legal counsel of an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer such as James O. Cunningham is an invaluable asset as he can protect your rights at all times, explain your options, and apply his considerable knowledge and experience to help you get the best compensation for your injuries.
- Notify the appropriate insurance companies.
The tortfeasor's insurance company and your own insurance company must be put on notice of a claim. If you have retained counsel, your attorney will do this for you. If you have not retained counsel, you will need to do so yourself. A note of caution is made here-it is always better to have professional advice when dealing with insurance carriers, whether it is the tortfeasor's carrier or your own. Insurance companies are in business to make money; to do so, they attempt to minimize the value of any claims.
- Your rights and obligations on giving insurance statements.
Generally, no insurance statement should be given. However, if the insurance company persists along this line, do not agree to a recorded statement. An oral statement will be the least harmful to your claim. In addition, it is your right to have an attorney present when being questioned by insurance companies. Do not sign any documents until your personal injury attorney has reviewed them.
- The healing process.
A large part of any claim is the medical expenses you incur as a result of the accident. Do not agree to any settlement until your healing process is complete. To do so before that could result in a mountain of medical expenses for you if there are residual, or permanent, injuries that will require ongoing treatment.
- The importance of following through with medical treatment and doctor's orders.
Failure to follow recommended medical treatment after suffering an injury may result in a lower settlement or the amount awarded by a jury if the case goes to trial.
- Documenting injuries in pictures and journals.
The old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words" truly applies when you have been injured as a result of negligence. Nothing documents a person's injuries and healing process more vividly than a series of pictures that tell the story to a claims adjuster or a jury.
A daily journal of the healing process is also an important tool. It may take months, or even years, to resolve a personal injury claim and our memories tend to blur with time. A journal detailing your injuries, medications, medical treatment, and how your daily living activities were impacted will help you to recall the timeline of your healing process and will be a key piece of evidence for your case. If your injuries are so severe that your lifestyle is compromised, your lawyer may suggest videotaping a day in your life to show the impact of the accident on your daily living activities.
- Making a demand for a settlement.
Generally, a personal injury attorney will draft a demand letter and submit it to the insurance company. The demand includes all the relevant information and documentation related to your injuries, such as medical bills, proof of lost wages, and receipts for other expenses. Usually it closes with a demand for settlement and a time limit within which to respond.
- The settlement.
After consulting with your personal injury attorney and having them thoroughly review an offer for settlement, you can choose to accept the settlement or reject it. If you reject the settlement, more negotiations may take place or if it is obvious that there will be no mutually acceptable resolution, a lawsuit will be filed so that a jury of your peers can decide the equitable and fair value of your claim. If possible, it is always best to settle rather than incur the time and expense involved in a lawsuit. However, your attorney will guide you through this process and will give a professional opinion with regard to settlement versus lawsuit.
If you or someone you care for has incurred injury and damage as a result of another's negligence, call 877-FL-INJURY today and schedule a free consultation with seasoned Florida personal injury attorney James O. Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham has the knowledge and experience to guide you through the legal process of a personal injury claim.