Picture the scene. You are going about your day, minding your own business. Your head is full of work, family, what’s for dinner, weekend plans…when all of a sudden, an event happens which transforms the course of your life forever.
From slips and trips to workplace and auto accidents, finding yourself affected by a personal injury can have a significant impact on your whole life and may dramatically impact your future.
For most of us, the initial reaction following an incident or injury will be to get in touch with a personal injury attorney; but are they essential? Can you file a claim as an independent individual, saving you precious cash – and still be successful? Read on for everything you need to make a fully informed decision.
What Are The Steps For Filing A Personal Injury Claim In Florida?
There are five main steps involved in filing your claim, and these are as follows:
- The Demand Letter – the initial contact takes the form of a letter from the plaintiff to the insurance company. It outlines any injuries and treatments, loss of wages, and pain and suffering. Insurance companies may accept or deny your claim.
- Filing a complaint – if the claim is denied, you will file a complaint towards the insurance company, outlining the compensation you seek, your reasons, and any evidence.
- You will gather evidence and documentation such as medical records and bills, photos, videos and police reports, and loss of earnings. This is put together in a deposition – a process of giving sworn evidence. Both parties can also file to dismiss, deny, or agree to a settlement.
- Settlement – only 4 – 5% of personal injury claims go to trial; most cases are settled here.
- Trial – if an agreement cannot be reached, the case will go to trial. Your attorney will present liability on the defendant’s part and prove that a duty of care was breached. If the defendant is found to be at fault, you will receive compensation.
What Do Personal Injury Attorneys Do?
There are three primary roles typically carried out by personal injury attorneys: advice, explanation, and representation.
- Providing advice is one of the critical responsibilities of your attorney; they will help you to navigate the complexities of the legal system, advising you when to speak and when to remain quiet, and offering experienced, knowledgeable advice on the best course of action for your circumstances.
- Explaining your rights is another crucial element of the attorney-client relationship. Your chosen attorney will be able to explain the way in which an accident can impact your rights and how you can move forward successfully.
- Representation is essential; a lawyer will be comfortable and skilled in the courtroom, giving them the confidence to speak and perform in front of a judge and other legal representatives. Litigation can be confusing, and so having a professional who is fully understanding of the rules, requirements, and responsibilities can be an enormous help.
How Can Having An Attorney Help Me?
As well as the three primary functions, a qualified attorney will have access to a wide range of resources and knowledge, and this can be a real help in allowing you to make the strongest possible case.
- Access to professional services. Employing the services of a personal injury attorney unlocks the resources the firm has at its disposal. This includes the ability to dispatch investigators to look into the circumstances around your accident, including interviewing witnesses, looking at crime scene photos, and analyzing evidence. A firm may also be able to recruit external experts in various fields, for example, experts in accident reconstruction. This can be a huge benefit for your case and offers a broader range of tools than those which can be accessed by an individual.
Additionally, some personal injury firms and attorneys have developed long-lasting, solid working and business relationships with medical experts and providers. The strength of these connections could allow you to access medical services in favor of a lien on any future settlement, which is agreed upon.
With an attorney’s help, you could access top-quality medical care and not have to worry financially until the compensation comes in. As a bonus, these medical experts tend to be highly skilled and experienced in tackling serious injuries – making them appealing to attorneys in the first place – and this can really help your case.
- Clear assessment of damages. As a victim, your primary concern is likely to be the immediate future and short-term impact of your accident; how will you work, will the mortgage get paid, how will you buy a new car? An attorney, on the other hand, is able to think on a more long-term basis. They are skilled in considering the long-term impact of any injury and can access outside resources such as economists or actuaries to help put together a case that ensures you are taken care of in the long-term.
- Experienced in legal processes. Navigating the legal system and judicial forums are the main responsibilities of any attorney, and this can be used to your advantage. A skilled lawyer will pursue the best avenues, such as settling with insurance companies prior to going to court or arranging alternative dispute resolution options to help secure you the best deal.
But Do I Really Need An Attorney?
In some cases, personal injury claims are fair, straightforward, and simple – the payment offer from the insurance company seems fair, and you are happy to accept. If this is the case, you may not need to contact an attorney; the situation is cut and dried, and everyone can move on and look forward.
In addition, if there were no broken bones or serious injuries, the potential reward does not justify the financial outlay, or the case is likely to end up in small claims, you may think twice about seeking professional legal guidance. In these cases, you are likely to end up spending more than you will be awarded in damages.
If, however, your claim is denied by the insurance company, there are serious injuries, or multiple parties were involved in the accident, a personal injury attorney helps maximize your chances of success. In these situations, accessing the best is highly recommended.