If you’re considering legal action following a Florida personal injury, one of the first things to figure out is: “Do I have a case?”
This sometimes ends up being a more complex question than you might think. Among the reasons would-be Florida injury claims falter:
- Not every wrongdoing or injury can be remedied with legal action.
- No one suffered physical injuries.
- Too much time has passed since the incident and the statute of limitations ran out.
- The negligent party is somehow shielded from legal liability.
- There is little evidence to prove the claim.
For those that do have a case, the next question is: “Do I have a strong case?”
This can be a tricky question too. It’s worth pointing out that South Florida personal injury lawyers have compelling incentive to be straightforward about your odds. Tort lawyers are paid on a contingency fee basis. (Torts are acts/omissions giving rise to injury or harm that amounts to a civil wrong for which another party may be held legally liable. Examples include car accidents, dog bites, medical malpractice cases, sexual abuse lawsuits, premises liability/dangerous property, etc.) Back to contingency fees: These payment arrangements are structured so that attorneys’ fees are not owed at all unless or until they win. Of course, some measure of your success in any legal matter will come down to the experience and skill of the attorney you hire. But if your odds are long, you’ll find out pretty quickly after a few personal injury lawyer initial consultations – which are typically free.
But let’s say you’re trying to decide whether it’s worth it to call an injury lawyer in the first place and/or are looking for a sense of what generally makes a strong Florida personal injury claim.
Of course, every case is different, but the majority of injury claims are based on the legal doctrine of negligence. In layman’s terms, negligence is when someone owed a duty of care, they breached that duty, and another person was harmed as a result.
Indicators that you may have a strong negligence claim include:
- You have physical injuries. This is not to say all injuries – or even the most damaging injuries – are physical. And you can absolutely recover compensation for mental/emotional anguish. However, physical injury is almost always going to be a requirement walking into these cases. In some cases, like car accidents, you must prove that your injuries are severe enough before you can file a claim against the at-fault driver. (No-fault personal injury protection insurance covers less serious injuries up to $10,000.) There are a few exceptions. For example, degree of physical injury can be less relevant in civil sexual assault cases. But for the most party, the severity of your injuries will be a central point in the case.
- You have strong evidence to establish the defendant’s actions caused your injuries. Injuries alone don’t make the case. You need to establish it was the defendant’s failure to use reasonable care the caused your injuries. Photos, videos, police reports, witness statements, virtual messages, expert witness reviews, medical records – these can all be used to shore up your case. The more independent evidence you have (not just he-said-she-said), the stronger your case will be.
- It’s been less than two years since the incident. Technically, there is a four-year statute of limitations for most Florida personal injury cases. However, there is a two-year statute of limitations on certain types of injury cases, such as medical malpractice. Sometimes with government defendants, you have an even smaller window to file notice of your intent to sue. And even if you do have a longer statute of limitations, it’s usually a good idea to file sooner rather than later, as there’s a stronger chance you’ll be able to gather adequate evidence to prevail.
- You did not contribute to the cause or exacerbation of your injuries. In Florida, the damages a negligent party is required to pay is proportionate to their fault. So if someone was 70 percent liable, they will generally only be responsible to cover 70 percent of the damages. If the person who was injured was partially at fault for causing the accident or acting in a way that made the injuries worse, this is called comparative fault. It’s a top defense lawyer strategy to reduce damage awards. If you were comparatively at-fault, you may still have a case, but one that’s less strong.
- The at-fault party is trying to settle. This isn’t always the case across-the-board. But if the at-fault person or an insurer is pushing you to sign a settlement right away, they may recognize you have a strong – and potentially valuable – case, and want to fast-track a settlement to minimize their losses.
If you are injured in South Florida and are curious about whether you have grounds for a strong case, our skilled personal injury lawyers provide free initial consultations to go over the facts and help you make an informed decision about your next steps.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
F.S. 768.81, Comparative Fault, 2022 Florida Statutes