If you’re thinking about filing a South Florida personal injury lawsuit, chances are you’re also still reeling from the incident. Our West Palm Beach injury lawyers recognize that litigation can seem like a daunting prospect. One of our goals is ensuring prospective clients understand the basics of the personal injury law in Florida, and how that might play out in their case.
Here, we outline five key facts Florida personal injury clients should know.
- You may not even have to file a lawsuit. A fair percentage of the time, your lawyer may be able to resolve the matter by filing a personal injury claim directly with the defendant/insurer and negotiating with them. Everyone knows the costs – and risks – associated with going to court. If it’s at all possible to settle the matter out-of-court, that’s usually in everyone’s best interests. A lawsuit really only needs to be filed when the other party is denying any wrongdoing or refuses to pay fair compensation for your losses. Even if you file a lawsuit, cases rarely make it all the way to trial. They’re either dismissed or settled before it gets to that point. (Most cases settle because, as injury lawyers, we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we aren’t paid unless you win. That gives your lawyer strong incentive to shoot straight about your odds at the outset.) Often, when a case does make it to trial, it’s only one or two issues of contention. Of course, those issues may be substantial and still require significant research, expert analysis, and time, but it’s better where possible to narrow down issues of contention to as few points as possible.
- You can be partially at-fault and still win your case. Florida abides by a system of pure comparative negligence, per F.S. 768.81. This means you can be found 99 percent liable for your own injuries, and still collect damages from the other party who is 1 percent liable. Of course, that’s not an ideal scenario because the total amount of damages you can collect is proportionately reduced by your own degree of fault. So if you’ve sustained $100,000 in damages but are 99 percent liable for your own injuries, the most you’re going to be entitled to collect is $1,000. That may hardly be worth the time and effort to pursue a claim in the first place. Working with an experienced injury lawyer is an imperative to avoiding this type of outcome. We’ll also be able at the outset to give you a pretty good idea of your chances of prevailing, and a ballpark estimate of how much your case may be worth.
- You have a limited amount of time to file a Florida personal injury lawsuit. Florida imposes a four-year statute of limitations on most personal injury claims. That means if you try to file your claim after the four-year mark, your claim is likely to be dismissed outright. Some types of claims, such as those for medical malpractice and wrongful death, must be filed within two years. In some cases, depending on who the defendant is, you may need to file notice of intent to sue even before those deadlines. (This is most usually applicable to government defendants.)
- Proving pain and suffering requires a lot of evidence. Certain types of damages, for things like medical bills or lost wages, involve tangible, verifiable facts and numbers. Other types of damages, such as what you receive for pain and suffering, are more subjective. Proving your entitlement to them requires a good amount of evidence. Your attorney will want to present information that details for the court the type and severity of injury, the medical treatments you’ve had to endure, how long your recovery period is (and if you’ll ever fully recover), and the impact that the injury has had on your life – including your job, your relationships, your ability to be self-sufficient, and participate in hobbies and activities you once enjoyed. Because we can’t easily tie things like “inability to go hiking ever again” to a clear monetary value, we have to be diligent in collecting evidence and presenting it in the most effective way.
- Florida does have a punitive damage cap. Most people may not have to worry about punitive damages because you’re only allowed to pursue it if you can convince a judge that the conduct of the defendant engaged in intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Unlike compensatory damages, which are intended to compensate the victim, punitive damages are intended to penalize the defendant for especially egregious conduct – and to deter anyone else from engaging in the same. Drunk driving is one example of an injury case wherein punitive damage demands may be allowed. But if you are granted permission from the court to ask for punitive damages, you will be capped at how much you can receive. The law caps punitive damages at $50,000, or up to three times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater.
If you have been injured in South Florida and are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit, we can help.
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. 768.72, Punitive Damages
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How Will a West Palm Beach Injury Lawyer Evaluate My Case? April 7, 2022, Palm Beach Injury Lawyer Blog