“How much is my Florida injury case worth?”
It is probably one of the top three questions our Palm Beach personal injury lawyers get asked right off the bat – and it’s not always a simple thing to answer.
As experienced civil trial lawyers, we can typically provide a general ballpark estimate of case value based on certain elements we’ll want to explore as soon as we start investigating. That said, it’s only an estimate, and there’s a lot of room for that figure to fluctuate higher or lower depending on what’s revealed during the discovery phase.
But here are some of the basic aspects we investigate before giving a cursory answer to that question:
- Insurance coverage. Is there any relevant insurance coverage? If so, how much? If you were injured in a crash with an uninsured driver or a driver who has a very low bodily injury liability limit, do you have your own UM/UIM policy that could make up the difference? If the other driver didn’t have insurance and you don’t have UM/UIM coverage, does the other driver have collectible assets that could be seized? Was the vehicle owned by someone else (in which case the owner’s insurance or assets might be on the table)? Was the driver drunk and underage (in which case the insurance of the bar that served them could be required to pay up)? If you’re hurt in a slip-and-fall, does the property owner have liability insurance? If you’re bitten by a dog, does the homeowner have homeowners’ insurance? Insurance is the primary question because most individuals do not have adequate personal assets to cover the full scope of losses in a serious injury case (unless they are a corporation or independently wealthy). Your injury lawyer will want to examine all possible insurance policies that may be in play.
- Severity of your injuries. The severity of your injuries is usually tied to other relevant factors such as the cost of your medical bills, how much time you’ve been forced to take off work (whether you’ll even be able to return to work in the same capacity), and the extent to which this has impacted your daily life (your pain and suffering). With respect to car accident cases, you can’t even step outside of the no-fault system to pursue damages against the other driver unless you meet the serious injury threshold outlined in F.S. 627.737. That requires that your injuries involved a significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function, permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or death.
- Fault. Every state has its own standards for how fault and negligence are handled in personal injury cases. Up until recently, Florida followed a standard of pure comparative fault – meaning everyone was responsible for their own share of the fault. So if a plaintiff was 99 percent liable for their own injuries, they could only collect on the remaining 1 percent of damages. However, we have since moved to being a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. This means that if a plaintiff is deemed more than 50 percent at-fault for what happened, they are barred from collecting anything at all. This means that even if the other party was 49 percent in the wrong, they won’t pay anything. (An unfortunate – but fully intentional – effect of aggressive tort reform efforts in Florida.) We should note that even things like not wearing a seat belt or a motorcycle helmet (despite the latter not being against the law in Florida for adults over 21) can result in a finding of comparative fault.
- Strength of the case. You may be 100 percent in the right, but if you don’t have strong, clear evidence to support your position, you aren’t likely to obtain full and fair compensation. A thorough investigation by an experienced injury lawyer can help.
Lastly, the skill of your injury lawyer is important too. Hiring an injury lawyer who has experience and a history of success in the type of case you’re pursuing can make a huge difference. This is especially true when we’re talking about highly complex litigation areas like medical malpractice, sexual abuse civil claims, and nursing home negligence.
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.
LEGISLATURE PASSES COMPREHENSIVE TORT LEGISLATION, March 24, 2023, Florida Bar News
More Blog Entries:
Big Changes to Law Will Impact Florida Personal Injury Lawsuit Claimants, April 3, 2023, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Blog