Personal Injury (Jacksonville and Orlando)
Whether you, or a family member, were the victim of a car or truck accident, motorcycle accident, wrongful death, slip and fall or other accident on someone else's property, or as a result of a defective product, we can help.
We handle many different personal injury cases, including the following:
- Wrongful Death
- Auto/Car Accidents
- Drunk Driving/DUI Injury Accidents
- Truck/Tractor Trailer Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Defective Products
- Slip and Fall/Premises Liability
- Broken Bone Accidents
- Serious Injury Accidents
- and more.
If you were in an accident, but you weren't injured, then you may have a property damage case. In property damage only cases, your claim will usually be limited and the value of obtaining an attorney would be less than in a personal injury claim. For example, if you were rear ended and there were no injuries, but you have $500 worth of damage to your car, your insurance or the other driver's insurance will probably cover it. But if they don't, obtaining an attorney to pursue a claim would usually be cost prohibitive as the filing fees and attorney's fees would be significantly more that what you could hope to recover.
The first thing you should do when you are in an accident is to contact law enforcement and obtain a traffic crash report. You should also go see a doctor right away. Many injuries are soft tissue injuries that may not be apparent immediately after an accident. However, if you do not get a medical opinion and treatment, it will be difficult to prove your damages. The bottom line is that the more documentation that you obtain, the more likely you are to protect your rights. Traffic crash reports and medical records are extremely important in personal injury cases.
Another thing you should do is file a claim through your insurance company, but you must understand that the insurance company's interests are directly opposed to yours. You want them to pay out a higher claim and they want to pay out a lower claim. If you tell them that you don't have any injuries and then you find out that you do have soft tissue injuries, they will use your statement against you in negotiations of a settlement and potentially at trial. Insurance companies often take sworn statements as early as they can. Contact a lawyer before you give a sworn statement to make sure you are fully informed and understand why they are taking the sworn statement and what they can do with it later on in the process.
Most lawyers would would disagree with us, but you don't need a lawyer. Any person can negotiate and represent themselves. But like many things in life that we try to do ourselves only to find out it is much more involved than we thought, dealing with insurance companies can be tricky business. Negotiations are about leverage. Insurance companies assume that individual policy holders do not know insurance law or personal injury law and therefore believe they have more leverage, which often results in less negotiating room. Insurance companies also know that attorneys who practice in this area of law know what they are doing, know how to file a lawsuit, and know what is reasonable and what is not. Increasing your leverage often leads to higher settlements.
Every personal injury case requires three things: duty of care and breach of duty, causation, and damages. You have the burden of first proving that the defendant owed you a duty of care. You must next prove that the defendant breached that duty of care. You must next prove that the defendant's breach of duty caused your injury. Finally you must prove that you have actual damages.
- DUTY OF CARE & BREACH OF DUTY - Your injury has to be, at least in part, due to the negligence of another. In other words, the other party must have owed you a duty of care and must have breached that duty. For example, we drivers owe a duty of care to all other drivers on the road. If you run a red light and t-bone another driver, you've breached that duty of care to the other driver.
- CAUSATION - The other person's breach of duty owed to you must have played a part, or reasonably closely caused, your injury or damages. You also must be able to prove this causation. For example, if you no longer have full range of motion of your wrist after an accident, you would want medical evidence supporting your claim and rebutting the insurance company's potential claim that this was a preexisting injury.
- DAMAGES - You must have actual damages. The higher the damages, the more viable your claim. If you were rear ended, but the only injury you have is a minor cut to your forehead, you may be able to prove the first two elements, but your damages would be minimal and therefore the cost of litigation would far exceed the amount you could hope to recover.
- Finally, in order to have a viable personal injury claim, you would have all three of negligence, damages and causation and the other party must have assets. For example, if you had no insurance and were hit by a person with no insurance and no money or assets to his or her name, you can file a lawsuit and may prove all three elements, but even if you win, there will be no money for you to collect. You would actually lose, because you would have had to pay the costs of litigation, which could be very expensive.
Similarly, you may be rear ended by a millionaire with high levels of insurance, but if there is only $250 damage to your vehicle and no personal injury, it would cost you substantially more that $250 to litigate the case.
Similarly, if you fall down the stairs at a millionaire's house and incur $500,000 in medical bills, you would have no claim unless there was evidence that the millionaire was negligent (i.e. breached his or her duty of care owed to you). For example, if you fell due in part to the stair banister not being secured, or a stair step being loose.
There are four different types of negligence: slight negligence, ordinary negligence, gross negligence, and culpable negligence.
The failure to exercise great care.
The failure to exercise that degree of care, precaution and vigilance which an ordinary prudent person would exercise.
The failure to exercise care that a reasonable and prudent man knows would probably and most likely result in injury to another.
Whether someone owes you a duty of care arises out of statutes, case law, regulations, other judicial precedent or from the facts of the case. The judge determines whether a duty of care was owed. Generally, if the harm that occurs due to the defendant is reasonably foreseeable, then there will typically be a duty owed. For example, if you leave a piece of wood with a nail sticking up through it on your sidewalk where families generally take walks through the neighborhood, the judge will probably find that you owed a duty of care to the injured person who steps on that nail because the danger of someone stepping on the nail was reasonably foreseeable.
The legislature can mandate a duty of care, for example, when they require that any person with knowledge that a child is being abused be reported. A duty of care can arise from industry standards. A duty of care can arise by contract. For example, if a janitorial service signs a contract with a local business to provide cleaning and and custodial services to that business and if you slip and fall on a liquid due to their negligence, the janitorial service may owe you a duty of care because of their contract with the business, even though you were not a party to that contract.
Even if a person is helping you, that person is held to a standard of being reasonable and prudent. So, for example, if a neighbor agrees to watch your child for an hour so you can run to the store, that neighbor now owes your child a duty of care and would be liable if the child is injured based on a breach of that duty (i.e. the child trips over a loosened paver stone that hadn't been fixed).
If you have been injured, you may be entitled to recover:
- Past and Future Medical Expenses
- Property Damage
- Compensation for Pain and Suffering
- Compensation for Physical Impairment or Disability
- Loss of Wages or Earnings
- Loss of Capacity to Earn
- And more.
Florida has a "Good Samaritan" law that provides immunity from a personal injury lawsuit where a person provides, in good faith, emergency care and treatment at the scene of an emergency when the injured person doesn't object to the treatment and when the person acts in a reasonably prudent manner.
If you have been injured in an accident, call us or email us for a free case review so we can help you determine if you have a viable case.