Going to court may be the last thing you want to think about after getting into an accident. However, if someone was at fault for causing your injuries, you may be entitled to financial compensation. This money can help cover your medical bills, and you could receive additional amounts for any pain and suffering.
Luckily, you don’t need to navigate this process on your own. A personal injury lawyer can handle the lawsuit on your behalf and help you get the money you deserve. While an attorney is never required for these matters, legal proceedings can be complicated. Here are a few examples of times when you might want to consider obtaining legal counsel.
Following Serious or Disabling Injuries
If you’ve sustained a serious, long-term or permanently disabling injury, your lawsuit will likely involve higher dollar amounts. You must have significant evidence to prove your claim. In this case, you should strongly consider reaching out to an attorney.
With these types of cases, you want to make sure you are compensated for more than your existing medical bills. If you have lost the ability to work for a period or are more limited in what you can do for employment in the future, you would want to seek a recovery that takes into account those lost paychecks and ability to earn.
The matter can be complicated further if an insurance company is involved on behalf of the person that injured you. The insurer may have a cap on how much they are willing to pay out, which may not be enough to fully compensate you. In this case, you might need to sue the person directly for amounts above those policy limits.
More Than Negligence
In most personal injury matters, the focus is on the negligence of the person that caused the injury. Negligence means that the person failed to act reasonably under the circumstances. These cases limit an injured person to suing for “compensatory” damages. Compensatory damages are meant to put you back in the position you were before the accident.
However, in some instances, there is more than negligence involved. In cases of serious wrongdoing, such as intentional misconduct and reckless behavior, you might also be entitled to “punitive” damages. These amounts would be in addition to your compensatory damages and are meant to punish the person that caused the harm.
Note that under Florida law, punitive damages are limited to $500,000 or three times the amount of your compensatory damages award, whichever is higher. In either case, this can be a significant amount of money, and having an attorney represent you can be very helpful in pursuing these amounts on your behalf.
Complicated Accidents and Multiple Parties
Some personal injury matters involve only one wrongdoer. However, this is not always the case, and there may be instances where many people were involved and could be liable for your injuries. For example, a case involving a drunk driver and a malfunctioning traffic light could result in several different defendants becoming a party to the lawsuit. In situations like these, it is best to have an attorney involved to help navigate the process.
It might also be the case that you were partially at fault for your injury. An example would be if you were texting while driving and collided with a drunk driver. It is important to note that your actions may not necessarily prevent you from pursuing a claim, so it can be helpful to have an attorney determine the best way to proceed in matters like these.
How Soon After an Accident Should I ConsultWithh an Attorney?
It’s always best to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible after an accident occurs. This is because there are specific rules on how much time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. The time limit is referred to as a statute of limitations. In Florida, this period is four years. If you’ve missed the deadline, it’s still a good idea to talk to an attorney as there are exceptions to the statute of limitations rule. One exception is if the person injured was a minor at the time of the accident.
Even if you are not in danger of the statute of limitations running out, it is still worthwhile to promptly consult with an attorney. Personal injury lawsuits typically require a great deal of evidence in the form of documents and records, images/video, and witness testimony. It can be more difficult to preserve information as time goes on, so an attorney can advise you on how best to safeguard this evidence. An attorney can also communicate with the person at fault (or his or her attorney) as well as any insurance company that is involved.