A quick overview of Florida legalities when filing an injury claim
Accident laws vary from state to state, so if you’ve been injured in Florida, make sure you know what statutes apply to your specific situation.
The claims process in the Sunshine State isn’t extraordinarily different from the rest of the country, but there are enough variations that engaging a personal injury attorney wouldn’t go amiss.
If you’ve been injured, the statute of limitations is four years in which to file a claim – three if you are filing a claim against the government.
If you don’t file your case within this window, the court will very likely refuse to hear your claim unless there is a remarkable extenuating circumstance such as a late discovery (such as a cancer diagnosis that you could not have discovered during the statute of limitations window).
You are injured because of someone else’s negligence
To illustrate negligence to the court, you have to establish that the defendant owed you a duty of care, breached that duty, and that the failure resulted in damage to you.
Get medical attention
This is the most important thing. Don’t wait. You actually have a responsibility to mitigate your damages, and that means you must do everything you can to seek appropriate treatment. Make sure you get records of everything and keep them in a safe place.
Hire a good lawyer
Florida is a tricky state when it comes to law. You want someone who knows the history, who can explain your options, who knows the local playing field, and who has experience.
Consider speaking to someone in the Enjuris law firm directory. Here is a list of questions you can ask when interviewing attorneys, and here is a sheet to help you prepare for your first meeting – don’t be afraid to shop around a little bit. Remember, you want to feel comfortable with your lawyer and like you’re on the same page. You’re going to be working together for a while.
Notify your insurance company
Florida is a no fault state, meaning that the courts are generally not involved with car accident cases unless you have catastrophic injuries.
That is the only situation in which you would be able to step outside the no fault system. Otherwise, you would be expected to turn to your PIP insurance (Personal Injury Protection), which would cover you up to a certain threshold – generally $10,000. After that threshold, your personal health insurance would kick in.
Both your insurance company and the defendant’s must be put on notice of a claim, and if you’ve retained counsel, then he or she should do this for you. It’s always better to have an attorney do this. Avoid recorded statements with insurance companies if you can. They will use those to hang you later. Additionally, don’t sign any documents until your attorney has reviewed them.
Keep a post-accident journal
A post-accident journal is an invaluable part of the healing process. Not only does this let you keep track of medical expenses and appointments, but it also gets all your thoughts out onto paper. Days and weeks can meld together after an accident, and writing it all down lets you sort everything out. It lets you detail injuries, medications, medical treatments, and your daily struggles.
Post-Accident Journal Form
Sample accident journal/diary to help you document the effect on your daily life
Download in PDF format
This allows a jury and a claims adjuster to get into your head more than talking about it can. Plus, it’s a cheap form of therapy.
Keep track of expenses
This part is always fun. Keeping track of bills, reports, medical examination findings and the like can quickly take up a lot of space, especially when half of it is electronic and the other half is hard copy. These have a tendency of getting lost in a pile of papers around your house.
Damages worksheet to track expenses for your injury claim (medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, prescriptions)
Download in PDF format
Keep an electronic expense journal like this one and then also have a designated folder for your bills so that when you meet with your attorney, you can quickly grab everything and be out the door.
Also, here is a list of important documents that you should have on hand for when you meet with your lawyer.
Write the demand letter
Your personal injury attorney will draft the demand letter and submit it to the insurance company.
This will include all relevant evidence and information related to your injuries, including medical bills, records, proof of lost wages, receipts and other expenses. It will also include a demand for settlement and a time limit within which to respond, which is generally 30 days.
The insurance company might balk at the settlement demand and bat it away, or they might play hard ball. They might also decide to settle immediately, which is a personal injury attorney’s worst nightmare because then they wonder how much more they could have gotten. If they cannot agree, they will proceed to trial. It’s always better to settle rather than file a lawsuit because nobody wants to have the expense of a trial.
See more on the Florida court system and where your case goes once you file a lawsuit.
How long does a settlement or trial take in Florida?
It’s hard to say, because it depends on so many factors.
How Long Will My Injury Claim Take?
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If you don’t proceed to a trial, that’s it. Make sure you are comfortable with the settlement, because once you settle, that is the end of it. Kick back and relax, because you deserve it!
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.