If you sustained serious injuries in a car accident another driver’s negligence caused, you have the legal right to pursue fair financial compensation. However, in Florida, state law does not require a car accident case to go to court. In most cases, car accident lawyers can help their clients recover compensation through an out-of-court settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
In some cases, however—if the insurance company is operating in bad faith, for example—you may have to make your case in court. When that happens, having a knowledgeable attorney on your side can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Car accident lawyers often have experience litigating these cases in court. An attorney can help you get the compensation you need after a crash.
When Can I Take My Case to Court?
Florida is considered a no-fault insurance state, which essentially restricts when drivers can file lawsuits after car accidents. Under these no-fault rules, each driver must have a policy that includes personal injury protection (PIP) coverage mandated by Florida Statutes § 627.736, which generally provides $10,000 worth of coverage. This type of coverage is generally enough to cover medical bills and lost wages from minor injuries.
So, no-fault rules mean that you’ll need to draw from your own PIP insurance coverage after a crash—unless you have serious injuries. If you or your family member’s injuries meet the state’s serious injury threshold, you may be able to file a lawsuit and take your case to court. Through a third-party injury case or lawsuit, you can also pursue compensation for other losses as well. Injuries that meet the serious injury threshold are:
- A serious impairment of a bodily organ or system
- Significant scarring or disfigurement
- Permanent disabilities in an arm, leg, or other limbs
- Other serious injuries such as a bone fracture
If you or your family member sustains injuries that meet the state’s threshold for serious bodily injury or led to their passing, you may be able to pursue a claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s insurance provider.
The car accident recovery process can take time. We will stay in communication with you and keep you updated while we assemble the necessary evidence to build your case, including witness statements, photos of the accident scene, medical reports from your doctor, and testimony from subject matter experts.
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Damages You Can Recover Through an Injury Claim or Lawsuit
If you can only pursue compensation through your PIP insurance, you can only collect compensation for a portion of your medical costs and lost wages.
If we determine that you can make a claim against a third-party insurer or file a personal injury lawsuit, you can recover a number of other damages not covered by your state-mandated PIP insurance, including:
- Medical costs
- Lost wages
- Future wages and benefits if you are unable to return to work
- Prescription medication
- Wheelchairs or walkers
- The cost of ongoing care
- In-home nursing care
- Pain and suffering
- Other accident-related costs
Taking Your Case to Court if an Insurer Won’t Make a Fair Offer
We may begin your case by immediately filing a lawsuit. In another situation, your case may start out as an insurance claim, then we may eventually file a lawsuit. That’s because you may not receive a fair offer during the insurance claims process. After all, the insurance company has one overarching priority: to minimize the amount they pay you.
Consequently, they often attempt to drag the process out by requesting additional documentation or by making ridiculous settlement offers. They hope you will wear down and get desperate enough to take a low offer.
We will counter these unfair tactics as much as possible and keep you apprised through every step. We can also help ensure that you see the right doctors to get the treatment you need.
At some point, however, we may determine that the at-fault driver’s insurance company is unlikely to offer a fair settlement. If that is the case, we may recommend that you file a lawsuit. This may be enough to push the insurance company to make a more reasonable offer.
What Happens After I File a Lawsuit?
Once we file your lawsuit, the discovery process begins. Discovery is the process where each side of the case requests evidence from the other. This may include medical and treatment records, financial documents proving your costs, and receipts for car repairs. This is also when both sides can send a list of questions—called interrogatories—requiring answers under oath.
The insurance company’s lawyers may request that you submit a deposition. They can ask you virtually any question while you are under oath. We may also depose the at-fault driver, witnesses, and anyone else who may have valuable information to contribute.
In many cases, once the insurance company’s lawyers have a chance to review the evidence, they will come back with another settlement offer. This is often a good sign, as they now have a full understanding of the strength of your case. You will have the option of accepting a settlement offer at this stage or proceeding to court. You may also have the option of mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution. We will provide counsel to help you make the best possible choice for your future.
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What Happens When My Case Goes to Court?
If you choose to proceed to trial, the attorneys from both sides will engage in the process to impanel a jury, and the trial will begin. The duration of the trial will vary based on the evidence presented. However, your court case may only last a day or two before the jury goes out to deliberate. Once they return a verdict, the court will issue a judgment based on the jury’s award to you.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
If you decide that you want to file a lawsuit against the insurance company to recover compensation for your injuries and damages, you will have to file within the statute of limitations imposed by Florida Statutes § 95.11, which is the legal deadline in which to file a case. You have four years from the date of the accident in the state of Florida to file a lawsuit regarding a car accident.
If you miss this deadline, you could be barred from seeking the compensation you deserve. An attorney can help you keep your case on track to meet this deadline.
What Documents Do I Need to Take My Case to Court?
Several forms of evidence can help your attorney build a comprehensive case that, one, establishes you as the victim and the other driver as the at-fault party, and two, results in you winning the full compensation that you deserve.
Here are a few things that will be helpful to your car accident attorney in pursuing your case—both in or out of court.
- Photos: If you’re physically capable, take photos at the accident scene. Get shots of the vehicles from all angles, showing the damage. Also, get photos of any skid marks, struck objects, or other important aspects of the accident scene.
- Video surveillance: An attorney can help you acquire this type of evidence. Often, they can seek business camera footage or other videos from local surveillance cameras.
- Medical records and bills: Any documentation of your injuries and healthcare expenses will prove crucial for seeking the damages you deserve.
- Witness statements: If you have contact details from eyewitnesses of the crash, your lawyer can use these to build your case.
- Police report: This includes the accident report with details from the responding officer.
- Work record: Any records that can show your recent employment history or earnings statements can help show how the crash affected your income.
Can My Car Accident Case Settle Out of Court?
Settling out of court with the at-fault driver’s insurance company is often possible, at least in theory. This method often provides the best possible option for you.
If the at-fault driver’s insurance company agrees to negotiate a fair settlement, you can derive several important benefits, including:
- A faster settlement;
- Lower legal costs; and
- Avoiding the rigors of a trial.
We will consult with you at every phase of the negotiations and help you weigh the pros and cons of accepting an out-of-court settlement. It is important to remember that once you accept a settlement offer, you will give up your legal rights to pursue any further award.
If going to court presents the best pathway forward for your case, we can file a lawsuit for you and prepare your case for a jury trial. We can then handle all legal aspects of the court process, including filing court paperwork and cross-examining witnesses.
How Can I Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer About My Case?
The success of your court case depends on many factors. However, having your lawyer’s knowledge, experience, and skills can help you seek the results you need. The right attorney will build a strong case to present in court and work tirelessly to give you the best possible chance of a positive outcome.
In Florida, the personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine will use their legal knowledge and skills to help you get the settlement you need to protect your future. Contact us today to explore your options during a free consultation.
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