Personal injury claims and a lawsuit are oftentimes used interchangeably, but they have distinct legal meanings. We’ve broken down the two to make it easy for you to understand which each means and how to use them correctly.
What is a Personal Injury Claim in Florida?
When it comes to Florida personal injury cases, a claim generally means a legal demand that you are entitled to money damages. Your claim is a demand that the at-fault party, or their insurance company, compensate you for injuring you. After an accident, insurance companies have an adjuster investigate the crash and determine whether they are going to accept liability for the claim. The company may offer you a settlement to resolve your claim. You do not have to take the initial settlement offer. The first offer is commonly a low-ball offer to try to resolve the claim before you realize how seriously injured you really are. If you hire an attorney, he or she will attempt to negotiate a reasonable and fair amount. If that is unsuccessful, the next step is to file a personal injury lawsuit.
When you are considering accepting a settlement agreement, you should seek legal advice before signing anything. You may be asked to sign a release in exchange for a check. That agreement will definitely release the insured party, and it may release all parties from the claim, meaning once you sign that agreement, you cannot make a claim later on even if you discover other potential defendants. If you hire a lawyer, he will be able to go over your options and give you advice on what to do before signing anything.
If you do not successfully negotiate a settlement with the insurance company, your next step is to file a lawsuit to pursue personal judgement. Here in Florida the statute of limitations on filing personal injury lawsuits is generally four years. If you miss the deadline to file, you lose your legal right to pursue a claim against the persons at fault for your injuries.
While settling a personal injury claim through negotiations with an insurance company have the benefits of receiving money quicker and saving money by not incurring litigation expenses. However, be aware that some of these settlement agreements are NOT the best outcome if you are injured. As stated before, you should always discuss settlement agreements with a lawyer to make sure you’re getting what you deserve. Sometimes that means hiring a personal injury lawyer to file a lawsuit.
What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Florida?
A personal injury lawsuit is a formal, legal action filed with a civil court. In this situation, you are the plaintiff, the injured party filing the lawsuit, and the defendants are the people or entities legally responsible for compensating you for your injuries. Insurance companies will hire defense attorneys to defend the lawsuit on their behalf.
During this lawsuit, both parties exchange information and evidence during discovery and prepare their cases for trial. If your case goes to trial, the parties present their evidence to a jury and lets the jury decide on the facts. In the case of personal injury lawsuits, you, the plaintiff, have the burden of proof. That means the jury needs to find decide more than a 50% likelihood, that the other party (the defendant) caused your injuries.
For negligence claims, the plaintiff needs to prove four things:
- the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty of care
- the defendant’s actions, or failure to act constituted a breach of duty
- that breach of duty was the proximate and direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries
- that the plaintiff sustained damages because of the breach of duty
If the jury decides in favor of the plaintiff, they then decide the dollar amount of damages the plaintiff incurred.
How Do I Know Which to Go With For My Accident?
This is where Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney comes in. Local personal injury lawyer Philip Deberard and his experienced legal team provides the honest assessment of your situation. They will help explain your options and provide their professional opinion. The goal in both a claim and lawsuit is to get you fairly compensated for your injuries. While going to trial can take longer than settling a claim prior to a lawsuit, oftentimes it’s your best course of action. There are, however, times that the insurance company offers you a settlement that will save you time and energy and is appropriate for your situation.
You can never be certain of how a jury will decide a case. There is no guarantee when it comes to jurors. Even if you believe a case is strong in your favor, you cannot be sure you’ll win.
The best way to answer your question of what to do about your claim with depends on a multitude of factors, none of which can be fully answered in a blog post. We suggest you reach out to our office to discuss your situation, the facts, and circumstances of your case. We look forward to discussing your accident and providing you with our professional opinion.