Please remember that these questions should be considered as general information only. This is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact our office directly.
Q. What should I do at the scene of a car accident?
A. Call the police, and the paramedics if needed. If you need medical treatment, get it as soon as possible. If it is safe for you to do so, photograph the vehicles involved in the accident and the general accident scene. Try to make an accurate record of the road, weather, and traffic conditions as soon as possible. Your lawyer might find this helpful if he or she needs to do an accident reconstruction. You should also write down what you remember about the accident as soon as possible.
Q. A friend of mine was in an accident, sued, and recovered a large amount of money. I was in a similar accident. Does that mean that I will also be able to get a large amount of money?
A. That depends on what “damages” you suffer. Damages can include things like medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The person you want to sue may have done something extremely wrong, but if you did not suffer any damages, then you will not receive any compensation.
Think about this example: There is a large spill of water in a supermarket, and it makes the floor extremely slippery. Some customers notice it, and tell the supermarket manager that there is a dangerous and hard to notice spill making the floor slippery. The manager does nothing. Other supermarket employees notice, but do not clean up the spill.
Person A is walking down the aisle and slips. Person A hits the ground hard and suffers a painful injury. As a result, Person A has to undergo several uncomfortable surgeries. Person A also misses a lot of work, and owes money on the medical bills from the fall. Also, Person A can no longer do some of the physical activities that he or she loved to do, such as playing sports or exercising.
Person B also walks down the aisle and slips. Person B hits the ground hard, but only suffers a bruised knee. Person B’s injury is not very painful. He or she does not have to go to the doctor, does not have to miss any work, and goes about his or her life no differently than before.
Even though the supermarket was negligent in not cleaning up the spill when it knew about the spill, only Person A is entitled to compensation. Person B has no major injuries at all. Make sure that you see an attorney who will help determine what your damages are and will work hard to get you every bit of compensation you deserve. Remember that no attorney should ever be able to guarantee a certain result in a case, and that every case is unique.
Q. I was injured a while ago, and am thinking of suing. I’m just not sure. Should I talk to a lawyer now, or wait?
A. Talk to a lawyer now. In civil cases (like personal injury), you only have a limited amount of time in which to file your claim. If you wait too long, you may be prevented from suing on that issue forever. Also remember that as time goes on, it often gets harder for your lawyer to gather the evidence that you may need to win. Witnesses forget things, computer data are lost, businesses destroy records under their records management policies. Involve a lawyer early to ensure that critical evidence is not lost.
Q. I do not have a lot of extra money. Will I be able to afford an attorney?
A. Sometimes, like in personal injury cases, a lawyer will be able to take your case on a contingent fee basis. This means that the lawyer will not be paid unless you receive compensation for your injuries. If you do, then the lawyer will receive a certain percentage.
Q. How long will it be before I am able to recover money to compensate me for my injuries?
A. This is highly dependent on the facts unique to your case. In some cases, we can settle for the amount you want early. In other cases, the case may have to go to trial to seek appropriate compensation.
Q. Who makes the decision whether to settle or go to trial, me or my lawyer?
A. You do. Your lawyer is ethically required to tell you of any settlement offers that he or she receives—and you decide whether you want to accept. Choose a lawyer who will offer good advice during this process to help you understand what course of action is in your best interest.
Q. How do I choose the right attorney to represent me?
A. You should look for an attorney who has a track record of taking cases to trial. That is important even if your case ultimately settles (as most cases do). Big companies, especially insurance companies, know which lawyers are willing to take cases all the way to trial for their clients. People who are represented by an experienced trial lawyer are more likely to be offered better settlements. Always ask a prospective attorney how many cases he or she has tried and how many cases he or she has tried recently.
Q. I have been injured in some sort of accident, and it is partly my fault, will I be able to recover anything?
A. Yes. In most cases, you can still get compensation even if you were partly at fault in an accident. That is because Florida is a “pure comparative negligence” state. What this means is that the amount of money you will be awarded if you win at trial is reduced by any percentage that may deemed to be your fault, if any. Here’s an example: You were involved in a car accident and suffered $100,000 worth of damages. If the jury found that that the accident was 75% your fault, and 25% the fault of the other driver, then you would still be able to recover $25,000 from that other driver.