Most everyone knows something about personal injury lawyers from ads or news articles, but do you know how personal injury law really works? Personal injury law is a specialized practice area with a diverse set of services. We’ve created this guide to help you understand personal injury law and what it can do for you if you or a loved one has been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, careless behavior, or unreasonable acts.
Definition of Personal Injury Law
A personal injury case involves two or more people in which at least one person has been harmed through an accident or other type of injury, and at least one person may be legally responsible for the injurious action. An attorney, in a personal injury case, would seek fair compensation for the injured person. This can include money to cover current medical bills, ongoing medical expenses, and pain and suffering, among other possibilities. In some instances, medical malpractice can play a role in a personal injury case.
A reputable personal injury attorney will work hard to get their clients’ life back on track after an accident. In some cases, an attorney can secure a fair settlement for a client by negotiating with an insurance company. Other times, mediation or arbitration will be required. If the claim goes to court, the attorney can represent the client.
Types of Personal Injury Cases
Attorneys at Harrell & Harrell, P.A., represent clients who have experienced a wide range of personal injury cases. For example:
- Auto accidents: This can include when the other driver is operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, as well as driving recklessly or aggressively. Does that other driver have a current driver’s license? Was he or she distracted while driving? Falling asleep? Does the vehicle have defective parts? Are roadways in poor condition? These are the types of issues that a personal injury attorney can investigate to help secure a fair settlement.
- Truck accidents: Truck drivers are strictly regulated by the United States Department of Transportation, and Florida attorneys who represent victims of truck accidents must be well versed in those regulations. Truck drivers, as just one example, must carefully maintain driving hours, with specific details recorded and stored in a black box. A personal injury attorney can leverage this information, as well as trace often complicated fleet ownership issues, and more.
- Motorcycle accidents: Motorcyclists can be especially vulnerable in a crash and, when they do suffer injuries, they are often times more severe. This type of personal injury case can also be more nuanced than many other kinds because of Florida’s universal helmet law. Although this law requires everyone who operates and rides on a motorcycle cycle to wear a helmet, there can be exceptions. An experienced personal injury lawyer can use his or her knowledge throughout the claims process to benefit the client.
- Wrongful death: Wrongful death cases can be among the most heartbreaking, with grieving family members often struggling to pay medical and funeral costs. Plus, if the victim was a loved one who provided the family with income, this is another significant loss. The reality is that, if someone else’s negligent behavior or unreasonable act led to the death of a loved one, you are obligated to protect their legal rights.
- Nursing home abuse and neglect: The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 provides broad protection for people in nursing homes: the “highest practicable” levels of care to maintain residents’ wellbeing, physically, mentally, and psychosocially. Meanwhile, nursing home abuse and neglect ranges from neglect of basic needs and/or hygiene to physical, emotional, sexual, and/or financial abuse. According to the National Council of Aging, about one in ten older adults (inside and outside of nursing homes) suffer from abuse, and personal injury attorneys can help clients protect their loved ones.
- Medical malpractice: Doctors, hospitals, and healthcare providers sometimes make mistakes, even serious ones—including medical professionals who are highly experienced. When those errors lead to devastating consequences for patients, results can be horrific for them and their families—and, when the standard of care is not met, this can form the basis of a personal injury claim. With medical malpractice suits, many factors need to be considered, making this a complex area of law.
- Worker’s compensation claims: Employees injured on the job (or who become ill because of work-related conditions) in Florida can file for medical and/or disability payments that can help to compensate for what happened. Florida has two different types of workers’ compensation benefits—and, to qualify, timely notifications must be made to the appropriate person; if the workplace does not report your claim or the worker is otherwise treated unfairly, a personal injury lawyer can help determine the next steps and rectify the situation.
- Social Security disability claims: The reality is that Social Security claims—whether for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—can take a while to be processed. Plus, the chances of being denied can be high. Having the right paperwork, properly documenting your case, and filing on time can help to improve your chances of approval. If denied, you can continue to proactively seek compensation through the appeals process. Don’t wait to be denied, a personal injury lawyer can navigate your claim from start to finish.
- Premises liability: Property owners must protect visitors by adequately maintaining and securing their premises. They are responsible for helping to prevent accidental injuries as well as protecting people on site from any criminal activity on their property. Although each situation is different, it’s often reasonable for people to expect buildings to be securely locked and well lit, with quality security equipment and personnel. Premise liability can be a complex situation, often with issues overlapping.
- Product liability: Each state has its own product liability laws. Overall, they require manufacturers to create products that are not unreasonably dangerous. Factors that can be considered in a product liability personal injury case include the applicable standards of liability; statutes of limitations in which a person can take legal action; and caps on liability. Sometimes, more than one party along the product’s distribution chain may be liable; in other cases, sellers considered to be innocent may be released from the chain of liability.
- Traumatic brain injury: A significant traumatic brain injury (TBI) can change a person’s life forever, and even mild TBIs can make life more difficult, emotionally, physically, and financially. Leading causes can include auto accidents, slip and fall accidents, and being struck with or by an object. When a TBI occurs because of another person’s unreasonable act, this can form the basis for a personal injury claim.
- Spinal cord injury: Spinal cord injuries can be traumatic, life-changing events, both for the victim and his or her loved ones. Rehab costs can be quite expensive and so can surgeries and long-term care. The victim can become unable to handle routine daily tasks, to care for his or her family, and to earn a living. Common reasons for spinal injuries can include falls and car/motorcycle accidents. When another person’s unreasonable acts or negligence is at fault, then victims can pursue compensation.
- Boating and watercraft accidents: Florida is well known for its beautiful waterways, and people can enjoy being on the water in boats, jet skis, and other watercrafts. There are, however, dangers associated with these activities for operators and passengers alike. These accidents can result in serious accidents, from broken bones to traumatic injuries, and from concussions to internal injuries. If the boating accident is the result of someone else’s negligence or reckless behavior, this can be the basis of a personal injury claim.
What Personal Injury Attorneys Do
A personal injury lawyer’s main focus is to seek justice for victims who have suffered from accidents or other injuries through the fault of one or more other people. This type of accident attorney provides legal guidance and helps clients to obtain fair financial compensation. This can take place through negotiating, through arbitration/mediation, or in court.
If someone suffers a personal injury, the sooner an accident attorney is contacted, they will have the ability to build the strongest case possible. Steps the attorney will likely take include:
- Independently investigating the situation
- Gathering documents, including police reports, photos, witness statements, and so forth
- Negotiating with insurance companies and other attorneys
- Mediating, if that what makes sense for a claim
- Representing the client in court, if the process reaches that point
What to Do When You’ve Had an Accident
Because personal injury law covers such a wide range of possibilities, while there isn’t one procedure that addresses all types of situations, here are the important steps to take after being a victim in an accident:
- Carefully document the accident or injury, including dates and times, locations, events, and witnesses;
- Report it to appropriate authorities—and your employer if it is a work related incident;
- Avoid agreeing to a quick settlement from insurance companies;
- Contact an accident lawyer who is experienced with personal injury law in your state
How to Approach a Personal Injury Claim with a Pre-existing Condition
People who have been injured in an accident with a pre-existing condition have just as much right as anyone else to seek and receive compensation for the injuries caused by someone else’s negligence.
An attorney can help the injured party receive compensation for medical bills, loss of wages, pain and suffering, and more. However, pre-existing conditions should always be disclosed to help their attorney obtain a fair settlement. Failing to disclose these conditions can have a negative impact on a personal injury claim, affecting the attorney’s ability to present the case in its best light. Insurance companies and attorneys for the other parties involved can use this situation to discredit the injured party.
Here’s a more in depth look on how pre-existing conditions affect a personal injury claim.
When to Call a PersonaI Injury Lawyer
Sometimes, what seems to be a relatively minor accident can turn into a life-altering situation days, weeks, or even months down the road. Some common types of injuries, such as whiplash, may not be apparent directly following an accident—only to surface later, continuing to cause pain, ongoing medical treatment, and perhaps even lost wages. For this reason, we recommend seeking medical attention after an accident, then consult with a personal injury attorney even if injuries don’t seem severe.
Once you decide to seek legal counsel after your accident, the sooner you contact a personal injury attorney, the earlier the claim can be investigated. Victims are encouraged to contact an attorney before discussing the case with another party’s insurance company and before signing any documents from them.
The attorney can explain the legal rights that a person has after suffering from an illness or accident, and discuss mitigating factors that may suggest how more avenues exist to explore for compensation purposes.
Additionally, with an experienced attorney at your side, you won’t have to deal with insurance companies. Many insurance companies will try to persuade accident victims to sign a settlement agreement that’s presented as one designed with their best interests at heart. But they aren’t. Insurance companies look out for themselves and typically want you to sign a waiver that removes legal liability while offering the lowest settlement possible.
If you talk to an insurance company first, they will probably try to discourage you from contacting a personal injury attorney, suggesting that it’s simpler to just deal directly with them. Once you have an attorney on your side, they’ll be the ones communicating and negotiating with insurance companies. This will relieve the stress of negotiations while helping you to get the settlement you truly deserve.
After an accident or injury, your first priority should be on recovering your health, not talking to insurance agencies that won’t have your best interests front of mind. While you focus on your health, the attorney can navigate often-nuanced situations to obtain the best settlement possible.
If you’re already communicating with insurance companies and need assistance, it’s still not too late to contact an attorney to find out how to proceed from that point on.
How to Choose a Personal Injury Attorney
Experience matters. To find the accident attorney who has the experience you need to get the compensation you deserve:
- Contact friends, family members, and colleagues who have used the services of a personal injury lawyer and ask for recommendations.
- Conduct a Google search.
- Once you have a list of accident lawyers of interest:
- Review their websites to see if their services are a good match and that they practice in your state—and verify that they have the experience you need on your side.
- Check Martindale for attorney ratings.
- Contact an accident lawyer and schedule a free consultation. At this time you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions about how he or she would handle your case.
Scheduling an Initial Consultation
Initial consultations with a personal injury attorney are generally free of charge, with no pressure or obligation. It’s a good idea to know what to expect, and how to prepare for the consultation. During this meeting, the attorney will learn the details of your case, collect paperwork and documentation, and determine the strength of your case and how to move forward to get the best outcome.
This time is also dedicated to having your own questions about the injury attorney answered. After all, you are hiring the attorney to represent you and your case, you’ll want to make sure you feel comfortable and confident with the law firm’s experience, knowledge, and approach to handling your case.
Questions to ask can include:
- How experienced are you in my type of case?
- How much time can you dedicate to my case?
- How would you approach my situation?
- Do you think my claim will need to go to court?
- If so, how long would that take?
- What do you charge?
The attorney should be willing to answer your questions—and be sure to choose one who can provide straightforward answers without resorting to confusing legal-speak.
Types of Damages We Can Help You Recover
When personal injury damages are awarded, their purpose is to return the victims to the position they were in before the injury occurred. With a car accident, for example, damages can be awarded to repair or replace your vehicle, address physical problems caused by the accident, and help with mental suffering.
More specifically, compensation can be awarded for medical care expenses, including surgery costs and hospitalization. It can also cover transportation from the accident scene to the hospital, doctor bills, laboratory fees, tests, prescription medicines, and other medical treatments. Plus, compensation can be awarded for in-patient or out-patient physical therapy or rehab, nursing home care, walkers and other medical devices, and so forth.
Victims can receive compensation for future medical costs, lost income or wages, and loss of future earnings. Additional reasons would be to pay for household services that a victim can’t perform, perhaps cleaning or lawn mowing. In some scenarios, compensation in a wrongful death personal injury case can also be awarded for medical bills and funeral expenses for a loved one who didn’t survive.
Besides these forms of compensation, each of which is related to economics, there can also be funds awarded for non-economic losses. These can include damages for pain and suffering that is likely to occur in the future. Compensation can be awarded for emotional distress, from a loss of enjoyment of life to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Another non-economic loss is a loss of companionship. This can be because a loved one died during an accident or has been injured in a way that leads to this situation.
Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys at Harrell and Harrell, P.A.
Our personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means that you don’t pay us anything unless we recover compensation—and, if that happens, our attorney fees come from that monetary award.
Relying upon an outstanding combination of professional alliances, technical support, and continuing legal education, we’ve been practicing personal injury law since 1974 as a direct successor of Reinman and Harrell, P.A., at Harrell and Harrell, P.A.
Our on-staff licensed investigators give us the ability to provide rapid response after an accident, preserving vital evidence, and otherwise investigating personal injury claims to build the strongest case possible.
Personal injury attorneys at Harrell & Harrell, P.A., leverage their experience to determine legal strategies for your claim and to maximize compensation. Dedicated to our clients, we urge you not to settle for less than what you deserve. Here are testimonials from some of our clients and here is a selection of settlements that we’ve won for our personal injury clients. If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury, call or text us now at 904-251-1111.