Were you injured in a slip and fall, car accident, or other personal injury accident caused by someone else’s negligence? If so, you might be wondering about the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit in St. Petersburg, FL.
The Personal Injury Process Explained
While every case is different, most follow a similar pattern. An experienced St. Petersburg personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process, which may involve the steps detailed below.
An Accident Occurs
Your case begins on the day of the accident. Many accident scenes may be cleaned up quickly to protect the safety of others, so you may only have one shot to try to preserve as much evidence as you can.
You can take steps to protect your claim by:
- Asking for the responsible party’s contact and insurance information
- Requesting contact information for any witnesses who saw the accident
- Taking pictures of your injuries and the accident scene with your cell phone
- Reporting the accident to the authorities or property owner
Under a new law, most Florida personal injury lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of the accident. If you fail to take legal action before this deadline passes, your claim can be barred, and you can miss out on your opportunity to recover compensation through the courts.
Receive Medical Treatment
The most important thing you can do for your health and your legal claim is to seek prompt medical treatment. If you require emergency care, accept the ambulance transport at the scene of the accident. It’s not unusual for accident victims not to experience symptoms of injury immediately after the accident. Monitor yourself for possible injuries after the accident and seek medical attention as soon as you spot them.
Getting medical treatment also helps establish the connection between the accident and your injuries. Keep all of the paperwork your provider gives you.
Consultation With a Personal Injury Lawyer
We understand that you may be confused about the legal process and might have many questions. That’s why we provide a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. If you decide to hire us, we can begin work immediately on your claim without any upfront payment from you.
File an Insurance Claim
Next, you will likely notify your insurance company of the accident and file an insurance claim.
Florida is a no-fault state for car accidents, so you turn first to your own insurer for coverage following an accident. However, you might be able to file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company, too.
If you call their insurance company, you do not have to give a recorded statement. You can stick to the facts or refer the insurance company to your lawyer.
Investigation of the Accident and Injuries
Your lawyer will conduct an investigation into the accident. While insurance companies will often send adjusters to investigate the accident, those individuals work for the insurance company, so their findings may not be in your favor.
Your lawyer’s investigation may consist of the following:
- Reviewing the police report or accident report
- Identifying who is at fault for the accident and the legal theories to hold them accountable
- Preserving evidence before it is lost or destroyed
- Reviewing your medical records
- Reviewing all applicable insurance policies
- Looking at pictures of the accident scene
- Interviewing eyewitnesses and preparing witness statements
This investigation may uncover valuable evidence to help you establish your claim and prove your damages.
Your lawyer will try to determine the full value of your claim by identifying and adding up all of your accident-related losses, which may include:
- Medical expenses
- Future anticipated medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Property damage
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress or mental anguish
Determining the value of your claim is essential before demanding payment for it.
Send a Demand Letter
Once your lawyer is armed with the facts and evidence to support them, they can begin drafting a demand letter. This is a carefully-crafted letter to the recipient that says they are responsible for your injuries and demands a certain amount of compensation to drop the legal claim against them.
The insurance company may respond to the demand letter, likely by offering less compensation. Your lawyer and the insurance company can go back and forth until they reach a settlement or your lawyer decides to file a legal complaint.
File a Legal Complaint
If your lawyer does not reach an out-of-court settlement, they may proceed by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
The complaint they prepare must follow certain requirements as set out by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and must include:
- A cause of action
- A short and plain statement of the grounds that shows why the court where the lawsuit is filed has jurisdiction over the matter
- A short and plain statement of the facts laying out why you are legally entitled to relief
- A demand for the relief you are asking the court to grant
The legal complaint and a subpoena that establishes how long the defendant has to respond to the action must be legally served on the defendant.
The Discovery Phase
After the defendant responds to the complaint by filing their answer, the next phase of the case is discovery. Discovery is the formal process of opposing sides in a legal case exchanging information to help them prepare for a trial.
Discovery requests can take many forms, such as asking the opposing side to answer questions, providing certain documents, and making admissions to matters relevant to the case.
Either party can request mediation. This is an informal process in which a neutral third party tries to get the parties to settle their claim by aligning their interests and pointing out the weaknesses in their respective cases. If the parties settle the case, the mediator draws up a mediation agreement, and the parties present it to the court to dismiss the case.
Engage in Trial Preparation
The parties prepare for trial by reviewing evidence, filing motions with the court, and preparing their witnesses.
Reach a Settlement
At any point before a verdict is reached, the parties can ultimately agree to settle the matter, in which case they will ask the court to dismiss the case. Insurance companies may be motivated to settle the case if they fear a lengthy and expensive trial on the road ahead.
Go to Trial
If the case has not yet been dismissed or settled, it proceeds to trial. At trial, your lawyer presents witnesses and evidence to support your version of events. The defense then presents its witnesses and evidence.
At the conclusion of the trial, a verdict is reached. If the case is resolved in your favor, the amount of your damages will also be calculated.
Contact an Experienced St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorney If You Need Help Filing a Lawsuit
If you have any questions about this process or would like to learn if you have grounds for a personal injury case, reach out at (727) 933-0015 to an experienced personal injury lawyer in St. Petersburg, Florida.