As a Melbourne accident attorney, it’s my job to help injury victims get compensated for their losses. The first step of any injury compensation case is reviewing the situation with the client. When initially discussing a case with a potential client, some of the first questions they will ask is, “Am I eligible for compensation?” and “How much compensation will I receive?” These questions may seem simple, but the answer is often pretty complex. Here, let’s try and answer these questions through the context of compensatory damages available in the State of Florida.

The Many Types of Compensatory Damages in Florida

First, it’s important to note that there are all sorts of types of losses for which one can be compensated in Florida. Most people’s minds typically shift straight to economic losses, such as loss of income or medical expenses, but there is a wider spectrum of damages available in another major category. This other category is called non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages, as mentioned above, include compensation for loss of income, damaged property, medical costs, and lost opportunity. These types of damages are pretty straight forward. The law looks to place the person who suffered back in the position they would have been, had they not been injured. It’s easy to determine what is owed for medical costs — one only need look to doctors’ bills and receipts. Similarly, in cases of damaged property, one will just need to determine the value of the property and the cost of repair or replacement.

Typically, the same can be said for loss of income: how much work did the victim miss, and how much money would he or she otherwise have received during this period? However, if the injury results in a permanent inability to work, the amount of lost income is much harder to determine. In this case, courts look to a variety of factors to calculate the victim’s loss of wage earning capacity. These factors include:

  1. Extent of actual physical impairment;
  2. Claimant’s age;
  3. Industrial history;
  4. Education of claimant;
  5. Inability to obtain work of a type which claimant can perform in light of his after-injury condition;
  6. Wages actually being earned after the injury (a factor entitled to great weight);
  7. Claimant’s ability to compete in the open labor market the remainder of his life, including the burden of pain, or inability to perform the required labor;
  8. Claimant’s continued employment in the same employ.

Non-economic Damages

While economic damages tend to be straight forward, non-economic damages are often much more complex. The most common types of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and emotional distress. These types of non-economic damages are complicated because, unlike medical bills and lost income, there is no way to quantify their value. Determining the compensation value of an individual’s personal pain and suffering is a completely subjective endeavor. This is because only the victim truly knows the extent to which they are suffering from physical pain or emotional harm.

Although determining non-economic damages for pain and suffering is largely subjective, the law does look to non-abstract factors in calculating their value. Some of these factors include:

  • the severity of the injury;
  • the type of medical treatment received;
  • the length of the recover; and
  • other long term consequences.

How is the Amount of Damages Ultimately Determined?

In some cases, the amount of damages is easily quantified, and all parties are able to agree to a settlement. However, in other cases — and more often in cases of non-economic damages — the amount of compensation will be disputed in whole or part by either party. In such a situation, the case will go to trial. At trial, both parties will present their arguments, and the amount of compensation awarded to the claimant will ultimately be decided by a jury.

Find Out if You’re Entitled to Compensation Today

Whether you’ve been injured in a car crash, motorcycle accident, by a slip and fall, or by some other cause of negligence, you probably already know that you may be eligible for compensation. But what types of compensation are available in your case, and how much can you be awarded? These questions can be answered by speaking with a qualified personal injury lawyer. For a free consultation, contact Collingsworth Law at (321) 222-0234.

Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions in Florida Injury Law

If you have been recently injured and have consequently experienced costly medical bills or the inability to work, you are probably wondering, “Do I have a personal injury case?”

First, before running off to hire an injury lawyer, take a few minutes to determine whether or not you have a legit injury compensation claim, and also review some of the other most commonly asked questions by injury victims.

How does Florida Law entitle you to an injury compensation claim?

Under the laws of the State of Florida, an individual is entitled to receive compensation for his or her injury if the following is proved:

  1. The person or party owed you a duty of care and breached that legal duty in causing your injury. This concept is generally referred to as “negligence.”
  2. In consequence of the response party’s action(s) (or lack thereof), you suffered some form of losses or damages (e.g., lost wages, disability, property damage, or medical expenses).

If you schedule a free consultation with Collingsworth Law, we will review the facts of your case and can determine whether the above test has been satisfied.

For further insight, read how Florida’s 11th Circuit Court of Appeals interprets the theory of negligence here, in the 2011 case, Downs v. U.S. Army Corps.

For What Types of Damages Can I Sue for and Recover?

Florida is a comparative fault jurisdiction. This means that a party’s percentage of fault in causing the injury is used as a measure to determine damages. If the other party’s actions contributed to or caused your injury, they will pay for some, or all, of the losses you sustained from the accident. These losses include:

  • past and future medical expenses;
  • past and future lost wages;
  • damaged property;
  • emotional distress;
  • disfigurement or disability; and
  • any other losses that impact your ability to work and function, perform day-to-day tasks, and have healthy relationships.

How much does it cost to hire a personal injury lawyer?

Many people are understandably wary when it comes to seeking legal advice, because, after all, lawyer fees are typically pretty steep. However, in the case of Florida injury law, virtually all attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you don’t pay the lawyer anything upfront; they are only paid from the settlement or verdict that is awarded in your case. In other words, you don’t pay an injury lawyer until AND unless they win your case. Lawyers typically keep 1/3 of the client’s successful settlement or verdict to cover their legal fees. To learn more about how this works, check out this post that explains the concept in more detail: Florida Contingency Fees Explained

What to consider when hiring a personal injury lawyer?

If you’re hiring an attorney, the first thing you need to do is confirm that they are licensed to practice by the Florida Bar. Secondly, you want to find a lawyer that you are comfortable. If you have been severely injured, you have a lot at stake. Because the legal process can take many months to unfold, it’s important to have a lawyer in which you trust. Don’t just consider the lawyer’s experience or past verdicts. It’s equally important to weigh factors such as the size of the firm, the law office’s distance from your home, and the lawyer’s handling of communication. Learn more about choosing a personal injury lawyer here.

Once I hire an injury attorney, what are my rights?

Whether or not you have already hired a personal injury lawyer, it’s important to know that the State of Florida provides certain protections of your rights to help safeguard you from unscrupulous lawyers. Please, do yourself a favor and read the following piece published by the Florida Bar Association: Statement of Clients’ Rights in Contingency Fee Cases.

How long do I have to file an injury claim or law suit?

In most situations, if you have been injured by another party, a fixed time period is set that defines the amount of time you have to file a law suit against the offender. This is referred to as a “statute of limitations.” Under Florida law, if you been injured in an accident, you must file suit within four years of the date of the accident. Once this date has passed, you are barred from seeking any legal claim for losses resulting from the accident.

How long does it take to go through the legal process and receive a check?

Personal injury cases vary significantly in length. Some cases settle within weeks, while others go on to trial and can persist for months or even years. Typically, the more complex the case and/or the higher the amount of damages being sought, the longer the process will be.

What are contingency fee agreements, how do they work, and what are your rights as a client?

I’ve heard the same story dozens of times and it goes something like this:

A friend, cousin, acquaintance, etc., was injured in an automobile accident due to the fault or negligence of another driver. Instead of retaining an accident lawyer, the individual negotiated directly with the insurance company. In doing so, the individual quickly received a check for a large sum of money, and ultimately walked away with less hassle and more money than he or she otherwise would have if an attorney had been involved.

It sounds simple enough, right? But, if you’ve been severely injured and your financial security along with your family’s well-being is on the line, is it wise to try and negotiate with the insurance company without a lawyer? Let’s assess the situation and potential outcomes further.

Is the Insurance Company A Friend or Foe?

It’s important to keep in mind that insurance is big business. They do business to make a profit, not to write checks for ailing victims. In order to make a profit, they obviously have to collect more than they pay out. The result is that, for any given insurance claim, they are always going to try and payout as little as they can get away — even if it means that the claimant is fully entitled under the law to additional compensation.

The insurance agent you negotiate with will likely seem friendly, and may even be wearing khakis, but he or she is not “Jake from State Farm,” and they are not their to work on your behalf. They are representing the company that is trying to save money on your claim.

What’s more important to know is that if you negotiate with the insurance company and agree to a settlement, you are in effect forever waiving your right to further pursue the claim. Here are some questions to consider before agreeing to a settlement:

  • What if your injury is most costly or more severe than you originally thought?
  • What if there are unrealized financial losses that arise from the injury?
  • Will your injury require frequent medical treatment indefinitely?
  • Is the insurance company fully compensating you for your losses?

These are questions that an experienced personal injury attorney takes into account when assessing your case and negotiating with the insurance company.

How Else Does A Personal Injury Lawyer Help?

While the insurance adjuster is working on behalf of their company, an attorney is working solely on your behalf and in your best interest. A personal injury lawyer is bound by a fiduciary duty to act solely in your interest in the course of your representation. The key element here is trust — you can rely on your accident attorney’s word and advice knowing that they are pursuing your claim to the furthest extent under the law. If you think you’re interested in retaining an attorney, take your time and don’t rush into anything. You don’t have to hire the first attorney to whom you speak. It may help to read these tips on choosing a personal injury lawyer.

Is it too Late to Hire an Attorney?

If you have already started negotiations with your insurance company without the benefit of legal counsel from a personal injury lawyer, it might not be too late to reconsider your options. It’s important to be cautious in not signing or waiving away any of your rights to the claim until you are certain that the settlement offer meets your satisfaction. If you are mulling over your decision, please do not hesitate to call Collingsworth Law for a pressure-free free case evaluation.

There’s no shortage of large personal injury law firms that have a presence here in the relatively small town of Melbourne, Florida. You see the commercials on television, hear the ad spots on the radio, and see the billboards on our local highways. These personal injury law firms have been around for a long time. They are experienced, well-known, and have a process in place that is designed to produce a favorable result for their clients. However, there are many other things to consider when hiring a personal injury attorney that these ads never seem to mention.

Communication With Your Personal Injury Lawyer

Many people don’t take into consideration the type of communication they will have with their legal team when selecting a personal injury attorney. With some larger personal injury firms, your case could be seen through from start to end without you ever meeting or even speaking to your actual attorney. A case manager or administrative assistant will provide you occasional updates on your case, and this is often done through the mail. Are you alright with only having indirect communication from your lawyer about your pending case? If not, it may be wise to seek counsel from a smaller law firm or solo practitioner.

  • Are you okay with not corresponding directly with your injury attorney?
  • Does a “hands-off” approach appeal to you in a situation in which your livelihood may depend?
  • How complex is the potential litigation arising from your injury claim?
  • If your case is likely to go to trial, how will legal costs and fees be covered?

Experience of the Injury Lawyer that’s actually handling YOUR Case

In most cases, the lawyer you see on the television ad or billboard isn’t going to be the attorney that’s personally handling your case. The law firm may boast of years of experience and list off million dollar verdicts, but typically, you can expect a young associate and/or paralegal to do most of the leg work on your case.

The Vast Majority of Personal Injury Cases Aren’t Million Dollar Paydays

The average personal injury settlement is nowhere near a million dollar payout. However, some cases arise that are immensely complex in both legal and technical issues. It is these types of cases that may involve large sums of money; often because the injury is either fatal or catastrophic, while diagnosis of the injury requires strict medical scrutiny and/or the proximate cause of the injury is in question. In these rare events, sometimes a single injury lawyer will not have the resources available to handle your case without alone. In this circumstance, having an injury lawyer with the resources of a large law firm at their disposal could be an advantage. On the other hand, a smaller law firm or solo practitioner does always have the option to bring outside counsel on board, whether it be the aid of another attorney, or the support of a large firm.

Costs of Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney

Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis. This means that the client doesn’t pay the lawyer unless he or she successfully reaches a settlement or positive verdict. In this case, the attorney is paid out of the funds awarded to the client. Typically, Florida personal injury attorneys collect 33% of this sum. However, there are many other legal costs and expenses that are not handled the same way by all Florida injury law firms. Costs for things like conducting depositions, creating trial exhibitions, court filing fees, and attaining medical records and police reports can quickly add up, especially if the case goes to trial. Be sure you understand how your injury attorney will collect these fees. Some lawyers require the client to pay for these costs as they arise; others will add these fees onto their final percentage of your judgment or settlement.

Results Matter

When hiring a personal injury lawyer, the biggest concern on the mind of most individuals is probably getting results from their case. It’s important to keep in mind that, just because a lawyer reached a huge settlement for another client, it doesn’t mean they can or will attain a similar result for you. No one can predict the future, and there are few guarantees in life. This is why it’s a good idea to meet an attorney, discuss your case, and only hire them if you feel comfortable placing your future in their hands.

Why Collingsworth Law?

At Collingsworth Law, our Melbourne, FL, practice is small, but each and every client that comes through the door is huge. We don’t judge a case by the potential dollar value, but by its importance to the client. We ensure that every client has access to fluid communication, directly with their injury lawyer, John Collingsworth.

  • Direct communication with and direct access to your lawyer
  • No case is bigger or more important than your own
  • An aggressive advocate that will always put 100% behind his words and your representation

Collingsworth Law does not boast decades of experiences, lists of million-dollar settlements, or an elaborate office of mahogany and marble; but our firm will work as hard as any to see that you attain just compensation for your injuries and are satisfied with our representation throughout the legal process. If you or a loved-one has been injured and think you may be entitled to compensation, please call us for a free consultation today at (321) 222-0234.