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What Is a Personal Injury Accident?

A personal injury accident is any accidental injury suffered by an individual and caused by the negligence or recklessness of another. Personal injuries can result from a wide variety of accidents and are usually litigated as negligence claims for money damages in civil court.  Personal injury accident claims (torts) allow the injured party to be “made whole” by being compensated for the harm caused by the injury. The damages sought in a personal injury case can include hospital and medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of spousal companionship, and various emotional distress claims.

How Do I Know If I Have a Case for an Injury Lawsuit?

The best way to know whether you have a suitable case for a personal injury lawsuit is to consult with a personal injury attorney. While lawyers are not formally certified specialists in the way physicians are, they do tend to concentrate their practices in particular areas. Lawyers who regularly handle personal injury cases will be most able to tell you if your case is a good one and what you will need to do to bring it to court. In other words, you do not go to a personal injury lawyer because you have a case; you go to find out if you have a case.

How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Cost?

Generally, personal injury cases are not handled on an hourly fee basis. While there is no legal reason that an injury case cannot be litigated that way, the existing financial injury to the claimant means that legal fees might bar them from going to court. For this reason, personal injury cases are most commonly handled as “contingency” fee cases.

What is a Contingency Fee?

A contingency fee is a fee that the client will owe to the attorney in the event that the attorney successfully recovers compensation on the client’s behalf. The compensation recovered can be in the form of an insurance settlement or a court judgment.

Personal Injury Lawyer Fees Explained

The contingency fee will be a percentage of the amount awarded by the jury or agreed to in a settlement. That percentage, usually 25 to 40%, is paid out of the proceeds of the case and does not include any expenses. In other words, if a client has agreed to a 30% contingency fee in a $100,000 winning case which has costs of $5,000, the attorney will receive $30,000 in fees, $5,000 in expenses (if not otherwise already paid), and the client will receive $65,000. Usually, the original amount is paid directly to the attorney or law firm, not the client. The law firm then subtracts its fees and expenses and forwards the balance to the client.

Depending on when in a case an award is made, a Florida attorney may charge up to 40 percent of the award in contingency fees.  If only damages are litigated in Florida, the trial lawyer may charge up to 33-1/3 percent of the first $1 million in damages, 20 percent of the recovery from $1 to $2 million, and 15 percent of any recovery over $2 million.

What are the Practice Areas of Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury law is a complex practice area. There are many specific types of accidents that cause personal injuries, and the cases are frequently handled in different ways. Thus, a particular attorney may focus his or her practice entirely on vehicle accidents while another concentrates on workplace accidents, which can present vastly different issues because of applicable statutes. Attorneys concentrating their practices on personal injury law tend to represent either plaintiffs or defendants exclusively.

Car Accidents

Car accident claims, like all vehicular injuries, are complicated by the involvement of insurance companies and the possibility that one party has received a traffic citation in the accident. The issues that can arise in a car accident case include:

  • Who was at fault –Because Florida is a no-fault insurance state, relatively minor accidents are typically handled by making a claim on your own PIP insurance policy. That said, in more serious cases, the at-fault party can be held liable for your accident-related losses.
  • What are the various injuries – The injuries at issue in the case will set its course. Are there physical injuries, emotional injuries, financial injuries? The plaintiff must prove each to have occurred as a result of the accident.
  • What damages arise out of those injuries – To recover, the plaintiff must show that the injuries caused his or her monetary or other damages. The amount of damages to be recovered will always be a significant issue in the case.
  • Impact of Insurance – Even in a no-fault state like Florida, the amount and types of insurance coverage carried by each party to the accident will critically impact the case. Although generally, juries will not know the amount of insurance coverage the parties have, the attorneys attempting to negotiate a settlement likely will. The policy limits will often define the agreed-upon settlement amount.
  • 14 Day PIP Rule –To file a PIP (personal injury protection) claim for damages in an auto accident in Florida, you must seek medical attention within 14 days of the injury. Failure to do so will prevent the filing of a claim.

Truck Accidents

Truck accidents are, at the most superficial level, just another vehicular personal injury case. However, they can differ significantly from a car accident case in some critical ways.

  • Truck size and extent of injuries – A truck can easily weigh ten to twenty times what a car weighs. With this weight disparity, the injuries will be correspondingly more severe.
  • Regulatory control of truck operations by state and federal regulators – Federal and state regulations control much of the way a trucking company and its drivers operate. Compliance with those regulations may be a significant factor in the case.
  • More significant resources of trucking companies – Trucking companies usually have more assets than do individuals. This financial disparity means that they have more at risk and more assets to fight a claim. Both of these will make them fight against claims harder than the average individual.

Motorcycle Accidents

As you may be aware, operating a motorcycle is so substantially different from driving a car that a different type of driver’s license is required. As you might expect from this fact, motorcycle accident claims vary significantly from car accident claims.

  • Higher fatality rates – According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA), someone riding a motorcycle is almost 27 times more likely to die in an accident than an automobile passenger and five times more likely to be injured. 
  • Proof of liability more difficult – insurance companies will try to argue that motorcycle operator was more likely to be negligent.
  • Helmet laws – Florida requires all riders under the age of 21 to wear a helmet.  Those over 21 can be exempt if they carry specified insurance. Eye protection is mandatory for everyone, even those exempt from the helmet laws. The application of these laws to your case can make recovery more complex.
  • Bigger injuries cause bigger stress – The higher injury rate and great seriousness of the injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident can impact your ability to negotiate. The other side will try to take advantage of that fact, and it is one reason to contact a lawyer sooner rather than later.

Slip and Fall Accidents

A “slip and fall” accident is one in which the injured party slipped, tripped, or fell while on another person’s property.  It is one of several kinds of “premises liability” injury cases.

Slip and fall accidents account for about 12% of annual emergency room visits, with the most vulnerable group being the elderly. Falls are responsible for nearly half of nursing home admissions, and more than half of nursing home residents will fall each year. The most common causes for slip and fall injuries are:

  • Poor lighting that hides hazardous conditions
  • Wet floors without a warning sign
  • Obstacles in pathways
  • Changes in floor heights without a warning sign
  • Narrow, steep, or poorly lit stairways
  • Uneven sidewalks or sidewalks with potholes or cracks
  •  Slippery conditions caused by weather

The owner of a property has a duty to maintain safe premises. A failure to do so that results in an injury can bring about a slip and fall case. Winning the case will depend upon whether the owner acted reasonably in maintaining the property. You must be able to prove that the owner did not act reasonably and that the failure to prevent the unsafe condition of which the owner was aware was the cause of your injury. A personal injury lawyer can assist you in making these judgments about your particular case.

Premises Liability Claims

A premises liability claim seeks to hold a property owner responsible for any damages that arise from an injury on the owner’s property. The property owner must make a reasonable effort to maintain a safe environment for visitors, guests, and even trespassers (under some conditions) to the property.

Under Florida law, three types of persons go to a property, and the owner’s duty of care depends on the type of visitor each person is.

  • Invitee – invitees are persons who are invited onto the property for business or personal reasons by the property owner. Owners owe the highest duty to these visitors since they are there for the owner’s benefit.
  • Licensee – licensees have been permitted on a property by the owner even though the property is not generally open to the public. The duty of care relating to them is lower than for invitees because they are not there for the owner’s benefit.
  • Trespasser – trespassers are those who are illegally present on a property. Owners owe them the lowest duty of care but can still be found liable for their injuries under the right circumstances.

For both invitees and licensees, an owner has a duty to take reasonable steps to maintain safe conditions to prevent injury. Generally, trespassers are only protected from intentional injury by the property owner.

Workplace Accidents

Workplace injuries are complicated because of government workplace regulation and, even more so, by the existence of Worker’s Compensation. Workers’ Compensation, historically, was developed to level the playing field in workplace injury recoveries. Workers were guaranteed a certain level of compensation, and employers could no longer argue that the worker had voluntarily assumed the risk that caused the injury.

In Florida, an employer must report your injury to its insurance company within seven days of notice of your injury. Once a worker reports the injury, claims based on incidents such as:

  • Falling objects
  • Overexertion
  • Slips and falls
  • Mechanical injuries
  • Repetitive motion injuries

are likely to be covered. However, your company may be more interested in protecting itself than in helping you receive appropriate compensation. Beware of that.

Florida law permits a filing under Chapter 440 to file a petition for benefits with the Division of Administrative Hearings, where the employee and employer disagree on benefits being provided. A judge will decide which is correct.

It may be possible that your workplace injury was the fault of some third party, such as the manufacturer of equipment that caused your injury. You may sue that third party and, if your employer knew about the issue and did nothing to fix it, you may also be able to sue your employer. These are subtle issues that should be discussed with a personal injury attorney.

Construction Accidents

Ten percent of Florida construction workers are injured every year. Florida also has the second-highest rate of fatalities for construction works as well. These injuries are usually severe and can lead to serious financial and employment consequences.

OSHA says that well more than half of all construction site injuries result from falls. Tripping or slipping, being hit by a falling object, being electrocuted, and other injuries account for the remainder.

One of the more complex legal issues on construction accidents and injuries is that it is difficult to pin down a responsible party or parties. Moreover, construction injuries are often subject to Workers’ Compensation which can affect recovery. This complex responsibility may provide the opportunity for a third-party claim. To be sure how to proceed, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your injury. 

Dog Bites

Florida is a strict liability state for dog bites, which means that an owner can be liable even without any prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive nature or tendency to bite. However, if the person bitten was negligent, the owner’s liability may be reduced. Liability can also be limited by displaying a sign including the words “Bad Dog.”  Liability also generally requires that any person over the age of 6 who is bitten must have been on the property lawfully. Although there is a statute mandating the euthanizing of dangerous dogs, its constitutionality is currently under review in Florida courts. Again, given the subtleties of Florida law on dog bites, it is wise to consult with a personal injury lawyer whether you are the dog owner or the bitten party.

Medical Malpractice

Possibly the most well-known negligence action – and perhaps the most procedurally complicated – is an action for recovery for injuries resulting from medical malpractice. MedMal, as it is called, is unusual in that:

  • Injuries are often catastrophic
  • Consent was in some sense given to the liable party’s conduct
  • Insurance companies are involved and will fight hard to avoid a significant award
  • A sworn affidavit from an expert peer is required in order to file

Florida has recently made changes to its medical malpractice laws, and it is therefore critical that you consult with experienced malpractice counsel before filing an action.

Medical malpractice requires proof that the medical care provided did not meet the required professional standard of care. A claim must be filed within two years of the injury or the time when you reasonably determined you were injured. The injured party must prove that there was a duty, a dereliction of that duty, that the carelessness directly caused the injury, and that the claimant suffered damages because of the injury.

MedMal claims in Florida are expensive because before you can file a claim, you must obtain an affidavit from an expert in the same field, indicating that the required standard of care was breached. Usually, this affidavit will itself be expensive. Without this affidavit, the case will be dismissed immediately/  All that being said, however, there are broad areas of medical malpractice claims which you may have:

  • Improper use of anesthesia
  • An incorrect or overly delayed diagnosis
  • Preventable injuries that occurred while the injured party was in the hospital

Assuming all the requirements are met, the injured party can seek compensatory damages. Non-economic damages such as pain, suffering, etc., are, under Florida law, capped at $500,000. Economic damages are usually not capped.

Wrongful Death

Wrongful death is a cause of action filed by the survivors of a party who died as a result of another party’s negligent or intentional conduct.  Such a case can arise out of negligence (e.g., a car accident), medical malpractice, an intentional act such as a crime, and due to a defective product. Only the personal representative or executor of the deceased person’s estate can file the wrongful death action in Florida.  A wrongful death action differs from a murder charge in that wrongful death is a civil action for which money damages are sought. Murder is a crime, chargeable only by the state. Also, civil wrongful death cases need only meet the preponderance of the evidence standard, while a crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. On the other hand, it is important to remember that there can be actions for both. The damages which may be recovered in a wrongful death action include:

  • Loss of support and services to the family
  • Loss of companionship and support
  • Mental pain and suffering
  • Loss of parental companionship
  • Medical and funeral expenses
  • Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings
  • Earnings that might have been expected to be earned by the deceased

As with most Florida tort cases, wrongful death claims can be complicated. If you think there may be such a case in your family, contact experienced counsel as soon as possible.

Why Should I hire Iscoe Law for a Personal Injury Case?

Gary Iscoe has been practicing law in Florida for thirty years. Over that time, he has concentrated his practice in personal injury and product liability cases. Cases successfully handled by Mr. Iscoe have led to changes in standards of care nationwide. His goal as an attorney is to help his clients get “back to their daily lives with the necessary compensation to do so.” 

Contact Iscoe Law Today: Free Consultation

If you have been injured in an accident, call Iscoe Law today. Attorney Gary Iscoe is an experienced Florida lawyer who is committed to helping his clients obtain the compensation to which they are entitled under the law. Your case evaluation is free, and you only pay legal fees if you recover your damages. Contact Iscoe law today