Once you’ve had the misfortune of being injured, you may consider
legal action to secure your right to financial compensation for your suffering.
When another person or entity is responsible for causing harm, hiring
an experienced personal injury attorney can often result in receiving
a more comprehensive damage award. Attorneys can also make all the difference
when dealing with insurance companies that want to keep payments to a
minimum. Of course, every situation is unique, and not all accidents can
be addressed through legal avenues. That’s why many personal injury
attorneys offer a free consultation.
A consultation is an opportunity for you to tell your story confidentially
to a professional who can gauge whether there is a legal basis for pursuing
your claim. The attorney will ask questions designed to get at the background
details that he or she feels are important. Many people are nervous or
anxious when speaking with an attorney, which can be lessened thorough
preparation. Bringing all significant documents, writing down a timeline
of important events, making a list of questions, and contemplating what
you would like the outcome to be can all help ease stress. Lawyers understand
that potential clients tend to be apprehensive and know how to steer the
conversation in the right direction.
Stages of a Personal Injury Action
- Choosing an attorney
- Filing papers with the court
- Motions to Dismiss, Summary Judgment
If you and the attorney agree to work together, you will be asked to sign
a retainer agreement that describes your obligations to each other. The
most common payment approach in a personal injury action is a “contingent
fee” arrangement, which means the lawyer is paid a fixed percentage
of the amount recovered (customarily one-third). If you recover nothing,
you pay the lawyer nothing, but you are still responsible for filing fees
and other court costs.
To begin a lawsuit, the lawyer you hire will file a document called the
“complaint” that broadly explains what you are claiming the
defendant did and how it injured you. Once filed, your attorney has a
specific period of time in which to locate the defendant and deliver the
complaint to him or her as notice of having been sued. The defendant then
has time to find an attorney and both sides have an opportunity to discuss
with each other what it would take to settle the case. Negotiations can
happen at any point after the complaint is filed and involve compromise
in order to be successful. If an agreement cannot be easily reached, then
trial preparations must continue.
The first part of preparation is called “discovery” and refers
to the exchange of information. If not freely given, answers can be formally
required through interrogatories, requests for admissions, requests for
certain documents, and depositions. It is common for cases to settle once
each side has a chance to examine the other’s evidence and witnesses.
This is also typically when motions to dismiss or for summary judgment
are filed. If a lawsuit proceeds to trial, the plaintiff’s side
presents its case before the defendant’s side. The judge determines
whether the plaintiff has proven that the defendant was responsible for
the plaintiff’s injury and, if so, how much the defendant must pay
in damages. Of course, winning is not the same as collecting the money,
which oftentimes requires its own process. There may also be an appeal
of the decision.
There are many terms and nuances involved in successfully resolving a
personal injury action, including venue, mediation, and proper service of papers. It is
imperative that you speak with a Florida personal injury lawyer who can
represent your interests and make the process go as smoothly as possible.
If you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing
it with one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms,
Stabinski & Funt, P.A. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates
for countless personal injury victims and their families. To learn more
about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact
us for a free consultation by calling 305-643-3100 or
filling out a case evaluation form.