Although you may think that you will never be in a car accident because you drive responsibly and obey the rules of the road, you have no control over the behavior of other drivers. Whenever you are in a vehicle - either as a driver or as a passenger - you are at risk of being involved in a crash caused by another driver who is intoxicated, distracted, speeding or inexperienced.
If you are suffering the financial and emotional consequences of a car accident that resulted from the negligence of another party, you may have many questions about how to go about pursuing recovery of damages.
- Do I have to file immediately? Some injuries seem insignificant immediately after a crash, and symptoms appear over an extended period of time. Whiplash can cause injuries to the neck or back that could result in long-term chronic pain. An accident could even cause brain injuries that are not immediately evident. For that reason, Florida's statute for limitations allows a victim four years to file a personal injury lawsuit - and that is from the date that the injury became evident. However, considering the fact that a personal injury lawsuit can take years to resolve, you may want to file as soon as possible.
- How do I determine the value of my damages? There are no set guidelines for calculating the value to claim. The financial losses for which you have receipts, such as doctors and hospital bills, vehicle repair costs, and other damages are not as tricky as the value of emotional damages. These include damages such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship and loss of life enjoyment. If you are in a high-income group, you may claim more for money lost due to absence from work than a person with lower wages.
- Whom can I name as the defendant? You will name the person who caused the car accident and your injuries as the defendant. However, if that person is underage, his or her parents or the owner of the vehicle can also be included in the lawsuit. In addition, if the at-fault driver was driving a company vehicle, the employer and owner of the vehicle can be named as additional defendants.
- Can I pursue recovery without hiring an attorney? Yes, you can - but you may wish you had not. Immediately after your crash, the insurance company of the driver deemed at fault will start pressuring you to settle. It will act in the interest of that driver, and your interest will be of no concern. Having an experienced Florida personal injury attorney on your side will serve you well. Your attorney can evaluate settlement offers and negotiate for coverage of all your damages. Furthermore, if the settlement from the insurance company is not acceptable and the claim goes to court for litigation, your lawyer can assist with the establishment of negligence that will be required before the court will consider a monetary judgment.
A seasoned attorney will work to protect your best interests. He or she will fight for the compensation you deserve and will use his or her experience to determine the value of the claim and ensure that everything is properly documented for adjudication by the court.