The thought of hiring a Florida personal injury attorney can be unnerving for many people. In most cases, an attorney is only required after something bad has happened. Whether it be an accident, an arrest, a death, a bankruptcy, a divorce or a disability claim, the circumstances that require assistance from an attorney are usually horribly negative.
But on a positive note, it is better to remember that hiring a Florida personal injury attorney will be the first step in solving your problem. Knowing what to expect in your personal injury case can ease your mind about what will happen in the initial consultation, investigation of your case, negotiation, litigation, and the final outcome.
Personal injury law covers a wide variety of situations. Therefore, it is best to consult an attorney who practices specifically in that area.
The Florida Bar requires attorneys to operate by a very strict set of ethics rules. Many people are uncomfortable retaining a personal injury attorney because they don’t want to be seen as litigious or “one of those sue happy people.” Remember, just because you talk to an attorney doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to sue someone. You may not even have a case.
One issue a personal injury attorney will discuss with you is liability. Liability involves the issue of whether or not someone else is at fault for your injuries. You must be able to show that someone did something wrong or negligent that caused you to be hurt. For example, just because your loved one went into the hospital and died, doesn’t necessarily mean you can sue the hospital. In order to have a good case, you must be able to show that a doctor made a mistake that caused your loved one’s death.
Damages are also important. Damages are the harm you have suffered as a result of the other party’s negligence. A good case needs both liability and damages. Just because someone does something bad or negligent, doesn’t necessarily mean you can successfully sue them. For example, imagine that the parking brake on your car is defective and your car rolls down a hill with your child in it, but your child does not sustain any physical injuries. You cannot successfully sue the car manufacturer. You must have damages, or your case has no value. No harm, no foul.
Talking to a personal injury can help you determine if it’s worthwhile to pursue a case. Ethical personal injury attorneys won’t take frivolous cases.
The Initial Consultation
Most attorneys can tell you over the phone whether or not you may have a case. The next step should be a face-to-face meeting. There, you and the attorney can discuss your case in more detail to determine if it is worth pursuing.
Your attorney will go over the details of your accident and injuries. The attorney can then outline the strengths and weakness of your case and let you know the potential risks and rewards of pursuing it.
You should bring as much information as possible to this meeting. Letters from the insurance companies, names and phone numbers of insurance adjusters, photos of the accident scene and injuries, and names of doctors and medications you are taking are all important.
Remember, just because an attorney agrees to meet with you, doesn’t mean the attorney has agreed to represent you. Signing a contract ensures an attorney-client relationship has been created.
The Contract or Fee Agreement
Once you feel you have the right attorney, and the attorney is willing to take your case, you and your attorney will sign a contract. The contract will state what the attorney is going to do for you and how much you will have to pay the attorney.
The vast majority of personal injury attorneys represent their clients on a contingency fee basis. This means that the attorney only gets paid if the attorney obtains a financial recovery for you. Your lawyer will take a percentage of the total winnings or settlement at the end of the case. If the attorney does not obtain a recovery for you, you will not owe a fee.
Make sure you read the contract to ensure it details everything the lawyer told you in the initial meeting. If you have questions, ask them. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t sign the contract.
Beginning the Case
In the initial stages, you are your lawyer’s most important source of information. Your lawyer will need you to provide your description of the accident, names of witnesses, and medical and insurance information. The lawyer’s first step will usually be to contact the relevant insurance companies to let them know you are represented.
As the case progresses, you will likely be asked to provide detailed information about your life, including past medical treatment, prior accidents, employment history, and possibly criminal history. The other side requires this information to fairly evaluate your case and determine how much money they may be willing to offer.
Deciding to Work with a Florida Personal Injury Attorney
Deciding to bring a legal case can be a huge decision, and a very personal one. It can be stressful and frightening if you are uninformed. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can relieve much of the stress that goes along with being injured in an accident.
We are here to help you. Don’t be afraid to contact us for help!