After being injured in a motor-vehicle crash, you may be feeling some combination of anxiety, depression, and confusion. On top of significant damage to your vehicle, you could be dealing with serious physical trauma, missed time at work, and severe pain. Our car accident attorneys in St. Petersburg know what you’re going through and are ready to help you fight for the settlement you need to move on with life.
To speak with one of our attorneys in a free consultation, call (727) 821-1500. There’s no upfront cost to take advantage of our legal services, and no attorneys’ fees are charged unless we win.
How Can a St. Petersburg Car Accident Attorney Help Me Prove Fault?
The vast majority of collisions between vehicles are unintentional accidents. The at-fault driver did not mean to cause any damage, but due to their actions, damage still occurred. As a result, an injured person must pursue their case through the legal theory known as negligence. Our attorneys can help you establish negligence.
Negligence applies specifically when an individual is injured in an accident. In order to recover, plaintiffs in St. Petersburg car accident cases must prove that:
- The defendant owed them a duty to care for their wellbeing
- Something done by the defendant—or possibly a failure to act—violated this duty
- This violation of duty resulted in an injury
As applied to car accident cases, all drivers assume a duty to care for all other drivers. This duty also extends to passengers and pedestrians. If any motorist drives in a way that places anyone else in jeopardy, they are responsible for any damages that result. Accordingly, evidence of a defendant speeding, failing to yield, driving while drunk, or texting while driving is also evidence of negligence.
A plaintiff must also be sure to file their case within the time limits provided by law, also known as the statute of limitations. If they do not meet this time limit, the court may refuse to hear the case and the defendant’s insurance company would almost certainly no longer negotiate a settlement. According to Florida Statutes §95.11, plaintiffs have four years from the date of the injury to bring their civil case forward.
What Types of Compensation Are Available to the Injured?
At the center of any car accident case is a physical injury. No matter how damaged a plaintiff’s car may be or how mentally shaken they are, their case cannot go forward without a physical injury. This injury can be almost anything, ranging from cuts and scrapes to severe spinal cord injuries or broken bones. A claim can demand compensation for all the medical costs associated with treating these injuries.
However, a comprehensive claim should examine the total impact of the accident on the life of the plaintiff. This may include payments for any time lost at work, any permanent loss of future earning ability, as well as any loss of enjoyment of life and mental suffering endured by the plaintiff. A car accident lawyer in St. Petersburg could work with clients to ensure that every aspect of their case is accounted for in settlement negotiations.
What Kinds of Experts Might Contribute to My Case?
Sometimes it is necessary to consult with various experts and perhaps to depose certain specialists during discovery. There are many kinds of experts who might play a role in a motor-vehicle collision case. Common examples include:
- Economist: An economist might be called on to assist your lawyer in approximating a fair value for lost earnings and loss of future earning capacity.
- Vocational Expert: The insurance company may argue that you are able to return to work, even if your injuries prevent you from doing so or a healthcare provider has instructed you to rest. In this scenario, a vocational expert may be deposed regarding how your injuries would hamper your job performance and productivity.
- Accident Reconstruction Expert: These specialists can investigate the accident scene and assess photos and other evidence to determine how the crash took place, thus potentially helping your attorney establish liability.
- Medical Expert: Besides assisting your lawyer in estimating the total cost of medical interventions, a medical expert may also provide deposition regarding the expected timeline of your recovery. If you will require several years of care, procedures, medications, and other necessary services, it is likely that one or more medical specialists will play a role in your case. Accounting for all past and future healthcare costs is essential if you want to avoid falling into debt. At Emerson Straw PL, we have access to a network of well-credentialed experts in a wide variety of disciplines who have the qualifications and experience necessary to provide credible deposition.
How Long Will It Take to Resolve My Case?
Medical bills, repair costs, home modifications, alternative transportation, childcare—sustaining a serious injury often triggers an avalanche of expenses that can leave you feeling snowed in. As such, you’re probably eager to find out when you and your family can get hold of the funds you need to get back on your feet.
Unfortunately, due to the wide range of factors that can come into play during a personal injury case, it’s impossible to guarantee a specific outcome for your claim. Ideally, you want to reach a fair settlement outside of court, but whether or not this happens will depend largely on the nature of any disputes that arise.
Here a few factors that could influence the duration of your case:
- Whether You Made Any Errors: Did you provide a recorded statement to the insurance company? Did you post about your injuries on social media? Did you fail to follow your doctor’s instructions? Even a clear-cut case can begin to unravel during negotiations if any disputes arise due to your own mistakes or oversights.
- Whether More Than One Party Is Liable: It is not uncommon for liability for an injury to be shared among multiple parties. In some scenarios, it is even possible for a claimant to share liability with the defendant(s). Our auto accident lawyers in St. Petersburg can help counter disputes by compiling all available evidence of liability and estimating each party’s percentage of fault based on relevant statutes and case law.
- How Long It Takes You to Reach Maximum Medical Improvement: Even if you have a strong case, it may be in your best interests not to conclude the negotiations until you have achieved maximum medical improvement, which is the point in your medical recovery when your condition is not expected to improve any further. Waiting to reach MMI will give your lawyer a better idea of the total cost of healthcare and other damages.
- Whether You’re Seeking a Large Sum: Typically, if a claimant is seeking a smaller sum, the insurance provider is less likely to devote extensive resources to challenging their claim. However, if you are seeking a significant amount of money, you can expect the claims adjuster to look for any reason to deny or reduce the value of your claim. For instance, your social media accounts may be monitored, you could be placed under surveillance, and the insurance company may hire experts to assess your medical records to scan for evidence of a preexisting condition. These are just a few tactics an insurance company may employ to dispute your case.
Should I Visit the Doctor Even If My Injuries Are Minor?
You’ve dusted yourself off, and it appears—besides a few minor cuts and bruises—that you’ve survived the accident relatively unscathed. Understandably, you might think there’s no need to schedule a doctor’s appointment, but if you’re planning on filing a personal injury claim, forgoing a doctor’s visit could harm your case. Here are few reasons why you should not skip a medical evaluation if you’re planning to file a personal injury claim:
- Your May Aggravate or Exacerbate Your Injuries: Without immediate treatment, many car accident injuries and conditions can worsen, resulting in complications and additional medical costs. But skipping a doctor’s visit doesn’t just have ramifications for your wellbeing; delaying your diagnosis could also give rise to disputes when you file your personal injury claim. As a claimant in a personal injury case, you have a duty to take sufficient steps to mitigate damages. As such, it’s not only important to seek immediate medical treatment after an accident but also to follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter. Divert from the script and the insurance company may assert that you were negligent and thus are liable for at least a portion of your damages.
- It Might Be More Difficult to Prove Damages: The insurance company won’t just take you at your word. Claims adjusters want to see official documentation, which can include medical records regarding the severity of your injuries, prescribed treatments, and other elements of your recovery. When you first visit the doctor, he or she will create these official records, which can play a vital role in proving damages and helping your lawyer estimate a fair settlement.
- The Insurer Might Dispute the Severity of the Injury: If you don’t seek immediate treatment, the insurance company could assert that your injuries are not that serious. While many conditions may initially present with only minor or latent symptoms, delaying your diagnosis could be enough for the opposing party to dispute your claim. By scheduling a doctor’s appointment immediately after the accident, you can help emphasize that your injuries were indeed severe.
- You Might Face Other Disputes: To win a settlement in a third-party insurance claim, you must prove three elements: liability, causation, and damages. Simply put, you not only will need to show that the defendant was responsible for causing the accident but also that their negligence or wrongful act(s) led to your damages. If you drag your heels and delay your diagnosis, it may be harder to tie your injuries to the incident in question. The opposing party may even assert that your injuries stem from a pre-existing condition or separate accident.
How Much Is My Auto Accident Case Worth?
Many factors might go into estimating the value of damages in a personal injury claim. Here are a few that could influence the potential settlement amount:
- Medical Expenses: The road to recovery can be arduous and stressful, but this journey won’t just take its toll on your mental health. Medical care can be incredibly expensive, putting an immense strain on your finances. As a result, it’s not uncommon for medical costs to make up the lion’s share of a settlement. When approximating fair compensation, our attorneys may consider a wide range of expenses including emergency services, medical procedures, prescription drugs, physical therapy, orthopedics, home modifications, and more.
- Pain and Suffering: The effects of a serious injury are not always reflected in invoices and receipts. Pain and suffering can degrade your quality of life, leaving you unable to complete everyday tasks or enjoy your favorite pastimes. As such, these non-economic damages may be recoverable as part of your settlement. Typically, lawyers will use one of two methods to estimate the value of pain and suffering. For example, our attorneys may multiply the total cost of your economic damages by a number between 1.5 and 5. This multiplier is based on the seriousness of your injuries. Alternatively, a dollar amount may be assigned to each day from the date you first suffered your injury until you reach maximum medical improvement.
- Lost Wages: If your injuries prevented you from returning to work for any length of time, these lost earnings might be recoverable as part of your personal injury claim. Our St. Petersburg car accident lawyers may consult with vocational experts to help prove that your injuries inhibited your ability to do your job or affected your job performance. If you suffered a long-term or permanent disability, you may also be able to seek damages for loss of future earnings.
- Property Damage: If your vehicle and any other personal property was destroyed or damaged in the incident, the cost of replacement or repairs could be factored into the settlement estimations.
Call Us Today for a Free Consultation with a Car Accident Lawyer
Dealing with the aftermath of an accident is difficult enough, especially if you are coping with severe injuries and mental anguish. Our car accident lawyers in St. Petersburg are ready to stand up for your rights. Call us today at (727) 821-1500 to schedule a free consultation.