Florida Personal Injury: FAQ

How do I decide if I need to hire an attorney for a personal injury claim in Florida?

Hiring an attorney may or may not be necessary depending on the stature of your claim and the severity of your injury.  Small claims court in Florida will handle claims up to $5000. If your injury is a minor one that will not result in any incapacity, or substantial medical care, then you may want to settle it yourself in small claims court.

An attorney should be consulted if you have been seriously injured or are unsure as to the outcome of your injury. Personal injury cases can get quite complicated. In such cases, an attorney will have the legal expertise, time and resources to effectively handle your claim. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to accurately analyze the value of your case and will be able to meet all of the rules, requirements and deadlines that have to be met. Also of note is the fact that statistics show insurance companies pay more than twice as much compensation when an attorney is involved in your claim.

How much will an attorney cost for a personal injury claim in Florida?

Most attorneys who believe a case has merit will take the case without payment up front. They will take the case on a contingency basis, which means they will receive a percentage of your award if and when you recover for your injuries. The Florida Supreme Court and the Florida Bar have adopted a maximum fee schedule that attorneys are permitted to charge in contingency fee cases. Generally speaking, contingency fees may not exceed 40% of the first $1 million, 30% of the second million, and 20% of all amounts over $2 million. If an appeal is filed the fee may rise 5% more. There are other limitations, exceptions, and special circumstances where this may vary. If you and your attorney agree to a contingency fee, the attorney must put the agreement and in writing and provide you with a signed copy.

Out of pocket expenses may be added to a flat fee or contingency fee for expenses such as filing fees, deposition fees, expert witness fees, and other similar expenses. The attorney's out of pocket costs are, in many cases, not included in the attorney's fees. You should be sure to pay attention to how an attorney will bill you for costs because they can amount to quite a significant sum.

How long do I have to hire an attorney for a personal injury claim in Florida?

The law requires that you file a lawsuit within a specified period of time depending on the nature of the claim and the entity that caused your injury. This is referred to as the statute of limitations. Failure to file suit within this time frame prevents you from filing suit at all. In Florida, an action for recovery of damages for injuries based on a cause of action for negligence must be brought within four years from the date of accrual of the cause of action. The statute is tolled for minority or previously adjudicated incapacity, but in all cases the action must be commenced within seven years after the date of the incident.

Actions based on medical malpractice must be commenced within two years from the date of the incident or from the date when the incident was or should have been discovered, but never more than four years from the date of incident unless the claimant is a minor. The statute of limitations for wrongful death is two years from the date of death.

The law requires that you file a lawsuit within a specified period of time depending on the nature of the claim and the entity that caused your injury. This is referred to as the statute of limitations. Failure to file suit within this time frame prevents you from filing suit at all. In Florida, an action for recovery of damages for injuries based on a cause of action for personal injury or product liability must be brought within four years from the date of accrual of the cause of action. The statute is tolled for minorities or those previously adjudicated incapacitated, but in all cases the action must be commenced within seven years after the date of the incident.

Actions based on medical malpractice must be commenced within two years from the date of the incident or from the date when the incident was or should have been discovered, but never more than four years from the date of incident unless the claimant is a minor. The statute of limitations for wrongful death is two years from the date of death. However, where medical malpractice is the cause of death, the malpractice statute applies.

How can I determine how much my personal injury claim is worth in Florida?

For purposes of calculating a settlement, a claim is valued upon an estimate of what a jury would likely believe the case to be worth, taking into account the severity of the injury, the effects of the injury on your life and the negligence of the other party. If you were partially at fault for the accident, the amount of damages will be reduced proportionately. Benefits received from collateral sources, such as an insurance agency, will not be used to reduce your recoverable economic damages. This is called the collateral source rule and Florida abides by this standard of law regarding personal injury recover. (See “What is the collateral source rule and how does it affect my Personal Injury case in Florida?”) Any settlement will be reduced if there appears to be a good chance that the claim will not be successful. Other factors that may reduce the damages include past medical history, pre­existing injuries, and prior claims history.

Considerable compensation may be commanded if your injuries are severe requiring extensive medical treatment, absences from work and permanent injuries. This is especially true if you were a healthy, productive, young worker prior to the accident. That is because an important factor in the value of your claim is the difference between your quality of life before the accident as compared to after the accident.

What is the collateral source rule and how does it affect my personal injury case in Florida?

Florida is a state that abides by the collateral source rule, although not all states adopt the rule. The collateral source rule in Florida states that when you are injured and bringing forth a personal injury claim, a defense attorney opposing your case cannot bring forth evidence of payments by your insurance company or personal health plan (collateral source) for your medical bills or expenses, in order to alter or lessen the amount you may be awarded. If the jury was only allowed to see what bills have not been paid this could significantly lower the amount you could be awarded, as opposed to the entire amount. Therefore, Florida does not allow such evidence to be presented in order for the plaintiff to receive what may be owed and has already been paid by a collateral source.

Under Florida law, can I include medical bills in my injury claim?

Yes. Your medical bills are a significant factor when assessing how much you are awarded if your claim is successful. Your medical bills are a reflection of your “pain and suffering” which is directly related to how much compensation you should be owed. (Please refer to “What is my personal injury worth in Florida?” for details regarding what your case may be worth) Under Florida law a plaintiff may recover for past, present, and future injury medical expenses in a personal injury claim but only if those expenses are or were directly related to the injury the claim is being brought forth for. Florida also maintains that compensation and money awarded must be reasonable. More specifically it must be proven that the injuries were caused by the cause of action you are claiming and any other injuries or health related matters must be separated when presenting evidence and seeking compensation for injury.

Medical expenses would include but may not be limited to hospital bills, medications, at home nursing or private care, medical tests and prescriptions. Care provided by a family member or spouse usually does not account as a medical expense. After you have been injured and are considering bringing forth a claim it is important that you keep record of all medical bills you have paid or that you owe in order to be justly compensated.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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