Part 3; The Seven Basic Legal Phases of a Personal Injury Case
This is a brief summary of the basic steps that a top Florida personal injury attorney goes through for most personal injury or accident cases, especially those involving serious injury whether from an accident involving a rear-ender, car crash, truck wreck, big rig/semi accident, motorcycle accident, or multi vehicle pile up. The process of a personal injury or accident case can be lengthy and has many important decisions to be made along the way. It is important to have an experienced accident lawyer with you on your side at every phase of the legal process in order to have the best chance of getting the best and fairest result possible, and the justice you deserve. To help you understand the process, I have summarized the procedures that are normally taken in my office, one of the most experienced personal injury law firms in Gainesville, Ocala, Lake City, Inverness and North Florida.
Step IV., Filing a lawsuit: If the insurance company’s highest offer is rejected by the client the next step is to file a lawsuit known as a complaint. The lawyer will serve the complaint on the defendants (the people legally at fault for the accident and injuries). In Florida, more than one person can be held legally responsible, such as the owner and driver or employer. Florida also has “comparative negligence” which means that more than one person may have contributed to causing an accident and that everyone needs to be served with the complaint.
Filing a lawsuit means that the case will be scheduled to be presented and argued in a trial in front of a judge and jury to decide what is just. To do this there is more information to be gathered to prove or try a case to a jury:
- Interrogatories or questions for all parties
- Requests or subpoenas to produce records or other information from all parties involved and all witnesses, including doctors
- Depositions or sworn statements taken by the attorneys for both sides of the case and for all potential witnesses
- Motions may need to be filed in this process
Step V., Mediation is ordered in the case management conference by the judge in most cases in Florida. Note: Mediation can be utilized before a lawsuit is filed. 99% of personal injury cases in Florida will be ordered to mediation before a case can be tried before a jury. Mediation is when both sides sit down together in a conference room with a mediator. Mediators are usually an attorney or a retired judge that have special training in helping to settle cases. Present in the mediation are the lawyers for all sides (insurance companies hire an attorney to defend them) and their clients, an insurance company adjuster, and the mediator. Both sides take turns explaining their side of the case and can present exhibits, if desired. Negotiations then begin with each party going to a separate room. The mediator then performs a type of “shuttle diplomacy” going back and forth between the parties trying to arrive at a settlement.
If a settlement is reached in mediation the insurance company will write a check to the injured person within two to three weeks, then the lawsuit is then dropped, and the case is over.
Step VI., Trial in front a judge and jury. If a settlement was not reached in mediation, a date is set for trial. The trial can last from a few days to a few weeks depending on the number of witnesses and how long they are on the witness stand. The trial can cost as much as $50,000 to $100,000 dollars to present. A jury consists of 6 people plus one or two alternate jurors selected by the attorneys. These 6 “strangers” will decide the case (give a verdict) and how much money (if any!) is to be awarded. There is no way to accurately predict what a jury will decide. Attorneys and insurance companies use their past experience to make educated guesses regarding the outcome of the case. This is another reason to get an experienced accident attorney to help you decide if your case should go to trial.
Step VII., Appeals can follow after the jury verdict. Appeals can attack the rulings of the judge, the jury verdict, and in some cases the conduct of the lawyers. Appeals can take years to resolve. If the appellate judges order a new trial, the whole process starts over.
We at Meldon Law strongly believe that public education is the first step in the prevention of an accident or in the recovery from one.
We are experienced personal injury attorneys, trial lawyers, negotiators, litigators, paralegals, and staff that have been proudly working to get accident victims the justice they deserve for over 40 years in Gainesville, Ocala, Lake City, Inverness, and the rest of North Central Florida and North Florida. Accidents involving a car crash, truck wreck, and motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian accidents, dog bites, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and criminal defense are all included in our practice.
Based on Jeffrey Meldon’s, founder of Meldon Law, over 40 years of helping accident victims get justice and a fair shake from the insurance companies, he has written the consumer guide book, Seven Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Florida Accident Case. You can request your free, no obligation copy right now, or contact our office for your complimentary copy sent to you today.
Contact Meldon Law at 800-373-8000 immediately if you have been involved in a serious auto, truck, or motorcycle accident. We are in your community, have the experience and resources required to work towards obtaining a fair settlement for you – we are here to help you.