Common questions often cross our desks at Ryan Hughes Law concerning personal injury matters.
What Should I Do After An Accident?
Get medical attention and call law enforcement. Both will be important later. At the scene, if you can, get pictures and contact info of all witnesses. (The police will talk to witnesses as well.) Even if you think you are at blame, do not confess it.
Check on the other parties but do not apologize. Certain behaviors may be used against you in court.
How Can I Know If I Have A Personal Injury Case?
Getting an injury in an accident doesn't mean you have a case. You can certainly file a claim, but you have three things to prove: another party was negligent, that negligence resulted in your injury, and the injury brought on compensatory damage.
Compiling a credible argument here, proving negligence and causation, will be complex.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a sprain in the ligament that attaches to the lower neck and spine. The result can be severe pain and restricted neck and back range of motion. Whiplash is commonly the result of a vehicular accident when the neck snaps back and forth.
Is It Accurate That Whiplash Settlements Are Hard To Get?
Settlements are complex. While rear-end accidents whiplash is reasonably straightforward; it can be hard to delineate in other types of accidents. Courts will look at expenses to recover and treat whiplash. For instance, if the only treatment was immediately after the accident in the emergency room, it may be presumed your injuries aren't severe.
The answer to this question might appear immediately obvious; a permanent injury is one from which you will not recover, and a temporary one is one from which you will. The definition of permanent injury is physical or mental damage that will "indefinitely" reduce your Ability to earn a living.
That word, indefinite, is vital. To get damages for a permanent injury, you don't necessarily have to prove that there is no way you will recover. Instead, you have a diagnosis that indicates it is unlikely you will recover fully.
In some cases, an injury may be permanent, but later improvements in medical care can result in better treatment. A temporary injury or disability keeps you from earning a living for an extended period.
Still, doctors expect you to recover fully or, at least, sufficiently to return to your profession and have no impact on activities of daily living. However, a temporary injury can still take months or even years to recover from.
It's essential to get the proper medical assessment so you can make your case, especially if your disability is likely to be permanent. A permanent injury does not have to result in total disability to warrant proper compensation.
Your profession can also impact the damages you receive, as insurance companies will consider whether you can still handle the physical demands of your job.
How Do Insurance Companies Compensate For Pain And Suffering?
Some damages are easy to calculate—for example, your medical bills, including therapy and counseling. Insurance companies expect to see receipts if they will be held liable.
Lost income is relatively easy if you have a job but more complicated if you own a business or are self-employed.
Pain and suffering, however, are much more subjective. Insurance companies are not generally emotional entities, so they use the pain and suffering multiplier for permanent injuries.
This means they add the damages together and use a multiplier affected by how severe your injury is. Some companies use a per diem modifier, paying a certain amount for each day you cannot work.
It's important to ask what methods your insurance company uses to calculate pain and suffering damages. Understanding how the insurance company determines a pain and suffering multiplier helps you fight for the damages you deserve and avoid being lowballed.
Remember that it is their job to pay out, even if they would rather avoid it. In some states, pain and suffering damages may be capped at a certain level for any given accident.
What Are Pain And Suffering?
Pain and suffering have a specific definition for purposes of compensation. It's a legal term that has been established as having this meaning. Physical and mental pain and suffering are the two most common categories.
Material concerns are directly related to your injuries, including what you will most likely suffer in the future. Mental pain and suffering include things like PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc., that can result from your injuries.
It's also possible to get damages for mental pain and suffering if you were not physically injured in the accident but are experiencing reactions such as emotional distress or anxiety.
You can also get damages if you develop a phobia resulting from the accident, such as an ongoing fear of driving. Sometimes, family members may also be awarded damages for mental pain and suffering. Again, pain and suffering damages also include anticipated pain and suffering.
This can be an area where a reasonable attorney can help you establish your needs and advocate for a higher settlement based on what your doctor thinks you will most likely go through.
Insurance companies will always try to reduce pain and suffering awards as they can be more subjective and more straightforward to argue (albeit in either direction).
What Is A Herniated Disk?
Your discs are the cushions that sit between your vertebrae. These are soft and help keep your spine moving correctly. A disc becomes herniated if some of the disks are pushed out through a tear, resulting in pain, numbness, and even weakness in an arm or leg. Herniated discs tend to improve over time.
Herniated discs are typically the result of normal wear and tear but can happen because of a fall or blow to the back. Insurance companies are likely to argue that a herniated disc was not caused by accident, especially if you are older.
You will need to document things to demonstrate that your herniated disc was caused by a blow or fall.
What Is Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)?
Radiofrequency ablation is a treatment in which a needle is inserted into part of your body, and radiofrequency waves are sent out, killing nearby cells. This is most often used to treat tumors and chronic venous insufficiency in the legs but is also used to treat chronic back and neck pain that might result from an accident.
It is used as a non-invasive alternative to surgery that generally has lower risks and fewer side effects. It is also sometimes used to treat an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter).
If you have severe back pain, your doctor may recommend RFA of affected nerves to reduce swelling and pain. It is often tried before surgery is resorted to, and insurance companies may push your doctor to attempt it even if surgery is the better option.
What Is A Diskectomy?
In some cases, a herniated disc can press on nearby nerves. This causes significant pain that radiates down the arms or legs from the compressed nerve and can be debilitating.
A discectomy is a surgery to remove the bulging part of the disk. It is recommended only if nonsurgical treatments have failed and are usually minimally invasive, using small incisions and a microscope or camera.
In some cases, an open lumbar discectomy may be required. It is performed under general anesthesia, and some patients must stay in the hospital for several days. You will be out of work for anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks, depending on the physical demands of your job.
The relief is typically not permanent but can last for an extended period. The disc may herniate again, primarily if you don't address any underlying causes, such as excessive weight.
Getting insurance to pay for a discectomy can be challenging, especially as it is typically recommended sometime after the initial accident after less invasive treatments such as physical therapy have failed.
What Is Spinal Fusion?
Spinal fusion is surgery to connect two or more bones in the spine. It is typically used to treat three conditions: Malformation of the spine such as scoliosis, severe arthritis that is causing the spine to become unstable, and to stabilize the spine if a damaged disk has to be removed entirely.
In the last case, the bones previously connected by the disk are fused. It can also treat vertebrae fractures to stabilize the spine and reduce the risk of damage to the spinal cord.
This usually requires a two- or three-day hospital stay; full recovery can take several months. Many patients require physical therapy and must wear a back brace for a time.
Additionally, fusing part of the spine increases stress on other parts nearby, which can result in back pain in the future. Spinal fusion is a permanent change to your spine.
What Is A Compulsory Medical Example?
Your insurance company may require you to undergo a compulsory medical examination, also known as an independent medical examination.
The purpose of this exam is to ensure that you are injured (and thus, it is often used and seen as a way insurance companies get out of paying out), to determine the extent of your injuries, and to assess whether you are permanently or temporarily disabled.
The examination should be undertaken by an independent doctor, who is not your regular doctor or treating doctor. This is not the "insurance company's doctor," and they are neutral and unbiased in theory.
However, in some states, the insurance company does pick the doctor, while in others, the doctor is chosen randomly from a list of practitioners. IME doctors are generally seen as experts. However, if the insurance company is paying them, then it is obvious that they may need to be more neutral.
The independent doctor will perform an exam, review your medical records, and writes a report. You or your attorney can challenge the information. The doctor will attempt to establish whether the diagnosis is correct and whether the injury is related to the accident or incident.
They may also assess whether things recommended by your treating doctor are needed, such as surgery. Finally, they will report on when and whether you can return to work.
You should be honest during these exams and talk to your attorney about how to challenge them if needed. Get your attorney's advice on the best way to handle a CME.
If your case goes to court, your attorney can question the doctor who performed the exam and use their answers in your favor but bears in mind that they are often a hostile witness, especially if an insurance company is paying them.
Do Insurance Companies Surveil Clients, And When Do They?
Video surveillance is sometimes used to help an insurance company assess the validity of your claim. If available, video footage of the accident is routinely used to help establish fault and what happened. Even when people are honest, they don't accurately remember what happened.
As more time passes, people will likely convince themselves or each other of an inaccurate narrative.However, insurance companies may engage in surveillance to establish whether you are injured or disabled.
This might include a video recording of you in any public setting. They may even monitor your social media accounts to check if you can be caught doing anything contradictory to your injuries, such as bullying your neighbors and coworkers.
It's important to avoid posting on Facebook as much as possible. You should not post anything about your accident or injury or your treatment or recovery if you are involved in legal action.
Stuff posted by other people can also be an issue. It has been known for claims to be denied because social media evidence showed you were on vacation, going out for the evening, or even running errands. Even if you have "good days," you should act as if you are having only bad days until your case is resolved.
Many lawyers recommend staying off social media altogether until your case is resolved. However, this is only sometimes possible, as many people now use social media as a primary way to stay in touch with geographically distant friends and family.
They cannot surveil you in private places such as your or another person's home (but can use social media photos posted from those locations). However, they can watch you in any public space, including the street outside your home.
While injuries and disabilities tend to come and go, minimize activities until your case is resolved. Follow your doctor's instructions on what you are and are not allowed to do (this will also ensure a better recovery).
These are just a few common questions we get about personal injury from our clients, prospective clients, and the public. To find out more, check out our blog.
How Long Does It Take Insurance Companies To Pay Out?
Most insurers want efficiency when it comes to closing case files. So, there often are short delays between the settlement and receipt of payment.
Timing can depend on the insurer waiting for signed releases. But expect the cost to go within fourteen days of signing an agreement.
Can I File A Claim If I'm Not In Pain?
It is possible. Many accidents are so traumatic that the rush of adrenaline can derail pain sensations. It's not unusual for physical trauma symptoms to develop and grow later.
At the scene, not feeling pain is not an excuse to forego medical attention. It's also essential to only agree to settlements later as they will not address what could come. Not having immediate pain does not mean excruciating pain will not emerge later.
Is There A Time Restriction For Bringing A Personal Injury Lawsuit?
In Florida, personal injury cases have two-year to four years to file a claim. Matters must entail premises liability, road accidents, wrongful death, and other significant issues that result in injury, damage, or worse. For the most part, the matters involve negligence.
Civil injury matters not grounded in negligence fall under the two-year umbrella. We're talking about assault, battery, medical malpractice, and workers' compensation. Product liability can fall in either the two- or four-year statute depending on the situation.
What If There's A Pre-existing Condition?
Damages are still possible if another party is at fault. The court will review accountability by studying the accident, injury, pre-existing conditions, and correlations. Pre-existing conditions may reduce rewards, though.
Are Job-related Accidents Different?
You may have several options if you're injured on the job. Your employer may have workers' compensation to cover a portion of lost wages and medical bills. Benefits often include lump sum payouts (depending on your medical condition) and vocational rehabilitation assistance.
If a third party is responsible, You have the right to launch a personal injury lawsuit against that person on top of receiving benefits. Take note your employer may be able to receive a portion of any judgment awarded to reimburse your workers' comp claim.
But if there is a judgment, you still get more money than received through workers' comp.
Can I Recover Injury-related Expenses Via A Civil Lawsuit?
Lost wages and medical expenses are huge factors in compensation. Lost wages delineate emotional distress and financial uncertainty. But it would be best if you were ready to show the court proof of personal damage the accident caused.
- Have past paystubs to show what you lost
- Keep records of medical expenses
- Make sure you attend all scheduled medical follow-ups
- Keep receipts for gas or other travel expenses to visit doctors, therapists, and physical rehab.
What If I Don't Have Money For A Lawyer?
Lack of funds should be acceptable. The vast majority of personal injury lawyers practice on a contingency fee basis. They collect a percentage of any judgment or negotiated settlement their representation obtains.
Rates will not necessarily include expenses incurred to fight the case. Initially, the portion is about a third. That figure can grow if the case goes to trial.
Are There Instances Where It's Determined No One Is At Fault For The Accident?
No. No accident happens out of the blue, leaving innocence on both sides. The law uses reports, pictures, medical records, participants, and witness statements to review the incident. They use facts and science to gather relevant data.
Whether a slip and fall may seem the result of absentmindedness to an inexplicable fatal vehicle accident, we can determine why an incident occurred. There may have been a spill where you fell.
The car accident may entail errors attributable to both parties (at which point authorities will determine a percentage of fault). We may find a freak accident to be the act of a negligent manufacturer or landlord.
How Do I Maximize A Personal Injury Settlement?
Settlements are maximized through strong evidence best gathered by legal representation. Your attorney builds and demonstrates substantial documentation that proves your case.
They use education and history to navigate the legal system to prepare court papers that comply with Florida law. They appropriately and aggressively respond to motions—all to maximize your settlement.
What Transpires In A Personal Injury Lawsuit?
In a civil injury claim, the plaintiff issues a legal complaint asking for compensation. The defense gets the opportunity and time to file a response. Both parties must build an argument using interrogatories, depositions, subpoenas, etc.
The court may implement preliminary guidelines for the gathering of evidence. Both sides may go through mediation and informal negotiations to settle the case. If unable to reach an agreement, the lawsuit goes before a judge and jury.
Can I Make A Personal Injury Claim Without A Lawyer?
Yes, you can. But remember, the court will hold you to the same standards as a licensed Florida attorney. The court will not allow ignorance of the law to temper how they view your argument. Judges expect you to follow all formalities required to stand before the bench.
Correctly filing motions, rules of discovery, civil procedure, admissions of evidence, and other legal protocols will apply to your performance. An error can unravel everything and cost you the case.
How Will An Attorney Make A Difference?
Every complaint's success depends on examining and presenting a unique set of facts that prove the plaintiff's argument. An attorney will use their knowledge base and resources to build a case that favors judgment to your advantage.
They handle each step of the case, calculating how to get the result you want. Bringing you the maximum compensation deserved will always be the target.
What Should I Look For In A Personal Injury Attorney?
Among the attributes you want in a lawyer handling your case include the following:
- A solid reputation in personal injury law
- Experience in negotiation and appearing in court
- Recognition by legal organizations
- Reviews that demonstrate respect and confidence
- Ability to effectively breakdown complex legal processes and communicate with clients in easy-to-follow terms
If you cannot find stellar examples of a lawyer's competence, it's a good idea to keep looking.
What If I'm Partly At Fault For The Accident That Resulted In My Injury?
The court will collect information about the accident and all involved parties. The court will review the following:
Breach of Duty
Breach of duty encompasses, either through intent or negligence, the idea one party neglected their responsibility which helped cause the accident.
Duty of Care
All parties will investigate to find who holds the greater responsibility (duty of care) for preventing others' injury, safety, and well-being.
The court will conduct a thorough review of losses and expenses.
Causation entails the facts determining what caused the accident and how each participant played a part. A good accident lawyer will establish the at-fault duty of care while looking out for their client's best interests.