Your Daytona Beach Personal Injury Case: The Basics
Daytona Beach is full of smiling, beach going, car racing, sun tanning tourists and residents. It always feels like summer vacation here. You're not sure what it was -- maybe the sparkle of sun on the water, or the hoopla surrounding the car races, but you were feeling adventurous. You thought you could combine two activities and race your skimboards up and down the Most Famous Beach. The slight problem: you're not so great on a skimboard, and while attempting to turn it around it flew out and hit someone on the head. So...now what? Well, if the injured person decided to, he could bring a personal injury suit against you. Here's some basic information about personal injury lawsuits in Daytona Beach.
There is No One Type of Personal Injury Case
It's difficult to find a lawyer that specializes in all of "personal injury law" because personal injury is a large area of law. These cases include:
- Automobile accidents;
- Slip and falls;
- Product liability, including unsafe food, and defective household products and automobiles;
- Medical malpractice;
- Dog bites and animal attacks;
- Disputes stemming from a physical altercation, like assault and battery;
- Cases where there is no physical injury, like defamation; and
- Some workplace accidents.
However, all these cases have one thing in common: they are all resolved through the civil litigation or an administrative system. Here's an overview of how the civil litigation system works in Daytona Beach, Florida, as well as some tips for what to do after an injury.
First Steps after an Accident
Regardless of the type of accident you experience or where you experience it, the first steps after an injury are the same: 1) go see a doctor to treat any injuries you might have; 2) if applicable, contact your insurance company to file a claim; and 3) document what happened so you can remember it later.
Seeking medical attention should be an obvious first step. Delaying medical attention could make an injury worse, and your health is much more important than the outcome of your legal claim. In addition, the medical records your doctor visits generate will probably be useful if you decide to sue later.
Many accidents are covered by insurance. Some business owners may also have insurance policies that cover workplace accidents. Accidents that happen in and around the home are often covered by homeowners' insurance, and auto insurance covers many auto accidents. Promptly filing a claim with the relevant insurance company will get access to many benefits, including reimbursement for some damage, and if someone decides to sue you, a lawyer for your defense. Be sure to file a claim as soon as possible so you do not miss the deadline for filing a claim.
The details of even the most memorable accidents can start to fade a few days, or even a few hours later. Careful documentation will help lawyers reconstruct what happened months later when the case finally ends up in court. Written documentation can be very valuable in a lawsuit, so be sure to get and keep copies of any official records: police reports, medical records, insurance paperwork, bills, receipts, and even some correspondence. Pictures are often worth 1,000 words, so be sure to photograph anything that seems relevant - injuries, the scene of the accident, property damage or anything else. Take notes about what happened as soon as possible after the incident while the memories are fresh. Witness accounts may be helpful later, so get the name and contact information of anyone involved in the accident, or anyone who happened to see it.
Every state has what's known as "statutes of limitation," which are time limits on when you can bring a suit. You do not want to miss your opportunity to file suit because of Florida's statutes of limitations, which range from two to four years. This means that may be a good idea to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident. The person who sues someone else is known as the "plaintiff." You probably should look for plaintiffs' attorneys who specialize in the type of accident that caused your injury in the Daytona Beach area. These kinds of lawyers try many cases exactly like yours each year and are experts in local law. Plaintiffs' attorneys often operate on a contingent fee basis, which means they will get a portion of whatever award you get at trial or in settlement.
Early Stages of a Case: Discovery and Settlement Negotiations
Lawyers typically begin representation by investigating your case. This is when all those notes, photos, and documents you saved come in handy. Giving your lawyer high quality copies of these notes will speed the process along and allow your lawyer to get a really clear picture of what happened. Your lawyer will probably exchange some of these documents with the opposing side in a process called discovery.
After her investigation is complete, your attorney will start to offer settlement deals to the defendant and the insurance company. Meanwhile, she may begin to file the complaint and other pleadings or pretrial motions to ensure that you don't lose your chance to be in court.
If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, your case will go to trial. Civil cases are heard in the Daytona Beach Judicial Complex. How long your trial lasts depends on how complicated your case is - in general, trials can last anywhere from a day to several weeks.
If the judge or jury rules for the plaintiff, the plaintiff will get a monetary award. However, this does not mean all the money goes straight to the plaintiff. First, the lawyer will take her share. Then, the plaintiff's health, auto, and homeowners' insurance may try to claim some of the award as compensation on money they have already paid out.
While the above information should be useful for general purposes, anyone with specific questions about a case may best be served by contacting a local attorney.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.