Personal Injury Attorney in Pensacola, FL
Suffering an injury is more than just an inconvenience that leaves you with pain or the inability to take care of yourself; rather, when an injury is serious, it can result in thousands of dollars’ worth of expenses in the form of medical bills and lost wages, and lead to intangible losses like pain, suffering, emotional distress, and depression.
At the law offices of Whibbs Stone Barnett, P.A., our personal injury attorneys know that accidents aren’t always minor. When you have suffered losses because of someone else’s actions, we want to help you recover the damages to which you’re entitled.
Our attorneys have helped clients in a variety of cases. We have experience representing clients who have been harmed in the following accident types listed below, but are able to provide competent representation to all injury victims. If you don’t see the type of accident in which you have been involved listed, please still call our law firm. During your free consultation, we can provide you with what you need to know about bringing forth a personal injury suit, and whether or not our law firm can provide you with the legal assistance you’re looking for.
- Motor vehicle accidents. Motor vehicle accidents, including car accidents, large truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents are a leading cause of injury in Florida. Motor vehicle accidents cases are the most common types of claim our lawyers handle, and we are very knowledgeable in Florida’s no-fault car accident laws and injury threshold.
- Medical malpractice. An act of medical malpractice occurs when a physician or other healthcare provider breaches the standard of care owed to you, resulting in an injury. Medical malpractice claims are often complex, requiring expert testimony and attention to legal detail to win.
- Slip and fall accidents. When a dangerous condition exists on a property that leads to a slip and fall, the property owner can be held liable if they knew of the condition and failed to remedy it in a reasonable amount of time.
- Dog bites. Being attacked by a dog can be a very terrifying experience, and may leave a person with both physical and psychological injuries. Florida is a strict liability dog bite state, which means that so long as you were not trespassing at the time of the incident, you can hold the dog owner liable for your harm.
In addition to the accident types above, we also represent those who have suffered serious injuries, such as burn injuries, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or amputation injuries. These injuries may be incurred in one of the aforementioned accident types, or during a pedestrian or bicycle accident, workplace accident, or sports accident.
Holding the Responsible Party Liable for Your Harm
If you have been injured by the actions of another, you can hold them liable for the damage you have incurred. The basis of a personal injury claim is negligence, which is the failure to act with the same level of care that another reasonable person in the same situation would do. As such, if the at-fault party acted negligently, and the negligence was the proximate cause of your accident and injuries, you can hold them liable.
Two things to keep in mind in regard to negligence when bringing forth an injury claim in Florida. The no-fault system, and your statute of limitations.
For car accidents, Florida maintains a no-fault system. This means that after a crash, an injured party does not have the right to bring forth a claim against the other driver, even if the other driver was completely at fault for the crash; instead, they must file a claim with their own insurance company first. In fact, a claim for damages can only be pursued against the other driver in the event that the claim meets the serious injury threshold. A “serious injury” under Florida law is an injury that results in scarring or disfigurement, death, permanent injury, or permanent loss of a bodily function.
The Defendant Owed You a Duty, and Breached It
First, you must prove that the defendant had a legal responsibility to act a certain way towards you. Drivers have a duty to drive safely; business owners must provide a safe environment for customers and visitors. A property owner, however, may not have a duty if you trespass.
Then you and your Pensacola negligence attorney must show how the defendant breached the duty of care through actions or inactions. Driving drunk, speeding, providing inadequate security — these are examples of duty breaches.
If you cannot prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care or cannot prove that the duty was violated, you may face a real roadblock to success in a personal injury lawsuit in Pensacola.
Once you prove the first two elements, you must prove that, without the defendant’s conduct or inaction, your injuries would not have occurred. For example, had a driver not run a stop sign or a doctor not prescribed the wrong medication, you would not have been harmed.
Finally, you must prove that the damages you claim are real. If you allege a car accident caused you a chronic back injury, you must have medical documentation to support your claim. The firm almost always uses expert testimony to prove medical causation in negligence cases that go to trial.
Damages could also include property damage and financial damage, as well as pain and suffering.
Florida comparative negligence law applies to both car accident claims (pursued outside of the no-fault system) and all other personal injury claims. Comparative negligence rules hold that the amount of damages you can recover in a claim will be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault.
For example, if you are injured in a pedestrian accident, and suffer $10,000 in damages, a review of the facts can show that you were distracted by your phone at the time of the crash, and therefore you are found to be 15 percent to blame for the incident, even though you were legally within the crosswalk at the time you were hit. As such, your damages would be reduced by 15 percent, and you would only recover $8,500 from the at-fault driver.
Tactics used by Insurance Companies during an Injury Case
- Calling the injured party right away after a claim is filed
Right after an injury, the injured party is shaken up and trying to get organized. They may not know the extent of their injuries, and they might not have gotten in touch with a lawyer yet. This is one of the reasons insurance adjusters often call claimants right away. They will usually be very friendly on this call, asking how you are doing, wishing you well, and providing general assurances that you will be taken care of. The main purpose of this call is to build rapport with you and earn your trust. A secondary purpose is to contact you at a time when you might let your guard down and admit to some fault for the incident. No matter how friendly adjusters are, you must remember, as mentioned earlier, that they work for the insurance company, and that is where their loyalties lie.
- Requesting a recorded statement from the injured party
Shortly after the claim is filed, you might be asked to provide a recorded or written statement about what happened. This might seem like a reasonable request, and the adjuster may imply that this is necessary to get your claim processed in a timely manner. It is generally not a good idea to provide these types of statements, especially if you do not yet know how badly you were injured, how much medical treatment you will require, and other important details. Do not provide a statement unless you are advised by your attorney to do so. Just be polite and let the adjuster know that you are not comfortable providing a statement at this time.
- Making a quick settlement offer for lower than the claim is worth
After an injury, medical bills start to pile up, and time missed from work tends to put a financial strain on the whole household. This puts injury victims in a vulnerable position in which they are often very motivated to get paid quickly. Insurance adjusters know this, and they often seek to capitalize on this situation by making a lowball settlement offer shortly after the claim is filed. In exchange, they will usually ask you to sign a release or provide a verbal release of the claim. It is generally not a good idea to accept the first offer the insurance company gives you, because it is likely to be far less than your claim is worth. And again, if you do not know the extent of your injuries, then this is not the time to settle your case.
- Full or partial denial of liability for the injury
The insurer will likely look for reasons they can use as a basis to claim that the injury victim is at least partially at fault for the incident. Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that if the insurance company can pin some of the blame on you, they can reduce the value of the claim in proportion to the percentage you are determined to be at-fault.
- Implying that you are better off not hiring an attorney
Oftentimes, insurance adjusters try to give claimants the impression that they do not need a lawyer to process the claim. They may say something like, “you can hire a lawyer if you want, but this will not change the amount your settlement is worth.” This statement is only partially true. Yes, there is a certain amount that your claim is worth, but you are far less likely to be offered full and fair compensation without an attorney.
Statute of Limitations for Bringing forth a Personal Injury Claim
If you are injured by the negligence of another party in Florida, another important law to understand is the state’s statute of limitations, which is the law that governs the amount of time that you have to bring forth a lawsuit after your accident occurs. The statute of limitations is four years from the date of injury, as found in Florida Statutes Section 95.11. If you do not file your case within four years’ time, it is very likely that a court will refuse to hear it, and you will be unable to recover compensation as such.
Exceptions to the Florida’s Four-Year Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
Although four years is the deadline for most personal injury actions in Florida, there are some notable exceptions:
Minors and Individuals who are Legally Incapacitated
Minors receive extra time to file a personal injury lawsuit because they are legally incapable of filing a claim on their own. The extended deadline is not open-ended, however. Instead of the standard deadline of four years, minors have seven years from the date of the injury or until the applicable statute of limitations (for their type of case) runs out, whichever time period is longer. The same deadlines apply to individuals who were legally incapacitated (such as those who are mentally ill) at the time of the injury.
There are various ways the defendant might try to delay a claim in hopes of “running out the clock”. Examples may include leaving the state of Florida at some point after the underlying injury occurs and before a lawsuit is filed and using a false name and/or hiding out to avoid being “served”. In such cases, the statute of limitations may be extended.
Contact Our Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Today
We know that bringing forth a personal injury claim or lawsuit may seem like a difficult thing to do, especially if you are in the process of recovering from harm. However, we also know that filing a claim may be the only way to hold the at-fault party liable for harm that you have suffered and recover the financial assistance you need to pay for your medical expenses and provide for yourself and your family moving forward. To schedule a consultation with our Florida injury team where you can learn more, visit our law offices, send us an email, or call us directly at 1-888-219-4561. Consultations are FREE for all personal injury cases.