The personal injury claims process can easily become overwhelming to an injury victim who has not had to go through the process before. Filing a claim with another person’s insurance company, proving fault, establishing the amount of your pain and suffering, and other tasks can be daunting for anyone. All of these steps often must occur before a lawsuit is even filed. The experienced St. Petersburg personal injury attorneys the Dolman Law Group know how to navigate a successful personal injury settlement from the start.
Step One: Identifying the Correct Defendant(s)
The first step in any personal injury claim is to identify the person, persons, companies, or other legal entities at fault for causing an accident. In the case of an auto accident, this is often another driver. Multiple drivers may also be at fault. In this case, the respective insurance companies involved will apportion fault based upon each driver’s actions.
When personal injuries are caused by a defective product, the injury victim must identify which companies were responsible for placing the product in the marketplace for consumer use. Most often the claim is filed with the company that manufactured the product. But importers, distributors, retailers, and other companies can also be held responsible for placing the defective product in the stream of commerce. This is known as products liability.
Products liability may also be an issue in other types of accidents. If, for example, a car accident was caused by a vehicle with defective brakes, the brake manufacturer could be held liable for the accident. Or a workplace injury might have been caused by heavy machinery with improper safety warnings. This, too, could lead the equipment manufacturer to be held liable for compensating the workplace injury.
The person or company who is responsible for causing an accident will depend upon the specific facts and circumstances of an accident. This is why it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney review your case, to ensure that the correct defendant has been identified, and that no defendants are escaping liability for negligence.
Step Two: Establishing Liability
In order to recover compensation from a defendant, an injury victim must prove that the defendant was legally responsible (or “at fault”) for causing the accident. This is called liability. In order to prove liability, the injury victim must establish that the defendant violated his or her duty of care, and was therefore negligent. The duty of care required depends upon the type of injury that occurred:
In the case of an auto accident, every driver has a duty to drive with due care. Due care is what a reasonably prudent driver would exercise. Violations of traffic laws (such as speed restrictions, left-turn statutes, or failure to yield the right of way) can be used as evidence that a driver failed to meet this duty of care.
In the case of medical malpractice, a physician’s duty of care is defined by the Florida Statutes. Section 766.102(1) of the Florida Statutes defines the prevailing professional standard of care for a health care provider is the level of care, skill, and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers. Essentially, this means that doctors must act as a reasonably prudent doctor would in similar circumstances.
In the case of products liability, manufacturers of consumer goods have a duty to sell only those goods that are safe for ordinary uses by the consumer. Defects in design or in manufacturing can be used as evidence that the product was unsafe. However, a consumer who misuses a product (for example, using a curling iron on parts of the body other than hair) may be unable to prove products liability. Products liability extends to all consumer goods. This includes: automobiles, boats, heavy machinery, food, toys, electronics, furniture, clothing, pet products, household cleansers, medications, and any other product sold to the public.
Premises liability refers to a property owner’s duty to maintain his or her land in a safe condition. The duty of care depends on the landowner’s status. Business owners and retail stores, for example, have a higher duty of care, because they invite the public onto their property for the purpose of conducting business. These businesses generally must inspect and make their premises safe for patrons. Private homeowners have less responsibility to their guests, but still have a duty to warn guests of hidden dangers (such as an uneven step).
Liability can be simple or very difficult to establish, depending on the circumstances of an accident. For example, rear end auto accidents almost always result in liability for the rear driver. These accidents are almost always the result of a breach of that driver’s duty to control his or her speed in order to avoid a collision. Similarly, a vehicle that spontaneously brakes as a result of a faulty braking system will almost certainly result in liability for the auto manufacturer, which violated its duty of care to sell consumer goods safe for ordinary use. In some cases, an attorney must fight hard to use statutes and case law in order to prove that the defendant was, in fact, negligent.
Step Three: Negotiating Legal Damages
Legal damages are the losses that an injury victim incurs as the result of an accident. This can include lost wages, medical bills, and property damage. However, the largest component of a victim’s legal damages is often the pain and suffering endured as a result of the defendant’s negligence. This can be difficult to prove. Pain is subjective, and so is the suffering one endures as a result of its limiting effect on family interactions, work, and favorite pastimes. This, too, is an area where an experienced attorney must present effective legal arguments in order to support a victim’s claim for pain and suffering damages.
The Right Attorneys for Your Personal Injury Claim
There are many ways to settle a personal injury claim. The aggressive personal injury attorneys at the Dolman Law Group can help you select the best method of resolving your claim. Call 727-222-6922 today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced, aggressive personal injury attorney. We will examine the specific facts of your unique case in order to recommend the fastest, most cost-effective method of achieving the best possible resolution of your personal injury claim.
Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712