What Does a Gainesville Personal Injury Lawyer Do?
A Gainesville personal injury lawyer will provide you with legal representation if you are injured in an accident caused by someone else. Typically, the at-fault party behaved negligently, and it will be your job to establish that their carelessness caused your accident.
Although some lawsuits go to trial, most settle out of court. Following are some of the most important ways a personal injury lawyer can help you.
Table of Contents
Discussing Your Case With You
Any personal injury lawyer will offer you a free initial consultation. During the consultation, which might last only a few minutes, the lawyer will ask you questions to determine whether your case is worth taking.
You can also ask questions to learn more about the value of your claim (it might be worth more than you think!). Since the lawyer’s fee will equal a percentage of your compensation, they will only take your case if they find it promising.
Investigating Your Claim and Gathering Preliminary Evidence
In personal injury law, the truth is useless unless you can prove it, and proving it often takes a lot of work. Not all evidence is admissible in court. Relevant evidence, including testimony, requires careful preparation. Your lawyer should understand every nuance of the Florida Evidence Code inside and out.
Your lawyer might take the following actions on your behalf:
- Obtain an accident report or a police report,
- Take statements from eyewitnesses;
- Request copies of your medical records,
- Photograph the scene of the accident;
- Ask your employer for your employment records (to prove the amount of your lost earnings),
- Arrange testing for a defective product that injured you;
- Check the surroundings of the accident to see if any CCTV cameras might have caught it on film; and
- Interview you about the accident and the pain and suffering you experienced.
The preceding list is just the beginning of the possible evidence that your lawyer might gather or generate. Even if the evidence is barred from the court (a police report, for example), you might be able to use it in settlement negotiations.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will have working relationships with professional expert witnesses who have provided valuable testimony in past cases. If your case requires an expert witness, your lawyer might seek one and allow them to examine your case. Expert witnesses are useful at trial and in settlement negotiations. Medical malpractice claims and defective product claims often require expert witnesses.
Sending a Demand Letter
A demand letter to the opposing party, typically an insurance company, kicks off the negotiation phase of the case. A demand letter includes a demand for compensation and explains why you are entitled to it. It may or may not demand a specific dollar amount.
Sending a Letter of Representation
In a letter of representation, your lawyer asks every party involved in the case to communicate only with them and to leave you alone. If you are seriously injured, a representation letter can spare you many headaches. It can also prevent you from unintentionally damaging your own claim when the opposing party asks you trick questions.
Negotiating a Settlement
To reach a generous settlement, your lawyer will need to be a master of the art of negotiation. If the opposing party is an insurance company, an insurance adjuster will probably represent them. Insurance adjusters are consummate negotiators, and they are full of tricks.
That’s okay – an experienced personal injury lawyer will not fall for a single one of them. After you reach an agreement, your lawyer can draft a settlement agreement.
By all means, if your claim is large, don’t try to negotiate it on your own unless you are an expert negotiator and you thoroughly understand personal injury law.
Filing a Lawsuit
If negotiations stall, you can file a lawsuit. However, filing a lawsuit doesn’t mean a trial is inevitable. The judge will schedule the hearing for weeks or months ahead of the date that your lawyer files the lawsuit. You can settle at any time, even during the trial. Filing a lawsuit is still useful because it can give you access to the pretrial discovery process and because you will no longer need to worry about the statute of limitations deadline.
To file a lawsuit, your lawyer must first draft a formal complaint. Outside of small claims court, drafting a complaint is tricky business that you shouldn’t attempt unless you are an experienced attorney.
Handling Pretrial Discovery
Pretrial discovery offers you four main tools for obtaining evidence from the opposing party:
- Depositions: You can question the opposing party’s witnesses under oath and out of court.
- Interrogatories: You can send the opposing party written questions that they must answer under oath;
- Demands for production: You can demand to examine physical evidence, such as a truck’s “black box” in a truck accident. You can also demand that the opposing party copy documents and hand them over to you.
- Requests for admissions: You can ask the opposing party to admit to mundane facts that you don’t want to bother proving.
You can probably use any of your pretrial discovery evidence at trial if necessary. If the other party refuses to comply, you can seek a court order demanding compliance. Remember, however, that the opposing party can also demand evidence in your possession as well.
When you file a motion with the court, you are asking the judge to do something for you. Following are some examples of common pretrial motions:
- A motion to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction, expiration of the statute of limitations deadline, etc.
- A motion for summary judgment is a motion to decide the case before it reaches the jury. A motion for summary judgment might be appropriate when the facts strongly favor your side and are not in dispute.
- A motion to compel compliance with your pretrial discovery demands.
- A motion to exclude an expert if the expert is unqualified.
- A motion in limine asks the judge to exclude certain evidence from consideration based on the Florida Evidence Code.
- A motion for a default judgment if the opposing party fails to file an answer to your formal complaint. If the judge grants this motion, you win automatically.
The court clerk will schedule a hearing with the judge to decide the motion, and both parties may participate in the hearing.
Representing You at Trial
Less than 10% of all personal injury claims go to trial. If a trial occurs, however, you will need a lawyer to represent you every step of the way. Trials require intense preparation in advance and great concentration during trial. Your lawyer will examine and cross-examine witnesses, present evidence and arguments, and file and argue motions.
Appealing an Adverse Verdict
If you don’t like the results at trial, you can appeal if you have grounds. There is no jury for an appeal—your lawyer will need to argue your claim before the appeals court.
Your Chances are Better With a Gainesville Personal Injury Lawyer
Can you “win” your claim on your own? Maybe, but how much will you win? If your claim is worth $100,000, you think it’s worth $30,000, and you end up with $15,000, did you win? An experienced Gainesville personal injury lawyer can maximize your compensation so that you end up far ahead even after you pay your legal fees. Contact or call our personal injury lawyers from Allen Law Firm, P.A. at (877) 255-3652, we will fight to recover a full financial award for you.