If, as the result of an accident caused by another, you have incurred serious medical expenses, lost wages due to inability to work, or experienced psychological trauma or pain and suffering, you may be entitled to an award of cash damages.
But be careful, it is easy to compromise your legal right to damages, or even forfeit it entirely, through carelessness and lack of understanding. Promptly consulting with an accident attorney may save your right to compensation—at no cost or risk to you.
Some common mistakes that accident victims make—and which a simple consultation with an accident lawyer will help you avoid—include:
- Thinking an injury is "not serious enough" to be concerned about. Many injuries, such as those to the back, neck and brain, can seem mild at first while posing the risk of long-term complications. The timeline for neck and back injuries is crucial. Under Florida PIP law you must see a doctor within 14 days of your accident. Only certain doctors can certify that you have a medical emergency. An experienced accident lawyer can inform you about this risk and the compensation the law allows for it.
- Believing that an accident was partly your own fault, so no injury claim is possible. Florida law allows damage recoveries based on the degree of fault—so being partly at fault does not prevent recovery from another. Moreover, an attorney should tell you if you are at fault under the law. Don't judge this yourself.
- Negotiating yourself with the insurance company of the party who harmed you. You will be an amateur negotiating with professionals who want to pay you as little as possible. It's a sure way to receive less than the insurer would really be willing to pay you if your claim were presented professionally.
- Waiting to see how serious an injury becomes, or how other circumstances develop. Insurance companies set deadlines for filing claims, and the law imposes time limits for bringing legal action. Missing these can make even an otherwise strong claim difficult or impossible to collect. Also, delay makes it harder to collect witnesses' statements and other evidence needed to present a case persuasively.
- Apologizing, or giving other opinions about the accident. Accident victims often instinctively apologize for what happened, even when it was not their fault. An opposing insurance company will always use this against you—and turn any other opinions you give against you as well. When talking to the police, filing any report or just speaking about the accident, give only the honest facts, no opinions.
And don't fear that talking to a lawyer is too expensive. Accident attorneys give a free initial consultation and there is no fee unless your case is settled in court.
The accident attorney payoff
It doesn't matter what kind of accident you were injured in—vehicle accident, boating accident, slip-and-fall, or medical treatment accident.
Consulting with an attorney is the key to protecting your rights—and avoiding all the mistakes that may forfeit those rights.
If the facts of your case do not justify further legal action, the consultation costs you nothing—and you can still get valuable advice from the lawyer about how to protect your rights versus insurance companies. If the facts do justify legal action, you don't want to act without a lawyer.