Litigating an accident case is generally a task that requires an experienced legal professional. The knowledgeable injury attorneys at Donaldson & Weston can guide residents of Port St. Lucie and the surrounding communities through this process. We are experienced in the law of negligence, which governs most motor vehicle accident, premises liability, and wrongful death lawsuits.
Here are some basic answers to questions that commonly arise when you have been hurt by the carelessness of someone else:
I have already been contacted by the insurance company of the person who caused my accident, and they say they will take care of everything. Do I really need to hire a lawyer?
Insurance company representatives may talk a good game in the short term, but they always have their company’s bottom line in mind. While you are in the hospital recovering from the accident, they are hard at work documenting the scene, interviewing witnesses, and beginning to build a case against you. Unless you are willing to accept their version of the facts – and whatever meager settlement they offer you based on their view of things – you probably need an attorney.
To be successful in a negligence lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, the defendant breached that duty, the plaintiff was harmed as a proximate result of that breach of duty, and actual damages resulted. These elements of negligence must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence in order for the plaintiff to recover damages.
Although insurance company representatives are knowledgeable in these matters, most laypersons are not. This is why it is important to have an attorney on your side of the case from day one. Otherwise, valuable evidence may slip away or be tainted by the insurance company’s team of investigators.
Do I have to give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company?
No. In fact, doing so can be a big mistake because the insurance company’s adjuster knows just the right questions to ask in order to devalue your claim by, for example, planting the seeds for a pure comparative fault argument later. (Comparative fault reduces the value of a case in proportion to the plaintiff’s own negligence in causing the accident.)
The reality is that talking to anyone about your case, except your own attorney, is dangerous. Conversations between you and your attorney are protected by the attorney-client privilege, but discussions with the other person’s insurance company are not. Likewise, you should refrain from talking about your case with friends or family and especially on social media (such as Facebook or Twitter), since such conversations and posts can be used against you later.
Although you probably have a contractual obligation to make a statement to your own insurance company, it is advisable that you seek the representation of an attorney prior to doing so and that you request a copy of your statement after you have made it.
What if an insurance company makes me a settlement offer before I have had a chance to talk to a lawyer?
The chances are that the insurance company’s offer does not include compensation for all of the damages to which you may be entitled. Those who have been injured due to the negligence of a person, business, or governmental entity may be able to collect money for medical expenses (both past and future), lost earnings and loss of future earning capacity, pain and suffering, property damage, disfigurement, and other losses. The person’s spouse may also be entitled to loss of consortium compensation.
Rarely does an insurance company’s offer to an injured person take all of these issues into consideration. Instead, an insurance company’s offer is usually directed solely to past medical expenses and perhaps lost wages. They do not typically take into consideration medical expenses that may be incurred in the future, an injured person’s inability to return to the same employment, or his or her pain and suffering stemming from the accident.
If I decide not to settle my case with the insurance company, how long will it take for my case to go through the court system?
You should not try to settle your case until you have completed your medical treatment or, if your treatment is likely to be ongoing, reached a point of maximum medical improvement. Only after this happens can your attorney can review all of your medical records and bills, documentation concerning lost wages, and similar materials in an attempt to make a demand upon the insurance company for an amount that will fully and fairly pay you for what has happened to you because of the accident.
In the meantime, your attorney may file a formal lawsuit with the court system in order to comply with the statute of limitations. If the case proceeds to trial, there will be discovery between the parties in the forms of interrogatories, depositions, and requests to produce documents. Most cases do settle, but only after both sides have an opportunity to fully develop their arguments.Consult an Attorney after an Accident in Port St. Lucie or Beyond
The law firm of Donaldson & Weston does not require clients to pay legal fees upfront in most cases arising from car accidents or other preventable events in the Port St. Lucie area. Instead, our lawyers collect our fees as a percentage of the settlement or judgment when the case is over. The client is also responsible for costs associated with his or her case, but these are collected at the end, rather than the beginning, of the litigation process. We represent individuals in Stuart, Jupiter, West Palm Beach, and other cities across Martin, Palm Beach, and St. Lucie Counties. Call us at 772-266-5555 or contact us online to request a free initial consultation.