Florida Personal Injury Cases: Remember These Five Terms

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lawyers-1491730Filing a personal injury case often means entering an entirely new world. As with many other types of St. Petersburg legal cases, this one comes with a number of different terms to know and understand. Here are five you’ll certainly want to keep in mind.

  1. Negligence: It means someone (or a company) failed to use the care they should have. For example, if someone failed to pay attention to the road while they were driving, they were negligent. If an individual didn’t stop at a red light, he or she was negligent.

Cornell University Law School describes negligence as: “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.  The behavior usually consists of actions, but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act (e.g., a duty to help victims of one’s previous conduct.).”

  1. Contingent Fees: Some attorneys work on a contingent fee basis. It’s the fee they charge to represent you, and it’s a percentage of the total amount recovered in the case. These tend to vary by attorney, and, in most cases, it means that rather than paying your attorney hourly, he (or she) will only be paid out of the payment that you win. If you don’t win, you’re typically not responsible for the bill. Unlike our firm, some attorneys may still hold you responsible for your attorney’s out of pocket expenses and your own medical bills even if you lose. It is a good idea to ask how these fees are calculated during your first meeting.
  2. Mediation: This is usually a chance to settle your claim using a mediator that has either been agreed upon or is court-appointed. Mediations are much faster and cheaper than a standard trial. During a mediation session, your attorney will be able to attend, as will you, the defendant, his attorney, and the mediator. The only role of the mediator is to facilitate the discussion so the two parties (you and the defendant) can come to an agreement. Is an agreement always reached through this method?  No, but it is required in many counties, (like Pinellas) prior to being allowed on the trial docket.
  3. Settlement: Many personal injury cases reach a settlement before they go to trial, and it’s just an agreement between you and the defendant for a certain sum of money. Some settlements involve a payoff over a certain number of years, and those are called structured settlements. A settlement has been explained as: “a resolution of a lawsuit without going forward to a final court judgement.”  At times, settlements occurr on the courthouse steps, just before going into the trial.  I just had one of those a few weeks ago. We had an automobile collision in which we had picked a jury then settled the Sunday before the rest of the trial was going to begin. A settlement reached just before trial or after a trial or hearing has begun is often ‘read into the record’ and approved by the court so that it can be enforced as a judgement if the terms of the settlement are not complied with.
  4. Verdict: If your case goes to trial, a decision which is usually decided by a jury and will be issued by a judge regarding who is at fault, and the amount of damages which should be awarded to the plaintiff (you).

A personal injury attorney can help you navigate the legal processes in a timely and efficient manner.  If you are considering filing a personal injury case, contact a Saint Petersburg personal injury attorney before you do anything else.  He or she can tell you what you will need (i.e., the documentation, etc.) and can answer all your questions.