As longtime Fort Myers personal injury lawyers, we recognize that most claimants in these cases are in uncharted waters. It’s not every day (thankfully) that a person is seriously injured in something like a car accident, slip-and-fall, or criminal attack on another’s property. And it’s not unheard of when these things happen for the person to try and file a claim for damages on their own. There’s no law that says you must hire a personal injury attorney for these cases. But doing so is like traversing an unfamiliar path without a guide.
The injury claims process is foreign to so many people, and thus opens the door for inadvertent mistakes that can sabotage their chances of full and fair financial recovery for injuries.
Some of the most common mistakes we’ve seen torpedo Florida injury claims:
Or just apologizing. This one we often can blame on good manners and the shock of what just happened. We see this a lot in Southwest Florida car accident cases in particular. Even when a driver clearly was not to blame for what happened, they’re naturally upset and concerned about the others involved, and may blurt out, “I’m sorry.” You may well be sorry that this happened at all, and it’s Ok to express courteous concern for others if you think they may be hurt/shaken up. But an expression of regret can carry the implication of fault. And if you admit fault, you could be foregoing your claim to damages, or at least minimizing it.
Keep in mind that with Florida’s recently reformed comparative fault law, F.S. 768.81, you may be barred from recovering any money whatsoever if it’s determined you were 50+% at-fault. Even if your share of the blame is less than that, your damage award will be proportionately reduced. In general, the more talking you do without a lawyer, the less money you’re ultimately going to take home.
Avoid any of the following phrases (or those like them):
- “I’m so sorry.”
- “I didn’t see you.”
- “My bad.”
- “I should have been paying closer attention.”
- “I didn’t realize I was speeding.”
- “It was my fault.”
- “I didn’t see the stop sign.”
If you think you may have said anything like this in the immediate aftermath of the crash, best to let your injury lawyer know from the start.
Not Seeking Immediate Medical Attention.
There is an all-too-common tendency in the aftermath of a traumatic incident to want to assure ourselves that we’re “fine.” So if you’re not profusely bleeding or clearly suffering from a broken bone or other obvious injuries, you may be inclined not to seek emergency medical attention. (This is especially true if you have a health insurance plan with a pricey deductible.) But keep in mind three things:
- Your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage that is required for all Florida vehicle owners provides up to 80 percent coverage for emergency medical bills in the immediate aftermath of a car accident – and that’s regardless of fault – up to $10,000.
- Certain types of serious injuries aren’t always visible or immediately identifiable. At the very least, getting checked out by a physician reduces the chances that you’re missing red flags of more serious, latently-emerging injuries. Some examples include traumatic brain injuries (including hemorrhaging), nerve damage (can seem mild/numb at first, but actually be a precursor to lasting pain/permanent paralysis), injury to internal organs, and whiplash/neck injuries.
- Failure to seek immediate medical attention following an accident or injury can substantially weaken the strength of a subsequent civil claim for damages. The more time in between when the incident/accident occurred and when you sought medical attention, the greater the opportunity for the defense to argue there was some other cause for your injuries OR that the injuries caused by the accident aren’t as serious as what you’re claiming. Either way, it can reduce your overall damage award.
Waiting to File a Claim.
Sometimes, this is unavoidable. If your injuries were so serious that you weren’t able to gather evidence at the scene or have been solely focused on your recovery, filing a Fort Myers personal injury claim right away isn’t feasible. But it’s a good idea not to wait any longer than necessary.
Bear in mind that any insurance companies involved almost surely started investigating the claim right away. They’ll have a head start. And although you technically have 2 years in which to file a personal injury claim in Florida (down from 4 years, thanks to recent legislative changes to F.S. 95.11), it’s not wise to wait that long to file, if you can help it. The more time passes, the more evidence gets destroyed, memories fade, and the ability to prove certain key facts diminishes. Contacting a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after you’ve been injured will get the ball rolling.
Making a Recorded Statement to the Insurance Company.
This is often couched as a “chance to tell your side of the story.” That sounds nice. It isn’t. The insurance company isn’t your friend – even if they’re your insurance company and you faithfully pay premiums each month. What adjusters are actually looking for with these recorded statements are details/evidence they can later use against you to reduce your claim viability or value.
You may be required by the terms of your insurance contract to give a statement, but you can have your attorney handle communications for you. At the very least, have your attorney present for the conversation. This reduces the chances that you’ll say something that might undermine your right to damages.
Talking/sharing online details about your injury, what happened, or the defendant.
In fact, it might be a good idea to ease off social media altogether for a while. It’s well-known that insurers and defense teams in civil cases routinely scour plaintiffs’ social media platforms for any evidence of a contradiction. It could be something as simple as a photo of you smiling with friends. It’s not unheard of for defendants in injury lawsuits to point to this as “proof” that you aren’t as mentally/emotionally/physically impacted as you claim. Best not to even give them a leg to stand on.
How Can Hiring a Fort Myers Personal Injury Lawyer Help?
Undoing the damages of these mistakes can prove difficult if not impossible. That’s why we strongly encourage those thinking about filing a Fort Myers personal injury claim to reach out to a lawyer first. Attorneys who provide counsel to injury victims typically extend free initial consultations (just to give you a feel for the individual and the potential viability/value of your claim). And if you do choose to hire a South Florida injury lawyer, you aren’t paying anything upfront. Civil claims injury lawyers work on a contingency fee, meaning they aren’t paid attorneys’ fees unless/until you win. Furthermore, your chances of winning your injury claim with an attorney as opposed to pro se (representing yourself) are much, much higher.
Hiring an injury attorney in Lee County is particularly advisable if:
- Your injuries are serious.
- You’ve incurred substantial damages/have had to take a good bit of time off work.
- The question of who was at-fault and who should pay is contested.
- Multiple parties are at-fault for what happened.
- The insurance company isn’t treating you fairly.
If you have questions, we’re happy to provide additional information to help you make an informed choice about how to proceed.
If you have been injured in Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, Cape Coral, Naples, or Key West, contact Garvin Injury Law at 800.977.7017 for a free consultation.
F.S. 768.81, Florida’s New Comparative Fault Law
More Blog Entries:
How Speeding Can Diminish Your Cape Coral Car Accident Claim, Aug. 29, 2023, Fort Myers Personal Injury Lawyer Blog