What You Need To Know About Your Florida Personal Injury Case Going To Trial
Here’s what you need to know about your Florida personal injury case going to trial!
Only about 4-5% of personal injury lawsuits actually make it all the way to the trial stage, meaning that between 95-95% of cases are settled out of court.
If you are currently in the midst of a personal injury lawsuit, or you are considering filing one, it’s important to understand what taking a case to trial means, what the process is like, and whether or not it would be advantageous for your lawsuit to reach that stage!
The best way to find out what you need to know about your Florida personal injury case going to trial is to work with an experienced, aggressive accident attorney who can give you information pertinent to your specific situation! However, The Florida Law Group has recovered over $1 billion dollars for injured accident victims in the state since 1984, and our lawyers have collectively tried hundreds of both jury and non-jury trials. Our lead attorney, Chris Limberopoulos, is a board certified civil trial specialist, making him a personal injury trial expert. Because of our extensive trial experience, we wanted to take this blog post to give injured accident victims (plaintiffs) a background on personal injury trials in general.
The Right To A Fair Settlement
If you’ve been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you are legally entitled to pursue monetary damages for the cost of your injuries.
For example, if you were rear-ended by a person who was texting and driving, you may have sustained a serious back and neck injury in the collision. You may have to ride to the emergency room in an ambulance, get a CT scan, X-ray, and/or MRI, undergo surgery, stay overnight or several nights in the hospital, take medications, participate in physical therapy or chiropractic care for months, purchase assistive devices or medical equipment, pay your deductible and copays, and so on. Your medical bills could add up to be thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars that you face paying partially or entirely out of pocket. On top of this, you may have to take weeks or months off work to heal, or you may not be able to return to the same job you did before.
You would expect that the other driver’s insurance company, or your own, would pay for these costs, but unfortunately auto insurance companies specialize in paying out as little as possible to victims in claims because it protects their bottom line. This isn’t fair, and arguing with them on your own isn’t likely to get results, but hiring a skilled personal injury lawyer can help you get the maximum compensation you deserve. Lawyers understand how to persuade insurance companies to comply, and they can fight for justice on your behalf.
There are primarily two ways that money can be awarded to you – via a settlement agreement, which is an amount privately negotiated between your lawyer and the insurance company, or via a trial.
Pros & Cons Of Going To Trial
Most personal injury cases settle out of court for a reason. Going to trial is a risky, time-consuming endeavor, but there are a few benefits! Again, your lawyer can help you make a decision about whether or not it’s in your individual best interest to go to trial or accept a settlement.
You deserve to get paid for your injuries. The easiest way for lawyers to get that amount is usually to attempt to settle through negotiations. However, if your insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement, your lawyer can take them to court and present the case before a jury or judge, who will decide the outcome of the case and the amount you are to be awarded, if anything.
You’re not the decision maker. One important thing you need to know about your Florida personal injury case going to trial is that trials are risky because you’re placing the verdict outside of your control. A judge/jury could analyze all of the evidence and find you partly at fault for the accident, which would minimize how much you could receive. They could decide your injuries are not serious or disbelieve your account of how the accident occurred; if they side against you, you may not win any compensation (though there may be opportunities to appeal that decision – unlike accepting a settlement, which is final and cannot be appealed or reversed).
You’re going to have to wait longer, and potentially pay more. Trials also take longer to resolve than settling does. A settlement may take 3-6 months to achieve, typically, but trials can take twice as long or longer; gathering evidence and preparing a case can be a drawn-out process. It can be difficult for injured accident victims who are facing mounting bills and financial pressure to be patient during this time, although there are forms of financial assistance available. Because trials can take up more of your attorney’s time and energy, you may pay additional legal fees associated with a trial. However, most personal injury law firms (including The Florida Law Group) charge on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they only get paid if you win monetary damages. In cases that go to trial, you pay them nothing upfront and they get paid from a percentage of your settlement; their contingency fee may be larger than if you settled out of court.
But you stand to gain more money. The whole point of going to trial is to gain more compensation than you would in a settlement, and that’s often what happens, especially if you have a knowledgeable attorney on your side. Juries will tend to be much more sympathetic about your injuries than insurance companies are, and may award more in terms of pain and suffering damages (money awarded for the emotional and physical toll the accident took on you and your family) as a result, in addition to economic damages (the actual cost of your injuries).
And you may get a better sense of closure if you win. When you settle with your insurance company, no one admits guilt or fault – not the driver, not the company. For accident victims who have had their lives completely changed forever because of someone else’s negligent, careless actions, a trial (which does declare a defendant guilty) can give them the sense of justice they need to move forward.
Trial Timeline (What To Expect)
If your case does go to trial, there are several different stages, and it proceeds a little differently from trials you may have seen in TV shows and movies.
First, there will be a pre-trial conference. This is a meeting with the judge, attorneys, and both parties present that will clarify and simplify matters before the trial begins. This may include eliminating defenses, identifying evidence and witnesses, creating deadlines for when paperwork and motions need to be filed, and addressing other litigation issues to help the trial go as smoothly as possible.
Next comes jury selection. In some cases, plaintiffs have the opportunity to opt for a bench/judge trial and not have a jury, but most cases will be tried by jury if they reach the trial stage. The judge and both attorneys will question a pool of potential, impartial jurors; your attorney will attempt to select the ones who give you the best chance of winning your case.
On the first day of actual proceedings in front of the selected jury, opening statements are given by both attorneys. Your attorney will likely present the facts of the case and what they will demonstrate in order to prove to the jury the defendant was negligent. In civil trials like this, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff’s side.
After opening statements have been made, witness testimony (including expert testimony) and evidence will be presented. The goal of everything your attorney does during this stage is to add credibility to your case and persuade the jury of the defendant’s liability. Factual and emotional appeals may be made. Both attorneys have an opportunity to examine their own witnesses and cross-examine the other side’s witnesses.
When both sides have “rested” (presented all witnesses and evidence to the jury), they will make closing arguments. This is when they summarize what has taken place so far and make one final appeal to the jury.
The judge will give final instructions to the jury, who will then deliberate and come to a verdict. Florida law requires that the verdict in civil trials be unanimous. If jurors are unable to come to a unanimous decision, a judge may declare a mistrial, and the process could begin again. At any point in this process, a settlement can be reached and the trial can be dismissed.
However, the defendant has the opportunity to move through a series of appeals and try to get the verdict reversed, which can take over a year or longer. After a final verdict, most plaintiffs receive their award money within six weeks, minus attorney fees.
Tips To Make Winning At Trial More Likely
The most important thing you need to know about your Florida personal injury case going to trial is that it matters who your lawyer is. In the end, the level of representation you hire will make all the difference when it comes to if you win your trial and how much you win at trial. Your attorney will be the biggest factor in your success, so choose your law firm wisely! You need someone with a winning track record and a compassionate attitude.
There are a few things that you can do to help your attorney out during this process. For one, don’t be active on social media. It’s likely that pictures or statements of you having fun or participating in everyday activities will be used against you at trial to convince a jury that the accident hasn’t negatively interrupted your life; it’s best to stay off of social media until your trial has concluded.
Don’t be impatient with your attorney or fail to communicate with them. Trials can be complicated and lengthy, but your attorney is working for your good. If you don’t understand why something is happening or not happening, or why something is taking longer than you expected, simply reach out to them to ask, and they should be happy to explain and reassure you!
Injured? Call The Florida Law Group
If you’ve been injured, and think your case may need to go to trial or you have other questions about recovering a settlement, call The Florida Law Group today to schedule a free consultation! We have 11 office locations in the state of Florida, and we are dedicated to fighting for justice for you, no matter how challenging your case is! We won’t shy away from going to trial if necessary.