If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident in Florida, you may be wondering if you will ultimately end up in the courtroom, testifying about the accident and how it has impacted your life. This thought is intimidating for most individuals, especially if they have never been involved in a legal claim before. However, in most cases, a motor vehicle accident claim will not go to trial.
Florida residents are required to maintain personal injury protection, or PIP, insurance coverage in limits of at least $10,000. Personal injury protection pays for the insured’s own injuries, regardless of fault. Therefore, whether you are rear-ended or rear-end another motor vehicle, for example, your personal injury protection will kick in and cover any medical expenses you may have. Certain types of treatments, such as acupuncture and massage therapy, will not be covered by PIP. In addition, to use one’s PIP coverage, the insured must seek care within 14 days of the motor vehicle accident.
Unless the injured individuals have exceptionally serious injuries, such as disfigurement, permanent injury, or lots of scarring, the claim will be handled through Florida’s no-fault liability system. Each driver’s insurance company will pay the resulting claims. Therefore, these claims will not end up in the courtroom.
However, if an accident victim does have serious injuries, that victim may be able to pursue legal action through Florida’s court system. After hiring an attorney, which is strongly recommended in motor vehicle accident claims, the victim may enter into negotiations with the at fault driver’s insurance company. The victim’s attorney will try to work out a settlement with the insurance company. However, in many cases, the insurance company makes inadequate offers. After all, the insurance company’s goal is to protect itself and advance its own interests. Therefore, insurance adjusters are not going to go out of their way to offer extra money to accident victims.
To continue negotiations and gain access to certain types of evidence, a lawsuit may be filed if the parties cannot reach a reasonable settlement. The lawsuit is commenced with the filing of a summons and complaint, which is a document that lays out all of the allegations against the defendant, which in this example would be the at fault driver. The defendant then has the chance to file an answer, which is a document that responds to the lawsuit.
After these documents are filed, the parties may engage in discovery. During discovery, the parties may request certain types of evidence from each other. For example, the at fault driver would request medical records that show the extent of the victim’s injuries. The victim may want to see the defendant’s driving record and cell phone records from the time of the accident. The discovery process may take many months, as it can take several weeks to obtain certain types of records, like medical records.
The parties are free to attempt settlement negotiations throughout the case. If they cannot reach an agreement, they may attempt to do so through mediation. During mediation, a third party neutral will work with the parties and help them craft a settlement agreement for each issue in the case. Mediation has been successful in even the most contested cases.
If the parties do settle, the agreement will be entered into the court record. If they do not, they may request a trial date and will prepare for trial. During trial, the parties may present evidence that strengthens their positions in the form of testimony and exhibits. A judge or jury will decide the issues.