Frequently Asked Questions about Auto Accidents and Medical Malpractice in West Palm Beach
Below are answers to questions that the attorneys at Gary Roberts & Associates often encounter as they advise and represent victims of auto accidents, medical malpractice and other personal injury in West Palm Beach. If you have other questions, or if you have been injured by the negligence of another and need to speak to an attorney, call Gary Roberts & Associates at (561) 686-1800 or contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer.
If I file a lawsuit to recover compensation from the negligent party, does that mean I will have to go to court and testify about the accident and about my injuries?
It is not always necessary to file a lawsuit in order to negotiate a satisfactory settlement with the insurance company. Even when lawsuits are filed, the vast majority of cases settle out of court before the trial actually begins. However, even though a settlement is usually reached out of court, it is important to hire an experienced trial lawyer who has taken cases all the way to a successful jury verdict. If the insurance company thinks that you are unwilling to go trial or unable to be effective in the courtroom, they are unlikely to offer a settlement that compensates you for the full value of your injuries.
Whether you would testify in court or not depends on a number of factors unique to your case. It is possible that you will be required to give a deposition before trial, which is where the other party asks questions about the incident and about your injuries, and you are required under oath to answer truthfully. A deposition may take place in a conference room at a lawyer’s office, and the only people normally present are the attorneys, the witness, and a court reporter (and sometimes a videographer). Your attorney will prepare you well in advance of any deposition so you know what to expect. Your lawyer will also attend the deposition with you and object if any improper questions are asked.
How long do I have to file a lawsuit against the negligent party?
In most cases, the applicable “statute of limitations” gives you up to four years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit. If you miss this deadline, you can be shut out from filing an action in court to collect any compensation, even if your injuries were caused by the negligence of another.
In cases of medical malpractice, the statute of limitations is shortened to two years, unless the injury was not immediately discovered, such as when a surgeon leaves a sponge inside a patient after surgery or fails to provide appropriate care. In these situations, you have two years from the date when the injury should have been discovered, up to a total of four years from the date of the injury. If the medical malpractice caused a birth injury, the parents or guardians have until the child’s eighth birthday to file a lawsuit.
Even though you may have up to four years, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after the injury. Your lawyer will want to start right away investigating the scene of the accident and collecting and preserving physical evidence and witness statements before the evidence is swept away or the witnesses’ memories fade. As soon as you are medically stationary, which means you have reached a certain level of stability and improvement in your medical condition, it may be appropriate to seek a settlement of your claim from the insurance company. This may be as soon as just a few months after the accident.
If I was partially to blame in causing a car accident, does that mean I cannot recover any compensation from the other side, even though they were negligent too?
If your claim falls within the definition and limits of a no-fault claim, then it doesn’t matter who was at fault; you can still claim compensation for medical expenses and lost wages under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. PIP benefits pay 80% of your medical expenses and 60% of your lost income up to $2,500, or $10,000 if you had an emergency medical condition and sought treatment in a timely fashion.
If you are suing the other driver for negligence to cover damages for pain and suffering beyond the $10,000 PIP threshold, then your own role in the accident does become relevant. Although you can still recover compensation from the other driver, any judgment or verdict will be reduced in proportion to the amount of blame assigned to you. Insurance companies know this and will try to shift as much of the blame for the accident as possible away from their insured driver and onto you. This is why it is very important to have an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney who can vigorously resist these attempts and keep any of the blame from being unfairly allocated to you.