When you are injured in an accident in Tampa, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. The party who caused your injury may be financially liable under Florida personal injury laws.
The first step in recovering damages for an accident or injury is to file a personal injury claim with the insurance company for the at-fault party. If you are in a car accident, you will likely file a claim with your own insurance company first. Most personal injury cases are settled with the insurance company.
Unfortunately, settling a Tampa personal injury claim with an insurance company can be stressful. Negotiating a settlement can be overwhelming, especially if you are not familiar with personal injury laws and the value of your damages.
Personal Injury Claims Process – Steps and Tips You Need to Know
Our Tampa personal injury lawyers provide an overview of the claims process to help you maximize your recovery.
1. Report the Accident and Injury
If a car accident caused your injuries, call 911 to report the crash and request assistance. Dog bites should be reported to the dog owner and animal control services. Injuries on another person’s property need to be reported to the property owner, tenant, landlord, or another party in charge of the property.
Reporting the injury as soon as possible is important. Otherwise, the other party may allege that the accident or incident did not cause your injuries.
2. Notify the Insurance Company
Florida is a no-fault state for car accidents. Your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance provider is the primary party responsible for medical bills and lost wages. However, if you sustained serious injuries, the insurance provider for the other driver could be liable for damages.
If your injuries were caused by defective products, medical malpractice, accidents on another party’s property, or nursing home abuse, you might want to seek legal advice about how to file a claim for damages. These types of personal injury cases may require substantial resources, skills, and legal knowledge.
Promptly notifying the insurance company of your claim is the best way to protect your rights. Unfortunately, some insurance companies refuse to process claims that are not filed within a reasonable period after an injury or accident.
3. Seek Medical Treatment for Injuries
Prompt medical treatment is necessary to protect your health and your personal injury claim. You need detailed medical records to support your injury claim. Insurance companies use delays in medical care to argue that your injuries were not caused by the accident.
Report all symptoms to your physicians. Follow-up with your doctor if you develop additional symptoms or if your symptoms worsen. Complete your treatment plan to determine if you sustained permanent impairments or disabilities.
4. Gather Evidence and Document Damages
Ideally, you should take photographs and make a video of the accident scene. However, injuries may prevent you from documenting the scene. If possible, ask witnesses to give you their names and contact information.
Keep detailed records of all conversations with insurance adjusters and medical providers. Write down everything you can remember about the accident, including anything that the other party said after the accident. Keep copies of all medical records, medical bills, receipts, and invoices related to the accident, your injuries, and your recovery.
You should also keep a journal detailing your recovery. Include information about lost wages, activities you cannot perform, daily pain levels, and how your injuries impact your relationship with family and friends.
5. Prepare a Settlement Demand Letter
A demand letter explains why you believe you are entitled to compensation from the other party. For example, you may allege that the insured driver did not yield the right of way, and that action resulted in the car accident and your injuries.
The letter provides details about your injuries and damages. The letter also states how much you believe your personal injury claim is worth.
Examples of damages include:
- Lost income and benefits
- Cost of personal care and nursing care
- Expenses for medical treatment, therapies, medications, etc.
- Disabilities, impairments, and disfigurement
- Reduction in future earning potential
- Pain and suffering, including mental anguish, physical pain, and emotional distress
- Travel expenses, child care, and household help
- Loss of enjoyment of life or reduced quality of life
You must provide evidence to support each of the damages you claim. Evidence that may support your claim includes, but is not limited to:
- Police and accident reports
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Medical records and statements from your physicians, therapists, and other medical providers
- Paystubs and a letter from your employer
- Photographs or videos of the accident scene
- Photographs of your injuries
Evidence is the key to recovering a fair settlement. The more evidence you have, the better chance you have of recovering the money you deserve.
Furthermore, you need to write a compelling narrative about how the accident and your injuries have affected your life. Include specific details about how you’ve suffered because of the accident.
6. Negotiate a Settlement Offer
The insurance company will assign an insurance adjuster to examine your claim. The adjuster will investigate the accident or injury and prepare a report.
When you submit your demand letter, the insurance company will review your demand and compare it to the results of its investigation. The insurance company could pay the claim, deny the claim, or make a counteroffer.
The insurance company does not have a deadline for responding to your demand letter. If the company does not respond, talk with a car accident attorney about your case. Florida’s statute of limitations sets deadlines to file a lawsuit for an injury claim.
In many cases, the insurance company makes a counteroffer that is lower than your settlement demand. The adjuster may say that you overestimated your damages or that you were partially to blame for causing an accident.
You must decide whether the settlement offer compensates you for the costs and damages caused by the accident and your injuries. If you believe you deserve more money, you may reject the offer and negotiate for a higher amount. Your counteroffer needs to emphasize the extent of your injuries and damages.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not accept a settlement offer or sign any agreements with the insurance company if you believe the settlement amount is lower than the value of your damages. When you sign a settlement agreement, you release the at-fault person, the insurance company, and all other parties from further liability for your claim.
In other words, you cannot demand more money for your injury claim after you sign the settlement agreement and release. Even if you discover more damages, you cannot pursue another claim.
7. Know When to Hire a Tampa Personal Injury Lawyer
The insurance company will not tell you whether it is offering a fair amount to settle your claim. Instead, its goal is to pay as little as possible to close the case.
You deserve fair compensation for an accident claim. Our Tampa personal injury lawyers at Catania & Catania, P.A., understand how insurance companies handle claims. We work with you to present the strongest case possible to get you the most money for your claim.
If the insurance company acts in bad faith, we will not hesitate to take legal action. We can file a personal injury lawsuit and take the matter to court. Remember, it does not cost you anything to talk with a lawyer about your case. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis.
Call Our Tampa Accident Lawyers for a Free Consultation
You do not need to face the insurance company alone. Our legal team at Catania & Catania, P.A., is here to help you. Contact us or call (813) 222-8545 at our office to schedule your free consultation with one of our Tampa personal injury attorneys.