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What Happens During The Accident Settlement Process In Florida?

If you are injured in an accident, and you require medical treatment, or, worse yet, are permanently disabled, this means that your financial status has entered a whole new level of uncertainty. You won’t be able to work while you recover, and if the injury results in a disability that affects your current job requirements, you may not be able to work at all in your current occupation.

If the result of the injury is due to someone else’s carelessness, such as a distracted driver on the road, or a failure to maintain an elevator, then your injury is not your fault. It is the fault of whoever it was that had a responsibility and failed to uphold it. In the eyes of the law, that means any financial hardship you encounter as a result of someone else’s negligence is that person’s financial responsibility.

In some instances, the other party may not agree that there is any accountability and try to evade their responsibility. In those cases, a court can make a final, legally enforceable decision about reparations. However, there are other instances where the evidence is so undeniable that those responsible must admit culpability. When that happens, a lawsuit in court is unnecessary, and negotiations on proper compensation can begin, but how does this work?

Moving To Settle

When an injury victim and the responsible party meet to discuss appropriate compensation, this is known as a “settlement.” A settlement is often included as one of the early attempts to prevent a lawsuit. This is because, for both the person suing and the person being sued, a lot of time, effort, energy, and expense will be involved to reach a court decision. It’s not unusual for both parties to want to avoid this and get on with their lives. This is often the case when the evidence is heavily in favor of the injured party.

For example, if there is a car accident involving drunk driving, and the driver who caused the collision is charged with drunk driving, and there is evidence from a breathalyzer test on the scene that confirms driving with a higher than legal blood alcohol level, going to court is still possible but ultimately futile. There is no way to disprove a DWI charge when there is actual evidence of intoxication, especially if a car accident is the result.

This is where the insurance company that represents the interests of the responsible party will sit down to negotiate a settlement. If it’s clear to all that one party is responsible, the most efficient thing to do for everyone is agree on how much compensation is owed.

Going It Alone

When negotiating an injury settlement, one thing to keep in mind is that legal counsel is not required or mandatory, although it is often advised in many cases. However, should you wish, it is possible to negotiate a settlement on your own, doing your own research and dealing directly with the insurance adjuster, lawyer, or other people representing the insurance company’s interests.

This will mean, however, that you’ll find yourself at a disadvantage in terms of experience. Insurance adjusters and attorneys are experienced in compensation matters. They know how much a settlement should cost, at minimum, but they also know how high settlements can potentially get. They are working for the interests of the insurance company to keep their compensation losses minimal.

In other words, unless you have a lot of experience in injury settlements, should you choose to negotiate alone, your inexperience will be going up against people with expertise and professional mandate to give you as little as legally possible.

Testing Your Mettle

When negotiations begin, especially if you are on your own, insurance companies will typically opt for the lowest possible amount they can offer. In some cases, where an actual “bad faith” negotiation occurs, they may even offer amounts that would be considered too low to be legal for your situation. This is all an attempt to see just how knowledgeable you are about your case.

The hope is that you are ignorant enough about your rights in this circumstance to know what an appropriate amount is and will be happy to take any amount that seems like a lot.

You must be prepared to negotiate with counter-offers and have counter-arguments prepared to attack their offer amount and justify your own higher figure. For example, if you know you will no longer be able to return to your former occupation due to a permanent disability, then an offer that would cover medical treatment and six months of salary is unlikely to be what you’ll need.

For the best results, it’s always a good idea to reach out and talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer who can provide good legal counsel or even negotiate on your behalf. This ensures a settlement appropriate to your circumstances so you’ll have everything you need to recover sufficiently.

Stephen M. Fernandez developed a strong belief in justice and fairness in public policy while earning his Political Science degree prior to attending law school. Since joining the Florida Bar Association in 2004, Stephen Fernandez has combined his background in public policy, business administration and civil law to serve as a highly effective trial lawyer fighting for Florida's injured, working hard every day to make sure his clients get what they are owed.

What Happens During The Accident Settlement Process In Florida?

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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