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Before a lawyer will file a car accident claim on your behalf, several questions must be answered. A variety of factors will determine whether you have a viable car accident case that is likely to end in a settlement or court award.
7 Questions a Lawyer Will Ask Before Taking Your Car Accident Case
A car accident lawyer will take your case only after evaluating your answers to the following questions:
- How did the accident happen?
An attorney will need to know about all the circumstances surrounding your car accident. You’ll want to be honest and provide details you may not think matter–the weather, traffic conditions, what you told the first responders at the accident scene, were there witnesses, were you texting, eating or on the phone at the time of the accident, etc.
- Were you at fault or partially at fault for the accident?
While Florida is a no-fault liability state, that doesn’t mean you can’t sue someone for causing the accident. Most personal injury protection (PIP) insurance only covers 80 percent of a victim’s medical bills and 60 percent of their lost wages, which means you could be on the hook for significant costs associated with the accident. If you are found to be at fault or partially at fault, any damages or awards to which you are otherwise entitled could be proportionally reduced by your level of liability. Again, be honest with your lawyer and provide as much detail as possible. Even though you may bear some responsibility for the accident, your attorney will decide how much your liability impacts the value of your claim.
- Were you wearing a seatbelt?
Florida law requires motorists to wear seatbelts while operating or riding in a vehicle and they can be cited for failing to do so. However, just because you may not have been wearing a seatbelt at the time of an accident doesn’t automatically mean you are responsible for the crash. This information can be used as evidence in determining comparative negligence should the case proceed to civil court. While this may not preclude your lawyer from taking the case, it will certainly have a bearing on how your case is handled. Update: Florida replaced its pure comparative negligence system with a modified comparative negligence system. Consequently, a personal injury victim can now recover in proportion to the defendant’s percentage of responsibility only if the victim’s own share of responsibility is 50 percent or less. If the victim bears more than 50 percent liability, the victim cannot recover from the defendant.
- What are your injuries?
Your attorney will need to know as much detail as possible about the nature and extent of your injuries. Even if they seem minor to you, don’t leave anything out. Whether it’s whiplash, lacerations, stiffness, soreness, pain in your leg, shoulder or back — it all matters. Be as descriptive as possible and keep a journal detailing your pain and suffering and how your daily activities have been impacted by your injuries.
- When did you seek medical attention?
Regardless of how you feel following a vehicle accident, it is always advisable to seek medical attention as soon as possible, but in the moments after a crash, it can sometimes be difficult to think clearly. You may not have sought medical attention because you were treated by someone at the scene. You may have waited a few days to seek medical attention because your injuries didn’t become apparent until a day or two after the accident. Whatever the reason, let your attorney know why you did or did not seek medical attention following the incident.
- Do you have a pre-existing condition for the same body part that is now injured?
Even if you think it doesn’t matter, let your attorney, and your doctor, know about any prior medical conditions or previous injuries you’ve had in the past. While your injuries or symptoms may not always manifest themselves immediately after an accident, your injuries are still real. Being truthful helps establish your credibility.
- How have your injuries affected your ability to work or enjoy life?
Your attorney will want to know the impact your injuries have had on your life and your ability to provide for yourself and your family. The most obvious impact is on how much time you may have missed from work or how your injuries have affected your ability to do your job. Either instance can result in lost wages, which is a key component of any civil lawsuit involving a car accident. Likewise, your ability to play with your children, visit friends or family, perform chores around the house, or simply do the things you previously enjoyed doing can also be a factor in determining whether the lawyer will take your case.
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