Personal Injury: What You Need to Know

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured as a result of the negligent actions of another party, various state laws come into play. Every case is unique and must be evaluated on an individual basis to determine how to proceed with filing a claim or lawsuit to recover damages. 

Statute of Limitations in Florida
Under Florida law, you have four years from the time of the injury accident in which to file a claim, or you will be barred from filing a lawsuit. If your claim is being filed against a governmental agency, you have only three years, and certain filings must occur very soon after the incident. While this may seem to be plenty of time, the longer you wait, the more difficult it could be to obtain and preserve the evidence needed for your claim or lawsuit. 

Over time, eyewitnesses can become harder to find, and memories often fade. Critical evidence could be lost or destroyed. It is advised that you speak to us at Panzer Law as early as you can after the incident so we can manage all the crucial issues for you while you focus on what is important – your health and wellbeing.

Claim or Lawsuit? 
After suffering a serious injury, the need for compensation becomes an urgent matter. You may hope that your case is resolved quickly, and in some cases, a settlement can be negotiated within a few months, but not in all cases. 

The more serious the injuries, the more challenging it may be to negotiate the terms of a settlement. It may require some time to determine the long-term impact of the injuries on your physical and emotional condition. For example, a person who suffers a TBI (traumatic brain injury) may fully recover, recover partially, or may never recover, and some time is required before a doctor could provide an accurate prognosis. 

Insurance Settlements and Your Case
When an insurance company fails to make a fair settlement offer, you may be tempted to accept it – but this could be a disaster. You may require ongoing medical treatment, be unable to work for months, years, or longer, and the settlement amount may not come close to meeting your needs. In these cases, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit. At Panzer Law, we are very familiar with negotiating fair settlements for our clients, but we want them to recover the highest possible amount. When the settlement offer is very low, we need to increase the pressure, and filing a lawsuit may be necessary. In many cases, that is all it takes to make the insurance company sit up and listen and come through with an offer that is reasonable. 

What Damages are Paid in a Personal Injury Case?
The damages we pursue at Panzer Law are of two types: economic damages and non-economic damages. In some rare cases where gross negligence or intentional misconduct can be fully proven, we may pursue punitive damages, which are intended to punish the responsible party. Here is a brief outline of what is included in these damages:

Economic Damages
These damages include but are not limited to:

  • Past, current, and future estimated medical expenses
  • Lost wages, past and current
  • Lost earning capacity if your injuries have affected your ability to work in your profession
  • Cost of rehabilitation treatments
  • Cost of in-home nursing 
  • Transportation expenses
  • Cost of medical equipment, medications, and other similar costs

Got questions about a personal injury case?

Non-Economic Damages
These damages are often the highest portion of an insurance settlement or jury award in a personal injury case, and the state has imposed no caps on the amount that could be paid. Valuing pain and suffering will include reviewing the severity of the injuries, the age of the injured, any preexisting conditions, and the likelihood of ongoing consequences from the injuries. These damages include but are not limited to:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of companionship
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Damages for disfigurement
  • Damages for permanent impairments

Punitive Damages
Under Florida law, a claim for punitive damages can be filed if there is a “reasonable basis” for these damages. Clear and convincing evidence must be presented that proves the defendant was guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence, or conduct so reckless and lacking in reasonable care that it constitutes a “conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.” These damages are capped at $500,000.

Proving Negligence
Every personal injury case will hinge on the legal concept of negligence. Negligence refers to a person failing to exercise reasonable care to protect against harming another person. As an example, if a person chooses to drive drunk when it is illegal and well-established that drunk driving puts others at risk, this is an act of negligence. The same is true of other poor driving conduct, such as texting while driving, speeding, driving while drug intoxicated, or operating your vehicle in an unsafe manner that could endanger others. A personal injury claim must establish these facts:

  • The party named in a lawsuit or claim acted in a negligent manner.
  • Their negligent actions contributed to causing the accident and the injuries.
  • The incident led to damages to the other party, including injuries and other losses.

Each of these points must be established in every personal injury case. As Florida is a “comparative negligence” state, this means if you are partially at fault for an accident, the amount in damages paid will be reduced by your percentage of fault. 

Why Choose Panzer Law?
At Panzer Law, your case will be in the hands of a personal injury lawyer who genuinely cares about you and your future. Our entire legal team is compassionate, talented, and focused on fighting for justice for the injured. We take all the time necessary to evaluate the case thoroughly, collect and preserve supporting evidence, and may call upon resources such as medical experts, accident investigators, or others. We offer a unique benefit: our founder, Gil Panzer, has achieved both a law degree and a master’s degree in economics, giving him a great breadth of understanding of the complex financial matters in personal injury cases. Once we take on a case, we go the distance for the people we serve. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common types of work-related injuries?

An injury can occur in any work environment. Some of the most common types of injuries include slips and falls, strains, lacerations, burns, hearing damage, toxic exposure, vehicle accidents, eye injuries, broken bones, neck, shoulder, or back injuries.

What industries have the highest number of work accidents?

Construction is one of the most dangerous of all industries in America. People who work in this industry face many risks every day. Some of the most common workplace accidents in the construction industry include being hit by falling tools or debris, falls, electrocutions, explosions, burns, machinery accidents, trapped in or between, trench collapses, rollovers, and vehicle accidents, among others.

What benefits are paid after a work-related death?

If you lost a loved one due to fatal injuries sustained at work, you have the right to compensation under Florida’s workers’ compensation law. The benefits paid include funeral expenses up to $7,500 and a percentage of the average weekly wages your loved one earned. These are often complicated cases, and we urge you to speak with our workers’ comp lawyer at Panzer Law at once if your loved one has passed away after suffering a work-related accident. We will fight to ensure your right to compensation is protected.

What should I do if have an accident while on the job?

If you have a work accident…

  • Notify your employer right away.
  • Ask your employer to send you to a doctor.
  • Even if your employer does not send you to a doctor, see a doctor right away to make sure that you are diagnosed and treated, and to ensure that your complaints are documented.
  • Keep records of the expenses you incur as a result of the accident and copies of all paperwork.
  • Speak to an attorney as soon as possible to ascertain your legal rights.
  • Avoid giving an interview to the insurance company adjuster without first speaking to an attorney.

Do I have to file a lawsuit against the employer?

Workers’ compensation cases are filed with the State of Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims.  Your employer at the time of accident will be named as a party, but virtually all employers we file against have workers’ compensation insurance, and the insurance company will be paying your benefits, not your employer.

What should you bring to our first meeting with a workers’ compensation lawyer?

You do not need to bring anything to the meeting. However, it is helpful to bring documentation relevant to your situation. For example:

  • A copy of a document showing the exact name and address of your employer (this allows us to clearly identify the employer involved).
  • Medical records or reports related to your injury (this allows us to identify who diagnosed you and details that may not have been mentioned compared to the information you provided at the meeting).
  • Documents about your salary or other records related to current employment income (these documents are very important in determining the size of each disability check you may receive under workers’ compensation).
  • Information or documentation from your employer’s insurance company (your employer’s insurance company pays your benefits and we file your claim against that insurance company).
  • Identifying information and statements of witnesses who were present at the time of the injury (if there is a dispute about the accident, the witnesses can help us win your case).
  • A list of questions that you have prepared (the attorney will answer your questions at the end of your meeting with the attorney).

Again, you may not have this information when we first meet. We will work with you to find out how to obtain this information if you need it. Due to our extensive experience, our attorneys routinely obtain important documents and materials relevant to your case.

How long can I receive workers’ compensation benefits?

Disability benefits remain while you are recovering from your injury.  Thereafter additional disability benefits are available, and the duration depends on the extent of your injuries.  Medical benefits can be maintained indefinitely with the right strategy. 

How long do I have to report a workplace injury?

You must report the injury or illness to your employer within 30 days of your knowledge of the injury, but with certain exceptions.

What if my employer tries to stop me from seeking benefits?

Your employer must report your injuries, and if he or she fails to do so, could be subject to fines and penalties. While the employer has the right to dispute your claim once filed, they cannot stop you from filing a claim.

How much will I be paid in benefits after a work-related injury?

The benefits paid by the workers’ compensation system in Florida allow you between 64 percent and 66 2/3 percent of your average weekly wage, paid every two weeks.

I filed for workers’ compensation benefits but was denied. What do I do?

It is not uncommon for a workers’ comp claim to be denied. If you received a “Notice of Denial,” it can be a shocking and worrying situation – you need the benefits you are entitled to under the law. If you were denied, our workers’ comp attorneys at Panzer Law can take your case in hand and file a Petition for Benefits.  This initiates the process and typically will lead to what is termed a “mediation conference” to attempt to resolve the dispute, and thereafter a trial before a judge if the dispute is unresolved.  Our legal team can take action on your behalf in this situation.

How long before I get my settlement?

You have the right to reject an offer of settlement that is too low, and our legal team at Panzer Law is here to guide you through this process and will do everything possible to expedite the process.

What if I was partially at fault?

Florida is what is termed a “comparative negligence” state. If you were partially responsible for what occurred, the amount of compensation you are paid would be reduced by the percentage that you are believed to be responsible for.

Will my case go to court?

The vast majority of cases are settled without the need to take it to trial. However, you do want to ensure your workers’ compensation lawyer has trial skills, as this skill set is also needed to prepare a compelling case, present it in mediation or negotiations, and at trial if this is in your best interests. 

I was hit by a drunk driver who did not have insurance – what do I do?

Unfortunately, many drivers are operating vehicles without auto insurance. If the drunk driver has no insurance or is under-insured, a claim can be filed with your own auto insurance provider. Although a lawsuit could be filed to attempt to seek compensation by another method, these negligent drivers often do not have assets that make this approach successful.

Do I have a case?

You may be unsure if you have a right to seek compensation. Take advantage of our free case consultation to find out if your case has merit.

What damages will be paid in my personal injury claim?

Your personal injury claim involves several types of damages, called “economic damages,” which are the financial losses you experienced, and “non-economic damages,” which are more personal and include pain and suffering and loss of quality of life.

How much will it cost to work hire our law firm and when do you pay?

Our firm charges nothing unless we recover benefits for you. In a workers’ compensation case, you pay 30% or less when there is a recovery. The amount is often less because we often recover a portion of our attorney’s fees from the insurance company, sometimes 100%, thereby reducing or eliminating your responsibility for attorney’s fees. In a personal injury case, you pay 33% if the case settles before the defendant files an answer in a lawsuit, or 40% if the case does not settle before the defendant files an answer in a lawsuit.  Costs work the same way, whereby our costs are paid only if we recover benefits for you.  In workers’ compensation cases, we often recover part of our costs, sometimes 100%, thereby reducing or eliminating your responsibility for costs. You pay nothing unless and until we recover benefits for you.

Do I need a lawyer?

While a minor injury could be resolved without an attorney, any case that involves serious injury, catastrophic injury, or loss of life should be managed by a skilled personal injury lawyer.

How much is my case worth?

Every workers’ compensation case is unique. The value will be based on the degree of your injuries, whether they will lead to future challenges, affect your ability to earn a living, require ongoing medical care, and many other factors. To determine the value of your claim will require reviewing your medical condition, valuing the financial losses you have experienced and will experience, and the work restrictions associated with your injuries.

What to expect in our first meeting?

Meeting with a workers’ compensation attorney shouldn’t be an intimidating experience.

Rather it should be useful. In our office, we collect information about your case and help clients to be well informed and comfortable when they come in for an initial consultation. We share important information in at least two ways and develop your case to best handle it for your unique situation.

When you first walk into our office, we’ll sit down and go over the reason for your visit. You will discuss your case with one of our attorneys. If you speak Spanish, you will discuss your case with a Spanish-speaking attorney. One of our staff members will collect information about you and your situation. We will ask you specific questions about your background, your employment, and your injury. Our interview will be extensive and in detail, to obtain the most complete information about your situation. When we are well informed, it allows us to better prepare your case. At the close of the meetings, we may have some tasks for you to do and help us follow up after our meeting, and we will also be running a series of processes after our meeting to start your case as soon as possible.

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