Sustaining an injury that was caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing can turn your life upside down. Between physical pain, emotional distress, and financial constraints, personal injury victims are faced with numerous hurdles on the road to recovery. Many look to hold the responsible party legally accountable by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
However, the litigation process itself presents challenges. Lawsuits can be complex, time-consuming, and energy-draining. Without proper guidance on what to do (and not do), your case could suffer, resulting in a less favorable outcome.
That’s why if you plan to pursue a personal injury case in Jacksonville, it’s critical to educate yourself on proper legal protocols and strategies. While an attorney will handle the finer details, you can still maximize your claim by avoiding missteps and optimizing key factors.
This guide covers the main dos and don’ts to bear in mind from the earliest stages of your case through its resolution. Following these suggestions will help strengthen your position and ability to recover deserved compensation.
Do Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Attempting to handle a personal injury lawsuit without legal representation is extremely unwise. Personal injury law can be complex and requires expertise to go thriygh Jacksonville’s specific laws, legal procedures, and court system protocols.
An accomplished personal injury lawyer has the skills and knowledge to substantially improve your prospects. They will manage important aspects of your case like investigating fault and negligence, determining liable parties, calculating damages, collecting supporting evidence, filing motions, negotiating with insurance companies, and representing you in court if a trial becomes necessary.
With an attorney, you also gain advantages like reduced stress, objective guidance, and access to resources like medical experts. This allows you to focus on your health while your lawyer handles the legal complexities.
When researching attorneys, look for these important qualifications:
- Specific focus on personal injury law – This specialized experience translates to better case outcomes compared to a general practice lawyer.
- History of positive case results – Track records of large settlements and verdicts indicate ability to build strong arguments.
- Resources and professional relationships – Well-connected lawyers have access to private investigators, medical experts, and other services to support your case.
- Local knowledge and reputation – An attorney familiar with Jacksonville’s unique judges, legal environment and case history will know how to craft an effective strategy.
- Strong communications skills – They should clearly explain legal options and processes while addressing all your questions and concerns.
Take time to carefully choose your personal injury attorney in Jacksonville is a foundational step toward the fair compensation you seek.
Do Follow Your Attorney’s Advice
Once you’ve retained counsel, you’ll work closely with them throughout the legal process. While the attorney-client relationship is collaborative, you should generally follow their guidance and instructions.
As your legal representative, your lawyer has an ethical obligation to pursue the most beneficial outcome for you. They will apply their expertise to make strategic decisions based on the specifics of your case.
Some examples where you’ll want to heed their advice:
- Recommended response to a settlement offer – Your attorney will assess if it represents adequate compensation or advise negotiating for more.
- Medical treatment plan – Not following prescribed treatment could be portrayed as contributory negligence.
- Providing documents or participating in interviews – Your attorney will determine what evidence could help versus hurt your case.
- Communication with insurance companies – Insurers may try to pressure you into statements against your interests. Let your lawyer handle interactions.
- Social media activity related to your case – Posts could potentially be used to discredit you. Listen if your attorney suggests temporarily deactivating accounts.
- Courtroom conduct – Your legal team knows how juries perceive certain behaviors and attitudes.
While you can always ask questions and discuss options, your lawyer has your best interests in mind. Trust their experience and objectivity.
Do Be Honest with Your Attorney
Establishing an open and honest attorney-client relationship is imperative. Being fully truthful and forthcoming allows your lawyer to build the strongest case possible.
You should provide complete details surrounding how your injury occurred, the at-fault party’s role, the extent of physical and emotional effects, treatment efforts, and any other case-related issues. Exaggerating or minimizing facts will backfire.
Your attorney’s job is to advocate for you, not judge you. Disclosing even potentially embarrassing or damaging information enables them to prepare appropriate defenses to counter opposing arguments.
Full disclosure also helps ensure you receive suitable evidence requests and questioning during discovery and any depositions or trial testimony. It prevents surprising contradictions that could raise doubt about your claims.
While honesty may seem obvious, injured victims sometimes bend the truth hoping for a better outcome. Avoid this temptation – your integrity and credibility have immense value. Your attorney needs transparency to formulate optimal legal theories and strategies.
Do Keep Detailed Records
Documenting details relevant to your injury and losses is imperative. Thorough records strengthen your claim and ability to account for the compensation you seek.
Types of documentation to maintain include:
- Medical records – Obtain copies of all diagnostic test results, treatment notes, hospital/ER discharge papers, referrals, pharmacy receipts, and appointment summaries from your healthcare providers.
- Bills and receipts – Keep records of all medical bills, prescriptions, medical equipment, rehabilitation costs, property damage estimates, etc. Also track any insurance claim documentation.
- Employment records – Pay stubs, HR notices, performance reviews, and correspondence can help verify lost income claims.
- Calendar of impacts – Note appointments missed, lost work hours, time spent obtaining treatment or managing injury effects.
- Diary of symptoms – Document your pain levels, physical limitations, emotional effects, sleep disruptions, and any progressive changes.
- Photographs/videos – Pictures of injuries, property damage, unsafe conditions that caused your accident, etc. can be useful evidence.
- Police reports – Request a copy of any reports filed regarding your incident.
- Witness accounts – Collect contact details and written statements from anyone who observed your accident or can attest to how it affected your life.
Comprehensive documentation reduces reliance on memory months or years later. It also demonstrates reasonableness of your claimed losses. Keep your attorney updated on new developments.
Do Get Needed Medical Treatment
It’s imperative to follow through with doctors’ prescribed treatments for your injury. Not only does this facilitate recovery, but it also demonstrates you are attempting to mitigate the effects of your damages.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Attend all appointments and therapy sessions recommended by your physicians. Last minute cancellations or no-shows can portray non-compliance.
- Don’t decline diagnostic tests – MRIs, x-rays, CT scans, and the like are necessary to fully assess injuries.
- Take medications and use devices as directed – This shows you are cooperating fully with medical advice.
- Give treatment a chance to work before quitting – Prematurely discontinuing physical therapy or endings appointments gives the impression injuries were minor or resolving.
- Tell doctors about all symptoms and changes in your condition – Ongoing problems demonstrate longer-term effects.
- Don’t exaggerate or downplay pain and limitations to doctors – Be accurate about abilities so progress notes reflect reality.
Document all efforts to obtain care. Judges and juries understand injuries can worsen over time, but they want to see mitigation attempts. Even if lacking insurance or financial means, show you are doing everything possible under the circumstances.
Do Remain Patient Throughout the Legal Process
By nature, personal injury litigation is not speedy. Investigations, pre-trial procedures, court scheduling, negotiations – all take patience and perseverance. On average, resolving a personal injury case can take anywhere from several months to over a year depending on complexity.
Here are some tips for maintaining patience:
- Have realistic expectations on timing – Television and movies misrepresent how quickly legal action happens.
- Avoid fixating on settlement amounts – Thinking constantly about money you don’t have yet will lead to anxiety and frustration. Focus on getting well.
- Find distractions – Don’t let your case consume you. Make time for hobbies, friends, and other activities you enjoy.
- Take things one step at a time – Don’t get ahead of yourself worrying about future uncertainties like trial dates. Live in the present.
- Ask your lawyer for case status updates – Checking in periodically can provide reassurance that things are progressing.
- Keep communication open with your attorney – Expressing concerns respectfully will likely provide helpful perspective.
Rushing the process rarely works. The defense may sense desperation and lowball settlement offers. Trust that your legal team has your best interests in mind as they work diligently within the system.
Don’t Post Details About Your Case on Social Media
It can be tempting to vent about your accident, injuries, the responsible party, or your pending lawsuit on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media accounts. However, this carries significant risks.
Anything you post online can potentially be used against you to undermine or disprove your claims. The defense team will likely thoroughly review your profiles looking for inconsistencies or evidence of activities that contradict alleged limitations.
Types of damaging social media activities include:
- Describing phantom injuries or pain levels exaggerated beyond medical records
- Indicating anger or vindictiveness as opposed to simply seeking fair compensation
- Sharing photos/videos of you performing physical activities you claimed were difficult or impossible
- Discussing your case itself – don’t share confidential details or criticize the at-fault party
To avoid social media missteps, heed these guidelines:
- Make accounts private and review settings carefully. Links or screenshots can still end up in the defense’s hands.
- Do not post details about your accident, health complaints, treatment, abilities, or legal case. Period.
- Avoid rants/venting – Remain calm and objective.
- Temporarily deactivate accounts if needed to avoid temptation.
Your attorney may advise you to get off social media altogether during litigation. This may seem extreme but is intended to protect your interests. The slightest contradiction could be blown out of proportion by the defense.
Don’t Accept an Early Settlement Offer
Without Discussing With Your Attorney After a personal injury claim is filed, the responsible party’s insurance company will likely extend a settlement offer fairly quickly. Their goal is to settle for the lowest amount possible, even if it’s below the value of your damages and losses.
It can be tempting to accept an early offer just to get some compensation immediately and move on from the legal process. But this is often a mistake.
Your attorney determines the settlement value of your claim by accounting for both economic and non-economic damages. These include:
- Medical bills (current and projected future)
- Lost income and reduced earning capacity
- Property loss or destruction
- Cost of help with daily living
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment/quality of life
The initial offer generally won’t adequately cover the above. Your lawyer will advise against settling too soon and attempt to negotiate a higher amount with the insurer.
An exception may be a “policy limits” offer, which represents the maximum payout under the liable party’s policy. If your attorney confirms this is the cap, accepting may be prudent.
But in most cases, they have your best interests in mind. Trust their judgment on when the offer is sufficient versus when more can be recovered.
Don’t Talk to Insurance Company Representatives Without Your Attorney
Insurers for responsible parties often contact injury victims directly and attempt to obtain recorded statements or other useful information from them. They may call repeatedly acting friendly and concerned.
But make no mistake – their only purpose is gaining evidence to minimize liability payouts. Anything you say can potentially be used against you later. Common tactics include trying to establish:
- Injuries or losses were pre-existing or exaggerated
- You contributed to the incident through your own negligence
- Treatment you received wasn’t necessary or reasonable
Claims representatives are masters at steering conversations to support these angles. They will try convincing you the process will go smoother if you cooperate with them directly rather than involve lawyers. Don’t fall for it.
Politely state you are represented by counsel who handles all communications on your behalf. Refer them to your attorney and immediately notify your lawyer about the contact. Avoid off-the-cuff comments that could weaken your stance.
Let your legal team handle all interactions with insurers. They know how to respond to questions while protecting your interests. The less you say, the better.
Don’t Miss Important Court Dates and Legal Appointments
As your case progresses, you will need to appear at events like hearings, settlement conferences, independent medical exams, and depositions. Make sure you calendar these well in advance so you don’t miss them.
Showing up late or failing to appear at all makes a terrible impression on the judge or other parties. At minimum it demonstrates disrespect and lack of responsibility. But it could also directly injure your legal position.
For example, missing a scheduled deposition may allow the defense to request the court dismiss your lawsuit as a sanction. Arriving late to a hearing could cause it to proceed without your testimony.
Leave extra buffer time when heading to appointments to account for traffic, parking, and any security screenings at courthouses. If an unavoidable emergency arises, immediately call your lawyer so they can request a postponement or represent you in your absence.
Judges understand extenuating circumstances, but will lose patience if you repeatedly miss court obligations. This can result in penalties that impact your ability to pursue your rightful claim.
Don’t Stop Medical Treatment Too Soon
It’s important not to conclude your medical treatment, physical therapy, counseling, or other interventions too quickly following an injury. Doing so can be used to argue the issues were minor or resolved.
Lingering effects often emerge weeks or months post-accident once the initial adrenaline wears off and inflammation sets in. Bones, muscles, and connective tissue hide symptoms that can subsequently surface.
Follow all recommendations from your treatment providers as to duration of care. Communicate openly about persistent or new symptoms you experience. Don’t downplay your condition in hopes of wrapping up treatment sooner.
The defense will likely hire professionals to examine you and scrutinize your medical records. Prematurely discharging yourself against doctors’ advice hands them evidence to minimize injury claims.
In addition to clinical records, your attorney can subpoena records like employment time cards and schedules to prove reduced hours and lost productivity tied to your injury case. But you must complete treatment regimes first.
Patience with the recovery process pays off by validating your losses. Quitting too soon undermines the seriousness of your damages.