As one of the popular tourist destinations in the Tampa region, New Port Richey comes alive during its festivals, drawing even bigger crowds than normal. While these celebrations serve as an essential part of this small town’s culture, they pack the streets with unfamiliar drivers and revelers, leading to an increased risk of car accidents.
The town’s history and historical feel also contribute to its culture. Historical buildings create an increased risk of accidents if the property owner or renter fails to mitigate the hazards frequently found in them, such as loose floorboards and defective staircases that can lead to a slip and fall accident.
If you have sustained injuries in an accident in New Port Richey, you should follow the process to seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury. An experienced personal injury lawyer from Lucas & Magazine can assist you. Read on for more information about the personal injury process, answers to questions that our New Port Richey clients ask about personal injury law, and about some of our services. Then contact us for your free case evaluation, so we can provide answers to your legal questions.
About Personal Injury Law
Personal injury law covers situations in which an individual becomes injured and seeks to hold an at-fault party liable (legally responsible) for the expenses and impacts of the injury incurred because of the at-fault party’s negligence. Negligence involves a failure to behave in the way that a reasonable person would in a given set of circumstances to prevent injury to others or damage to property.
A personal injury lawsuit involves a legal claim filed in civil court in the county where the injury occurred against the person that caused the injury. That person’s insurance company will usually provide the compensation in a personal injury case, as most individuals cannot pay for the expenses and impacts of someone else’s injury out-of-pocket. In Florida, the statute of limitations in most personal injury cases provides injured individuals with four years from the date on which the accident occurred to file a law suit.
A Wide Umbrella: Types of Personal Injury Cases
Personal injury law encompasses many different types of claims. Most claims involve a similar process for seeking compensation, whether you sustained an injury as a pedestrian while walking along U.S. 19, suffered a dog bite in Trinity, or lost your mother or father because of nursing home neglect. Below, we provide a look at the types of personal injury cases that we regularly handle.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Pasco County’s roadways don’t necessarily rank as the safest for traveling. County-wide, more than 6,000 people sustain injuries in motor vehicle accidents each year, along with close to 200 bicycle crashes, 200 pedestrian crashes, and 300 motorcycle crashes. Individuals can sustain injuries in all types of motor vehicle accidents, including those involving cars, motorcycles, pickup trucks, commercial trucks, buses, scooters, bicycles, and pedestrians. Watercraft and aircraft accidents can also result in personal injury claims.
Common causes of motor vehicle accidents on the roadway include distracted driving, alcohol impairment, speeding, aggressive driving/road rage, failure to yield, and driver fatigue.
Defective Products Cases
We rely on thousands of different products in our daily lives, from the food we eat to the medicines we take, the toys our children play with and the appliances we have in our homes. The manufacturer and distributor of the products available on stores and pharmacy shelves, or even the medical devices that doctors surgically place in consumers’ bodies bear responsibility for ensuring that those products do not pose an unreasonable risk to the consumer when used according to labeled instructions.
Three types of product defects can lead to a personal injury claim, including:
- Design defects: Some defects stem from the engineered design of the product; these defects generally impact all of the produced products.
- Manufacturing defects: These flaws generally occur during the manufacturing process, such as bacteria tainting a food or medicine during production. These defects often only impact a few, or a few lots, of the product.
- Packaging defects: Most products come with labeled instructions about the intended use. Failing to provide this information or to disclose all known risks linked to the use of the product can result in liability for injuries caused to those who did not receive adequate warning of the risks or instructions on how to use the product safely.
Nursing Home Abuse
With ample sunshine and resources for elderly individuals, Florida serves as a popular destination for retirees. Fifteen nursing homes exist near New Port Richey, including seven within the city limits. Unfortunately, while we place a good deal of trust in these facilities, staffing issues, poor training, a high administrative turnover rate, and other issues can lead to negligence in a nursing home setting, resulting in injuries or even death to residents.
The six most common types of abuse that occur in nursing homes include:
- Physical abuse, such as slapping, hitting, or pushing a resident.
- Sexual abuse, which includes any type of sexual activity without the resident’s consent.
- Emotional abuse, which can involve threats, intimidation, or isolation to lord power over the resident.
- Neglect, which involves failing to provide adequate care and to meet the resident’s basic needs. Examples can include failing to provide adequate nutrition or hydration, failing to administer the resident’s medication in the proper dose, or failing to prevent bedsores or injuries due to a fall.
- Financial exploitation, which involves taking the resident’s personal belongings or forging financial documents.
- Abandonment, which involves intentionally deserting a nursing home resident.
As alluded to previously, a property owner, manager, or possessor has the legal responsibility to mitigate known hazards on the property to prevent injuries to guests. If the owner cannot mitigate the hazard in a timely fashion, the property owner/possessor must place a prominent warning sign near the hazard so that people know to use caution.
Premises liability claims involve many different cases, with slip and fall accidents constituting the most common. Slip and fall accidents generally occur because of loose floorboards, worn or freshly waxed floors, defective staircases, inadequate lighting, or obstacles or debris in the walkway. This accident results in around 1 million visits to emergency departments across the nation each year.
Other types of premises liability include:
- Swimming pool accidents
- Fires or floods
- Escalator or elevator accidents
- Amusement park accidents
- Dog bites
- Negligent security
If an individual dies because of another’s careless or reckless actions, the deceased’s family members can obtain compensation for the expenses and impacts through a wrongful death lawsuit.
In Florida, the deceased’s family members cannot file a wrongful death claim directly. Instead, a personal representative of the estate must file the claim, which is usually either a named executor of the deceased’s will or an appointed administrator to their estate.
The damages that individuals can obtain through this type of claim include:
- The value of support and services that the deceased provided to their family members.
- Loss of the deceased’s companionship and protection.
- Loss of parental companionship, guidance, and instruction.
- Emotional distress.
- The loss of wages, benefits, and other earnings that the deceased would have earned if they had survived.
- The value of earnings the deceased could have reasonably been expected to retain and leave as part of the estate had he or she survived.
- The cost of funeral services and burial or cremation paid for directly by family members or by the estate.
Serious Injuries, Serious Efforts
If your injury required you to seek medical treatment, miss time from work, or diminished your ability to accomplish daily living tasks, we consider it a serious injury that you should speak with an experienced attorney about.
Some of the injuries in New Port Richey accidents that can give rise to a personal injury claim include:
- Traumatic brain injuries. The brain controls the functions and involuntary responses of the entire body, but the brain struggles to recover from injury. This type of injury commonly results in permanent disabilities, such as the inability to speak or understand spoken language, memory loss, the inability to control emotions or behaviors, difficulty moving in a balanced and controlled manner, or visual impairment.
- Spinal cord injuries. The spinal cord serves as the messenger system that the brain uses to communicate with the rest of the body. It also has a limited ability to heal from injury. Spinal cord injuries often paralyze their victims. Even more, disc injuries such as herniated discs in the lower back and neck can often put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, resulting in arm and leg numbness, tingling, and pain.
- Broken bones. While many broken bones heal with medical care and physical rehabilitation within a few months, some can result in life-altering or even life-threatening complications. For example, a broken hip suffered in a fall by an elderly resident can result in a permanent loss of the ability to live independently, or can even result in death.
- Soft tissue injuries. Whiplash is a common type of soft tissue injury, often occurring from rear-end collisions. The injury gets its name from the rapid back-and-forth motion of the neck that causes the injury, which looks much like the cracking of a whip. In addition to whiplash, damage to muscles, joints, and tendons throughout the body can also result.
- Burns. Burns can occur from flame, liquid, steam, hot surfaces, chemicals, or electricity. Serious burns carry a high risk of infection and scarring and may require treatment at specialized burn centers.
- Amputation. Traumatic amputations occur when a limb shears off due to contact with a sharp object during an accident or from two objects crushing or compressing it. Limbs that suffer serious injuries in accidents may also require surgical removal to improve the patient’s outcome or prevent an infected limb from resulting in a life-threatening infection throughout the body.
- Cuts or abrasions. While these do not sound like serious injuries, cuts and abrasions leave the body open to infection and scarring. This is particularly true for wounds occurring from road rash in a bicycle or motorcycle accident and dog bite wounds.
Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury Claims in New Port Richey
Personal injury law covers many accidents and injuries, and each case involves unique facts and circumstances. However, all of these types of personal injury claims involve a similar process for seeking compensation. Below, we answer some of the questions that our clients from New Port Richey ask us most often about seeking compensation for injuries incurred in accidents.
How Quickly Should I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations in personal injury cases requires that you file your personal injury claim in court no later than four years after the date the accident occurred, in most cases. However, the timeline for your specific lawsuit will depend on several factors.
The personal injury claim process starts immediately after the incident that caused the injuries. Care is taken to ensure the amount of benefits available to you is determined, and your injuries are being taken care of by proper medical professionals. Once your treatment for your injuries is completed or near completion, a demand package that your attorney prepares is sent to the at-fault party’s insurance provider. This package details the accident and shows the expenses and impacts you have incurred as a result. It also demands payment.
Upon receiving the demand, the insurance provider can do one of three things:
- Accept their insured’s liability and issue payment on the claim. If this happens, you won’t need to file a claim in court.
- Deny liability and send the claimant notification of this denial and the reason for the claim rejection. If this happens, you and your attorney will likely decide to file the lawsuit rather quickly.
- Accept their insured’s liability, but offer a settlement lower than the value of the claim. Generally, this option begins settlement negotiations, in which your attorney will work on your behalf to obtain a settlement offer that fairly compensates you for the expenses and impacts of your injury. At some point before the statute of limitations expires, you—with the guidance of your attorney—will determine that you cannot achieve your desired result through settlement negotiations and will file your claim in court. You should know, however, that negotiations can continue even after you filed your lawsuit, and even after the trial has begun.
How Do I Prove Liability in a New Port Richey Personal Injury Claim?
While some personal injury claims stem from intentional acts, such as assault or child abuse, the vast majority of these types of accidents result from negligence, which involves a failure to behave in a manner that a reasonable person would in a given set of circumstances to prevent injury to others.
You and your attorney will prove negligence by establishing:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care.
- The at-fault party breached the duty of care, meaning the at-fault party took actions that were contrary to what a reasonable person would do to prevent harm to others.
- The breach resulted in the accident that caused you injury and associated expenses and impacts.
How Much Is the Average Car Accident Case Worth in New Port Richey?
There are many types of car accidents, including rear-ends, head-ons, sideswipes, broadsides, and rollovers. Many factors can increase or decrease the severity of the injuries suffered, including the speed of each vehicle at the time of the collision, the angle of each vehicle, whether the vehicle occupants used restraints, and other vehicles or objects involved in the accident.
Much information can determine the value of a claim, including how much medical treatment the claimant required, how much the claimant earned before the accident occurred, and whether the claimant can earn the same amount of money again.
Because of all these many factors, we can’t describe an average personal injury claim.
We can, however, point to three considerations that have a major impact on the value of your claim:
- The at-fault party’s level of insurance coverage. Remember, insurance companies typically pay out personal injury claims. You can file a personal injury lawsuit against an uninsured defendant. You can even obtain a judgment in your favor. You will struggle to actually collect on the claim, however, as an uninsured person likely can’t afford to pay for someone else’s accident expenses out-of-pocket.
- Whether you hired an attorney. Many people feel tempted to file a personal injury claim on their own only to quickly realize the complexity of the legal system. Having an attorney working on your case can make a difference of many thousands of dollars in compensation, as your attorney will understand how to value your claim, how to negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance provider, how to avoid the common tactics insurance providers use to avoid large payouts on claims, and the formalities of the court.
- Your patience during the settlement process. In cases that involve clear liability, plaintiffs can usually obtain a settlement offer rather easily. However, obtaining a settlement offer that fairly compensates you for the expenses and impacts you have already incurred as well as those you will likely incur in the future takes time. Settlement negotiations can last from the time of the initial demand until the court reaches a decision. Often, the best offers do not start to come until shortly before litigation begins.
I Sustained Injuries in an Accident Caused by a Commercial Truck Driver. Who Bears Liability?
With a vehicle that has significant blind spots on all four sides, weighs 20 to 30 times more than the average passenger car, and can require up to 40 percent more distance to come to a complete stop, commercial trucks—also known as tractor-trailers or big rigs—have the potential to cause catastrophic injuries or even death.
Because of the high risk of injury to the occupants of other vehicles, truck drivers and trucking companies must follow a series of federal requirements that involve a higher duty of care than drivers of personal vehicles, including obtaining a special license to operate the vehicle on the roadway, random drug and alcohol screenings, limits on the number of hours the driver can drive, and more.
Because of these federal requirements, determining liability in a truck accident can prove tricky.
However, some potential sources of liability include:
- The at-fault truck driver, whose careless or reckless actions leading to the accident failed to uphold the duty of care expected of commercial truck drivers.
- The trucking company, if the driver worked for one. Trucking companies must properly vet their drivers through background and driving history checks and to ensure that the drivers have the proper training to handle the rigors of the job. If the company owns the truck involved in the collision, the company must ensure that the truck has received all proper maintenance and has all required insurance.
- The shipper, if the accident resulted from improperly loaded cargo, or if the shipper utilized a trucking company or driver without adequate insurance.
- The individual or entity tasked with performing maintenance on the truck if the collision resulted from a maintenance issue.
- The manufacturer or distributor of the truck or parts used on the truck, if the wreck occurred because of a product defect.
Can I File a Claim Against a Government Agency for an Injury I Received From a Slip and Fall on Public Property?
Without knowing the details of your case, generally speaking, injured individuals can file lawsuits against governmental entities responsible for ensuring that public properties don’t have any hazards that can cause injury to guests. However, the process of doing so may prove slightly different than the regular personal injury claims process.
Below, we discuss some of the highlights of a suit against a governmental entity:
- Governmental employees cannot bear liability for harm to others unless the harm was intentional. Instead, the injured individual would file the claim against the agency tasked with maintaining the premises.
- Damages in cases against the state’s government cannot exceed $200,000. This limit extends to $300,000 if the claim involves multiple state entities.
- Courts will not award punitive damages or interest in personal injury claims against the government.
- If you file a claim against the state, you must file a written claim to the appropriate agency—as well as the state’s Department of Financial Services—no later than three years after the accident.
- If you receive a claim denial, then you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the agency within three years of the date on which the accident occurred.
The process may prove different for local, county, or federal government claims. Our experienced attorneys can advise you how to proceed in those instances.
Can I Seek Compensation From My PIP Policy and Also File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Yes. While you must meet the serious injury threshold to be entitled to damages over and above actual out of pocket medical bills, you may seek compensation through both processes if your expenses exceed the limit of your PIP policy. The minimum required amount of PIP insurance—which many Florida drivers choose to purchase—is $10,000. Most injuries that require ambulance service, treatment in the emergency department, surgery, or a hospital stay will generate more than $10,000 of expenses fairly quickly.
I Had a Miscarriage as a Result of a Car Accident. Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim?
According to the U.S. National Laboratory of Medicine, automobile crashes constitute the largest single cause of death for pregnant women and the leading cause of traumatic fetal injury mortality in the United States. Unfortunately, however, the death of a fetus does not meet the qualifications for a wrongful death claim in Florida. Instead, you can claim the miscarriage as a physical injury to yourself in a personal injury claim. This will meet the serious injury threshold, as death is a qualifying factor.
The At-Fault Party’s Insurance Provider Has Already Offered Me a Settlement. Should I Accept It?
Have you spoken with an attorney about your case and allowed that attorney to establish the value of your claim? If not, you should tread carefully when entertaining settlement offers from the at-fault party’s insurance provider. These early settlement offers rarely reflect the severity of your injury and the impacts you will experience.
You may not have had sufficient time to reach maximum medical improvement or to fully realize the quality-of-life impacts that you will face. The insurance adjuster may seem concerned about your well-being and desire for a quick resolution, but really, the company just wants to save money by avoiding paying out the value of the claim.
You only have one chance to get it right with a settlement agreement. If you agree and later determine that the compensation you received didn’t cover your expenses and the impacts of the injury, you can’t go back and ask the insurance provider for more money.
Do I Have to Travel to Another City to Meet With My Attorney From Lucas & Magazine?
Absolutely not! Our main office is in New Port Richey, in the Government Plaza, south of the Pasco County Courthouse on Little Road. For the convenience and comfort of our clients, we have four readily available conference rooms, and this location houses our core administration, litigation, trial, and settlement departments. We are also available to do everything needed to get your case going by e-signing documents and phone, zoom calls for communication.
With an attorney close to you, and fees based on contingency- which means you only pay if we win for you, and 20 years of service to the injured victims, the Injury Lawyers at the Law offices of Lucas & Magazine stands ready ensure you are treated fairly and to help you obtain compensation to cover the full cost of your injuries.
Contact us online or by calling (727) 849-5353 for your free case evaluation, during which you can discuss the details of your accident and determine your eligibility to pursue compensation.