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    The Ultimate Guide to Personal Injury Claims

    This guide aims to simplify personal injury claims to help victims understand the process and how to win compensation from those responsible. Working with an expert personal injury lawyer is the best way for victims and their families to find justice quickly and cover the costs related to injuries and emotional suffering. Leighton Panoff Law is a leading Florida personal injury firm with decades of experience handling complex injury and wrongful death cases. 

    A personal injury claim is typically the best way for injury victims to seek compensation for injury, pain and suffering, disability, lost income, or mental trauma resulting from a person’s or entity’s intentional or negligent act.

    Personal injury cases are separate from criminal cases, though some personal injury cases contribute to eventual criminal charges.

    A good example is when someone is charged with murder in a criminal case but also faces damages claims in a civil wrongful death case or when a drunk driver is liable in a civil case but also may be charged with vehicular manslaughter.

    Click here to speak with an attorney. We’re here to offer you the support you and your family need.

    The legal landscape is often complex. Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer helps victims understand whether they have a claim, the possible outcomes of their suit, and what to expect regarding reasonable timelines.

    This guide outlines some basic principles of personal injury cases, the types of damages available to victims, and the importance of working with an experienced and specialized personal injury legal team.

    Here is your ultimate guide to personal injury cases.

    What Is a Personal Injury Claim?

    Injury victims can seek recovery for physical, emotional and financial damage from liable parties. When someone suffers an injury, they should examine whether their injuries resulted from someone else’s negligence or intentional act. When someone is injured because of the acts or negligence of another person, business, or product, the victim may be entitled to monetary compensation. Personal injury law covers the process by which victims can recover costs and receive damages after an injury.

    Poor safety conditions, lack of maintenance, poorly trained employees, defective products, inadequate security, a lack of supervision, negligent hiring, bad business policies and procedures, and other factors frequently cause or worsen injuries.

    For example, if a dog escapes and bites a child and inflicts injury, the dog owner is liable to pay for the attack’s medical bills, pain and suffering, scarring or disfigurement, lost income and other costs. It’s not the victim’s fault, so they shouldn’t have to pay for the damage caused. But in addition to the owner, there may be other responsible parties.  For example, if this happens in an apartment complex and there was a history of aggressive behavior by the dog (or other red flags about the animal), the management or condominium may be liable for allowing a hazardous condition to exist.

    In another example, someone sexually assaulted in a garage at night can certainly hold the criminal responsible for damages (and criminal prosecution by the state). Yet the owner and management of the garage may be liable for failing to have adequate security, lighting or limited access to the garage.  There might even be a security company hired that failed to act reasonably and they may also be liable.  These are examples of why you should immediately consult with a specialized personal injury attorney to find out whether there is a recovery possible and who might be liable.

    The personal injury claims process exists for this purpose. Under the correct circumstances, injury victims and their families can hold liable parties responsible and force them to pay damages to cover things like:

    • Medical bills
    • Lost income from missed work in the past and into the future
    • Disability
    • Long-term rehabilitation and care
    • Pain and suffering, scarring and emotional trauma

    Working with a specialized personal injury lawyer helps victims reach a fair resolution faster and best guarantees victims and their families are protected after injury. Often, catastrophic injury law requires specialization and years of experience. Leighton Panoff Law offers personal legal advice and case management for even the most complex cases.

    How to Prove Personal Injury Claims

    Collecting evidence and proving facts are essential for any personal injury claim or lawsuit.

    Typically, victims and their legal representatives must show that the injuries resulted from either:

    • Negligence (a mistake or “accident”)
    • Intentional acts
    • Defective products

    Intentional acts include things like assault, battery, murder, defamation, sexual abuse, etc. Frequently, these cases also carry separate criminal charges in addition to any claims made in a personal injury lawsuit.

    With negligence, however, liable parties must pay damages for injuries that resulted from their mistakes or their lack of action to address risks or prevent harm to individuals. Some examples of negligence include:

    • Failure to clean up messes that result in slip and fall injuries
    • Poor mechanical maintenance
    • car accidents (speeding, running a red light, swerving, distracted driving, etc.)
    • Flawed product design or defectively manufactured product
    • Failure to properly warn of hazards
    • Lack of reasonable security or lighting on a premises
    • Failing to comply with industry standards or codes, statutes or regulations

    Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

    Many accident victims wrongly feel they were at fault for an incident that sends them to the hospital or inflicts a lifelong disability. They tell themselves that it was their fault that they misused the product or that they should have seen that water spill in the resort lobby.

    While accidents happen, many accidents that inflict severe injuries result from negligence. However, proving all the elements of a negligence case can be challenging, so victims need help from expert personal injury lawyers.

    Here’s what you need to show to prove negligence in a personal injury claim:

    1. Duty of Care – To win a personal injury claim, you must show that the liable parties owed you a duty of care.
    2. Breach of Duty of Care – Once you establish there was a duty of care, you must demonstrate there was a breach in that duty of care (that they did something wrong).
    3. Injuries – The breach of duty of care must directly result in injuries sustained by victim.
    4. Damage – To win compensation, victims must show damages associated with injuries caused.

    These are the four basic elements of a negligence case. To rise to the legal standard of negligence, victims must prove that their case meets all four requirements.

    Common Types of Personal Injury Claims

    Victims wonder whether they can hold an entity or person responsible for their injuries. Here are some of the most common personal injury claims to help you know if you’ve got a reasonable claim for damages.

    Premises Liability

    Premises liability covers claims that happen on someone else’s property. Whether frequenting a business or having fun at a neighbor’s house, guests have a reasonable expectation of safety. If someone is hurt on someone’s property due to negligence, they can seek damages to cover medical expenses and other costs. These premises might be a hotel or resort, mall or shopping center, office, condo, school or someone’s home. Examples include tripping and falling over something, slipping on a wet or slippery surface, having merchandise fall and hit you at a store, or suffering an electrical shock from defective wiring or poor construction. Click here for a detailed explanation of premises liability cases.

    Product Liability

    Poorly made products cause many deaths and several times more injuries annually. Injuries can range from burns to choking, and the manufacturing process, materials, or design are often the culprit. Design defects deal with the failure to properly develop and design a product and manufacturing defects are when the product is not built properly and is dangerous for use by the consumer. In either case, products can and do injure and kill people each year and most people assume companies that make products adequately design and test their products. Most people assume the government tests and approves products for sale.  Often they are sadly mistaken.  Click here for more information about product liability cases.

    Construction Accidents

    Construction sites involve heavy objects and large machinery. As a result, people in the vicinity often suffer injuries from construction accidents caused by carelessness and negligence. Handling construction site injury cases is complex and involves an understanding of the law, facts and experts. Although there are governing bodies such as OSHA, most construction is unregulated and accidents happen all the time. Click here for more information about Construction Site accidents.

    Nursing Home Abuse

    Unfortunately, many of the most vulnerable among us are abused or neglected in nursing homes. Victims of nursing home abuse suffer physical, emotional, and financial abuse that severely impacts their quality of life. Often care suffers because of understaffing (which equals increased profits for the owners). It is difficult to spot the signs of nursing home abuse until the abuse has occurred – and even then it is tough to know the cause. Many seniors are cared for in assisted living facilities (ALFs), which operate much like nursing homes but with more independence.  They too owe a special duty to their residents and they too are often understaffed and fail to provide appropriate care. It is important to take action quickly if you even suspect that a loved one has been neglected or abused at a nursing home or ALF.  Click here for more information  on nursing home and ALF injuries.

    Medical Malpractice

    Medical mistakes are now the third leading cause of death in the United States.  As many as 400,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical errors, and many more than that are injured. Victims of medical malpractice can and should seek compensation. Poor medical care can prolong or worsen symptoms. In severe cases, medication errors, delayed or misdiagnosis, or surgical mistakes can cause catastrophic results or even death.  Medical malpractice cases are complex and require skilled and experienced personal injury lawyers who understand the medicine, law, and dynamics of evaluating, investigating, preparing, litigating and trying malpractice cases.  In Florida medical malpractice cases are regulated by Florida Statute 766, and there are many complex procedural requirements that an experienced Florida medical malpractice attorney will be able to explain.  Click here for more information about medical malpractice cases.

    Resort Torts/Vacation Injuries

    Millions of tourists visit Florida theme parks, hotels, and other resorts each year. They come to have fun with friends and family, but many suffer injuries or death due to negligence or unscrupulous business practices. When companies cut corners, it puts people’s safety at risk. Theme parks and amusement parks are subject to very little regulation but pose huge hazards. With Florida being one of the world’s biggest tourist destination, you can imagine the type and numbers of accidents that occur with frequency at these resorts and hotels. Staying safe while having fun is a full time job.

    Negligent Security

    Businesses must provide basic safety to guests and employees. Negligent security that contributes to injuries suffered in attacks makes them liable for any damages. Examples can include a sexual assault at a hotel or resort, a robbery, murder, sexual abuse of a child or any violent crime.  These are complex cases that interface between the criminal and civil justice systems, and usually require expert witnesses and highly skilled personal injury trial lawyers.  The responsible parties may be the criminal, the property owner, a business and its management, a security provider or others.  The case might be based on a failure to provide security (or not enough), inadequate lighting, access control, supervision of staff, lack of background checks of employees, or negligent policies and procedures.  For more information Click here for more information about negligent security and violent crime cases.

    Car/Motorcycle/Trucking Accidents

    Car, motorcycle, and truck accidents send people to the hospital and worse every day. If someone is driving under the influence or a commercial trucker is breaking the law, you can seek compensation for injuries and related expenses. There are many kinds of vehicle accident cases but one thing they all have in common is that with any serious injury, the victim needs to have a highly skilled trial lawyer. The insurance companies are masterful at manipulating witnesses, eliminating evidence, and manufacturing defenses so they do not have to pay claims.  An experienced personal injury trial lawyer will know how to preserve evidence, develop a case, and maximize the recovery by settlement or trial for injured victims of car crashes.

    Boating & Water Sports Accidents

    This category of personal injury claims covers boating, parasailing, jet skiing, and other water activities. Florida has more pleasure boating than anywhere in the country. But that comes at great risk to boaters, passengers and swimmers.  The number of boating accidents has increased. There are strict guidelines around speeds, drinking, and general safety that protect passengers. When they’re broken, guilty parties must be held responsible.

    Cruise Ship Accidents

    Cruise ships like floating cities that carry thousands of people at a time. As such, they’re responsible for providing safety, adequate medical care, and other basic needs onboard. Victims can sue for damages when a cruise operator fails to protect its passengers.  Many things can happen on cruise ships that cause injury or death – many of the same things that happen anywhere else.  These are literally floating cities but without a police force or any of the same rules that apply on the mainland.

    Wrongful Death

    In Florida, wrongful death is governed by statute.  It sets forth who can recover damages for the death of a loved one.  Usually children and spouses can recover for the loss of someone who was killed through negligence or and intentional act.  There are specific provisions that sometimes allow others to recover as well, depending on the circumstances and type of case.  In Florida there is a two-year statute of limitations (deadline) for bringing wrongful death cases.  Wrongful death can be caused by any of the types of negligence described in this Ultimate Guide.

    These are just some of the types of personal injury claims. An expert personal injury lawyer can discuss your situation and address any unique concerns.

    Suing for Legal Malpractice in a Personal Injury Claim

    Injury victims can sometimes sue for legal malpractice in their injury claims. When victims discover that their legal representation failed them, they can file a new claim that seeks damages for any mistakes by their attorneys.

    Unfortunately, not all victims get the legal support they deserve. When dealing with significant injuries, getting expert legal advice often influences how much money they win in settlements or court judgments.

    When a lawyer makes mistakes, their clients may sue them for legal malpractice.

    Filing a Claim for Emotional Suffering

    While emotional suffering isn’t as easy to prove objectively, victims can and should seek damages for emotional distress, trauma, and mental suffering resulting from their injuries.

    Injured victims frequently experience:

    • Anxiety
    • Stress
    • Fear
    • Depression
    • Insomnia
    • Shame
    • Triggered emotional responses

    After an injury, a skilled attorney will examine the physical and mental impact of any accident or intentional act and determine whether the claim can be brought and how best to prove it.

    What to Expect from an Expert Personal Injury Lawyer

    Victims usually feel confused and overwhelmed after an accident. If their injuries are severe enough, immediate legal action isn’t first on their priority lists. Instead, they and their loved ones are focused on healing and rehabilitation.

    One of the biggest advantages of working with an expert personal injury lawyer is that they will manage all the heavy lifting while victims focus on getting better.

    Here’s a basic overview of what you can expect to happen.

    1. The Legal Consultation

    When you first start reaching out to lawyers, they should offer you a free legal consultation to discuss the merits of your case. This is a great feeling-out process where the legal team and clients can determine whether it appears that a case exists and what it may take to prove the elements.

    Personal injury victims should only work with lawyers specializing in personal injury claims. Choose a lawyer with extensive experience and a proven track record of winning sizeable settlements and judgments for their clients. Ideally, you want to find lawyers who have successfully handled cases like yours and are considered preeminent in their field.  Ask whether they have written or published in this field, have they lectured or taught or received any awards or honors in the field of personal injury.  Ascertain whether they are board certified or have any other credentials that would indicated they are among the top in their field.

    2. Gathering Evidence

    After you hire a personal injury lawyer, they’ll begin gathering evidence, also referred to as “discovery.”

    In this phase of a personal injury lawsuit, your lawyer will request interviews or seek depositions of key witnesses, access medical documents, and obtain police reports and other official records. Essentially, they’re building your case to use in court or as leverage during settlement negotiations.

    All of this happens while the injury victim focuses on recovery. Sometimes, victims are still in the hospital, and other times, they’re going through intensive physical or emotional therapy work.

    3. Settlement Negotiations

    Settlements happen when the liable party and the victim agree on a payment figure to avoid going to court. In personal injury claims, getting the maximum compensation is essential because you can’t ask for more once you settle.

    A one-time payment is another reason why good lawyers are so valuable. Not only will they calculate the compensation to pay for past medical bills and missed work income, but they’ll also figure out what victims should receive due to the impact on future earnings and expenses as well as pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, and mental anguish.

    Here is some more information on the types of damages allowed for personal injury claims.

    4. Going to Court

    Sometimes, however, parties fail to agree on a settlement amount. Large companies and insurance carriers with enormous resources, for example, may offer less money or delay in hopes victims take less money. This is why when you choose an attorney you want to make sure that this is a lawyer or law firm that can and will take the case to trial.  Insurance companies know which law firms will try cases and their settlements reflect that.

    In these cases, the best option may be to pursue a personal injury lawsuit in court. Victims should hire lawyers with demonstrated courtroom experience.  Who you choose as attorneys is a very important decision.

    How Much are Personal Injury Claims Worth?

    Personal injury victims typically want to know how much money they can expect after they’re hit by a drunk driver or electrocuted at a hotel swimming pool. However, each claim is unique, and payment often hinges on medical costs, the extent of injuries, and mental anguish.

    That said, the experience of your lawyer, precedent, venue (location where the case is brought) and other legal factors are also at play. For example, an attorneys ability to negotiate and prove negligence will likely mean higher settlements and faster favorable outcomes.

    Damages usually cover:

    • Medical expenses
    • Outfitting the home for any disability or long-term medical care
    • Missed income
    • Prescriptions
    • Physical therapy
    • Personal therapy
    • Pain and suffering
    • Scarring and disfigurement
    • Mental anguish

    Insider Tip – A seasoned personal injury lawyer can often tell you a compensation range based on the facts of your case and injuries. You can ask them what compensation range you can expect based on past cases during the free consultation. But be aware that an early stage even the best and most experienced trial lawyer may not be able to give you an answer to this until they have an idea of the liability (fault) and extent of injuries and expenses involved.

    Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

    It’s hard for people to know whether they need a lawyer after an accident. People don’t hire an attorney every day, and most victims have never filed a lawsuit before. Many people make the mistake of thinking they can’t afford a personal injury attorney. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means they only get paid a percentage of the settlement or award after a case resolves.  If there is no recovery, the attorneys do not get paid.  This helps victims in all circumstances get the legal representation they deserve without worrying about costs up front.  Because most personal injury lawyers handle cases like this, you should seek the very best personal injury lawyer you can find.

    Working with a good personal injury lawyer is the best way to offset what can be crushing costs of medical expenses and lost work, especially if the accident was someone else’s fault.

    Don’t let liable parties off the hook, particularly when they leave you paying thousands of dollars or sacrificing your quality of life.

    When in doubt, speak to a lawyer to discover whether you have a justifiable claim for compensation. Here’s what to look for in a personal injury attorney:

    • Check if they have an “AV” rating at (highest rating for ability and ethics)
    • Check to see their rating at
    • Hire a lawyer with trial experience
    • Read reviews from lists like “The Best Lawyers in America
    • See whether they’ve published papers or books in the field
    • Check for board certification (highest level of certification for specialists)
    • Look for information on past judgments and settlements

    At Leighton Panoff Law, we work with personal injury victims to help them win damages to pay for what happened and secure their family’s financial future after sustaining injuries. We are the leading Florida personal injury law firm with a reputation for handling complex cases. Our team regularly obtains substantial recoveries for personal injury victims and their families in wrongful death cases. Founding partner John Leighton is an accomplished board-certified civil trial specialist, known across the United States and internationally for his work in personal injury litigation and for his teaching in substantive areas in personal injury law.

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