When a When a personal injury trial results in a legal error, the injured victim may have the ability to take an appeal. An appeal is the formal process in which parties that disagree with a case result can ask a higher court to review legal errors and overturn a decision. However, appeals are not always an option, and can be a difficult process.
Whether or not an appeal is a viable option – and whether or not it is feasible or in your best interests to pursue an appeal – is a matter that depends on the unique circumstances at hand. One of the most important factors is how the case was resolved:
- Settlement – Most personal injury cases are resolved through settlements reached out of court, before the trial phase. When victims reach settlements with a defendant (or the insurance company handling their policyholder’s claim), a case is considered closed. That is because settlements generally always contain clauses that prevent victims from filing any new claims against the defendant in connection to the underlying incident. As such, victims are typically NOT able to appeal a case that has been settled. This is why it is critically important for victims to begin their cases by working with experienced attorneys who have the ability to help them effectively determine when it is an appropriate time to settle, and can negotiate a fair recovery of damages.
- Verdict – When claims are disputed by defendants and settlement agreements cannot be reached, they may be litigated and resolved through trial. Personal injury cases which go to trial often involve insurance companies that challenge issues of fault and liability, or otherwise fail to make fair settlement offers. Trials can produce resolutions through either jury verdicts or judgments rendered by a presiding judge. When there are qualifying factors present, victims may be able to appeal a verdict or judgment reached in their personal injury case.
Grounds for an Appeal
Victims who wish to appeal a trial court’s decision may do so under certain circumstances. Because appeals deal more with legal issues that arise during the course of a case and trial, rather than focusing on a victim’s disagreement with the decision reached, there must be a valid reason why an appeal has merit. Depending on the circumstances, this may involve arguments over a court not allowing certain evidence that should have been reviewed, or courts not allowing certain witnesses to provide testimony, among other reasons. Appeals can cite multiple issues involving legal errors and critical facts that impact a trial court’s decision. When seeking an appeal, both parties can also still work to negotiate a settlement.
When seeking review of a legal ruling or jury’s verdict, there are a number of procedural rules and requirements to be met. In the case of an appeal, generally, victims must first file them at the trial court level. Cases will then be transferred to the court of special appeals, where the court must determine if applicable laws were applied appropriately in trial court. Both parties will need to collect, refine, and present the necessary documentation, including briefs and oral arguments. An appeals court will base its decision on the information provided, and will focus on determining whether errors made in the lower court affected the outcome of the case.
An appeal may have various outcomes, and will be influenced in part by what victims asked the court to do. If an appeals court upholds the verdict or judgement, the original outcome will stand. If the appeals court reverses, it may vacate the lower court’s decision and send the case back for a new trial. Or, it may only reverse the damages awarded in the case.
Is an Appeal an Option for You?
Appeals can be a time-consuming endeavor, and one that you must take steps to pursue. Although it is not possible or feasible in every situation, there are certainly times when appealing a personal injury case may be in the best interests of a victim. When it is, victims should work with attorneys who have the experience and resources to navigate the appellate process, raise effective appeal issues, and effectively advocate on their behalves.
At Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin, our legal team has earned a national reputation for our work not only representing seriously injured victims, but also helping clients and even other attorneys in various appellate matters. This is due in part to our 200+ years of collective experience, as well as the insight of Partner Julie H. Littky-Rubin, an award-winning appeals lawyer Board Certified in Appellate Practice by the Florida Bar of Legal Specialization and Education.
If you have questions about a potential injury case, our award-winning Florida personal injury lawyers are available to discuss your rights and options during a free consultation. Contact us to speak with a member of our team.