What Does Appeal Mean?

The formal definition of appeal is an application to a higher court to reverse the decision of a lower court. You appeal when you are dissatisfied with the result of a trial to which you were a party, and you ask a higher court to reconsider the result. In a Florida personal injury case, a Florida District Court of Appeal will probably hear your case. 

How to Appeal a Clearwater Trial Court Verdict

An appeal of a personal injury verdict in Clearwater, FL, involves the following steps:

  1. File a Notice of Appeal: You generally have 30 days to file a Notice of Appeal with the trial court. This formally begins the appeals process.
  2. Briefing: Both sides submit written briefs to the appeals court detailing their legal arguments.
  3. Oral Arguments: Florida courts may or may not allow oral arguments.
  4. Appellate Decision: The appeals court reviews the record, briefs, and arguments. It then issues a written opinion outlining its decision.

If you remain dissatisfied with the result, you can ask the Florida Supreme Court to hear your case, but this is unlikely to be successful. 

Grounds for Appeal

The most common grounds for the appeal of a Florida personal injury verdict include:

  • Errors of Law: The trial court committed an error of law if it incorrectly applied Florida statutes to your case, improperly excluded or admitted evidence, or misinterpreted existing legal precedent, for example.
  • Insufficient Evidence: You might win an appeal if the evidence at trial was legally insufficient to support the jury verdict.
  • Procedural Errors: You can win your appeal if procedural errors are so serious that they affect the outcome of the case.
  • Judicial Misconduct: You might win an appeal if the judge was corrupt.

There are many other possible grounds for an appeal.

Possible Outcomes of Filing a Notice of Appeal

The court can respond in four different ways to your Notice of Appeal: 

  • Dismissal: The court refuses to examine your case, thereby ignoring your appeal request.
  • Affirmation: The appellate court upholds the trial court’s decision. In other words, you lose.
  • Reversal: If the appellate court finds compelling errors, it may reverse the original decision, which could result in a new trial, dismissal of the case, or another remedy. 
  • Remand: The case may be remanded to the lower court with instructions for additional proceedings or clarification. A court remands a case when it sends it “back downstairs”–back to a lower court for reconsideration based on new instructions.

Carefully prepare your Notice of Appeal to maximize your chances of a favorable result.

Interlocutory Appeals

An interlocutory appeal is the appeal of a trial court ruling that is not itself a final judgment. Florida only allows such appeals under limited circumstances. An example of a permissible interlocutory appeal would be the denial of a petition to change venue (change the location of a trial). 

How an Appeals Hearing Differs From a Trial

Appeals hearings differ from trials in several important ways. Following are some examples.


An appeals court does not hear new evidence, and it does not allow witness testimony. Typically, it’s only evidence is documentary evidence of the trial.

Burden of Proof

In a trial, the burden is on the plaintiff (typically an accident victim) to prove their case. In an appeal, the burden of proof falls upon whichever party filed the appeal.

Oral Arguments

Sometimes, appeals courts allow oral arguments from attorneys, and sometimes they don’t. Trial courts always allow them.

The Standard of Review

The “standard of review” in a Florida personal injury verdict appeal means the level of scrutiny that the appellate court applies when reviewing the trial court’s decisions. It varies depending on the issue–was it a question of fact, a question of law, a mixed question, or a procedural issue? Below is a breakdown of the circumstances in which the most common standards, “de novo” and “abuse of discretion” apply.

Questions of Fact

Issues such as whether a witness’s testimony was credible are issues of fact, not law. The “abuse of discretion” standard applies to most factual findings by a trial judge or jury. The appellate court will only overturn the lower court’s decision if the judge’s decision was clearly unreasonable or arbitrary.

An appeals court considers the trial court to be in a better position to decide issues of fact than an appeals court. The trial court can observe the demeanor of witnesses personally rather than relying on trial transcripts, for example.

Questions of Law

An example of a question of law is the interpretation of the language in an insurance policy, whether an expert witness is qualified, or whether the plaintiff qualifies for punitive damages. Appeals courts generally review errors of law by the “de novo” standard. This means that they ignore the trial court’s decision and decide the issue for themselves.

Mixed Questions of Fact and Law

Some issues are both legal and factual. An example is whether a motorist was following another driver too closely before a car accident. The question of fact is the exact following distance, and the question of law is whether that distance was reasonable under the circumstances. The standard of review in these cases can vary, depending on whether the legal or factual question predominates.

Procedural Issues

Decisions on procedural matters, such as rulings on motions, are generally reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard, just as factual findings are.

You’ll Need a Lawyer for an Appeal

Technically, you have the right to represent yourself for an appeal. It’s not a very good idea, however. Appeals are difficult to win even with a lawyer, and they are almost impossible to win without one.

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyers

Contact our law firm at (727) 796-8282 to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our experienced Clearwater Personal Injury attorneys. 

Our legal team at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers can help you win your appeal. We fight to get you the benefits and compensation you deserve after a work-related injury or workplace accident.