If the accident was the other driver's fault, you may be entitled to compensation. Fault is determined by evaluating a variety of factors. The description of the collision by the drivers involved, witness observations, the nature and location of the damage to the vehicles, observations and conclusions of police officers at the scene and, in some cases, accident reconstruction are all means by which fault is evaluated.
A claim may be made with the at-fault driver's insurance company. A claims adjuster is assigned by the insurer to evaluate the fault of the drivers, the nature of your injury and the property damage your vehicle sustained. It is important to remember that the claims adjuster's job is to limit the amount paid to you to whatever extent possible. The claims adjuster represents the interests of the insurer. Involving our law firm on your behalf can level the playing field and provide the experience necessary to protect your interest in receiving full compensation for your loss.
Many insurers wish to secure a recorded statement from the injured person shortly after the accident. We do not recommend providing a sworn statement without first speaking to a lawyer. The claims adjuster who will take the statement does not have the same interest as you. A recorded statement often addresses crucial issues of fault and damage. First speak with a lawyer who can assess whether providing a statement is appropriate and if so, can attend the statement. Do not allow the insurer to address these critical issues without the benefit of a lawyer acting on your behalf.
If the other driver who caused the accident is uninsured, you may be able to obtain compensation through your own insurer. Most automobile insurance policies provide uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage protects you when you are injured by a person who failed to carry insurance.
An uninsured motorist claim is governed by the terms of the policy. The recovery of compensation is limited to the amount of coverage purchased. It is important to review the policy to determine the terms and amount of coverage available.
If you believe you may have an uninsured motorist claim, contact our office so that the terms of your policy may be reviewed and your rights may be protected.
You may be entitled to compensation from your own insurer under your underinsured motorist coverage. Most automobile policies provide underinsured motorist coverage. Such coverage protects you when the insurance of the other driver is smaller than the coverage you purchased and the compensatory value of your claim exceeds the policy limit of the other driver's policy.
Whether you are entitled to underinsured motorist benefits depends upon careful review of your insurance policy, the policy of the other driver, the circumstance of the collision and the nature of the injury suffered.
We represent our clients on a contingent basis. A "contingency fee" is where the attorney receives a percentage of the money recovered for you. This agreement provides a risk-free fee structure for our clients. The client is not charged any amount while the claim is pending. If we are not successful in recovering an amount for you, you are not charged for any of the professional time spent on your case.
Our firm pays all of the expenses associated with presenting your claim to the insurer, as well as the cost of litigation. These costs include acquiring copies of medical records, deposition transcripts, trial exhibits, witness fees and hiring experts, if necessary. These amounts are distinct from the attorney fee and are repaid at the conclusion of the case. If you do not receive compensation, our law firm will not charge you for the advanced expenses.
There are many elements of damage you may suffer when involved in a car accident. The expenses associated with medical treatment after the accident may be recovered. Medical expenses may be claimed even if the bills are paid by a health insurer or through your auto carrier. Medical expenses reasonably certain to be incurred in the future may also be recovered if supported by the testimony of a physician.
The wages lost because of time missed from work may also be claimed even if sick or vacation days are used for some or all of the missed time. These "economic" damages are easier to calculate than the "noneconomic" damages noted below.
Compensation for past pain and suffering may be claimed, as may future pain and suffering if a doctor testifies that such pain and suffering will likely occur. "Pain and suffering" refers to the physical pain and discomfort, as well as worry, anxiety and embarrassment that results from the injury.
Disfigurement suffered as the result of a car accident is compensable. This element of damage refers to the obvious damage to the body such as scarring, burns or amputation. The impact that such a condition has and will have upon the injured person is the basis of the claim. The location, size and visibility of the disfigurement impact the degree of appropriate compensation.
Medical expenses can quickly mount when a person suffers injury in a car accident. The cost of emergency room care, radiology charges, physician charges, diagnostic testing or surgery can create a financial burden. It is common for the expenses to cause anxiety as the bills are incurred.
The insurer for the other driver will not typically pay your medical expenses as they arise. Rather, the expenses are considered one element of damage to be evaluated at the conclusion of the claim. The insurer cannot be counted on to pay the expenses in the meantime. Other sources of payment must be used until the claim may be concluded and the cost of the medical bills reimbursed.
Your auto insurance can provide a means by which the medical expenses will be paid. By Florida law, auto policies provide "personal injury protection" coverage. The limit of medical payments coverage ranges from $10,000 to more than $100,000 and is noted on the policy declaration page. Most auto policies provide that medical expenses will be paid until the limit of coverage is exhausted, if the expenses are reasonable and necessary. Oftentimes the policy includes a time limit for the filing of a medical payments claim. A careful review of your auto policy is necessary to determine the terms of any medical payments coverage.
A health insurance policy is another potential source of payment. We recommend that you promptly submit your medical bills first to your auto carrier, and once those benefits are exhausted, then submit the bills to your health insurer. Submission of the bills promptly prevents the medical care provider from directing your bill to a collection agency.
If your medical expenses are paid by your health or auto insurer, the insurer may be entitled to reimbursement if you are successful in recovering compensation from the other driver. Whether the insurer is entitled to reimbursement depends upon a careful review of the policy, the type of policy underwritten, the amount of compensation received and the status of the injured person. Discussing this issue in detail with a lawyer is oftentimes important.
If you do not have health insurance, auto insurance or the financial ability to pay the medical bills, you may still be able to receive the care you require. Some medical care providers are willing to treat a patient and forego immediate payment or collection proceedings if they are assured in writing that the medical bills will be paid at the conclusion of the litigation. This arrangement is not without risk. The medical expenses are not contingent on the litigation outcome. They are owed to the provider even if the litigation is unsuccessful.
A claim may be submitted to the other driver's insurer or to your insurer for the repair of the vehicle. Either insurer will evaluate the extent of the damage and determine the cost of repair. If the cost of repair exceeds the fair market value it is a "total loss" and a check in the amount of the fair market value of the vehicle will be paid. A check will be issued for the cost of repair if the car is not a total loss. There are critical differences between submitting the claim to the other driver's insurer or your own.
Your own insurer owes you a duty to treat you fairly and in "good faith". Many insurers offer their insureds a limited warranty for work performed to repair their damaged vehicle. The terms of your insurance policy define any such agreement. If your insurer pays for the property damage, your deductible will be applied to the cost of the repair. Your insurer may then pursue recovery of the amount paid to repair or total your vehicle from the other driver's insurer. This is called subrogation. If successful, your deductible will be returned to you.
If a claim is submitted to the other driver's insurer, your deductible does not apply. However, the insurer does not owe you a duty of fairness and "good faith" and there is little remedy if the repairs are not satisfactory.
Determining who is at fault for a car accident involves an assessment of whether one or both the drivers were negligent. Negligence means the failure to do something that a reasonably careful person would do, or the doing of something that a reasonably careful person would not do under the circumstances. The law does not specifically address how a reasonable person would act, that is an issue for a jury to decide.
In determining fault for a car accident, police reports, witness statements, accident reconstruction as well as the Florida Traffic Code may be useful.
This is a question that clients love to ask and lawyers hate to answer. A lawyer cannot foretell the value of a claim shortly after an accident. Several factors must be considered in determining the value of the claim. The first is the nature of the injury suffered. Did the client make a full recovery? Is the medical care ongoing? Is the patient likely to require additional care in the future? Has the client suffered an increased risk of future injury or diminished life expectancy? If deceased, what family members are entitled to recover and what was their relationship with the decedent like? A review of the complete medical record is oftentimes helpful in assessing these issues.
In determining the value of a claim, the liability of the defendant must also be considered. Will negligence likely be admitted on behalf of the defendant or will liability be contested? The value of a case where a defendant runs a stop sign and pleads guilty to the violation is evaluated differently from a collision at an intersection where both parties claim a green light. Whether the defendant can argue that the plaintiff was also negligent, and therefore any damage award should be reduced, must be considered in assessing the value of a claim.
Another important issue in assessing the value of a claim is the collectability of a judgment. This typically involves an assessment of the applicable insurance coverage. If the defendant crosses the centerline striking the plaintiff and causing severe injury the value of the case is significant. But what if the defendant driver is insured by a carrier underwriting a policy with limits of $20,000? Typically individuals who carry such small policies do not have the personal assets necessary to satisfy the full value of the claim. Additional potential sources of insurance coverage must then be assessed, including the underinsured motorist coverage of the injured plaintiff and any additional coverage that may apply to the defendant driver. Whether the defendant was acting on behalf of an employer who provides automobile insurance must be evaluated. If the insurance coverage underwritten on behalf of a negligent driver is insufficient, an evaluation of the available assets of the driver must also be investigated.
One additional marker that may be evaluated in determining value is how similar cases have been resolved in the past. This typically involves a review of the published verdicts and settlements, which provide a basis for arguing the value of a claim. Every case is different. Therefore, although previous verdicts and settlements may be a useful guide, they do not establish a firm value for subsequent cases. Each case must be evaluated independently.
Although you may want your lawyer to provide a firm number or at least a range detailing the value of a claim, it is typically impossible to initially do so. After the medical records have been researched, and the issue of liability assessed, similar jury verdicts and settlements have been received and reviewed and the issue of coverage has been detailed, your attorney may then be able to better provide an answer to this question.
Even though most claims require litigation, less than 10% of the lawsuits filed result in trial before a jury. Most claims are either settled or abandoned by the plaintiff if the likelihood of success is low.
Although most cases settle before trial, it is important for your lawyer to prepare the case as though trial is certain. It is also important to evaluate whether your lawyer has taken cases to trial in the past and is prepared to invest the time and resources necessary to appropriately prepare your case. Thorough preparation for trial oftentimes results in the settlement of a claim for fair value.
Our firm offers a free case evaluation either by phone or in person. The case evaluation involves a review of the circumstances surrounding the accident, the injury suffered, and the likelihood of success. This typically includes an interview with the potential client, and, if necessary, a review of the applicable medical record and documentation such as the Florida Traffic Crash Report. The case evaluation provides the information necessary for the prospective client to assess whether they need a lawyer and to address the manner in which our firm may be of assistance. There is never an obligation to retain our firm or pay for the time spent discussing your case.