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Questions & Answers

You Have Questions. We Have Answers

Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions about personal injury law in Florida. Keep in mind that these answers are general, and you need to speak to an attorney for advice specific to your case. Based on your unique circumstance, our response to your questions could differ from the answers seen below. For legal advice specific to your case, contact us today for your free consultation.

Questions About Your Injury Claim?

How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Claim for Injuries?

The amount of time it takes to resolve a claim for injuries depends upon your injuries. You would never want to resolve the case until you know the full extent of your condition. When you have reached the point where nothing else can be done for you medically, you have reached what is called maximum medical improvement. That is when cases are typically resolved. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years to reach maximum medical improvement.

If I am Injured, How Long Do I Have to Bring a Claim?

The amount of time you are given to bring a claim is governed by the statute of limitations. With respect to most negligence claims such as automobile accidents, there is a four-year statute of limitations. This means that you must file a lawsuit within four years of the date of the accident. If your claim is against a governmental entity such as the city or state, you are required to give written notice within three years of the date of the accident. Professional negligence claims, such as medical malpractice, have a two-year statute of limitations. The same is true for negligence claims that result in death. Most Florida statutes of limitations claims are set forth in §Florida Statute 95.11. It is important to consult your lawyer about the statutes that apply in your case.

I Was in an Accident and Owe Medical Bills. The Insurance Company for the Person That Hit Me Tells Me They Will Not Pay Each Bill, but Will Write One Check at the End of the Case. Is That Normal?

Insurance companies will almost always want to settle your entire personal injury claim at one time. Typically, they will not pay your medical bills now and pay you for the rest of your damages later. If possible, you should submit your medical bills to either health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. Then, when the case is settled, those providers will be reimbursed from your settlement.

I Had Back Problems Before Getting Into an Accident. The Accident Has Made Those Problems Worse. Do My Prior Problems Prevent Me from Bringing a Claim?

Not necessarily. There is a valid claim for the aggravation of a pre-existing condition. Basically, you are entitled to recover for the permanent aggravation caused by the accident. Many times, a person with pre-existing problems will be more susceptible to injury than another perfectly healthy person.

If I am Injured on the Job and am Receiving Worker’s Compensation Benefits, are Those the Only Benefits I Can Receive?

Not necessarily. Any time you are injured on the job, there remains the possibility that your injury was due to the negligence of someone other than your employer, a co-employee, or yourself. Many workers compensation claimants are entitled to bring a case against a third party for negligence and thereby secure many types of damages not provided under workers compensation law.

Answers About Auto Accidents

What Should I Do if I am Injured in a Motor Vehicle Accident?

When you have been injured in an auto accident, it is vitally important to seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible. Evidence at the crime scene can be destroyed, tainted, and misplaced in the days and weeks following an accident. We will often hire an experienced investigator to protect your interests at the accident scene. You should also:

– Report the accident to the police.
– Get names and contact information from any witnesses.
– If you are injured, seek medical attention quickly.
– Take photographs of the vehicles involved in the collision and of the accident scene.
– Report the accident to your insurance company and make sure that the accident is reported to the insurance company for the at-fault driver.
– Do not take any recorded statements to the adversarial insurance company.
– Cooperate fully and give any necessary statements to your insurance company.
– Do not sign any releases or other documentation without seeking the advice of an attorney.

Does the Issuance of a Traffic Citation by a Police Officer Determine Who Was at Fault in a Later Civil Action Between the Parties?

No. In a civil action, the findings of the investigating police officer are not binding and cannot be used for any purpose in a civil action. Rather, the determination of who was at fault in a civil case will be based on eyewitness testimony and physical evidence. The police officer can only testify to what he saw at the accident scene and not to what he is told by witnesses.

What Does It Mean When People Refer to Florida as a No-Fault State?

Florida is considered a no-fault state because drivers in the state are required to purchase personal injury protection insurance coverage that pays for their medical expenses and wage loss resulting from injuries in motor vehicle accidents. Specifically, this PIP insurance typically pays 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages up to a $10,000 limit. The no-fault system does allow an injured person to bring a claim for unreimbursed medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering against an at-fault driver if the injured person suffers a permanent injury or permanent scarring.

What Happens When an Uninsured Person Causes an Accident That Injures Someone?

Under Florida law, motor vehicle owners are not required to purchase bodily injury insurance. Many drivers in the State of Florida purchase automobile insurance without bodily injury coverage. Therefore, you should protect yourself against being the victim of a driver who does not maintain bodily injury coverage by purchasing uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage allows you to be compensated for your injuries just as if the uninsured person who caused your accident had purchased bodily injury coverage. It is relatively affordable and offers important protection against uninsured drivers.

I Was Recently Injured in an Automobile Accident. The Insurance Company for the Other Driver Offered Me $1,000 to Settle. What Should I Do?

Unless you are absolutely certain that you have not sustained any lasting injuries from the incident, you should not accept this settlement offer. The insurance carrier will require you to sign a general release which will eliminate any possibility that you will bring a claim in the future for your injuries. If your injuries prove to be significant several months down the road, you will be unable to obtain any further compensation from that insurance carrier.

I Was in a Motor Vehicle Accident and Both Myself and the Other Driver Were at Fault. I Have Significant Injuries. Do I Have a Legal Claim for My Injuries?

Maybe. Recent legislation makes Florida follow the 51% bar rule. This means any plaintiff found to be more than 50% or more at fault for causing an accident is barred from making a recovery (a/k/a “51% bar rule). The full value of your injuries will be reduced by your percentage of comparative negligence. For example, if your claim is worth $10,000 and you are 50% at fault, you will be entitled to $5,000. However, under the 51% bar rule, if you are found to be 51% at fault, you recover nothing.

I Was Seriously Injured in an Automobile Accident by a Teenager Who Had Been Drinking. Unfortunately, He Has Very Limited Insurance Coverage. Do I Have any Other Recourse?

Possibly. It is important to investigate whether the teenager was served or provided alcohol by an establishment such as a bar or convenience store. If that is the case, you may be able to hold the bar or convenience store liable for the violation of a Florida Statute which prohibits serving alcohol to minors.

I Was in a Recent Motor Vehicle Accident. The Other Driver Was Completely at Fault. He is Insured. What are the Obligations of His Insurance Company With Regard to the Damage to My Vehicle?

Assuming that your car is repairable (not a total loss) the insurance carrier for the adverse driver has three responsibilities. First, that carrier has a duty to pay the reasonable cost of repairs to your vehicle. Secondly, that carrier has the responsibility to pay for the reasonable cost of a replacement vehicle while your vehicle is being repaired. If your vehicle is not drivable, that responsibility begins at the time of the accident. Third, if after repairs are completed your vehicle has a lower value than it did before the accident, you may be entitled to receive compensation for diminished value.

I Was Recently Injured When a Police Car Ran a Red Light and Struck My Car. What are My Legal Rights Against the Police Department?

Locally, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is part of the City of Jacksonville. As with any claim against the City or State, there are limitations as to your total recovery. The maximum recovery is $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident. Any compensation beyond those limits can only be obtained through action by the state legislature.

I Was Recently in an Automobile Accident Which Resulted in a Total Loss to My Vehicle. The Insurance Company Wants to Pay Me The Value of My Vehicle Before the Accident but I Owe More Than That to My Finance Company. What Can I Do?

Unfortunately, you are “upside down” on your loan. This means that you owe your finance company more than your vehicle was worth at the time of the accident. The insurance company’s only obligation in a total loss situation is to pay you the market value of your vehicle. The only way you can protect yourself under these circumstances is to buy “gap insurance.”

Answers About Premises Liability

What Should I Do If I am Injured on Someone Else’s Property?

Premises liability cases often involve insurance. You will need to prove that the property owner was at fault. The events on the day of the accident will have to be documented. Weather conditions, road conditions, and lighting conditions are constantly changing. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible to obtain detailed and accurate evidence from the accident scene. You should also:

– Take photographs of the area of the accident
– Make note of the lighting conditions
– Get names and contact information of any witnesses
– Report the injury to the business or property owner
– If you are asked to fill out an incident report, ask for a copy
– Do not give any recorded statements
– Seek immediate medical attention for your injuries.

If I am Injured on Someone Else’s Property, is He or She Responsible for My Medical Expenses and Other Damages?

It depends on the circumstances. Some businesses and homeowners maintain insurance to pay medical expenses for anyone injured on their property up to certain limits regardless of fault. When injured on someone else’s property, it is important to determine whether the property owner has this medical payments coverage. Beyond that medical payments coverage, a person or business is responsible for your injuries on their property only when they have not maintained their property in a safe condition. Property owners are responsible for dangerous conditions on their property when they know of the condition or reasonably should know of the condition.

I Was at a Football Game When Another Fan Knocked Me Over and Injured Me. Do I Have any Legal Recourse?

Yes. If you can identify the fan who negligently knocked you over, you have a valid claim against him which would be covered by his homeowner’s insurance. Many people do not understand that homeowner’s insurance covers not only incidents that occur at the home but also incidents away from the home caused by the negligence of the persons insured under the policy.

I Injured My Knee When I Fell at a Grocery Store. My Medical Bills Have Been Paid by My Health Insurance Company Which Wants to Be Reimbursed From any Settlement With the Grocery Store. Does My Insurance Company Have Such a Claim?

Yes. Typically, health insurance companies have a right of reimbursement known as “subrogation.” Upon settlement of a personal injury claim, it is the obligation of the person insured to reimburse his or her insurance company for the amount paid by that insurance company for medical bills which relate to the incident. Sometimes, this amount can be negotiated to a lower figure based on the facts of the individual case.

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