Tampa car accident attorney

St Petersburg Florida Car Accident Attorney

When you are in need of an aggressive St. Petersburg personal injury attorney to represent you, call an experienced attorney, not just the one you see on all the billboards. Auto accidents can happen to anyone at any time. It is impossible to anticipate, but at any given moment your entire life can be turned upside down as the result of someone else’s carelessness. No matter how safe a driver you may be, there are always careless drivers on the road who have the potential to cause serious accidents. Even though you may not be at fault, you may still be left with serious injuries, medical expenses, and an insurance company that doesn’t want to pay. This is when an experienced auto injury lawyer is able to help you.

Auto accidents can result in serious injuries or death. It is not uncommon for victims of auto accidents to require extensive hospital stays, rehabilitative programs, and multiple surgeries. Spinal cord and brain injuries may require lifetime care and can quickly bankrupt a family. You may lose income as the result of being out of work, and you may not know when you can start working again. Additionally, you may need to repair or replace your car.

auto injury lawyerHow Can an Experienced Auto Accident Lawyer Help You?

Florida auto accident law enables the victims of car accidents to recover damages for injuries suffered in an automobile crash. Florida law also allows you to recover for injuries sustained as the result of another’s negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Damages from these claims include property damage, medical expenses, loss of income and future earnings, as well as pain and suffering.

However, it can be very difficult to handle a car accident claim in the midst of your other problems. That is why you need the help of an experienced St. Petersburg car accident attorney. At Berkowitz & Myer, we understand how frustrating it can be to collect the compensation you deserve. Insurance companies often make it as difficult as they can for you to get your money. Even when they do make an offer, the amount is rarely enough to cover all of your expenses.

What to do if you are in a Car Crash in St. Petersburg?

  • Obviously, no one expects to be in an auto accident. However, you do experience some risk every time you get in your car. If you find yourself in an accident, there are certain things you need to do immediately to protect your interests and strengthen your auto accident claim.
  • The first thing you should do is get out of the car. Although it is small, there is a risk that your car could catch on fire. Do not stay in the car to make sure your personal belongings are still intact. Just get out.
  • Do not say anything incriminating. Be sure not to say anything like, “I should have stopped, the light was red,” or, “I’m sorry, I was on the phone and not paying attention.”
  • Contact the police immediately. They will ensure that you are okay and help you through the process.
  • Get all of the information you can from the other driver. This includes name, phone number, address, insurance provider, insurance policy number, and all other relevant information. Remember to obtain the same information from all of the passengers in the car as well.

What’s my case worth?

No two cases are worth the exact same amount of money and each case is unique. So what are you entitled to? Another article of ours discusses “maximizing damages after an injury.” To name a few avenues of compensation, your lawyer will try to get your reimbursed for past medical bills, anticipated future medical bills, past pain and suffering, anticipated future medical bills, time missed from work, and maybe even punitive damages. All of the different areas of damages will add up to what your case value is actually worth.

Who will pay me for my damages?

Once we know what your case is worth, step #2 is getting you paid. That is where insurance comes in to play. Let’s say that Driver X ran a red light, hit your car, and now you’re hurt. We’ve done the analysis and we’ve determined that your case is worth approximately $85,000.00. The truth is that your case is actually worth whatever a jury of 6 people who couldn’t figure out how to get out of jury duty that day says it is worth. But we make an estimation in every case, and for this example let’s say $85k is the number. So who pays that money? Technically, the person that caused the accident owes you for the damages he caused you. In reality, individuals rarely, if ever, pay for the damages they cause. That’s what insurance is for.

Bodily Injury Coverage

Although not required in Florida, many people carry “Bodily Injury” coverage. You should carry this type of coverage to compensate victims for damages caused by your negligence. These insurance policies have a cap, or “policy limit.” For the most part, you can purchase as much or as little coverage as you want. So let’s say that in our example (the $85,000 case), the guy who hit you only carried $50,000.00 in bodily injury coverage. So even if the insurance company fulfills their obligations and pays every dollar allowed for in the policy, this still leaves us $35,000.00 short. How can we make up the difference?

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

For starters, everyone needs to purchase uninsured/underinsured (U.M.) motorist coverage. This cannot be stressed enough! The Insurance Information Institute conducted a study in 2009 that revealed that about 1 out of every 4 drivers in Florida are driving around without insurance. The truth is probably worse than that since Bodily Injury coverage is not required. It is an option. So of the 75% of drivers actually insured, many of them have NOTHING to pay you in case they cause an accident. U.M. coverage kicks in when the at-fault driver either didn’t have coverage or didn’t have enough coverage to compensate you for your loss. While U.M. is considered “optional,” you should consider it MANDATORY. If you don’t have it, get it today. If you aren’t sure if you have it, contact Jesse Berkowitz at Jesse@berkmyer.com for a free insurance policy review. If you have at least $35,000.00 in U.M., then we know how you can be compensated for the balance of your $85,000.00 loss. But what if you don’t carry U.M.?

Pursuing the guy that caused the car accident individually

So if the Bodily Injury limits are insufficient and there either is no U.M., or not enough U.M., that is where things get tricky. You can certainly sue the guy that caused the accident and go after him personally. Under the law, this is allowed. However, there is a huge difference between practicing law in a law book and practicing law in reality. Every state’s laws are different, and Florida is VERY protective of debtors (people who owe money). You can file your lawsuit, pursue your case, go to trial, get a jury to believe your story, win a very large verdict in your favor, and all you’ve really accomplished is getting a piece of paper (judgment) signed by a judge that says you are entitled to some money. Turning that judgment into real cash is highly unlikely. Many roadblocks impede your path to recovery. You can’t take their home, you will have a hard time garnishing their wages, and bankruptcy is often a valid option for them. If the at-fault party does not have sufficient assets, you can pretty much guarantee that there is no chance you collect on a judgment. Even if there are sufficient assets, the odds are very much NOT in your favor. It is also sometimes expensive to discover the assets of the at-fault party. Often times you will need to hire a private investigator to research. These costs eat into any recovery you would get at the end of your case. Now back to our example. If the bodily injury carrier is willing to tender the $50,000 policy limit, you have two options:

1. Take the money and run. The carrier will only pay the $50k if you agree to release their insured, so you will not be able to pursue him individually. If you do this, assuming no lawsuit has been filed, your lawyer will take 1/3 of the recovery for fees ($16,666.67) and the out-of-pocket costs should be minimal (under $1000.00). Let’s assume the costs are $1k for purposes of this example just to keep nice round figures. This would leave you $32,333.33 to compensate you and pay any outstanding liens and medical bills.

2. Refuse to take the policy and pursue the at-fault party individually. Let’s say that you file a lawsuit, your lawyer knocks it out of the park at trial, and a jury awards you a $150,000.00 verdict. Congrats! The insurance carrier will still write you a check for the $50,000.00 policy limit. As for the rest of your verdict, the odds are that you will never see a penny of it. But what happens to the $50k? Well once you file a lawsuit that is answered by the defense, your attorney fees go from 1/3 to 40%. So now your lawyer is getting $20,000.00 in fees. To adequately take your case all the way through a jury trial, you will need to pay a filing fee with the court, pay a court reporter for depositions, pay half the costs of a mediation (court ordered in every case), retain experts to testify on your behalf, pay your treating doctors to be at the courthouse testifying on your behalf instead of being in their offices seeing clients, and a whole host of other expenses. $25,000.00 is a very reasonable estimation of what you can expect to pay for out-of-pocket costs to take your case to trial (this is a conservative estimate). This would leave you $5,000.00 to compensate you and pay any outstanding liens and medical bills. By deciding to go after the at-fault party personally, you’ve most likely cost yourself close to $30,000.00.

 

Request a free consultation with Christian Myer, a partner at Berkowitz & Myer, your St. Petersburg car accident attorney.

Attorneys are one of those things in life you hope you never need, but when you do you should make sure you select the right one and Berkowitz & Myer is the right one.

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