Choosing the Right Personal Injury Attorney

Personal Injury Attorney St. Petersburg Florida

If you’ve been injured in an accident, you’ve probably got a lot of questions on your mind, and a lot of people giving you advice—some helpful, some not so helpful. While it may not be at the forefront of your mind, deciding whether to hire an attorney—or which one—is an important decision that can seriously affect your rights and responsibilities. This article will examine the conditions in which you might want consider hiring a personal injury attorney, and how to choose the right one.

When to Hire an Attorney

If you only sustained minor injuries in your accident, you may not need to hire a personal injury attorney, since you can usually work out those kinds of issues with your insurance company. However, for more serious accidents, a personal injury attorney can help you go up against big auto insurance companies and their lawyers.

Your attorney should already know all applicable personal injury laws and procedural rules and can effectively handle all of the legwork for you. Because insurance companies and their lawyers have the knowledge to reduce compensation and even deny a claim altogether, hiring a personal injury attorney is a good idea for people who:

  • Suffered severe injuries
  • Are faced with expensive medical bills
  • Have experienced a significant loss of wages due to their injuries.

How to Choose a Personal Injury Attorney

After you’ve decided that you likely need an attorney, the next decision you must make is which attorney to choose. Below are a few guidelines to make sure that you choose the correct attorney for your case.

Know Whom You’re Dealing With

A personal injury attorney should have experience representing clients who are in a similar situation as yours. Although you ideally want someone with many years of experience, newer attorneys can also competently represent their clients with the proper assistance of a more experienced attorney. Most law firms offer free consultations to prospective clients, so take that opportunity to find a lawyer you connect with on a personal level.

Do Your Research

Try to talk with more than one lawyer before you choose one to represent you. Be prepared to describe your problem in a brief, clear summary. Ask the various lawyers about their experience, their fees, what your options might be, your chances of success, who will do the work, and when the problem might be resolved.

Get the Details

How often will the lawyer update you? What information will you be required to provide? Do you understand all of your options? What will the total cost be? If you’re not clear about exactly what the lawyer is doing, ask for clarification. Although your chances of success can’t be guaranteed, make sure you’re comfortable with your lawyer’s approach to your case.

Establish a Payment Arrangement That Works for You

The most expensive attorney is not necessarily the best attorney for you, while a “bargain-priced” attorney may not be the best deal in the long run, either. You want to find an attorney with the proper balance of experience and cost. Also be sure that you understand how you will pay your attorney and what kind of fee arrangement to expect—most personal injury lawyers operate on a contingency fee, though some may charge a flat fee or hourly rate.

Contact a St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorney for More Information

If you think you need an attorney to represent you after you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at Berkowitz & Myer. Schedule your free consultation by calling (727) 344-0123 today to learn more.

Does Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance Cover Motorcyclists?

Motorcycle Accident Attorney St. Petersburg FL

In short, no. But see below for more information about PIP insurance coverage and what you can do to protect yourself in the event of a motorcycle accident.

What Is PIP Insurance?

First, let’s take a look at what PIP insurance is and what it isn’t. PIP insurance, which stands for Personal Injury Protection, is an extension of car insurance that covers medical expenses and, in some cases, lost wages. It is often referred to as “no-fault” coverage because it pays out claims to the policyholder without regard to whom is at fault in the accident. This is in contrast to standard liability insurance, in which the at-fault driver is responsible for paying the costs of damages and injuries to the other motorists.

Florida is one of the 13 states plus the District of Columbia that requires drivers to carry PIP insurance by law. Florida law requires drivers to carry both:

  • $10,000 of no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) insurance
  • $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL) insurance

In addition to covering your part of any medical expenses and income lost from a car accident, PIP insurance will also cover:

  • Your child and other members of your household
  • Your child (when riding on a school bus)
  • You (when you are a pedestrian or bicyclist involved in a car accident)
  • Passengers in your car who do not have their own PIP insurance and do not own a car

Those in your car with PIP car insurance will receive coverage from their own policies if you get in a car accident. Likewise, your PIP car insurance will cover you while you are a passenger in someone else’s car.

Motorcyclists Are Not Covered by Standard Pip Insurance

You may have noticed that PIP coverage applies when you are driving or riding in a car or when your child rides on a school bus. This excludes motorcyclists. Although many drivers assume that their standard auto insurance policy will cover their injuries in the event of motorcycle accidents, this is not the case.

In many states, car insurance laws and motorcycle insurance laws are the same, but there are significant differences between the two in Florida. Most importantly, Florida PIP insurance laws do not apply to motorcycles. Some insurance companies may offer PIP insurance for motorcycles that is similar to PIP insurance for cars, but that insurance is not regulated by Florida law. Also, after a motorcycle accident, a person does not need to show a permanent injury to recover money for pain and suffering, unlike an injury resulting from a car accident.

Ways to Protect Motorcyclists in Florida

To protect yourself and others from injuries arising from motorcycle accidents in Florida, you have three options:

  1. Buy motorcycle insurance from an insurance carrier.
  2. Get a self-insured certificate from the Bureau of Financial Responsibility after you present evidence of net unencumbered capital.
  3. Secure a financial responsibility certificate. This requires posting a surety bond with a state licensed company and depositing cash or securities with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV).

If you choose to obtain motorcycle insurance, it is recommended that you purchase enough coverage to comply with Florida’s minimum requirements for auto insurance policies.

Contact a St. Petersburg Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident or simply have questions regarding your rights and responsibilities as a motorcyclist in Florida, contact the attorneys at Berkowitz & Myer. We can help you with an insurance claim with the liable driver’s policy or with a personal injury lawsuit when needed. Schedule a free consultation by calling (727) 344-0123 today.

 

The Importance of a Proper Brain Injury Diagnosis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 1.7 million individuals sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) each year in the United States. However, these are only the brain injuries that are diagnosed by medical professionals. There may be thousands more TBI victims who never receive a proper diagnosis because they never visit an emergency department, urgent care, or doctor’s office after their injury. Getting a timely brain injury diagnosis is vitally important to make sure you receive the treatment you need. Without a diagnosis, many complications can develop and the following is some information about why you should always seek medical attention if you suspect you may have any degree of a brain injury.

How Brain Injuries Occur

The first step to knowing when you should seek medical care is to recognize when an accident or incident happened that may result in a TBI. First, anytime you hit your head or are hit in the head by an object, there is the potential that your brain tissue has been damaged. In addition, you don’t actually have to suffer a direct blow to the head to sustain a brain injury. In some situations, the brain can shake inside the skull and become damaged simply because your head snaps sharply on your neck or if you are near an explosion.

Some examples of incidents that may cause a TBI include:

  • Hits in contact sports
  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Assaults

If you were in any type of accident and your head was affected, you should be evaluated for a possible TBI.

Consequences of Delayed Diagnosis or No Diagnosis

All brain injuries – from concussions to severe TBIs – can have a variety of effects on your functioning. Depending on where the injury is located in the brain, it can hinder your cognitive, behavioral, emotional, or physical functioning. Many people who are not diagnosed may not have an explanation for their struggles with information processing, memory, balance, communication, emotional control, and other symptoms. This can be frustrating and can affect your work, school, and personal life.

More seriously, brain injury victims not treated and monitored can experience serious complications that if not identified and addressed, may be permanently disabling or deadly. Such complications can include:

  • Hemorrhaging
  • Excessive intracranial pressure
  • Second impact syndrome
  • Developing cognitive disorders after numerous concussions

Without a diagnosis, a person may not be aware of the risks they are taking when they continue to engage in activities that may result in subsequent brain injuries. They also may not have the proper monitoring to prevent treatable complications of their TBI.

Call Our St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorney for More Information

A proper medical diagnosis for any injury is also critical if you are able to seek compensation from a negligent party who caused your accident. At the law firm of Berkowitz & Myer, we advise clients in and around St. Petersburg regarding their legal rights after a personal injury and what they can do to protect those rights. If you have been injured, call today at 727-344-0123 for a free consultation.

Different Ways to Resolve Florida Accident Claims

Personal Injury Attorney FloridaDifferent Ways to Resolve Florida Accident Claims

In many personal injury car and truck accident cases, you may need to file a lawsuit get the ball rolling. However, merely filing a lawsuit in the Florida court system does not necessarily guarantee that your case will—or should—go to trial. In fact, most personal injury cases settle long before trial.

In addition to settlements, other types of alternative dispute resolution measures for personal injury claims include mediation and arbitration.

The experienced St. Petersburg personal injury lawyers at Berkowitz & Myer can review the facts of your case and may help you reach a resolution via settlement, alternative dispute resolution, or, if necessary trial.

Settling Personal Injury Cases

Most personal injury cases settle before trial. Settlement negotiations usually occur between the plaintiff’s attorney and the at-fault party’s insurance company adjuster (or defense attorney). The process usually begins when the plaintiff’s attorney makes an initial demand for a settlement and the insurance adjuster comes back with an initial offer. Negotiations usually continue until the parties reach a settlement agreement or an impasse.

Litigating a Personal Injury Case

If the insurance company and the injured plaintiff cannot agree on an acceptable settlement offer, they can litigate the personal injury case through the Florida court system. Once a lawsuit is filed, written and oral discovery takes place, then the parties may attend a settlement conference or mediation proceeding. During mediation, a neutral, third-party mediator—usually a lawyer or retired judge—will work with the parties to try to amicably resolve the claim.

Instead of—or in addition to—mediation, the parties may agree to binding or non-binding arbitration, during which monetary parameters are set and the parties informally try their cases in front of the arbitrator. The arbitrator then makes a decision in the case. In binding arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision is final and may not be appealed.

Personal Injury Jury Trials

If the parties cannot agree to settle the case—and if other alternative dispute resolution methods have failed (or are unavailable)—the last recourse is usually a jury trial. Personal injury jury trials can be long, stressful, and expensive. In most cases, parties should only try personal injury cases as an absolute last resort. During a jury trial, the jurors must unanimously decide your case and determine what compensation to which you are entitled if any.

Going to trial can be extremely risky. A St. Petersburg personal injury lawyer can help you decide whether you should settle your case, pursue alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration, or take the risk of going to trial.

Contact a St. Petersburg Personal Injury Lawyer Today for a Free Initial Consultation and Case Evaluation

If you sustained injuries in a car or truck accident, there are many ways of recovering monetary compensation under Florida law. The personal injury lawyers at Berkowitz & Myer can evaluate your case and help you explore all of your legal options.

To schedule a free initial consultation or case evaluation with a St. Petersburg personal injury lawyer, please call us today at (727) 344-0123 or contact us online.

SHOULD I TAKE A LOAN AGAINST MY PERSONAL INJURY CASE?

If you listen to the radio enough you will catch the commercials about loans.  They stress how easy and fast it is to get money today upwards of $5,000.00!  They make it sound like all you are doing is advancing money from your settlement much sooner than waiting for your case to resolve.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  As a personal injury attorney, I receive calls from clients and loan companies asking for me and my firm to sign off on a loan and assuring that they are paid back once the case settles.  Although there are a few exceptions for these loans, we at Berkowitz & Myer are unilaterally against these anticipation loans and rarely approve them for clients.

What’s The Harm?

What is so bad about getting an advance on a settlement?  It sounds harmless enough and it’s usually a small loan between $500 to $1,500.  The answer is simple. Interest, interest, and more interest.  Oh, not to mention the $150-300 “processing fee.” These loans are not your typical loans where you may borrow $1,000 and over the course of a year pay back $1,200, with an additional $200 of interest for the use of the money.  These loans fall within a completely different classification of loans and, because of their risk, the loan companies are able to charge interest rates that are incomprehensible.  The reason behind this type of interest being charged is due to the fact that these are inherently high-risk loans.  Meaning, there is no guarantee that any personal injury case will settle and there is always the possibility of losing at trial.  These are called “non-recourse loans.” This risk is very high, so in order to make this business model work they must spread out this risk among the loans that are paid back.  If your case does not settle or if you lose at trial and there is no recovery, these loan companies cannot go after you for the loan.  These are called “non-recourse loans.” Basically, they are out that money and it must be made back somehow.  Sadly, this is legal but it must be avoided unless it’s a very rare and particular set of facts and circumstances.

 How does this play out?  First, a personal injury client contacts one of many loan anticipation companies out there and asks them for a loan.  Once they get information about their case the loan companies start vetting the risk of the loan by contacting the attorney’s office to verify facts of the personal injury case, so the underwriters can make a sound business decision about, not only if they should give a loan, but also as to how much.  If the personal injury case is not likely to succeed or settle at some point, it is common for the underwriters to flat out not approve a loan.  In some cases, they may agree to lend a very small amount of about $500.  This way, if the case fails they are not out a large portion of the money.  When we are contacted by one of these companies we will not speak to them initially.  The only reason we speak to them is if the client has contacted us requesting that we “allow” them to get the loan.  When this happens we will always explain to the client that we do not allow our clients to get these loans in most situations.  The reason is how these situations ultimately end.

 Let’s say that one of our clients’ signs on for a $1000 loan during their case.  Fast forward a few months, and the case does not settle so we file a lawsuit and litigate the case.  The case does not settle quickly and 24 months later the case finally settles prior to trial.  Now it’s time for the client to receive the proceeds from the injury case.  At the end of all personal injury cases, there is a closing statement that the client must sign, which shows them where every penny of the settlement goes. This generally includes attorney fees, costs, and medical bills.  The remaining balance goes to the client.  In this situation, the closing statement shows one of the costs being a $3,500 check going to ACME LOANS.  The clients are appalled!  “What is this,” they ask? I’ll remind them that is the loan you took 2 years ago. We have to pay it back.  We pay it back because we are under a legal obligation to pay it back.  We cannot disburse any funds to the client until that money is allocated to be paid back to ACME LOANS.  Then the client tells us how this is “not fair” and how “this is crazy” and how “is it 3 times the amount they borrowed.” Etc. etc. etc…  At this time I pull out a signed piece of paper that I had the client sign 2 years ago.  That paper is a signed waiver that tells the client that we are advising them NOT to take on this loan and that we are strongly against them borrowing money against their case.  It’s not a “told you so” moment…it’s a depressing moment because I am sure they could have held off on getting that $1000 2 years ago, and would rather have an extra $3,500 today.

Who Should Take These Risky Loans?

 So under what circumstances is it OK to get a loan against your case?  It is prudent to use these type of lending instruments in situations where, due to your injury, you are unable to work for a small period of time, and have no other recourse available.  In most situations where someone undergoes surgical intervention due to a personal injury matter, it goes without saying that they will be out of work for some time.  Some people do not have vacation time or sick leave, and otherwise will have no other way to pay their bills unless they take out one of these loans. Only after exploring alternatives such as personal credit cards, or loans from friends and family, is this a prudent course of action to take.  The reality is that most people taking these types of loans are not doing it because they are out for two weeks due to a neck surgery.  It is usually people that were in some sort of financial before their personal injury case even started.  At the end of the day, you should avoid these loan companies and make do without them.  No attorney should ever be pushing these types of loans on their injury clients and if they are I would strongly ask why on earth they be promoting such a thing?  You need a lawyer that may not always tell you want you want to hear, but will tell you the truth and properly advise you of the risks associated with tough issues such as these. If you have questions about loans or other personal injury matters, feel free to content me or email directly at Christian@berkmyer.com.

no-cost consultation: (727) 344-0123
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