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.

The Jury Does Not Get To Hear About Available Insurance Coverage

So you have been called for jury duty…It’s Monday morning, youre tired and the last place you want to be is inside a courthouse all day while you could be at work or doing just about anything else.  So after an hour of being ushered around, you end up in a courtroom with judges, attorneys, bailiffs, and court personnel starring at you.  Finally, you realize that they disturbed your life to be a juror on a car accident case.  Just add another tick to the frustration needle.  After introductions are made you find out that the plaintiff is suing a little old lady.  She looks upset, confused and…well, not wealthy.  You continue through jury selection and you cannot get the idea out of your mind that this poor lady is getting sued.  Must be your lucky day because you got picked for the trial!  Adding insult to injury they tell you that this will go all week!  No work for a week?  Now you are really angry, but you promised the judge and the attorneys that you will put all these issues aside and decide this case on the facts and evidence.  I mean, aside from serving in the military, this is the highest civic duty you can perform for your country. 

For the next four days, you are presented with a story of the plaintiff and what has occurred since this tragic accident.  You come to find out that the plaintiff is really hurt and had to have a complicated neck surgery because of all this.  Further, you realize that the evidence is strong and you have little doubt that this accident caused these terrible injuries.  More evidence is presented and there are medical bills over $100k and probably another $100k in medical bills over the lifetime of the plaintiff.  Testimony from the people that know the plaintiff are sincere and visceral.  You understand what this accident has caused in the plaintiff’s life.  More importantly, you understand not only what this accident has taken from the plaintiff but what it’s left him with.  The plaintiff lives with chronic pain now that affects him from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep. 

After a week, you and the other jurors are convinced that they hold the power to make the plaintiff whole again.  It is completely deserved.  You are asked to start deliberations and everyone is on the same page.  All the jurors except one.  This juror isn’t talking about the evidence.  This juror isn’t talking about the testimony.  This juror isn’t bringing up any points except one.  “They are going to take everything from this little old lady.  I know the plaintiff is injured but this was an accident! If we award all these damages this little old lady will be homeless.”  All of a sudden those initial feelings you had started to rush in.  You are flooded with the idea of this poor little old lady being put in the poor house, but you are torn because you know the right thing to do is to not let that come into consideration.  But it does.  An hour later the juror that brought up the possibility of having this little old lady lose everything has infected the entire jury panel, and they reduce the award to a fraction of what it should have been.  You feel better about your decision and believe it to be a compromise.

The verdict is read and the plaintiff is emotionally distraught.  The plaintiff attorney doesn’t know what went wrong.  You look over at the little old lady and she looks the same…why?  Does she not know what the jury did for her?  Well, she doesn’t know, will never know, and doesn’t care.  This is because she had nothing to do with this entire case.  The defense attorneys, the defense experts, and everything done to oppose the plaintiffs case had nothing to do with the little old lady.  In fact, she had zero say so in how the case was defended.  Days later you run into the plaintiff’s attorney at a grocery store.  You start asking questions and realize that the little old lady was insured by the same insurance company that you have on your automobile.  He explains to you that the reason you didn’t know that the insurance carrier was behind it was because of what’s called the Non-Joinder Rule.  It’s a rule that prohibits plaintiffs from ever letting the jury know that there is insurance and that they paid for everything, and the little old lady had nothing to do with any of this.

So what is the purpose of the Non-Joinder Rule? The Non-Joinder Rule is actually a law passed by the Florida legislature, and the purpose was “to ensure that the availability of insurance has no influence on the jury’s determination of the insured’s liability and damages.” Basically, lawmakers wanted to avoid a situation where jurors are just finding defendants at fault because they know the insurance companies have deep pockets and can afford to pay. While it’s a fair concern from their perspective, the rule also has the effect of jurors denying a deserving plaintiff of damages because they believe a poor individual (like our little old lady) will be on the hook. The fact of the matter is that it’s also the law that a juror should make a decision based on the merits of the case, and not based on sympathy towards a defendant. Such feelings may lead to a miscarriage of justice where a legitimately injured person gets the short end of the stick when in fact there was more stick to give.

Call us for a free consultation! 

Maximizing Damages After Suffering an Injury

Personal Injury Lawyers in Florida

The last thing anyone wants to think about after they are injured is how they are going to pay for all expenses associated with their injury. Despite the overwhelming concerns that come with personal injury, recovery of damages should not be one of those concerns.

Under Florida law,1 individuals who are injured as a result of the negligence of others are most often entitled to recover damages. Negligence occurs when someone deviates from a standard of care owed to another and when a victim is injured as a result of this deviation. Whenever this occurs, the injured party is usually able to recover damages.

These damages are imperative as they are designed to help alleviate financial concerns associated with the victim’s expenses resulting from the injury. Some examples of those expenses include, but are not limited to, the following:

Economic Damages

Economic damages are designed to directly compensate for those real expenses which the victim has injured. These encompass a variety of different damages including:

Medical ExpensesAn individual’s most easily calculable expenses are those medical expenses incurred as a result of their injuries. These costs include hospital bills, expenses for ambulance transportation, and expenses for doctor’s appointments, among other things. It is important to remember that the cost of medical expenses may also include those expenses required to treat the injury in the future.

Loss of Income – Individuals who suffer personal injury are often unable to return to work or are, perhaps, severely limited in their ability to work. As a result, the injured party may be unable to earn the income they need – this is especially true for those individuals who are a paid on an hourly basis and do not have benefits such as paid time off or short-term disability. Florida law allows for injured parties to recover for income lost as a result of personal injury.

Non-Economic Damages

Not all recoverable damages include those that are easily calculable. In fact, a court or jury may find that the victim’s injuries merit recovery beyond those incurred expenses, including:

Pain and Suffering – Individuals may be entitled to recover damages for disability, physical impairment, and/or disfigurement that occurs as a result of another’s negligence. While there is no measurable standard for calculating pain and suffering damages, Florida law does allow recovery for the estimated value of such losses.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life – Floridians may be able to recover damages for a loss of enjoyment of life. This means that they may recover damages for those injuries that create an inconvenience or altogether keep an individual from enjoying certain regular aspects of life.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are an extra set of damages that may be available under the law.2 The purpose of punitive damages is to serve as a deterrent against particularly egregious negligence or wrongdoing. While these are not mandatory damages, they can add significant value to an individual’s personal injury case.

Call a St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorney Today for a Free Consultation

You may be entitled to recover damages if you were the victim of a personal injury. You should seek the advice and counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney in order to maximize your recovery. The skilled and knowledgeable team at Berkowitz & Myer will zealously represent you to ensure you receive the amount you deserve. Call 727-344-0123 and schedule your consultation today.

1http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0768/0768ContentsIndex.html

2http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0768/Sections/0768.72.html

Should my Attorney File a Lawsuit in my Personal Injury Case or Settle?

 

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Just because you have a personal injury claim doesn’t necessarily mean you are involved in a lawsuit.  Not all claims result in lawsuits but it is important to know not only the difference between the two, but also the positives and negatives that come along with each.

In most situations if you are involved in some sort of event that causes you to hire a personal injury attorney you will go through what is sometimes called “pre-suit”.  This means that your attorney is going to put your case together and present the case to the insurance carrier with the hope that the parties can settle on a fair value.  Unfortunately, a “fair value” is a very subjective term and it usually involves you taking less than the case is worth and the insurance carrier paying a little more than the case is worth.  This is why it is called a “settlement”.  But in today’s world that revolves around corporate greed, insurance carriers take a hard line stance on every case and make offers to settle that are oftentimes bordering on absurdity.  In those situations, filing a lawsuit is a no-brainer…but this is not always the case.

First, hopefully you performed your diligence when you hired your personal injury attorney and you secured representation with someone that is a civil trial attorney.  Please see my previous article “How Do I Hire a Personal Injury Attorney” to help in understanding some of the things a consumer should consider when retaining a qualified personal injury attorney.  Having a qualified civil trial attorney on your side gives you the much needed leverage to carry through with your promise to the insurance carrier:  Agree to pay a reasonable and fair claim or you will find yourself in court.  Imagine this: when insurance adjusters know they are dealing with an attorney that never files lawsuits, they can lowball all of that attorneys claims without fear of ever finding themselves defending a lawsuit against them.  Unfortunately, there are many attorneys that rarely, if ever, file lawsuits and if they do they will never take it all the way to a jury trial.  Always do your research and ask point blank questions to your attorney about how often they file lawsuits and try cases before a jury.

Always remember that your attorney cannot settle your case without your consent.  This does not mean that you can have unreasonable expectations about the value of your case, and not allow your attorney to settle your case when the possibility of getting a fair and reasonable value for your claim arises.  Attorneys know what the range of your particular case is worth.  You should listen to their advice, but also be aware when you feel like you are being forced to settle your case for a “low ball” offer.  If you feel too much pressure to settle your case and you feel the amount is unreasonable, then sit down with your attorney and have these conversations.  What are the pros and cons of moving forward with a lawsuit at this point?  I am personally offended when attorneys refuse to file lawsuits for their clients when presented with lowball offers and they force clients to settle.  This may be appropriate in some cases but not all.

In the recent years, insurance carriers have continued a trend of lowballing offers based on property damage alone.  They know that if push comes to shove, and the photos of a fender bender are presented to a jury, they will have a strong chance of getting the jury to award low damages.  Although the amount of property damage has little to no relationship to what kind of injuries a person can sustain as a result of an auto accident, be prepared to be lowballed if this is your situation.  Some attorneys will flat out refuse to litigate your case if your have low property damage because of the perpetual “juice is not worth the squeeze”.  This may be true, but if attorneys take a hard line stance when it comes to low property damage cases they are doing nothing more than assuring that insurance companies will continue to lowball these cases across the board.

Over the years I have made a personal decision to not allow insurance carriers to bully my clients in pre-suit demand stages of case.  If I make a demand to an insurance adjuster and am not able to secure a reasonable offer for my client, then I file suit.  This way insurance adjusters know that I will consistently follow through with my promises of filing suit on a case when some other attorneys merely bluff.  Trust me, they know who files lawsuits and who doesn’t.  They know who takes cases to trial and what attorneys do not.  This reputation only helps my clients to secure fair and reasonable offers to avoid lawsuits.

At the end of the day, your attorney should be able to communicate with you early on what the plan is, and if they are not able to secure a good offer on your case.  You want to have the security of knowing that your legal representation makes good on his or her promises when it comes to dealing with insurance carriers and adjusters.  Do not stand back and let someone force you to settle your case when deep down you know and feel that it is not fair or reasonable.  If you have questions please feel free to contact me directly or send me an email.

no-cost consultation: (727) 344 0123

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