Choosing the Right Personal Injury Attorney

Personal Injury Attorney St. Petersburg FloridaChoosing the Right Personal Injury Attorney

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.

The Importance of a Proper Brain Injury Diagnosis

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.

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! 

What do I do if I’m a victim of a hit-and-run?

Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of hit-and-run accidents in the Tampa Bay Area recently. Examples of this terrible trend include a 13-year-old Hillsborough boy injured in a hit-and-run while riding his bicycle.1 Last October we got news that one of Polk County’s finest, Deputy Adam Pennell was seriously injured when he was hit by a driver as he was helping a woman on the side of a road.2 Also, a Gulfport man was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver just 3 days before Christmas.3 So what are your options if you or someone you love finds themselves to be a victim of a hit-and-run? There are both criminal and civil remedies available to you.

Criminal Route

If you’re a victim of a hit-and-run, in addition to seeking medical treatment if needed, the first thing you should do is call law enforcement. A hit-and-run offense is a criminal act in Florida that can range from a misdemeanor, all the way up to a felony, depending on the seriousness of the situation.4 A law enforcement officer will draft a detailed report. If law enforcement is successful in apprehending the individual responsible, the matter will then be referred to the State Attorney’s Office, who will determine, based on evidence and surrounding circumstances, if formal charges will be filed. It is important to be cooperative with the prosecutor handling this matter if you want to see this individual held criminally responsible. While prosecutors are often able to negotiate criminal restitution for a victim of a hit-and-run, it is important to acknowledge that courts have held that victims of this particular crime are not automatically entitled to criminal restitution.5 While justice may be served criminally, it may leave you with zero dollars for your medical bills, property expenses, and pain and suffering. This is where an experienced injury lawyer can help you get compensated for damages.

Civil Remedies

An experienced injury attorney will be able to seek remedies for you by going after the driver and/or uninsured motorist carrier. The driver will be responsible because all drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely. The accident they caused, and fled from, is a violation of that duty. A claim will be made with the insurance carriers involved in hopes of acquiring an appropriate amount that will address your medical bills and other expenses related to the crash. A personal injury lawyer can also file a lawsuit on your behalf to get you the right amount of money. If the matter goes to a jury trial, and the hit-and-run driver is found to be the cause of your damages, you will be in a position to collect both economic damages and potentially punitive damages. Economic damages relate to things like medical expenses, pain, and suffering, and lost wages. Punitive damages are a mechanism used to punish the person who caused the accident when they did something outrageous in the process. Leaving somebody at the scene after crashing into them may very well be seen as an outrageous act. If the hit-and-run driver is never found, you will still be able to collect from your own insurance carrier. Since Florida is a no-fault state, you will be entitled to collect a certain amount from your insurance through what is called Personal Injury Protection (PIP). In addition to PIP, having an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy will come in handy for you when the driver is nowhere to be found. An experienced injury will be able to help with this process. Of course, you want to make sure you hire the right personal injury lawyer for you. Call us today for a no-cost consultation to learn more. We are ready to help you!

Can You Be Injured In A Minor Impact Accident?

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Last month I defended a deposition of one of my injury clients.  It was against one of the big insurance carriers that advertise all the time using gimmicks that make you laugh and apparently make you trust them.  If you think about it, you pay for auto insurance to not only protect you if you hurt someone in an auto accident, but also to assure that you are taken care of if you are injured in an auto accident.  So it comes as a big surprise when I tell my clients that they need to be prepared for a fight when they are injured…especially if it was a minor impact accident.

Have you ever driven by a huge crash on the side of the road?  You’ve seen the type of accident where the cars are mangled and your first thought was “I sure hope no one was seriously injured”.  Compare that to a minor car crash where someone is rear-ended and there is little damage to the vehicles.  You probably don’t look twice at the latter accident, nor do you think that anyone was injured.  In today’s world where everyone has a smart phone, you can’t drive for 10 minutes without seeing these people driving and playing on their phones.  These people cause accidents every day.  Usually they are rear-end collisions and the way cars are built today they generally don’t cause a lot of vehicle damage.  But what they can, and often do cause, are soft tissue damage and whiplash that can leave a person with permanent injuries for the rest of their lives.  Unfortunately, insurance companies do not care about your actual injuries.  They care more about how much money they can save.

Minor impact, rear-end collisions happen every day.  In some cases the victim does not think too much about it and goes home to sleep it off.  They wake up the next day and are very sore and figure it will all go away within a day or two.  Fast forward a week and they are no longer sore but have now developed daily headaches and mild pain in their neck, much like when you sleep on it wrong and wake up with a sore neck for a few days.  Well at this point the victim decides to seek medical attention and ends up at a chiropractor’s office.  They are diagnosed with a “sprain/strain of the neck” and are sent out for MRI’s.  They continue to visit the chiropractor and the results of the MRI reveal that they have suffered a herniation to a disc in their neck.  So they continue to treat, and they realize that with treatment the painful symptoms get better, but they have a disc herniation that is permanent and was caused by the sudden movement of getting hit from behind in the auto accident.  They seek to have their medical bills paid by the insurance carrier and money for future medical treatment.  They come to a full blown reality that the insurance company is not willing to pay the claim and some $15 dollar an hour adjuster is telling them that they couldn’t have been injured from the minor impact accident.  So without any medical training or experience, without consulting any experts, this adjuster has somehow determined that the claim is not valid because he saw a picture of the cars and there wasn’t enough damage to the vehicles to herniate a disc.  At this point the victim goes and seeks the advice of a personal injury attorney.  They are now informed by the attorney that, based on the fact that there isn’t “enough” property damage to the cars, the insurance company will take this position on just about every single claim.  We are talking about a client that has done what they are supposed to do.  They have faithfully paid their insurance premiums month after month, and year after year.  Now that they are asking for their insurance carrier to hold up its end of the bargain, they are basically being called a liar.

The reality is that cars in the United States have to meet a certain “standard”.  One of these standards is that when they are rear-ended by a vehicle under a pre-determined speed, the cars cannot show any property damage, hence the advent of the shock absorbing bumpers that all cars have in order to meet this standard.  Oddly enough this standard was pushed through legislation by the insurance companies themselves.  They knew if the cars showed little to no damage to the bumpers they could defend these types of accidents much easier.  They knew that if it comes down to it, and a jury has to sit for 2-3 days of testimony in a court house, that all they have to do is blow up the pictures of the cars and show the jury while they say “look at the property damage of the cars…Does it look like anyone could of been hurt in this accident”?  This is in fact what they do.  They win and get the jury to believe that they couldn’t have possibly been injured in such a minor accident.  So years ago, the major insurance companies, with the cool and funny commercials, decided to not evaluate a claim based on the medical evidence, but rather just take the position that the accident was minor, and thus not enough to warrant them doing their jobs and paying for the injuries.

It has been proven time and time again that even minor accidents can herniate discs in the neck and back.  In fact, all it takes is a sneeze to herniate a disc.  Have you ever been at a pool when someone decides to push someone in the pool when they are not expecting it?  That sudden movement of the body can easily herniate a disc.  But insurance companies do not care.  They basically force attorneys to file lawsuits against them and they will gladly spend many times over what the claim is worth to defend these cases all the way to trial.  More often than not, they get favorable results from juries.  They put victims and attorneys in a “take it or leave it” situation.  So some attorneys do not even take minor impact accident because they know they will have to file a lawsuit and have the cards stacked against them.  Years ago, I decided that I would not fold when it came to minor impact accidents.  I decided that if the case had merit and the victim needed strong representation that I would fight the odds and meet the insurance giants head on.  If you are involved in a minor impact accident make sure to ask your potential attorney how often he goes to trial and how many minor impact cases have they taken to trial.  You must ask these strong questions before you engage someone to represent you.  You need to know that they are willing and able to file a lawsuit on these type of cases because you can be assured that the insurance giants will fight your claim every time.  If you have a question about your case, feel free to email me directly to discuss.  Our consultations are always free.

no-cost consultation: (727) 344 0123

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