So you’ve been injured in a car accident. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. Do you have a personal injury case? Maybe you do, and maybe you do not. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before a determination as to the viability of a personal injury case is established. We are going to focus on one such question for purposes of this article:
Who was at fault?
This is not always an easy one to answer. If you were stopped at a traffic light and someone negligently rear-ended you, then we probably do not need to spend too much time figuring out whom to blame. However, not all cases are so clean cut. In Florida, we have what is known as “comparative fault.”1 This means that fault is apportioned as a percentage of responsibility. For an easy example, consider an injured driver in a two-car accident. Let’s say that injured driver’s “damages” as a result of the accident amount to $100,000. If a jury were to find each driver to 50% at fault, then the injured driver’s award would be reduced by the amount he or she was responsible for the accident. The $100,000 award would be reduced to $50,000. If the injured driver was found to be 30% at fault, then his or her award would be reduced to $70,000.
Were you issued a citation at the accident scene?
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions out there when it comes to traffic tickets. I’ve heard far too many people over the years say that they never pursued a personal injury case because the police officer issued them a ticket at the accident scene. Did you know that testimony about “who got the ticket” at the accident scene is often not admissible in a personal injury case? A jury usually never gets to hear about which driver the officer cited. Sadly, many Florida personal injury lawyers turn down cases only because the client was cited by law enforcement. Are they afraid to fight about liability in a courtroom? Are they only interested in taking on cases where little work or analysis is needed (low hanging fruit)? I cannot answer that, but I can tell you that not all lawyers are created equal. While there are times when there is simply not a viable personal injury case to be pursued, do NOT simply take “no” for an answer when you are turned down by a lawyer because you were considered at-fault by law enforcement.
Recent Berkowitz & Myer case
Our firm recently represented a very sweet, and very injured, young woman that I will refer to as “Jane” (to protect her identity2). Jane was in a horrific car accident last year. She was transported to the hospital via ambulance with severe injuries and will have to suffer from the effects of those injuries for the rest of her life. It is undisputed that Jane caused this accident due to negligent driving. But was she 100% at fault? Well, initially Jane sought legal counsel from a very well-known personal injury firm who signed her up, investigated the case, and subsequently dropped her as a client because they determined that because she was at fault. Jane wasn’t ready to give up. She then sought out a top notch litigation firm in Tampa to get a 2nd opinion. This firm also investigated the facts surrounding Jane’s accident and dropped the case, telling Jane that she “didn’t have a case.”
Fortunately, Jane did not give up. She was referred to Berkowitz & Myer from a past client of ours. Our firm conducted our own investigation. Attorney Christian Myer discovered that while Jane was certainly to blame for the accident, the other driver in the accident was also negligent to a certain degree. Discovering this fact was only the first step. Mr. Myer had to then convince an insurance company to pay for the portion of damages caused by their insured. After a hard fought negotiation process, Mr. Myer was able to convince the insurance carrier to pay a six-figure settlement to Jane. While Jane will never fully recover from the injuries suffered in the auto accident, the funds she received due to Mr. Myer’s tenacity and creativity will greatly assist her moving forward.
Get a 2nd (or 3rd) opinion before giving up!
Sadly, most people in Jane’s shoes would have given up the moment a well-known personal injury firm said to them that they did not have a case. And nearly all of those that did not initially give up after hearing that news would give up after hearing the exact same news from a 2nd law firm. Be like Jane! If you’ve been told “no” but you aren’t ready to give up, it’s time to call Berkowitz & Myer, for a no-cost consultation today.
1 Fla. Stat. 768.81
2 Confidentiality clause in settlement agreement precludes using actual names