Understanding Pure Comparative Negligence in Personal Injury Cases

If you are in a car accident in St. Petersburg and suffer injuries that max out your personal injury protection coverage, your personal injury lawyer may help you to sue the at-fault party for punitive damages. Punitive damages provide extra compensation for victims whose injuries were caused by the extreme recklessness or negligence of the at-fault party.  This extra compensation can help cover your expenses.

Many drivers in St. Petersburg fight back against these claims, however. Not only do they not want to admit fault, but they also do not want to pay for their negligence. The higher the medical bills and other expenses, the more likely they are to fight back with a personal injury lawyer of their own.

In fact, during a case like this, the defendant may even turn the blame back on you and claim that you are responsible for the accident. With your personal injury lawyer, you can disprove this claim. If the evidence doesn’t disprove the claim, the court may find that neither driver is entirely to blame. Instead, they may determine you both acted in ways that contributed to the accident.

Florida’s Pure Comparative Negligence

Should the court find that two drivers are partially to blame for an accident, Florida’s comparative negligence laws will come into play. This “pure comparative fault” system does not let your level of negligence prevent you from getting the compensation your injuries need. Instead, the fault charged to the claimant is proportionate to the amount awarded in damages. For example, if you are found to be 40% at fault for the crash, you can still recover 60% of your losses from the other party. In this example, if you initially requested $100,000, if you win your case, you will receive $60,000 because you were 40% at fault.

How Fault is Determined in a Personal Injury Case

To determine the percentage of fault for each responsible party, judges examine many different factors. Drivers may contribute to fault by:

  • Speeding
  • Driving recklessly
  • Driving under the influence
  • Texting and driving
  • Running red lights
  • Failing to stop at a stop sign
  • Not using turn signals

Prepare for a Case with a Personal Injury Lawyer at Berkowitz & Myer

The best way to prepare for a personal injury case is by working with a personal injury lawyer at Berkowitz & Myer. Our St. Petersburg firm has been helping clients recover compensation for their injuries for nearly twenty years. Our excellence and passion make us a strong opponent in the courtroom. To schedule a consultation in St. Petersburg, call us today at (727) 344-0123 or contact us online.

Do’s and Don’ts After a Personal Injury Accident

There are hundreds of vehicle accidents in Tampa Bay every day. In 2017, Pinellas County saw 17,966 total crashes with 11,111 injuries, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. This means that many St. Petersburg residents are at the risk of being in a collision at some point. If you sustain an injury, call a personal injury attorney and keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind.

Do: Document the Scene

After a collision, once the scene is safe, you have checked for injuries, and everyone has the necessary medical attention, call the St. Petersburg police to file a police report. You should then begin to document the scene thoroughly. Take pictures of the vehicles, the scene of the incident, the road conditions, debris, injuries, skid marks, and any property damage. Gather the contact information of anyone else involved as well as any witnesses. Record information like the location, the weather, and what you were doing before the incident. The more detail, the better. Take pictures with your phone, record video, and use a notepad to write things down like license plate numbers, driver’s license numbers, vehicle make and model, and more. However you can, record the information and hold onto that data. Your personal injury attorney will be able to use it to help build your case.

Don’t: Post on Social Media

You may be tempted to post online that you were in a fender bender to alert friends and family, but use caution when it comes to posting about your accident. Once something is online, it can’t be erased completely. Avoid talking about anything related to the accident, including your car, your personal injury attorney, the other people involved, or your injury. Insurance companies may have investigators and claims adjusters looking at your social media to find evidence that can diminish the value of your claim.

Do: Call a Personal Injury Attorney

After an accident, call a personal injury attorney in St. Petersburg as soon as you can. The other party may ask you for in-depth information like how much insurance coverage you have, what your deductibles are, and more. Instead of providing them with this information, your lawyer can advise you to give them only the necessary information and the basic details of the accident. This goes for the insurance companies as well. In fact, before you talk to any insurance companies, talk to your lawyer. You do not have to speak with insurance companies if they contact you. Anything you say, even if it is to your own insurance company, can be used to lower the settlement you may eventually receive.

Call Berkowitz & Myer in St. Petersburg for Professional Legal Help

If you were in a car accident in St. Petersburg, call a personal injury attorney to discuss compensation for your injuries. You may be able to recover damages for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. To speak with a professional at Berkowitz & Myer, call us at (727) 344-0123 or contact us online.

What to Do If You Are Facing Creditor Harassment

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prevents debt collectors from harassing, oppressing, or abusing anyone they contact. Repetitive phone calls meant to annoy or abuse are considered harassment as well as the use of obscene or profane language as well as threatening violence. If you believe a debt collector is harassing you, call a creditor harassment attorney in St. Petersburg for help.

If the debt collector violates the FDCPA, you can report them. In some cases, you may be able to sue the debt collectors for violating the FDCPA. If you win your lawsuit, the collector may have to pay you damages. A creditor harassment attorney in St. Petersburg can help determine if you have a case for a lawsuit.

What is Illegal and What is Legal?

It is illegal for debt collectors to misrepresent themselves. Therefore, they cannot use deceptive, false, or misleading practices. If they misrepresent how much you owe, make false arrest threats, or present themselves as an attorney when they are not, these actions violate the FDCPA. If a debt collector communicates with you, keep a record of how they contact you and what they say.

If you are the victim of unfair debt collection practices, it is important to contact a creditor harassment attorney. You shouldn’t have to deal with multiple phone calls a day, obscene language, threats of violence, or never-ending harassment. By seeking legal assistance, you may be able to make it stop while also possible obtaining damages.

What to Do If a Debt Collector Contacts You

If you receive a call from a debt collector, remember to remain calm and collected. Many collectors work on commission and will attempt to intimidate you. Assume all calls are being recorded and avoid saying anything overly defensive.

As we mentioned previously, keep records showing how often collectors call you, what time, and what they say. For the most part, you will receive phone calls or postal mail, although some people in St. Petersburg receive emails or text messages. Keep documents, statements, and correspondence and bring them to your creditor harassment attorney. If a dispute goes to court, your lawyer can use this as evidence.

When speaking with a collector, ask for their name, the name of the company they work for, and a call back number. Take notes about what you discussed, or if they made any threats such as having you arrested, hurting your credit record, or garnishing your wages. These notes can be invaluable if you end up taking the debt collector to court.

Verify the Debt

During your conversation, you can also ask the collector to verify the debt. Within five days, they must provide the following information:

  • The amount of debt
  • The creditor

They should also notify you that you have thirty days to dispute the debt’s validity. If you do nothing, they will assume it is valid. If you dispute it within thirty days, they will send you identifying information verifying the debt. Once you ask for verification or dispute the debt, the collector must cease their collection activity until they send you the verification.

Work with a Creditor Harassment Attorney and Defend Your Rights

Ultimately, the best way to get the harassment to stop is to contact a creditor harassment attorney. If you do not know your rights as a consumer, then debt collectors may try to take advantage of you. For a professional team of lawyers in the St. Petersburg area, call Berkowitz & Myer at (727) 344-0123 or contact us online.

Bankruptcy: Important Things to Know About Chapters 7 and 13

Bankruptcy may be intimidating for those who are not familiar with the process. But with the help of a bankruptcy attorney in St. Petersburg, you can manage your debt and get back on the right foot. People who pursue bankruptcy often do so because filing can:

  • Protect your home from foreclosure
  • Stop debt collection attempts
  • Prevent utility companies from cutting off power and water
  • Give you more time to readjust your debts

Chapter 7 discharges your debt, but this does not include student loan debt. There are unique circumstances that exist for student loan debt, but largely, you are responsible for paying it off. If the debtor or their dependents are under undue hardship, they may be able to seek a discharge for their student loan debt.

Whether you file for chapter 7 or 13, you must fill out and complete all necessary forms. Everyone who files for bankruptcy must complete the necessary forms for the federal government, which may include:

  • Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy
  • Summary of Your Assets and Liabilities and Certain Statistical Information
  • Statement of Current Monthly Income
  • Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation
  • Chapter 13 Calculation of Your Disposable Income

Florida Bankruptcy

In Florida, residents cannot use federal exemptions, and must instead use the state’s exemptions. Potential exemptions may include:

  • Homestead exemptions
  • Certain personal property up to $1,000
  • Up to $1,000 in motor vehicle equity
  • Up to $4,000 in personal property if not using the homestead exemption
  • Certain pension and retirement funds like 401ks and Simple IRAs

Your St. Petersburg bankruptcy attorney can go over the various exemptions available and help you determine which ones are applicable to your situation.

What You Need to Know When Filing for Bankruptcy

When you file, you must submit a repayment plan detailing your debts like child support, vehicle loans, mortgages, and tax liens and how you plan to repay them. A bankruptcy attorney in St. Petersburg can help you devise a plan that allows you to comfortably pay your debts. Unsecured debts, like medical bills and credit cards, must be less than $336,900 and secured debt, like mortgages, must be less than $1,010,650.

Filing for bankruptcy will leave a lasting impact on your credit; it will stay on your record for ten years. This can influence your ability to loan a car, rent a home, get a credit card, and more.

To speak with a bankruptcy attorney in the St. Petersburg area, trust Berkowitz & Myer. Call us today at (727) 344-0123 or contact us online to schedule a no-cost consultation.

What Should I Do If I Slip And Fall At A St. Petersburg, Florida Business?

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Now I know that whenever you hear about a slip and fall you think of those corny “ I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” commercials that only apply to the elderly. However, the truth is that a Slip and Fall can happen to anyone, even you! A Slip and Fall injury occurs when you trip over an object or uneven walkway, hole in a path or even when you slip on a wet surface.1 Regardless of your physicality or age these injuries do happen and can have permanent effects on your quality of life. These injuries may leave you asking questions like; “Will I be able to work again?” “Will I ever be able to walk without a cane?” “Will I be able to support my family?” “When will the pain stop?”

For example, a young woman recently fell on a poorly constructed sidewalk at a church located in Palm Beach County. The women sustained injuries that resulted in four surgeries, with two more remaining. Although no amount of money will ever make her whole, a jury was able to compensate her $2.5 million dollars for her injuries.2 The reality is; while we never expect these things to happen, they come and go in a split second and have lasting impressions on our lives.

The fact is that these types of injures happen all the time and you should know that Florida has made it increasingly difficult to recover damages, even when you were injured through no fault of your own.3 In 2010, Florida amended its laws in favor of corporations and insurance carriers imposing a greater burden upon YOU (the plaintiff) in Slip and Fall cases. While this may seem unfair; as the law stands, the burden of proof is completely on YOU! This in turn gives business owners and insurance companies a much better chances of not compensating those that have been injured.

YOUR RIGHTS

In Florida, whenever you walk into a business you are given the status of an “invitee,” which essentially is a person who comes into a store to conduct some sort of business. As an invitee you are given the most protections available at law, as opposed to trespassers who receive no protections whatsoever. Say, for example, you walk into a Wal-Mart to purchase a bottle of water; in this case you would be classified as an invitee. As an invitee, the business owes you two duties: (1) a duty to use reasonable care in maintaining the property in a reasonably safe condition and (2) a duty to warn you of any dangers which should be known to the owner and which are unknown and cannot be discovered by the invitee.4 Basically, the store must do its part to make sure that the store is free of all hazards, such as objects on the floor, wet surfaces, holes and anything else that may cause harm to its customers/invitees. Further, the store has to warn the invitee of known dangers.

NOTICE

Now so far it may seem simple, the floor was wet and I fell. Now they have to compensate me, right? I wish it was that simple, but in order to make your claim for recovery you have to prove that the business you visited knew (had notice) of the hazard that injured you and failed to fix it. There are two ways to prove notice; (1) Actual Notice and (2) Constructive Notice.  Though actual notice is self-explanatory, actual knowledge of a hazard is generally very hard to prove and therefore, most of the time you have to prove your case through constructive notice.  Constructive notice is proven through inferences and circumstances, such as the hazard existed for an unreasonably long duration, or that the hazard occurred so regularly that it was a common occurrence at the store.5 However, the new laws only allow inferences to be made after all other reasonable possible outcomes have been made. Therefore, it is key that a detailed investigation takes place immediately after the accident to ensure that all-possible causes of the fall are considered.

TIMING

The most important thing to remember is that if you think you have suffered a Slip and Fall injury see your doctor immediately! You will be unable to prove injuries without medical records and/or bills. Every day you wait may potentially reduce the value of your case. The reason is that the longer you delay, the more the owner and insurance companies will argue that your fall did not cause the injuries. They will also argue that the injury was not as severe as you claim.

With Slip and Fall cases becoming increasingly harder to prove, making a wrong move could be costly. At risk are your medical costs, lost wages (both now and future), disability and emotional peace of mind. When you are injured you may find yourself against a large corporation with even larger resources, and that is not something you should go through alone.  After suffering an injury you may be offered a quick settlement, however you should strongly consider seeking the advice and help of an attorney before signing anything. A skilled attorney can defend your claim and give you the best chances of maximum recovery.  The lawyers at Berkowitz & Myer will guide you through this troubling experience and help you maximize your recovery.  Call us today or go to www.berkmyer.com to learn more.

 

  1. http://www.attorneys.com/personal-injury/slip-and-fall/florida/florida-slip-fall-law-basics
  2. http://injuryattorneyflorida.com/florida-slip-fall-settlement-amounts-2014/
  3. http://www.meldonlaw.com/library/new-changes-to-florida-s-slip-and-fall-law-are-detrimental-for-victims/
  4. Tallent v. Pilot Travel Ctrs., LLC, 137 So. 3d 616, 617 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014).
  5. Stat. § 768.0755 (2016).

 

 

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