Frequently Asked Questions
- What do I do if I have been injured in a car accident?
Initially you should stay at the scene of the accident and call the police. If the police do not come and file a report, there is certain information that you need to obtain while at the scene of the accident. The information should include: the name and address of the operator of each vehicle, the name and address of the owner of each vehicle, the license plate number of all vehicles involved, the name of the automobile insurance company for each vehicle, and if possible, the names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the accident. You should seek prompt medical treatment as needed and explain the nature of your injuries to your doctor with candor. If possible, you should preserve evidence such as taking photographs of damages and keep copies of all important documents. It is important that you do not admit fault or enter into negotiations with the other driver(s) or insurance company(s).
- How much will it cost to hire an attorney to represent me?
All personal injury cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not pay any attorney fees unless we recover damages on your behalf. The industry-standard attorney fee is about one third of the awarded settlement. The attorneys’ fee is separate from the “costs” that the firm advances on behalf of the client. “Costs” include expenses for obtaining copies of medical records from your doctors, expert witness fees, accident reconstruction experts, filing fees at the courthouse, costs of taking depositions of the parties involved, all witnesses, doctors and other experts, etc. The Rickman Law Firm advances all costs needed for your case, and are only reimbursed if we obtain a recovery for you.
- How long will it take to settle my claim?
The time it takes to settle a personal injury case depends on the circumstances surrounding the case. Some of the smaller, less complex cases can be resolved with a phone call, while more complex cases could take longer to properly prosecute. Many cases can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months to settle depending on its complexity. Once our attorneys review the facts of the case, you will receive an estimate of time that is tailored to the facts of your case.
- What type of monetary recovery can I expect to receive?
A person who files a personal injury lawsuit could receive compensation for a variety of injuries that are collectively referred to as “damages”. The recovery can include compensation for past medical bills, future medical bills that you are fairly certain to incur, past lost wages, future loss of earning capacity, and past and future amounts for the pain, mental suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. Factors that could effect your recovery are the permanency of the injury, whether or not you receive an impairment rating, past medical history, treatment history, and the amount of insurance coverage available. All of these factors play an important role in determining the value of your case.
- How do you establish that someone else is responsible for my injuries?
To establish liability, you must prove that another person had a legal obligation, a “duty”, to act or refrain from acting in a particular manner and that person’s action or inaction caused your personal injury. Essentially, by establishing liability you are showing that another person or entity is responsible for your injuries. The person who is at fault for causing the accident is referred to as the “tortfeasor”. There must be certain circumstances present in order to establish that the tortfeasor had a duty to act in a certain manner. At a minimum, every person is required to act in a manner that is reasonable. A “reasonable person” is based on the community’s judgment of how a person should act. In most cases, individuals are held to the reasonable person standard despite mental or emotional limitations, because these standards are deemed reasonable and not extraordinary. Additionally, intoxication is not an excuse for negligence because the impaired judgment was chosen, and therefore the “tortfeasor” is still responsible for any action that they take. Beyond the minimum duty of acting reasonable, a variety of different relationships exist that can generate additional duties in a person. For example, homeowners, storeowners, and employers have certain duties beyond acting reasonable because of their legal responsibilities for their property and employees. A professional’s conduct is judged by the same “reasonable person” standard; the conduct is judged by what reasonable persons in those fields would or would not do. Additionally, there is no deviation in the standard for new professionals or for unqualified people who engage in the activity, a novice is held to the same standard as a seasoned professional.
After determining that the “tortfeasor” had a duty to act or refrain from acting in a particular manner, the next inquiry is whether or not their action or inaction caused your injuries. It is important to note that Florida is a comparative fault state, meaning that your recovery can be reduced by the percent of your own comparative fault if you contributed to your accident in some manner. For example your behavior could contribute to a portion of the accident, or you could have assumed the risk involved in the accident. If you signed a consent form for participation in a certain activity you may have waived your ability to bring a personal injury suit if an injury occurred. Even if no written agreement is signed, sometimes an implied assumption of risk can be used to prevent a personal injury claim, such as when a person drives a go kart after having the opportunity to read a posted warning or when a person uses an obviously defective product in spite of the known problem.
- What do I do if I was in an automobile accident and the insurance adjuster for the other driver keeps calling me at home?
Do not talk to an insurance adjuster until you speak to an attorney. Any statement that you may make could impede your potential lawsuit. Giving a recorded statement or signing the wrong papers without seeking advice from an experienced attorney could result in the loss of valuable legal rights. You have a duty in Florida to be cooperative with your own insurance company, but you have no duty to cooperate or give a recorded statement to the insurance company for the driver who caused the accident.
- What does it mean if my policy has a lawsuit threshold?
A lawsuit threshold restricts your right to sue for pain and suffering. If your policy has this threshold, in order to sue successfully for pain and suffering, your injury must be a particular type, such as death, dismemberment, disfigurement, or permanent Injury.
- What is Personal Injury Protection?
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance covers you and relatives residing in your household for injuries sustained in an automobile accident regardless of who is at fault. This coverage pays 80% of reasonable and necessary medical bills, 60% of lost wages, and 100% of household services, up to a limit of $10,000. Florida law requires every owner of a motor vehicle required to be registered in Florida carry PIP to protect themselves in the event of injuries sustained in an automobile accident. For injuries sustained in an automobile accident, PIP coverage is primary over any health insurance.
- I thought I purchase full coverage, why am I not insured?
Only PIP coverage is required by Florida law. Insurance agents will often refer to PIP as “full coverage” when, in fact, there are other types of coverage still available. These include bodily injury (protects the person you hit) and UM (protects you if you are hit by an un-insured motorist).
- What is an LOP? (Letter of Protection)
This is a letter that you and your attorney can issue to a health care provider which promises to pay their bill after your case is resolved. This allows you to get the medical care you need even when there is no insurance available to pay for it.
- The adverse party’s insurance company has advised me that there is no Bodily Injury (BI) coverage on their insurer’s policy. Can I still sue?
There is no requirement in the State of Florida that a registered owner of an automobile carry bodily injury (BI) liability coverage. Your chances of recovering a substantial settlement against an uninsured driver are slim, unless that person has substantial assets to pay any judgment rendered against him. Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, if you carry it on your own automobile, will be available to you in the event that you sustain a serious injury caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
- Why does my insurance company have to pay for my bills if I did nothing wrong to cause this accident?
Under Florida law, even when you are in an automobile accident that was caused by someone else, you are required by law to submit your own medical expenses to your own automobile insurance company under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. The person who caused the accident, and/or his insurance company, is responsible for paying your medical bills and lost wages that exceed your PIP policy, and for your pain and suffering if you have sustained a permanent injury.