Auto Accident and Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions
Every case that comes through our door is unique.
Despite that, there are certain questions that we tend to get from a lot of our clients. We’ve gone ahead and compiled some of the more frequently asked questions here, so accident victims might have some idea of what to expect before they contact an attorney.
When you’re ready to speak with a lawyer to discuss your auto accident or personal injury case, give us a call for a free consultation. One of our attorneys will be happy to meet with you here in our Clearwater office, or they can come to you.
Personal Injury Claims
Q: If the car accident wasn't my fault, but I received a ticket, should I pay it or plead not guilty?
A: Don’t do either until you've consulted with a traffic attorney. In the eyes of the law, if you pay the ticket, you're admitting fault, which could drive your insurance premiums sharply higher. On the other hand, pleading not guilty at traffic court could result in additional court costs and a full-blown trial. A traffic attorney will be able to advise you based on the specific circumstances of your case.
Q: How much is a personal injury attorney going to cost me?
A: Your initial consultation with us is free. During that consultation, we will explain our fee structure to you. We operate on a contingency basis, which means that fees are due only if we win your case. If we don’t win, you owe us nothing.
Q: Why are we using my insurance carrier if the accident was not my fault?
A: Florida is a "no-fault" state. Therefore, the personal injury protection (PIP) coverage you buy from your insurance company is used to cover your medical bills and lost wages in the event of an accident. This protection is required by state law for your own protection.
Q: If I sustained injuries in a previous accident, do I still have a case?
A: Your previous accident does not necessarily limit you from suing or receiving compensation for a more recent, unrelated incident. It's imperative that you seek medical attention as soon as possible to ensure that your injuries are well-documented, and that proof can be provided when seeking damages.
Q: How much is my claim worth?
A: An attorney who gives an accident victim an answer to this question is doing themselves and their clients a disservice. There are a multitude of factors that come into play when a case is in negotiation. Once our team has been able to review your case fully, they will calculate the estimated settlement for you.
Q: How long will it take to prove my claim and reach a settlement?
A: Each personal injury case is unique, with its own specific set of facts. Because of that, the time it takes to reach an agreed settlement can vary dramatically. That being said, the average case takes approximately 6 months to settle.
Q: What is a Letter of Protection (LOP)?
A: A LOP is provided to medical professionals in the event an accident victim lacks proper insurance, or if an accident victim's PIP coverage has been exhausted.
The letter allows the accident victim to continue treatment without being billed, with the promise that payment will be made when the case is resolved.
It’s important to note that in the event a case cannot be resolved, the medical bills will remain outstanding and due upon the resolution.
Q: What is Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)?
A: MMI is medical jargon used to describe the point in treatment after which you will not improve any further. Your treating physician determines whether MMI has been reached.
This determination will be made through your communications with your treating physicians as well as through your diagnostic results, such as x-rays and MRI’s.
After a period of treatment, your physicians will evaluate your injuries to determine the impairment percentage. This percentage reflects the degree your accident has impaired your daily living.
Q: What if a person dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?
A: It depends on whether or not the person’s death was the result of injuries sustained in the accident.
If their death was a result of their injuries, then the victims heirs have a legal right to recover money through a lawsuit.
In the event a person who has sustained injuries due to an accident and has a personal injury claim dies due to causes unrelated to the injury, the claim can still survive and can be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
Q: What if an unborn fetus dies as a result of my accident?
A: Many states require that a child be born alive in order for its death to be the subject of a wrongful death action, so the death of a fetus might not be actionable. An attorney can tell you what the law says in your state.
Q: If a person dies as a result of injuries sustained from an accident, what is the difference between the civil and criminal cases that can be brought regarding the death?
A: A criminal case arises when the government seeks to punish an individual for an act that has been classified as a crime. In certain cases, a criminal case can be brought against someone who may have accidentally caused the death of another person (the laws covering this differ from state to state).
A civil case, on the other hand, usually has to do with a dispute over the rights and duties that individuals and organizations legally owe to each other. When someone dies as the result of an accident, his or her heirs may be able to bring a civil complaint against the person they deem responsible for the accident.
The burden of proof is higher in a criminal case and the penalty imposed is a criminal sanction such as imprisonment. In a civil case, the penalty will typically be limited to a monetary judgment entered against the defendant.
Q: Are punitive damages recoverable in wrongful death actions?
A: In most states, a plaintiff may not recover punitive damages in a wrongful death action. There are some states, however, that do have specific statutes that permit recovery of punitive damages.
Q: Are all state laws the same regarding wrongful death?
A: No, there are differences among states regarding wrongful death laws. Some states do not allow certain types of damage awards and/or may have different statutes of limitation that establish the time frame within which you must file suit.
If you have a choice of states in which to file a wrongful death suit, your attorney can help you select the best one.
Q: Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit if the deceased never held a job?
A: Yes. Although he or she may not have held a job, more than likely they contributed to the family in some way, such as being a stay-at-home mom or dad. These contributions are quantifiable as “pecuniary losses” in a wrongful death action.
Q: Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit based on the death of a child or an elderly person?
A: Yes. For a variety of reasons, however, the damage awards for both classes of decedent are usually modest.
Q: Can someone sue for the pain and suffering of a decedent?
A: Yes. In addition to the wrongful death itself, a decedent’s family may recover damages for the pain and suffering that the decedent endured prior to death.
Q: What should I do if I have been in a motorcycle accident?
A: In any accident, it is important to first seek medical attention.
If at all possible, be sure to take pictures of the scene of the accident, as well as the damage to you and your motorcycle. Do your best to gather witness information as well.
Also important to your claim is gathering and providing medical records and police reports.
Never admit guilt or fault, and never sign any form without first consulting with your attorney.
Q: A car turned left in front of me while I was riding my motorcycle, resulting in an accident. Am I at fault?
A: A car making a left turn is almost always liable for a collision with a vehicle coming straight in the other direction. Exceptions to this near-automatic rule can apply if the vehicle going straight was going well over the speed limit or ran a red light.
Q: When determining who is liable for a traffic accident, what does “comparative negligence” mean?
A: Comparative negligence allocates fault among the drivers involved in an accident based on their degree of carelessness that contributed to the accident.
Where a motorcycle is concerned, a common example of comparative negligence might be where the motorcycle’s headlamp, brake light or tail light is out, especially if the accident happened at night.
Q: Do I have to wear a helmet if I am only riding my motorcycle for recreation?
A: Depending on where you live, you may be required by law to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, regardless of how often you ride.
Many states have enacted mandatory helmet-use laws for motorcycle riders and their passengers. Call your local Department of Motor Vehicles to find out whether your state has such a helmet law.
Q: I was injured in a motorcycle accident, but I wasn’t wearing a helmet. Can I still recover damages from the other driver?
A: Even if your state has a mandatory helmet law, your failure to comply with that law will probably not prevent you from recovering for your injuries if someone else caused the accident.
Depending on where you live, the issue may be relevant to the amount of damages you will recover if it is shown that your failure to wear a helmet contributed to your injuries.
Q: How do I know that the helmet I am purchasing meets state requirements?
A: Look for a Department of Transportation label somewhere on the helmet. That label serves as the manufacturer’s certification that the helmet conforms to federal safety standards.
Q: Can a state really require me to wear a helmet?
A: Yes. Helmet laws have been deemed valid in many courts as a reasonable exercise of state power, justified by the state’s interest in protecting the safety of motorcycle riders and other motorists and in keeping insurance and health care costs low. .
Q: Do I have to call the police if I have been involved in a motorcycle accident?
A: Generally, if a traffic accident involves a death, personal injury or property damage above a specific amount, you must notify the police. They will file an incident report that can be used in seeking damages.
Q: Should I contact an attorney after my motorcycle accident?
A: You should definitely seek an experienced lawyer’s assistance to determine whether you have a legal claim for damages. Accident cases can be very complicated, and professional legal advice can be immeasurably valuable in resolving the case.