Frequently Asked Questions for Florida Injury Victims
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Do I Really Need To Hire A Lawyer In My Personal Injury Claim?
You Do Not Always Need To Hire A Lawyer For Your Personal Injury Claim
Accident victims often ask me whether they “really” need an attorney to represent them through the insurance claims process. I would never state that you need to hire an attorney because a claimant may go through the entire process without an attorney or other representative. In fact, if the property damages or personal injuries damages are really small in a claim, then we may recommend that the claimant try to negotiate the claim on his or her own.
Will An Attorney Get You a Higher Settlement Than You Could Get on Your Own?
In many circumstances the answer is, “Yes”. This is where I don’t want you to take my word for it. A study conducted in 1999 concluded that insurance companies paid higher settlements to accident victims represented by an attorney than those who represented themselves.
The insurance industry wanted to determine if represented claimants received higher settlements than those who were unrepresented. The Insurance Research Council, a non-profit organization comprised of many of the largest casualty and insurance companies in the country, conducted the study.
The IRC found that claimants who used an attorney received on average three and one-half (3 ½) times more settlement money than claimants who settled claims on their own.
You should at least obtain a consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney to see what he or she can do for you.
About Ortiz Law Firm
Ortiz Law Firm offers free case evaluations, but we do not accept every case. It is simply not worth our time and resources to accept smaller cases. In circumstances where your recovery may be small (say, for example, less than $10,000.00), we may tell you how to handle your case on your own.
Call (850) 308-7833 to discuss your claim with Mr. Ortiz.
How do I protect my rights after a car accident?
There are few experiences worse than being in a car accident. I know this personally because I’ve been involved in a couple of accidents as a victim of the negligence of the other driver. I’ll never forget that sound of the cars hitting each other- the dull thud followed immediately by the sounds of shattering glass and bending metal. It seems like time slows as you are hyper-aware of what’s happening, checking on your friends and loved ones in the vehicle with you.
The entire event can cause confusion and disorientation as you try to figure out the reality of what’s happening around you. As you gain your senses, there are certain things you need to do – even at the scene of the accident right then and there – in order to protect your rights. This page is a guide to help you do so.
Immediately After the Accident
You probably do not know whether you will be making a claim (or if anyone else will be) immediately after the accident. However, even if you are not seriously injured or do not think you are seriously injured, it is still important to collect key information from the other driver. Regardless of who is at fault (or who you think is at fault) for the accident, you will likely need the following information later for the insurance claims process:
You should obtain the other driver’s name, address, phone number, the name of his or her auto insurance company and the insurance policy number. You should also try to get down the driver’s license information. If the other driver admits that he or she does not have insurance, take note of that as well.
Detailed Accident Information and Evidence
Write down the license plate number and the vehicle identification number (VIN) of each car involved in the accident. The VIN is usually located towards the top/rear of the dashboard behind the steering wheel. You can typically read the VIN through the windshield by the driver’s door.
Also write down the make, model, year and color of the vehicle. Detail what part of the other car came into contact with what part of your vehicle. Note the property damage. If you have a camera (including a cell/mobile phone with a camera), take pictures of the property damage to both cars.
Also take pictures of the surrounding scene of the accident.
Call Law Enforcement
Call law enforcement. Your local police department or the Florida Highway Patrol will send an officer to conduct an investigation. The officer will take statements from the driver, passengers and any witnesses. He or she may collect physical evidence, take notes, and prepare a report.
Call for Medical Assistance, If Necessary
If there are injuries, you may need to call an ambulance for emergency medical care.
Communicating With Others At the Scene
Do not admit fault at the scene. Liability can be established later.
If there are witnesses, write down their contact information.
Within 24 Hours of the Accident
Assuming you are not too injured or impaired to communicate (such as being heavily medicated), you should report the accident to your insurance company within 24 hours of the accident, or otherwise as soon as reasonably possible. Most insurance policies require you to notify them as soon as reasonably possible so they can prepare the claim file and conduct an investigation with prejudice.
Your insurer may cover your rental car, the damage to your vehicle (if you carry collision coverage), and your medical bills under PIP (and Medical Payments coverage if you purchased such MedPay insurance). If you believe the other driver was even partially at fault, and he has insurance, contact his insurance company and open a claim there, as well. Now you have covered all your bases regarding insurance.
Florida is a “no fault” accident state. In Florida, some or most of your medical bills will by covered by the Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, coverage under your own insurance policy. You have certain notification requirements under the PIP part of your policy.
The Other Driver May Try to Blame You
Even if you believe the accident was 100% the other driver’s fault, the other driver may try defend himself or herself and claim that the incident was all your fault or that you share blame. In fact, the other driver may make a claim against your insurance. In such an instance, your own insurance might come into play.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage / Underinsured Motorist Coverage
If the other driver has no insurance, then you may have an Uninsured Motorist claim (often referred to as a UM claim) with your own insurance company. If the other driver did not have Bodily Injury (liability) insurance, or has very low coverage limits, then you may have an Underinsured Motorist claim. Note: you can only make a UM claim if you purchased this type of coverage. An uninsured motorist claim with your insurer may cover your medical expenses and wage loss not covered by PIP/MedPay, and pain and suffering.
Within Two Weeks of the Accident and Ongoing
You should have the physical damage to your car examined. You should obtain a repair estimate (perhaps even two), and provide copies of the estimate(s) to each insurance companies.
With respect to your injuries, make sure you save all receipts from your “out of pocket” expenses so you have an itemized “paper trail” to provide to one or all insurance companies when it comes time to try and settle your claim.
If you have to take time off of work as a result of your injuries, be sure to obtain documentation from your doctor or medical provider indicating the need to stay home from work. You should further document when the medical provider issues an authorization to return to work. In addition, document proof from your employer of the time you were away from work and how much you lost in wages.
Also document if you incur any other expenses, such as the cost of medications, co-pays for all medical treatment including physical therapy, transportation, childcare, and more.
Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims in Florida
There is a very important statute or law in Florida called the Statute of Limitations. This provides that you have a period of four years from the date of the accident to either settle your claim or file a lawsuit against the responsible driver and/or owner of the vehicle(s) at fault in the accident. If you were injured in the car wreck and your claim is taking a really long time to settle, either because your treatment is continuing, you have not yet reached “Maximum Medical Improvement”, or the insurance company is simply dragging its feet, it is important not to “blow” the statute of limitations, or you will lose your right to sue.
If you are approaching the four-year time limit, you will need to file a lawsuit in order to protect yourself and your right to make a recovery for your damages. Once you file a proper lawsuit, you do not have to worry about the statute of limitations any longer. You should hire an attorney to represent you and file the complaint for you. Once you hire an attorney, he be your legal advocate from that point forward. An experienced accident attorney should be able to evaluate your case and negotiate a settlement on your behalf.
It can be unsettling to suffer through a car crash and it is difficult to know how to do everything right afterwards so that you do not jeopardize your claim or lawsuit. Many accident victims hire an attorney early on in the process so that they do not make any mistakes. Especially if you’ve suffered moderate to more severe injuries, hiring an attorney from the very beginning is advisable.
It is possible to hire an accident lawyer even if you started the claims process on your own.
For more information on Florida auto accident claims, click on the following articles:
- How much can I get for my auto accident injury in Florida? How much is my case worth?
- Who is responsible if my car is rear-ended in California?
- How is responsibility in Florida determined after a car crash? Who is at fault?
- My car was being driven by a relative and was involved in a car crash in Florida. Am I liable for the injuries and damage to the other person if my relative was negligent?
- The other driver involved in the car accident in Florida had no insurance. Do I have any recourse?
- I had a car accident in Florida. It was the other driver’s fault. My car was totaled. Yet, the driver’s insurance company will not cover all my costs and damages. What are my options now?
Hiring An Attorney
Dealing with insurance companies after an automobile accident can be a mind-bendingly frustrating process. At the Ortiz Law Firm, we are proud to represent accident victims and their families. Call today for a free case evaluation at 850-308-7833 to discuss your legal rights.
What To Do After a Dog Attack
The Center for Disease Control has stated that 4.7 million people are bitten by a dog every year in the United States. A dog attack can be a very traumatic experiences for both adults and children. Knowing what to do after a dog attacks you can help you protect your health and your legal rights. If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, there are certain things you should do if pursuing a legal claim for damages:
- Injured victims should also take pictures of the injuries and wounds that they have suffered in the attack.
- After a dog attack, seek immediate medical treatment for your dog bite injuries. A bite can lead to a serious infection- especially if the skin has been punctured. Contact a physician right away. If the bite is very severe, call 911 or have someone take you to the hospital.
- Identify the dog that bit you. Take a mental picture of what the animal looked like. Try to identify the size, color, breed, pinpoint markings or physical characteristics on the dog that will help you identify it later. If the dog bit you and ran off, it was probably a stray. Otherwise, find out where the dog lives and who owns it.
- Determine how you will contact the dog’s owner. This is an important step because it is often the owner’s home insurance company that will be responsible for paying damages for your injuries.
- Call your local health department and report the incident. If the dog was a stray, it may be necessary for you to get rabies shots, which can be painful and costly.
- Report the dog attack to your local Police Department, Sheriff’s Department or animal control agency.
- Take pictures of all visible wounds, torn and/or bloody clothing, the dog and the site of the attack.
- Once you have taken care of yourself, find out as much about the owner of the dog as you can. Get the person’s name, address and dog license information. Discover if there has been a history of biting with the animal. Finding out about the owner can keep you from having to go through the rabies vaccinations and can probably entitle you to compensation.
- Do not provide any insurance company information regarding the dog attack or your injuries yet.
- Keep records of any medical expenses you have had to pay for yourself.
- Do not sign any document before discussing it with an attorney.
- Begin researching reputable Florida dog bite injury lawyers, and contact one as soon as possible. An experienced personal injury lawyer can assist you in navigating the sometimes complex dog bite laws and getting the best possible financial outcome for your injury. Dog bite law dictates that the actions of the dog are the responsibility of the owner, which can entitle you to compensation for your pain and suffering, medical costs and time missed from work.
Time is important when you are filing a claim for a dog attack. If you are seeking treatment for dog attack injuries, Florida state law provides that you must file a lawsuit within four years of the attack. This is the statute of limitations, meaning that if you do not file a lawsuit within 4 yers of the attack, you will forever lose your right to do so.
Your chances of a successful claim and recovery will increase dramatically when experienced and reputable dog bite attorneys represent you. Call injury lawyer Nick A. Ortiz for a free consultation today so that we can discuss your case.
Can I Sue The Insurance Company?
I have been asked many times by people who have been involved in car accidents whether or not they can sue the insurance company. After an accident, victims that have contracted severe or mild personal injury are faced with exhausting amounts of medical bills and expenses that the insurance company will try to avoid paying for as much as possible. Insurance claim representatives are well-trained to resist coverage of large claims, no matter how severe the injury is.
If you and the insurance company can’t reach an agreement on a settlement amount, you can sue the company for what you think is a fair value. If the Court agrees that the insurance company was wrong in denying your claim, you can then receive full compensation for what is deserving. You should also be able to get additional damages for emotional distress, lost income and legal fees that have come about as a result of the extra trouble with the insurance company.
Insurance companies want to make money and they will wrongfully deny some of the thousands of claims they receive every day to save money. If your insurance claim is denied or if you are offered a clearly insufficient amount, you should hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you get the compensation you need. Grounds that you can sue an insurance company for include failure to carry out proper investigations, undue delay in processing a claim, disregard for the rights of the policy holder and inadequate compensation for filed claim. Call experienced personal injury lawyer Nick Ortiz at 850-308-7833 for more information.