Category: Practice Areas

I just hired a lawyer in Florida for an accident case and have reconsidered; do I have to pay that lawyer?

Generally, you have three business days to reconsider a personal injury contingency fee agreement without ANY charge but this must generally be done in writing; thus, if you are within three business days, then you can cancel the contract in writing. In fact, under the statement of client’s rights, which must be attached to a personal injury contingency fee contract it states:

Any contingency fee contract must be in writing and you have three (3) business days to reconsider the contract. You may cancel the contract without any reason if you notify you lawyer in writing with three (3) business days of signing the contract. If you withdraw from the contract with the first three (3) days, you do not owe the lawyer a fee, although you may be responsible for the lawyer’s actual costs during that time. But, if you lawyer begins to represent you, your lawyer may not withdraw from the case without giving you notice, delivering necessary papers to you, and allowing time to employ another lawyer. Often, your lawyer must obtain a court approval before withdrawing from a case. If you discharge your lawyer without good cause after the three (3) day period, you may have to pay a fee for the work that the lawyer has done.

Am I required to talk to the insurance company for the place where I fell in Florida?

Generally, you are NOT required to talk to the insurance company of the place where you fell. The reason is that you have no contract with them. I generally advise my clients not to speak with the other insurance company and certainly NOT to give a recorded statement. At a minimum, you may have a lawyer prepare you for any statement with the adverse insurance company and have the lawyer on the phone with you at that time. Oftentimes, people do give statements and I have seen many instances where when I show the client the statement they gave to the insurance company the do NOT think it is accurate. But once the statement is taken it CAN be used AGAINST you in a court setting, which is why it is important NOT to give a statement or to have your lawyer prepare you for same. In my view, the statement ONLY helps the insurance company. The more times you tell a story, the more likely you will have some slight differences in it and that can be bad in a court setting.

What criteria do lawyers use in accepting personal injury cases in Florida?

Generally, personal injury cases are worked on by lawyers with a contingency fee contract. Thus, the lawyer only get a fee if he or she collects money for the client. So the criteria used by the lawyer would involve the likelihood for success with any given case.

What makes a case more likely to succeed?

To prove a case, there must be three basic elements: Liability, Damages and Legal Causation. The perfect case would involve a scenario where the other party is at fault, the client has clear damages that are large and where the damages were clearly caused by the accident. There is one other practical thing that is needed: insurance! Unfortunately, there are many cases where someone is injured by another who has no insurance and the person is judgement proof. In those cases, while the client has a viable case in court, there may be no means of collecting the verdict!

Just because the other car has a large insurance policy or your fall and are injured at a large department store with a lot of insurance does not mean that you will automatically get a lot of money. You must still prove they are at fault, that you have damages and that those damages were caused in the accident.

I have accepted some cases where client has a moderate or large injury, even though I believe the client may be partly at fault. As discussed on other blogs, in Florida we have comparative fault; thus, if a client is found 25 percent at fault, their damages are reduced by 25 percent but they can collect 75 percent from the at fault party.

There are a lot of factors that come into play and this blog entry just covers the basics. If you have a case that you would like to discuss, please feel free to call the law firm.

In Florida, does it matter what college or law school my personal injury lawyer went to? Or if he practices personal injury law solely or handles other types of legal matters?

In life, everyone has different wants and needs.  Some people prefer a lawyer that went to an Ivy League college and/or law school.  Other people prefer to hire lawyers from local school.  Most people, in my experiences, really don’t focus on the school but more on the lawyer’s service.

Some people want a lawyer that only handles personal injury law as their personal injury lawyer.  While another person may prefer a lawyer that handles multiple area of law.  Certainly, if that client had a good experience with the lawyer during a divorce case, they would have the trust needed to hire that lawyer for another matter, like a personal injury case, for example.

In my case, I graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (specialization in Finance) and my law degree is from the University of Miami School of Law.  I think it is important to hire a lawyer that understand the personal injury law and has at least some focus on this area of law, as opposed to someone who is “trying the area of law out.”  As my focus is on service to the client, I believe that is a very important factor in deciding on the lawyer that you choose.  Clearly, the most important issue in hiring a lawyer is finding someone that you relate to and have a trusting relationship with.  That is part of why I like to spend more time with my clients – so that I can build a lasting relationship based on trust.

The Florida Bar requires that the client sign a “Statement of Client’s Rights” when signing a contingency fee contract in a personal injury case.  The third right, which is applicable to this question and some of the discussion above states:

Before hiring a lawyer, you, the client, have the right to know about the lawyer’s education, training and experience. If you ask, the lawyer should tell you specifically about his or her actual experience dealing with cases similar to yours. If you ask, the lawyer should provide information about special training or knowledge and give you this information in writing if you request it.

I think the above right is helpful to client’s seeking to hire an injury attorney.

I just hired a lawyer for an accident case in Florida and now have reconsidered; Do I have to pay the lawyer?

Generally, you have three business days to reconsider a personal injury contingency fee agreement without ANY charge for fees (although you may owe the lawyer’s costs) but this must generally be done in writing; thus, if you are within three business days, then you can cancel the contract in writing without any charge from the lawyer.  Indeed, under the Statement of Client’s rights, which is required to be part of the lawyer contract, the second right states:

Any contingency fee contract must be in writing and you have three (3) business days to reconsider the contract. You may cancel the contract without any reason if you notify you lawyer in writing with three (3) business days of signing the contract. If you withdraw from the contract with the first three (3) days, you do not owe the lawyer a fee, although you may be responsible for the lawyer’s actual costs during that time. But, if you lawyer begins to represent you, your lawyer may not withdraw from the case without giving you notice, delivering necessary papers to you, and allowing time to employ another lawyer. Often, your lawyer must obtain a court approval before withdrawing from a case. If you discharge your lawyer without good cause after the three (3) day period, you may have to pay a fee for the work that the lawyer has done.

If the three business days have passed, a client can still fire their lawyer, however they will owe the lawyer fees for the time the lawyer spent on the case.  Obviously, if the lawyer has been working on the case for a year, that amount may be substantial; on the other hand, if the lawyer has been working on the case for a week, then that amount would likely no be very substantial.

How much are lawyer fees in an accident case in Florida?

Generally, what my law firm charges and what I see most of my competitors charge in Florida is 33 1/3 percent for a case that resolves presuit, 40 percent for a case that resolves after a lawsuit has been filed and answered by the defendant and 33 1/3 percent for a case that resolves after a lawsuit has been filed where the defendant acknowledges fault in their answer to the complaint.  These percentages are true for resolutions up to $1,000,000.00.  The percentages reduce for cases in excess of one million dollars.

Interestingly, these percentages are the maximum percentages that a lawyer can charge per Supreme Court/Ethics rules, although it is possible to charge higher amounts in certain, extraordinary circumstances.  Indeed, when a client signs a contingency fee contract in Florida, they are required to sign off on the “Statement of Client’s rights” and the first right discussed says:

There is no legal requirement that a lawyer charges a client a set fee or percentage of money recovered in a case. You, the client, have the right to talk with your lawyer about the proposed fee and to bargain about the rate or percentage as in any other contract. If you do not reach an agreement with one lawyer, you may talk with other lawyers.

Thus, that sets forth the rules as to what a lawyer can charge.  Generally, for smaller cases, it would be unusual for a lawyer to reduce the lawyer fees.  If the case has clear fault and damages are significant, then lawyer fees are more commonly reduced.

What is the value of my car accident case in Florida – knee (ACL) injury?

Giving valuations in accident cases is one of the most difficult parts of a personal injury lawyer’s job.  Every case is different!  With a knee injury, you see many different type of cases.  A common injury that we see is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).  Most commonly you see this injury resulting from a twisting motion with the knee, so this injury is more common with slip and fall or trip and fall cases.  Generally, these injuries are worse than meniscus injuries as if surgery is requires, this is more more invasive and thus the cost of the surgery is significantly more than for meniscus surgery.  Further, the rehabilitation is generally much more involved as well. While football players are able to continue a career often times following such injuries, many people continue to struggle with ACL injuries and thus the value of these cases is usually pretty high.  However, the amount of bills can vary a lot.  In some cases, if the ACL is not fully torn, then sometimes therapy can solve the problem and those cases, within the group, would be worth less money generally.  In sum, it is difficult to give a simple value to a ACL injury case as there are many different factors that play into the ultimate value.

Value of car accident case in Florida – Lower back injury?

It  is not easy to give a value of a case with limited information.  In lower injury cases, someone can undergo a  lot of different treatment courses.  Sometimes people have very small lower back injuries that require less than $2,500 of therapy treatment where at the end the client feels back to normal.  On the other extreme, in some cases clients have therapy then epidural injections which do not work and ultimately the client undergoes major lower back surgery requiring a hospital stay where the medical bills exceed six figures.  Someones age also factors into the equation as if someone is 20 years old, they will live with the injury much longer than someone who is 60 years old, generally.  The value of a case very much may depend on how the person is affected by the injury and how successful the treatment or surgery result.  Also, if the injured person has a high income and misses a lot of work due to the accident, their case would generally be worth more money due to the wage claim.  Lastly, the amount of insurance can impact the value of a case as well.  There are many factors that come into play where were are dealing with an injury and must be considered.

How do medical bills get paid in a Florida slip and fall case if i have no health insurance?

Again, it is very common for clients to have this concern following an fall accident here in Florida.  First, some properties carry what is known as Medical Payment coverage.  This sort of coverage generally applies to anyone that is injured on the property and regardless of fault.  There is a usually a cap on medical expense coverage and the most common amount that you see is $5,000.00.  You see this sort of coverage more commonly in small businesses as opposed to major retailers.  Thus, many clients don’t realize that this sort of coverage exists.  You would have to order a copy of the business’s insurance policy to figure out whether they have it or not.

Otherwise, most businesses will have liability coverage.  However, liability coverage indemnifies the business against a judgment (in other words, pays for any judgment entered against the business for injuries sustained on the premises).  Thus, the insurance company does not just pay the medical bills; however, if they believe that the business was at fault for the fall, then they would offer a settlement for the particular case.   In a setting where an slip and fall injury patient has no health insurance, it is common for doctors to have them sign a letter of protection.  The letter of protection basically states that the injured person will not be put into collection and in exchange will pay the doctor bill from the injury settlement.  If there is a strong injury case, the doctor may agree to the “letter of protection” and then when the case resolves those medical bills are paid from the settlement or verdict.

How do medical bills get paid in a Florida car accident case if i have no health insurance?

Probably one of the most common questions and concerns that clients discuss on their first call to me involves the above question.  The client was injured in an accident, they feel pain and they are concerned as they have no form of health insurance and don’t know what to do.  First, in most car accidents in Florida, Personal Injury protection will apply to each person that is injured in an accident.  The law requires all owners of car to carry this insurance on their vehicle and that insurance generally to 1) that car owner; 2) any resident relatives of that car owner and 3) any passengers of that vehicle that does not own a car or live with a relative that owns a car.  Thus, the first assignment is to figure out what is the appropriate PIP insurance that applies to the client (Note:  there are some rare scenarios where there is no PIP for a client, like if they own a car and their insurance cancelled, if their relative’s insurance was cancelled; or 3) if they are in a vehicle that is not required to have PIP – taxi cabs, municipal buses, etc.  PIP insurance generally pays 80 percent of medical bills, up to $10,000.  The 20 percent balances and any amounts that go over and above the $10,000 would be the client’s responsibility, unless there is an at fault vehicle to sue or make a claim against. Thus, while some clients think there is NO insurance following an accident to pay for medical bills in fact in most cases the PIP insurance will pay for medical bills stemming from an accident in Florida.