WHAT ARE THE THE FIRST STEPS?
Shortly after the first interview with you and when we have accepted the case, a file will be established and we will be contacting the adverse insurance company to determine the amount of insurance available to you for this accident, if any. Also, we will try to determine your personal insurance situation and where appropriate, contact your insurance companies regarding your medical bills.
Additionally, our office will prepare a letter to each of your physicians and will request medical records. However, in some cases, we may wish to personally interview the attending physician prior to the time we request a written report from him.
One of the first things the insurance company will wish to have from us is a list of special damages which are incurred by you. By special damages, they mean out-of-pocket expenses such as doctor bills, hospital bills, medical bills, any loss of earnings or income that occurred as a result of the accident, and any property damages that may have resulted.
You should refrain from discussing the details of your accident or injuries with persons not entitled to that information. Any inquiries from the person responsible for your injuries or their representatives should be referred to your attorney. If the insurance company representative comes to you, inform him you are represented by our law firm and REFER HIM TO US for any information he seeks. Do not make statements to him. If you have already made statements to any insurance company representative, or anyone else, tell us immediately of these statements and the contents of the statements, and furnish us with a copy if you have one in your possession.
WHAT ABOUT MY DOCTOR?
It is our belief that you are entitled to the very best of medical care available in order to effect a cure or to minimize the permanent effects of your injury. It is essential that you assist us in obtaining copies of all bills and receipts for all expenditures made by you. The pecuniary loss suffered by you is sometimes less important than the effects of the injury on your life. We will need your assistance in keeping us informed of the effects of the accident on your life and in furnishing us with information as to where we can obtain credible and admissible testimony to prove the effects of the injury on your life.
It is important that you continue to go to a doctor as long as your injuries continue to bother you. You should cooperate with your doctor in every way and should relate to him truthfully and fully all symptoms that you have which arise from or were affected by the accident. You should, of course, answer fully all questions he puts to you. You should realize that medical treatment often takes time to obtain results, and often the possibility of a doctor’s diagnosis being accurate is improved by opportunities for improved examination. You cannot expect a doctor to give effective testimony as to your conditions at time of trial if several months elapsed since he last examined you, as obviously he would not be able to state what the condition was at the time of trial. Moreover, insurance companies will often treat the failure to obtain medical treatment as evidence of no injury on the part of the client or an early cure. Naturally, we do not wish you to fake or exaggerate anything, but as long as there is anything legitimately wrong with you, in order to facilitate the doctors in making their diagnosis and to avoid a distortion of your medical picture by the insurance companies, we believe you should continue to obtain medical care.
We are particularly interested in your keeping us informed as to how rapidly you recover from the injuries which you received. One of the nightmares that haunts every professional trial attorney is the possibility that he will at some time settle or try a case and then subsequently find out that there were additional injuries of which he had no knowledge, or conditions of which he had no knowledge, for which no recovery was made.
Obviously, one of the most significant factors affecting the value of your lawsuit is whether or not we can establish by the testimony of a physician that you have suffered a permanent injury because of the accident. Doctors know from experience that the full extent of a person’s injuries sometimes is not known for several months after an accident. We will be in close communication with your doctors while they are in the process of treating you, and will be monitoring the medical aspect of your case until your doctors are able to give us an opinion concerning this important question.
Please do not talk about your case or your lawyers when you see your doctor. If you do talk about your case with the doctor, the doctor may get the wrong idea, and think that you are more concerned about collecting money than you are about getting well.
WHAT IS MY CASE WORTH?
Some insurance companies, in cases where liability is clear, relate the value of a case to the “special damages”. This is often an unrealistic manner of evaluation since your major damages might be factors such as physical pain and suffering, loss of capacity to lead a normal life, and other factors which do not cause actual bills to be incurred by you.
After we have assembled all of the information that is necessary, we will sit down and make the best and most intelligent estimate, of which we are capable, of the least jury verdict we could obtain, the highest jury verdict we could obtain, and the probable jury verdict. Once this is done, we evaluate all the evidence we have available to determine our chances of obtaining a judgment in your favor.
In those cases where there is some question whether or not we can win, we think it is necessary or desirable to discount the probable jury verdict by the percentage of our chances of winning. For example, if we estimate in some hypothetical case that we might obtain a jury verdict in the amount of $10,000.00, but that we had only a fifty-fifty chance of winning, we believe that for settlement purposes the value of the case is approximately $5,000.00.
WHAT ABOUT PREMISES LIABILITY?
Premises liability cases are often difficult cases to prove. This office will be happy to discuss the particulars of your case with you.
WHAT ABOUT AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT CASES?
In automobile accident cases, there are special factors that influence the value of your case. These factors will also affect whether or not we will be able to file suit on your behalf. The theory of the No-Fault Law is that it will permit limited recovery for some of your medical bills and some of your lost wages from your own insurance company, even if you caused the automobile accident. The present No-Fault Law in Florida, however, limits the rights of injured people who are not at fault by permitting them to sue the people who have injured them ONLY IF THEY HAVE PERMANENT INJURIES.
Since the passage of these No-Fault laws, there have been several changes which have made it more and more difficult for an injured person in an automobile accident to get full justice. Specifically, if you have purchased No-Fault insurance coverage, you can now expect to be reimbursed for eighty percent of your medical bills and sixty percent of your lost wages. However, if you have a deductible feature in your No-Fault insurance coverage, your insurance carrier does not become responsible until medical bills and lost wages exceed that deductible amount. Some policies have been written with deductibles as high as $2,000.00. If you have such a policy, it is possible that you may have no right to recover from anyone unless your medical bills and lost wages exceed $2,000.00 or you have a permanent injury. Also, if you have other sources of insurance we will consider sending your medical bills to that insurance carrier as well.
If you are involved in an automobile accident case to which the No-Fault Law applies, it will be necessary for our office to do preliminary investigation concerning how the accident happened, and then to maintain a continuing communication with your physicians until we can determine whether your doctor feels you have sustained a permanent injury. If he does, we can proceed on your behalf to obtain the full justice which you deserve.
As a service to you, we will help you process your claim for no-fault benefits against your insurance company while we are monitoring the medical aspect of your case. For that reason, it is important that we be kept up to date on your medical bills and expenses.
As you may know, if you are involved in an automobile accident case, there are many situations where the driver of the other vehicle had no automobile insurance or had automobile insurance in the least amount that can be carried ($10,000.00). It is therefore necessary for us to know whether or not you have a policy of automobile liability insurance and whether you have purchased uninsured motorist coverage on that policy. In Florida, an injured person is permitted to make a claim for his pain and suffering against his own insurance company if he had uninsured motorist coverage.
We wish that we had the opportunity to tell all of our clients before automobile accidents occur that uninsured motorist coverage is one of the most important automobile insurance coverages you can buy. It is only by this coverage that you can guarantee a source of recovery for yourself or your family for the negligence of another driver. You will also find that uninsured motorist coverage is relatively inexpensive. We recommend to all of our clients that, in the future, they should purchase a minimum of $100,000.00 in uninsured motorist coverage on each of the vehicles they own.
HOW DOES THE LAWSUIT WORK?
After we have received the medical records from the doctors and have all the supporting documentation to prove all of your losses, we will submit them to the appropriate insurance company. At that time, we will make a “demand” wherein we suggest a figure for which we would be willing to settle the claim. Generally, most claims are settled without the necessity of filing suit. In some instances, however, the insurance companies will not make a fair offer and we may have to resort to filing suit.
If it should become necessary to file suit, the procedure is somewhat as follows: You are the Plaintiff. A Complaint is filed on your behalf which states the reasons why we believe you have a cause of action against the Defendant, and it sets forth the various claims we are making. The Defendant has twenty days from the time he is served with the suit papers in which to answer. Usually, the Defendant will answer and deny responsibility and deny that you were injured to the extent described in the Complaint. Often, the Defendant will claim that you contributed to your own injuries.
One of the more frequent questions asked by new clients is, “How much are we going to sue for?” Fortunately, in Florida, an attorney is not compelled to make this decision since Florida Law permits them to sue for “an amount in excess of the minimal jurisdiction of the court,” which, in most instances, is $15,000.00. When this practice is followed, we are thus able to recover whatever sum is proportionate to the nature and extent of your injuries.
During the course of the lawsuit, we will be permitted to take testimony under oath from all witnesses and doctors who may be involved in this case.
The attorney for the Defendant will send you written questions known as Interrogatories, which must be answered under oath in writing. The attorney for the Defendant will also take your deposition testimony. However, before either of these things occur, we will make sure that you are familiar with these procedures and that you are thoroughly prepared.
There are certain items of damages you are entitled to recover in most lawsuits. Some of them are as follows:
1. Past pain and suffering;
2. Future pain and suffering;
3. Loss of income;
4. Future loss of income and diminution of earning capacity;
5. All out-of-pocket expenses, such as doctor bills, other medical bills and property damage;
6. Loss of consortium on behalf of the non-injured spouse; that is, loss of the services of the injured spouse in all the ways a spouse renders service to his or her mate, including housekeeping, lawn mowing, maintenance, cooking, companionship and sexual relations.
In attempting to evaluate your case, there are many important factors involved, and two of the most important are:
1. How certain are we that we can win for you and make the other side pay for the damages they have caused.
2. How much were you injured; in other words, what is the extent of the damage.
Naturally, a person who has received a serious and crippling injury is entitled to recover more money than an individual who had received only minor injuries, assuming that we have the same certitude of winning. However, in every instance, the chances of winning must be one of the several factors which are considered in evaluating your claim.
We will not settle your claim without your permission as, of course, you know from the terms of our employment agreement. At some future date when we know all of the factors we can possibly ascertain concerning the value of your case, we will wish to advise you as to that value so that you may make an informed decision concerning whether you wish to settle your case or go to trial.
Generally, we anticipate you treating with the doctor for a better part of the year prior to our attempting to settle your claim. At that time, we will be submitting all the documentation that we have to support your claim to the insurance company and attempt to settle your claim prior to filing suit. If we cannot settle your claim prior to suit, then we will file suit and we will proceed as outlined above. Once suit is filed, however, this does not preclude the chance of settlement prior to trial. Although most cases settle prior to trial, we cannot promise you that your case will be settled without going to court.
Please do not hesitate to ask us any questions that may occur to you or call us should you care to do so at any time. We will do our best to represent you fairly and aggressively, and we will keep you informed.
Here is a list of a number of things you can do to help us. These things are very important, and the list should be reviewed frequently so that you can keep us up to date on these matters.
WHAT IS THE INFORMATION YOU NEED? CHECKLIST
This list is designed to furnish us with information which is of great importance in preparation of your case for both trial and settlement purposes. We can do our best only when we know ALL of the facts in your case, so it is essential that you complete the list and review it from time to time, keeping us informed of any change.
1. It will be most helpful if you will keep a daily diary of your activities with emphasis on restriction of your activities caused by your injuries, specific pains and the frequency of them, frequency of medication taken, and kind of medication. A diary such as this would be useful to you at the trial to refresh your memory as to occurrences that otherwise might be forgotten.
2. Be sure to keep all physical objects such as shoes, clothing, etc., that you had on at the time of the accident. We may need them as evidence at the trial.
3. Forward to our office itemized receipts of:
a. Hospital bills
b. Doctor bills
c. Ambulance bills
d. Nursing bills
e. Drug (medicine) bills
f. All other expenses you incurred as a result of the accident, including:
1) Travel to and from the doctor’s offices and hospitals. Keep
a notebook record of these expenses.
2) Additional help around home and/or business (including baby-
sitters if applicable, and domestic or yard help). Keep a
notebook record of these expenses.
4. Please tell your drug store from which you purchase prescriptions to be certain that the bills which are furnished to you include only medicines which are related to the accident. In the event they should inadvertently include some other medicine or household items such as talcum powder, etc., on your bill, the inclusion of this bill would be used by the insurance company to embarrass you at the time of trial to make it appear that you are seeking something to which you are not entitled. In the event you are using nonprescription drugs, such as aspirin, which are purchased in bottles or other containers, please save these containers since we may wish to introduce them into evidence at the time of trial as proof of the quantity of aspirin or other nonprescription drugs which you have taken.
5. List the names of any neighbors, friends, fellow employees or relatives who knew of your activities both before and after the accident:
THEIR NAME, ADDRESS, AND RELATIONSHIP
Finally, as you think of information that should be added to this list, please get in touch with us. We will need information to do a better job for you.
Marla E. Chavernay, Esq. of the Law Office of GEORGE R. BREZINA, JR. Attorney at Law
1218 Oakfield Drive,
Brandon, FL 33511
(813) 870-0500 /Fax (813) 873-0500