Friday, April 17, 2015

Do I Need a Lawyer to File a Personal Injury Claim?

After an accident, injuries are not only expected, but also very common. Of course, the severity of said injuries will vary greatly depending on the circumstances of the accident, but for the most part, injured people just want to recover not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and financially as well. Whether you’ve got a jammed finger or a herniated disc, as the victim of someone else’s negligence, it’s much more difficult to willingly pay out of your own pocket for medical evaluation and treatment. You didn’t ask for these injuries—why should you be the one struggling to afford the necessary treatment? Unfortunately, there’s yet to be a valid answer for that question.

It happens a lot—innocent people who suffer losses due to the negligent (and sometimes intentional) actions of another entity and are then expected to continue comfortable living without some form of compensation. So how do these wrongfully injured people recover? By making a first or third-party insurance claim and reaching a settlement with the insurance provider. Of course, if a proposed settlement offer is insufficient, you may consider taking the case to court. In that case, a personal injury lawyer would be a very beneficial asset for your team.

Without insurance, wrongfully injured people would have a very difficult time getting compensated for their injuries. That’s because compensatory damages can easily total up to the price of a brand new car for the liable party. The total of these damages is calculated based on medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more which arose from your accident. In this day and age, an at-fault wrongdoer is quite unlikely to have multiple thousands of dollars in hand to pay for the injuries they’ve caused. That is unless of course a very wealthy person has injured you, in which case paying out of pocket would have a miniscule effect on their wallet (or business) when compared to the average citizen living paycheck to paycheck.

Car insurance providers in most states (called “tort” states) take fault into consideration when dealing with medical-related claims. For example, an injured party (claimant) would make a third-party insurance claim with the at-fault party’s provider and would then be compensated through the Bodily Injury Liability provision. However, this can be a very long process since determining negligence after an accident takes time and can involve tedious investigation. Insurance companies will fight tooth and nail to avoid paying out a beefy settlement to anyone. Claimants grow financially desperate since it can take so long before a settlement offer is brought forth by the insurance company. For that reason, many will accept any amount of compensation offered to them—even if it barely covers their medical expenses. That means a great deal of missing out and an even greater deal of future stress.

In Florida, however, there are certain laws which make it a “no-fault” state. That means fault is not taken into consideration when dealing with claims. These states aim to make medical recovery after an accident as quick and easy as possible by eliminating the need to determine fault before receiving coverage. Instead of trying to investigate the accident, insurance providers simply cover their own insured customers. Note that this “no-fault” rule only applies to personal injuries and in no way affects the workings of property damage claims. Instead of making a claim on the at-fault party’s Bodily Injury Liability policy like you would in a “tort” state—in a “no-fault” state, you’d want to make a first-party insurance claim on your own Personal Injury Protection policy which covers any damages that you have received in an accident, regardless of their origin.

“What if I don’t have PIP coverage?”

You certainly should! In any state (with New Hampshire being a minor exception), the motor vehicle you’re driving must be insured—it’s the law. In the “no-fault” state of Florida, one of the two insurance provisions you’re required to have at the very least is known as Personal Injury Protection (PIP). With that said, any Florida driver that is insured (as they should be) will have PIP on their policy. Just like any other insurance provision, you can pay a higher premium for more PIP coverage. In general, however, most drivers carry the bare minimum they can legally get away with--$10,000 in coverage. That means if you’re driving and wind up in an accident—regardless of fault—your own insurance provider will cover a minimum of $10,000 of your accrued medical expenses. All you have to do is make a claim and wait it out.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “1, 2, 3” to make a personal injury claim and receive all or even any of the compensation you’re expecting. As insurance companies continually “smarten up” over the years (and learn how to further swindle us consumers), it has become increasingly difficult to make a claim and successfully receive coverage or compensation in good faith. Like it or not, just like you and me, everyone out there is doing their best to save a few bucks. Trust me when I say that insurance companies share the same mindset. By offering considerably inadequate settlements or unnecessarily elongating already frivolous trials, all of those greedy insurance companies effectively profit off the desperation of wrongfully injured victims of negligence. Knowing that, making a PIP claim might start to sound like a daunting task to tackle on your own. That’s where a personal injury attorney comes in good use.

Why is having a personal injury attorney’s help a good idea?

Making a PIP claim is not something you do every day. It’s likely that you don’t have a rhythm to follow, any previous experiences to reference, or even a clear idea as of what steps to take first. For all of those reasons, having a lawyer on your side to help file your claim is a good idea, but it doesn’t stop there. If you’re offered to settle for a certain amount, it could sound great on paper. Show that same settlement offer to an experienced personal injury attorney and they could inform you that the offer is significantly lower than what you should be getting. If that is the case, the mere presence of a lawyer working your claim could be enough to deter the insurance company from utilizing any bad faith insurance practices. However, if an insurance provider is proving to be exceptionally stubborn, the claim may have to be taken to court for litigation. Do you have the ability to litigate on your own behalf in a court of law up against some of the biggest insurance providers in the nation? Some other reasons that retaining a lawyer would be useful are:

There’s no financial risk. Since we work on a contingency basis—meaning us getting paid is dependent on you winning your case—you have no financial obligation upfront. If you hire an attorney to help on your case and end up losing, you’ve lost nothing in theory. Only when you win your case or agree to a settlement offer will you be required to pay your attorney for his or her services. At Dolman Law Group, this is known as our “no recovery, no fee” promise. 

 It could speed up your claims process tenfold. When an intimidating and aggressive lawyer is lurking nearby, insurance companies cower. Since they aren’t interested in lengthy trials either, they’ll often act in good faith with a generous settlement offer just to put the case to rest. This is one of the biggest benefits of hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to assist you with your personal injury claim. 

It will often yield a greater amount of compensation in the long run than accepting a half-hearted settlement would. If a case goes to trial, there’s no telling what verdict a plaintiff will receive. The insurance company could propose a $5,000 settlement offer that you turn down. After taking them to court and receiving a jury verdict, you could walk out with a far greater amount. This is especially common when punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff on top of compensatory damages. These damages are awarded when the at-fault party expressed gross negligence (an unacceptable amount of lack of care), or acted intentionally.

Do you want to speak with a lawyer today?

At Dolman Law Group, we fully understand how stressful it can be to handle a claim on your own. Additionally, the more severe your injuries are, the harder it can be to put a finger on how much compensation you deserve. Most injured parties will be unable to place an accurate estimate on their injuries. How can you avoid lowball settlement offers if you have no idea how much your case is worth? Even with the internet being replete with resources that can help you determine how much your lawsuit is worth, it can still yield very inaccurate estimates that—in the end—leave you with just as much pain and suffering as you started with.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation. If you’d like to get in touch with a lawyer today for a free case evaluation and consultation, don’t hesitate to do so. For more information, feel free to give us a call at 727-451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900



Friday, April 10, 2015

Recovering For Accidents That Occur In Intersections

While auto accidents can happen in a wide variety of circumstances, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports1 that up to 40 percent of collisions take place in intersections between two or more roads. Drivers at intersections may be stopped, may be heading straight, may be turning left or right, or even merging into a different lane. Because of the large amount of different activities that take place in intersections, it is easy to understand why collisions in these locations are so common. For this reason, many personal injury cases arising from injuries suffered in car accidents involve intersection collisions. These cases may be complicated and determining fault may not always be easy. If you have suffered injury in an accident in an intersection, you should consult with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to discuss how you can recover. 

Causes of intersection accidents
There are many possible causes of intersection collisions, but the most common may be a driver's failure to adequately pay attention to the surrounding traffic. Driver's have a duty to pay close attention to the cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, and others around them at all times. If a driver claims that they did not see another vehicle or person coming through the intersection until the very last second, they were likely not paying adequate attention to their surroundings. This is particularly common in recent years when many drivers take stopping at intersections as an opportunity to check their smart phones. This takes the driver's focus off the road and is negligent behavior that can lead to a collision.

Aside from failing to pay attention, the following are some additional causes of accidents in intersections:

  • False assumptions about what another driver is about to do
  •  Failing to properly yield,2 especially to bicyclists or pedestrians in crosswalks
  • Turning while a driver's view is obstructed
  • Misjudging another car's speed or a gap in traffic
  • Making illegal maneuvers such as U-turns
  • Running red lights or other traffic signals
In addition to driver errors, other parties may be responsible for accidents in intersections, as well. For example, if a faulty traffic signal leads to a collision, the government entity responsible for maintaining the intersection may be responsible. Additionally, accidents may occur due to brake failure or other auto malfunctions when vehicles try to stop at red lights. In such cases, the auto manufacturer may be responsible.

Personal injuries received in intersection accidents
Many accidents that occur at intersections are either broadside collisions, head-on collisions, or rear-end collisions. All of these have the potential to cause serious injuries to drivers and passengers. For example, broadside accidents can be particularly dangerous if one car collides directly into the door where someone is sitting. The sides of cars do not have bumpers, crumple zones, or other protections that may help avoid or limit injuries in a front or rear collision.

Another reason that injuries may be particularly serious in intersection collisions is that both cars may be moving, sometimes at high speeds. If one car is driving straight through an intersection at the speed limit and another is accelerating in order to turn, you can imagine that the resulting injuries from a collision may be severe. Some common injuries include traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries,3 internal bleeding and organ damage, head trauma, severe lacerations and contusions, and much more.

An experienced auto accident attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve
Accidents in intersections can be very confusing, with each driver blaming another. However, if another driver was at least partially responsible for the accident, you deserve to sufficiently recover for your injuries. The auto accident lawyers at the Dolman Law Group have the skills and resources to fully investigate all of the circumstances surrounding your accident and to identify any possible negligent parties. We can negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf or file a legal claim if it is necessary to help you obtain the full amount of compensation for your losses. We offer free consultations with no obligation, so call today at 727-451-6900 so a lawyer can evaluate your case today.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
(727) 451-6900


References: 

3http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/spinalcordinjuries.html

Friday, April 3, 2015

Liability For Dog Bites In Florida

Dog bites are frightening occurrences that can cause serious injury. However, the ability of a dog bite victim to receive compensation from a dog owner varies widely from state to state due to the difference in state dog bite laws. The following is some information regarding dog bite laws and dog owner liability in Florida. If you or your child has suffered injury from a dog bite, you should never hesitate to contact an experienced attorney who understands dog bite laws and cases in Florida.

Strict liability standard

Some states require that a dog owner know that a dog has a propensity to bite based on previous behavior. This is often referred to as the “one bite rule” since dogs in these states are generally allowed one bite before an owner is held legally liable. Florida law,1 however, sets out a strict liability standard for dogs bites, which means that dog owners may be held responsible in many situations whether or not the dog has ever displayed vicious or dangerous behavior in the past. This may be true if the bite occurred in a public place, on private property, or even on the private property of the dog owner. This strict liability standard gives dog victims are greater opportunity to recover for their injuries and losses even if a dog had never before attacked anyone.

Defenses to strict liability

Liability is not automatic in dog bite cases simply because a victim brings a legal claim, however, as the dog owner does have the opportunity to raise certain legal defenses that may limit or eliminate liability completely. The following are some common and available legal defenses in dog bite cases:

·         The victim of the dog bite was a trespasser on the dog owner's property and did not have either express or implied permission to be present on the premises. Note that mail workers or others who are carrying out duties under state or federal laws are not considered to be trespassers.
·         The victim of the dog bite provoked the dog in some manner to incite the attack.
·         The dog owner had a sign on their property that was easily visible and prominently displayed that included the words “Bad Dog.” This defense only applies if the bite took place on the property and if the victim was over the age of six (since many children under the age of six may not be able to read and/or understand the implication of such a sign).

Legal issues in Florida cases involving small children

There are some particularly legal issues that may arise if a dog bite victim is under the age of six in Florida. First, as part of most dog bite cases, the court must determine whether the bite victim was comparatively negligent in provoking the dog or otherwise negligently ignoring the potential dangers of their actions around the dog. However, Florida law assumes that children under six years old do not have the capacity to understand the danger or to be negligent in this manner. Therefore, provocation is generally not an available defense when the victim is under six.

Additionally, the courts can also look at whether a parent's failure to adequately supervise their child led to the occurrence of the dog bite. If the parent did not properly supervise the child, they may be found to be comparatively negligent2 and the compensation from the dog owner may be reduced accordingly. Since a child generally will not file a claim against their own parent, this often results in a smaller recovery.

Call for a free consultation with an experienced Clearwater dog bite attorney today

As you can see, many different legal issues may arise in dog bite cases, with both parties often arguing back and forth about who should be held responsible or not. For this reason, you should always seek assistance from an experienced attorney who knows how to bring dog bite claims under Florida law. At the Dolman Law Group, we believe dog bite victims should be able to recover for all of their physical and mental injuries, so please call us today at 727-451-6900 for a free consultation.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
(727) 451-6900


References: