Friday, December 29, 2017

What to Expect for Your Initial Consultation With a Personal Injury Attorney




So you just arrived to meet with a Florida personal injury lawyer about your car accident. If this is the first time you’ve considered hiring an attorney, the idea of doing so can overwhelm you. You may have a lot of questions for the lawyer during your interview. Are you doing the right thing for you and your family? Is this really going to help offset your medical bills? How much is this going to cost you? You may wonder what to expect and if it’s all worthwhile.
How Much Is This Going to Cost Me?
Those whom an accident seriously injures, whether in a slip and fall accident, car accident, or even a criminal assault, likely face mounting medical bills and lost wages. If a car accident injured you, your no-fault coverage of $10,000 was probably not even sufficient to cover your hospital stay, and now you are looking at paying a high health insurance deductible and copays to get necessary treatments.
If a slip and fall or assault injured you, unlike with a no-fault auto policy, you will have to avail yourself of savings or medical insurance to cover your initial costs. Accordingly, one of the biggest barriers to hiring a personal injury attorney is the misconception that you will eventually need to pay your attorney out-of-pocket with money you don’t have.
This is almost never the case when it comes to personal injury lawyers. Even after the attorney explains the concept of a contingency fee, which means that the attorney simply gets a percentage of whatever you recover in compensation, when you leave the office you may still worry about whether your attorney will eventually charge you. A qualified personal injury attorney, however, will generally not take your case unless that attorney believes that Florida law entitles you to compensation for your injuries. If you sign a retainer agreement with that firm, then the attorneys feel confident that they will obtain compensation on your behalf and, as such, they will assume the risk of their representation. If they do not win compensation for you, then they don’t get paid, even for their own expenses. Expect the attorney to discuss the law firm’s fee structure early on during your initial consultation.

Will I Have to Sign a Contract Right Away?
Be leery of personal injury law firms that agree to take your case almost immediately with little to no evidence before them. This is generally not an issue for attorneys whom you pay by the hour, but when it comes to personal injury firms, you should not always expect them to take your case immediately after an initial consultation. Because personal injury lawyers don’t get paid unless you have a case, expect them to take a little while to get back to you about whether they have decided to move forward with you as a client. A good personal injury firm will take the time to investigate the basic facts of your case to ensure that Florida law entitles you to compensation and that you are honest about your injuries. Expect the law firm to look for the following after your initial consultation:
  • The police report, ambulance report, and emergency room admission records to ensure the facts add up
  • Your prior claims history to ensure that you don’t have multiple suspicious accidents
  • Witnesses to the injury or accident who can corroborate the facts
  • Prior medical records
  • Insurance records and reports

Although the attorney may conduct a far more thorough investigation after agreeing to take your case, don’t be offended if the attorney takes time to corroborate what you say. People may misremember the facts of the accident due to their injuries, while others embellish the truth to get compensation and medical treatment for prior injuries. Give the lawyers a week or two to ensure you are entitled to compensation under Florida law.
The Attorney Took My Case: Now What?
If the law firm agrees to take your case, you will have to sign a retainer agreement that generally includes the following:
  • A breakdown of attorney fees (generally 33 percent)
  • How expenses are paid
  • The nature and scope of the representation— for example, only for the accident on December 2, 2016

Your attorney may also ask you to sign waivers to obtain your medical and insurance records, and expect your attorney to help you file a claim with whatever insurance company is potentially liable for your injuries. Your case will probably not go into litigation, or filed with a Florida court, right away. Instead, your personal injury attorney may first try to work out a settlement agreement with an insurance company, which is generally a more efficient means of getting you the compensation you deserve.

Contact the Dolman Law Group Today
Your initial interview with a Florida injury lawyer should not come across like a timeshare negotiation. You are not required to sign any documents or agree to representation simply by meeting with an injury lawyer, and your initial consultation should be free. If negligence injured you or a loved one in the greater Tampa Bay area, you don’t have to have all of the facts to take advantage of your free, no-risk consultation with the Dolman Law Group. Their trained Florida personal injury lawyers will help you determine whether you have a case under Florida law, and if so, they will help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries with no out-of-pocket cost to you. Call them today at (727) 451-6900 or contact them online for your free consultation.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Were You Run off the Road?



Someone may drive a vehicle in such a way as to force you off the road to avoid a collision or more serious accident, or fear for how someone else is driving may force you off the road. Run off the road accidents can force your vehicle into a road barrier or divider, divert you to the shoulder, or even turn your car into a ditch or wooded area. Because run off the road accidents often do not involve collisions between vehicles, the aggressive driver will seldom stop and provide you with insurance information. What, then, are your rights if an aggressive Florida driver ran you off the road, and how can you recover compensation for your injuries?
Aggressive Driving in Florida
In the end, run off the road accidents are really the result of aggressive, careless driving. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, “aggressive driving” is defined as when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.” Aggressive driving caused more than half of all traffic fatalities, and U.S. drivers have witnessed the following most common aggressive driving maneuvers:
  • Following too closely
  • Improper or erratic lane changes
  • Illegal driving on shoulders, sidewalks, or medians
  • Prohibited and dangerous passing and merging
  • Sudden and erratic speed changes
  • Failure to yield right of way
  • Failure to obey traffic control devices and signs
  • Driving too fast or racing
  • Making improper turns

Overall, speeding is the leading cause of aggressive driving fatalities, and it is often the culprit if someone ran you off the road. Another who driver races down the highway, tailgates you, or drives erratically as the result of drugs or alcohol may make minor contact with your vehicle at high speed, forcing you to careen off the road, or you may need to quickly maneuver your car to the shoulder to avoid an aggressive driver.
Florida’s Aggressive Driving Laws
To reduce accidents and fatalities caused by aggressive driving, all states, including Florida, adopted traffic codes that criminalize and define aggressive driving. Florida legally defines “aggressive careless driving” as simultaneously committing two or more of the following acts:

  • Exceeding the speed limit
  • Improperly or unsafely changing lanes
  • Following too closely
  • Failing to yield
  • Improperly passing
  • Violating traffic control devices and signs

Many of these actions can combine to cause the accident. For example, a vehicle may exceed the speed limit, then make an unsafe lane change, forcing you to run your vehicle to the shoulder because the aggressive driver is about to rear-end you. If the accident is serious enough that the other vehicle stops or is involved in the accident, police officers in Florida will check a special box on a police report to indicate that aggressive driving caused the accident. If you seek compensation for your personal injuries, this can constitute vital evidence of recklessness due to an aggressive careless driver. Most of the time, however, the other driver will speed away. What can you do if you can’t find the at-fault driver?
Florida Insurance Law
Because Florida is a no-fault state, vehicle owners are required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury insurance coverage, which will cover your initial medical bills and lost wages after a serious car accident. Even if the other driver did stop and provide you with policy information, however, you would still need to avail yourself of your no-fault policy. If the driver did not stop and an investigation fails to locate him, you must generally avail yourself of your hit-and-run or uninsured motorist coverage through your own insurance policy.
Always file a police report after a hit-and-run or run off the road type accident and provide the police with as many details as possible—modern technology will increase the chances of finding the driver. In the meantime, you may have to file a claim through your uninsured motorist personal injury and property damage policy. In this case, your insurance policy acts as the liable insurance policy, providing you with coverage for your injuries. The complicated part, however, is getting your own insurance company to settle a claim with you for an accident you did not cause. Many drivers who were run off the road are leery of filing claims with their own insurance policies because they are afraid that their rates might rise, but you pay for this coverage for a purpose, and you should not hesitate to use it if needed. If police eventually find the other driver but your insurance policy already paid your claims, then your company can always seek indemnification—that is, reimbursement—from the liable driver’s insurance company after the fact.

If an aggressive, careless driver ran you or a loved one off the road and injured you in the greater Tampa Bay area, you may struggle with making a claim. You are entitled to extensive compensation if another driver was so careless as to completely disregard your life and safety, but hit-and-run accidents make this difficult. The Dolman Law Group’s personal injury and aggressive driving attorneys have experience fighting for your right to compensation with insurance companies. If someone ran you off the road, contact them today online or at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
727-451-6900

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Is the Other Party Liable for Damages if I have a Pre-Existing Condition?

Eggshell Skull Defense Pre-existing Condition

The simple answer is yes, another party may still be liable for an injury that occurred even if that injury aggravated a pre-existing condition or triggered an illness to happen sooner than it was likely going to happen on its own.  Additionally, someone may be still liable for injuring or causing an old injury to flare up again.  Just because someone is more fragile or likely to succumb to certain injuries, does not provide the tortfeasors immunity from negligent acts.  This is sometimes called the Eggshell Skull defense, the Eggshell Rule, or the Thin Skull Rule.  The idea is that even if someone may have a condition that makes them predisposed to injury, the other party is not off the hook for negligence when compromising that condition. 

 The “eggshell skull” rule commonly applies in the following circumstances:
  • triggering of a previously latent condition;
  • aggravation of a condition that was formerly under control;
  • exacerbation of a preexisting bodily or psychological disorder or disease; and 
  • hurrying or speeding up of a disability or death.


REAL WORLD EXAMPLES OF THE EGGSHELL DEFENSE


In a Florida case known as Silva v. Stein, a woman went to her local beauty salon for a perm. (See Silva v. Stein,527 So. 2d 934 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1988). Ms. Stein told her stylist that she sometimes reacts strongly to chemical solutions. Even though Ms. Stein had high susceptibility to certain chemicals, the stylist decided to still give Ms. Stein the perm.  Shortly after her perm, Ms. Stein had an extremely rare immunological reaction to the chemicals in the perm. Ms. Stein later filed a negligence claim due to her damaging reaction to the chemicals.  The beautician argued that no one could have possibly foreseen this strange reaction to the perm, thus she could not be liable for damages.  The jury did not agree and awarded Ms. Stein damages for the unfortunate event. The stylist appealed and the jury verdict was once again upheld by Chief Judge Schwartz. The Judge reasoned that “the defendant is responsible for whatever adverse consequences the plaintiff suffers—whether they are ‘foreseeable’ or not. It is the familiar but accurate doctrine that ‘the tortfeasor takes the plaintiff as he finds him’ which is instead controlling.”( See above link). The judge in this case makes clear that even though you are more likely than others to be injured, that does not place all the responsibility for the injury on you; and thus, the negligent party must still pay damages. 

This “eggshell” type of liability is not just applicable in unfortunate perms. The exacerbation of preexisting conditions occurs in car accidents as well.  For example, in Iowa a man named Loras Benn was rear-ended while he was in the passenger seat of a car and suffered a bruised chest and a broken ankle (See Bennv. Thomas, 512 N.W.2d 538 (Iowa 1994). Benn tragically died from a heart attack just days later. Mr. Benn’s estate sued the driver of the car who crash into him for monetary damages. Mr. Benn had a history of heart issues and would have possibly lived a shortened life due to his heart condition. The defendant contended that they should not be liable because a heart condition was present and it was just a matter of time before Mr. Benn would die due to his heart disease. The Iowa Supreme Court did not accept the plaintiff’s arguments and ruled in favor of Mr. Benn’s estate. The court reasoned that under the eggshell rule, a defendant could be responsible for all injuries resulting from the accident, even if the plaintiff suffers injuries more severe than what an average individual would have suffered in the same situation. When the negligent act results in injury to a person with a pre-existing ailment, it is the action, and not the disorder, that is the cause of the injury. This rule imposes liability irrespective of whether the precise injury suffered was foreseeable.


State of Florida on the Eggshell Rule


In Florida, juries are regularly told that they must rule in favor of someone who had a disorder aggravated due to the fault of someone else. 


If you find that the defendant caused a bodily injury, and that the injury resulted in an aggravation of an existing disease or physical defect or activation of a latent disease or physical defect, you should attempt to decide what portion of claimant’s condition resulted from the aggravation or activation. If you can make that determination, then you should award only those damages resulting from the aggravation or activation. However, if you cannot make that determination, or if it cannot be said that the condition would have existed apart from the injury, then you should award damages for the entire condition suffered by claimant. 


This means that that even though a previous illness or condition might have been present, the jury needs to decide what part of the current injury is the wrongdoer’s fault.  Also, the jury may decide that the wrongdoer should be liable for the entire injury.


Exception to the Eggshell Rule


We have already established that a defendant is responsible for any damages they cause, even if those damages were exacerbated by a pre-existing condition or illness. However, the one exception to the eggshell rule deals with plaintiffs who cause their own pre-existing condition or factor that accelerates an injury. For example, say a person who is extremely intoxicated by alcohol is involved in an accident in which they are the passenger. They hit their head on a sharp edge of the car's interior. This wound causes them to bleed, but the alcohol causes them to bleed much more quickly; they suffer permanent brain damage from the bleeding.

In this example, the eggshell rule would not be applicable because the pre-existing condition that accelerated the injury was self-caused. This means that the defendant would only be partially liable for the injury and the eggshell rule could not be applied. This example would more likely be considered contributory negligence and/or comparative negligence.


How do you know if the eggshell rule applies?


When a personal injury case is brought to an attorney, they will usually be able to see right away if the eggshell rule is applicable in the particular circumstances of the case. If the case goes to court, the judge along with the attorneys will usually determine whether or not the rule applies. If it does, the judge will instruct the jury to consider the rule as in the above example from the State of Florida's jury instructions. 


CONTACT CLEARWATER ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS DOLMAN LAW GROUP


If you or a loved one had a latent disease or defect aggravated or exacerbated, you should consult with a law firm that has experience handling these types personal injury claims to ensure that you receive the maximum compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering, and future loss of income. The Dolman Law Group serves personal injury clients all over the state of Florida from their conveniently located offices around the state. Call for a case evaluation today at 727-451-6900, and rest assured that our team is ready and willing to take the case as far as necessary to reach an appropriate resolution for your case.

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


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Did a Tourist Hit You in a Rental Car?




All Floridians, whether snowbirds or year-round residents, probably know that Florida is the world’s top tourist destination. According to state statistics, nearly 90 million tourists visit Florida each year, and tourism adds about $67 billion dollars to Florida’s economy. For these reasons and more, tourism is a way of life in Florida, but with tourism’s economic benefits come major downfalls—one of which is the rental car industry, which is present all over Florida, especially in major airport towns such as Tampa Bay. When tourists drive down roads they do not know in cars they probably have not driven before, accidents with rental vehicles inevitably take place. So what should you do if a tourist who has since left the state hits you in a rental car?
Overview of Florida Car Insurance Law
If you were injured in a Florida car accident, the first thing you must generally do after seeking medical treatment and the assistance of a Florida car accident attorney is to submit an application for no-fault benefits to your insurance company. Although it may seem counterintuitive to use your own insurance for an accident that you didn’t cause, because Florida courts are inundated with personal injury litigation, Florida adopted “no-fault” legislation and is considered a “no-fault” state. Under Florida law, drivers must carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance of at least $10,000. If a motor vehicle accident injures you, your personal medical insurance will only kick in if your no-fault insurance company denies your claims or you exhaust your benefits.
No-fault insurance covers your expenses regardless of liability, and generally the $10,000 limit will cover an initial hospital visit, some lost wages, medical equipment, and a few weeks of massage and physical therapy. If, however, your injuries are severe enough that your no-fault insurance is not sufficient to cover your expenses, you may have to seek compensation from the negligent driver’s insurance company.
Rental Cars and Insurance
If a rental car caused your accident, you could have claims against more than one liable insurance company. Anyone who has rented a car knows that the rental company will try to push on you expensive excess insurance coverage that it charges you by the day. Some elect to purchase this coverage, while many budget-conscious travelers will decline. For example, if the driver’s private insurance company offers extended coverage to rental cars, you may go after the driver’s private policy.
Florida statutes help with this situation, and under Florida law, the rental company is considered the owner of the car for liability purposes if the rental period lasts for less than one year. If a rental car driver injures you, the rental car company must provide as much as $100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident in coverage. You may also go after the driver’s personal coverage, but if the driver is uninsured or has less than $500,000 in insurance coverage, the rental car company must provide an additional $500,000 of coverage. Accordingly, if a rental car accident injured you, you normally about $500,000 worth of insurance coverage available.

Making a Claim Against the Rental Car Company
When it comes to determining insurance coverage after an accident with a rental car, things can get complicated. If you were in a car-versus-car accident, your primary insurance is your no-fault insurance for your vehicle, while the rental car driver’s insurance will normally be secondary and the rental car company’s insurance tertiary. If you were a pedestrian, however, you will have to avail yourself of the no-fault insurance of the rental car driver, then the liability policy, and then perhaps the rental policy. You may only avail yourself of these liability policies, however, if your injuries are serious enough to meet Florida threshold requirements. Florida has four injury categories to meet the “threshold” standard:
  • Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
  • Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability
  • Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
  • Death

If your injuries do not meet these standards—for example, if you only suffered minor whiplash—the law may not entitle you to compensation beyond your no-fault policy. Speak with a Florida personal injury attorney about the nature of your accident and the injuries sustained in the accident to determine if you can receive full compensation for: 
  • Medical bills
  • Medical equipment
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Lost wages
  • Career change compensation
  • Pain and suffering

Also, remember that you cannot receive what is known as a “windfall,” which means that if you have $50,000 worth of injuries, you cannot receive $50,000 from your insurance company, $50,000 from the rental driver’s insurance company, and then $50,000 from the rental car company’s insurance. You must go through your no-fault policy and then seek the remaining balance from the liable driver or company.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney to Discuss your Options

Whether it’s simply applying for no-fault benefits, negotiating settlements with liable insurance companies, or bringing litigation in a Florida court, a qualified personal injury attorney can help guide you through the complicated process of making an insurance claim against a rental car driver and company. You deserve compensation for your injuries and lost wages so that you can live a full life after your car accident—but rental car companies keep car accident attorneys on staff, ready to deny your compensation. The attorneys at the Dolman Law Group, however, can help analyze the facts of your case and explain your options for financial recovery under Florida law. Contact them online or at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
727-451-6900

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Accidents Happen When Drivers Run Red Lights




It’s one of the most basic principles you learn in driving school—red means stop! Unfortunately, some aggressive drivers think stop lights are optional, and when they see a yellow light it’s time to speed up. Aggressive driving causes more than half of all traffic fatalities. A common type of aggressive driving is the failure to obey traffic control devices and signs, which can include erratic speed changes and failure to yield at stop lights. If a driver ran a red light and injured you or a loved one, you may have the right to seek compensation under Florida law.
Twenty-five percent of drivers admitted to entering an intersection just as the light was turning red (perhaps especially if traffic conditions were heavy and the light was short). Many drivers, however, do not know that the law considers this aggressive driving, and it can lead to serious injuries and fatalities on Florida’s roads. To reduce accidents and fatalities at intersections, all states, including Florida, adopted traffic codes that criminalize and define aggressive driving. In Florida, aggressive careless driving is legally defined as simultaneously committing two or more of the following acts:
  • Exceeding the speed limit
  • Improperly or unsafely changing lanes
  • Following too closely
  • Failing to yield
  • Improperly passing
  • Violating traffic control devices and signs

Florida law specifically defines aggressive driving because it can result in an increased likelihood of severe injuries or even death. The most common aggressive driving maneuvers witnessed by U.S. drivers include:
  • Following too closely
  • Improper or erratic lane changing
  • Illegal driving on shoulders, sidewalks, or medians
  • Prohibited and dangerous passing and merging
  • Suddenly and erratically changing speed
  • Failing to yield right of way
  • Failing to obey traffic control devices and signs
  • Driving too fast or racing
  • Making improper turns

Speeding is the leading cause of aggressive driving fatalities, and a driver who runs a red light may speed to beat the light. Drivers rarely run red lights because they simply did not pay attention, but the influence of drugs or alcohol could delay processing and reaction times to seeing the light.

Common Red Light Intersection Accidents
Some of the most dangerous crashes take place in intersections for three reasons.
First, drivers attempting to run red lights typically accelerate—and the higher the speed of the aggressive driver, the greater the collision impact. The greater the impact, the greater the transfer of force from the speeding vehicle to your vehicle, and with it, the greater the chance you will sustain severe injuries as you absorb the impact of the crash.
Secondly, a driver who runs a red light will typically cause a front-end T-bone crash. In this type of accident, the front of the aggressive driver’s car will typically crash right into either the passenger or driver’s side door of the other vehicle. This is different than if the vehicles get into a head-on or rear-end collision, because modern cars are designed to absorb some of the impact in those types of crashes and air bags more commonly help protect against them.
Third, because drivers with the right-of-way who proceed through an intersection generally look straight ahead, they typically will not see a driver coming through a red light. This rarely gives drivers time to avoid the accident. For these reasons and more, running red lights cause some of Florida’s most fatal car accidents.
Causes of Action for Running a Red Light
When car accident injuries are serious enough to merit litigation in Florida’s courts, the victim must prove negligence. This essentially means that the driver who caused the accident did not act with the care necessary for operating the motor vehicle—and this could constitute just looking at a phone for a moment. Aggressive driving clearly qualifies as negligence, but because driving behaviors such as running red lights are so dangerous and also involve multiple acts of aggressive driving, talk to your Florida personal injury attorney about a cause of action called recklessness.
Reckless driving, which often includes aggressive careless driving, takes place when a person willfully disregards the safety of others with a “dangerous weapon,” such as a motor vehicle. If a driver clearly elected to run a red light and endangered other drivers, you may seek punitive damages at trial. Generally, in personal injury litigation, the law only entitles you to direct compensation for your injuries, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If the driver drove recklessly, however, the law may entitle you to an additional award of damages meant to punish the defendant for endangering the safety of you and others.

If a car accident injured you in the greater Tampa Bay area because another driver ran a red light, Florida law entitles you to compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Take advantage of your no-risk, free consultation with the Dolman Law Group. They are here to fight for your right to compensation, and they can advise you as to whether you have a claim for negligence or recklessness under Florida law. Contact them today online or at (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
727-451-6900