By Marcus Fernandez
Accidents, especially those involving personal injury, can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Navigating your way through the legalities of it all should be the least of your concerns. To help, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked personal injury questions. Read through each answer and feel free to comment below, or reach out with any additional inquiries.
How much does it cost to hire an attorney?
The cost and manner of payment for hiring an attorney depends on the type of representation you need.
Hourly Rate: Some types of work are paid based on an hourly rate. The attorney sets an hourly charge and keeps track of the amount of time spent working on a case, and then the client is invoiced for the charges. A family law matter is an example of the type of legal work normally paid for by the hour.
Flat fee: Other types of cases are based on a flat fee. The attorney will give the potential client a quote for a flat fee to handle the matter, and the client then pays either the full fee, or perhaps is able to pay a portion of the fee (known as a retainer) and make payments on the balance. A typical criminal case is normally based on a flat fee requiring a retainer.
Contingent on outcome: A personal injury case is handled much differently in that the fee is purely contingent on the outcome. The fee is a percentage of a settlement or judgment that is collected. The percentages are typically 33 and 1/3 % of the recovery if achieved without the need for litigation, and 40 % if there is litigation. If there is no recovery for any reason, then no fee is charged.
In all cases, costs are in addition to the fee. The attorney may require a cost deposit to bill against as costs are incurred, or the attorney may front all costs and collect reimbursement at the end of the case once a recovery is achieved.
How long do I have to file an injury claim after an accident?
Most people have heard the phrase “statute of limitations.” For most common personal injury claims, the statute of limitation for filing a lawsuit in Florida is 4 or 5 years, depending on the cause of action being considered.
However, certain cases, such as wrongful death cases or cases against a government entity, have a much shorter statute of limitations. Take certain insurance coverage, for example. Personal Injury Protection Insurance (PIP) has as low as a 14-day time frame to seek medical attention before the amount of benefits available is affected. Moral of the story – don’t wait too long to file your claim.
Should I accept the settlement offered to me by my insurance company?
In recent years, insurance companies have made real efforts to negotiate settlements with victims prior to an attorney becoming involved. Normally, they simply want to “buy” a release of all claims and cut off any claims for future damages as a result of a traumatic incident that was the result of someone else’s negligence.
Often, the settlement amount is far below the real “value” of the case and, more worrisome, long before the victim even truly knows the extent of their injury. Once a release is signed, the case is essentially over, no matter what the person is feeling a week, month, or years later – and regardless of any ongoing expenses or bills that are a result of the incident.
While a small settlement directly with an insurance company (and without attorney’s fees), might seem like a good deal, the reality is that a serious personal injury case has layers of complexities and considerations that require the skill, training, and experience of a qualified law firm.
Any fees and costs associated with legal representation will usually be well worth the investment, both in peace of mind and in obtaining the full extent of damages incurred by the victim for past, present and even future losses.
What is negligence?
Simply stated, negligence is doing something that a reasonable, prudent, and careful person would not do, or failing to do something that a reasonable, prudent, and careful person would have done. Keep in mind, though, that not all accidents are the result of negligence.
The actions of someone involved in an accident are also not judged by hindsight. To present a valid claim of negligence, the consequences of the person’s actions must be something that was “foreseeable.” That means the damage occurring to the victim was a natural and expected consequence of the “negligent” person’s actions.
Let’s break that down. Running a red light is clearly negligent and it is perfectly foreseeable that doing so could result in a collision with another car and someone being injured. On the other hand, a slip and fall case is more problematic due to the lack of evidence of negligence on the part of employees or property owners and no evidence that a particular incident was foreseeable. Again, it’s important to remember that not all accidents are the result of negligence.
Can I file suit on behalf of a deceased family member?
To file suit legally, there needs to be a legal entity or person with standing to bring the lawsuit.
In the case of a wrongful death lawsuit, the legal entity is the estate of the deceased. A petition is filed in probate court asking the court to legally allow an estate to be opened, and in the course of doing so, naming a personal representative of the estate.
Who qualifies for this role? A surviving family member can be named the personal representative. This individual has the responsibility of handling all matters necessary to conduct the business of the estate, such as:
- retaining counsel
- identifying assets and debts
- preserving and protecting assets
- liquidating assets
- prosecuting lawsuits or other claims
- overseeing the disbursement of assets or recovery of damages through a wrongful death lawsuit to
- beneficiaries of the estate
- handling all matters involving the estate
Sometimes disagreements occur as to who should be the personal representative of an estate and the courts have to decide. In the case of a wrongful death claim, often the opening of an estate is something that the personal injury law firm can oversee. Any expense associated with opening an estate can be advanced as part of the costs associated with bringing the claim.
Have personal injury questions that you’d like answered and weren’t mentioned here? Contact us and we would be happy to help.FAQPersonal Injury