Do I Need an Attorney if I Am in An Accident?

Sometimes in our lives we are suddenly thrust into being a victim of an unfortunate auto accident. It is inconvenient, time-consuming and often overwhelming. Decisions have to me made that can affect you, your family and your finances. One of the most important decisions you will make is whether you need a attorney. If you were not injured in the accident and just have property damage, you probably do not need an attorney and can handle the matter on your own. Most attorneys will not take a property only damage claim. If you are the non-fault party, the other driver’s insurance should cover your property damage claim. If the other driver does not have insurance you can turn it into your insurance carrier if you have collision coverage. If your car is not totaled, take it to where you want it to get it fixed (a dealer or reputable car repair business), and let them deal directly with the insurance company to properly fix your car. If your car is totaled, then get online and try to get a good estimate of the actual cash value or fair market value of the car. Use this amount in your negotiations with the insurance company as it is a good reference point.

If you were injured in an auto accident, it is always wise to consult with an attorney to better understand all your options. In Florida you have to navigate through Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverages as well as whether you can file a lawsuit for non-economic damages. In Florida there is a threshold that must be met before a lawsuit can be filed against the at-fault driver for pain and suffering, mental anguish and inconvenience. You must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
  • Permanent injury with a reasonable degree of medical probability
  • Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
  • Death

It is important to talk to an experienced personal injury attorney about these threshold requirements and if you meet them. Also they can advise you as to what PIP covers. There are also certain accidents that don’t require you to meet the threshold requirement such as if you were operating a motorcycle, in a taxi or on a scooter. Personal injury law can be quite a maze to try to navigate your way through, and this is why an attorney can be so valuable to protect your interests. If a lawsuit is filed, you should always have an attorney. Florida Civil Procedure has certain requirements which if not met can risk your suit being dismissed. A good attorney will take the pressure off of you and allow you to recover, while he or she handles the legal side of the claim. Insurance companies may try to dissuade you from retaining an attorney and try to throw a few dollars at in you exchange for a release of the claim. Be careful as once you sign the release in almost all cases, the claim is gone and cannot be resurrected.

An experienced personal injury attorney will have a good idea as to the value of the case and what would be a fair settlement. Also if the case is litigated, depositions and other discovery is conducted and you want a good attorney handling these matters. It is almost impossible to try to do this on your own. Also if the case is tried in front of a jury, you want a personal injury attorney with trial experience that can tell your story in front of a jury in a compelling and passionate way. There also might be issues of bad faith that may need to be explored depending on the insurance company’s actions.

Florida does have minimum low limits of liability of $10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident. An experienced lawyer will help you find all available forms of insurance and assets so you can be fully compensated. He or she can also advise you if it is worth retaining an attorney if there is only minimum limits of insurance available.

A personal injury attorney should always act in your best interests to help you obtain fair compensation. The fee is contingent so you are not required to come up with a retainer or pay an hour rate. This helps to alleviate any financial burden for the accident as the attorney only gets paid if  he settles your case or gets a verdict for you.

It is always wise to have a personal injury represent your interests if you were injured in an accident. He or she should communicate with you about your case and keep you fully informed as to the progress of your case. You should feel comfortable working together with your attorney as a team and trust that he or she is acting in your best interests. Your attorney should give you a roadmap as to what to expect as the case moves forward and should keep the case moving toward resolution. The court system can be slow, but the attorney should not cause any unnecessary delays due to his or her actions.

Florida personal injury law can be tricky and has many traps for those who do not understand the process. Insurance companies may act like they are your best friend, but they want to settle the case as cheap and quickly as they can. They usually do not have your best interests in mind even though they run many television commercials claiming they do. An experience personal injury lawyer will help you navigate the traps and will represent your interests not the insurance company’s interests. In order to obtain justice in your case, it is always prudent to get an attorney to fight this battle for you. If you have been injured in a trucking, auto or motorcycle crash, call or email Rowe Law Offices for a free consultation as to your rights and remedies. It may be the most important call you can make.

The Smith System for Truck Drivers: Is It Being Followed?

The Smith System states that following these five rules can dramatically reduce the risk of major accidents on highways and roads.

1.   Aim High

The first rule for this method is “Aim high in steering”. Staying alert of the dangers and traffic ahead not only avoids rear-end collisions, but it also alerts other drivers behind your vehicle to slow down. The driver should steer and focus their attention high, so as to view the road as whole and not just a few feet ahead.

2.   The Big Picture

“Be aware of your surroundings at all times” may seem obvious to say, but distracted drivers are just as dangerous as intoxicated ones. Erratic and angry drivers take up a large portion of the traffic we see daily, so avoid major accidents by noticing how other drivers behave on the road. Having the whole picture means that you are doing your part to keep your vehicle as safe as possible while moving 1000ft a second. There are a variety of hazards between your own vehicle and other drivers, and a keen awareness of these dangers will reduce these risks.

3.   Keep Your Eyes Moving

The third standard of the Smith System asks drivers to remain alert. Energy drinks can only do so much before they cause the body to crash, and any repetitive motion sends us into a trance. Consistent eye movement prevents your body from entering the trance state, keeping you alert to every driving condition ahead of you.

4.   Leave Yourself an Out

The fourth principle of the Smith System states to leave yourself a way out. This means ensure that other drivers do not box you in while selecting their lanes. Do not follow other vehicles too closely, and always anticipate what choices other drivers make.

5.   Make Sure They See You

The worst thing a driver can do is assume. Assume other drivers can see them, assume other drivers are not dangerous, or even assume that they will just get to their destination safely. The final rule for the Smith System is “Make Sure You Are Seen”. This rule prevents accidents by removing assumptions made behind the wheel. As a driver, make sure that other drivers can see you and anticipate your move. If you feel you are coming into another driver’s blind spot, use the horn to get their attention.

Do Not Sign a Release Without Talking to an Attorney

When you have been in an accident, it is very important not to sign any release from an insurance company before you talk to an attorney. After an accident, you may be confused, and not understand what is going on and how to properly deal with an insurance adjuster. This is when the insurance companies pounce and try to take advantage of you in this vulnerable position. You often do not know the full extent of your injuries, whether you will have to miss time for work, and what the reasonable damages you are entitled to due to the other drive’s negligence. This does not stop many insurance companies whose goal is get out of the case as cheap as they can and try to get you to release the claim as soon as possible.

In Florida, there are restrictions on attorneys or medical professionals contacting you right after an accident, but there is no prohibition on an insurance adjuster contacting you on your claim. Many adjusters will seem very sincere and very concerned about you, but do not be fooled. Often they just want you to sign a release of all claims so they can move on to the next claim. You must understand that when you sign a release, all your claims against that driver have been released, and you cannot go back later against the person if you find out your damages or injuries are greater than originally thought. Many times they may offer you a nominal sum of money in exchange for a release, and the promise of some quick compensation is not always in your best interests. Often your claim for damages is worth far more than what they are offering. You need to talk to an attorney who is experienced in personal injury accidents who can properly advise you as to your rights before signing your claim away.

Many of the big name insurance companies, that their commercials say you can trust, are using these tactics to settle claims quickly and often pay less than what the claim is worth. Also a release does not necessarily have to be in writing. Some insurance companies are recording you and asking you on the phone if you orally agree to settle your claim for X amount of dollars, and then sending you a check. An oral agreement can be a binding contract and enforceable in certain circumstances. So be careful not to agree to settle your case over the phone without seeking the legal opinion of a personal injury attorney.

There is no hurry to settle your claim. The insurance company will try to put pressure on you to settle as quickly as possible, and if you are injured, this is rarely in your best interest. Often injuries from an accident can put financial pressures on you especially if you cannot work and bills are piling up. This is why it is important to seek legal counsel to discuss what your options are. Quickly signing a release without talking to an attorney can significantly reduce your right to fair compensation and cause you a lot of financial headaches in the future. Future medical bills and lost income and having to deal with debilitating injuries with no means of compensation can be a nightmare.

Be wise, and do not sign or agree to anything without talking to an experienced personal injury attorney first. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Rowe Law Offices for a free consultation so you fully understand your rights and do not compromise your claim.