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Frequently Asked Questions: Personal Injury

1) How do you define the term personal injury?
Personal injury is a situation involving two or more individuals, where one individual claims compensation for a bodily injury caused by another person’s negligence, which means failure to exercise the care that a reasonable person would in that situation.

2) Who may bring a claim?
If you are a competent adult, 18-years-old or older, and have been injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence then you may bring a claim. If minors or incompetent adults are injured, then parents or court-appointed guardians may bring forth claims on their behalf.

3) What are some of the most common personal injury claims you’ve come across?
Our legal team at Swope, Rodante P.A. handles mostly catastrophic personal injury claims where people have been severely injured in an accident. We also work closely with a smaller personal injury firm, Vanguard Attorneys, which handles non-catastrophic injury cases. Generally, automobile accidents are probably the most common personal injury claim, but some other common types of personal injury claims may include: drowning and diving accidents, animal attacks, nursing home neglect, and product liability.

4) What is the best way to reach you?
Call Us at (813) 273-0017 or submit the form on our contact page.

5) I’m not sure if I can afford a lawyer?
For the majority of our cases, we operate on a contingency basis. Under contingency, “if there is no recovery, there will be no fee,” which refers only to fees charged by the attorney. Court costs and other additional expenses of legal action are determined on a case by case basis. For more information, please contact us for a free initial consultation.

6) I’m new to the state. What sort of auto insurance coverage is required?
Under Florida law, all drivers with vehicles registered in the state are required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection [PIP] coverage, which may cover 80 percent of medical bills, 60 percent of lost wages, and $5,000 in death benefits. A minimum of $10,000 in property damage [PD] coverage is also required.
Insurers who sell insurance in Florida  must also offer coverage against personal injury in accidents involving uninsured drivers, but this coverage is not required by law and may be waived. Bodily injury liability, which covers injury to others when you are legally responsible for the accident, also is not required with the following exception: The Florida Financial Responsibility Law requires that any person at fault in a crash resulting in bodily injury and property damage to others must have in effect at the time of the crash full liability insurance coverage including: minimum limits of bodily injury liability of $10,000 per person, $20,000 per crash, $10,000 PD liability per crash, and PIP limits of $10,000 per person per crash.

7) What if the driver that hit me was not insured or if I was involved in a hit-and-run?
This question underscores the need for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, which pays for costs related to injuries to you or your family members and guests in your car caused by an underinsured, uninsured, or hit-and-run driver.

8) What’s the difference between compensatory and punitive damages?
Compensatory damages are the monetary compensation an injured party recovers in a successful civil lawsuit for economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages and non-economic damages such as mental anguish and pain and suffering from the harm. Punitive damages, often known as exemplary damages, are another form of financial compensation. But instead of direct relief these damages are meant to punish and may be given in certain cases of intentional or reckless conduct to discourage similar misbehavior in the future.

9) Will I always need to go to court to settle a claim?
No. If you receive a fair settlement, then you will not need to go to court. Our lawyers are experienced in winning settlements for our clients. However, if the insurer does not negotiate fairly, then we will proceed with a lawsuit, or in some cases when the insurer refuses to settle or unreasonably delays payment, you may have a claim for insurance bad faith.

10) Is there a time limit on filing a personal injury claim?
Yes. In our legal system, we have what is called statute of limitations (SOL) which limits the maximum time after an event that legal proceedings based on that event may be initiated. The statute of limitations may vary depending on the type of claim. To ensure that your claim is filed before the time limit expires, you may want to consult with an attorney.

11) What if I was partly at fault for the accident, can I still file a claim?
Possibly. Florida’s law of comparative negligence may diminish the amount awarded based on the degree of fault but does not bar recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions: Insurance Bad Faith

1) What does the term insurance bad faith mean?
Bad faith is a cause of action that is brought against an insurer for breaching its duty to act in good faith toward its insured in settlement of a claim.

2) What are my rights under my insurance policy?
An insurance policy is a contract. Basically, if you’re abiding by your end of the contract – paying premiums on time – then the insurer has a good-faith duty to abide by the conditions in the policy that require them to pay out benefits in the event of an accident.

3) Does an insurer have the right to deny my claim?
Insurers may have the right to deny claims in some situations where the policyholder has not fulfilled the terms of his or her insurance contract such as failing to make monthly payments or in situations where the claim is not covered by the policy or is fraudulent. To determine if your claim has been unfairly denied, it’s important to consult with a legal team that specializes in bad faith. If you suspect that you have a legitimate claim that has been unreasonably denied, please contact us.

4) An insurer denied my claim without providing a reason why, is this fair?
No. Under Florida law, an insurer should provide you with a reasonable explanation in writing for denial of a claim.

5) What types of claims may insurance bad faith apply to?
Bad faith may apply to various types of insurance ranging from automobile insurance to property insurance and life insurance. If you have a question about whether insurance bad faith applies to your claim, please contact us.

6) What are some common examples of bad faith?

• “Lowballing” – an insurer may attempt to underpay a claim
• Refusing to pay a legitimate claim
• Unreasonably delaying making payments to the insured
• Failing to protect the insured from excess policy judgments

7) Is it possible to take legal action against a big insurance company?
While some law firms shy away from cases against large insurance companies, we specialize in them. We are proud to represent the underdog and stand firm behind our mission to help those who have been the victims of insurance bad faith. If you would like to ask us a question or find out more about your rights as an insured, contact us.

Frequently Asked Questions: Wrongful Death

1) What does the term wrongful death mean?
A wrongful death is a death caused by the wrongful act of another, either accidentally or intentionally, according to Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary. A claim for wrongful death is made by a family member of a deceased person to obtain compensation for having to live without that person. The compensation is intended to cover the earnings and the emotional comfort and support the deceased person would have provided.

2) What are some common cases of wrongful death claims?
Some of the most common cases of wrongful death include automobile accidents, medical malpractice, product defects, and criminal acts.

3) What is the difference between the term wrongful death and murder?
Murder is an intentional act whereas some wrongful deaths may be the result of negligence. For example, a wrongful death may sometimes result from an automobile accident or medical malpractice.

“The purpose of the wrongful death statute is not to punish those who may have caused the death, but rather, is to compensate those who may have suffered a loss as a result.” Scully v. Armstrong, 646 F. Supp. 213 (N.D. Ind. 1986).

Wrongful death is considered a tort [a civil wrong] where family members of the victim bring the civil lawsuit for [damages] financial compensation, which may help the victim’s family pay for medical expenses from the injuries that caused the death, funeral and burial expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. In a murder, charges are brought against the defendant by the state, not the victim’s family, which may result in a prison sentence or in rarer cases the death penalty.

4) How can someone be acquitted of murder and then charged with wrongful death? Isn’t that like double jeopardy?
No. Under the Fifth Amendment no one can be charged with the same crime twice, but a wrongful death is a tort [civil wrong] that is prosecuted in a civil lawsuit separate and apart from a criminal lawsuit and neither proceeding affects nor controls the other.

5) Who can file a wrongful death claim?
The executor of the decedent’s estate, usually a member of the family, may file a claim on behalf of “survivors” such as the spouse, children and/or blood relatives.

6) Is there a time limit on filing a wrongful death claim?
The statute of limitations in Florida is typically two-years under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, and that time commences from “when the last element constituting the cause of action occurs,” according to Fla. Statute Section 95.11(4)(d) and Section 95.031(1). Although there may be extenuating circumstances that extend the SOL, if you believe that your loved one died because of the wrongful actions of another person, you may want to consult an attorney soon to determine your legal rights and to give them time to prepare a case. Please contact us.

7) What sort of damages may be recovered?
The injured party in a wrongful death lawsuit may be able to recover financial compensation for medical expenses from the injury that caused the death, funeral expenses, loss of financial support in the household, and pain and suffering from loss of companionship.

December 20, 2012