Carolyn Salzmann of Legally Pink Law is one of the top personal injury attorneys in Central Florida. To date, Carolyn and her team have handled thousands of cases and recovered millions of dollars for her clients. If you or a loved one have been the victim of a serious accident, please call our firm today at (888) 979-4941 to schedule a free case consultation.
What am I entitled to receive for my injuries?
You are entitled to compensation for the following:
- Past and future medical bills resulting from your injury
- Past and future lost income
- Pain and suffering. This classification of compensation refers to physical pain and emotional suffering. The compensation is based on how your injuries negatively impacted your ability to enjoy your hobbies and other “joys of life” like your job and your family. Usually, this is the largest financial component of a settlement or verdict.
- Injuries resulting in permanent scarring, impairments, and/or other limitations.
What are the most common mistakes people make after an accident?
- Trusting the insurance company that is paying the claim. The claims adjuster’s job is to settle your case for as little as possible, with a view toward increasing the company’s profit margin in order to keep their supervisors happy.
- Not getting medical attention immediately. The longer it takes you to seek medical evaluation and treatment, the more negatively it could impact your case.
- Signing off on a compensation package prematurely. Not having a full picture of what the costs of an injury are now or in the future could leave you paying for treatment.
- Not contacting a lawyer. Trying to get a reasonable settlement from an insurance company can be ridiculously difficult. An experienced personal injury attorney knows the range of most injuries the insurance company will pay out.
- Missing legal filing deadlines.
- Waiting until the statute of limitations has expired to act.
What are the expenses or costs of a personal injury lawsuit?
Lawsuits can be very expensive, especially if they go to trial. Most attorneys will do their best to negotiate with the insurance companies to get a fair settlement prior to a trial. In less than 10% of all cases, negotiation is not possible and a trial cannot be avoided. Expenses in most cases that go to trial include the following:
- court costs
- court reporter fees
- expert fees
- medical expert fees
The expenses associated with taking a case to court are typically deducted from the personal injury settlement. It is often in your best interest to resolve your case by settlement to avoid those costs. However, to get the best possible settlement, it is very important that the insurance company knows that you are willing to take your case to court if necessary.
How is a personal injury attorney paid?
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means you do not pay anything to your lawyer unless they are successful in resolving your case. You will not get a monthly bill for the time they spend on your case. Rather, your attorney will be paid at the conclusion of the case using a percentage of the settlement amount awarded. You pay no attorney fees or expenses unless your case is successfully resolved by settlement or trial.
Do all injury cases go to court?
Only about 10% of all injury cases result in a lawsuit being filed. Most personal injury claims are settled before they go to trial. Although personal injury cases usually settle, you and your lawyer should be prepared and willing to take your case to trial. The insurance company will take your case more seriously if they believe you and your lawyer mean business.
What is the settlement process for a personal injury claim?
- Once your medical treatment concludes and you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), your lawyer will review all of your medical records and evaluate your case to determine the settlement value.
- Your lawyer will discuss your settlement options and recommend a settlement strategy.
- Your lawyer will send the insurance company all of your medical records and medical bills with an offer to settle your case.
- The insurance company will have your case reviewed by nurses and claims adjusters.
- The insurance company will usually make a settlement offer within 60 days from the date your lawyer submits the settlement package.
- Your lawyer should not settle your personal injury case unless you are satisfied with the final settlement offer. The settlement process may continue for days, weeks or months.
How do personal injury cases work? What are the stages of a personal injury case?
- Medical Treatment - It is important that you receive all of the medical treatment you need to achieve maximum medical improvement (MMI) prior to any legal steps being initiated.
- Choose an attorney - Insurance companies are skilled in paying out the absolute minimum on an accident claim. As such, it is wise to consult with an attorney during each step of the claims process.
- Investigation and medical record review - Your attorney will want to know all of the details surrounding your accident, injuries, and medical treatments.
- Demand and negotiation - Your attorney will make a demand for a settlement with the insurance company. Usually, this will start a negotiating process between you, your attorney, and the insurance companies’ attorneys. This is the stage where most small claims are resolved. If the negotiations reach an impasse, the litigation phase of the case will begin.
- Litigation phase - the lawsuit is filed.
- Discovery - Prior to trial, opposing sides will seek evidence from one another to evaluate the strength of their case.
- Mediation and negotiation - Once the discovery process has concluded, the opposing parties will discuss a settlement. If the parties do not come to an agreement, they will sometimes try, or a judge might demand, that they go to a mediator to resolve their differences.
- Trial - When all other avenues of resolution are exhausted, the last step is a courtroom trial. There are usually more negotiations and offers during the trial.
How do I determine how much my personal injury case is worth?
The settlement value of your case is based on your economic and non-economic losses.
- Economic losses account for things like medical bills and lost income.
- Non-economic losses are for pain and suffering, which is a fancy way of describing how your injuries impacted your activities of daily life, your hobbies, your home life, and your work. Pain and suffering also include the physical pain that you endured due to your injuries and the emotional suffering that you experienced due to the accident and the injuries you incurred because of the accident.
Compensation for pain and suffering (non-economic damages) is usually the biggest part of the settlement. The medical records from your doctors and physical therapists are powerful evidence of the pain and suffering that you experienced. To that end, it is important that you tell your doctors and therapists about your level of pain and how your activities of daily life are impacted by your injuries.
Am I entitled to punitive damages?
Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and, essentially, "send a message" to convince that party to change his or her ways so others don't get hurt.
Your ability to recover punitive damages depends largely on the facts of the case. Punitive damages are not available in the pre-suit phase of a case. They can only be recovered if you file a lawsuit making a formal claim for punitive damages under Florida law.
Will my insurance premiums increase if I report an accident to my insurance company?
Your insurance premiums should not go up if you are not at fault for the accident. It will be part of your insurance record, but if you are not at fault, your premiums should not increase.
In most situations, your own insurance company will go after the insurance company that insures the at-fault party to recover the costs it may have paid to you for things such as car repairs or additional medical expenses.
How can I recover my out-of-pocket expenses?
Out-of-pocket expenses are always made part of your claim and are part of your economic damages that we seek to recover from the at-fault party. When your claim is presented to the at-fault party, we include your out-of-pocket expenses as part of the demand package.
If your case does not settle in what we call the "pre-suit phase," then your case will proceed to court where we will ask a jury for your out-of-pocket expenses as part of your economic damages on the verdict form.
How can I recover lost wages?
Wage loss is paid out under your Personal Injury Protection benefit, which happens to be mandatory coverage for auto insurance in the State of Florida. There are exceptions, such as when you elected to have your wage loss reimbursement excluded on your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefit when you obtained your policy.
Normally, people who have their wage loss benefits excluded are those who are not employed for some reason or another. You can also elect to have a standard PIP (which covers wage loss at 60%) or extended PIP (which covers wage loss at 80%).
You will need to provide proof of income in the form of a paycheck stub, income tax return, or some other verifiable means. The remaining percentage of your wage loss not covered by your PIP insurance will become part of your claim against the defendant driver.
When cases do not involve PIP coverage, the wage loss becomes part of the demand to the at-fault party. In most cases, proof of lost income is rather simple if the injured person receives a paycheck. For our clients who are self-employed, we work very closely with them to help them assemble the necessary documentation to prove the wage loss claim. Tax returns can be helpful in instances where clients are self-employed.
Are there deadlines for filing claims?
Yes. Under Florida law, there are very specific, detailed deadlines to file claims. If you do not meet these deadlines, you may be forever barred from bringing your claim forward.
These time restrictions are known as statutes of limitations, and they vary depending on the type of claim you are bringing. It is critical that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible after your incident so you can receive good legal advice on the time limits for filing a personal injury claim.
What types of damages can I claim?
In all cases, there are two general categories of damages – economic damages and non-economic damages. You can be compensated for both past and future economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are things such as wage loss, mileage expense to go to doctor appointments, prescription costs, co-pays on insurance, over-the-counter medications, diminution in value to your car, etc. The other category is non-economic damages, which may include things such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, etc.
The non-economic damages are often greater than the economic damages if the injuries are significant enough. Consult with an attorney for a full explanation of these types of damages.
How are property damage claims for my car settled?
The settlement value of a car that is totaled is determined based on the fair market value, which is the amount of money you likely could have sold your vehicle for if you had not been involved in the accident. We commonly use the NADA Used Car Guide or Kelly Blue Book as a starting point for determining the settlement value of a totaled car. The insurance company should pay for all repairs if your car is not totaled. This process can be accomplished without the assistance of an attorney.
What should I do if I was injured in a car accident?
- Make sure your injuries are documented in medical records as soon as possible. The insurance company will deny your injury claim unless each injury is documented in hospital records on the date of the accident or within 24 hours of the injury.
- See your primary care physician as soon as possible. Your doctor will document your injuries and prescribe a course of treatment, and the doctor’s chart notes will help us prove the extent of your injuries.
- Contact a lawyer to help you prove fault (liability) and the extent of the injuries and harm that you experienced due to the accident. Lawyers should have the resources necessary to get the most value for your case. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner you get to relax and heal while we do the work of getting the money you deserve.
Can I fight it if I am cited as the at-fault driver in an automobile accident?Yes, but it will be difficult to do on your own. Consult an attorney to help you determine your options, especially if there were injuries involved.
What should I do after an accident?
There are five things you should do immediately after an accident. These include the following steps:
- Call 911 and report the accident. Regardless of the extent of the property damage and how you feel after the collision, you must call 911 and report the accident. If you do not call 911, the insurance company will use this against you when we negotiate the value of your claim.
- Exchange information with all other drivers involved in the accident. Be sure to get the other driver's tag number, license number, and insurance company information. Even if you are waiting for the police to arrive, you still need to start gathering this information. There are unfortunately many situations in which the at-fault driver flees the scene of the accident.
- Investigate. Seek out witnesses and take photos. Even if the other person admits fault, his or her story may change once you file a claim. Witnesses will not wait for the police to arrive, so you need to get their contact information right away. Also, scene and property damage photos can be critical in proving how the accident happened and the forces exerted on your body.
- Seek medical attention. Whether it is at the accident scene or at the hospital, later on, it is essential that you seek medical attention as soon as possible so you fully understand the extent of your injuries. This will also help you ensure that your injuries are well-documented. The insurance company will use any delay in medical treatment against you.
- Do not discuss your injuries with the insurance company. Report the facts of the accident (what happened) to your insurance company, but do not discuss your injuries. Because adrenaline is flowing through your body, you may not immediately feel the full extent of your injuries. Statements such as "I'm not injured" or "I'm OK" can and will be used against you by the insurance company.
What if the person who caused my injuries does not have insurance?
In the case of an automobile or motorcycle accident, if the person who is at fault for an accident does not have insurance, then we do three things. First, we run an asset check on the at-fault party to see if he or she has assets that we could possibly seize to cover your damages.
This requires us to file a lawsuit against the individual. Second, we look to see if the defendant's driver owns the vehicle. Sometimes the driver and owner are two different people.
While the driver might not have insurance, the owner may be insured, especially if the vehicle is financed. Third, we do a complete assessment of the client's insurance coverages to see if this individual has Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage.
If that is the case, then we look to the client's insurance coverage to compensate this individual for his or her injuries and damages. This should not cause the client's insurance to go up since he or she is not at fault for the accident.