Common Questions About Florida Law
It is natural to have many questions and worries when faced with a legal issue or litigation. The experienced lawyers at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., ask many common legal questions and provide useful answers to help get you in making the best decisions for you and your family.
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Will my case go to trial?
Of the thousands of cases I've handled, a relatively small number have gone to a jury trial. In fact, only a few cases require us to actually file a lawsuit, and a lesser percentage of those will actually go to court. This is because we are able to negotiate good settlements for most of our clients before they get to court.
While the vast majority of personal injury cases never need to see the inside of a courtroom, it's critical that every single case be prepared as if you're going to trial.
Most Insurers Want to Avoid an Injury Trial
Most injury victims seek compensation from an at-fault person’s insurance company. Insurers stay in business by paying out as little as possible, and settlements are often much cheaper than jury verdicts.
Our thorough preparation is a key negotiating tool, giving insurers an extra incentive to pay a fair value on a claim.
Insurance companies will usually avoid trial if possible because:
- It’s expensive. A trial can require hiring experts, tracking down evidence, and costly court appearances, all for an unknown outcome. Insurers want to manage risk as well as costs, and will often choose to settle a demand quickly rather than go through an open-ended and unpredictable trial.
- They’re more likely to be seen as the “bad guys.” If the victim is a good witness, the jury may have a lot of sympathy, costing the insurance company more in damages—and potentially even more than that in pain and suffering.
- It can hurt business. Jury verdicts can be considered public records, meaning anyone can look up whether the insurance company has been named in a lawsuit and how much it was ordered to pay. Settlements have the potential to be secured privately, allowing the insurer to protect its reputation.
At DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., we secure the rightful compensation you need to put your accident behind you—and we don't collect any fees until your case is won. If you have any questions, please fill out the form on this page, and a member from our injury team will get back to you immediately. And of course, you can always call our office at (727) 397-5571.
What does it mean when an attorney is “board certified?"
Board certification is a mark of the highest quality of legal services in a particular field. Only seven percent of eligible Florida attorneys have earned board certification in a specialty area, making us extremely fortunate to have two board certified attorneys in our law offices: Board Certified Elder Law Attorney D. "Rep" DeLoach III and Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney Paul R. Cavonis.
Benefits of Hiring a Board Certified Attorney
The certification program is approved by the Florida Supreme Court and administered with rigorous requirements by the Florida Bar. The Florida Bar evaluates all certified lawyers for expertise in a particular area of law, as well as professionalism and ethics in the practice of law.
Certification is the highest level of evaluation by the Florida Bar, and clients who hire certified lawyers should expect:
- Experience. Board certified lawyers must have a minimum of five years practicing law.
- Focus. Certified lawyers received passing grades on comprehensive examinations for their specialty areas; or met strict criteria of knowledge, skills, and expertise to exempt them from the exams. They're also heavily and actively involved in their fields of law.
- Continuing education. In order to maintain board certification, attorneys must continue to practice law and attend Florida Bar-approved continuing legal education courses in their specialty fields. Attorneys must have their certification renewed every five years by meeting education and experience requirements similar to those of initial certification.
- Good standing among peers. Certified lawyers are recognized by their fellow attorneys as having the highest level of competence in their specialty fields. The required peer review assessment also involves opinions on the character, ethics, and professionalism of the certified attorney.
At DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., we're dedicated to helping our clients through the most difficult times in their lives. To find out how we can help, simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up your consultation.
How long do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?
It's understandable that a wrongful death claim isn't at the forefront of your mind in the aftermath of a sudden loss. Family members may take weeks or even months to consider filing a lawsuit after the death of a relative simply because they're overwhelmed with grief and practical matters.
Fortunately, the law takes this into account by placing a reasonable time limit, called the statute of limitations, on the right of the family to sue for damages.
Florida Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims
In Florida, the statute of limitations on injury cases is four years from the date of the car accident, fall, or other incident that resulted in injury. However, in cases where someone’s negligence results in death, close family members have only two years from the date of death to file a claim for compensation.
It's rare for the two-year time limit to be extended, but it may be possible in a few specific situations:
- Cases against the government. If a government entity is responsible for the death, the case follows a different process with special filing procedures. The notification requirements must be completed within three years, and the statute of limitations is extended to four years.
- Murder. If the death resulted from homicide, the statute of limitations may not begin on the date of death, but on the date that the person responsible is identified or arrested.
- Medical malpractice. If the death resulted from medical negligence, relatives have two years from the date when the cause of death is discovered to file a claim, rather than the date of death.
As you can see, it's better to get advice from an experienced Florida injury attorney sooner rather than later. At DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., we secure the rightful compensation you need to put your accident behind you—and we don't collect any fees until your case is won. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up your consultation.
What should I do if I was hit by a car while riding a bicycle?
After a crash, your adrenaline and emotions are running high—especially if you were hurt. Most bike accident victims aren't in their right state of mind in the hours after an accident, and may not know what to do after a bike-car collision.
As an experienced Florida injury attorney, I offer a few tips to protect your health and your financial recovery after a bike accident.
Steps to Take After a Car-Bike Crash
If you’re still conscious and able to move after the accident, you should get off the roadway as soon as possible to prevent further injury. However, it's vital that you do not get back on your bike or leave the scene of the accident.
Once you're safely off the road, you should:
- Call 911. Always call the police after a bike-car accident. They'll file an accident report, collect contact information from the at-fault driver, and call for an ambulance to attend to your injuries. If the driver who struck you left the scene, law enforcement might also be able to track down the vehicle.
- Call a friend. You should always call someone you can trust after a crash to help you answer questions and get medical care. Choose someone who can contact the rest of your family to inform them of your condition and who knows vital information about you if you lose consciousness, such as medication allergies.
- Document the scene. Only if it's safe to do so, you should take photos of the accident scene, the car that struck you (including a picture of the license plate), your injuries, and damage to your bike for evidence. You should also collect contact information from the driver and the names and phone numbers of any witnesses who saw the crash occur.
- See a doctor immediately. If you're not taken to the hospital by ambulance, you should still go to the doctor to get checked out within the next 24 hours. It’s impossible to know the full extent of your injuries until you're evaluated by a medical professional.
- Speak with an attorney. Injuries in bike-car accidents can be severe, causing you to be out of work for months and unable to ride even longer. We carefully review all of the details of your case and fight diligently to recover all you are owed.
At DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., we secure the rightful compensation you need to put your accident behind you—and we don't collect any fees until your case is won. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up your consultation.
Should I file an accident report if I'm hurt in a store?
If you're hurt on someone else’s property, you should always make sure the owner is aware of the accident. As an experienced premises liability attorney, I know how vital an accident report is as a piece of evidence—and how mistakes on this report can harm your injury case.
Information to Include in an Official Accident Report
If you're hurt in a store, you should alert the manager or an employee so you can fill out an accident report before you leave. Many businesses have their own accident report forms for victims to complete after an injury on their premises.
It's important that all of the information you provide is accurate and relevant, and that you avoid assigning blame for the injury on the document.
You may be asked to provide:
- Contact information. You should include your name, mailing address, phone number, and email address so the manager can contact you and provide you with a copy of the report.
- Facts of the accident. Include the date, time, and location of the accident. A short overview of the incident may be necessary (such as “I slipped in the freezer aisle”), but avoid guessing as to the exact cause of the accident.
- A statement of injury. You may provide a short description of your injury that includes all areas where you feel pain (such as “I hurt my head and arm in a fall”), but don't go into details about the extent of your injuries. The doctor you see in the hours following the accident can provide this evidence of your injuries.
It's important to recognize that the store will use this information to limit its own liability. For this reason, it's critical to record all the details you can remember for your own use—the condition of the floor, what you were doing before the accident, and the names and contact information of any witnesses. Before you leave, take some photos of the scene with your cellphone for further evidence.
At DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., we carefully review all details of your case to secure the rightful compensation you need to put your accident behind you, and we don't collect any fees until your case is won. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up your consultation.
Why is it important to hire an injury attorney who's willing to go to trial?
If you're looking for an attorney to handle your personal injury case, you should always ask whether they have experience going to trial. Surprisingly, many big-name law firms don't try their own cases—and the unwillingness to go to trial can have a big impact on the amount of compensation you receive.
How a Trial Attorney Benefits Your Personal Injury Case
Insurance companies know which lawyers try cases, and which ones don't. As a result, insurers are much more likely to negotiate a favorable settlement with an attorney who has the skills to take the case to court and won't hesitate to do so if that's the best option for the client.
Insurers know that trial attorneys are more likely to:
- Secure a jury verdict. Insurers want to keep cases out of court as often as possible because they could be ordered to pay vast amounts to injury victims. An attorney who's known for taking cases to court is a threat to the insurer’s interests, making the insurance company more flexible during settlement negotiations.
- Undergo a thorough preparation. A trial attorney prepares every injury case as if it will go to trial from the very beginning. This means comprehensive fact-checking, investigation, and examination of the details and how they interlock to prove a solid case. In this way, the case is constructed for the best chance of success even if it doesn't actually go to court.
- Stay the course. Lawyers who don't want to go to trial hope they can convince an insurer to settle favorably, but if the insurer offers too little, the lawyer may advise the client to accept the settlement rather than go to court. Trial attorneys aren’t simply waiting for the insurer to call their bluff, allowing them to negotiate from a position of strength.
At DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., attorney Paul Cavonis carefully reviews all the details of your injury case to secure the rightful compensation you need to put your accident behind you. He provides one-on-one guidance—and doesn't collect any fees until your case is won. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up your consultation.
Can I challenge a relative's will if I was disinherited?
A last will and testament is a legal contract, and disinherited family members cannot contest a will simply because they don't agree with its terms.
That said, there are valid legal reasons for challenging a will in most states. If the court decides one of these reasons exists, some or all of a last will and testament could be declared invalid.
Legal Reasons to Contest a Relative's Will in Florida
State laws vary on the reasons why a relative may contest a will in court, as well as what happens if the dispute is successful. Depending on what grounds the will is challenged, a Florida court may rule that one or more provisions are not legally-binding, or it can rule that the entire will is invalid.
Under Florida law, you can legally challenge a last will and testament if:
- The decedent lacked the mental capacity to sign the will. If the court finds that the decedent (the person who created the will) didn't have the mental capacity to make or sign the will, the entire document may be declared invalid. If this happens, everything in the decedent's estate will be distributed according to Florida's intestacy laws as if they had died without a will.
- The decedent was unduly influenced. A will may be void if someone else forced or influenced them to make a decision they wouldn't ordinarily have made.
- The will was procured by fraud. A will may be declared invalid if the decedent was deliberately misled by someone else, or if it was fraudulently created or obtained.
- The will wasn't created in accordance with state law. Each state sets forth procedures that must be followed in order to make a will legally binding. For example, every will in Florida must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the will. A court may invalidate documents that were not signed with the correct formality.
If you believe you may have grounds to challenge a loved one's will, the legal team at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis can advise you on your potential options. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation and get answers to your questions.
Should I wait to get medical care after a motorcycle crash?
Absolutely not! While many riders are taken to the emergency room by ambulance after a motorcycle crash, this doesn't mean that anyone fortunate enough to walk away from an accident didn't sustain injuries.
Victims may begin to develop symptoms hours, days, or even a week after the accident, and a failure to seek medical attention could affect your motorcycle injury claim.
Why It's Best to Get Medical Care Immediately After a Motorcycle Crash
Even if you didn't go to the hospital directly from the accident scene, you could still be owed payment for the costs of the injury. If you feel pain in the days following the accident, you should go to the doctor as soon as you begin to show symptoms of an injury.
By seeking medical advice, you'll be able to:
- Get the most effective treatment. Health should be your utmost priority. Early treatment allows doctors to see the full extent of your injuries and intervene in ways that reduce complications and stop pain quickly.
- Refute many insurance arguments. A gap between the accident date and the date of your treatment may spur an insurance company to claim that your injury was caused by something else—something it won't cover.
- Build a reliable medical record. A detailed medical record is vital when it comes to presenting convincing evidence to an insurance company. Even if there was a small delay, your doctor may be able to establish that your injuries are consistent with an accident that happened days before.
Our attorney Paul Cavonis is an avid motorcycle rider and is dedicated to protecting the rights of motorcyclists injured as a result of someone else’s negligence. If you're struggling after a crash, he'll advise you on your options at no cost—and our firm doesn't collect payment until we secure a recovery. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation.
What’s the difference between a personal injury claim and a wrongful death claim?
When a person is injured through someone else’s negligence, they have the right to pursue damages through a personal injury claim. However, if a victim suffers a fatal accident, the right to sue passes to their family members and is now called a wrongful death claim.
Types of Accidents and Injuries That May Lead to a Florida Wrongful Death Claim
Under Florida law, any injury caused by a “wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person” entitles a victim to recover damages.
A wrongful death claim may follow many different types of injury cases where someone has died, including:
- Motor vehicle accidents. These are common causes of wrongful death, especially for victims of drunk drivers, truck crashes, pedestrian injuries, and motorcycle accidents.
- Slips and falls. A dangerous slip or fall could give rise to a premises liability action, forcing a negligent property owner to pay for damages.
- Dog bites. A dog attack on a child or senior citizen may result in death, causing severe emotional trauma and pain and suffering to the family.
- Defective drugs. Parents and family members of victims who were killed by a fatal overdose, drug interaction, or defective medical device could sue the product manufacturer for wrongful death.
While no amount of money can replace a lost loved one, a wrongful death claim might offer closure and compensation for you and your family. Damages may include significant payments to the deceased person's estate, including lost wages, benefits, and medical and funeral expenses.
If someone in your family was fatally injured through negligence, attorney Paul Cavonis will listen to your story and explain your rights and options under the law. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation and get answers to your questions.
Who pays for the costs of a hit-and-run car accident in Florida?
Florida laws impose strict penalties such as jail time and heavy fines for leaving the scene of an accident. However, hundreds of victims are still injured every year by hit-and-run drivers. If you are unable to identify the responsible party in your crash, you may have to seek other forms of payment rather than filing an injury claim against the vanishing motorist.
Collecting Compensation for a Florida Hit-and-Run Accident
The best way to improve your chances of getting compensation after a hit-and-run crash is to report the incident to the police.
Filing a police report not only allows officers to pursue the investigation while you're recovering from injury, it also makes you eligible to receive payment from the Florida Crimes Compensation Trust Fund if the driver is never identified.
Victims may also be able to collect compensation for hit-and-run accidents through:
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. All Florida drivers are required to carry PIP insurance through their auto insurance policies. Most PIP coverage pays for 80 percent of any medical expenses related to the crash, including your own. However, your claim may be denied if you weren't treated by a doctor within 14 days of the incident.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) insurance. If you selected uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage as part of your auto insurance policy, then you may be able to recover damages by making a claim with this provider.
- Health insurance. If you use your health insurance to pay for costs related to the accident, your health insurance carrier can seek reimbursement through your auto insurance provider.
The compensation options for a hit-and-run car accident vary widely depending on your circumstances, so it's a good idea to meet with us to determine the best way to get maximum coverage for your injury costs.
Attorney Paul Cavonis can offer advice on your best options and get the compensation you need to recover—and our firm doesn't collect any fees until your case is settled. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up your initial consultation.
What should I do after a slip and fall on someone else’s property?
Nearly everyone will suffer a trip and fall accident at some point in their lives. While the effects of these accidents can range from bumps and bruises to lifelong complications, they all have one thing in common—the victim is usually not the one at fault.
By knowing what to do after a slip, trip, or fall, you can significantly increase your chances of getting fair payment for your injuries.
Property Owners Have Responsibilities Under Florida Law
Owners of commercial buildings, parking lots, and private homes have a legal duty to maintain their premises to ensure they're safe for visitors. If the owner of the property didn't warn you of the hazard that caused your fall or take steps to fix the problem, you may be able to make a claim against them for your injury costs.
However, your claim will only be successful if you take action in the minutes, hours, and days after the accident to protect your rights.
After you have slipped or fallen on someone else's property, you should:
- Stay at the scene. It might not be wise to get up immediately after a fall, as you may be lightheaded. If people come over to help you, be sure to record their names and contact information on your cellphone. If you can, it’s a good idea to take photos of the location where you fell, noting any stairs, spills, icy patches, or other conditions that contributed to your accident.
- Report the incident. If you fall in a public place, you may be asked to fill out an incident report with the manager, landlord, or owner. Keep your answers simple, avoid any language that suggests you're at fault, and be sure to request a copy before you leave.
- See a doctor. One of the biggest mistakes people make after an injury is failing to get immediate medical treatment. This places your health at risk, and it sends a signal to the at-fault party’s lawyer and insurance company that you weren't seriously hurt in the fall. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so never put off going to the doctor after a sudden injury.
- Call an attorney. The easiest way to protect your rights is to speak to our experienced car accident law firm as soon as possible. We can take over the legal aspects of the claim and prevent you from making mistakes—such as posting about the accident on social media or giving a statement to an insurance company.
If you suffered a serious accident, attorney Paul Cavonis will fight for you while you focus on healing. We answer all of your questions and advise you on your options, helping you get the compensation you need to recover. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation.
What motorcycle safety features are required by law in Florida?
Every state is allowed to set its own laws regarding motorcycle licensing, safe riding, and equipment required to legally operate a two-wheeled vehicle.
In Florida, motorcycle laws are focused on the bike itself, setting minimum requirements for all parts of the motorcycle to ensure riders can stop safely and be seen by other road users.
Motorcycle Safety Requirements Under Florida Law
Although Florida doesn't require all adult riders to wear helmets, it does stipulate that riders must wear DMV-approved eye protection in order to operate a motorcycle. In addition to Florida’s helmet and motorcycle licensing laws, the state also has regulations regarding:
- Brakes. In order for a motorcycle to legally be operated on Florida roads, it must be equipped with brakes capable of developing a brake force of at least 43.5 percent of its gross weight, with the ability to stop from a speed of 20 mph in less than 30 feet.
- Lights and reflectors. Your motorcycle must be equipped with at least one headlamp and at least one tail lamp, as well as a separate lamp that illuminates the rear registration plate. Any motorcycle in operation on a public street must have the headlight (or headlights) turned on. In addition, your motorcycle must have at least one red reflector at the rear.
- Handlebars. It's illegal to ride any motorcycle with handlebars higher than the shoulders of the person operating the bike.
- Seats and footrests. A motorcycle operator must be seated on the permanent and regular seat of the vehicle, and may not transport passengers unless the motorcycle is specifically designed to carry more than one person. If you are carrying a passenger, the passenger must be seated with their feet on the footrests.
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, attorney Paul Cavonis is here to help. He will answer all of your questions and walk you through your legal options, helping you get the compensation you need to recover. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation.
Can I get payment for a slip or fall on a Florida sidewalk?
Sidewalks are supposed to be a safe place for pedestrians to travel, especially those set far away from speeding cars and busy alleys. However, even if there is nobody else on a walkway, you still have the potential for a serious injury through a fall. When this happens, a you can seek compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering from the person whose negligence caused the injury.
Common Conditions Leading to Sidewalk Falls
An unexpected hazard can cause a you to fall forward, breaking bones in your hands, knees, or face, while a backward fall can cause back pain, tailbone injuries, or even traumatic brain injury.
Some of the most common sidewalk dangers include:
- Cracked or crumbling pavement
- Curbs that have not been lowered at crosswalks or other entry points
- Uneven grading between pavement slabs or nearby surfaces (such as when a sidewalk intersects a driveway)
- Slippery walking surfaces (such as mud, moss, oil, or spilled sand and gravel)
- Debris (such as children’s bikes, electrical cords, tree limbs, or trashcans)
- Missing pavement slabs
- Cracked or hazardous walkways from tree roots pushing through the surface
Liability for Slips or Falls on Sidewalks
Under the theory of negligence, anyone who has the responsibility of installing or maintaining a sidewalk must take reasonable care to address common dangers before they cause injury. When these injuries occur, there may be a number of parties who could share liability, including:
- Municipalities. State and local government agencies must ensure that their sidewalks are properly designed for use. They must also rope off any broken slabs or areas under repair with caution tape until sidewalk maintenance can be performed.
- Businesses. If a business allowed an unsafe condition to continue on the sidewalk or path outside the building, the business may be held liable for negligence.
- HOAs. Condo or homeowners associations might share liability for a slip or fall inside a gated community, apartment complex, or housing development.
- Homeowners. Homeowners may be held partially responsible for the maintenance of city sidewalks that border their property. If you fell on a sidewalk in front of a residence, you may be able to bring a claim against the city, the homeowner’s insurance, or both.
Attorney Paul Cavonis will fight to get you all that you are owed when someone else’s negligence causes a fall, and we do not charge you anything unless we secure compensation for you. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to schedule a confidential consultation to learn more about your legal options.
Why Is It Important to Fill out the Questionnaire Prior to Your Meeting?
Why Is It Important to Fill out the Questionnaire Prior to Your Meeting? (Transcript)
D. "Rep" DeLoach III, Estate Planning and Board Certified Elder Law AttorneyThank you for choosing our law firm to help with your estate planning. As part of your initial consultation, we're going to send you a questionnaire for completion for you to bring in with you to your initial appointment. This questionnaire is very important to us and it's very important that you take your time to fill out completely and accurately.The questionnaire will set out your age, address, occupation, but also gives the names of potential beneficiaries. So it'll spell out things (or names) that we may need, or other important aspects to your estate plan. We'll also need a list of your assets in the questionnaire and those assets will provide us a basic understanding of your estate plan. And this is a very, very important piece of the plan.We need to know your assets because we need to know how to best plan your estate based upon where your assets are, what are the potential values of the assets, how these assets should be distributed. And it's important that you do this and take your time. It's going to help make sure we have a great first meeting, and we don't have to go back and get basic information. We can jump right in and start helping you out.Again, we look forward to meeting you and thank you so much.
Can I recover damages if my car struck a fixed object?
Many people are injured every year when their cars run off the road and strike a tree, sign, or light pole. Although all drivers are required to have a minimum amount of car insurance under Florida law, policies typically won't cover single-vehicle accidents unless you purchased comprehensive coverage.
For this reason, it's worth investigating whether someone else might share liability for your crash.
Potential Liability in Fixed Object Car Accidents
As the driver of the only damaged vehicle in a crash, you are generally assumed to be at fault after striking a fixed object. However, you may still be able to file a claim if someone else’s negligence played a role in the accident.
For instance, you may be able to collect compensation if your accident was caused by:
- A “bounce-off” crash. If another motorist struck you before you hit the object, such as a driver sideswiping your vehicle and pushing it off of the roadway and into a guardrail, the other driver may be liable for crash costs.
- A near-miss incident. Someone may have entered your path suddenly, causing you to overcorrect and steer your car off the road. If another driver was texting, drunk, or simply not paying attention and swerved in front of you, they could be held responsible.
- A negligent property owner. Property owners have a duty to keep roads clear of objects that could cause harm. If you swerved to avoid an unsecured animal or struck a manmade object that was built too near the roadway, the property owner may be liable.
- Hazardous road conditions. City and state governments may be responsible for accidents caused by dangerous curves or missing road signs. Additionally, trucking companies must contain their cargo to prevent car accidents due to spilled gravel or road debris.
- A defective product. Single-vehicle crashes often occur from a sudden tire blowout, brake failure, or other vehicle malfunction that causes a driver to lose control of the vehicle. Motorists may also be impaired or even fall asleep behind the wheel after taking dangerous prescription medications.
If someone else’s actions caused your injuries, attorney Paul Cavonis can advise you on all of your legal options and help you get the compensation you deserve. Simply fill out the form on this page today or give us a call to get started.