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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How much is my Florida car accident claim worth?
Many accident victims want to know how much they could receive if they proceed with a car accident claim. The amount of compensation depends on your losses. The amount of your losses make the difference between filing an insurance claim and filing an injury lawsuit.
Since losses vary widely depending on the circumstances of the case, it literally pays to accurately calculate how much your life has been affected by the crash.
Types of Compensable Losses in a Florida Crash Claim
While no victim can completely predict how much compensation they'll receive in a car accident case, they may be able to estimate the range of compensation available in each category of loss.
When totaling the costs of your claim, remember to account for:
Past and future medical bills
Medical costs of an accident can quickly soar into the tens of thousands, especially if a victim needs ongoing care. Everything from emergency medical treatment and initial hospital stays to prescriptions and follow up appointments should be factored into the total, as well as a doctor’s estimate of your future treatment costs.
It's common for injury victims to miss work for several weeks after a crash, and they often have limitations on the amount they can earn while they recover. Lost wages should include:
- All time spent off work due to the accident
- Any money lost due to working part time because of injury limitation
- Work missed to attend doctor’s appointments
- All wages you are likely to lose in the future due to the effects of the accident
If you are unable to work at all for the rest of your life, the total amount of your lost income is typically estimated by taking your annual earnings and multiplying by the number of years you have left until retirement age. This amount is adjusted for inflation, raises and bonuses, and cost-of-living adjustments.
The damage to your vehicle can make up a significant portion of your claim. When your car is damaged in a Florida crash, you have the right to choose a body shop and have your vehicle repaired with "like" kind and condition parts. You can also hold the at-fault driver accountable for the cost of a rental car, as well as for the time that you were without a vehicle due to the accident.
If the cost to repair your vehicle is more than 80 percent of its fair market value, your insurer can declare the vehicle a "total" loss. In this case, the at-fault driver can be on the hook for some or all of the value of the totaled vehicle, as well as any other personal property—such as eyeglasses, electronics, car seats, stereos, or luggage—that were lost or damaged in the crash.
If you needed to make changes in your living situation due to the accident, you can claim the costs of these expenses. These may include installing a wheelchair ramp, hiring visiting nurses or caregivers, moving into a one-floor home, or moving into a 24-hour care facility.
Permanent physical effects
Long-term or permanent effects of an accident can have financial and psychological consequences for a victim. Permanent disability may often lead to depression, while scarring or disfigurement can significantly impact a victim’s career options and earning capacity. It's best to have an experienced injury attorney calculate the full impact of these losses.
Non-economic damages, also called punitive damages, are an amount above and beyond the exact dollar amount that you paid or will pay for the accident. The court will assign these based on its impression of the suffering you've endured, whether the accident forced you to change your regular activities, effect on your marriage or relationships, and your overall quality of life. The judge may assign further punitive damages to compensate you for the other driver’s negligence, such as if the other driver was drunk or texting at the time of the crash.
We Can Help
If you need help calculating your losses after a crash, we can provide a personalized assessment of your case at no cost to you. From your first consultation to the conclusion of your case, you won't have to pay our firm until you receive compensation. Fill out the contact form on this page today to have us begin an investigation into your accident claim.
What are the most common kinds of car accident injuries?
Car accidents happen so frequently, it's nearly impossible to find someone whose life hasn't been affected by a crash. Even when an accident doesn't cause serious injury, it can still result in the loss of a vehicle or time off of work to recover from the strain.
The good news is that most accidents are entirely preventable—and just knowing how they're most likely to occur can help you avoid a crash before it happens.
Different Types of Car Accidents Can Cause a Wide Range of Injuries
The most frequent crash scenario by far is the rear-end accident. One car is following another too closely, and the lead car suddenly stops, forcing the following car directly into the back end. In these accidents, the most common injury sustained by the driver and passengers in the lead car is whiplash. The driver of the following car is almost always determined to be at fault.
After rear-end collisions, the most common kinds of car accidents fall into the following categories:
- Left turn accidents. Accidents tend to occur in intersections or anywhere cars may cross paths. The most common example is the left turn accident, where a driver attempts to make a left turn in the path of a driver going straight through the intersection. Common front-end damages for drivers and passengers in the crash include facial injuries or chest trauma from front airbags, and broken bones if the cross impact was severe and they're not protected by side airbags.
- Head-on collisions. These happen when two vehicles strike each other on the front, usually because one or both drivers veer out of their travel lanes. Head-on crashes cause serious injuries and are often fatal, especially since motorists in these accidents tend to travel at high speeds.
- Side-impact accidents. These collisions are also known as “broadside” or "T-bone" accidents, as the front of one vehicle strikes the side of another. A left-turn accident is a type of side-impact crash. Most side impact crashes are due to driver inattention or speeding, and both behaviors make injuries more likely.
- Sideswipe accidents. Any traffic situation that requires vehicles to travel close to one another has the potential to cause an accident. Merging is especially dangerous, as it may force cars to “line up” while traveling at high speeds, increasing the risk of a sideswipe collision. Two cars that collide while traveling in the same direction can cause body damage to the vehicles and soft-tissue injuries for both drivers—and more serious injuries can occur if one of the drivers loses control.
- Single-vehicle crashes. These happen when a car runs off the road, strikes a tree, or spins out on ice or gravel. While a driver is generally assumed to be at fault for this type of crash, he or she may still be able to file a claim against a municipal entity or construction company if the road wasn't properly cleared of debris, and such conditions contributed to the accident.
- Multi-vehicle accidents. A multi-vehicle collision can involve many different individual kinds of crashes and injuries. These kinds of accidents usually occur on highways or in densely-populated areas, and they carry unique complications due to the various types of vehicles involved and the number of victims. Rescue workers may also have trouble reaching victims in the middle of the pile-up, while a fire from one vehicle can quickly spread throughout the crash area. Vehicles involved in these accidents are sometimes hit multiple times, further increasing the risk of injury.
Getting Help If You've Been Injured
While the type of car accident can affect the range and seriousness of injuries, there are many other factors that might determine how much a car accident case will be worth. If the driver who struck you was speeding, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or texting before the crash, the driver can be held liable for negligence and you could recover a significant amount for your injuries.
Fill out the contact form on this page today to have us begin an investigation into your accident claim.
Where does my income go when I am on nursing home Medicaid?
Income rules for long-term care Medicaid have a number of moving parts that vary based upon marital status.
A single person on Medicaid in the nursing home must pay their countable income to the facility as part of his "patient's responsibility." In effect, the Medicaid applicant must pay their income to the facility as part of their co-pay, where Medicaid pays the rest of the funds for the resident's stay. The single applicant is allowed to keep $105/month as part of his "personal needs allowance." This allows the resident to buy personal items such as clothing and toiletries.
A married person in the nursing home has the same set of rules with one large qualification - the spouse at home may be able to keep some of the applicant's income as part of the community spouse's income allowance (CSIA). The community spouse may be able to siphon off some of the applicant's income based upon the community spouse's own income. An example of this is as follows:
Married nursing home resident with $2,000/month income applies for Medicaid. The spouse at home (the community spouse) only has income of $1,000/month. The spouse at home, as a minimum, may keep $1,030/month of the resident's income, at a minimum. This amount varies annually (see below for up-to-date numbers). This means that the nursing home resident can keep $105 per month as their personal needs allowance, paying $865/m to the nursing home as their patient's responsibility. ($2,000 minus $1030 minus $105 = $865).
If the applicant's gross income exceeds $2250/month, they will need a Qualifed Income Trust (QIT). The QIT generally does not effect where the income goes (i.e., to the nursing home/community spouse) but how it gets there.
We go into much greater detail about the Minimum Monthly Maintenance Allowance, the community spouse's income and the spousal spousal diversion on this page.
The Florida Medicaid financial requirements change frequently, with this post being the most up-to-date numbers for eligibility.
If your loved one is looking at long-term care or Medicaid in Florida, you are welcome to attend one of our free monthly seminars to learn more!
Do I need an attorney to apply for VA benefits for my elder?
The short answer is "maybe."
VA Pension benefits were created to assist with the veteran, and his or her surviving spouse's, extraordinary health care needs. Most people refer to this program as "aid and attendance", which is a specific benefit level for those needing the most help. We have more about veteran's benefits for the elderly here.
VA Pension benefits are "needs based", meaning the applicant must have only a certain amount of countable assets. The VA rules basically want the applicant to need the money for their healthcare but that the funds are not intended to provide an inheritance to the children. This means that the applicant is allowed countable asset limits based upon the applicant's age and money they are spending on their healthcare. For instance, a 65 year old veteran may be allowed $80,000 in countable assets but a 90 year old veteran applying for pension may only be allowed to have $30,000 in assets.
So the general rule is that an elder law attorney is not needed to apply for VA benefits if the assets are already within the applicable range. Here, we typically send people to their local Veterans Services office provided by most counties. If the applicant has assets over the limit, then an elder law attorney can help protect assets and only then apply for VA benefits. A good elder law attorney can protect assets with:
- legal gifting;
- asset restructuring;
- irrevocable trust planning;
- and more . . .
One key to all this planning is that whatever is done to protect assets must not interfere with potential Medicaid benefits in the future. We typically use VA Pension benefits to help with in-home and assisted living care while we generally look to Medicaid to pay for the nursing home.
What does this all mean? If your elder is a veteran or is the surviving spouse of a war-time veteran, you should see an accredited Veteran's Benefits attorney to help clarify your situation and if an attorney is needed.
We offer free seminars on Medicaid and VA planning if your elder may need help. Sign up here to attend!
Will I lose my home if I go to the nursing home on Medicaid?
The short answer is "no" with a few caveats.
First, your Florida homestead is not a countable asset for Medicaid purposes unless it is over $560,000 in assets. If you are married, there is no cap in the value to the homestead. This means that you are allowed to own a home if you are in the nursing home. Further, even if you stay in the nursing home for a long period of time, you will never lose your homestead. The family can hold onto the home for years, for instance, and it will not become a countable asset for Medicaid purposes. We have another page on the financial requirements for Florida Medicaid.
When you die, the state of Florida has a claim in your estate for what they paid to assist you with Medicaid. Importantly, your homestead property is not subject to your creditors, even the state of Florida, so "the state" does not take it, even upon your death!
As with all legal rules, there is a good bit of nuance here and there that can get an unprepared family in trouble, so you should always seek out legal advice to make sure your case would not have any problems. For instance, problems can occur if you:
- rent the homestead property
- own a co-operative share (such as Seminole Gardens)
- or the last will and testaments makes the homestead property be sold upon death.
If you want to learn more about your homestead and how it interacts with Medicaid, please download our free guide to protecting your Florida Homestead property.
Attend a Free Seminar!
We give free monthly seminars on estate planning and elder law - sign here here to attend!
Can I give $14,000 per year to a child to protect it from the nursing home?
No! We get this question all of the time. Many people are concerned about protecting their assets in the event they go into the nursing home. We all know that the nursing home is very expensive, often exceeding $9,000 per month. Of course, none of us ever want to go into the nursing home, but sometimes this is the only place that can provide the correct care for an aging loved one. But the $15,000 per year annual exclusion (2018) relates only to the Federal estate tax annual limit, not to the rules of Medicaid.
Basically, the $15,000 annual gift tax exclusion has nothing to do with the Medicaid 5 year lookback. The Florida rule is that you are not allowed to give away any money if you apply for Medicaid within 5 years of the last gift. This makes sense as the government wants to discourage asset protection or people intentionally impoverishing themselves. If you give money away, the gifting creates a transfer penalty. This blog post discusses calculating the Florida Medicaid transfer penalty.
If you want to protect your assets from the nursing home, there are some good ways to do it with good advice from a qualified elder law attorney. But gifting the assets away at $15,000 per year is generally not the way to do it. Giving assets away should be done in a lump sum in certain scenarios, and if you want to try to protect money from the nursing home, would generally be done to an irrevocable asset protection trust. If your mom or dad is already in the nursing home, there are legal ways to protect assets and also to do Medicaid spend down planning.
Importantly, you should seek help from a qualified elder law attorney if you want to protect assets. Sign up for a free seminar on Medicaid, VA and asset protection planning if you want to learn more.
You can read more about gifting and other aspects of Medicaid and the application process with the following articles:
- 7 Lies Regarding Florida Medicaid
- Can assets be protected even if my mother is already in the nursing home?
- Florida Long-Term Care Medicaid Requirements
Download my Free Book!
Please feel free to download my free book, Don't Lose Your Nest Egg to a Florida Nursing Home, which discussed Medicaid, long-term care, asset protection planning and more.
My tenant at a residential property is late on their rent, what can I do?
Residential tenancies are governed by Chapter 83, Part II, Florida Statutes. In the event your tenant fails to timely make a rental payment, a 3-day notice should be provided to your tenant demanding payment of rent or possession of the premises. Should your tenant fail to comply with the 3-day notice, you may terminate the rental agreement. Should your tenant fail to vacate the premises upon such a termination, an eviction proceeding may be filed in county court where the rental property is located. It is important to note that the form and delivery of the 3-day notice must comply with the specific requirements set forth in Chapter 83. It is recommended that you consult with an attorney to address any questions you may have regarding proper notice to tenants or filing an eviction action.
If I must file a lawsuit to evict my tenant, may I recover my attorney’s fees expended?
Generally, to recover attorney’s fees in litigation there must either be a contractual or statutory right to same. Chapter 83, Florida Statutes provides for recovery of prevailing party attorney’s fees in certain circumstances. It is also recommended that in any written lease provisions for entitlement to attorney’s fees be included. Such provisions, when read in conjunction with Chapter 83, Florida Statutes, may be useful in recovering attorney’s fees incurred in any litigation necessary to enforce the terms of the lease.
Please call me at (727) 397-5571 or fill out a contact form if you have any questions about landlord and tenant law.
Am I required to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle in Florida?
While it may be legal for some people to ride motorcycles without helmets in Florida, it's a good idea for riders to wear helmets at all times.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that bikers without helmets are 15 percent more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries, and roughly twice as likely to suffer fatal head injuries, after an accident than helmeted riders.
With that being said, state law only requires riders who are under the age of 21 to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle. This state law is compliant with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Riders over the age of 21 may operate or ride motorcycles without helmets as long as they're covered under an insurance policy that offers at least $10,000 in injury benefit protection.
In addition, Florida law requires riders of all ages to wear eye protection such as goggles or face shields while operating a motorcycle, even the motorcycle is equipped with a windshield. Sunglasses and prescription glasses are usually not considered adequate to meet the eye protection requirement.
License Requirements for Florida Motorcyclists
Proper training and licensing is essential in the prevention of Florida motorcycle accidents. Florida has strict licensing and road skills assessment requirements for any person wishing to operate a two or three wheeled motorcycle with an engine size greater than 50cc. Motorcycle operators may be obtain a license by achieving and maintaining a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s licenses or by holding a Motorcycle Only license.
In general, motorcyclists need to compete the following to be legally licensed in Florida:
- Florida driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement. Drivers who wish to add a motorcycling endorsement to their licenses must hold at least a valid Class E operator’s license, as well as pass the Basic Rider Course (BRC), offered through the Florida Rider Training Program, with an authorized sponsor. These courses involve on-cycle riding sessions to practice road safety techniques and cover a variety of programs on gauging the riding environment, understanding hazards, and avoiding crashes. A motorcycle endorsement can be added to a license within one year of successful completion of the BRC.
- Motorcycle Only license. By state law, no person under 16 can legally operate or obtain a license to operate a motorcycle, moped, motorized scooter, motorized bicycle, or any other two or three wheel motor vehicle on Florida street or highways. In addition, anyone who is at least 16 but under 18, will have to hold a Learner’s License for at least one year, with no traffic convictions, before applying for motorcycle licensing. If you are over 16, you must pass the same road knowledge test that is necessary for a regular Class E driver license, and you must complete the BRC with an authorized sponsor. When the BRC is successfully completed, you must report the completion of the course and show your state-issued ID to a driver’s license office. You will need to pay any required vehicle or endorsement fees before your Motorcycle Only license can be issued, and the license will be restricted to operating motorcycles.
- Motorcycle endorsement on a driver’s license issued by another state. If your driver’s license was issued by a state other than Florida and is endorsed for motorcycle operation, Florida will recognize the endorsement automatically. The only exception is for holders of Alabama licenses with motorcycle endorsements, who must provide proof of completion of a Motorcycle Safety Foundation BRC, or complete the BRC, before the motorcycle endorsement is considered valid.
Although many motorcyclists take every hill and corner with the utmost care, motorcyclists are often surrounded by drivers who may not practice the same diligent safety precautions. If you or someone you love has been involved in a motorcycle accident, our aggressive legal team can take over the case while you take the time you need to recover. Simply fill out the form on this page today to make an appointment in our offices.
Should I Get A Property Survey When Purchasing Real Property?
When purchasing real property, one of the issues presented is - Should I get a survey?
If you are financing your purchase, the decision will undoubtedly be made for you by your lender. Most, if not all, lenders will require a survey of the property so that the survey exception will be removed from the lender's title insurance policy.
If you are paying cash for the property, you must decide whether or not to obtain a survey. The following are some guidelines for you to follow:
A) If the property is not a platted lot within a subdivision, you should definitely obtain a survey;
B) If the property is a platted lot within a subdivision and the neighboring properties do not have any improvements near the apparent boundary lines of the property, a survey is probably not necessary;
C) If there are improvements near the apparent boundary lines of the property, a survey would be recommended;
D) If you intend to make any improvements to the property post-closing (a room addition or the installation of a swimming pool), you should definitely obtain a survey.
In the last case, once you have the survey in hand, you should visit with the building officials in your city or county to verify that you can, in fact, build what you desire to build upon the property.
The cost of a survey is generally low in relation to the cost of the purchase itself. Therefore, when in doubt, obtain a survey and present it to your closing agent so that your title insurance policy will not contain a survey exception. Additionally, when you sell your property, your buyer may be able to use your survey.
What identification do I need to bring to my real estate closing?
At a real estate closing, many documents are executed by the seller and buyer. A substantial number of the documents must be notarized by a notary public.
Section 117.05(5) of the Florida Statutes provides that a notary public may not notarize a signature on a document unless he or she personally knows, or has satisfactory evidence, that the person whose signature is to be notarized is the individual who is executing the instrument.
It is highly unlikely that you will personally know the notary public at your closing, therefore, you must provide the notary public with at least one of the following forms of identification:
- A Florida identification card or driver's license issued by the public agency authorized to issue driver's licenses;
- A passport issued by the U.S. Department of State;
- A passport issued by a foreign government if the document is stamped by the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services;
- A driver's license issued by a public agency authorized to issue driver's licenses in a state other than Florida, a territory of the United States, or Canada or Mexico;
- An identification card issued by a territory of the United States or a state other than Florida;
- An identification card issued by any branch of the armed forces of the United States; or,
- An identification card issued by the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
We highly recommend to our clients that they obtain a Florida identification card if they no longer possess a driver's license.
What is sovereign immunity in Florida?
Sovereign Immunity: "The King can do no wrong."
Sovereign immunity is a legal principal that dates back to ancient times. It comes from the idea that "the King can do no wrong" and could not be sued. Sovereign immunity is still very much alive and well. As a result, you can't sue the government unless you have specific permission to do so. This principle is reflected in the Florida Constitution which states that suits may be filed against the state only as permitted by law. Florida law provides for a limited waiver of sovereign immunity which permits suits against the state under certain circumstances.
Sovereign immunity applies not only to "the state", as that term is generally understood, but also to agencies of the state and private entities performing what are essentially governmental services. Generally speaking, the state can be sued for breach of contract and for torts (negligence and intentional wrongdoing). However, there are specific procedures which must be followed in order to sue the state, particularly when suing the state for a tort claim. The Florida Tort Claims Act sets forth this procedure. Most importantly, the Florida Tort Claims Act requires a claimant to send a notice to the government within 3 years from the date of the claim. It may be necessary to send this notice to multiple governmental agencies. It is important to note that the 3 year deadline to serve the notice is shorter than the 4 four year statute of limitations to bring a tort action. The claim will be barred if the notices are not timely sent.
Although Florida Law provides for a limited waiver of sovereign immunity, the amount of money which can be recovered from the state by an individual claimant in a tort action is limited to $200,000. There are exceptions to this cap when there is an insurance policy exceeding the $200,000 cap. In the absence of an insurance policy exceeding the $200,000 cap, a claimant may pursue what is called a "claims bill". This is essentially an application to the state legislature to pass a law allowing the state to pay a claim in excess of the $200,000 cap. It is extremely difficult to get a claims bill passed in the legislature.
I have experience bringing claims against the state and state agencies. I welcome the opportunity to discuss any sovereign immunity related claim you may have. To learn more, please visit HelpForTheHurt.com.
How can I pay my medical bills after a pedestrian accident?
When two cars collide, the victims have the benefit of airbags, steel frames, and countless safety measures to protect them from harm. People who are struck while walking or cycling have no such protection, causing injuries to be much more severe. Pedestrians involved in vehicle accidents are usually sent to the emergency room, may have a lengthy hospitalization, and are out of work for weeks, or even months, all of which, can be extremely costly.
The High Medical Costs of a Florida Pedestrian Accident
Pedestrians and bicyclists are often struck when vehicles turn in front of them, wander into pedestrian paths, or in a moment where the driver’s attention wasn't on the road. In just a few seconds, a pedestrian can suffer severe disability or even death as a result of being struck by a car or hitting the pavement at a high speed.
Common injuries in pedestrian-car crashes often include:
- Head injuries. A pedestrian will usually suffer traumatic brain injury (TBI) as his or her head makes contact with the hood of a car or the road surface. Even if a bicyclist is wearing a helmet, he or she can still suffer concussions or brain bleeding that results in long-term brain damage.
- Chest and abdominal trauma. The force of impact can break a pedestrian’s bones, causing fractured ribs, a broken pelvis, and internal bleeding.
- Spinal injuries. Bicyclists and pedestrians often suffer back injuries, such as a herniated disc or a spinal fracture that results in temporary or permanent paralysis.
- Injuries to the extremities. In addition to internal injury, pedestrians may suffer broken hands, feet, and fingers as they attempt to brace their falls—or road rash and broken noses if they're unsuccessful.
- Death. An impact at high speed can easily cause loss of life for a pedestrian or cyclist, placing an enormous financial and emotional burden on surviving family members.
Methods of Payment for Pedestrian Accident Victims
There are many ways for accident victims to get compensation for the loss of their property, the costs of medical treatment, and even pain and suffering after a crash. Some of the most common methods include:
- The pedestrian’s car insurance. Florida is a no-fault insurance state, meaning each driver is expected to cover the costs of his or her own injuries after a car accident. All drivers are required to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to cover any injuries caused by car accidents. If the injured pedestrian or bicyclist also owns a motor vehicle that's insured in the State of Florida, the victim can use his PIP car insurance coverage to pay for his injuries, even if his vehicle wasn't involved in the accident. If the injured pedestrian doesn't own a vehicle, he or she can be covered under the insurance policy of a relative living in the same household that owns an insured vehicle.
- The driver’s car insurance. If the injured pedestrian doesn't own a car and doesn't live with someone who owns a car, he or she can get payment under the insurance of the at-fault driver. This coverage provides medical, surgical, disability insurance, and funeral benefits to the driver and to other persons struck by an insured vehicle. In general, PIP providers are required to pay 80 percent of medical bills and up to 60 percent of lost wages directly caused by the effects of the crash up to a limit of $10,000.
- The pedestrian’s health or disability insurance. Although PIP insurance can pay for a significant amount of a person’s injuries, it's often not enough to cover the full effects of a pedestrian accident. A victim may have to file a claim under his a health insurance or apply for disability benefits if he's unable to work or needs ongoing medical care due to the crash.
- A personal injury lawsuit. Many people who are struck while walking or cycling don't have enough insurance coverage to pay for the extent of the treatment they'll need to recover from their injuries. Some won't ever be able to function at the same level as before the accident, and may not ever be able to earn a living to support themselves or their families. In these cases, victims would be best served by speaking to an accident attorney about their case. A personal injury case may be the best way to recover lost income, ensure that future health costs are paid for, and to hold the driver accountable for pain and suffering.
We Can Help
If you or someone you love has been involved in a car-pedestrian accident, our aggressive legal team can take over your case while take the time you need to heal from your injuries. Simply fill out the form on this page today to make an appointment in our offices.
Why do I need an injury attorney with truck accident experience?
In the days and weeks after a semi-truck accident, victims are forced to struggle with overwhelming physical and financial demands. They may be coping with extensive injuries, have trouble collecting fair payment from an insurance company, or even have lost a family member in the crash. When it becomes clear that a person needs a legal advisor to get proper compensation, he is then faced with an important decision: which accident attorney should represent him?
The Importance of Choosing an Injury Attorney with Truck Accident Experience
Crash injury cases are normally complicated, but are even more so when commercial trucks are involved. In order to be fully compensated for your losses, your legal team must have the experience needed to win these types of claims—and the attorney you choose for representation can make or break your case.
Your truck crash attorney should be well-versed in the details of these kinds of cases, including:
- Trucking regulations. Trucking companies must adhere to federal regulations on the condition and proper operation of their vehicles. Improper maintenance, cost-cutting measures, and failure to properly screen and train drivers can also constitute negligence. Your attorney should be familiar with these laws as well as the penalties for breaking them, in order to negotiate a fair settlement.
- Commercial insurance companies. Payment for truck accident injuries will usually be made by the trucking company’s insurer. These commercial insurance carriers are paid based on their ability to save the company money, may use underhanded tactics to deny or underpay claims. Your lawyer must know how to negotiate with commercial insurance companies and handle a claim against a powerful defendant.
- Loading requirements. In some cases, accidents may be caused by cargo loaded by a truck driver and hauled in the semi, or another party may have loaded the trailer. A truck loaded beyond capacity or not loaded securely could make the rig unbalanced, causing cargo to spill into the road where it strikes a car. A lawyer's full understanding of loading and commercial transport laws is vital to a truck crash case.
- Third party claims. Some accidents are caused not by trucking company negligence, but the fault of a product manufacturer, government agency, or other entity. Just as a loading company may share fault for causing a crash, the maker of defective tires or brakes, or a city government that didn't address dangerous road conditions, may be held liable for an accident.
- Hours of service requirements. Truck driver fatigue is a major cause of Florida trucking accidents. Although there are strict regulations on the length of time a driver can spend behind the wheel, truckers and their employers often disregard them, in order to make more deliveries. Your attorney should make a full investigation into the trucker’s driving logs, driving history, and company policies regarding mandatory breaks and non-driving time.
- Crash scene investigation. Trucking companies and their insurers gather evidence and investigate the scene immediately after a crash. They have procedures in place to reduce their liability and limit the financial recovery of people injured in the crash, and get started before the victims have even left the hospital. Your attorney must immediately conduct a crash scene investigation on your behalf, this includes requesting any evidence collected by the opposition, and issue a spoliation letter to preserve evidence.
- Proving the extent of your injuries. A collision with a semi-truck is more likely to cause severe injuries than with another passenger car. Your attorney should be able to accurately total the amount of damages you are owed, including your past medical bills, damage to your vehicle, lost income, future medical or disability costs, and a fair amount for the pain and suffering you have endured. If you've lost a loved one, your attorney should build a strong claim to recover compensation for the family’s loss and to punish the trucking company for any wrongdoing that led to an untimely death.
From collecting evidence to filing your claim, we have the legal experience it takes to get you fair compensation for your truck accident case. Our attorneys can take over the fight on your behalf and will advise you of all of your legal options while you focus on your recovery. Simply fill out the form on this page today to make an appointment in our offices.
Can I sue a bar for over serving a drunk driver in Florida?
Many people assume that a drunk driver is the only person responsible for causing a DUI accident.
However, there are a few third parties that can be held liable for drunk driving accidents in Florida, such as the person or establishment that provided alcohol to the driver.
Dram Shop Liability for Drunk Driving in Florida
Florida allows claims against businesses that serve alcohol to certain persons under a provision known as "dram shop" laws. However, not all third parties who provide alcohol can be held liable for the costs of an alcohol-related accident.
For instance, different liability rules apply to:
- Bars and restaurants. Florida's dram shop law differs from other state’s laws, because in Florida, it doesn't specifically prohibit an establishment from serving alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated. Instead, the law focuses on a bar’s liability for serving alcohol to anyone under age 21, as well as the establishment knowingly providing alcohol to someone who's "habitually addicted" to alcohol.
In both cases, the bar or restaurant could be held liable for injuries caused by intoxicated minors or drunk drivers with known addictions. This exception is based on the assumption that alcoholic drivers lack the ability to make safe and responsible decisions about drinking, and the operator serving the driver assumes that responsibility. The law even allows the drunk driver himself to collect injury and property damages from the bar that served him, as long as the bartender or provider of alcohol was aware of the driver’s alcohol dependence.
- Liquor stores. Establishing accident liability for a liquor store, grocery store, or another vendor of closed containers of alcohol is particularly difficult, since it's harder to establish fault for products that aren't consumed immediately after purchase. However, Florida businesses that sell beer, wine, and spirits to minors or people with a known history of addiction to alcohol can be held liable just as proprietors of bars and restaurants can. In the case of minors, a bar or liquor store may be held strictly liable for damages caused by the drunk-driving minor, even if the establishment was unaware the person was a minor at the time of sale.
- Social hosts. Hosts of parties or participants in social gatherings cannot be held liable for any injuries caused by drunk driving unless they willingly and knowingly provide alcohol to a minor. If alcohol is given to or accessed by a person under 21 at a private gathering, the host or property owner can face fines and civil damages as well as criminal charges.
A successful dram shop claim can provide victims and their families with many different kinds of compensation. A bar or restaurant can be held liable for the costs of emergency room care, surgery, inpatient hospital stays, rehabilitation, medications, and in-home assistive care. In addition, a business may have to pay for the victim’s lost wages, future disability expenses, lost or damaged property, and funds to compensate the victim for unnecessary pain and suffering.
What Recourse Do You Have?
In order to get payment for injuries and property losses, victims have to prove that the business was aware of the circumstances in which it was providing alcohol to a minor or addicted driver, and that the actions of the waiter or bartender directly led to the accident. The victim or his family must also file a claim within the time limit allowed for Florida injury claims, otherwise the case won't be heard by the court and the victims will lose their right to legal action. Victims only have four years from the date of injury to bring a case against a dram shop—and unfortunately, evidence is often destroyed in the days and weeks following the accident.
If you're considering filing a drunk driving case, it's best to speak with our attorneys as quickly as possible. Simply fill out the form on this page today to make an appointment in our offices, or call the number on this page to speak to an attorney about your legal options.
- Bars and restaurants. Florida's dram shop law differs from other state’s laws, because in Florida, it doesn't specifically prohibit an establishment from serving alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated. Instead, the law focuses on a bar’s liability for serving alcohol to anyone under age 21, as well as the establishment knowingly providing alcohol to someone who's "habitually addicted" to alcohol.
Compensation for Diminished Value in a Florida Car Accident Claim
As a Florida driver, you know how important it is to carry an adequate amount of car insurance. It's required by law, and buying the best coverage you can afford will also help you get medical care and insurance payments for property damage after an accident.
Unfortunately, there are some situations in which insurance won't be enough to cover your losses after a crash.
For instance, if you were struck while driving your brand-new car, the car will now have an accident history. Even if the repairs are excellent and the car still looks brand-new, it was involved in a collision, which can take thousands of dollars off of the resale value. In these cases, a diminished value claim can help drivers collect the difference between the original price and post-accident price of their vehicles.
Getting Compensation in a Diminished Value Claim
Florida law allows drivers to recover the difference between a car’s pre-crash value and its value after repairs from an insurer. Our attorneys only represent clients in diminished value claims when handling a car accident claim that has caused personal injuries.
Compensation for the lost value of your car depends on the following factors:
- Fault. In Florida, you can only seek compensation for diminished value from an at-fault driver's insurance company. If you are found to be at fault for the accident, you won't be able to pursue a diminished value claim against your policy.
- Time limits. Florida drivers have four years from the date of accident to file a diminished value claim against an at-fault driver.
- Appraisals. You'll need an accurate appraisal of the car’s value both before the accident and after the repairs have been done. An experienced appraiser uses a variety of metrics to determine the amount of value a vehicle has lost, including an analysis of the auto market in your area, inspection of the collision damage, and thorough knowledge of how damage history affects auto depreciation. Since most used cars are sold to dealers, it's helpful to obtain a trade-in value letter from several car dealers with an estimate of the value of your car. The dealership should also state the reasons why your car is valued at that trade-in price, drawing a clear line from an accident history to a lower retail value.
- Evidence. There are many ways to prove the loss in value of your vehicle. For example, if the repairs didn't restore the car to its exact condition before the crash, you must show adequate evidence to support this, such as copies of work orders outlining which parts were used and how they affect a car’s performance. If the car doesn't look the same, you should have photos of mismatched paint, gaps in seals, and other aesthetic differences.
Get The Right Legal Help For Your Florida Accident
Insurance companies often fight car accident claims, denying a driver’s right to recover for their injuries or lowballing the amount of equity that has been lost. If our attorneys are handling your personal injury claim, we can inspect vehicles, review your repair documents, draft demand letters to insurance companies, and fight for your rights in court. Let us maximize the value of your car wreck claim and deal with the insurance company on your behalf. If you have been injured in a wreck and concerned about getting fair compensation for your injuries and the damage done to your vehicle, contact us today for an evaluation of your car accident case.