Personal Injury - Do I Have a Strong Legal Case? What Am I Entitled to Under the Law? What Will I Be Able to Recover in My Pocket?
These are all excellent questions. While the questions may seem to be somewhat similar, they are not. Let's go through each question to show you why.Do I Have a Strong Legal Case?
When evaluating a legal case, an experienced personal injury attorney must know the law and then be able to apply the facts to the law. In the State of Florida, an automobile accident injury victim may be entitled to compensation for economic losses and non-economic losses (i.e. pain and suffering). Let's go with an example of a case that would be a very strong "legal case". Here are the facts. Mr. John Doe, a 40 year old man, is stopped at a red light on a clear sunny day. Mr. Doe has his seatbelt on and is patiently waiting at the light for about 30 seconds. Out of the blue, Mr. Bad Guy, a 25 year old man, is speeding towards the same light behind Mr. Doe. Mr. Bad Guy is on his mobile phone texting his buddy about a video he saw. Without even attempting to apply his brakes, Mr. Bad Guy crashes his vehicle into the rear end of Mr. John Doe's vehicle. The force of the crash crushes Mr. John Doe's vehicle. The police and fire rescue unit arrive on the scene. Mr. Bad Guy tells Mr. John Doe that he was texting while driving and apologized for causing the crash. The apology is even captured on video by a witness who stopped at the scene of the accident to render assistance. The witness also say Mr. Bad Guy texting on his phone prior to the crash. The police interview both drivers. Mr. John Doe suffers a traumatic brain injury, neck injury, and fractured leg as a result of the crash and is transported over to an emergency room for further treatment and evaluation.
Certainly, Mr. John Doe has a very strong legal case to pursue against Mr. Bad Guy. Mr. John Doe also has a very strong case to pursue against the owner of the other vehicle if it is owned by somebody other than Mr. Bad Guy. In Florida, a driver has the duty to exercise caution and reasonable care. Drivers should obey posted speed limits, traffic signs, and traffic signals. There is also a duty to pay attention to road conditions and traffic. Furthermore, there is a duty to remain alert. Again, this is a very strong legal case. Mr. John Doe suffered serious permanent injuries. As such, the liability is clear and the damages / injuries are significant. All around, this is an excellent legal case to pursue.What Am I Entitled To Under the Law?
If the other driver is at fault for a crash, the injury victim is entitled to the following types of damages:
- Property Damage Expenses (Repairs or Total Loss of Vehicle);
- Diminished Value of the Vehicle (if Vehicle is Repaired);
- Past Medical Bills;
- Past Wage Loss;
- Past Pain and Suffering, Loss of Enjoyment of Life and Mental Anguish;
- Future Medical Bills;
- Future Wage Loss and Loss of Earning Capacity; and
- Future Pain and Suffering, Loss of Enjoyment of Life and Mental Anguish.
In Florida, there are some special laws in place as they pertain to automobile accidents. For instance, an injury victim must suffer a permanent injury to be entitled to damages related to past pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental anguish.What Will I Be Able To Recover in My Pocket?
This is a very different question that the prior two questions. What will I be able to recover in my pocket? This will depend on a number of factors. Primarily, with respect to the crash described above, it will depend on the type and amount of insurance coverage in place for the at-fault driver, at-fault owner, the victim, and the victim's family. There may be one source of insurance for recovery for this crash. There may be several sources of recovery. Then again, there may be zero sources of recovery from an insurance standpoint for this crash. As an experienced personal injury attorney, David Wolf advised his clients that he is as good as his facts and as good as the available insurance coverage or financial source of recovery for any particular case or crash.
After reading the facts of the crash and the injuries above, one would think that this is a million dollar plus case. Well, let's take a deeper drive into that statement. The case may have a potential value of a million dollars or more. However, the potential value of the case does not mean that the money will ever be collected or paid by the at-fault driver, the at-fault driver, or any of the insurance companies involved. Let's say that the at-fault driver and owner had an insurance policy of $100,000. Based on the injuries outlined above, it would be expected that the insurance company would offer to pay out the $100,000. Let's further say that the case is worth based on a consideration of all of the factors involved $1,000,000 (One Million Dollars). One may say that this is not fair. The case is worth $1,000,000 but the insurance company is only going to over $100,000. It seems a bit unfair; however, an insurance company cannot be made to pay out more than the coverage purchased. There are some limited cases in which an insurance company can be forced to pay more. This only happens when an insurance company acts in an unfair and unreasonable manner. This is called Bad Faith. This typically only happens when an insurance company refuses to pay out its policy limits when the case has a value well in excess of the policy limits. As such, if the insurance company offers up the $100,000 in a timely manner, that will be the extent of its obligation to settle the case.
From a practical standpoint, the focus of a personal injury case will be on the applicable and available insurance policy proceeds or limits. In the State of Florida, it is often difficult to collect money or a judgment from an individual. For $1,000 to $2,000 or so, a person can simply file for bankruptcy and avoid any financial responsibility for a debt or judgment owed by the person. So for the example above, if the case proceeds through a jury trial and there is a verdict / judgment in the amount of $1,000,000, the insurance company will still (per the facts set forth above) pay out $100,000. That leaves $900,000 that is technically owed by Mr. Bad Guy. If Mr. Bad Guy has limited assets, he can simply hire a bankruptcy attorney and discharge the $900,000 debt in bankruptcy.
As you can see above, the three questions below are quite different questions:
Do I Have a Strong Legal Case?
What Am I Entitled To Under The Law?
What Will I Be Able to Recover In My Pocket?
Because of the complexity of the law, rights of recovery, and insurance coverages, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to get a better understanding of your legal rights as well as the practicalities of a particular claim or case.
David Wolf is an experienced personal injury attorney with offices in Jacksonville, Flagler Beach, and Mount Dora Florida. As a lifelong Floridian, David Wolf is quite connected to the State and enjoys a vast network of connections in the legal, medical, and other professions to get the right resources in place for his injury victim clients. He is the author of 12 books including the book titled - Florida Automobile Accidents - Personal Injuries - Keys to Protecting and Enforcing Your Legal Rights.
David Wolf provides free consultations for all types of personal injury cases. You can contact David Wolf today at (386) 348-HOWL or (386) 348-4695. David Wolf is a proud small business and resident of Flagler County. He has been in practice for over 32 years and covers the State of Florida in the handling of personal injury cases. As a University of Florida Gator graduate, David Wolf is firmly rooted in the State of Florida as an attorney, professional, and community member. Attorney David Wolf firmly believes in Giving a Voice to Injury Victims and Their Families.