FAQs 2018-05-04T03:57:28+00:00

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Personal Injury

After an accident, it is common for the insurance company to request a recorded or written statement about the incident. Insurance adjusters are known to look out for the company’s interest not yours, so it is best to consult with an attorney before making a statement to an insurance adjuster. An insurance adjuster may also attempt to discreetly influence your statement, for example, by phrasing a question so that it is more favorable to their insureds version of events. It is always a good idea to rely upon an experienced personal injury attorney so that that your side of the case is presented in the best possible light and to avoid the possibility that your statements inadvertently diminish the potential value of your claim.

Generally speaking, negligence is defined as a person’s “failure to use reasonable care which causes damage or injury to another.” If a person acts negligently, they can be held legally responsible for the damage or injury caused by their careless behavior.

In Florida, even if your actions are partially to blame for injuries or damages that you sustain, you may still be eligible for partial compensation from the other party who was also at fault.

An individual who has sustained a personal injury in Florida has up to four years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury lawsuit.  This is a strict deadline and If you fail to meet it, your lawsuit will not be allowed to go forward in court.  The sooner you retain an experienced attorney to handle your claim and file your lawsuit, the better. This is to ensure that evidence is not lost or witness memory does not become faded or distorted over time.

The purpose of a personal injury lawsuit is not to be vindictive or to punish. The purpose is to compensate an injured person for their injuries and to make them whole again.  Our law firm strives to ensure that you are properly compensated so that you don’t have to worry about how to pay for past or future medical bills or past and future lost wages because of injuries caused by the careless conduct of another. Personal injury lawsuits also allow for compensation for emotional and psychological pain and suffering and inconvenience you suffered because of your injuries.

It is in your best interest to consult an attorney prior to accepting a settlement offer from an insurance company. Insurance companies like to settle cases for as little as possible and as quickly as possible. In a serious case, they may visit or contact you shortly after an accident, when you are at your most vulnerable and before you have had time to consider all of your options. If you accept a settlement and later learn that your injuries are worse than originally expected or learn that you can no longer work, the settlement may not be enough to cover all damages. Once an insurance settlement is accepted and finalized, you will not be able recover more money from the insurance company.

The amount of compensation varies from case to case and can only be determined after a full case review which will include your attorney’s evaluation of each party’s amount of fault in causing or contributing to the accident and the damages you sustained because of the incident. The amount of compensation to be awarded is typically based on the following factors:
● The amount of past and current medical bills
● The amount of future medical bills and costs
● Loss of past wages
● Loss of future earning capacity
● Pain and suffering from physical, mental, and emotional injuries
● A list of questions you may have;
● Copy of your police report or other documentation of the accident;
● Witness statements and contact information;
● Medical records and bills in your possession;
● Pictures, if you have any, of your injuries and the accident scene;
● Loss of income information; and
● Any communication you may have had with an insurance company.

Civil Litigation

Litigation is the process of taking legal action in court. In most cases litigation is pursued by a plaintiff (the party who files the lawsuit) to receive compensation or some form of restitution for damages from the defendant (the party being sued). Litigation is commonly referred to as a lawsuit.

Litigation can be more costly than alternative dispute resolution, i.e. negotiation and settlement before trial.  The overall cost depends on the complexity of the case and a number of other factors including, but not limited to: what it takes to prepare for your case, the amount of staff needed to work on your case, the experience level of the staff, actions required to respond to the Court or the actions of the opposing party, the type of case and the choices you make during the process. At your initial (and free) consultation we will discuss the legal fees and costs reasonably expected in your type of case.

The length of a case can vary based upon many factors, including the reason for the litigation, the willingness of the defendant to admit wrong doing, the amount of evidence available, among other variables. A lawsuit may take months to years to be completed at trial or to even reach a settlement.  We make it our priority to keep our clients informed about what to expect in their case so that there are few or no surprises.

The plaintiff is the person who files the lawsuit.  The defendant in the person being sued.

Whether the case is settled out of court or at trial, the judgment that is issued will specify the amount of compensation to be paid, how it shall be paid, and the timeframe the defendant has to make the payments. Winning a lawsuit does not mean you will leave home with a fat check.  Your attorney will be able to advise you on the timeframe for payment and generally what to expect when you win your case at trial.  The timing of payment will also depend on whether there is insurance available to pay a judgment after trial and whether or not the losing party files an appeal.

The most common types of alternative dispute resolution are negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. Negotiations and mediation are not legally binding but allow for both parties to meet and discuss their needs and where or how they may be willing to compromise. Arbitration is similar, however, decisions made during this process, can be legally binding. Resolving your case through one of these methods could save you money compared to going at trial. Also, you will have more of a say (and control) of the outcome if you are able to reach an agreement through alternative dispute resolution, as opposed to going to trial for a judge or jury decide the case.

If negotiations or mediation fail and no settlement can be agreed upon by both parties, then yes, your case will likely proceed to trial; however, most civil litigation cases are actually settled prior to going to trial.

Employment Discrimination and Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”

This can depend on what occurred during the incident. If you were subjected to a dirty joke or sexual banter, the individual may claim that they were unaware of your discomfort. It must be made clear in court that the conduct was unwanted. If you believe you have been the target of sexual harassment, you must make sure you clearly state to the person involved that their conduct is inappropriate and that you want it to stop.

If the conduct was more severe, such as the case with Quid Pro Quo or involved touching, one incident may be enough for a sexual harassment claim. Be sure if you plan to file suit that you have first made all of the necessary steps (see FAQ “What should I do if I am being harassed”).

Federal law makes it illegal to discriminate based on:
● Race
● Color
● National origin
● Religion
● Sex (including pregnancy/childbirth)
● Disability
● Age (of employees age 40 and older)
● Citizenship status
● Genetic information
In the State of Florida it is also illegal to discrimination based on:
● Marital status
● AIDS/HIV
● Sickle cell trait
● Sexual orientation (in about half of the counties)
Illegal harassment in the workplace occurs when you are subjected to discrimination based on a protected class. The most well-known form of harassment is sexual harassment, but there are other ways to be harassed. Harassment is broken into two categories:
● Quid Pro Quo: When a promotion, raise, job assignment, job retention, or other employment decision is based on your submission to the harassment.
● Hostile Work Environment: Created when comments, jokes, pictures, or touching makes you feel uncomfortable at work or even interferes with your job performance.

The first thing you should do if you are being harassed (sexually or otherwise) is to tell the perpetrator to stop. This is to provide proof that the conduct is unwanted. If you are uncomfortable confronting your harasser or the harassment has not stopped, follow your employer’s harassment policy and report it as soon as possible after it happens. Employers are only liable for harassment if they are aware of it.

Once your employer is made aware of the harassment issue, they are obligated to take reasonable steps to stop the harassment. Consequences may include a department transfer, sensitivity training, demotion, or firing depending on company policy.

If you are not satisfied with the way your employer handled your harassment complaint, you may next need to file a “charge of discrimination” with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (or your state’s fair employment practices agency). This step is a prerequisite before filing a lawsuit provided that your employer is subject to the federal or state law involved.  Employment discrimination laws are complicated and it is advisable to consult with an attorney to make sure you are taking the appropriate steps to protect your tights.  If you believe that you have suffered discrimination in the workplace, give us a call for a free initial consultation.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Coping with the loss of a loved one is difficult and we are truly sorry for your loss. If your loved one’s passing was the direct result of negligent acts, wrongful acts, unskillfulness, carelessness or the fault of another party then you may have grounds for filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

Punitive damages are meant to punish and make an example of the defendant to deter them and others from engaging in the same negligent or wrongful behavior that resulted in the wrongful death. Punitive damages are awarded under certain limited circumstances of gross negligence.

Although in most cases, blood relatives can initiate a wrongful death lawsuit.  Under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, a personal representative of the decedent’s estate must file the wrongful death lawsuit. In cases where there is not a will naming a representative, then the heirs (beneficiaries) of the deceased person’s estate usually select a representative amongst themselves. A court may appoint a representative if the beneficiaries are unable to agree. The personal representative will file the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of all of the beneficiaries.

Medical malpractice, failure to diagnose a disease, and other medical errors are some of the medically related wrongful death cases. Other wrongful death cases may include car accidents, drunk driving, or faulty products (including pharmaceuticals).

No. The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits are not the same. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit is only two years. The statute of limitation for a personal injury lawsuit is four years from the date of the accident.

No amount of money will ease the pain of your loss or return your loved one to you but you are entitled to compensation, especially if your loved one provided financial support. In a wrongful death lawsuit you may be entitled to the following damages:
● Lost wages from a spouse
● Lost investments that would have likely been made
● Lost inheritance that the deceased would have likely contributed
● Lost savings the the deceased would have likely contributed
● Funeral expenses
● Hospital or medical bills related to the accident or injuries that resulted in their passing
● Loss of love and companionship
● Emotional pain and suffering
● Loss of care and nurturing
● In some cases, punitive damages
No amount of money will ease the pain of your loss or return your loved one to you but you may be entitled to compensation, especially if your loved one provided financial support. In a wrongful death lawsuit you may be entitled to the following damages:
● Lost wages from a spouse
● Lost investments that would have likely been made
● Lost inheritance that the deceased would have likely contributed
● Lost savings the deceased would have likely contributed
● Funeral expenses
● Hospital or medical bills related to the accident or injuries that resulted in their passing
● Loss of love and companionship
● Emotional pain and suffering
● Loss of care and nurturing
● In some limited cases, punitive damages

In some cases, criminal charges may have already been placed against the defendant such as in the case of drunk or reckless driving. It is important to understand that a successful wrongful death lawsuit does not automatically lead to criminal charges.

Bankruptcy 

Chapter 7 is often referred to as the “liquidation” option for bankruptcy because the filer may lose some of his or her property, and yet there are some important exceptions in all of this. Chapter 7 was meant to be utilized by individuals – or businesses -with little to no ability to repay their debts, going forward.  People who choose Chapter 7 bankruptcy may also face the loss of non-exempt assets.  This liquidating of assets is done in exchange for having the court cancel most of the consumer’s debt.

On the other hand, Chapter 13 is widely known as “reorganization” bankruptcy because it allows the debtor some time to reorganize their debt burdens and adjust payment schedules. Those who file for Chapter 13 must also prepare and present a repayment plan revealing their income and how they plan to pay off their debts. Working with the assigned court, this plan will determine how much they need to pay back, and that amount will be based on a person’s income, the amount of his total debt, and the value of his property.

Someone filing for bankruptcy will first need to meet certain eligibility requirements for both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 before deciding which one to file.  Otherwise, the laws are set up in such a way where you may not have a choice.

For example, if you receive an income higher than the median income for comparably-sized families you are not eligible for Chapter 7, that is, if you are capable of repaying some of the unsecured debt within 5 years. Or, to be eligible to file for Chapter 13, you cannot exceed a certain level of debt. So, if you don’t meet those specified requirements, then Chapter 13 bankruptcy is not an option for you.

In most cases, because the process is more convenient, many people choose Chapter 7 bankruptcy, since they may receive the option to have all of their debts cancelled (with some exceptions). Usually, Chapter 7 proceedings go a lot more quickly than they will with the Chapter 13 process.  However, Chapter 13 often provides the best option for those who have adequate income and possess substantial assets they wish to keep.

Depending on whether you meet the requirements for Chapter 13, this option generally provides the debtor with more ways to keep property from liquidation.  However, state laws differ on the kinds of property considered eligible, or ineligible for sale, under Chapter 7 conditions.  And, to qualify for a Chapter 13 option, you cannot exceed a certain amount of debt, based on a predetermined level established by federal law.  In any scenario, anyone who needs to file for bankruptcy should first consult a bankruptcy attorney and carefully review all options.  An expert’s analysis can really help you to figure out the best route to take.  Bankruptcy attorneys are known to provide a great overview of the playing field, and they answer a host of questions.  This simple step can let you know what to expect if you take certain options.

If a person goes into a bankruptcy proceeding thinking “all my debts will get cancelled” he or she doesn’t truly grasp the purpose of filing for bankruptcy. That said, in some cases where the whole debt came from credit card purchases or auto loans, these kinds of debt can be completely discharged.  Yet for the average consumer who opts for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the options available to him/her involve a system of legally solving the debt where some liquidation of property may be necessary, or, a significant reorganization of the consumer’s debt will take place, both under the watchful eye of a trustee appointed by the court. But the system is set up so that a person can’t just conveniently use the federal court system to wipe out his debt with zero repercussions or some amount of repayment.

Types of debts that cannot be discharged (meaning you will still be financially obligate to continue making payment towards) are: alimony, child support, income and property taxes, governmental fines, student loans, and criminal restitution fees. Debts determined to be fraudulent, meaning you intentionally racked up debt in an attempt to “write it off” will not be discharged and may come with additional consequences.

If the court accepts your application for bankruptcy, it issues an “automatic stay” which blocks most creditors from contacting the person who owes or from making collection efforts.  For Chapter 7 bankruptcy, if the debts are discharged, then you are no longer financially required to repay them and creditors cannot seek payment. If you are granted Chapter 13 bankruptcy, then you will begin to make payments to your creditors according to the plan determined by the bankruptcy court. Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings can also have a negative effect on your credit history that can last for several years.