You’ve been injured in a car accident that you know is not your fault. Your car has been severely damaged, you’re injured, and you don’t know when you’ll be able to return to work. You know that you should be compensated for your damages, but you have no experience making an insurance claim of this magnitude. That’s where 1-800-Injured can help.
1-800-Injured is an attorney and medical referral service. Whether you were injured in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or Tampa, 1-800-injured can connect you with an experienced car accident attorney in your area who can guide you through the settlement process.
When You’re Entitled to a Car Accident Settlement
Florida law requires that all drivers carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which covers injuries sustained in an accident, regardless of fault. That may sound like a lot, but with the skyrocketing cost of healthcare, it will only cover the most cursory of examinations. In addition, you must also carry a minimum of $10,000 in property damage liability insurance, but that only covers other vehicles that you may have damaged. Many people opt for higher coverage limits or additional riders, which may pay for additional damages.
If your injuries are even moderately severe, however, you will be facing extensive medical bills from doctors, specialists, medical tests, blood work, physical therapy, and follow-up appointments. In addition, you may experience lost wages, diminished work capacity, pain, and suffering. Some of these costs are easy to calculate, while others are determined by case law and predetermined formulas.
The Risk of Settling Without a Car Accident Attorney
Car insurance companies hire claims adjusters to calculate the amount of your damages. In many cases, they’ll present an itemized list for your injuries and damage that would seem reasonable to someone who isn’t familiar with car accident injury claims. Because adjusters are beholden to the insurance companies, however, these claims are usually insufficient.
Before issuing you a check for your damages, most insurance adjusters will ask you to sign a waiver of liability, which states that you’re accepting the funds on the condition that you will not seek further damages. Unfortunately, this prevents you from going back to the insurers if your funds run dry.
How the Settlement Process Works
The settlement process is an involved and oftentimes exhausting process, but when your attorney is handling it you can continue to focus on your own life without taking on the extra stress of this arduous process. Your attorney will work directly with the insurance company to facilitate a negotiation, which can vary greatly in length depending on the complexity of your situation. The following is a basic timeline for the insurance claim settlement process, but remember that your unique situation will certainly vary.
Establishing Fault and Liability
The first step in any accident is to establish who is actually at fault for the accident. In Florida, this is done in the context of a rule known as pure comparative negligence, which means that however much someone is responsible for the accident is the amount that their settlement will be reduced by. For example, if it is determined that you are 25% responsible for a left-turn accident, then you are still entitled to victim damages, but the final amount will be reduced by 25%.
Pure comparative negligence is an important rule, as before this was the case, even a 1% contribution of fault was enough to bar a victim from seeking any compensation at all. However, it is also a way for insurance companies to reduce the final amount that they are on the hook for. This, like every other step in the process, will require negotiations to make sure that you are getting a fair treatment.
At the same time that the question of fault is being determined, you and your attorney will work to gather all of the information pertaining to the impacts of your accidents, both economic and non-economic (see the next section to learn about how these damages are calculated). The insurance company will do their own investigation into your claim at the same time, and you will need to work with the insurance adjuster in order to submit statements, take an independent medical exam, and more.
This information gathering process is extremely important to be done right because each line item that you submit to the insurance company will be picked apart in an attempt to deny you what you truly deserve.
Initial Offer and Counter-Offer
Once the insurance company concludes their investigation, you will be shocked to see the difference between your figures and theirs. It is less shocking when you realize that an insurance company’s claim investigation is done with the intention of identifying all possible ways to limit your settlement, but it is unfortunate to think about all of the people who do not realize that this is the case and simply accept this first offer, thinking it’s the best they will get.
Your attorney will make an initial counter-offer, and if the insurance company accepts, then you will be able to finalize your agreement, accept your payment, and move on with your life. The likelihood of this happening so easily, though, is fairly low.
In the likely event that the insurance company denies your counter-offer, the next step will be for your attorney to begin negotiating to find middle ground for a settlement that makes sense to both of you. Negotiations may be quick, or they could take quite some time depending on the gap between your calculations and the insurance company’s offer. This step is one of the reasons why it is so important that you start working with an attorney as quickly as possible because you will have ample time before you need to worry about the statute of limitations and begin considering whether or not a lawsuit is the appropriate next step.
Settlement or Lawsuit
There will be many different times when you and your attorney check-in and get an idea for where negotiations are, and what makes the most sense in terms of moving forward with negotiations or taking the case to the Florida courts in the form of a lawsuit. There are a number of situations where you and your attorney may decide that it is best to initiate a lawsuit, but that should be left to conversations that you will have with them since these decisions are highly specific to your case.
How Attorneys Calculate Your Car Accident Settlement Claim
Florida car accident lawyers are experts in calculating damages and negotiating fair and full settlements with insurance company attorneys. Damages for car accidents are divided into two categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages include anything that has a dollar value attached to them. Some of these include repair cost of your vehicle, ambulance fees, emergency room bill, hospitalization expenses, medications, doctor’s appointments, scans, tests, physical therapy expenses, and lost wages.
Non-economic damages don’t have a direct dollar value connected with them, so the calculations are usually based on standards that have been established under the law. Some of these non-economic damages include diminished work capacity, diminished quality of life, and pain and suffering.
How Contingency Fees Are Calculated
Car accident attorneys in Miami and the rest of the state of Florida work on a contingency basis, which means that they only get paid if you receive a settlement or a court award. The attorney contingency fees for Florida are set by state statute. The following are the state’s contingency fee limits.
Before the appointment of an arbitrator:
- 33% up to $1 million
- 30% for the portion from $1-$2 million
- 20% for any portion exceeding $2 million
After the appointment of an arbitrator:
- 40% up to $1 million
- 30% for the portion from $1-$2 million
- 20% for any portion exceeding $2 million
If all defendants admit fault and the trial is only for damages (and not fault):
- 33?% up to $1 million
- 20% for the portion from $1-$2 million
- 15% for any portion exceeding $2 million
There may be an additional 5% fee added on to the above limits if there is an appeals process involved in the settlement.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to pay money out of pocket to be represented by a professional personal injury lawyer.
Car Accident Attorneys in Florida
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you are going to need legal help and guidance to make a full recovery. 1800-Injured can put you in contact with one of the vetted attorneys in our statewide network. After your attorney reviews your case with you, they can connect you with doctors who are familiar with injury recovery as well as with insurance claims and settlements. Contact us today.