PERSONAL INJURY FAQ
How do I pay your attorney fees?
THERE ARE NO FEES UNLESS YOU WIN. I use a standard contingency fee contract. Rule 4-1.5 of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar governs the standards for this type of contract. Basically, I don’t get paid a fee unless you win. In other words, my fee is contingent upon the successful resolution of your case. During our initial meeting, I always make sure to go over the contract. I also go over the Statement of Client’s Rights, which the Florida Bar requires any client to sign before entering into a fee agreement of this kind. I feel the relationship between myself and the client is very important, and I do my best to make sure the client has exhausted every question they may have with regard to fees before the end of that first conference.
What if I want to use my own body shop?
In most cases, you have the right to use whichever repair facility you want. However, if you are using your own insurance policy to repair your vehicle, your insurance carrier may have a clause in your insurance that requires you to take the vehicle to a particular repair shop. Many attorneys don’t want to deal with helping the client get their vehicle fixed. At my law office, we help you get your vehicle repaired to your satisfaction as a courtesy (for free) in appreciation for your personal injury business.
How is fault determined in an auto accident?
The determination is based on negligence. Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care. This, of course, changes in every situation. Generally speaking, the most common accident is a rear end accident. In those cases, there is a rebuttable presumption that the person who rear ended the other vehicle is at fault. The presumption is rebuttable under certain odd circumstances. The sudden unexpected stop is the most common circumstance to rebut the presumption of fault. In other words, if the vehicle in front were to stop suddenly and unexpectedly, like in the middle of a busy highway, the presumption can be rebutted. There are several other common accident types such as the failure to yield right of way. This is again why you need an attorney experienced in auto accident cases to help guide you.
What issues will I face in making a claim for injuries in an auto accident?
Many. If you’ve been reading, you know there are many pitfalls in these types of cases. In addition to suffering under your injuries, you will face many other trials over the course of your case. Most cases settle without the need for filling a lawsuit. Even though a lawsuit is not filed, you may feel as though you’ve been cross examined on the witness stand. Insurance companies have thousands of excuses for not paying you the true value of your claim. They will say you were born with the injury, that you suffered the injury as a child, that your injury is the result of age, etc. That is why you need an attorney experienced in defending against these ridiculous excuses.
What is Property Damage or PD?
This is insurance carried by the person at fault for the accident that pays for fixing or replacing property damaged in an accident i.e. your vehicle.
What if one of my loved ones died in an auto accident?
When someone dies as the result of someone else’s negligence, the lawsuit/claim that is brought is called a “Wrongful Death.” These claims carry their own set of additional complications. First of all, the statute of limitations (time within which a lawsuit must be brought on a particular claim) is two years instead of four.. As morbid as it sounds, the next oddity with respect to Wrongful Death cases has to do with the law’s attempt to quantify what a person’s life is worth. One of these calculations is the loss of support and services. Here the law allows for the recovery of money to replace the person’s probable net income available for distribution to dependents. Essentially, this is what the deceased person would have been able to contribute financially for a child or spouse. Forensic economists are normally employed to calculate this value, and numerous complex factors are considered, including life expectancy, occupation, and education. Loss of services means the value of the services that the deceased person may have been performing for an individual, such as the services performed by a mother in her role as the caretaker of a child. In calculating this damage category, the services performed by the deceased are often contrasted with those of a person who performs those services in a professional capacity. For example, part of the duties of a housewife may be compared to those of a cleaning service or professional nanny. Loss of companionship is by far the most hotly contested damage category. As I’m sure you can imagine, using a dollar figure to replace the companionship lost when someone passes away is a nearly impossible task. In short, Wrongful Death cases are extremely complex, and I’ve only given you the tip of the iceberg. My best advice if someone you love has passed away because of someone else’s carelessness; you need to contact a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights.
Where should I get my medical care?
Many times, the first thing my client tells me is “my doctor says he won’t take accident cases.” It’s unfortunate, but many doctors won’t treat a person who was involved in an accident case. Think about what you just read; many doctors don’t want to treat people who are hurt. Crazy, isn’t it? Each doctor has a different reason for feeling the way they do. Some say they don’t want to risk being hauled into court to testify. Others fear there is a greater risk of medical malpractice in treating a person with complex injuries. Still others derive a substantial income from insurance companies, and wouldn’t want to bite the proverbial hand that feeds them. Fortunately, I’ve been doing this long enough that I’ve identified highly skilled, reputable and credentialed medical providers willing to treat clients who have suffered as the result of a slip and fall or auto accident.
Should I try to settle my case on my own?
It’s sad to say, but the answer is no. Not even a simple case. It should be easy, but it’s not. The world of personal injury has gotten exponentially complicated. Where once things were straightforward, they are now a jumbled mess of complicated gamesmanship blurred by the fog of trickery. I’ve learned time and time again, that insurance companies and risk management departments love to talk to my clients before they hire me. Why? Because they know there’s a good chance they will pay less than the full value of the claim. They bank on the fact that a certain portion of the population will see the money being dangled in front of them and take it before they realize how hurt they are or how valuable their claim is. Do not try to settle your case before you talk to an attorney. If you don’t talk to Mr. Chappell, at least consult another attorney that knows what they are doing.
The insurance company for the person that caused my auto accident isn’t offering me enough money for the total loss of my vehicle. What should I do?
I handle the property damage portion of your accident claim for free as a courtesy for handling the injury portion of your claim. The short answer is that you should contact an attorney who handles property damage as a courtesy to their clients. The long answer is that you need to dispute the number being offered by the insurance company with hard evidence. The value of a total loss vehicle is called its “Actual Cash Value” sometimes referred to as ACV (Actual Cash Value). I commonly define this number as the value of your vehicle in the condition it was in five minutes prior to the auto accident. Based on my experience, different insurance companies calculate the ACV in different ways. However, the most common influences on the ACV are NADA values, Kelley Blue Book values, and comparables (commonly referred to as comps). Comparables are vehicles listed for sale that are the same or similar to your vehicle in condition, mileage etc. The classified ads and online listings such as AutoTrade.com are good resources for comparables but watch out for the argument that the comparables you located are negotiable with respect to the asking price.
I was in a car accident. Can the insurance company for the person who cause the accident use aftermarket parts that aren’t made by the company that made my car when they fix my car?
Yes. The parts do not have to come from Ford if your Ford was damaged. They don’t have to come from Toyota is your Toyota was damaged. The parts need to be of equivalent quality.
What if I am partially at fault for the accident?
Even if you are partially at fault for your accident you may still recover. Florida follows what is called comparative negligence, which means that your recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault that can be attributed to you.
How long will it take to resolve my case?
Cases can take from 3 months to several years depending on the complexity of the case.
Will I have to go to trial?
Over the course of a typical personal injury case, there are three time periods when the case may settle without the need for trial. The first period is called The Demand. During this period, the insurance company will attempt to negotiate a settlement. The second period occurs after suit is filed. If the insurance company does not present you with a fair offer, then Mr. Chappell will file a lawsuit on your behalf. After a lawsuit is filed, the insurance company will sometimes try to negotiate a settlement. The third period is called Mediation. After a lawsuit is filed, Florida law requires that the parties to the lawsuit go to Mediation to try and resolve the matter before going to trial. Mediation involves all parties: You, Mr. Chappell, the other side, their lawyer, and a Mediator. The Mediator will attempt to get both sides to agree on a settlement. If you do not settle at Mediation, your case can move forward to trial. Because there are so many chances for cases to settle, most cases do not go to trial.
Should I give a recorded statement to the insurance company?
No. Please talk with Mr. Chappell before you talk with any insurance company, even your own. This is not mandatory but it is recommended.
What is the value of my case?
This is an extremely difficult question to answer. It is also the most common question asked. In general, Personal Injury cases have five categories of recovery. These include: (1) pain and suffering; (2) past lost wages or salary, (3) loss of future earning capacity, (4) past medical bills, and (5) future medical bills. Insurance companies and insurance defense lawyers have become very skilled at attacking claims made in each category. That is why it’s important to hire an attorney who is familiar with these types of cases and handles them regularly. Because every case is different and will have pros and cons in each category, the best way to get a general valuation is to call and speak directly to Mr. Chappell. Please be aware that these five categories do not cover every area where an injured person can make a monetary recovery. Rather, they are meant to be illustrative of the typical categories of recovery. Specifically, wrongful death, nursing home negligence, and medical malpractice may differ in terms of the categories under which one may recover damages.
What is a “Demand Package?”
A “Demand Package” is an industry term that generally refers to a written letter accompanied by supporting documentation, which makes a demand for payment of a claim. The letter and documents are sent to the company that is responsible for paying the claim. The party responsible for paying the claim can be a person, or company, but is most often an insurance company. Every lawyer has a different way of putting together “Demand Packages.” My “Demand Packages” generally follow the same pattern. Each begins with the basic statistics as to who my client is (date of birth, life expectancy, etc.). The letter then goes on to describe the accident. The mechanism of injury is often discussed in this section as well. That’s where we discuss the forces involved in the accident and how those forces relate to the injuries sustained by the client. Sometimes the mechanism of injury is simple i.e. client’s leg was run over by defendant causing a fracture to the femur. Sometimes the mechanism of injury is more complicated and involves accident reconstruction experts along with biomechanical engineers who discuss things like delta V, which is also known as the change in velocity, or often times the locations of the applied forces are compared to the diagnosed injuries. After the accident description and mechanism of injury, I typically go on to summarize the medical treatment and expenses. The letter then closes with a time limit within which to settle. All relevant and supporting documentation is enclosed with the letter and is separated into numbered attachments, which allows for easy reference from within the body of the letter itself.
How long does the insurance company have to settle an auto claim?
There is no time limit. After I send a “Demand Package” to the insurance company, I give them a time limit to settle with Law Firm. If we don’t get the case settled within the time limit, I recommend to the client that we file a lawsuit. The decision to file a lawsuit is up to the client. I am in contact with the client during this process, and I make recommendations based upon my experience. Sometimes, we give a little more time, if we feel the negotiations are close to where we want to be. Other times, we file the lawsuit without much discussion. It depends on the circumstances and every case is different.
How will I pay my medical bills?
Florida is a “no-fault” state. The term is frequently abused. However, it’s actual meaning is simple. If you are in a motor vehicle accident (it doesn’t matter if you were in your car or someone else’s), and you are in an auto accident, your automobile insurance acts like a health insurance company on your behalf. In other words, when you’re in an auto accident, your auto insurance pays a percentage of your medical bills to a certain extent. Your auto carrier makes these payments regardless of who is at fault for the accident. Hence the term, “no-fault” as in, regardless of fault.
What is Personal Injury Protection insurance?
The portion of your auto insurance policy that pays your medical bills, lost wages, mileage (pays a certain amount per mile for trips to the doctor etc.), and prescriptions is called Personal Injury Protection and every person that owns a vehicle in Florida is required to have it. Personal Injury Protection is often referred to as PIP (Personal Injury Protection). PIP pays 80% of your medical bills, 60% of lost wages, and 80% of prescription expenses. Most PIP policies have a payment limit of $10,000, which is the minimum required by law. As a result, most of the time PIP pays 80% of your medical bills until it has paid out $10,000.00. Sometimes, folks have a deductible that applies to the PIP coverage. The maximum deductible currently allowed by law in Florida is $1,000.00. In those instances, PIP will start paying 80% of your medical expenses after the first $1,000.00 has been billed by medical providers. Just when you thought it was complicated enough, I have to tell you that there’s a new twist to PIP. If you don’t seek medical attention within the first 14 days of your accident, you may not be elgible for PIP benefits atIf you do seek medical attention within the first 14 days but the doctor does not label your condition an “emergency medical condition” then you may be limited to $2,500.00 in PIP benefits. Those are the basics of the PIP law and every case is different, so it’s important that you contact a knowledgeable attorney for a more detailed understanding of your particular circumstance.
What is collision insurance?
This insurance pays for the repair or replacement when your vehicle is involved in an auto accident. This coverage will protect your vehicle regardless of who caused the accident. It’s good coverage to have because the insurance company for the person who caused the accident can sometimes stall the payment process with arguments about liability and the need to speak with their insured.
What is comprehensive insurance?
This is insurance that covers things other than auto accidents. Things like fires, vandalism, flooding, and theft.
What is UM coverage?
UM coverage stands for Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist coverage. This insurance will cover you if you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident caused by someone who has no Bodily Injury coverage or insufficient Bodily Injury coverage to compensate you for your injuries. This coverage is important because Florida Law does not require every driver to carry Bodily Injury insurance. In these uncertain economic times, many folks are looking for ways to save money. One of the ways to save money is to pay less for auto insurance by reducing the amount of coverage being carried. We have seen a significant increase in the number of uninsured drivers in recent times. Protect yourself, your family, and anyone else in your vehicle by carrying UM.
What is Bodily Injury (BI) coverage?
A good way to remember the concept is the rhyme “BI comes from the bad guy.” If the person who caused the auto accident has Bodily Injury coverage, that coverage will pay for the injuries that person causes in an auto accident. You will notice I wrote “if” the person has Bodily Injury. That’s because Florida Law does not require every driver to carry Bodily Injury insurance coverage. That’s why it is so important that everyone in Florida carry Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage.