Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. As North Florida personal injury lawyers, with offices Tallahassee and Panama City, we are more than happy to talk with people about their case without charging a fee for the consultation. You have probably heard us say “It won’t cost you anything to see if we can help.” Well, we mean that.
When you call us, you will be greeted by one of intake persons. That person will get some background information regarding your matter, and then you will be forwarded to an attorney, who will discuss your matter with you. At the end of the phone conversation, if you are interested in retaining us, we will set you up for a free consultation. Even if your case is not a matter that we are able to take, we can often make suggestions about what you can do or we may be able to refer you to another reputable law firm that handles the type of case you have.
What am I entitled to recover after an accident?
You may be entitled to a number of different types of damages under Florida law. Some of the more common types of damages in accident cases are: reasonable medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering damages.
How much will I have to pay for you to handle my case?
We only get paid if a recovery is made. Our fee is then taken as a percentage of the recovery. If a lawsuit is filed on your behalf, the percentage increases due the increased amount of work required in prosecuting the lawsuit. However, if we are unable to recover money for you, you do not pay us anything. Moreover, we are a pure contingency fee law firm, which means that if a recovery is not made then we eat all costs expended on your behalf. Therefore, you have no financial risk in retaining our firm to handle your personal injury case.
Do I stand to recover less money by involving a lawyer in my injury case?
In Florida, lawyers cannot guarantee any result. If you have spoken with a lawyer and that lawyer has guaranteed or promised a result, then that lawyer is in violation of Florida’s Ethics Rules regulating the Florida Bar. However, statistics have shown that, on average, an accident victim stands to walk away with 40% more money in his or her pocket by hiring a lawyer. This is the case even after you pay any attorneys’ fees and costs.
How much money is my auto accident case worth?
Your case is worth either what you agree to accept as a settlement or the amount of money awarded by a judge and jury. However, these amounts are not arbitrarily chosen by the insurance company if a settlement is offered and they are certainly not arbitrarily awarded by a jury if the case is tried. The amount of damages that you are entitled must be proven and supported by evidence.
At Scott & Wallace, we examine all of the conditions surrounding your case in order to arrive at a dollar figure that we believe the insurance company must pay for your injuries. Generally, the dollar value is dependent upon the type and extent of your injuries, and the apportionment of liability. Other factors influencing the dollar value of your case are the amount of medical bills, length of treatment, frequency of treatment, future medical bills, permanent disabilities, quality of life impairment, and any other damage that can be documented. We study every detail of your case so that we can make a presentation designed to obtain the maximum recovery you deserve for your injuries.
Will I have to go to court?
If the at-fault party or the at-fault party’s insurance company agrees to pay what we believe your case is worth and you wish to settle for that amount, then your case will not go to court. This is what happens in most situations. Some cases do require a formal trial proceeding, however. In either situation, hiring a firm with experience in handling personal injury cases is critical. We prepare all of our cases as if they are going to court and this is the very reason why most of our cases get settled outside of court. We are always prepared, and our preparation allows us to negotiate from a position of strength, which helps you get the maximum award for your injuries.
How long will my case take?
While the client is in treatment, we are building the client's files, obtaining copies of all medical records in connection with the accident and injuries, and investigating any remaining liability or other issues in the case. Of course, the length of medical treatment depends on the nature and severity of the client's injuries.
Once the client has finished with his or her medical treatment, we prepare the paperwork to formally submit the settlement demand to the insurance company. However, before we submit our demand, we discuss at length with the client the amount of money we will demand. It usually takes four to six weeks for the insurance company to evaluate the claim and respond with a settlement offer. After the insurance company makes the initial offer, the negotiations begin in earnest.
The negotiation phase typically takes two to three weeks. If an agreement is reached at the end of the negotiations, it generally takes another week or two before financial arrangements are finished and a settlement check is presented to the client. The total time required to finalize a claim after the client has been released from treatment typically ranges from eight to twelve weeks. Of course, each case is different, and a slow insurance company or an unmotivated insurance adjuster can lengthen the process considerably.
Of course, some cases do not result in a settlement agreement. In that situation, we talk with the client about the possibility of filing a lawsuit in connection with the accident. In every case, however, we attempt to resolve the client's claim as efficiently and timely as possible.
Can't any lawyer handle any type of case?
It's true that you could hire any licensed lawyer to handle your personal injury case, but not all lawyers have the training, expertise, and trial experience that we have at Scott & Wallace. Think of it this way: if you needed surgery, would you rather have it done by a surgeon who is a specialist or a general practitioner? Both are doctors ... right? Yes, but the surgeon has the training and experience you need, and his or her practice is strictly focused on surgery. The same is true for lawyers. The family lawyer who prepared your Last Will and Testament may not have the personal injury trial experience that you need. You have the right to ask about the experience and training of the lawyer you hire, and you should do so.
What is UM and PIP coverage on my car insurance and should I pay for this coverage?
If you're hurt in an accident, no matter who is at fault, personal injury protection (PIP) will pay 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your loss of income up to $10,000. The rationale behind this system is that we want a person injured in a car accident to have immediate access to medical treatment regardless of his or her financial situation. Moreover, any automobile policy written in Florida must offer PIP protection.
Uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM) coverage can be purchased at the time you buy your car insurance. This insurance is designed to protect you in the event you are injured in a car accident and the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured. This is important because the emergency room bill alone could easily be many times higher than the minimum coverage Florida drivers are required to carry. When buying car insurance, think seriously about purchasing UM coverage. Hopefully you'll never need it, but if you do, it could make the difference in keeping your family afloat while you cope with your injury.
What are statutes of limitation?
A statute of limitation refers to a legislatively mandated timeframe, which controls how long you have to file a lawsuit or bring a cause of action. In Florida, many causes of action have a four-year statute of limitation, but not all. Most injury cases fall within the four-year statute of limitation. However, wrongful death and medical malpractice claims have a two-year statute of limitation. The time begins to run when a cause of action accrues. For example, if someone negligently runs into your car, then the statute of limitation begins to run the day of the accident. This issue becomes much more complicated in other situations. For example, you may have no way to know immediately after a surgery that you have the victim of medical malpractice, or you may not immediately discover the ill effects from taking a medication or being exposed to a dangerous chemical. Therefore, it is extremely important to seek the advice of an attorney if you think you may have a viable injury claim.
Who will pay the doctor bills and fix my car if the other person has no insurance?
Even if the other driver doesn't have any insurance, you may still be covered. Check with our office. We can look at your policy and tell you if you have uninsured motorist coverage, collision coverage, or another form of coverage which may compensate you if you are involved in an auto accident caused by an uninsured party.
How long do I have to file an injury claim?
In most Florida injury cases, the only deadline that applies is the four-year statute of limitations. This means that you must bring suit no later than four years from the date of the accident or else your claim will be barred. If your claim is not settled by the four-year anniversary of the accident, then a lawsuit MUST be filed prior to the anniversary date in order to protect your rights. However, some cases have much shorter deadlines. Additionally, the longer you wait to bring a claim, the harder it is to prove. Evidence gets misplaced and witnesses forget things over time. Therefore, if you have been injured in an accident call an attorney immediately.
My car is totaled. How do I recover from the other driver's insurance?
Once the accident has been reported, an adjuster will be assigned to the claim. The adjuster will usually ask to take the recorded statement of the drivers involved in the accident. However, you are under NO obligation to give a statement, and we can assure you that this statement will be used against you later if it undermines your claim. Notwithstanding your decision to give a statement, the insurance company will have an appraiser look at the damage done to the vehicles. Once the insurance company has accepted responsibility for the accident, and if the damage to the vehicle is extensive enough, the insurance company will declare the vehicle to be totaled and pay the owner for the vehicle's fair market value. The fair market value, or “blue book” value, is the amount that the car was worth before the accident.