Boca Raton Personal Injury Lawyers
Representing Parties Injured by Negligent and Intentional Conduct in Palm Beach County
Whether you are injured in a tractor-trailer accident because the driver fails to comply with hours of service rules or a loved one dies because of the side effects of a defective pharmaceutical, you will likely endure significant physical, emotional, and financial challenges. You might be trying to overcome the bodily pain of a serious injury or the grief associated with having a loved one taken from you prematurely. When navigating these difficult emotional and physical challenges, the prospect of focusing on lawsuits and talking to insurance adjusters might not be high on your list of priorities.
A civil lawsuit provides the best way for you to obtain the lost household income from a family breadwinner. Unfortunately, the legal system is governed by demanding and unforgiving deadlines, so time is of the essence when seeking legal advice. Insurance companies also will attempt to exploit injury victims and families of decedents who lack the benefit of legal representation. Insurance adjusters are often amicable and friendly, but their objective when speaking to people injured by their insured is to avoid liability or mitigate the amount of any recovery.
At the Shiner Law Group, our Boca Raton personal injury lawyers take on large national insurance companies and their policyholders while guiding our clients through the civil litigation process. Our lawyers understand the approaches used by insurance companies to reduce the amount of payouts in lawsuits, so we anticipate these tactics and implement strategies to protect our clients’ right to a full financial recovery.
Tactics Used by Insurance Companies Facing Personal Injury And Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Insurance companies that represent negligent parties in lawsuits stemming from serious injury or the untimely death of a loved one are prepared for litigation with a team made up of adjusters, investigators, attorneys, experts, as well as unlimited litigation resources. This preparation means that insurers have a huge advantage against unrepresented parties. Our Boca Raton personal injury lawyers balance the scale of justice for individuals taking on large national insurance carriers and the negligent individuals, corporations, and government entities that they represent. Our law firm has provided an overview of some of the strategies used by insurance companies to minimize their liability.
Suggesting You Will Recover More without a Lawyer: Insurance adjusters typically seem friendly and amicable because they deal closely with policyholders. Despite this cooperative demeanor, adjusters are loyal to the insurance companies for whom they handle claims. The insurance adjuster for a responsible party that causes you to experience bodily injury does not constitute a reliable source of information about your legal rights or personal injury claim. One common misrepresentation made by adjusters to injury victims is that they will recover more money without an attorney. Even when taking into account the expense of attorney fees, research has consistently shown that parties represented by experienced attorneys recover more money than injury victims who negotiate directly with the insurance company.
Accepting a Premature Settlement: While it can be tempting to accept a settlement check early in the personal injury claim process, the insurance company almost certainly will condition payment on the execution of a general release. Documents of this type waive all current and future claims, including those involving injuries or other losses that you have not yet discovered. Many serious injuries do not manifest significant symptoms in the immediate aftermath of a motor vehicle accident, construction accident, or another traumatic incident. Additionally, the medical expenses related to your claim cannot be accurately calculated until you have completed all medical treatment and rehabilitation. Once you accept a settlement check and sign a general release, you might find that you are unable to even cover the full amount of your medical bills let alone other damages associated with lingering injuries. Insurance carriers know settling a claim before a party has time to obtain legal advice and to determine the full extent of all injuries can result in a lowball recovery.
Providing a Recorded Statement: While you will have to provide information to the insurance company during the litigation process, there might be damaging facts that you are not obligated to provide. An experienced Boca Raton personal injury attorney can assert objections to improper discovery requests and protect you from making innocent statements that might be twisted by a skilled insurance defense lawyer. For example, the insurance defense attorney might ask you at the beginning of a recorded statement: “How are you feeling this morning?” Your polite response: “Fine” will be morphed into your admission that you were “fine” after the accident and did not suffer any serious injury.
Dragging out the Settlement Process: When a personal injury or wrongful death claim drags on, the insurance company increases its revenue while the injury victim or surviving family members face mounting financial hardships. If you cannot work while your medical bills are mounting, stress about paying your household expenses might motivate you to settle for substantially less than the value of the claim. Our experienced Boca Raton personal injury attorneys use motions to compel discovery and other strategies to push the litigation toward a settlement or verdict. Our lawyers are seasoned litigators who are prepared to take a case all the way to trial when appropriate, but we also pursue settlement at an efficient pace.
Contesting the Existence or Severity of Injury: The strength of evidence of liability can range from too weak to pursue a legal claim to the fault of the other party being fairly clear cut. When the negligence of the defendant is fairly apparent, the insurance carrier often contends that the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit has fabricated or exaggerated his or her injuries. Our law firm works with our client in coordinating medical treatment, gathering medical records, and working with medical experts to prove our clients’ medical care-related damages. To reduce the value of a claim, the insurance adjuster might argue that certain medical procedures were unnecessary or that the course of treatment and rehabilitation went on too long. If an injury victim fails to seek prompt medical attention, attend medical appointments, complete physical therapy and rehabilitation, or submit to all diagnostic screenings, the insurance company might point to such facts to dispute injuries in a wrongful death lawsuit. When injury victims delay seeking medical attention, the insurance company might claim that the lapse of time by the plaintiff was the cause of more severe injury or that the injury was pre-existing or the result of subsequent trauma.
Attempting to Shift Fault to the Injury Victim: Although distracted motorists and careless property owners can be liable for a failure to exercise reasonable care to prevent foreseeable injury to others, injury victims also have a duty to exercise reasonable care for their own safety. Insurance companies often will attempt to shift some or all responsibility for an accident to the injury victim. Florida negligence law incorporates the rule of “pure comparative negligence.” Under this legal doctrine, the judge or jury can allocate fault between the parties. The recovery of the plaintiff will be reduced based on his percentage of fault. If the total damage award is $200,000, for example, the plaintiff will only receive $140,000 if fault is allocated seventy (70) percent to the defendant and thirty (30) percent to the plaintiff. Boca Raton personal injury attorneys conduct a careful investigation, extensive legal research, and persuasive arguments to counter attempts to shift blame to injury victims.
Misleading Injury Victims Regarding the Amount of Insurance Coverage: Insurance adjusters sometimes contend that their insured only carried the minimum required liability coverage. Our Boca Raton personal injury lawyers do not take the insurance company’s word for the amount of available coverage. Our experience and legal knowledge enables us to analyze the policy and determine the amount of coverage available to pay a claim.
Placing Injury Victims Under Surveillance: Many personal injury victims do not realize that the insurance company for the negligent party often uses investigators to spy on injury victims. These surveillance efforts can take several forms, including taking pictures and photos of victims engaging in physical activities inconsistent with their injuries. This type of evidence can be very misleading because even people with significant injuries have good days and bad days. A well-staged photo could create the impression your physical limitations are not as extreme as you indicate. Our law firm advises our clients to assume they are always under surveillance. These surveillance efforts also extend to monitoring the social media activity of injury victims for damaging statements or mental and physical conduct that contradicts the purported injuries of the victim. Generally, we advise our clients to deactivate their social media accounts while their personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is pending. Injury victims should at least seek legal advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer before posting anything on a social media website.
Boca Raton Personal Injury Lawyers Explain the Claims Process in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Cases
Our law firm recognizes that the claims process for injuries and deaths caused by negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct is complex and confusing. When injury victims and surviving loved ones understand what to expect, the process of pursuing a settlement or judgment seems less daunting. Although our law firm customizes our legal representation to the specific facts and circumstances of each case, there are certain stages involved in the litigation process that are part of many personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.
Gathering Evidence & Investigating: Whether we are representing a person who suffers a head injury in a motorcycle accident or a person paralyzed because of negligence by an anesthesiologist during surgery, successful litigation means gathering the appropriate evidence. When litigating a car accident claim, our lawyers will review the scene and seek other evidence like the law enforcement accident report, traffic camera footage, witness statements, medical records, and more. When analyzing the legal issues in a personal injury lawsuit, we also work closely with experts in a wide spectrum of areas of specialized knowledge. Our commitment to being thorough during our investigation of an incident resulting in injury and diligent use of the discovery process constitutes important factors in our success in obtaining millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients.
Dealing with the Insurance Company: Our Boca Raton personal injury attorneys negotiate with the insurance company. Once we have confirmed a basis for liability and the existence of coverage, we submit a settlement package to the insurer that provides evidence of our client’s injuries, lost wages, and other damages. While our efforts at settling your claim begin at this point in the case, settlement discussions will continue through the duration of the litigation process.
Initiating the Lawsuit: The next step in the process is to file a document referred to as the “complaint,” which must be filed before the expiration of the statute of limitations. The statutory period for a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida is two years. Failure to comply with this deadline will almost always constitute a permanent bar to any recovery. If you are suing a government entity in the lawsuit like a public hospital, you will have to comply with the special deadlines and procedural requirements of the Florida Tort Claims Act before even filing your lawsuit. When an injury victim fails to comply with this statute, the right to sue the government entity is forfeited. If a complaint has been filed and served on the responsible party or parties, they have a specified time to file their response, which is called an “answer” or a motion that might result in the case being dismissed.
Discovery Phase: After the filing of the complaint and answer, the parties will engage in discovery. This stage in the litigation process involves each party seeking relevant factual information and specifics about legal positions taken by the other side. There are many discovery tools used in a typical personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, including the following:
- Interrogatories: This form of discovery involves written questions about factual and legal matters that the other party must answer under penalty of perjury.
- Request for Production of Documents: These requests allow us to obtain relevant documents like insurance policies, safety procedures, maintenance records, inspection records, and other evidence to support our client’s legal claim.
- Depositions: The deposition process enables us to ask questions of the defendant or witnesses who are under oath in the presence of a court reporter. This process often furnishes access to critical information or elicits contradictory statements that can be used to attack the credibility of a witness.
- Request for Admissions: Our attorneys frequently use this discovery tool to reduce litigation expenses and attorney fees. The other side can be asked to admit or deny specific facts or issues, which narrows the contested issues. These admissions can eliminate the need to gather certain evidence and prove certain issues at trial. Narrowing of the issues makes the litigation process more efficient and less costly.
Negotiations & Trial Preparation: Negotiations will continue throughout the litigation while we prepare for a potential trial. This trial preparation involves filing motions, preparing evidence and witnesses, analyzing the applicable law, and a myriad of other tasks. While almost all personal injury claims settle prior to trial, our attorneys believe the best way to obtain a favorable settlement is to prepare to win at trial.
Common Categories of Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims
There are several major categories of injury and fatality related areas of law. While hardly an exhaustive list, some of the major areas of law involved in these types of legal claims include:
Traffic Safety Laws: Whether you are involved in a collision with an 18-wheeler or run off the road by a distracted driver changing lanes, motor vehicle accidents constitute the largest number of personal injury claims. Although the rules of the road often constitute the basis for imposing liability in these cases, there are many laws specific to a type of vehicle. For example, the trucking industry is governed by complex and extensive regulations that are specific to tractor-trailers and commercial carriers. Despite these special rules, the trucking industry must obey traffic safety laws like individuals operating cars, motorcycles, trucks, SUVs, and passenger vans.
Premises Liability Law: This area of personal injury laws establishes legal standards for holding property owners accountable for injuries and deaths caused by hazards on their property. The legal duty owed to the injury victim might vary depending on the relationship of the parties and the visitor’s purpose for being on the premises. A vast array of lawsuits involving injury on another person’s property can fall under this area of law, such as slip and falls, swimming pool accidents, negligent security, construction accidents, spa drain entrapment accidents, and more.
Dog Bite Law: While this type of personal injury case is sometimes included under the rubric of premises liability, Florida and many other states have specific statutes that operate differently for dog bites. Under the Florida dog bite law, owners can be strictly liable for bite injuries provided the dog was not provoked. When the dog bite law is inapplicable, the victim of a dog attack might rely on the responsible party’s negligence or the violation of a leash law to impose liability.
Medical Malpractice Law: The American Medical Association (AMA) and malpractice insurance carriers have been successful in lobbying for laws that favor medical professionals. When you wish to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida, you must obtain the opinion of a medical expert that supports the validity of your claim. Medical malpractice lawsuits can involve many forms of negligence by health care providers, which include but are not limited to surgical errors, medication errors, hospital acquired infections, improper reading of imaging, anesthesiology errors, delayed diagnosis, failure to properly treat, and many other types of substandard health care.
Commercial Carrier Law: Because large trucks like tractor-trailers pose a heightened risk of injury, the trucking industry is subject to extensive state and federal regulation. Commercial carriers (trucking companies) that operate across state laws will be regulated primarily by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) though other laws and regulations also affect the trucking industry. When commercial carriers operate exclusively within Florida, state regulations will impose safety standards and practices on trucking companies and their drivers.
Wrongful Death Law: If you lose a loved one because of the negligent or intentional conduct of another, the Florida wrongful death statute provides a legal right to compensation for losses endured by the decedent’s estate and designated surviving family members. There are many complex issues that are affected by court decisions that can impact issues like who may recover in situations involving more complex family relationships. Our experienced Boca Raton wrongful death lawyers have handled hundreds upon hundreds of injury and death related claims, so we have expertise regarding the law governing the underlying incident that causes most deaths, as well as Florida wrongful death law.
Nursing Home Regulations: Nursing homes are subject to regulations that govern the care and treatment of residents. These regulations are enforced by inspections designed to expose improper practices and substandard care. Our Florida nursing home abuse lawyers have extensive familiarity with these regulations and industry practices, so we can effectively pursue the fullest financial recovery for mistreated seniors and their families.
Speak with a Boca Raton Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or someone you love has died because of the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another, we welcome you to contact our experienced legal team so that we can evaluate your claim and advise you of your rights and options. We are committed to helping victims recover the compensation they need to move past injuries or loss, so call us 24/7 at 561-777-7700 or online for a free case review to see how we can help. The Shiner Law Group represents fatality victims in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, and throughout the surrounding counties.