Personal Injury Faqs
You may seek to recover damages for injuries sustained in an accident if the accident was caused due to another’s fault and not your own. If your actions contributed to the accident, any recovery may be reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to you.
Three main components to look for include liability (fault of another), damages (your injuries) and ability to recover compensation for your damages (typically from insurance). These three components need to be evaluated to determine if you have a pursuable claim.
How much does it cost to hire the Law Offices of Walter F. Benenati to represent me in my personal injury claim?
It does not cost you anything to hire the Law Offices of Walter F. Benenati as your attorneys. The Law Offices of Walter F. Benenati accepts accident claims on a contingency fee basis, which means no fee is paid up front, but instead the fee is a percentage of what is recovered in the settlement or trial of your case. If the case is not successful, the Law Offices of Walter F. Benenati does not recover an attorney fee.
I have just retained the Law Offices of Walter F. Benenati to represent me in a motor vehicle negligence case. What is the process from this point?
The first step is to begin the investigation surrounding the facts of the accident. We must determine if there is only one responsible party or a number of contributing causes to the accident. In some circumstances, the Law Offices of Walter F. Benenati may employ various experts including accident reconstructionists, doctors, economists or vocational rehabilitation specialists to provide opinions on the issues of liability and damages.
The Law Offices of Walter F. Benenati will proactively seek copies of your medical records, medical bills and wage information. We will gather evidence to present to the responsible party or insurance company. During this phase, the client will be actively treating with the appropriate medical specialists in an effort to recover from the injuries. If the client is unable to fully recover and has sustained permanent injuries, the Law Offices of Walter F. Benenati will determine whether the best decision is to attempt to negotiate an out-of-court settlement or file a lawsuit and litigate the claim.
During this time it is extremely important for you to keep a diary of the events in your everyday life that are being affected by your injury. Track any difficulties you experience in your activities of daily living and how this makes you feel. You must document difficult situations encountered and any frustrations along with any issues arising with others due to your injury.
If you have been injured by the negligence of another, you may be entitled to receive compensation. The most common type of damage is compensatory damages. These are money damages made by the defendant for injury to a person or property that has been damaged due to negligence. Compensatory damages includes economic (lost wages, medical bills and other expenses) and non-economic (pain & suffering) damages. Examples include:
- Medical expenses incurred in the diagnosis and treatment of your injuries, including all hospital, physician, physical therapy, rehabilitation, prescription and attendant care expenses.
- Any future medical costs necessary for your injury.
- Compensation for actual loss of wages.
- Loss of future wages and earning capacity.
- Compensation for loss of enjoyment of life.
- Damages for mental pain and anguish.
- Compensation for past and future pain and suffering endured as a result of the accident.
- Compensation for scarring and disfigurement.
- Your spouse may be entitled to consortium benefits in order to compensate for the loss of services, companionship, love, affection and sexual relations enjoyed before the accident.
Another type of damage is known as punitive damages. This type of damage is not common and intended to punish the defendant for outrageous misconduct and act as a deterrent for similar misbehavior. These damages go beyond what is necessary to compensate the injured party. To receive this type of damage, the conduct resulting in the injury must rise above simple negligence. There must be some type of intentional misconduct gross negligence or bad faith.
There is no set timeframe as it will vary depending on the facts and issues within any given case. At the Law Offices of Walter F. Benenati our goal is to bring our clients personal injury claims to a fast resolution with the maximum compensation possible. We will work diligently on your claim to move it along as quickly as possible. Please keep in mind that in some cases, it takes longer to develop the facts necessary to achieve the maximum recovery possible for your injuries.
Resolution depends on a number of legal and factual issues. Our experience has proven to be a great asset in moving our clients’ cases along quickly. However, in some instances, we may feel that attempting to settle your case too early may hurt your case or may not bring you the maximum recovery possible. As the case progresses, our attorneys will discuss with you the factors that may affect the timing of the case, including the type of case you have, the nature of the defendant, or the complexity of issues. The Law Offices of Walter F. Benenati must remain cognizant of the balance between moving the case along quickly and providing top notch representation to achieve the maximum recovery possible in a reasonable period of time.
Notwithstanding the above, our experience shows that most cases resolve between 6-24 months, depending on the complexity of the issues and whether a jury trial is necessary.
In an auto accident, your medical bills will initially be submitted to your own car insurance, under its Personal Injury Protection (PIP) provision. If you purchased medical payment coverage on your car insurance, you can seek to have that pay first so as to have the PIP money available for potential lost wages. When your PIP is exhausted, your health insurance, if any, will cover your remaining medical expenses. Your health insurance company will be entitled to a lien against your case for the monies it has paid for your medical treatment related to the accident. If you do not have insurance, your doctor may accept a “Letter of Protection” which will allow you to treat without immediate payment until the claim is resolved. If a recovery is made, the Law Offices of Walter F. Benenati will pay the physician directly from the recovery prior to disbursing any monies to you. Ultimately, you will seek recovery for your medical expenses from the at-fault party just like any other element of your damages.
Uninsured motorist coverage stands in place of the liability insurance coverage that the at-fault party did not purchase. It is one of the most important coverages to obtain as it will cover your own damages in the event the at-fault driver has no liability insurance, which unfortunately is a common occurrence. Uninsured motorist coverage may also apply if you are injured by an unidentified hit-and-run vehicle.
Under-insured motorist coverage is additional coverage available to you when the at-fault driver does not have enough liability insurance to compensate you adequately for your injuries.
Depositions are out-of-court testimony made under oath and recorded by a court reporter for later use in court. Depositions are one way for the parties in a lawsuit to ask questions of each other and any witnesses prior to the trial of the case.
Mediation is an informal dispute resolution process during which the parties come together in the presence of a neutral party called a mediator. The parties will each present their side of the case to the mediator, who will then attempt to facilitate negotiations, get the parties to focus on the issues at hand and ultimately reach an out-of-court settlement. Mediation is a tool to help parties attempt to reach a compromise and avoid the necessity of going to jury trial. In some circumstances mediation is required prior to going to trial.
An out-of-court settlement is a resolution of your case that occurs before trial. It is possible to reach a settlement at numerous times during the claim, even after the necessity of filing a lawsuit. It is only through a negotiated settlement that the parties can control the decision making regarding the value of the claim. At trial, the decision making is taken away from the parties and placed in the hands of the jury.
The Law Offices of Walter F. Benenati will provide valuation estimates and advice on a reasonable settlement amount or potential jury verdict, but only the client can make the final decision to settle the case.
A statute of limitation is a restriction on the time frame for which to file a claim. If a claim is untimely filed, the defendant can raise the statute of limitations defense to defeat the claim. Most negligence actions in Florida have a 4 year statute of limitation. However, certain claims including medical malpractice and wrongful death have a 2 year statute of limitations which may be lengthened depending on the facts of the case. Statutes of limitation may vary depending on the facts of the claim and you should discuss any concerns with an attorney immediately.
Remain at the scene, get yourself to a safe location and call 9-1-1. If there has been an injury, request an ambulance. Regardless of how minor you think the auto accident is, you should always report it to the police. Unless you have been injured and need medical treatment, do not leave the scene until the police have arrived and have your statement about what occurred.
If you are injured in the accident you should go to the emergency room immediately. If your injuries were not emergencies, see a doctor as soon as you can after the collision. Keep records of all of your medical appointments and costs. If you do not have immediate symptoms, it is still a good idea to be evaluated by a physician. Sometimes the affects of the accident are not immediately felt due to the body’s response during the accident.
Whatever type of injury you have sustained from a car accident and however small or insignificant it appears to be, you should always seek both medical and legal assistance immediately following the accident. Delaying the process could mean a delay in diagnosis or treatment, and could also make the difference between a successful claim and ineligibility to file for compensation against the person responsible for your injuries and loss.
Get as many details of the accident as possible. Take pictures of the damaged vehicles and any injuries sustained. (Most cell phones have cameras) Get the names and numbers of any witnesses to the accident who may later be able to help prove your claim. The more detail you can provide your attorney the better.
Get the names, telephone numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers, vehicle and insurance information of the other parties involved in the collision.
Keep a written account of any conversations and dealings with the other individuals involved in the accident, insurance officers, agents, police or rescue personnel and any witnesses.
Save receipts, bills and proof of any out-of-pocket payments for any and all expenses relating to your claim such as bills for any repair work on the damaged vehicle, and any medical costs incurred for the treatment of any injuries including prescription expenses.
Contact your insurance company as soon after the accident or injury as possible. You will need to put them on notice of the accident and make a claim under your applicable insurance policy depending on your coverage. Apply for Personal Injury Protection benefits (‘PIP”), and if you have purchased it, medical payment coverage, collision coverage or other appropriate benefits.
Be truthful about the accident, injuries and any prior accidents and injuries so that your claim is not denied for fraudulent reasons.
Review all insurance policies that may provide coverage for the particular accident or injury. You may have multiple insurance policies from which to recover benefits for the accident.
Keep a diary of your activities of daily living and how the injury is affecting you and your family. Be as detailed as possible. In most cases, it will take some time to recover from your injuries and attempt a resolution of your claim. If you do not write down details, you may forget some of the problems you encountered, how the pain affected your abilities and how you suffered physically and emotionally.
If you have rental reimbursement coverage, you can have your insurance company reimburse your for renting another vehicle while yours is being repaired or replaced. Find out how much your insurance company will pay per day for a rental car and how many days the rental car will be covered.
Some insurers will send someone out to evaluate your auto insurance claim and assess the damage to your vehicle or they may ask you to get an estimate from a body shop first, after which they will send an adjuster to corroborate the estimate. Choose a body shop you trust, not necessarily the cheapest one. Also demand that your insurer pay for original equipment manufacturer parts for your vehicle and not generic aftermarket parts. If the estimate the adjuster offers is not fair, consult the appraisal provision of your policy to determine your options.
Contact an attorney that specializes in handling automobile accident cases.
Do not leave the scene unless you need to seek medical attention.
Be careful what you say at the accident scene and anytime discussing the accident later. Never admit to any kind of liability. Just relay the facts without expressing opinion. Determination of liability is affected by different circumstances. When speaking with the other parties, do not offer to pay for any damage or offer any apologies. Legally, apologies can be considered admissions of fault.
Never give a statement to the other party’s insurance company. The ultimate goal of the insurance adjuster is to obtain information that will eliminate or significantly reduce any money the insurance company must pay for your injuries. Never sign any documents from the other party’s insurance company without first having it reviewed by an experienced automobile accident attorney.
You do have a duty of cooperation with your own insurance company, but do not give information if you do not understand any part of your policy or claim. Speak with an experienced automobile accident attorney first.
Never sign any document that is a release or a waiver of any kind unless you are certain you understand what you are signing.
Be sure you do not wait too long to file your insurance claim. Most policies have time limitations within which to seek benefits under the policy so make sure you don’t disregard this time limit or else your claim may not be considered valid.
Remember not to believe everything your own or the other party’s insurance agent tells you as fact. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, not paying out claims. They will always give you estimates of losses lower than your actual losses. Get your own valuation estimates.
Never accept any payment as a full and final payment unless you are sure that it is a fair compensation for your losses.
Unlike a personal injury case, where the injured person is one of the plaintiffs, in the case of a wrongful death action, the decedent’s personal representative brings the action on behalf of survivors and the estate.
“Survivors” means the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, and, when partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services, any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters. It includes the child born out of wedlock of a mother, but not the child born out of wedlock of the father unless the father has recognized a responsibility for the child’s support.
“Minor children” means children under 25 years of age, notwithstanding the age of majority.
Each survivor may recover the value of lost support and services from the date of the decedent’s injury to death, with interest, and future loss of support and services from the date of death and reduced to present value.
“Support” includes contributions in kind as well as money.
“Services” means tasks, usually of a household nature, regularly performed by the decedent that will be a necessary expense to the survivors of the decedent. These services may vary according to the identity of the decedent and survivor and shall be determined under the particular facts of each case.
In evaluating loss of support and services, the survivor’s relationship to the decedent, the amount of the decedent’s probable net income available for distribution to the particular survivor, and the replacement value of the decedent’s services to the survivor may be considered. In computing the duration of future losses, the joint life expectancies of the survivor and the decedent and the period of minority, in the case of healthy minor children, may be considered.
The surviving spouse may also recover for loss of the decedent’s companionship and protection and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.
Minor children of the decedent, and all children of the decedent if there is no surviving spouse, may also recover for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.
Each parent of a deceased minor child may also recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Each parent of an adult child may also recover for mental pain and suffering if there are no other survivors.
If a survivor has paid medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death, the survivor may recover those expenses.
The decedent’s personal representative may recover for the decedent’s estate the following:
(a) Loss of earnings of the deceased from the date of injury to the date of death, less lost support of survivors excluding contributions in kind, with interest. Loss of the prospective net accumulations of an estate, which might reasonably have been expected but for the wrongful death, reduced to present money value, may also be recovered:
- If the decedent’s survivors include a surviving spouse or lineal descendants; or If the decedent is not a minor child , there are no lost support and services recoverable and there is a surviving parent.
- (b) Medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death that have become a charge against her or his estate or that were paid by or on behalf of decedent, excluding amounts paid by a survivor and recoverable to the survivor.
“Net accumulations” means the part of the decedent’s expected net business or salary income, including pension benefits that the decedent probably would have retained as savings and left as part of her or his estate if the decedent had lived her or his normal life expectancy. “Net business or salary income” is the part of the decedent’s probable gross income after taxes, excluding income from investments continuing beyond death, that remains after deducting the decedent’s personal expenses and support of survivors, excluding contributions in kind.
All awards for the decedent’s estate are subject to the claims of creditors who have complied with the requirements of probate law concerning claims.
Certain damages recoverable by minor children are not recoverable by adult children and certain damages are not recoverable by parents of an adult child with respect to claims for medical negligence.
The claim must also be evaluated for the availability of potential punitive damages.
Free Initial Consultation
Whether you have suffered a serious injury because of another’s negligence, or you are suffocating under mountains of debt, a consultation with the Benenati Law Firm may prove to be extremely advantageous. We encourage you to call our offices today at 407-777-7777, or fill out our online form to request your free, no-obligation, and completely confidential case consultation. If you are unable to travel to our location during our office hours, we offer after-hours and home visits for your convenience, too.