Did you or a loved one get seriously injured in a car wreck? Read our article for guidance, then call our Palm Harbor car accident attorneys.
Being in a car accident is traumatic. The likelihood of serious injury is high, and even a “low speed” accident will leave you with the frightening realization of just how vulnerable we as humans are.
If you’re reading this, you may have been injured in a car accident caused by someone else’s carelessness. You may be in pain. You’ve probably had to miss work, causing you stress about paying the bills. You’re probably wondering how to find the right attorney to help you with a car accident claim.
We are here to help with a free legal consultation. Call our Palm Harbor car accident attorneys today.
Don’t hesitate to reach out because you’re worried about needing money up-front to get answers about your car accident claim. Call us as soon as you can to schedule a free legal consultation.
The information below will help you understand what’s involved in your car accident claim. First, we’ll use a client story to illustrate points you need to know Then, we’ll show you the mistakes people often make that damage their claims. Please read the page through to learn as much as possible. When you’re done, give us a call so we can answer your specific claim questions.
Palm Harbor Car Accident Client Story
We are sharing the client story that follows to answer questions you may have about your car accident claim. While we’ve edited the details and names to preserve our client’s privacy, we’re confident you’ll learn a lot from the information. Be sure to read to the end, then give us a call to schedule your free legal consultation.
On a rainy day in June not very long ago, Margo Adler folded up the last of three loads of laundry off US Hwy 19 in Palm Harbor, Florida. She checked the time and sighed. Over two hours wasted getting the family clothes washed and dried.
The family’s new washing machine and dryer would arrive in four days. They couldn’t come fast enough as far as Margo was concerned. She and her husband Jim moved into their first home three weeks ago with their two toddlers. The seller was supposed to leave the washer and dryer behind according to the sales contract. When they’d arrived, however, the appliances were gone.
Sorting it all out had been a mess; the previous owners had already relocated to Arizona. In the end, the realtor issued them a check for the appliances, which Margo and Jim used to purchase replacements. At least, Margo told herself, they would be starting with new machines.
“Please God, let this be the last trip to the Laundromat,” Margo said under her breath as she packed the cargo area of her hatchback with the baskets.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like laundromats; she was grateful for the resource. She just had a very hard time waiting around while her clothes went through their cycles. Not enough time to get anything else done, but too much time to wait. Soon she could do laundry at home while her babies played and napped. The convenient first-floor laundry was one of the reasons they’d chosen a home without a basement.
After seven minutes of jostling, Margo got all three baskets to fit. Jim would probably need a pry bar to get them out again, but they wouldn’t block her view out the back. Safety first.
She closed the hatch, hopped behind the wheel, and pulled out onto Illinois Avenue, then turned right onto Palm Harbor Boulevard. There was just enough time to pick up her little ones from preschool without being late.
Margo was waiting at the light at Alderman and Omaha when she was rear-ended by the car behind her. She suffered two herniated discs in her back, a cracked rib, and whiplash.
After three days in the hospital, Margo was discharged to continue her recovery at home. Her treatment plan included medication, heat and cold treatments, and physical therapy. She was in a lot of pain.
Two weeks after discharge, Margo’s herniated discs were still causing inflammation in her back. Margo was still in pain and now experiencing weakness in her arms and legs and occasional numbness.
Taking care of their three-year-old boy and two-year-old girl was extremely challenging. Jim took off work for the first ten days, using up the remainder of his paid vacation time.
The accident caused significant financial strain. Margo hadn’t been able to work her part-time job, and now they would have to choose between Jim taking unpaid time off or hiring a sitter to help. Either decision would take their present financial situation from tenuous to worse.
The couple searched the internet for information about car accident claims and found the website of Morgenstern and Herd. They scheduled a free legal consultation.
How much will it cost to hire a lawyer?
When the Adlers arrived, their first question was about the cost to retain the firm.
Personal injury attorney Betsey Herd explained that the firm operated on a contingency fee model. “There is no up-front cost to you,” she told them. “The firm covers all case expenses from start to finish. When your case concludes, we only receive compensation when we bring your claim to a successful resolution.”
Do I have a car accident claim?
“Okay, that’s a good start,” Margo said. “The first thing I need to know is whether I have a claim worth pursuing.”
“That’s a good question,” said Attorney Herd. “Let me ask you a few questions.
“Who was at fault for the accident?”
“Witnesses said the other driver was tailgating. Apparently, the driver complained that I shouldn’t have had my laundry baskets stacked with clothes in the cargo area of my car,” Margo said, “as if somehow that made his rear-ending me my fault.
Herd asked, “Could you see out the back, and were both of your break lights working?”
“Yes to both; the brake lights were fine and I could see; I made sure of it before I pulled onto the road,” said Margo.
“Sounds like he was reaching to me,” said Herd. ” Besides, no matter how high that laundry was, he hit you while you were stopped at a light that was suspended eighteen feet above the road. I’m betting your laundry wasn’t piled that high.”
“Margo laughed and confirmed that it was not.”
“So, you’re probably okay on fault,” said Herd. “We begin every claim with a thorough accident investigation to confirm all the details, but even if you had been partially responsible for the accident, the State of Florida allows for ‘partial fault,’” said Herd.
“That means that if, for instance, you were deemed 25% responsible for the accident and the other driver was deemed 75% responsible, you could still recover 75% of the total amount of your damages.
“Again, we’ll confirm it all through an investigation, but it sounds as if you will not be found at fault in this accident.
“What about the driver’s insurance?” Herd continued. “Does he have bodily injury coverage?”
“Not enough,” said Jim with a sigh, “But, we have both uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage.”
“Okay, good,” said Herd. “How much property damage was there to the car?”
“There was a lot of damage,” Jim answered. “The frame was damaged, screwing up the suspension. And since it was a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, the transmission was damaged. It will also be necessary to replace the back hatch door, taillights, and bumper. We’ve gotten repair estimates between $7,5000 and $10,000.”
Herd nodded, “Okay. Oftentimes the insurance company will look at the amount of property damage to see if it supports the injured person’s claims of how badly they were hurt. A jury may eventually ask the property damage question as well, should your claim go to trial.
“Again, looking at the pre-investigation information we have, it appears as though you have the makings of a car accident claim for damages. If you choose to pursue a claim, we can help you do so.”
What’s the difference between ‘bodily injury’ coverage and ‘uninsured motorist’ coverage?
“What’s the difference between bodily injury coverage and uninsured motorist coverage?” asked Margo.
“The bodily injury coverage on your insurance policy protects the other driver in the case of an accident that you are responsible for,” said Attorney Herd. “The uninsured motorist coverage on your policy protects you if the other driver does not have any bodily injury coverage or doesn’t have enough bodily injury coverage to pay for your injuries.
“Since bodily injury coverage is optional in Florida,” Herd continued, “you can see how important it is to have that uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.”
The Adlers both agreed.
How much is my claim worth?
“Can you tell us what our claim may be worth?”
“Unfortunately, the value of your claim is not something we can reliably tell you until we’ve completed the accident investigation and determined your damages,” Herd replied.
“First, we’ll nail down the facts on the logistics of the accident and gather as much evidence as possible to support your claim, including witness testimony.
“From there, we’ll need you to reach ‘maximum medical improvement.’ This means recovering to the highest level you can, given your injuries. In a perfect world, that would mean returning to your pre-accident level of health.
“If your injuries prevent you from attaining this level of health, the highest level of health you are able to recover to will be considered your ‘new normal,’ and that will become your maximum medical improvement.
“Getting there will also mean you’re through with surgeries and your doctors know what the future care of your accident injuries might involve.
“When you reach this point, we’ll have the information we need to know your damages. That is when we can reliably tell you the value of your claim.”
Margo’s shoulders slumped and Jim put an arm around them. “Well,” she sighed, “to be honest, if you’d just spit out a case value without having seen any reports about the accident or my injuries, I’d have thought you weren’t trustworthy.”
“Good,” said attorney Herd. “That’s exactly how you should respond if any of the attorneys you consult with give you a claim value out of thin air. It’s just not possible to know that number up front without additional information, and guessing with all you have at stake is just plain irresponsible.”
How long will my claim take?
“Can you give us an idea of how long Margo’s claim will take?” Asked Jim.
“No, because your claim timeline will depend on two factors,” said Herd, “But I will explain what you can expect as we go.
“The first part of your claim timeline is going to depend on how long it takes Margo to recover to maximum medical improvement. So, if she’s improving quickly, you’ll know your case has the potential to wrap up quicker than if she was making very slow progress medically.
“When she gets to maximum medical improvement, we’ll send the insurance company a demand letter based on her damages. From that point on, her claim timeline is going to depend on how they respond to our request for compensation.
“If they work with us to arrive at fair compensation for Margo’s damages, we can wrap it all up without further delay. If, however, they fight us and refuse to make a reasonable settlement offer, we’ll sue in court. Naturally, if it comes to that, the timeline will be extended until the case concludes.
“Please try not to stress over the possibility of a trial, though,” Herd said. “Our firm has a long and successful record of winning claims like yours in the courtroom, in addition to winning settlements. No matter which way your claim goes, Margo, we’ll be ready to fight for you.
“And it’s likely the insurance company is aware of our reputation. They may decide to settle to avoid coming up against us in front of a jury. There are no guarantees as to how your case will play out, of course, but this sometimes happens.
“That’s why no matter who you retain as your attorney, I recommend you choose a personal injury trial lawyer with a long history of winning car accident claims.”
Margo and Jim were satisfied with what they learned in their free legal consultation. Margo retained Morgenstern and Herd to represent her claim, and Attorney Herd got Margo six times the amount the insurance company initially offered.
Common Car Accident Claim Mistakes
There are many mistakes you can make in your car accident claim that can damage your ability to get full compensation. Please familiarize yourself with the errors below to protect the value of your claim.
Not Seeking a Medical Exam
After a car accident, it’s vital to go to the doctor. Don’t assume you‘re unharmed just because you don’t feel pain.
When the human body experiences traumatic events, it naturally switches to “fight or flight” mode. This provides a surge of strength and energy. It can also get in the way of pain registration.
If you think this sounds odd, consider how helpful this combination of temporary “superpowers” was 12,000 years ago when our ancestors needed to flee dangerous predators. The fight or flight response increased the likelihood of escape; even when injured.
These days the fight or flight response is counter-productive because it interferes with our better judgement. People who are unaware of the effects of this sudden flood of stress hormones may decide they don’t need a doctor, which is wrong.
The adrenaline rush that hits you after a car accident can last eighteen hours. If you wait until you feel pain to get checked, you could be putting your life at risk. Internal bleeding and other injuries you can’t see with the naked eye aren’t going to wait before harming you.
In addition to risking your health, when you don’t get a medical exam right after an accident, you put your car accident claim at risk. Fair or not, allowing a time gap between accident and medical exam can cast doubt on whether you were seriously injured in the crash.
Remember that for the insurance company, fulfilling claims is not actually about being a great “neighbor” to the community, it’s a numbers game. The less they pay out on claims, the more money they make. Getting a medical exam immediately after the accident establishes a record of when and how seriously you were injured. This will serve as valuable evidence for your claim.
Not Sticking to Your Treatment Plan
When you are discharged from the hospital, you’ll be sent home with a treatment plan. This is a set of instructions tailor-made to help you recover as efficiently as possible.
Your treatment plan may include a variety of potential activities, such as taking medications, going to physical therapy, stretching, and keeping follow-up appointments. It’s important to adhere to however you doctor advises you to help with your own recovery, including refraining from activities that are too strenuous for you until you’ve healed.
Insurance companies still conduct investigations to verify injuries. They may claim this is to keep the cost of premiums down, but it’s largely to save on compensation wherever possible. If you are discovered snowboarding with a sprained knee for example, your claim could be thrown out.
Don’t risk your health or your claim, make sure you follow your doctor’s treatment plan.
It’s a Mistake to Speak with the Insurance Company
After you are injured in a car accident, expect an insurance adjuster to call and ask to record your statement. This is standard procedure for the insurance company, but it doesn’t mean it’s something you should agree to.
The insurance company is not calling to help you get your claim processed. They are attempting to record your statement in hopes of finding a loophole they can use to shift blame for the accident back onto you. The more they can blame you, the less they must pay out in compensation.
Most people assume they must take this call to get their claim processed. This is not the case. In fact, the opposite is true; they are looking for information that can help them blame the accident on you. The best course of action is to defer all communications with the insurance company to your Palm Harbor car accident attorneys.
Not Choosing an Attorney as Quickly as Possible
It’s understandable that after a car accident you may need a little time before you can wrap your thoughts around starting an injury claim. But if you wait, it’s best to do so with the intention of looking for a lawyer as soon as you are up to it.
If you’re waiting to file a claim because the state’s statute of limitations gives you “plenty of time” to get around to it, remember that the real concern is the availability of evidence.
The scene of the accident will quickly be cleared away. You’re going to want someone to advocate for you as soon as possible, visiting the accident scene themselves before too much time has gone by to make sure nothing’s been missed.
For example, a store’s security camera footage may provide a view of the scene of the accident, but that camera may be set to record over itself after a set number of days if the store doesn’t have any security incidents. The sooner your attorney can investigate the scene of the accident, the better the chances any evidence that may have been missed can be collected.
It’s also important to consider that witnesses may forget crucial details about the accident as time goes by. Witnesses may also change contact information, becoming impossible to locate.
Give your lawyer the best chance to build a strong claim for you by enabling them to get started as soon as possible.
Skipping an Attorney Altogether
If you’re toying with the idea of handling your own accident claim to save yourself money, it’s important to know that most people who go this route are awarded many times less than those who hire experienced lawyers.
The reasons for this are many:
- A personal injury attorney knows how to accurately assess your economic and non-economic damages so that you can collect everything you deserve from your claim.
- An experienced personal injury lawyer is going to see insurance company tricks for what they are, and help you avoid them to maintain the value of your claim.
- An attorney is much more likely to have the objectivity to weigh settlement offers and advise you on which ones are worth considering and which are better passed up.
- When you take on your claim by yourself, the insurance company knows you don’t have an attorney to drag them before a jury if they refuse to offer a reasonable settlement. This know ledge alone often leads them to string you along with claim delays and denials, because they know your attempts to arrive at a settlement are really all you’ve got to throw at them.
- In addition, having a skilled personal injury lawyer allows you to channel all your energy into your recovery to heal as quickly as possible.
Assuming Any Lawyer Can Bring You the Same Results
Even when people realize they will benefit from turning over their car accident claim to a lawyer, they often fail to make sure they hire someone with the right kind of experience.
Lawyers, like doctors, have many career paths open to them. You wouldn’t turn to a foot surgeon for surgery on your spine. A lawyer who dabbles in personal injury claims may not have much regular experience in the realm of personal injury and specifically, car accident claims.
It’s also important to make sure the person you hire is a trial attorney. While most claims are resolved via settlement, hiring a trial attorney will benefit you whether your case settles or goes to trial.
When the insurance company sees you’ve hired a successful trial lawyer to protect your rights, it’s not uncommon for them to reconsider their refusal to settle. Letting a jury decide your compensation is a risky move for the insurance company. If you hire someone with a great track record, it’s likely to get their attention.
Hiring one of our Palm Harbor car accident attorneys with trial experience is your best strategy for receiving maximum compensation for your car accident claim.
Call Our Palm Harbor Car Accident Attorneys Today
Were you or a loved one injured in a car accident? If you have questions about a car accident claim, contact our experienced Palm Harbor Car Accident Attorneys to schedule your free legal consultation and case evaluation today.