AUTO ACCIDENTS

BETWEEN 80% AND 92% OF AUTO ACCIDENT CASES SETTLE*... WHY HASN'T YOURS?

A very important recent study has shown that, for plaintiffs i.e. the person who files the claim, settling is better than going to trial.  "The lesson for plaintiffs is, in the vast majority of cases, they are perceiving the defendant's offer to be half a loaf when in fact it is an entire loaf or more," said Randall L. Kiser, a co-author of the study and principal analyst at DecisionSet, a consulting firm that advises clients on litigation decisions.  Most of the plaintiffs who said "no way" to the final settlement offer and went to trial ended up getting less money.  Only 15 percent of the time were both sides correct in proceeding to trial. In the other 85% it was the plaintiff who was wrong the most: in 61% of cases. Defendants were incorrect in proceeding to trial just 24% of the time.

Many practicing attorneys will concur with these findings. "We've all seen cases where the personal injury plaintiff should have settled but did not and ended up worse at trial. It's like the Kenny Rogers song: 'you have to know when to hold them, when to fold them, when to walk away and when to run."

According to informed estimates most court cases do settle before trial-(these estimates range between 80% and 92%.)  Kiser's study was based on 2054 cases that went to trial between 2002 and 2005. The study was published in the September issue of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies

Going to trial may not always be the right choice.  According to CBJS Civil Justice Statistics, in 49% of jury trial cases, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff awarding a median total award of only $35,000, while plaintiffs won in 62% of bench trials (tried by the judge without a jury) with a median total award of only $28,000. 

Mr. Thomas is a trained mediator and skilled negotiator and has received a Certificate from the University of South Florida in "Circuit Civil" Mediation, the level of Court nearly all auto accident cases are filed within.  The training he has obtained assists him in getting your case settled.   Mr. Thomas has also assembled experienced support staff working in this department at the firm, to serve you.  We know what the insurance company is thinking.  Thus, we can get your case settled.

Injuries resulting from automobile accidents are common claims in Florida. A personal injury resulting from an automobile accident can have a devastating effect on the lives of the victim. We are Florida personal injury attorneys, who assist victims in obtaining compensation for their injuries. The victim of an automobile accident may be entitled to collect for their pain and suffering, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, disability, inconvenience, and of course, medical bills and lost wages. We will assist you in virtually every step of the way, including advising you or a loved one what benefits you are entitled to as a result of the negligence of another.

Click on this link to download and print for your vehicle a free "Glove Box Organizer" Just fold it along the printed lines and place it in your car¡¯s glove box right next to your auto insurance card. Use this Organizer as a guide when obtaining crucial data in the event of an accident.

"I WAS JUST IN AN AUTO ACCIDENT... WHAT DO I DO NOW?"

 THE DO's

  1. DO call the police, turn on your emergency flashers and sit down.

  2. DO write down the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all potential witnesses to the accident. (Anybody who saw the accident) Just ask them for it. Do not wait for the police to do it for you.

  3. DO get the license plate numbers of all other vehicles involved in the accident and obtain the drivers' names, addresses, telephone numbers, and insurance information.  Just ask them for it. Do not wait for the police to do it for you.

  4. DO cooperate with all law enforcement and emergency personnel who respond to the scene but do not admit fault or apologize.

  5. DO go to the hospital to have yourself thoroughly checked, even if you think you are only slightly injured.  Go by ambulance if offered.

  6. DO take photographs of both vehicles¡¯ damage if you can, and if you cannot, immediately contact the Law office of James M. Thomas Esq. at 1.866.503.8200 so that we may make arrangements to take photographs for you.

  7. DO contact the Law Office of James M. Thomas Esq. PA. at the number above to further assist you after the accident; THEN¡­

  8. DO contact only your personal automobile insurance company, and report the accident, even if you believe it was partly your fault.

 THE DONT's

  1. DO NOT engage in discussion about the accident with anyone other than the police, period.  However, you can reveal insurance information to the other driver, and if you are injured, you can tell emergency personnel that you are hurt.  Make sure you do not apologize for anything, period. It can be considered as evidence of fault or guilt to be used against you later.

  2. DO NOT make statements to any insurance company without first contacting the Law Office of James M. Thomas Esq. That includes your own insurance company. Remember insurance companies are in business to make money, not pay it out in claims.

  3. DO NOT move your vehicle after an automobile accident unless necessary for safety or required by law.

  4. DO NOT subject yourself to further injury by standing or waiting in traffic and avoid other safety hazards. You should find a safe place to sit down until police arrive.

  5. DO NOT leave the scene of an accident until the police tell you it is okay to do so.

  6. DO NOT throw away or wash any potential evidence in the case, such as torn or blood-stained clothing.

Claim Dynamics

Every individual operating a motor vehicle within Florida has a duty to exercise reasonable care in the operation of that motor vehicle. A breach of that duty is called "Negligence". Negligence can be a basis to bring a lawsuit against any party at least partially responsible for the accident.

 

The State of Florida has a No-Fault Personal Injury Protection "PIP" law, which requires your personal auto insurer to pay for non-economic damages (e.g. medical expenses, lost wages), regardless of who caused the accident. This basically means that 80% of the first $10,000 in non-economic damages is covered by your own PIP auto insurance, regardless of fault. 

 

You may then look to the at-fault driver's Bodily Injury Auto Insurance coverage to cover all other available damages related to your injury, such as: medical costs (over PIP payments) pain and suffering, lost wages, etc.

 

In the event the at-fault driver's Bodily Injury Auto Insurance coverage tenders policy limits (the most it will pay under the policy), you may then look to your own Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist insurance coverage (UM), if you have such coverage available, to further compensate you for your injuries/damages. You should always elect to purchase UM coverage on all your motor vehicles.

 

If you use public (e.g. Medicaid/Medicare) or private insurance (e.g. often employer offered insurance) to pay for medical treatment after you have exhausted your PIP coverage, they may place a lien on your recovery. Please note that they are not likely to reduce their bill based on your settlement amount and will often seek no less than payment in full at the conclusion of your case.

 

What Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?

 

You may be asking, "What is my injury case worth?"  There are thousands of variables which determine the value of a personal injury case and most of these variables become known long after a lawyer is retained.  Asking "What is my case worth" is like asking a car dealer what a car is worth when s/he hasn't seen the car or even know what kind of car.  Thus, it is impossible to for a lawyer to know the true value of a case in the beginning of the case.  It is also impossible to for another lawyer to know the true value of a case without seeing the entire file.  

 

Some of the factors that affect the value of a case are:  

 

Liability: Is someone responsible for causing your injury and how much did you contribute to the accident;  How good are the police report and/or witnesses;  

 

Injury: How serious the injury is, if you have permanent scars then how large, raised, noticeable and the location of the scar, whether the injury is permanent, how often and for how long you were treated by a doctor, what the doctor did to treat you, whether all of your doctors have stated in written reports that your injuries were caused by the accident and are permanent;  Whether you were working, had lost wages, and whether you can continue to work in the future;  

 

Insurance:  Is there insurance covering the people or companies who caused your injuries, which insurance companies insure the persons and companies responsible for your injuries, which branch office of those insurance companies will handle the claim and which insurance company claim representatives will handle the claim.  

 

Venue: The state and county where the case is in court.  Where the case will be heard ALWAYS affects its value.

 

Jury Composition: The age, race, sex of the jury is a recovery factor;

 

Statute of Limitations: The time remaining until your case will come to trial;  

 

Your Social Status and Ability as a Witness: Your age, race, sex, social status (wealthier people usually will not do as well);  How will the injured client and the defendant appear in court, how well will they testify and how credible they are;

 

Your Position: Your desire to settle quickly or wait possible years for more money at trial, and whether you are willing to go to trial or would rather not.  There are also many more factors which arise during the representation.

 

Case Value: To determine the value of a case for settlement, after considering all the above, the lawyers for both sides and the insurance claim representatives (adjuster) will try to estimate what the case would get at verdict after a trial.   Once the verdict estimate amount is determined, then the estimated amount of trial expenses (cost of expert witnesses such as doctors and engineers, court reporter fees, etc.) is deducted and the present net value (the discounted value of a dollar that is paid today, rather than a date in the future) is deducted, this amount is the gross settlement amount.  To arrive at a "net" settlement amount, you must consider the disruption of everyone's life for the week or two that it takes to do a trial and the risk of losing and getting nothing.  The amount of legal fees should not be considered when determining if a case is worth settling, since the legal fees have nothing to do with the value of your case. They are simply a percentage of the amount recovered and are payable whether the case settles or reaches verdict.  

 

Shared Fault for Accident

If your case is one where accident fault is shared, meaning all drivers contributed to the accident somehow, a court may reduce your damages.  Before that can happen, the Defendant(s) must establish that actions or omissions of action (not doing something) on your part contributed to the accident.

Thus "comparative negligence," (part my fault, part theirs) means that a court can reduce your damage award by the percentage for which a jury found you partially responsible for the accident.

Example:  Let's say your damages totaled $100,000, but the jury finds you 25% responsible for the accident.  Your recovery would be reduced by 25% percent, to $75,000 and you would then only recover $75,000.

 
Florida law also allows the reduction of damage awards by any amounts you might have already received from public or private insurance to compensate you for your losses. This is known as the "Collateral Source Rule."

 

YOUR INITIAL CONSULTATION ON ANY AUTO ACCIDENT MATTER IS ALWAYS FREE
 

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