Florida law provides for an injured person to be compensated or made whole by the responsible party. Obviously, the extent of compensation will vary depending on the specific facts of a case. In many cases, however, full compensation may include elements of damage other than payment of medical bills, such as payment for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of ability to enjoy life, lost wages and diminished earning capacity. This is why early consultation with a lawyer experienced in personal injury cases can help you obtain the maximum recovery allowed by the law.
2. My friend knows a lawyer that drafted a will for him several years ago. Why can’t that lawyer represent me in my personal injury case?
Personal injury claims are often brought against parties who are represented by adjusters and defense lawyers hired by insurance companies. Every insurance company works hard to keep its losses as low as possible, and they do that by aggressively defending claims. You can expect that your opposition will be represented by an attorney with a great deal of experience in personal injury defense. You should hire a lawyer with experience in pursuing personal injury claims, who can best protect your interests.
Before hiring a lawyer, you should research the law firm and lawyers you are considering to represent you. Ask for information about the lawyer’s education, training and experience, and ask the lawyer to tell you about his/her experience in dealing with cases similar to yours. Ask about the lawyer’s trial and courtroom experience, and assure yourself that if your case goes to trial, your lawyer has the knowledge and experience to take you there. Ask the lawyer to go over the attorney’s fee contract with you in detail, and be sure you understand how the lawyer’s fees and costs will be paid at the end of the case.
Most trial lawyers are willing to handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that the lawyer will not charge you a fee for his time unless there is a recovery. If a recovery is made, then the attorney’s fee is based on an agreed percentage of the gross amount recovered. The lawyers at The Berman McGrath Law Group charge contingency fees in accordance with the Florida Supreme Court guidelines, typically 33-1/3% in a case that is settled before the need for a lawsuit arises, and 40% when a lawsuit becomes necessary and is contested. The contingent attorney’s fee does not include the costs of pursuing a claim, which may range from just a few hundred dollars to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. These costs are payable separately, and not as a part of the contingent fee. Although many law firms may require you to pay these costs in advance, at Berman & Berman we understand that the consequences of an injury make it difficult, if not impossible, for our clients to advance the costs of a case. In most cases, we pay the costs, and simply ask to be reimbursed at the conclusion of a case when your recovery is received.
Typically, no. The majority of cases we handle involve a contingency fee contract. That means we do not get paid unless and until our client makes a recovery. In some unique circumstances, we will represent a client on an hourly-fee basis, if the case calls for such an arrangement. In either case, the fee and cost agreement you have with our firm will be explained to you in detail before we begin pursuit of your claim.
6. Isn’t it expensive to pursue a claim involving serious injuries, medical malpractice, or a defective product? Who pays for the out-of-pocket expenses to prosecute my case?
Indeed, it can be very expensive to pursue claims involving serious injuries, medical malpractice and defective products. It is not uncommon for the costs in such cases to exceed many tens of thousand dollars. At The Berman McGrath Law Group we understand that the expenses of pursuing significant cases can be substantial. Accordingly, we have positioned ourselves to be able to advance the costs necessary to prepare cases properly for trial. Ultimately, out-of-pocket expenses are a client’s responsibility in a successfully-concluded case. While a case is pending, we generally advance the expenses incurred during our representation. If and when the case reaches a successful conclusion, the costs we have expended are returned to us out of your recovery.
Every case is unique. Before an accurate determination of the value of your personal injury case can be made, your doctors must have determined that you have reached maximum medical improvement, and we must have a thorough understanding of your course of medical treatment, your current condition and your future prognosis. Additionally, we must have had an opportunity to completely investigate the details of the accident, and analyze the impact that the accident has had on your wage-earning ability and on your lifestyle. Only then can an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney accurately determine the value of your case. You should be wary of any law firm that purports to put a specific value on your claim before having an opportunity to learn all of the relevant facts and determine the impact that the accident will have on your future.
8. I’m not the “suing” type. Is there any way my claim can be resolved without actually filing a lawsuit?
You should know that the vast majority of personal injury claims are resolved before a jury reaches a verdict at trial. Many cases are settled even before a lawsuit must be filed. The ultimate decision about whether to file a lawsuit at all is the client’s. At The Berman McGrath Law Group we are committed to helping our clients reach a satisfactory conclusion to their claim, whether by a lawsuit and trial, or by some alternative means. Our lawyers are experienced in alternative dispute resolution procedures, such as mediation and arbitration, that can avoid the need to file a lawsuit altogether. In all cases, we take the time to explain to our clients the alternatives available, including the risks and advantages of each, so that our clients can make an informed decision that is best for his or her individual circumstances.
It is well-documented that most lawsuits that are filed are settled before trial. Regardless, we prepare every case as if it might ultimately be decided by a jury. We believe in being prepared in the event an agreement between the parties cannot be reached. At the same time, our philosophy is to aggressively pursue resolution of claims at all stages in the case, so that the process does not become unduly difficult, burdensome, or expensive for our clients, and so that we obtain the best results possible.
10. I’ve heard that jury awards are more conservative than they used to be, and that the large verdicts I read about in the newspaper are unusual. Is this true?
Studies show that verdict trends have moved in a more conservative direction over the past several years, both with respect to the probability of a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor and the amount of damages awarded. The popular media focus on the unusual verdicts, and tend to sensationalize jury awards that are exceptional. Do not be misled into thinking that juries routinely award large amounts of money for personal injury claims. The results in any case depend on its particular facts and the effectiveness of your legal representation.