28Feb 2020

By Christopher J. Smith, Managing Partner

Image of hands taking a picture on cellphone

Knowing that accidents can happen does not detract from the pain and confusion that can result when an accident or injury happens to you or a loved one, as you try to deal with the aftermath.

Personal injury cases are legal disputes that arise when one person suffers harm from an accident or injury, and someone else might be legally responsible for that harm.

Some examples of personal injury include:

There are many reasons to consider hiring a personal injury attorney to represent your rights. Many personal injury accidents involve insurance companies, which often have a lot of legal resources. To level the playing field, it’s helpful to have your own team of experts when dealing with insurance companies, whether your own carrier or the carrier of the other party. Bottom line: insurance companies will protect their own interests first.

It’s also important to have the right medical team handling your injuries. A personal injury attorney will be knowledgeable about laws in the state and help get you the right medical experts who will be able to explain how your injuries could impact you in the future.

An attorney can also spend the time to request medical records, review police reports, communicate with the insurance adjuster and be objective while you may be hurt, frustrated and angry. Attorneys also have many tools to pursue a fair settlement, including arbitration, mediation or even trial.

How do I choose a personal injury attorney?

The success of personal injury attorneys is based on several factors, including education, legal skill and experience. The attorney you retain should have a proven record of winning cases similar to yours and should be willing to thoroughly explain his or her recommendations based on the specific details of your case.

In addition to experience, does the attorney you are considering have certifications and industry endorsements, such as the Florida Bar Association’s Board Certification? Peer reviews such as The Martindale-Hubbell Bar Registry (www.martindale.com), which has peer review ratings of more than 1 million lawyers across the country, The Best Lawyers in America (www.bestlawyers.com), which are selected by peers, and Super Lawyers (www.superlawyers.com), which have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement are a few to look for.

It’s important that you feel comfortable with the attorney you hire and confident that your interests will be a top priority.

Who will do the work on my case?

Will your initial consultation be with an attorney, or with a non-attorney staff member? It’s important to meet the attorney who will be working on your case and ask them about how communication will be handled and what level of access you will have to them. Are client reviews available? They can help you see the experience through a client’s eyes.

What is your level of courtroom experience?

Despite what television and films might portray, most civil cases do not go to trial, so why is it important to seek an attorney with trial experience? The prospect of a potential trial will have significant impact on your case and its value. If the insurance company knows your lawyer doesn’t typically go to trial, they may offer less. It’s more effective if negotiations reflect the fact that an unsatisfactory settlement offer may result in taking the case to trial.

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What is my case worth?

There is no tried and proven formula to determine exactly how much a case is worth and it may depend on several factors including: how the evidence is received and evaluated by a jury; whether or not there are any inconsistencies in testimony; the availability of medical records; pre-existing conditions and other factors that would allow the insurance company’s lawyer to attack the credibility of the injured party.

Under the law, plaintiffs in personal injury cases are entitled to both economic and non-economic damages. These include:

  • Past medical bills
  • Future medical bills
  • Past lost wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Inconvenience
  • Loss of capacity to enjoy life
  • Mental anguish
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement

Because every case is different, even with all the information, it is very difficult for anyone to establish an exact figure as to the net worth of a case. But, typically, a range of value can be determined.

What are the attorney’s fees and costs for a personal injury case?

Fees in a personal injury case are contingent upon the financial recovery in your case. The fees are in accordance with guidelines set by the Florida Supreme Court. If there is no recovery, there is no fee. Therefore, lawyers share a common objective of obtaining a favorable result in your case.

Make sure your financial arrangement is clearly and fully explained at the initial interview as well as during pursuit of the case.

Why must I pay “costs” in my case?

In Florida, a lawyer or law firm is not permitted to obtain a financial interest in the client’s case. To ensure this does not happen, Florida Bar rules governing the conduct of lawyers allows a law firm to advance the costs of a case or litigation, but the client must remain responsible to the law firm to reimburse the costs of the matter.

Depending on the type of case involved, costs can be minimal or can run into thousands of dollars if complex litigation is involved. In cases that are settled before a lawsuit is filed, the costs are much less.

Costs can include:

  • Court filing fees
  • Expert witness fees
  • Administrative fees
  • Information-gathering expenses

In certain cases, these expended costs can be recovered from the insurance company directly.

What is the level of experience of the firm?

Experience is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing an attorney. With experience, a personal injury attorney will be able to anticipate problems before they occur, and effectively defend arguments against a victim’s compensation.

Any potential personal injury case requires a detailed understanding of the facts, the processes and the law. If an accident has impacted your life — and someone else is liable for that injury — then you may be entitled to compensation. Learn more by speaking with an injury law attorney near you.

21Jan 2020
Motorcyclist? We’ve got your back

The team of Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz was proud to sponsor the “Rev it Up” Bike Night at the Shell Factory Jan. 16. Food specials and Happy Hour benefitted Shell Factory’s nature park foundation, and our team was on hand to answer questions about motorcycle law and safety.

As experienced trial lawyers, Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz assist clients who have suffered injuries or losses as a result of a motorcycle injury. We seek all sources of compensation available to our clients such as medical expenses, loss of wages, rehabilitation and other possible long-term expenses in order to help them make a full financial recovery.

Join us at the next bike night at the Shell Factory March 19, we’d love to meet you! And we’ve got water bottles, grocery bags, highlighters, pens, chip clips, magnetic clips, lip balm and keychains to share.

21Jan 2020

Car Accidents: Our ExpertiseGoldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz was recently named among the Best Car Accident Lawyers in Fort Myers, by Expertise. The firm was one of 19 selected out of 34 area firms considered.

Expertise hand-picks objectively quantified and qualified professionals for its lists, identifying the top service professionals in over 200 different industries in the United States. To date, Expertise has analyzed more than 10 million companies to help more than 10 million customers find the best qualified professionals for their needs.

Using publicly available data, Expertise verifies contact and license information, and then using in-house software grades each business on more than 25 variables across five categories: reputation, credibility, experience, engagement and professionalism.

To see the listing, click here.

17Jan 2020
Helmet on Road with Bike
Helmet on Road with Bike

In December, news media reported that Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson broke some ribs and punctured his lung after falling off his bike. In 2014, long-time television meteorologist Jim Reif died after sustaining head injuries from a bike accident.

It was an important reminder that bicycle accidents can happen to anyone. If you received a bicycle for Christmas and are looking forward to riding in the cooler weather or are hoping to cycle to meet your new year’s exercise goals, take care.

With weather conducive nearly year-round for bike use, Florida has a high number of cyclists. It also has a lot of motor vehicles and visitors who are not as familiar with area roadways, which may be why Florida has the highest number of bicycle accident deaths in the United States.

In 2018, there were 6,568 reported bicycle crashes in Florida, resulting in 148 deaths and 6,175 injuries. For the first quarter of 2019, preliminary data reported 1,695 bicycle accidents statewide with 40 fatalities and 1,588 injuries. Many bicycle accidents go unreported, so the number are likely higher.

Many bicycle accidents are caused by mistakes made by both bikers and motorists, with most fatalities caused by one or the other failing to yield the right of way. The Department of Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles notes these tips for motorists sharing the road with cyclists:

  • Drivers must give bicyclists a minimum of three feet of clearance when driving alongside or passing them. It’s the law.
  • When turning, yield to any bicyclist in the bike lane and make your turn behind them.
  • Avoid using high beam headlights when a bicyclist is approaching.
  • Before opening a car door, check for bicyclists who may be approaching from behind.

In Florida, the bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle and has all the privileges, rights and responsibilities on public roads (except for expressways) that a motor vehicle operator does. When it comes down to a 20-pound bicycle versus a 3,000-plus pound automobile, however, it’s necessary for cyclists to be vigilant about their own safety. The Department of Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles suggests bicyclists should:

  • Obey all traffic controls and signals.
  • Not ride a bicycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Stay alert – do not text or wear headphones or ear buds, so you can hear everything around you.
  • Use the bike lane if you are not traveling at the speed of other traffic. If no bike lane is available, you must stay on the right-most side of the road.
  • Use the full lane when making a left turn, passing, avoiding hazards or when a lane is too narrow for you and a car to share it safely.
  • Use directional hand signals to show other drivers that you are about to turn.
  • Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians on a sidewalk or crosswalk.
  • Have a white light visible from 500 feet on the front and a reflector and red light visible from 600 feet on the rear between sunset and sunrise.
  • Wear neon or fluorescent colors and something reflective when riding, day or night.
  • Wear a helmet. Bicyclists under age 16 are required to wear helmets.

While following the above safety tips will help ensure safer cycling, there is no way to eliminate the risks involved in riding a bicycle. If you are in a bike accident with a motor vehicle or another cyclist, be sure to get medical attention. You’ll also want to make sure the accident has been reported to police so there is a record.

After the accident, it’s important to attempt to preserve your damaged bicycle and document the scene of the incident with photographs, including vehicles and any tire marks or other roadway evidence. The nature of the damage and evidence will help tell the story of who was at fault for the accident.

An insurance investigator or claims adjuster may contact you regarding your claim. Unless you have discussed your case with an attorney, do not give a written or recorded statement or sign any releases for the insurance company. The claims adjuster works for the insurance company, and it’s the adjuster’s job to settle claims for the lowest amount possible, which is often less than many claims are worth.

 

If you or someone you know has been injured in a bicycle accident due to the negligence of a motor vehicle driver, seek advice from an attorney experienced in personal injury cases. An attorney can advise you of your rights, help make sure you are receiving any required medical treatment needed and investigate your case.

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