A few days ago I exchanged emails with a potential client who had been rear ended at a red light by a truck. These same rules apply even if you were on a motorcycle. The main thing he wanted to know was “Do I have a case?” This question comes up a lot and is best answered by going through a checklist with me.
1. Were you seriously injured? A “serious” injury is a prerequisite to having a case. In layman’s terms this deals with the amount of DAMAGES which can be recovered. Pictures of the vehicles tend to show whether or not a crash was serious. If there is very little damage then the likelihood is that there is no case. On the other hand a roll-over collision which totals a car is probably indicative of a case. The law looks at “Serious” and defines it in terms of injuries to the passengers. It means the injured person must have one or all of these things to have a case:
- either a significant and disfiguring scar; or
- a permanent (forever) injury of some kind, usually to the bones and ligaments and soft tissues, but it may include headaches alone;
- or a death.
- if none of the above then you have a case only to get your medical bills and your wage losses (if any) in excess of those payable by your own insurance company
If the answer to any or all of these is yes, then this is the next question I ask:
2. Is there any insurance to pay for your medical bills, lost wages and other damages? This has also been known as the “Deep Pocket.”
- insurance means that the at fault driver has liability insurance, to pay for the damages he/she caused by their negligence, or
- backup insurance, known as “uninsured motorists” or underinsured motorists coverage which protects against negligent drivers. It has been estimated that 40% of all drivers in Florida have NO INSURANCE.
- medicare and group health carriers will have the right to get any money back they payout for your medical care due to the accident. This is called a “Lien.”
If the answer to 1. and 2. is yes, then the next question I ask is
3. Who caused the accident?
- Liability is another word for responsibility, or fault. Florida is not a Black or White state. There can be more than one person who caused the accident and judging fault can be tricky. Just because a ticket was given out does not mean the ticketed person was at fault. See my earlier blog about the T Word.
- If the liability is “iffy” or unclear, such as where each driver claims they had the green light, then that enters into the decisions. It makes me wonder how much time and effort it will take to get a fair settlement.
- Independent eyewitnesses are golden, as are scene photos showing skid marks, and crush damages.
4. Finally, there are some intangibles. Do I think my client will come across as deserving? Or as someone who is trying to get something for nothing? Does what they say make sense? Do they have unreasonable expectations about what they will get out of the case? Have they been injured before? How serious is the injury? It’s hard to tell if it has only been a week or two.
Bottom line: If you were in a wreck, at the very least call your doctor right away and get some treatment started. What seems like a nuisance injury can be very serious. Men are usually macho and try to tough it out and make the mistake of not getting in to see a doctor for weeks or longer. This makes it harder to link the accident to the injury. Take photos of the car and the scene and keep them for later on. If there are witnesses ask them for a brief written description of the accident.
I do not charge for initial consults with clients and can explain this in greater detail during an office conference.