Florida Personal Injury Cases: A brief overview of the process
Personal Injury Basics:
Most Personal Injury cases settle before a Complaint is ever filed. Prior to filing a Complaint, the case is called a Claim. We attempt to work-out all claims with the tortfeasor (individual responsible by law)’s Insurance company and settle for an amount of money.
PI auto cases generically work as follows:
Plaintiff is involved in a car accident. Plaintiff is then either taken to ER or goes home and later feels pain and decides they need treatment. Plaintiff signs up with a PI attorney. Pl attorneys generally operate on the basis of a contingency fee. This means that a percentage of whatever is recovered is kept by the attorney. This is the “we don’t get paid unless you win" type of fee. We collect 33.3% or 1/3 of the fee recovered if the case settles. Attorneys generally increase their fees if the case progresses to the point of litigation, explained later.
PI attorney sends letters of representation to the new client’s insurance company and the tortfeasor’s insurance company. When the PI attorney becomes aware of places the plaintiff is treating, they must submit a HIPPA release and a letter of representation to the medical care providers. This is usually when the medical care provider will send the PI attorney a letter of protection form to sign. A letter of protection guarantees the medical provider payment upon the settlement of the case.
In FL, everyone is required to carry $10,000 PIP on their own insurance. PIP is personal injury protection and after an individual is cleared by their own insurance company, they have access to that money for health care expenses. After it is exhausted clients may still treat without payment. Continued treatment after the expiration of PIP is completed via a LOP – letter of protection. Again, the LOP secures a lien against the claim of the plaintiff. This means that the doctor has first right to money collected from the tortfeasors insurance company. The plaintiff continues treatment until cleared by their physician.
When treatment has been finished, the PI attorney collects all records and bills and verifies they are up to date on all amounts owed. The attorney must also receive a PIP log or a list of payments made by the plaintiff’s PIP coverage. These numbers are added together and a demand packet is made. Demand packets include medical records, bills and a letter from PI attorney including all monetary totals and the attorney’s monetary request to settle the claim. Additionally, the PI attorney adds in lost wages, mileage, rental car expenses, pain and suffering, and any other expense incurred by the plaintiff as a direct result of the car crash. Usually the insurance company will counter with something substantially lower. It becomes a negotiating game and if the numbers are far from what was demanded, the attorney must determine whether or not to file a Complaint and proceed with litigation.
The process can take a while depending on the amount of treatment needed to complete medical care.