Written by attorney James Allen Frazier Jr.

Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Case Questions

What’s my case worth?

First, if you’d like to speak directly with an attorney to ask this question, please call us at 407-637-5890

The amount of money damages you can recover is based upon several factors that vary from case to case. In addition to any harm or loss you have suffered or may suffer in the future, these factors also include the strength of the evidence, the degree to which the defendant is at fault, and the credibility of various witnesses for each side.

On the other hand, we can often provide you with a range of possible recovery amounts for common injuries after a careful evaluation of your case. A successful recovery can consist of one or more of three types of damages:

  • Special damages are awarded for losses that can documented, such as actual lost wages, medical expenses, and damage or destruction of property.
  • General damages are awarded for harm and losses that cannot be itemized and measured, such as pain and suffering, physical disfigurement, a child’s loss of a parent or an adult’s loss of a spouse.
  • Punitive damages are sometimes awarded to a plaintiff (or plaintiffs) in order to punish the defendant(s) and to deter others from engaging in the same behavior that led to the harm or losses. You should know, though, that punitive damages are not awarded in the vast majority of injury cases.

It is important to note that both special and general damage awards are not limited only to past damages, but also make allowance for expected future losses, such as, for example, estimated future medical costs and lost wages. For a more specific case examination, please call to speak with one of our attorneys at 407-637-5890.

How long will it take for my case to be completed?

As you might expect, every case is unique and more complex cases take longer to resolve. With that said, cases involving auto accidents or premises liability with typical injuries usually take three to nine months to settle. Please keep in mind, though, that we want to be confident we have the best possible understanding of your long-term medical prognosis and any permanent physical impairment before you sign a release. This can delay completion of your case.

How much does it cost to have an attorney for a personal injury or wrongful death case?

You pay no attorney fees unless we achieve a successful recovery for you, and we will never ask you for a retainer payment. Further, your initial discussions with us and our evaluation of your case will not obligate you in any way. Our fees in personal injury matters are based upon a contingent fee agreement, which specifices that we are paid a percentage of any recovery we make for you, and any costs and expenses advanced by us during the case are deducted from the recovery proceeds at the conclusion of the case. The fee is 33-1/3 percent of the recovery if we are able to settle your case without filing a lawsuit, and 40 percent of the recovery if it becomes necessary for us to prepare and file a lawsuit.

How do your contingency fee percentage rates compare with other law firms?

Virtually all law firms handling personal injury and wrongful death cases in Florida, including this firm, use the Florida Bar’s standard contingency fee agreement, which prescribes the fee percentages listed above.

What is a mediation?

Mediation is a settlement meeting that occurs typically during the litigation process but before a case goes to trial. Both parties will appear, usually with legal representation, before a mediator. The mediator listens to each side and assists in trying to bring the case to a settlement. If neither side agrees on a settlement during the mediation, the case goes to trial.

How long will it take to resolve my case?

The complexity of the case will typically determine how long the case will last. For example, the norm for a medical malpractice case is between one and two years from the day the complaint is first filed. Personal injury cases such as premises liability/auto or general negligence cases will reach resolution in four to eight months if a law suit is not filed. If a law suit must be filed, it can take from six months to two years on average.

Why do I use my insurance when I am not at fault?

The State of Florida utilizes "No-Fault" insurance. "No-Fault" requires the insurance company to pay 80 percent of medical bills and 60 percent of their lost wages up to $10,000 regardless of who is at fault in the accident.

My doctor has asked for a letter of protection, what is it used for?

Medical facilities and doctors will sometimes accept a "letter of protection," which is a document allowing the patient to continue treatment without having to pay for it until a later date - usually when the case is settled or resolved. No matter what the outcome of your case, if you have a letter of protection or not, you are still responsible for payment of the bill. The letter of protection only delays payment until the outcome of the case is determined.

What is MMI?

MMI stands for maximum medical improvement. MMI is when the patient has reached the point where they are as healthy as they can be and their health has stabilized. At that point a doctor may assign the patient a permanent impairment rating according to American Medical Association guidelines. Our office will typically request this information from the doctor in written form, which is oftern referred to as a "Final Narrative".

Why is the client responsible for the costs of the case?

The Fee Agreement that clients sign with The Plaintiffs Law Firm sets forth the rights and responsibilities of the client and our firm. Based on this agreement if client wins the case, then they must pay us according to contract, which includes the repayment of all costs fronted by our firm.

Is it better to settle or to go to trial?

The answer to this question largely depends upon the defendants’ willingess to reach a fair resolution. Some defendants insist upon fighting even the most reasonable claims, often for reasons that are not readily apparent to observers.

Still, it is usually preferable to avoid the time, expense and uncertainty of a trial. Preparation for trial proceedings in a major personal injury or wrongful death case can cost tens of thousands—and in rare cases hundreds of thousands or even millions— of dollars, including expenditures for reviews and assessments by experts, travel, court reporter fees, document copies, photography and illustrations, research reports and special tests.

Naturally, these costs and expenses must be deducted from any eventual recovery. And too, the larger the damage award, the more likely that the defendant will appeal, which starts the clock (and the expenses) running again. One research study showed that during 2001, the average time for lawsuits involving auto accidents to come trial was more than three years. [ 1]

Sensational news reports about million dollar-plus damage awards usually focus only on the dollar amount of the award, without bothering to disclose the months or years of time and the tens of thousands of dollars of costs that were neccessary to achieve a successful outcome. Such reports also do not usually disclose the portion of the award that must be set aside for payment of past and expected future medical bills.

In fact, most cases settle without litigation. However, in some cases there is no alternative but to go to trial. When we must pursue a lawsuit on your behalf, we will not hesitate to aggressively argue your claim. And yes, we do file lawsuits on a regular basis.

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