Did you just get into a car accident in Orlando, Florida? Ambulance chasers are all screaming money, but you know better. You are injured and just want to get better so you can support yourself and perhaps your family. Are you worried about mounting medical bills, lost wages or simply wanting to get your car fixed? You need help from a personal injury attorney but do not want to call a TV or Billboard lawyer because you are concerned you will be treated like a number. If you do not know where to begin to find a great Orlando car accident attorney to help you with your accident, we are here to help you. Below is a step by step information you need, to start on your road of physical recovery from your car accident and getting the compensation you need to get back on track:
Before we give you the steps on how to find a good car accident lawyer, let’s talk about what you should be looking for in an attorney who can best help you. You will want a lawyer with the following characteristics:
We have handled litigation for countless cases over the years. Here are just a few areas we have experience in:
The Umansky Law Firm is one of Orlando’s leading car accident and personal injury law firms.
Once you have hired a lawyer what can you expect them to do for you and your family? We can tell you what we do. We:
Florida is one of the few states remaining that have what is called No-Fault Insurance. It is often confusing and is likely to be replaced with Mandatory Liability Insurance in the future. Here is what you need to know.
No-Fault insurance requires drivers and or owners to insure themselves with Personal Injury Protection Coverage or PIP. If you get into an accident, your own insurance (PIP) company will pay up to a minimum of ten thousand dollars to the hospital and any of your medical providers for bills you incur. Most PIP policies will pay 80 percent of your medical bills and 60 percent of your lost wages. If you or a family member die in an accident, then PIP insurance will give the family a death benefit of $5,000 usually to offset funeral costs. You need to be aware that under Florida law, you MUST file your injury claim and see a doctor within 14 days, or you LOSE your benefits! So, it is important you get checked out immediately after an accident to preserve your PIP insurance. You can also get more than the ten-thousand-dollar minimum limits such as Medical Payments Coverage to pay the 20 percent balance that your standard PIP policy does not cover while your automobile claim is ongoing.
No-Fault insurance PIP insurance is hardly adequate in a modern world. A 10,000 dollar limit is hardly adequate to cover medical expenses in the age of increased medical billing and cost of services. Fortunately, Florida will soon be following other states that require all owners and drivers to purchase and maintain mandatory liability insurance of $25,000 dollars or more to take care of you if you were injured in an accident. This amount may still be too low, but fortunately, it is a step in the right direction.
In addition to No-Fault and Liability insurance, Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM) is also important. As many as 20 percent of Florida drivers do not have insurance at all! In Florida, many people are struggling to make bills and very few people are fortunate enough to even carry anything MORE than the minimum limits of insurance. What does that mean to you? An underinsured person is someone who does not have high enough liability limits to cover your injuries, medical bills, lost wages or future economic loss if your accident was significant. Because so many insured drivers are driving in Florida, Underinsured or Uninsured insurance is critical to possess so you can have peace of mind.
We know when you get into an accident there are many things going on in your mind. You are stressed out about who is going to pay to fix your car or take care of the medical bills. You may be in pain, confused and just downright angry and upset this accident happened in the first place. However, it is very important for you to seek medical help right away if you are in pain or injured. Failure to do so could negatively impact your potential right to recover fair compensation and even void your own insurance coverage. Here are the common mistakes to avoid when seeing your doctor, chiro, physical therapist and surgeon when dealing with your car accident claim.
If you are in pain but thinking you are just going to get better, you still MUST go to a doctor, hospital or urgent care to get checked out. Why? You may only have 14 days to seek treatment or your own insurance company will not help pay the bills. Even if the other person is at fault, their insurance company may refuse to pay for your bills or lost wages because they will argue that you waited too long for treatment and that any treatment needed was not a result of your accident. Additionally, many car accident injuries are not readily observable. Many people experience an adrenaline rush after an accident. That adrenaline is great because it helps people power forward to get their car fixed and get back to work and take care of the immediate issues related to the accident. However once that adrenaline rush wears off (usually after 24 hours), you can start feeling injuries in your back, neck, wrist, knees, shoulders, legs and arms and if not properly documented by a doctor or other health care professional it will be hard to prove later if you are seeking compensation to help you pay for your medical bills and for the pain you endured. We say get better get paid! Do not tough it out. Go to the doctor and work on getting better. Once you have started treatment, you may start feeling better because you are in process of rehabilitating yourself.
Do not lie to your doctor! You may be thinking you would never lie. Well, many people do not tell their doctors they have been injured or had pain in the same area of the body such as the neck and back where they sought treatment before. Some people do not think they are lying they just do not think it is important for the doctor to know. PLEASE NEVER MAKE THIS MISTAKE. If you end up developing long-term complications due to your injuries you suffered in an accident, a simple lie or failure to omit your past medical history could lead to a judge dismissing your case! Also, your treating doctor may not want to testify on your behalf because they do not want to be accused of lying for you and your medical history. Insurance companies have huge research capacities and they can see any of your prior injuries if it was related to an accident. They can also hire nurses to investigate your medical history and have a right if you file a lawsuit, to order all your prior medical records. Never be afraid to disclose your prior medical treatment or history. Being honest is always the best policy! Even if you have old injuries, be aware that Florida law allows you to recover for OLD injuries you may have aggravated as a result of your car accident. In fact, please do not hire any car crash attorney who tells you that your case is not valuable because you had a similar injury ten years prior to this current automobile collision.
Sometimes you may go to a doctor after a car accident and only tell the doctor what your main complaint is when they ask. You must document all your injuries! Do not play the tough person! If your injuries and pain complaints are not reflected in the medical records, insurance companies will NOT compensate you for the pain you endured from them. Please note every area of your body where you feel pain. For example, let’s say you go to the doctor primarily for your neck, but you forget to disclose you suffered pain in your elbow. You may not feel your elbow was as important as the neck at the time, but if your elbow later leads to complications you could be out of luck trying to prove that your issues came from the collision. Make sure you detail all your pain complaints on the initial paperwork and verbally disclose those injuries in your evaluation with the physician. Also, point out and show the doctor if you have any cuts or bruising even if they are not visible.
We all know life gets busy and getting to a doctor for medical treatment sometimes is tough to do. However, you must make your appointments if you are injured. When evaluating compensation to give to you, insurance companies evaluate whether you followed your doctor’s orders and followed through with your treatment. If you do not show up, the medical providers will mark your charts DID NOT SHOW or DNS and that can negatively impact the value of your case. Also failing to show up for your doctor’s appointments or showing up late could anger your health care providers who you need to help YOU get better and to support your case. Sometimes life does get in the way. If that happens, certainly call your doctor’s office and make sure their staff notates the reason you could not make the appointment (i.e. work) and make sure to reschedule.
If you are not getting better, your doctor may offer other medical options. For example, you may be undergoing physical therapy or manual chiropractic adjustments after a car accident, but you are not seeing results. The doctor may recommend you get an MRI, receive epidural shots or even undergo surgery. Obviously, this can be scary, and you should never jump into any health care decision about your body without careful thought. However, if you are not getting better and the doctor is making a recommendation for additional medical care, it is wise for you to consider undergoing that treatment. Consider obtaining a second opinion about your medical care and if that physician agrees you may be more comfortable undergoing the prescribed procedure. Please understand that insurance companies are evaluating your medical treatment and injuries and if they see that you are not following doctor’s orders, they will adjust your claim negatively to provide you less compensation under the theory that you are not working hard enough to get better.
Sometimes your medical provider will ask you what happened in the car crash. Make sure you tell the doctor accurate details about the crash. If asked, you want to make sure you tell them how the accident happened and explain if any part of your body was impacted by the crash. For example, did your knee hit the steering wheel? If yes, tell the doctor. Do not guess at any of the details. IF the doctor asks how fast the other person was driving and you do not know, tell the truth and say you do not know. If you give the doctor incorrect information about how the accident happened, the insurance company can use that to refuse to pay you on your claim or lawsuit.
After you get into an accident, insurance companies may contact you to obtain from you a recorded statement. If you give a recorded statement, you need to understand it can be used against you to deny your claim. For example, what happens if you make a mistake in explaining how the accident happened or told the injury adjuster you were not hurt on the day of the crash but then you go to the hospital the very next day? Insurance companies will pressure you to get a statement under oath so they can trap you on certain facts, commit you to your prior medical history and try to find a reason to deny or underpay your claim. Lawyers can prevent that from happening. We will not allow the negligent party’s (at-fault person) insurance company to question you. We do NOT allow them to waste your time so they can use that information against you. We prepare our clients for any recorded statement they must give. For example, you are required to provide your PIP insurance company with a statement.
Bodily Insurance adjusters love to offer quick cheap money to resolve your claim. Sometimes they know you are scared, desperate or perhaps you are not in immediate pain. They will offer you five hundred to five thousand dollars and make you sign a release! This is bad for many reasons. Many injuries do not appear to be major in the beginning, but we can tell you from experience that is just not true. When you get an injury to your spine from a car accident it sometimes takes months or longer to degenerate to a point you are suffering from major nerve pain that might require surgical treatment. If you take the quick cash, you will not have any future compensation for future lost wages or medical bills or for the pain and aggravation you could suffer from. Additionally, if your health insurance company paid some of your medical bills or you had a short or long-term disability policy that paid you for your lost wages, they will want reimbursement. If the health or disability insurance company finds out you settled without paying them first, they will sue you to recover what they paid you. Absolutely crazy but true!
Some cases settle very quickly. Others take time to mature. If you are unable to settle your claim and you fail to file a lawsuit within a specific period in Florida, you may forever be barred from seeking compensation for injuries related to your crash. It is important to have a legal team who can amass the evidence quickly and efficiently and provide information to the insurance company to get your case settled or a lawsuit filed before that deadline runs out.
An insurance company has one job to do. Pay the claim for as little as they must pay to get a release for their insured who hurt you in an accident. Insurance adjusters know that if you represent yourself, they can pay you less because the insurance company is at no risk of being sued by you or having to expend a lot of costs defending the claim. Hiring a car accident lawyer in Orlando changes that entire calculation. Now the company is aware that a great personal injury attorney will bring a lawsuit, expend costs, create more work for the insurance company to do to get the case resolved. When that occurs an insurance company will usually pay more out on the claim to avoid those extra fees and costs.
Most people know that people suffer neck and back injuries in an accident. However, there are many more injuries that people suffer that the public does not know about. You can sustain other injuries from bracing, being struck by other objects in the car, making an impact with the interior of the car, or taking any evasive actions to avoid the accident such as slamming on the brakes. The following are some of the types of injuries you can sustain:
Fractures are serious and, in most cases, you will require casting, physical medicine, physical therapy and surgery to address the damage to the bone. If your bones do not heal or fuse after treatment for a car or truck accident you may face permanent injuries. If you have broken or fractured a bone in a car collision it usually will be classified as:
In central Florida, most Orlando car accident lawyers will tell you there is a four-year deadline (with some exceptions) to resolve your case. While that is legally true in most cases, some people who are injured may take over ten years to resolve their matter and others could settle within weeks or less! Every case is different. If someone has ongoing treatment that may last for more than four years, it may be advisable for a lawyer in some cases to file a lawsuit thereby tolling the statute of limits beyond four years. In this scenario, a client may end up getting the treatment they need and then later settle their case for the most amount of money after they have gotten ALL their treatment conducted. Most smaller cases usually resolve within six months to a year. Once the client has finished treatment and the lawyer has collected all the records, bills, evidence the case may be ready to be resolved. Once you finish treatment, an attorney will write a letter to the insurance company called a demand or offer to settle and begin to negotiate the case on your behalf. Good lawyers will never settle a case quickly unless they are sure they are getting maximum value for their client in an auto case.
If you are in a car or truck accident, you may be in complete and total shock at first. Your adrenaline is in hyperdrive and you may not fully comprehend what has transpired and the potential impact it may have on your mental health. In fact, if you sustained a serious physical injury it is more likely than not, you are just processing how to get immediate help to stop your pain or to figure out how to get emergency help to the scene. After three decades of helping car accident victims, we have noticed a pattern among people who have been injured. Here are some of the common mental and emotional issues related to car accidents along with some of our suggestions on how to cope:
Shock: Boom!! You just got hit from behind or perhaps you saw the car coming at you! You may have seen it coming and braced or you may not have seen it coming at all. However, under either scenario, you are not likely mentally prepared for the actual noise of impact, the feeling of your neck whiplashed back and forth, or side to side, and watching time slow down to almost a crawl for that split second. Many people in serious vehicle crashes report their “life passing by” in the moments leading up and directly after the collision. You may be sitting in your car and just trying to process what happened. If you have other passengers in the car you may be wondering if they are ok and you may be worried about the drivers and passengers in the other cars involved in the accident. Being in shock is the most normal emotion you can have at this time. If you are injured, you may not even feel any pain or discomfort immediately as your mind is just trying to take it all in. Do not worry the shock will wear off almost immediately.
Heightened anger: Once the shock wears off, you may start to become angry. If the other side is at fault, you may really be angry at them because deep down inside you know that this incident may have altered your life temporarily or even permanently. You may be upset because you believe that if the other driver was just following the rules of the road or paying attention, this would never have happened. You may be angry because you know you now must miss work because you need to get your car replaced or repaired, take care of your medical injuries and deal with insurance adjusters, lawyers and medical providers. All things you never asked for before this crash.
Anger is tough. Usually, anger is related to fear. If you find yourself getting angry, ask yourself “what am I afraid of”. Starting with that question may diffuse your anger a little bit and help you start coping with getting angry. For example, if you get upset about the person who injured you, ask yourself why you are afraid. You may find that you are afraid that you will not recover from your injuries one hundred percent or that you are afraid you will not be your best at your job or in your personal life. You can begin to understand your anger, and now start dealing with your fears. By understanding your fears, you may start taking proactive steps to help you rehabilitate or focus on your job. Maybe you will feel less anger at the person who caused the accident. Lastly, learning to forgive may be healing. If you remain positive, be thankful for what you have and learn to forgive the person who caused this mess in the first place. Sadly, life is random, and an accident is just that… an accident. In most cases, the other driver did not intend to hurt you or to cause the accident in the first place.
Anxiety: Over the next few days you may begin to feel uncertain about many things. You may ask the following questions:
Your anxiety is well placed and is a sign that you have some major concerns and issues to be addressed. Usually, anxiety will go away once you have your car fixed and find a doctor to help you. Sometimes hiring a lawyer will reduce your stress as well. However, some people can not shake the feeling. They have a hard time focusing, paying attention at work, being present with their families. If your anxiety persists it may be a sign of a more serious condition, so seek professional guidance from a mental health expert as soon as possible.
Fear of driving: If you were in a high-speed impact crash where your car was crushed, flipped over or spun out of control you may have a serious fear of driving. Some people report that they are afraid to drive after they saw their friends, kids or other family members hurt as a result of an auto crash.
Feeling guilt: After a crash, you may begin to feel guilty even though the accident was not your fault. Perhaps you feel guilty because you believe you could have avoided the crash if you just paid a little more attention. Maybe you may feel that you are not quite the same person anymore and you are not there enough for your friends, family or spouse. Understanding that none of this is your fault will go a long way to your healing from your car accident. Take time to love yourself and show yourself compassion. If you believe in a higher power such as God, then pray and ask for guidance and understanding. Remember you did not cause this car accident. You just were in the wrong place at the wrong time and it is out of your control what happens.
Depression: Often when a person is hurt from a car wreck, they hope they will recover soon so they can go back to their normal lives. Fortunately, for many people that is true. You however may be struggling with your rehabilitation and finding you are not getting better. Sometimes going to all the doctor appointments, missing work, and not being there for your loved one is just too much. You may feel hopeless. Hopelessness and anxiety can lead to Depression. Please know you are not alone! Share your feelings with people you trust and if you are not feeling better seek professional help with a mental health counselor or Psychologist. Remember there is no shame in seeking help for Depression. Eating healthy, communicating your feelings and taking care of your needs are in your control even if you are suffering physically after a car accident.
Let’s face it, you may be having a difficult time rebounding after your accident. You may go through the whole range of emotions from feeling sadness, anxiety, fear, guilt, anger and mental anguish. You know you cannot live with these negative emotions forever because they will destroy the very fabric of your existence. Sometimes when we have done all we can do to try and deal with the pain and physical injures we endure from a crash, we just need to sit back and accept the situation before we can proactively stake steps to put it behind us. We do not mean you should just give up the fight or remain negative forever! NO, but you should not be so hard on yourself all the time. Some days you will be angry and upset and instead of judging yourself, it may be better to just say “I accept the way I am feeling today, and tomorrow is a new day!”.
Focus on the positive things going on in your life no matter how small they may seem. Try to wake up each day and discipline yourself to express thanks and appreciation for at least three things going on in your life. Practice gratitude with intention. Look forward to taking the hard steps to get better. Use your mind to see surgery and rehabilitation for instance as a challenge to make a new and better version of you even if you may never be physically the same. Look for the small victories and build trust and confidence, you will continue to improve over time. Never give up the fight to physically heal, improve your mental state and remember you are here to live the best life you can live even after being injured in a car accident.
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