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How much do accident lawyers charge?

 

At DLE lawyers, you don’t need to worry about “billable hours.” After all, not everyone can afford to pay a lawyer two or three hundred dollars an hour. At our firm, we have arranged our fee structure so that you don’t need a dime to retain us. Not only are our initial consultations are free of charge, but you will never owe us a dime, ever, unless we win your case.

You might wonder how we can afford to do this. After all, it means that if we lose your case, we work for free. And who can afford to work for free? Well, we can, and the reason is that we win our clients’ cases so much of the time, there is no reason for us to worry about “working for free” on the relatively rare occasions that we lose. It’s just not an issue with us.

So what happens if we win? Well, if we win, we wait until your money actually arrives in the bank. We then deduct a pre-agreed percentage of the total amount, and then forward the remainder to you. This fee structure protects you because it guarantees that our legal bill will not exceed the amount you win.

Adversaries, Allies and Incentive Structures

It is likely that your compensation will come from an insurance company. Consider the difference in the incentive structure between your relationship with the insurance company (either yours or the defendant’s) and your relationship with us:

  • An insurance company makes its money by charging its policyholders monthly premiums the more premiums they receive, the more money they make. An insurance company loses money by paying out claims — and the more they pay out, the more they lose. This gives them a financial incentive to bargain down your claim value or deny it altogether. In other words, once you make a claim, the insurance company is your natural enemy, like a lion and a gazelle.
  • At DLE Lawyers, we make money by winning a large amount of compensation for you — and the more money you make, the more money we make. On the other hand, your loss is our loss, since we don’t get paid unless you do too. This fee structure gives us the financial incentive to win as much as we can for you — which put us on the same side, because our financial interests are in harmony with each other.

What does it mean for us to “win” your case?

We win your case when you win money, either in court or at the settlement table. If a court rules in your favor, for example, we count it as a victory. If, on the other hand, your case is settled out of court with a negotiated settlement agreement, you win if a settlement is reached. Upwards of 90 percent of our car accident clients receive out of court settlements.

Don’t worry if you are not an expert negotiator, because we are, and we will be more than happy to do the negotiating for you. We know all of the tricks that insurance adjusters like to use to reduce the value of a car accident claim, and we won’t fall for a single one of them.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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How long after a car accident can you claim injury?

It is always a good idea to file a car accident claim as soon as you can after the accident (but not before thoroughly investigating the claim). Evidence has a tendency to degrade over time — memories fade, physical evidence gets lost or deteriorates, etc. The hard deadline, however, is set by the Florida statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations imposes a deadline beyond which you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit. Nevertheless, it works as a deadline for agreeing to an out of court settlement as well. After all, why should a defendant or an insurance company agree to pay you compensation if you lack the power to force them to pay by winning a lawsuit against them?

The Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

In Florida, the general statute of limitations deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit, including a car accident lawsuit, is four years after the date of the accident that caused the injury. You don’t have to win the lawsuit by that day, you just have to have filed it with the court. The four-year deadline also applies to a lawsuit for property damage.

The Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

If the victim dies from his injuries, the victim’s personal injury claim is extinguished, but a wrongful death claim arises. Such a claim can be filed by the personal representative of his probate estate, and damages go to the victim’s estate as well as close family members. A wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the date of death of the victim, even if the victim doesn’t die until some time after the accident.  

Exceptions

You should do your best to either conclude a written settlement agreement or file a lawsuit by the statute of limitations deadline. Certain narrow exceptions exist, however, if:

  • The victim suffered from a serious mental illness at the time of the accident. Even then, a lawsuit must be filed within seven years of the date of the accident.
  • The defendant left Florida after the accident but before a lawsuit could be filed.
  • The defendant evaded service of process (delivery of the Summons and Complaint to him) through the use of deception or fraud (by changing his name, for example).
  • The victim did not discover the existence of the injury until some time after the accident. This failure must have been reasonable under the circumstances.

Unlike some states, in most cases no extension of time to file a claim is granted simply because the victim was a minor (under 18) at the time of the accident, because a parent or guardian can file a lawsuit on the minor’s behalf.  

Once your case is filed

In many car accident cases, a lawsuit is filed for the primary purpose of obtaining leverage in private settlement negotiations. Remember, most car accident cases are settled out of court, and there is no formal limit on the amount of time you can take to win your case — merely filing it on time will beat the statute of limitations deadline.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Should I get an attorney after a car accident?

Yes, you should, at least if you suffered significant injury. Your chances of winning improve when you hire an attorney to represent you, but remember — it’s not just whether you win or lose, it’s how much compensation you end up with. And people represented by lawyers typically receive far more compensation than people who attempt to represent themselves, even after legal fees are deducted.

“But I can’t afford an attorney!”

This should be the least of your worries. At DLE lawyers, you don’t need a dime to retain us. Our initial consultation is free, and we charge no upfront fees. If we don’t win your case, you will never receive a bill from us — our legal services will be free of charge. And if you win, our legal fees will be based on the amount you win. It is the strength of your claim that matters to us, not the thickness of your wallet. Here is how a Miami car accident lawyer can help you:

Uncovering admissible evidence

The Florida Evidence Code is complex, and in many ways arcane. Not all relevant evidence is admissible in court. For example, suppose you are alleging that a dangerous road condition caused your accident. You probably cannot introduce evidence that the defendant remedied the condition after the accident to prove that it was dangerous in the first place, even though this evidence is relevant.

Understanding the Florida Evidence Code, and knowing how to locate and generate admissible evidence, is where a good Florida car accident lawyer comes in handy. Remember, in court (and by extension, during settlement negotiations), the truth doesn’t matter except to the extent that you can prove it with admissible evidence.

Determining comparative fault

The insurance company will almost certainly try to paint the accident as your fault, or at least partly your fault, in order to reduce their payout or eliminate it altogether. Under Florida’s “pure comparative negligence” system, you can still win compensation even if the accident was partly your fault, but you recovery will be reduced by the “percentage of fault” that is assigned to you. A good personal injury lawyer can influence how this percentage is calculated.

Negotiating with the defendant or the insurance company

The de facto defendant in most car accident claims is an insurance company, because they will be the one paying the claim if you win. Insurance adjusters are professional negotiators with only one goal — to save as much money as they can for the insurance company. We have dealt with insurance adjusters more times than we can count, and we can do the negotiating for you.

Filing a Complaint

A lawsuit is initiated by filing a formal Complaint with a court. Of course, a Complaint can also be filed to gain advantage on settlement negotiations in the hopes that a trial can be avoided (it usually is). Either way, a Complaint must be drafted with great care, because every sentence has consequences.

Winning at trial

The public perception of “what lawyers do” is cross-examining witnesses and making arguments in court. Although our courtroom success record is stellar, we prefer to keep our clients out of court where it is possible. If a trial does become necessary, however, a lawyer is a near-necessity.   [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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How much can I expect from a car accident settlement?

A car accident settlement can have many components depending on the seriousness of the accident and the circumstances surrounding it. Typical components of a car accident claim include compensatory damages for:

  • Property damage: Damages to your car, for example.
  • Medical expenses: This includes past, present and anticipated future medical expenses arising from the accident. If you are seriously injured, future medical expenses can be tricky to estimate — but you’ve got to get it right so that you don’t run out of money years down the road.
  • Lost earnings: This amount includes anticipated future lost earnings (if your injuries prevent you from returning to your previous job duties, for example0.
  • Incidental expenses, such as child care expenses that you incur while you are recovering in the hospital.
  • Pain and suffering: Compensation for the physical suffering that you endure. This amount could be two to five times the amount of your compensation for medical expenses.
  • Mental anguish, anxiety, scarring, disfigurement and similar intangible losses.
  • Loss of consortium (recoverable by the victim’s spouse for loss of companionship and sexual relations with a comatose victim example).

Wrongful Death Damages

Obviously, a victim who dies in a car accident cannot file a personal injury lawsuit. In Florida, however, spouse, children parents and financially dependent relatives can receive compensation for damages such as:

  • Lost financial support or services;
  • Lost companionship, guidance and protection;
  • Emotional pain (in cases where a parent loses a child); and
  • Reimbursement for any medical or funeral expenses paid.

The victim’s probate estate can also be compensated for lost earnings and other amounts, which amounts will ultimately pass under the victim’s will.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages, awarded in only about two percent of cases, can only be awarded in instances of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. An intentional road rage accident might qualify for example. In most cases, Florida limits punitive damages to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. According to the Justice Department, the average punitive damages award ranges from $38,000 to $50,000.

Comparative Negligence

How is compensation calculated when more than one party is at fault for the accident? Florida applies a system known as “pure comparative negligence”, where the court assigns a percentage value to each party’s negligence, and deducts that percentage from each party’s recovery, For example, suppose two parties share fault in the following manner:

  • Party A was 30 percent at fault and suffered $50,000 in damages
  • Party B was 70 percent at fault and suffered $40,000 in damages    

Party A’s compensation would be $50,000 – ($50,000 X 30%) = $35,000

Party B’s compensation would be $40,000 – ($40,000 X 70%) =  $12,000

On balance, then, Party B would owe Party A ($35,000 – $$12,000) = $23,000

Negotiating Skills

The unfortunate reality is that the legal value of your claim is not the only factor in determining how much money you will actually end up with — negotiating skill matters too. And at DLE lawyers, we can do the negotiating for you. We know all the negotiating tricks insurance companies and defendants like to use, and we won’t fall for them.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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What Should I Do After A Car Accident?

The actions you take after a car accident could make or break your personal injury claim. Following are some tips on how to minimize your troubles and maximize your chances of receiving as much compensation as possible.

What to do at the scene of the accident:

  1. Move your vehicle safely off the road. Do not leave the scene of the accident unless it is dangerous to remain, because leaving the scene of an accident is a crime in Florida absent special circumstances.
  2. Notify the driver of the other vehicle of your name, address and registration number.
  3. Exchange insurance information with the other driver.
  4. Show your driver’s license if requested to do so.
  5. Provide your license, registration, address and any other relevant information to the police if requested.
  6. Call 911 unless an ambulance or the police are already on their way.
  7. Provide any emergency assistance that is necessary, but be very careful about providing first aid — you could be blamed if your assistance exacerbates an injury.
  8. Take photos of the scene of the accident as well as all vehicles and damage.
  9. Exchange contact and vehicle information with witnesses.
  10. Photograph the scene of the accident, including all vehicles involved.
  11. Get the police officer’s name and badge number.
  12. Seek medical attention without delay. If you delay seeking medical treatment, the insurance company might claim that your injuries were not caused by the accident.

What to do over the next few days:

During the first few days after the accident:

  1. Seek immediate medical attention for any late-breaking symptoms. Symptoms of whiplash or a concussion, for example, are sometimes delayed hours or even days after they occur.
  2. If the police did not arrive at the scene of the accident but damages are likely to exceed $500, report the accident to the police station with jurisdiction over the place of the accident
  3. Use the officer’s name and badge number to get a copy of the police report from the police department.
  4. Contact a Miami car accident lawyer.

What not to do:

To protect the value of your claim, observe the following precautions:

  1. Don’t apologize for the accident. If you apologize, your apology could be used as evidence that the accident was your fault.
  2. Don’t talk to any insurance adjuster until your lawyer OKs it. You might even want to refer all inquiries to your lawyer.
  3. Don’t sign a settlement agreement without consulting with your lawyer first; in fact, don’t or even agree to a settlement verbally. Your claim might be worth more than you think it is, and you could sacrifice this amount if you agree to a settlement before you realize how much your claim is worth. The initial offer by an insurance company, for example, is almost always too low.
  4. Don’t sign any other documents without your lawyer’s consent. In particular, do not sign any document that would give the insurance company unfettered access to your medical history.
  5. Don’t post anything about your accident on any of your social networking accounts. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. Either place your privacy settings on maximum or suspend your accounts until the case is over.Observing these precautions may not guarantee you victory, but it will greatly boost your chances.

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