Fulgencio Law Brings COBRA Violation Class Action Against National Trucking Company

Fulgencio Law Brings COBRA Violation Class Action Against National Trucking Company

Fulgencio Law has filed a putative class action lawsuit against national contract carriage service company, First Fleet. The lawsuit alleges that First Fleet failed to provide employees with mandatory notices of their right to continued healthcare coverage. The lawsuit, filed in Florida, cites suspected violations of both the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974—ERISA—and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985—COBRA.

The Plaintiff’s employment as a driver for the defendant was terminated in January 2017. As the man was reportedly not terminated for gross misconduct, the end of his employment is considered a “qualifying event” under the scope of COBRA’s regulations, which, among other mandates, require plan sponsors who employ more than 20 employees on a typical business day to provide notice of and allow for the election of continued healthcare coverage following a “qualifying event.”

“[The defendant] authored and disseminated a notice that was not appropriately completed, deviating from the model form in violation of COBRA’s requirements” … “which failed to provide [the plaintiff] notice of all required coverage information and hindered [the plaintiff’s] ability to obtain continuation coverage, as explained further below.”

The plaintiff alleges the COBRA notice he received from First Fleet was not only “woefully late,” but appeared to have been taken straight from the company’s employee handbook. More specifically, the lawsuit says the defendant failed to provide the plaintiff with COBRA notice until January 2018 even though the man was terminated in September the previous year.

A copy of the complaint can be found here: https://www.classaction.org/news/lawsuit-first-fleet-inc-failed-to-relay-to-employees-erisa-cobra-healthcare-rights#embedded-document

More information can be found here: https://www.classaction.org/news/lawsuit-first-fleet-inc-failed-to-relay-to-employees-erisa-cobra-healthcare-rights

This case provides an important reminder to employers and plan administrators that COBRA election notices must not only be timely sent to qualified beneficiaries, but the content of the notices must also contain all the requirements mandated by the COBRA regulations. In fact, employers and plan administrators that fail to meet COBRA’s notice requirements may be subject to statutory penalties of up to $110 per day, per violation. Particularly in the cases of mid-sized and large employers, these fines can significantly add up and become very costly.

If you believe that your rights under COBRA have been violated, please contact our law firm for a free case evaluation. You can reach us via phone (813.463.0123), facebook, twitter, or email.

Smart (and Safe!) Back-to-School Commuting Tips

As summer ends and schools starts back up, it is important to review your family’s transportation arrangements and plans to ensure a commute that is as safe as possible. Whether your child is a kindergartener who is taking the bus or a high schooler with a new driver’s license, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

School Bus Safety:

School buses are some of the safest modes of transportation around – so long as students board and exit them correctly. If your children will be riding the bus, encourage them to:

  • Stand back from the curb where the driver can see them at all times
  • Approach the bus only when it’s completely stopped
  • Fasten seat belts when they’re available and face forward while the bus is moving
  • Look both ways when crossing the street after exiting the bus

Walking and Biking:

Riding a bicycle and walking to school are great ways to get a little exercise. Anyone who commutes this way should always:

  • Wear a bicycle helmet that is properly fitted and correctly fastened
  • Use hand signaling to alert drivers of intended turns
  • Cross the street at designated lights or with a crosswalk guard
  • Use sidewalks and bike lanes whenever possible

Driving Tips for Everyone:

Car accidents are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens, according to the CDC. Before letting teenagers drive themselves to school, make sure they follow basic safety rules — and if you’re the one driving, model this good behavior for them:

  • Don’t eat or drink while driving
  • Insist everyone buckles up (and for teen drivers, limit their number of passengers)
  • Never use cellphones to text or call while the car is running
  • Observe school zones and watch for pedestrians to avoid injuries and traffic tickets

By embracing and encouraging these habits, we can all help make the roads a little safer.

Oakhurst Apartments

Wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of man gunned down at Tampa apartment complex

Lawyers from Fulgencio Law have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Hillsborough County on behalf of the family of 20-year-old Freddy Benson, who was shot and killed on the early morning hours of August 19, 2016 while inside the Oakhurst Apartments in Tampa, Florida. The named Defendants in the lawsuit are Ashley Glen Land Holdings, LLC, doing business as Oakhurst Square Apartments I and Oakhurst Square Apartments II, and NDC Real Estate Management, Inc.  Together, they owned, operated or were responsible for the supervision, security, oversight, management and safety of the residents and general public at the Oakhurst apartment complex where the shooting took place.

“This was a tragic situation that shook the local community, adding to a long line of senseless shooting deaths that our country is becoming numb to,” said Felipe Fulgencio, one of the lawyers prosecuting the lawsuit.  “It is heartbreaking that this young man, a father, was gunned down in an act that was certainly preventable. We are bringing this lawsuit because this family deserves justice, and the people whose failures led to this tragedy must be held accountable.”

Oakhurst Square was built in the early 1970s and at the time of the shooting had roughly 200 apartments, about 40 percent of which received federal Section 8 housing subsidies, according to the Tampa Bay Times. It is believed that the drive-by shooting was in retaliation to another drive-by shooting that occurred at the apartment complex just a few days earlier.

The lawsuit seeks to hold the defendants responsible for failing to put into place the common sense, yet critical, security and safety measures necessary to ensure the safety of the guests and residents at Oakhurst Apartments.

The complaint has been filed in the Circuit Court in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, under case number 2018-CA-003434.

Lady Justice Overlooking the city

What is Negligence?

What is Negligence?

Negligence is a legal concept, a term usually employed to describe an instance when someone is seeking compensation for accidents and injuries that were caused as a result of someone else’s fault. Negligence is a type of act, or a civil wrong, and is often referred to using another legal term: a tort. In essence, negligence means conduct that is culpable because it the legal standard required of a reasonable person in protecting individuals against risk that was foreseeable and that lead to the causation of harm to others. When someone engages in negligent behavior and that behavior then is the legal cause of damages, a right to compensation is said to exist so as to make the injured person whole.

The Courts’ Decisions

In appellate court decisions throughout Florida, negligence suits have historically been analyzed in distinct stages. First, the defendant must have had a duty of care that is owed to the person bringing suit. The courts have long established that all persons have a duty to use that degree of care that an ordinarily prudent person would have used under the circumstances, so that, at trial, the existence of the “duty” is predetermined. For example, a driver on the public roadways has a duty to exercise sufficient care and to avoid following too closely, going too fast given the road conditions, and generally keeping a proper lookout.

Who Decides If There Was Negligence?

The determination of whether the behavior of a particular defendant in any given case constitutes negligence is ordinarily a unique question of fact that must be determined by a jury. Proving negligence does not, alone, support an award of damages.

What Must Be Proved?

The person bringing suit must also show that the defendant has breached that duty by not exercising reasonable care. The plaintiff must further show that the defendant’s negligence contributed to cause injury, harm, or damages to the plaintiff. The harm must not be too remote a consequence of the negligence, and the negligence must be a “proximate cause” of the harm. Finally, the claimant must be able to establish what kind of damages, or compensation, he should get for his or her harm. Negligence can arise in several instances, for example, in connection with the maintenance of premises, the driving of vehicles, the ownership of animals, the performing of a professional job, or the general commission of an act.

Hurricane Irma damage: 4 tips for dealing with insurance claims

As Hurricane Irma plowed its way through most of the State of Florida on Sunday and early Monday morning, several people are starting to survey the damage to their homes and property. Insurance claims in connection with the damage caused by Hurricane Irma is projected to cost many billions of dollars.

Fulgencio Law is a Tampa law firm helping consumers through the claims handling process with their insurance carrier. The damage caused by Hurricane Irma will undoubtedly be extraordinary, and we hope insurance carriers will do right by their insureds. In our experience, however, that is not always the case, particularly during such large disasters. Here are four tips to consider in your hurricane property damage claims:

  1. Secure all applicable insurance policies: you may have a homeowner’s or renter’s policy, a separate flood policy, and an automobile or boat policy. It is important to locate and secure all of these policies. If you do not have access to them, your insurance carrier will (or should!) provide it to you.
  2. Document all damaged property: take photos and/or videos of all damaged property before attempting to repair or even minimize the damage. When the claim is filed initially, you may be asked to provide this evidence. Having this evidence I advance will go a long way in the handling of your claim.
  3. Contact your insurance carrier or agent as soon as possible: most insurance policies require the insured to promptly notify the carrier of the damage. You may even be penalized for failing to promptly notify the insurance carrier of the damage. It is important that you act as soon as possible.
  4. Protect damaged areas from continued damage and exposure to the elements: most policies require the insured to mitigate or minimize the damage. In essence, the insured is expected to take at least some action to not let the damage continue to increase. Cover broken windows, remove water-logged and other items form your home that may cause mold to spread. Document them and do not dispose of any property until your insurance carrier has had a chance to inspect it.

If you need help in the handling of your claim, please do not hesitate to contact our office via email (info@FulgencioLaw.com) or phone: 813.463.0123.

Florida Supreme Court Declares Medical Malpractice Arbitration Agreement Void

Florida Supreme Court Declares Medical Malpractice Arbitration Agreement Void. The case is Hernandez v. Crespo, 41 Fla. L. Weekly S625 (Fla. 5th DCA December 22, 2016).

A woman was 39 weeks pregnant and started having contractions. She was turned away from her doctor’s appointment and not seen because she was several minutes late. Her appointment was then rescheduled for four days later.  The day before the rescheduled appointment, the woman went into labor, and delivered her son stillborn.

Before she started being seen by her doctor, the woman had signed an extensive arbitration agreement. Under this agreement, she waived her constitutional right to a trial by jury, and agreed to have any certain disputes decided by the process of arbitration. Arbitration can be described as an out of court process used to resolve disputes between two parties. The arbitrator, instead of a judge and jury, reviews the case and imposes a decision that often legally binding on both sides and that can be enforced by the courts.

It is important to note that her husband never signed the agreement to arbitrate.  Under the agreement, after a lawsuit was filed, the defendants filed a motion with the court to take the case out of court, and into an arbitration proceeding.

The Florida Supreme Court recently reviewed the case and reminded us that to achieve the explicit purpose of remedying the alleged medical malpractice insurance crisis, the Florida Legislature specifically created the medical malpractice arbitration statutory scheme. The Court reiterated that it questions whether we still are in a medical malpractice crisis still. The Court first questioned this in Estate of McCall.

The legal issue in this particular case was not whether the arbitration provision was unconstitutional. Instead, the Court focused on whether the unilateral changes of the provisions in the statute and memorialized in the agreement, were in violation of Florida public policy.

The Court noted that that the medical malpractice arbitration scheme includes several fairness safeguard including, among other things, the defendant’s admission of liability, neutral arbitrators (including an administrative law judge) the defendant’s agreement to pay the arbitration costs and fees, the defendant’s responsibility for payment of interest on damages, joint and several liability of defendants and the right to appeal. But in this case, the arbitration agreement incorporated the statutory scheme to some extent, but then it cherry picked provisions that were more favorable to the defendants. Not exactly what we would call “fair.”

Fortunately, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that arbitration agreements that change the costs, award, and fairness incentives of the Medical Malpractice Act’s statutory provisions are against the legislature’s intent, they are void against public policy, because if parties can avoid the statutory provisions which are less favorable to them, that disrupts the balance of incentives that the legislature carefully crafted to encourage arbitration. The Court struck down the agreement, and allowed the parties to make their case in court.

Florida Statutes Section 715.07

Below is the full text of Section 715.07 of the Florida Statutes as displayed in the Official Internet Site of Florida’s Legislature:

715.07 Vehicles or vessels parked on private property; towing.

(1) As used in this section, the term:

(a) “Vehicle” means any mobile item which normally uses wheels, whether motorized or not.
(b) “Vessel” means every description of watercraft, barge, and airboat used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water, other than a seaplane or a “documented vessel” as defined in s. 327.02.

(2) The owner or lessee of real property, or any person authorized by the owner or lessee, which person may be the designated representative of the condominium association if the real property is a condominium, may cause any vehicle or vessel parked on such property without her or his permission to be removed by a person regularly engaged in the business of towing vehicles or vessels, without liability for the costs of removal, transportation, or storage or damages caused by such removal, transportation, or storage, under any of the following circumstances:

(a) The towing or removal of any vehicle or vessel from private property without the consent of the registered owner or other legally authorized person in control of that vehicle or vessel is subject to strict compliance with the following conditions and restrictions:

1.a. Any towed or removed vehicle or vessel must be stored at a site within a 10-mile radius of the point of removal in any county of 500,000 population or more, and within a 15-mile radius of the point of removal in any county of less than 500,000 population. That site must be open for the purpose of redemption of vehicles on any day that the person or firm towing such vehicle or vessel is open for towing purposes, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and, when closed, shall have prominently posted a sign indicating a telephone number where the operator of the site can be reached at all times. Upon receipt of a telephoned request to open the site to redeem a vehicle or vessel, the operator shall return to the site within 1 hour or she or he will be in violation of this section.
b. If no towing business providing such service is located within the area of towing limitations set forth in sub-subparagraph a., the following limitations apply: any towed or removed vehicle or vessel must be stored at a site within a 20-mile radius of the point of removal in any county of 500,000 population or more, and within a 30-mile radius of the point of removal in any county of less than 500,000 population.
2. The person or firm towing or removing the vehicle or vessel shall, within 30 minutes after completion of such towing or removal, notify the municipal police department or, in an unincorporated area, the sheriff, of such towing or removal, the storage site, the time the vehicle or vessel was towed or removed, and the make, model, color, and license plate number of the vehicle or description and registration number of the vessel and shall obtain the name of the person at that department to whom such information was reported and note that name on the trip record.
3. A person in the process of towing or removing a vehicle or vessel from the premises or parking lot in which the vehicle or vessel is not lawfully parked must stop when a person seeks the return of the vehicle or vessel. The vehicle or vessel must be returned upon the payment of a reasonable service fee of not more than one-half of the posted rate for the towing or removal service as provided in subparagraph 6. The vehicle or vessel may be towed or removed if, after a reasonable opportunity, the owner or legally authorized person in control of the vehicle or vessel is unable to pay the service fee. If the vehicle or vessel is redeemed, a detailed signed receipt must be given to the person redeeming the vehicle or vessel.
4. A person may not pay or accept money or other valuable consideration for the privilege of towing or removing vehicles or vessels from a particular location.

5. Except for property appurtenant to and obviously a part of a single-family residence, and except for instances when notice is personally given to the owner or other legally authorized person in control of the vehicle or vessel that the area in which that vehicle or vessel is parked is reserved or otherwise unavailable for unauthorized vehicles or vessels and that the vehicle or vessel is subject to being removed at the owner’s or operator’s expense, any property owner or lessee, or person authorized by the property owner or lessee, prior to towing or removing any vehicle or vessel from private property without the consent of the owner or other legally authorized person in control of that vehicle or vessel, must post a notice meeting the following requirements:

a. The notice must be prominently placed at each driveway access or curb cut allowing vehicular access to the property, within 5 feet from the public right-of-way line. If there are no curbs or access barriers, the signs must be posted not less than one sign for each 25 feet of lot frontage.
b. The notice must clearly indicate, in not less than 2-inch high, light-reflective letters on a contrasting background, that unauthorized vehicles will be towed away at the owner’s expense. The words “tow-away zone” must be included on the sign in not less than 4-inch high letters.
c. The notice must also provide the name and current telephone number of the person or firm towing or removing the vehicles or vessels.
d. The sign structure containing the required notices must be permanently installed with the words “tow-away zone” not less than 3 feet and not more than 6 feet above ground level and must be continuously maintained on the property for not less than 24 hours prior to the towing or removal of any vehicles or vessels.
e. The local government may require permitting and inspection of these signs prior to any towing or removal of vehicles or vessels being authorized.
f. A business with 20 or fewer parking spaces satisfies the notice requirements of this subparagraph by prominently displaying a sign stating “Reserved Parking for Customers Only Unauthorized Vehicles or Vessels Will be Towed Away At the Owner’s Expense” in not less than 4-inch high, light-reflective letters on a contrasting background.
g. A property owner towing or removing vessels from real property must post notice, consistent with the requirements in sub-subparagraphs a.-f., which apply to vehicles, that unauthorized vehicles or vessels will be towed away at the owner’s expense.

A business owner or lessee may authorize the removal of a vehicle or vessel by a towing company when the vehicle or vessel is parked in such a manner that restricts the normal operation of business; and if a vehicle or vessel parked on a public right-of-way obstructs access to a private driveway the owner, lessee, or agent may have the vehicle or vessel removed by a towing company upon signing an order that the vehicle or vessel be removed without a posted tow-away zone sign.

6. Any person or firm that tows or removes vehicles or vessels and proposes to require an owner, operator, or person in control of a vehicle or vessel to pay the costs of towing and storage prior to redemption of the vehicle or vessel must file and keep on record with the local law enforcement agency a complete copy of the current rates to be charged for such services and post at the storage site an identical rate schedule and any written contracts with property owners, lessees, or persons in control of property which authorize such person or firm to remove vehicles or vessels as provided in this section.
7. Any person or firm towing or removing any vehicles or vessels from private property without the consent of the owner or other legally authorized person in control of the vehicles or vessels shall, on any trucks, wreckers as defined in s. 713.78(1)(c), or other vehicles used in the towing or removal, have the name, address, and telephone number of the company performing such service clearly printed in contrasting colors on the driver and passenger sides of the vehicle. The name shall be in at least 3-inch permanently affixed letters, and the address and telephone number shall be in at least 1-inch permanently affixed letters.
8. Vehicle entry for the purpose of removing the vehicle or vessel shall be allowed with reasonable care on the part of the person or firm towing the vehicle or vessel. Such person or firm shall be liable for any damage occasioned to the vehicle or vessel if such entry is not in accordance with the standard of reasonable care.
9. When a vehicle or vessel has been towed or removed pursuant to this section, it must be released to its owner or custodian within one hour after requested. Any vehicle or vessel owner or agent shall have the right to inspect the vehicle or vessel before accepting its return, and no release or waiver of any kind which would release the person or firm towing the vehicle or vessel from liability for damages noted by the owner or other legally authorized person at the time of the redemption may be required from any vehicle or vessel owner, custodian, or agent as a condition of release of the vehicle or vessel to its owner. A detailed, signed receipt showing the legal name of the company or person towing or removing the vehicle or vessel must be given to the person paying towing or storage charges at the time of payment, whether requested or not.
(b) These requirements are minimum standards and do not preclude enactment of additional regulations by any municipality or county including the right to regulate rates when vehicles or vessels are towed from private property.
(3) This section does not apply to law enforcement, firefighting, rescue squad, ambulance, or other emergency vehicles or vessels that are marked as such or to property owned by any governmental entity.
(4) When a person improperly causes a vehicle or vessel to be removed, such person shall be liable to the owner or lessee of the vehicle or vessel for the cost of removal, transportation, and storage; any damages resulting from the removal, transportation, or storage of the vehicle or vessel; attorney’s fees; and court costs.
(5)(a) Any person who violates subparagraph (2)(a)2. or subparagraph (2)(a)6. commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(b) Any person who violates subparagraph (2)(a)1., subparagraph (2)(a)3., subparagraph (2)(a)4., subparagraph (2)(a)7., or subparagraph (2)(a)9. commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

Health Complications Following a Car Accident

Car wrecks are one of the most common causes of long-term injuries in the United States. Many heath issues caused by a car accident can linger for many years and, in some cases, can last a lifetime. In this article, the six most common issues will be discussed.

Neck Trouble
Whiplash (the jarring back and forth of the neck) can permanently harm the vertebrae within the neck. Neck mobility may be dramatically lowered, and pinched nerves can lead to full body paralysis if not treated quickly. Even if you do not feel pain immediately after the accident, it is important to make sure your neck is checked out after a car accident.

Spinal Issues
Herniated disks can happen in the neck, but they often show up in your back. Spinal damage can lead to whole body pain and numbness. Some treatments are complicated and require fusing two pieces into one. Simple activities like sitting down for more than 15 minutes, walking and jogging may never again be the same. Even if you do not feel pain immediately after the accident, it is important to make sure your back is checked out after a car accident.

Broken Bones
Fractured bones are usually easy to spot, and often manifest in immediate pain in the affected area. But that is not always the case. Some bruises can conceal broken and cracked bones – particularly in the ribs, fingers and toes. Watch out for excessive swelling and discoloration.

Skin Lacerations, Cuts and Bruises
Surface wounds require a unique kind of care to stave off infections and scarring. It is crucial to schedule return visits to your medical provider so that these injuries can be closely monitored. These recurring appointments can detect embedded glass and other debris. Surgical extraction is often needed to eliminate the internal presence of crash site debris.

Brain Damage
Cranial impacts can create lasting instances of trauma. Concussions and other closed head injuries can remain a recurring problem for life, and dormant mental disorders can be triggered by head trauma. The brain is composed of incredibly sensitive tissue, so expert neurological care is recommended for successful rehabilitation.

Internal Bleeding
Sometimes, tears in the flesh, muscles and other internal organs are hidden beneath the skin, which is why it is important to check for signs of internal bleeding. Lungs can be punctured after impact with the steering wheel, which leads to several respiratory emergencies. Digestive organs can slowly drain blood without being noticed after forceful impact. These issues can lead to severe, lasting injuries and even death if left unattended.

Final Note and Conclusion
The key to recovery following a car accident is continuous treatment. Do not neglect regular clinical visits and with consistent care, a full return to health is possible.

What To Do If Your Car Was Towed

Florida has enacted important legislation regulating the towing of vehicles from private property. In Tampa, aside from Florida Statute 715.07, towing companies must abide by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission Rules. In Pinellas County, towing companies have to follow the rules set forth in the County Code of Ordinances, Chapter 122.

What Makes a Tow Improper?

First, before a vehicle can be towed from a parking lot with more than 20 parking spots, there must be a posted sign at every entrance to the property. If anyone entrance to a property did not have the required sign, or the sign was not very visible or hidden, your car may have been towed illegally. The sign must also contain very specific language, and state the name and phone number of the towing company responsible for the tow. If the sign does not do this, or has the wrong information, you may have been illegally towed.
Your car cannot be taken too far from the point where it was towed. In Hillsborough County, that distance is about 10 miles. In Pinellas, the distance is about 15 miles.

There are also very specific rules about what you can and cannot be charged. In Hillsborough County, that charge is $115 plus $5 per full mile driven for most vehicles. In Pinellas, the charge is $100, plus $3.00 per mile.

While an explanation of each and every improper charge would be too long for the purposes of this article, and they also vary between different counties, excessive and improper charges may mean that you were illegally towed.

If you request the return of your vehicle and too much time goes by before it is released to you, you may have been illegally towed.

If your car is towed and damaged in the process, you may have a lawsuit against the towing company. If you see the towing company towing your car and you ask them to stop, and they try to charge you more than half of the amount allowed in that county, you may have a lawsuit against the towing company.

There are several other requirements under the statute, so it is important that you contact an attorney who is familiar with this area of law to guide and advise you of your rights in this situation.

There are exceptions, such as when a vehicle is blocking a driveway or entrance or interfering with a business’ normal operation. Most of the time, even if you believe the tow was illegal, the best course of action is to not argue, pay the amount demanded (get a receipt!) to avoid more fees. Towing companies are allowed to charge for storage of the vehicle, so the longer the vehicle is at the tow lot, the more it will cost to get the vehicle back. If too much time goes by and the vehicle is not retrieved, the towing company may sell it to pay for the towing fees.

What Can You Do?

If you are in doubt about whether your vehicle was towed away illegally, call our law firm now. We consistently accept cases involving the wrongful or illegal towing of vehicles. Consultations over the phone or in-person are free and, in most cases, there is no out of pocket cost to you. Please contact Fulgencio Law today to speak with attorney Felipe Fulgencio or attorney Bryan Giribaldo. We serve clients in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and throughout Florida.

Why Is My Lawsuit Taking So Long?

Why Is My Lawsuit Taking So Long? We hear this complaint quite often from our clients who have suffered injuries as a result of the negligence of others. Unfortunately, from the date of the accident until a resolution is reached (either through a settlement or a trial), it is not uncommon for a couple of years to go by.

The attorneys at Fulgencio Law always explain the process to each client during the initial client meeting, and this includes explaining why a final resolution may take some significant time. The process is often slow and frustrating. One of the reasons why so much time can sometimes pass before a resolution is reached is because large corporations and insurance companies operate under the notion that time is on their side. As a result, we often see efforts on their part to delay, stall and slow the process down as much as possible. Their reasoning is twofold. First, the longer insurance companies like GEICO, State Farm, Farmer’s, Allstate and others onto their money, the more interest they are able to accrue on the money. Second, in their view, injured claimants will begin to lose faith in the process, will begin to doubt the validity and severity of their own claims, and will often be in such dire straits as a result of the accident that they will accept a lower settlement just to get money for the bills that continue to pile up, usually as a result of loss of wages and expensive medical treatment.

Before a lawsuit is filed, it is common to attempt a pre-litigation resolution with the insurance company. There are several steps that are important to be followed in this process and each one can take some time. For an automobile accident, the first step post-accident is to request a copy of the Police’s or Sheriff’s investigation or accident report. We also request a copy of the at fault party’s insurance policy. Insurance companies are required to provide this information under Florida Statutes Section 627.4137, but they have thirty (30) days to do so.

Once the claimant has completed medical treatment, our firm will evaluate the case based on settlement value and likelihood of success and recommend a settlement amount to the client. When injuries are severe, it may take doctors and medical providers years to reach a point where they can “finalize” the patient and provide what is known as MMI (maximum medical improvement). MMI means the point where the client will not get better as a result of treatment.

At this point, we will attempt to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company. If a fair settlement offer is made and accepted by the client, the claim is closed and the client receives the financial compensation he or she deserves. If a fair settlement offer is not made, then the case will move forward and enter the litigation (lawsuit) stage.

After the Lawsuit is Filed

Once we file a lawsuit on behalf of our client, we will arrange for the lawsuit to be served on the Defendant (the person who caused or who is responsibility for the accident, or, in some situations an insurance company). The Defendant will then have twenty (20) days to file a response to the lawsuit. After that, the lawsuit will enter a period called “Discovery.” In the discovery period, the parties will attempt to discover information about the other side. Interrogatories, Requests for Admissions, Request to Produce, Subpoenas and Depositions are common discovery tools used by both plaintiff and defendant in the discovery process. The discovery period can take several months and to years to complete depending on the case.

Once discovery is complete, the case will be set for trial. Depending on the court’s workload, it can take six (6) or more months to get on the trial calendar. The trial will take place in front of a jury of six (6) people, who will then decide the fate of the case. If the jury decides for the plaintiff, there will be a monetary assessment of the value of the loss.

A lawsuit is usually the only legal option for a claimant to recover compensation for his or her injuries. Therefore, it is extremely vital a claimant exercise patience during this sometimes lengthy but important process. It is our experience that patience is often rewarded with higher settlements or higher jury verdicts than early-on settlement offers.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, please feel free to call our firm for a free consultation .