What is Wrongful Death

Wrongful death describes a claim or lawsuit filed against a person or corporation who were negligent or careless and caused the death of a family member. In Florida, the wrongful death statute sets forth the legal requirements, eligibility, and damages available.

Florida Wrongful Death Claims Can Be Complex

Under the law, when a person dies, he or she stops being recognized as a legal person or entity.  Instead, an estate is created in the Probate Court to stand in the place of person who died. While some people think of the term “estate” as referring to only to wealthy individuals with large holdings of property or belongings, in the legal sense it simply means a legal interest in actual or expected property or money of the decedent.

Notably, a wrongful death claim can only be brought by a Personal Representative.  The personal representative, also known as the “PR,” is appointed by the Probate Court.  In Florida, the Personal Representative is not required to be a blood relative to the decedent, but is always required to act in the best interests of the estate and beneficiaries at all times. This prevents the PR from self-dealing or taking action which is adverse to the estate’s interests.

People who are eligible to receive money damages through the estate for the wrongful death are family members.  Only surviving family members, including biological children, adopted children, and legally married spouses, are eligible to receive money from a wrongful death claim.

Sadly, this often means that an individual who is engaged to be married to the decedent is ineligible to become a wrongful death survivor for purposes of asserting a his or her own wrongful death damages claim.  Non-relatives may, however, be eligible to receive proceeds from the estate separately when a Last Will and Testament designates specific individuals as beneficiaries for proceeds of the estate.

How Does a Wrongful Death Occur?

wrongful death claim
Similar to a personal injury claim, a wrongful death claim often beings when negligence caused the death. There are many examples of such careless acts causing wrongful death.  A few common examples are listed here:

  • car accident
  • commercial vehicle accident
  • motorcycle crash
  • pedestrian stuck by vehicle
  • scooter struck by a vehicle
  • bicycle struck by vehicle
  • traumatic brain injury sustained in a crash which causes death
  • work injury
  • construction accident
  • defective product
  • dangerous prescription drugs
  • dangerous property conditions

There are, of course, many other forms of negligence which can lead to a wrongful death claim.

Compensation for Wrongful Death in Florida

Compensation in the form of money damages for wrongful death may include mental pain and suffering, value of lost services, lost income, loss of companionship, medical bills, and funeral and burial expense.

If you are a surviving family member whose loved one died as the result of carelessness or negligence, then you may have a legal claim for wrongful death compensation.  In Southwest Florida, including Collier County, Lee County, Hendry County, Charlotte County, Hendry County, and surrounding communities, contact Fort Myers wrongful death lawyer David Harris, for a free consultation. David understands losing a loved one, and vigorously pursues maximum financial compensation for your harms and losses. The initial consultation is free and without obligation 888-294-8090.

Why Using Ambulance After an Auto Accident is Important

auto accident fort myers

After a Crash, an Ambulance Ride to the Emergency Room can be Important For Your Health and Your Accident Claim

In an auto accident, the driver or passenger in the no-fault vehicle may be out-of-it and have no idea of how hurt he or she really is. Some injuries, such as broken bones, may be obvious. Other injuries, however, such as brain damage, spinal damage, or disc herniation, can be more subtle. In fact, the signs and symptoms of many serious conditions may not appear for days, weeks, or even months.

Too often, at the crash scene, many injury victims refuse to use an ambulance or EMS services thinking that they are okay. This may seem, and actually be, completely reasonable under the circumstances. The crash injury victim feels some pain but wants to get home to family and recover there. No one wants to go the hospital.

Those aches and pains then become worse. What you thought was a temporary ache has become non-stop. Your symptoms start worsening.

The symptoms of headache, nausea, fatigue, or poor balance, may be signs of a serious brain injury.  Pain that started in the neck area is now throbbing or shooting pain going into the shoulders, arms, and hands, which could a cervical herniated disc or spinal cord injury. That discomfort in the low back which is now burning and sending non-stop shooting pain into the legs may be a lumbar disc herniation or spinal cord compression.

These are very serious medical conditions and have severe consequences for good people. Although there is time to obtain medical help, very valuable tie has been lost.

Auto Insurance Companies Place Considerable Weight on Whether the Victim was Transported by EMS

In the context of an auto accident injury claim, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will attack the victim for not going to the hospital by ambulance from the scene of the collision.  Although not based on medical evidence, insurance companies often treat the non-use of emergency medical services harshly, suggesting that the injury was not caused by the car accident because the victim did not seek immediate emergency medical treatment.

While illogical and not based on medical science, insurance companies stick to their mantra that “no ambulance means no injury occurred.” This does not mean your genuine accident injury claim is lost or you did something wrong.

Instead, whether you used EMS or not is about perspective and the challenges auto accident claims typically encounter nowadays with insurance adjusters. If you have a serious injury, then you may need an experienced advocate to explain your situation to the insurance carrier and champion your cause.

Had Your Health Checked Out After a Serious Auto Accident? Now Have Your Rights Checked Out

Do not become an insurance victim. If you have suffered a real injury because of a real auto accident in Southwest Florida, the contact experienced Fort Myers accident lawyer David Harris of Harris Law for a free review of your situation.

David has been a trial attorney and litigator since 1995 who fights for his clients’ rights. Importantly, at Harris Law clients are appreciated and encouraged to meet with and call attorney Harris whenever they have any questions, concerns, or thoughts they want to share. Free call 888-294-8090 for a free consult.

Tips for the Injured in an Auto Accident in SW Florida

Every auto accident is a painful experience, regardless of whether or not anyone was hurt. These incidents create delay, inconvenience, and interference in our lives, and very often the innocent driver gets the run-around from insurance companies. This is routine in property damage claims without any bodily injury.

When someone is injured in an auto accident, then an insurance company’s indifference can often be worse. For accident injury victims who have not taken proper steps to protect their rights and eligibility for fair compensation, the auto insurance carrier for the at-fault driver may seek to take advantage of the circumstances.

This can feel like having the door close on your claim:

Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Accident Compensation Claim

Here are some steps you can take to avoid having the door close on your auto accident injury claim:

  • Tell Police and EMS if You Have Any Pain or Discomfort:  Be sure to report and document any minor discomfort to first responding law enforcement and EMS — even if it seems minor at the scene.  Substantial personal injury is often masked early on, and failure to let others know — especially law enforcement and emergency medical personnel — at the scene, will often result in the trucking company and other insurance companies disputing the whether the Florida semi accident caused personal injuries when they become full blown.
  • Obtaining Witness Information:  When you are injured, your health comes first, so getting information about witnesses may be left to police, or any friends, family, or passengers at the scene who were not injured in the crash. If witness identities are not obtained at the scene, or if the police miss them, then this important information can be difficult or impossible to obtain afterwards.
  • Notify Your Auto Insurance Company and Activate Your No-Fault Insurance Coverage:  Notify your very own insurance company of your car accident. You are likely required to notify then of the crash per your policy. When you do, make sure your insurer knows your no-fault personal injury protection insurance is needed for health care bills. Your no-fault PIP is the first line of insurance coverage under Florida law, and pays regardless of who was at fault. PIP no-fault pays up to the first $10,000 of your health care and lost wages, but only if you act quickly. Under the new PIP law, for example, the injury victim must be treated by a physician within 14 days. If not, then PIP may not cover the medical bills or lost wages. A doctor also has to diagnose an emergency medical condition. If an emergency medical condition is not diagnosed, then PIP may be limited or unavailable.

Dealing With the Insurance Company for the At-Fault Driver

In auto accidents involving serious injuries, it is never a good idea to deal directly with the insurance company for the at-fault driver. Even the nicest adjusters have a job to do, and that job is to pay as little on your claim as possible.

Do not give any statement to an insurance  adjuster or investigator who represents the at-fault driver. Doing so will not help you.

Do not sign a release from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You are probably giving up valuable rights to pursue your injury claim. Unfortunately, while adjusters must comply with the Adjuster’s Code of Ethics in Florida, many do not seem to know the boundaries.

Consulting an Experienced and Accomplished Lawyer for Peace of Mind

In genuine bodily injury auto accident claims in SW Florida, Harris Law of Fort Myers represents the injured. Dealing with auto insurance companies, gathering evidence, obtaining photos of the crash scene, interviewing witnesses, and seeking maximum compensation is done while you work on your healthy recovery.

Ft Myers injury lawyer David Harris values every client, and pursues justice with the client’s active involvement. Always accessible and responsive, David seeks each client’s thoughts and engages every injury victim in the claims and litigation process, so there is transparency in the representation.

The call is free, the consultation is free, and there is no fee unless we win. Call today 888-294-8090 to speak to David.

What is My Claim Worth? Determining Compensation Value of Personal Injury

In tort law, which is known more commonly as “personal injury law” nowadays, compensation means money. Compensation is paid by the person or business who was negligent to the person or family whom that negligence caused injury.

The reality is that the wrongdoer—the person or company which committed the wrong which hurt someone—cannot go back in time and undo the wrong. Because of this reality, our civil justice system holds that the only way to make up for the harms and losses caused by wrongdoing is payment of money. That’s it.

Yes, there may be (although rarely) an apology letter or something along those lines, but the substance of the resolution, the compensation, is payment of money to make up for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and payment of bills and expenses. In this regard, every personal injury claim has a value, or worth. That number ranges from zero to the imagination, but is always grounded in reality and limited to what is supported by the evidence and the law.

Do You Want to Know What Your Personal Injury Claim is Worth?

What compensation adequately makes up for personal injury harms and losses is not an exact science.  There really is no precise “value” or “worth” in any particular personal injury claim. There are ranges of what is considered full, fair, just, and appropriate based on several factors.

Generally, there will be a foundation on the value of the injury, harms, and losses. There are facts which adjust the amount of appropriate compensation up or down.  Settlement may be a discount, a risk management tool for both sides, in which neither receives the best outcome they want, but compromise to minimize exposure.

The evidence, the law, and a jury control everyone’s fate in a personal injury claim which goes to trial. Settlement of an injury claim is meant to prevent the unknown from happening.

Factors Involved in Determining Personal Injury Claim Compensation Value

Here are some factors used to determine the compensation value of an injury claim:

  • Tort. What caused the injury? Car accident, product liability, child abuse, premises liability, etc.
  • Negligence or Worse? How wrong, or how outrageous, was the conduct of the wrongdoer? Was there comparative fault on the part of the victim?
  • Injury. What was the personal injury suffered? Spine injury is different from brain injury is different from bone fractures, and so on.
  • Losses. Are there any special damages, such as medical expenses and lost work income?
  • Who are You? Each injured person’s unique characteristics play a role in assessing compensation value.

These are the basics, but are the critical initial factors which exist in every injured person’s pursuit of fair and just compensation. Each category of personal injury, whether auto accidents or slip and fall or defective products or child injury, has its own set of factors. Each category, however, starts with the foundation questions.

Need Help in Your Injury Claim? Have Questions? Fort Myers Personal Injury Lawyer Here to Help

Good people often take the brunt of bad incidents. In SW Florida, experienced and accomplished litigator and trial attorney David Harris is here to help you through your legal obstacles and pursue the full and fair compensation you deserve.

Substance matters and so do you. If you have serious injury, and it wasn’t your fault, then call Harris Law, where clients are valued. You receive attention, respect, and stay involved—no games, no mystery, and no wondering who your lawyer is or whether he or she will ever call you back.

At Harris Law,  David is your lawyer and is committed to fighting your Goliath. There is no fee unless money is recovered for you. Call today 888-294-8090 for a free and confidential consultation.

Lawyer Not Taking Your Calls? Get a New Lawyer

Understandably, a lawyer who does not answer clients’ telephone calls or have the courtesy to return the call promptly—as soon as possible and practicable—draws the ire of clients. There can be occasions in which the lawyer is in trial for days morning through evening, and I have found clients comprehend the need for the attorney to focus on that courtroom battle, and can wait until the trial’s conclusion. The client’s call is returned upon completion of the trial or perhaps during a recess of the action, depending on the circumstances.

Legal Representation Should Mean Personal Involvement

In virtually every other circumstance, however, the professional and courteous thing to do is to call the client back as promptly as possible. If the lawyer is available for the call when it comes in, then the attorney should take the call. If the attorney is in with a client or at deposition or in court when the client calls the office, then the lawyer should simply call the client back as soon as he or she becomes available—during the same day in most scenarios.

Legal representation in personal injury claims used to mean that the injury attorney would be personally involved with the client and the claim. That is still true for some of us; however, it seems as though many lawyers are trending toward placing more people between themselves and the clients they represent.

Nowadays, many law firms—large, medium, and small—have numerous legal assistants who are a buffer between the lawyer and client. Among the various titles:

  • Intake specialist
  • Case manager
  • Case coordinator
  • Client liaison
  • Claims analyst

Shouldn’t the lawyer be managing, coordinating, and analyzing your circumstances? Do you want your lawyer to know you and your needs? Why is a legal assistant running the case? Whatever happened to the lawyer and client working directly together?

Your Personal Injury Lawyer Should be Personal to You

Something many prospective clients discuss with me is their desire to know their lawyer. They want a hands-on attorney who knows the details of their injuries, harms, losses, and struggles. Knowing a client’s hardship, and understanding their needs directly from them, is part of the confidence of the attorney-client relationship.

In my experience, clients are yearning for what seems to be old-fashioned: knowing their attorney, meeting their attorney, and having their lawyer personally represent them. They want the lawyer to do the work, not only because they think the lawyer should actually earn his or her keep, but want to make sure that the lawyer’s experience which was part of the hiring decision is actually used for their benefit.

Universally, in my experience as an attorney since 1995, clients want the lawyer to vested in their legal case. After all, clients hire the lawyer—not a receptionist or assistant—to do the substantive work. I am personally involved in every client’s case, this is not an issue with my law firm.

Building a Stronger Attorney-Client Relationship

The lawyer-client relationship should be a strong one, and building that relationship begins with knowing your lawyer. If you have signed a fee agreement, talk only to assistants, and have never met or talked about substance (and not chit-chat) with your attorney, then you do not have a real relationship with your attorney. You may be technically attorney and client and covered in that respect, but you don’t know your attorney.

Honesty about where you stand, the challenges you face, and how your attorney may overcome them, should be discussions you have with your lawyer, and not some legal assistant. Knowing your needs, your hopes, and your goals should be conversations you have with your attorney, and not a helper.

How can you get to this place? Very simple. Interview your lawyer—personally—before you hire him or her. Do not sign any fee agreement placed before you by any assistant unless or until you have met the lawyer or had a thorough discussion by phone. This basic step will tell you almost everything you need to know.

If your lawyer is not taking your calls or calling you back, then perhaps it’s time for a new lawyer. Chances are you did not get to know your attorney before hiring him or her, and counsel never got to know you. You are now experiencing the reality of this type of distant relationship.

As a personal injury lawyer, I view candid conversations with clients as basic building blocks to develop and maintain a strong lawyer-client relationship. Through in-person meetings and thorough discussions by phone, I answer my clients calls or return them promptly—every client, every time.

Fight Insurance Company Bullies

Insurance companies are often bullies. They are multi-billion dollar corporations which like to throw their weight around. Their weakness, of course, is money. They will pay handsomely to avoid paying more.

The need to, “avoid paying more” has to be a reasonable likelihood in the universal sense—a realistic proposition in everyone’s minds—and not just your perception of the facts. After all, this is a business decision for the casualty carrier. Managing the risk created by your personal injury claim has to make financial sense insofar as paying you full value appears to be a wise business decision.

How do you help yourself overcome the insurance corporation bullying? Let’s review a couple important lessons you need to know.

Insurance Companies Like Fighting in the Alternative Universe

Many of these ideas are conjured up by the insurance company and defense attorneys who stand with the at fault party. These strategies tend to focus on anything which shifts the focus away from the facts of the claim to instead portraying the plaintiff in a false and negative light.

Many of these tactics target the personal injury plaintiff’s past medical history—suggesting that coincidence predominates probability. Perhaps the most common strategy, however, is the insurance carrier highlighting the smallest and narrowest of inconsistencies—especially the art of taking isolated statements and word fragments and casting them out of context to manufacture an inconsistency out of whole cloth—and making this scheme the focus of the defense.

There are several different ways to sink your personal injury claim—regardless of how legitimate your harms and losses may be—despite the evidence of the wrongdoer being clearly at fault for your damages. Critical to dismantling the defense is simply not enabling them. Starve the beast, so to speak, and it will succumb.

If left alone, this alternate world created from an orchestrated perception can become your reality. As your attorney, I will deal with this nonsense directly and fight these tactics head-on. Shining the light of truth on the games being played is a powerful tool.

As the client, you should not be giving the defense fodder by wasting time or shopping for doctors picked by your lawyer.

Send the Right Message From Day One

Different types of serious bodily injuries require different levels of treatment. In turn, these forms of treatment have different planning, performance, and recovery timelines. You and your doctors—physicians whom you selected on your own—should be in charge of your care and how it plays out.

While your attorney needs to know your medical status, your current treatment, and and future treatment plan and medical needs, your lawyer should not be directing your approach. You should be living your life as you would in the absence of a personal injury claim. You are the patient and in charge of your medical needs and consult doctors and other health care providers to direct, oversee, and provide your care.

This natural flow is coordinated by you and your physicians. You must live your real life in real time. You should not try to create an alternate you, which lives in the same alternate universe the insurance company has created to shield itself from paying full compensation You will lose the battle here, as this is the insurance company’s domain.

What is Best for Your Health is Best for Your Injury Claim

If and when you start thinking, “what is best for my case,” instead of “what is best for my health now and in the future,” then you are going down the wrong path. You are headed into being fake instead of genuine.

In my experience and view, you are damaging—or even losing— your case effective immediately when you go down this road. While some attorneys will be all too happy to oblige your thoughts and coordinate everything for you, my suggestion is run away from such firms.

The reason is that you are heading exactly where the insurance company wants you to go. The insurance carrier would much rather deal with the “fake you” or “lawyer-choreographed you” than the real you. Insurance carriers have created the modern-day gamesmanship which can consume personal injury and wrongful death claims, and they are the best at it when you provide them the arms and ammunition. So, don’t provide them the resources to take you down.

What gives bullies life, besides their size, is their knowledge of the environment they operate in, and understanding their target. Bullies typically know the rules, what they can get away with with, what buttons to push to inflict maximum damage, and will cross the line as often as they believe they can do so without consequence. A bully who is disarmed, detached from their manufactured environment, and trying to fight in your world—the real world—will succumb, or surrender. Honest brokering takes hold.

Defeat the Insurance Bully by Being Real

Insurance bullies may be big, but they also fall big, and critically, can be persuaded avoid the fight by making a sound business decision by paying full compensation to avoid paying more. The best battles are those which are won without ever being fought. Insurance carriers who recognize this and do what is right when shown the light deserve credit for the detente.

If you want to fight insurance company bullies and win, then you have to do so with credibility. I fight insurance companies every day, and as your personal injury attorney or wrongful death lawyer, I strive to accomplish your objectives and goals using reality and truth. Whether the battle must take place, or is planned but avoided, will depend on your circumstances. In every instance, however, I pursue justice with your best interests at the heart of the claim.

Avoiding Failure in Personal Injury Claims

A Failed Injury Claim Hits Hard

No one wants their serious injury claim to fail. A loss hits hard for someone who is struggling over an accident injury and the harms and financial woes that accompany them.

It is true that not every accident injury claim is winnable. Some client cases present factual challenges and legal hurdles which can sink valid claims. There are many quirks in the law, including immunity, caps on damages, and of course, exceptions to exceptions.

You often will not know or learn of how the law and its twists and turns affect you until you consult an attorney who is experienced in such matters and knows the applicable law. In some cases, there is no way to avoid having a solid lawyer review your circumstances to protect your rights.

Steps to Avoid the Failure Horn

In additional to complex legal issues, people manage to injure their serious injury claims routinely by thinking they can do it themselves. In a personal injury claim or auto accident claim of significance, such as those involving long-term injuries and losses, the victim really can harm their compensation outcome by what they do or fail to do.

For example, there are some important things you need to understand:

The insurance company behind the at-fault driver or business is not your friend and not on your side.

The insurance representative for the negligent party represents the negligent party. Did you get that? No matter how friendly the adjuster may seem, the fact is that insurance rep is seeking to limit what you get paid for your injuries and damages. No ifs, ands, or buts.

You are not required to give the at fault party’s insurance company a statement in any shape, size, or form. So, don’t.

Anything you say, and any information you provide, to the insurance company which represents the at fault driver or negligent business is used to try and protect themselves and their insured.

Tell the truth. Always. No exceptions.

When you tell the truth, you are free. Free from any substantive inconsistencies and free from crazy insurance defense claims that you are a liar, the defense cannot attack your credibility.

Keep in mind that in every personal injury lawsuit involving serious injuries, the insurance defense’s playbook is to attack the victim’s credibility. Eliminate this by telling the truth every single time.

Do not agree to any settlement without first consulting an experienced personal injury lawyer.

While this sounds self-serving, it is spot-on true in serious matters. If your injuries involve fractures, herniated disc surgery, spinal damage, brain damage, or similar severe injuries and losses, then agreeing to an insurance settlement is a very critical matter.

Once you say, “I accept” to the insurance company’s offer, then you may be stuck. Not good. If it turns out your injuries are worse than you thought when you accepted that low settlement check, then you are out of luck.

Every injury settlement involves a binding contract called a “release.” This settlement document is often written so you give up every claim against anyone and everyone. You sign your rights away to full and fair compensation when you sign a release, so you had better be 100% certain about what you are doing.

While preventing these mistakes can certainly keep your valid, serious claim, on track, nothing guarantees success.

Determine If Your Personal Injury Claim is on the Path to Victory or Failure

A free review of your serious accident injury circumstances by experienced Fort Myers personal injury lawyer David Harris is only a phone call away. Call 888-294-8090. You may also use our convenient contact form to request a free consultation.

Florida Wrongful Death Survival Action

Florida’s Often Misunderstood Survival Action

survival action lawsuitUnder Florida law, a survival action is a personal injury claim which continues after the injured party’s death. This type of claim is different from a wrongful death claim. A survival claim does not link the death as caused by the injury for which damages are sought.  On the other hand, in a wrongful death action, the claim is based on the injury causing the death.

Example of How Survival Claim Works in Florida

An example may help illustrate the difference between the two types of lawsuits. The victim is a 55 year married woman and mother of 2 teenage children. She suffers from incurable cancer.  This woman is in a car crash, from which she suffers horrendous injuries, such as spinal cord injury which renders her paralyzed. The victim  lives but with all the problems and limits of a quadriplegic.

The victim lives for two more years after the auto accident enduring those injuries.  She dies, however, from cancer. Doctors confirm that her death is not related to the paralysis. In this example, the paralysis injury did not cause the woman’s death, but she lived her final two years restricted and unable to enjoy her family as she once did.

The Personal Representative of the woman’s estate may file a survival action against the driver and owner of the of the vehicle for caused the victim’s injuries, medical bills, therapy bills, and pain and suffering during those two years of her life.

Unlike many States, Florida does not allow the decedent’s survivors to receive damages for both wrongful death and survival, even, for example, where the decedent lived for months in the hospital post-accident until death. While both claims may be pursued at the same time,  but only one type of damages can be recovered. Whether survival action or wrongful death action is selected really depends on the compelling nature of the facts for each claim.  In most cases, however, a case is more factually appropriate for either a survival action or wrongful death action, but not both.

Fort Myers Injury Lawyer Pursues Survival Actions for Surviving Family Members

The death of a loved one is a tragic event, and moving forward can last a lifetime. When a person or corporation was careless and killed your loved one, or injured your family member so he or she spent final time of life in pain and anguish, then legal action to hold those parties accountable may be appropriate.

Knowing you, your values, and your needs, Fort Myers injury lawyer David Harris seeks the legal course which offers the most compensation under the circumstances.  When there is a delay between the accident which caused injury and then death, he often prosecutes both claims until we have to elect which one to give the jury.  Making sure that you have all the facts and evidence to provide the strongest claim for full compensation is the approach of Harris Law. Free consultation, no obligation, and no fee if there is no recovery. Call 888-294-8090.

Tell All Your Doctors About Your Personal Injury

Your family doctor, also known as general practitioner or primary care physician, may be the first doctor someone sees for evaluation and treatment of general ailments or symptoms, such as blood pressure, aches, pains, fevers, or the flu. The family doctor often orders tests, prescribes medications, makes referrals to specialists.

The primary care doctor also maintains a chart—the patient’s medical record—which some consider to be the gateway of your medical history.

Insurance Companies Comb Through Your Family Doctor’s Records

In personal injury claims, insurance company lawyers always obtain the plaintiffs family doctor’s chart in virtually every case. Routine. What are insurance companies looking for? Your health profile. Why? Insurance adjusters and lawyers want to create—manufacture—their story about how you got hurt, or whether you were hurt at all, or downplay your injuries as past problems that had nothing to do with the traffic crash or fall accident or work injury or product defect.

I have seen this happen again and again. Insurance companies want to portray your real injuries as minor aggravations of preexisting conditions. If they can create this story and a jury accepts the story, then their negligent insured may not have to pay for your real damages.

Did You Tell Your Family Doctor About Your Injury?

Did you tell your family doctor about how your injury occurred? Whether you were hurt by an auto accident, slip and fall, defective product, construction accident, sexual abuse, or other wrongdoing, the routine in the same. Did you mention what parts of your body were injured?

For example, maybe you were severely injured in an auto accident. After the crash, you went by ambulance to the hospital and then followed up with medical specialists, such as neurosurgeon, orthopedic surgery, and physical medicine and rehabilitation. You have been treating with a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon for nerve damage or broken bones or similar harms. The charts from all of those doctors report that you have serious injuries and pain caused by the crash.

During the course of your recovery, you see your family doctor because you came down with the flu. In this example, your family doctor is simply treating you for the flu and providing no treatment in connection with your car crash injuries.

Insurance companies and their attorneys are looking to see if your family doctor makes any note regarding any crash or fall is in the primary care physician’s chart.

Not Telling Your Family Care Physician About Your Accident Injury Can Damage Your Personal Injury Claim

Using our example, when you followed up with your family doctor for the flu a month after the car accident, the family doctor reports in his or her chart that you said that besides the flu symptoms you said were okay. Your comment was probably just small talk. You did not want to get into the accident injury details. After all, you were not seeing your family doctor for your injuries, just the flu.

You may have made a big mistake. The family doctor’s note of you saying you were okay or even the lack of any reference to your auto accident injury is now the insurance company’s attack on you. This family doctor’s office note will enlarged on an exhibit board at your trial.

In serious injury claims in which the insurance company has no real defense, a defense is created. The insurance lawyer’s primary tactic in most personal injury claims is to make the case about attacking your credibility. In our example, your “inconsistency” has been created. The easiest route to take for an insurance defense attorney is to make the case about your credibility, and the easy play is always front and center.

The insurance company will argue, and spend a lot of time and money doing so, that if you did not tell you family doctor about your personal injury, then your injuries either did not exist or were not serious. If your injuries were serious, big insurance argues, then you would have told your family doctor.

Make Sure to Tell Every Doctor or Nurse You See About How You Were Injured and Your Accident Injury Symptoms

You can avoid this silly and quite manufactured trap. When you see any doctor or nurse, in the hospital or in their office, make sure to tell each and every health care provider—all of them (even your dentist)—that you suffered recent personal injury, describing how it happened and what parts of your body are affected. You may not want to and certainly should not have to do so. But then, you may fall into the insurance company trap.

Tell the truth, every time, and avoid making the mistake of thinking that your accident injury symptoms only matter to the emergency room staff or specialists. Make sure you let your family doctor know. Be consistent.

Look on the bright side, it is not only good for your doctors to be able to coordinate care, but also shows your true colors: an honest, forthright, accident injury victim who needs real medical help. This will allow your personal injury claim to proceed on its merits instead of an insurance company’s game show.

Favorable Treatment of Insurance Companies in Personal Injury Claims in Florida

Insurance companies in Florida receive preferential treatment under the law. An article in the Journal of the Florida Justice Association, authored by attorney Dale Swope in Tampa, discusses several of these laws and rules. Here, some of those points are highlighted and expounded upon.

Special Rules Favor Insurance Companies in Florida

The reality is that insurance companies have more rights in the State of Florida than any other individual or business in our civil courts, with special rules, exceptions, or exemptions which apply only to them. While there are many peculiar provisions in Florida Statutes, here are some examples of how Florida, thanks to the legislature of special insurance favors (and some thanks to Congress as well), grants insurance companies favors and special treatment that no one else gets:

  • An insurance company is the only for-profit business which can be negligent in every respect and be immune from any liability.
  • Insurance companies which cover rental car companies are now exempt from paying accident victims money damages stemming from crashes caused by negligent drivers—even if the renter did not have a valid driver’s license (again, thanks Congress)
  • Insurance companies are allowed to negligently handle their claims, allow their policy holders to go bankrupt as a result, and have no liability to their customers.
  • Although an insurance policy is a written and binding contract between an insurance company and its policy holder, in court the policy holder cannot argue that the insurance company broke the promise (as can be done in every other contract case).

Pretending Liability Insurance Does Not Exist

Juries are not allowed to be told about the existence of liability insurance in a personal injury matter. That’s right, the negligent party’s insurance company—which controls the litigation of the accident case for the negligent parties they insure, such as whether or not to settle the claim, hire lawyers, pay experts—remains unknown to the jury.

The fact that the insurance company has a heavy hand in how any injury liability claim is defended should not be lost. If State Farm or Allstate or Progressive or GEICO or Farmers or USAA or some other insurer paid the same doctor 500 times to examine injury victims (and sadly, this type of thing happens), and 500 times, predictably, that doctor says the victims are fine, then shouldn’t the jury have the chance to know that? Doesn’t the arrangement at least justify questioning the doctor’s bias (which goes to credibility)?

Instead, attorneys for injury victims are restricted to limited information on these payouts from insurance companies to doctors in the personal injury claim. Critically, the law does not even allow the accident attorney for the victim to tell the jury that the insurance company has hired the doctor; instead, we have to say the “defense” hired them. This is not a technicality, as “defense” is not a synonym for “insurance company.” Legal fiction at work.

These are just some examples of the rabbit hole we’ve gone down, and sadly the situation is much worse, as the Florida Legislature annually seeks to provide additional corporate immunity to insurance companies.

Overcoming Insurance Company Challenges in Personal Injury Claims

Insurance companies are hostile to paying compensation to genuinely injured people. Some carriers do the right thing, while many others simply do not. That’s the system we all operate in.

At Harris Law, accomplished Fort Myers injury lawyer David Harris seeks to overcome the challenges presented by insurance companies on the facts, the law, and with the client’s active involvement in the representation.