A: When a doctor determines that you have reached a point in the medical treatment where he or she can determine with some sense of assurance the type of medical care you may need in the future, you have reached MMI. In other words, it means you are as good as you are going to get. You may not be as good as you were before the accident, but your condition is stable and you have a loss. This is when we request a final narrative statement of your condition. It is at that point that some doctors assign, and insurance companies generally request, a permanent impairment rating. This is generally done pursuant to American Medical Association guidelines. Automobile issuance companies often require the impairment rating to evaluate a case.
A: Many times clients come to us with no insurance coverage and no way to pay for treatment. Even when a client has full-coverage insurance, $10,000 in PIP benefits can be used up in short order. When this occurs certain medical facilities and doctors will take a “letter of protection.” This document gives the patient the ability to continue to treat without paying for the medical bill at the time of treatment. Letters of protection typically allow the patient to keep treating and once a recovery is made the healthcare provider is reimbursed. Clients should know however, that even with a letter of protection in their medical file they are ultimately responsible for the doctors’ bills if the case does not resolve as hoped.
A: Florida is a no-fault state and PIP is the insurance coverage that pays for certain medical needs and certain lost wages. The minimum PIP policy is $10,000 but there is a catch. Just like property damage coverage, or a homeowners policy, your PIP can have a deductible. That means you have to reach the PIP deductible out of your own pocket before the coverage commences. By statute up to a $2,000 deductible is allowed by the insurance companies for sale to consumers. Although this is the largest deductible allowed, it is not required. Consumers can purchase PIP insurance coverage without a deductible or with a deductible smaller than the $2,000 maximum allowed by law. The time to decide what is an appropriate PIP deductible is before an accident. Once an accident occurs, it is too late.
A: Sadly we face this question every day. In Florida full-coverage insurance means minimum coverage required by law. Florida law requires property damage if you damage someone else’s car and PIP to protect yourself as discussed previously. There is no requirement that anyone carry insurance if they injure another. In other words, most of the people in Florida do not carry coverage that protects you from their negligence. That is why we encourage that people carry uninsured/underinsured motorist’s coverage. Underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage allows you to collect from your own company in the event you are injured through the negligence of somebody who has little or no coverage. Simply stated, it protects you from the driver with inadequate insurance. Unfortunately, Florida law does not require uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Every day we are asked by clients what they can do when there is not adequate coverage. At that point it is too late. Full coverage insurance has let them down.
A: Florida is called a no-fault state. This means that we all insure ourselves against accidents that cause temporary injury. Even when someone else’s negligence causes injury, we are able to make a claim for personal injury protection benefits or PIP. This no-fault insurance was designed by the insurance companies to pay 80% of a person’s medical bills and 60% of a person’s lost wages, up to $10,000, regardless of who caused the accident.
Your own no-fault insurance provides you with the medical care and wage protection you need while we prepare your case against the negligent party that caused the incident.
Georgia is a different story. “No-fault” does not exist in Georgia but other types of coverages do. We have lawyers who are licensed in Georgia as well as Florida to advise you on the law and your claim.
A: Mediation is a formal settlement conference, often Court-ordered, taking place prior to a case going to trial. We will appear with you and argue your case. The insurance company will hire a lawyer to represent the person you have sued. Each side will have an opportunity to make a statement to a mediator, a neutral person who will assist the parties to see if a compromise can be negotiated. The information presented in mediation is confidential and cannot be used in trial. If no settlement is reached during mediation, the case proceeds to trial.
A: Even though a lawsuit has been filed, a trial is not imminent. Nearly every Circuit in the State of Florida requires that parties attempt to settle their differences through a process called mediation. Well before a trial we will be talking to you and counseling you on what to expect. While we try more plaintiff’s personal injury cases than most law firms we also are able to resolve an equal number before trial. We will make certain you are informed at all times.
A: A deposition is a formal question and answer session where the lawyer for the defendant asks questions about the cause of the incident as well as the extent of your injuries. The questions and answers are recorded on a stenotype machine by a court reporter. Anyone answering questions takes an oath to tell the truth. Of course we will be there, at your side, anytime your deposition testimony is taken. Depositions are often taken at lawyers offices. They are used to discover important facts in a case and to prepare a case for trial.
A: When negotiation fails, or when it becomes necessary, Fonvielle Lewis Messer & McConnaughhay will file suit for you. Filing suit is when a formal complaint is filed with the Court and a copy is formally delivered to the defendant. Suit is filed only with a client’s permission after other reasonable efforts to resolve the case have failed. Because insurance companies have become very aggressive over the past 5 years, we find that more and more cases require that lawsuits be filed.
A: Contrary to what is often seen in the media, most negligence cases are settled before trial. However, insurance companies go through cycles where they decide to try cases, whether they can win or not. Our lawyers are well-versed in trying cases and will zealously represent you when a trip to the Courtroom becomes necessary.
A: At Fonvielle Lewis Messer & McConnaughhay, our motto is Personal Injury Law . . . It’s All We Do. We do not represent insurance companies. In fact, we limit our practice to representing individuals injured by the negligence of others.
A: This is the hardest question of all to answer. Often the firm has to fight to prove that the other party caused the accident or incident. When liability for the other party is clear a variety of factors determine results. These factors include past medical bills, anticipated future medical bills, past lost wages, loss of earnings capacity in the future, past pain and future suffering. There is no exact formula that can determine precisely what a case is worth. Until all of the necessary information is gathered, an estimate is premature. Although no exact formula exists, once we have the necessary data our lawyers can estimate a range of outcomes based upon our training and experience in handling thousands of injury cases.
A: This is a difficult question to answer. Some cases are complex both in terms of who was at fault as well as the extent of injuries. At Fonvielle Lewis Messer & McConnaughhay we do not want to hurry a case to conclusion before the client has healed enough for the physician to be able to gauge the need for future care. Normally an average automobile case can be resolved anywhere from 3 to 12 months after a client first comes to our offices. Products liability, trucking, aviation, nursing home, bad faith and other complex cases may take substantially longer.
A: Do not make any statement to an insurance adjuster without your attorney present. Some insurance policies include a cooperation clause that require a statement but the best practice is to have your lawyer present. Additionally, never sign anything until it is reviewed by counsel.
A: Only if we win will you owe attorney’s fees and costs. If we are unable to make a recovery for you, you owe no fees or costs.
A: Costs include filing fees, witness fees, expert witness costs, travel expenses, telephone charges, copying charges, fax charges, deposition costs, investigator costs and time, messenger charges, mediation expenses, computer research fees, medical or nursing consultations, and all out-of-pocket expenses incurred on the client’s behalf. Our firm sets up a bank account for each client and uses those funds to advance the case. In this way we do not loan money so there is no conflict of interest. At the end of the case, all advanced costs are repaid to the bank. You never have to advance costs to Fonvielle Lewis Messer & McConnaughhay.
We attempt to keep costs to a minimum in every case but as a case continues costs can increase. The costs in a case are directly related to litigiousness of the defense insurance company.
A: Your lawyer is paid a percentage of the amount recovered for you whether through negotiation or trial. This contingent fee system allows access to Courts that people would not have if they were forced to pay for a lawyer by the hour. In fact, we will investigate your incident, gather all medical information and negotiate for you until the case is resolved. Only when you receive a recovery do we get paid.