Have you been severely injured? Learn how a Hillsborough County personal injury lawyer can make your case. Give us a call to get started now!
Injury of any kind is often scary. When you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence, however, it’s important to find out if you’re owed compensation. While it is possible to file a claim on your own, there are numerous reasons that hiring a personal injury lawyer will help you get maximum compensation.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been injured in an accident that was caused by another person’s carelessness or negligence. You may still be in pain and dealing with recovery. You’ve probably lost income due to being out of work. You may be worried about paying the bills. And, you’re probably wondering if hiring a personal injury lawyer can help you.
We are here to help with a free legal consultation. Call our Hillsborough County personal injury lawyer today and learn how we can make a big difference in the outcome of your claim.
Don’t worry about having money to pay for the answers you need up front. Give us a call any time to schedule a free legal consultation.
Read on for a better understanding of your Personal Injury claim. We’ll start by listing the many ways you can damage your claim without even being aware of it. After that, we’ll share the story of one of our clients to give you an even better understanding of your claim. Read to the end to learn as much as possible.
Common Personal Injury Claim Mistakes
There are several errors you can avoid making with your personal injury claim to keep its value as strong as possible. Check out each of the mistakes below to avoid them yourself.
Not Going to the Doctor Right After the Accident
A personal injury claim can involve any of a wide variety of accidents, from motor vehicle crashes to negligent security incidents and things like medical malpractice. While medical malpractice can take longer to uncover, it’s hard to imagine a person could walk away from a motor vehicle crash believing they are unharmed. Even so, the adrenaline that rushes your system during a traumatic event can keep you from realizing the extent of your injuries, no matter what kind of incident caused them.
The effects of adrenaline include a surge of energy and strength and a lessening of the ability to feel pain. While these effects are temporary, they can last up to eighteen hours; long enough to damage your claim if you wait until you feel pain to get to a doctor.
Delaying a medical exam can put your health in jeopardy. You may have internal bleeding or other injuries you don’t feel right away that require immediate attention. Don’t take chances with your health, get checked.
Similarly, it’s important not to take chances with your personal injury claim. If you delay or fail entirely to get a medical exam after the accident, you deprive yourself of solid proof of injury associated with the incident.
The quicker you get an exam, the stronger the proof your injuries were the result of the accident or incident.
If you’re wondering why you’d need to worry so much about proof of injury, you need to know that the insurance company responsible for compensating you will be looking for any way to lower the amount they are required to pay. The less proof you have that the accident caused your injury, the less compensation they have to pay you.
Keep your claim’s value as strong as possible by getting a medical exam immediately after an accident or incident caused by negligence.
Not Following the Doctor’s Treatment Plan
Like failing to get a medical exam after the accident, not following the treatment plan the doctor gives you after that exam will also jeopardize your claim.
If you don’t follow the treatment plan laid out for you by your doctors, you’re likely to find the insurance company blaming you if your recovery backslides.
There are many forms your treatment plan may take, whether it involves medications you need to take, treatments you need to do, and activities you should not do until you have recovered.
Don’t let the insurance company victimize you all over again. Do whatever you are instructed to do to support your healing on your road to recovery.
Don’t Give the Insurance Company a Recorded Statement
When the insurance company calls you after you’ve been injured, you may think you’ve got to speak with them. But this is a call you do not have to take.
The insurance adjuster may sound sympathetic and concerned, but they are looking for information that can help the company turn the blame away from them and toward you.
It isn’t a question of whether you’re smart enough to take on the adjuster. It’s a matter of you being vulnerable after your injury and the caller being a highly trained interviewer skilled at obtaining specific information. Adjusters know how to make people feel comfortable and heard. They know how to get you talking. You must remember that they are hoping to record a conversation to review for ways you can be held at least partially responsible for your own injury.
If, for example, you were a pedestrian hit by a car, the adjuster may try to get you to say something that indicates you may have been jaywalking or looking at your phone. Anything that can pass for distraction or carelessness on your part helps them shed responsibility.
Your best move when the insurance company calls is to turn the conversation over to your Hillsborough County personal injury lawyer.
Not Hiring a Lawyer as Soon as Possible
There are several reasons people wait to look into the possibility of hiring a lawyer to help with their personal injury claim. The first is they are overwhelmed by the nature of their injuries. This is completely understandable.
It may take you a few days or even weeks before you can think of anything beyond your current condition. As soon as you possibly can, however, it’s crucial to seek out an experienced personal injury lawyer to assist you with your claim.
A second reason you may hesitate to hire a lawyer is that you believe you have all the time you need and there is no rush, because the state’s statute of limitations gives you a year or more to get to it. While the deadline for filing may in fact be fairly long, the important fact to keep in mind is that the evidence is not going to wait for you to get around to collecting it.
The accident scene to be cleared away long before the filing deadline. Evidence may get misplaced or put into storage, making it difficult or impossible to locate. Even witnesses can “disappear” by virtue of a change in contact information. And if you do locate a witness after months or more have gone by, it’s quite possible their recollection of events will be less clear than it was immediately after the incident.
You’ve also got to consider that the less time you leave between hiring an attorney and the filing deadline, the less time your attorney has to locate the available evidence and prepare your claim. Give your attorney as much time as possible to gather as much evidence as possible; don’t wait to get started.
When considering your claim’s timeline, your window for filing will almost certainly be far shorter if the claim involves a municipality — a state, county, or city employee, or part of an agency related to the government. Don’t shortchange yourself of the chance to receive the compensation you deserve by accidentally failing to hire an attorney by your filing date.
Another reason people fail to hire a lawyer soon enough is they think it’s a good idea not to hire one at all. They plan to take on their own personal injury claim to save money.
Statistics show that people without lawyers receive many times less in compensation than those with legal representation for their personal injury claims. There are many reasons for this.
A lawyer will be able to get an investigation started while you are still laid up, healing from your injuries. This person will also know what evidence to look for and the most efficient way to gather it and go about any necessary research that must be done.
A lawyer can prevent the insurance company from devaluing your claim by guiding you past the many tactics they are likely to try so they can save money. Just being able to turn those phone calls over to an attorney is a huge help in this regard.
An attorney will be able to help you accurately assess your damages to ensure you aren’t shortchanged when it comes to compensation.
A lawyer will be able to objectively evaluate any offers the insurance company makes and advise you as to whether or not an offer is worth considering.
An attorney can negotiate effectively with the insurance company because they have the legal “muscle” to drag the company into court if the company refuses to settle. Without a lawyer in your corner, the insurance company knows there is very little threat of a trial. This alone can cause them to drag out your claim with delays and denials.
Preserve the value of your claim and save yourself the frustration of battling the insurance company while you recover from your injuries. Call an experienced personal injury attorney today.
Hiring the Wrong Attorney for Your Personal Injury Claim
It’s a mistake to assume that any lawyer who passed the bar exam can handle your claim with equal results. Like the medical field, the law profession contains numerous practice areas. These are areas of specialization. You wouldn’t seek a doctor who spends the majority of their time not focused on the type of condition you need treated. It’s the same when hiring a lawyer. Your aunt’s divorce attorney may be fantastic, but your best chance for success will be working with a lawyer whose practice is dedicated to personal injury claims.
In addition, make sure the lawyer you hire is a trial attorney. While it’s true most claims are resolved through the settlement process, some are not. Don’t wait to see if your claim goes to trial before finding out if your attorney has the skill and experience to win in front of a jury.
Hillsborough County Personal Injury Client Story
The client story below will give you more information about your claim. While names and details have been edited to protect our client’s privacy, the value of the information is here. Be sure to read to the end to learn as much out of it as you can. When you’re finished, please call us to discuss your specific claim.
On a rainy morning in Tampa not too long ago, Rachel Rivera experienced a personal dilemma. Then she was hit by a truck.
Rachel’s fiancé Armand had recently given her a wonderful surprise by moving her entire apartment into his Tampa condo while she was on a three-day business trip. Her entire apartment, including her grieving Boston Terrier mix, Braxton. The dog had lost his best friend Hicks only two weeks before, and had been nothing short of catatonic since.
Not having to deal with packing up her apartment and lugging her belongings across town had been a huge gift. In addition, accepting Rachel’s fur-baby into Armand’s pristine condo was a gift in itself, for which she was very grateful.
The fact that Armand accepted Braxton as a member of the family was extremely important to Rachel, especially since the dog’s depression over the passing of Hicks. While living arrangements were never really in question, Rachel knew Armand wasn’t exactly a ‘pet person.’ He’d teased her on more than one occasion as he’d brushed dog hair from her pant leg, and it had taken a while for him to concede couch space to the two furry beings who expected to share the body heat of their ‘pack.’
Now Braxton was an only dog and Rachel didn’t want to leave him alone until he’d recovered a bit of his spirit. She hoped the company’s “bring-your-dog-to-work” policy would help. She’d never taken advantage of the policy when she’d had two dogs, but it was now key to ensuring Braxton wasn’t by himself with his grief all day.
The first few days went pretty well. Braxton seemed unintimidated by the vast cubicle-filled office and settled quickly into his dog bed beneath Rachel’s desk. She decided bringing him to work was a good idea. That is, until Tasha showed up with an adorable puppy and begged her to dog-sit while she went into a budget meeting.
Rachel wasn’t sure Braxton was up for a visitor, but before she could object, Tasha set the wrinkled pug-like ball of fur on the carpet. To Rachel’s horror, it trundled right into Braxton’s dog bed and curled up against him.
Anticipating a hostile reaction to the intrusion, Rachel lunged from her chair to lift the puppy out. She was shocked when instead Braxton opened one eye, sighed, and went back to sleep. The baby then dropped her head onto Braxton’s leg and closed her own eyes.
By the end of the day, the dogs had become fast friends. Rachel and Tasha marveled at Braxton’s transformation as they walked them out of the building side by side. He seemed happy.
“Do you want to bring Wilma home for the night?” Tasha asked, trying and failing to wipe the self-satisfied smirk off her face.
“Tasha, you know Armand would be less than thrilled. It wouldn’t be fair to him,” Rachel said, sadly. “Not that I wouldn’t love to, it’s just that I don’t want to disregard his feelings.”
“I get you, Rachel. But what about Braxton’s feelings? I haven’t seen him this happy since before Hicks passed. Maybe just for a night, so he can see how great they are together?” Tasha asked.
“It’s a thought. Let me think about it tonight. You know, ‘read the room.’ If the climate feels right, maybe we can bring Wilma home tomorrow night for a ‘try out,’” Rachel suggested.
Tasha agreed and the girls had to pick up their respective dogs as they pulled to reunite with each other when it was time to part ways.
Rachel set Braxton on his fleece blanket in the back seat of her car and clipped him into his seatbelt harness. As she headed for the I 275 North onramp toward home, she could see little Braxton devolve back to the apathetic, sullen dog he’d been for the past fourteen days. “Ugh, Brax, you’re killing me, buddy,” Rachel said, looking at him in the rearview. The dog refused to meet her eyes in the mirror. He looked away and sighed.
“You really lay it on thick, buddy. I promise to ask Daddy when we get home, okay? Just don’t expect too much. He loves you, it’s just… I’m not sure he’s ready for a baby,” she told the maudlin dog.
Exiting the freeway, Rachel checked the mirror and saw that the little dog had finally fallen asleep. She headed west on Sligh toward the condo. As she crossed Habana, she prayed that somehow Armand would see the benefit of bringing Wilma into their home. “Please Lord —”
Rachel’s prayer hung in the air as her car was broadsided by a county gas truck running the light.
She woke up six hours later in the hospital with her neck in a brace. Armand was beside her.
“Braxton — where’s Braxton?” Rachel asked, anxiously, eager to know the fate of her dog. “Is he okay?”
“He’s fine. Little guy must be made of rubber. I boarded him on my way to the hospital so I could stay here with you,” Armand reassured her. That night, Rachel learned she’d sustained multiple fractures to her left leg, a knee fracture, and a serious sprain to her neck.
There was some swelling of her spinal cord, but the doctors hoped it would subside in the next week without inhibiting her future ability to walk and move. The injuries to her leg would likely leave her with a limited range of motion and possibly a slight limp.
Rachel was discharged a few days after the accident, when the doctors felt comfortable that her spine was healing well. She slept all the way back to the condo, until Armand parked and touched her arm. “Pain meds are making me groggy,” she yawned.
Armand helped her from the vehicle and into the wheelchair she’d be using for the foreseeable future.
After she was settled, Armand left to pick up Braxton. When the door swung open again, she was stunned to see Braxton and Wilma scuttling in ahead of Armand on a tandem leash.
“I left Brax with Tasha,” he explained. “These two seem really taken with each other. This little one — her name is ‘Wilma,’ Brax seems like his old self when he’s with her, don’t you think?”
Rachel’s shock was evident. She was speechless. “I hope you don’t mind,” Armand continued. “Wilma needs a home, and I thought —” The flood of happy tears made the rest of the sentence unnecessary. Both dogs were ecstatic to reunite with Rachel.
Rachel continued to heal over the next ten days, but was unable to sleep well. She was experiencing far more neck pain than she or the doctors anticipated.
She diligently followed her treatment plan, taking her medications, icing, and making all of her physical therapy appointments. A recheck with her doctor revealed her injury was likely to take at least three months to heal, instead of the four-to-six-week timeframe originally hoped for.
As the couple drove home from the recheck, Armand suggested Rachel consider filing a personal injury claim. He’d found a website he thought she should check out for the law firm of Michael Serrano, an attorney specializing in personal injury.
Rachel pulled the site up on her phone and was making an appointment for a free consultation by the time they arrived back home.
How much does it cost to hire a lawyer?
The couple sat down with Attorney Serrano the next day. Rachel gave him an overview of her situation and explained that she had missed a month of work and was growing despondent about the setback in her recovery.
Finances were tight with the wedding coming up, and now they weren’t sure whether they should move forward or postpone the ceremony. With so little time left, they were likely to lose their deposits and have to wait another year to book another hall. As it was, they’d canceled their honeymoon until they were sure they were both healthy enough to enjoy a trip to Hawaii.
“Everything’s up in the air,” she told Serrano as the meeting began. “I’m worried about getting back to work, for one thing,” she said before anxiously asking, “How much does it cost to retain your firm?”
Attorney Serrano assured the couple there would be no upfront cost. “Our firm works on a contingency fee model,” he said. “We cover all aspects of your case from start to finish— investigation, administration, research. We handle your claim as if it were going all the way to trial. And if a trial should become necessary, we also cover litigation. In the end, we only get paid when we bring your claim to a successful resolution.”
Rachel was relieved by this information. “Okay, then I guess we’ll be here long enough to finish this wonderful coffee,” she laughed.
Florida is a no-fault state; how do I file a claim?
“So, how do I even file a claim?” she asked. “Isn’t Florida a ‘no-fault’ state? How do I hold the driver who hit me accountable?”
Serrano answered, “That’s a fair question, Rachel. Florida is a no-fault state. The good thing with no-fault is you can get authorization for treatment of your injuries right away, no matter who caused the accident. The bad thing about no-fault is when a driver only carries the bare minimum coverage required, the money runs out fast when treating serious injuries.
“With no-fault rules, you can’t seek compensation from the other driver until existing Personal Injury Protection, or ‘PIP’ insurance coverage is gone. This rule applies to both outright medical bills, which are economic damages, and pain and suffering, which are non-economic.
“When pursuing a claim beyond the limits of PIP coverage, your case has to meet specific qualifications regarding the severity of injuries. All of this makes it important to have a qualified personal injury attorney on your side to help guide you through.
“Without an attorney, the insurance company will very likely try to knock down the value of the claim by deflecting blame. For instance, if a settlement is in the works, you can expect them to ask you for your signature agreeing to forfeit your right to pursue more compensation in the future if additional medical complications arise. That’s not something an attorney is going to advise you to agree to.
“Without a lawyer watching out for you, it’s much more likely the insurance company will succeed in taking advantage of you.
“In addition, if the insurance company is successful in putting any of the blame on the person filing the claim, the law goes by a ‘pure comparative fault’ rule. This means that compensation would be based on the percentage of fault assigned to each party involved. Any blame they can shove your way comes off of their end.
“All of this means the insurance company has incentive to look for ways to shift as much responsibility onto you as they can to chip away at the value of your claim. Hiring an attorney is the best way to make sure the insurance company doesn’t get away with the blame shifting tactic.
“Naturally, we’ll do a full accident investigation, but on the face of it, it sounds as though the other driver was speeding and ran the light when he hit you, and it’s unlikely you bear any responsibility for the accident.
“Getting back to the no-fault regulations, in order to pursue compensation beyond the PIP coverage, the claimant — that’s you — must have injuries that qualify as ‘serious’ according to Florida State law. ‘Serious’ means one of the following conditions is met:
- a reasonable probability that an injury will be permanent;
- permanent or significant loss of an important bodily function;
- disfigurement or scarring that is significant or permanent; or,
Rachel blinked and looked at Armand. “You live in a dark world, Mr. Serrano,” she said.
“Sometimes it sure seems that way, Rachel, but our firm’s mission to fight for justice for the injured makes it all worth it.”
“Well, I guess that helps me. It sounds as if my injuries will qualify for a claim.”
“At this point, it appears that way, and I expect the investigation will confirm it.”
How much is my claim worth?
“Can you give me an idea of how much a claim like mine may be worth?” She asked.
Serrano explained that in truth, no two claims are exactly alike. “Even accidents that fall into the same category of personal injury have different circumstances,” he explained. “The severity of accidents vary, and injured parties are at varying levels of health and vulnerability before those accidents. They also recover at different rates with different capacities for recovery.
“So, while I can’t give you the value of your claim without any information, I can say the value of your claim will depend on the accident investigation and your damages.
“We can jump on the investigation immediately, speaking to witnesses, reviewing accident reports, and gathering evidence. But the damages will depend on you, Rachel,” Serrano said.
“We’ll need you to reach ‘maximum medical improvement.’ This is when you get to a point in your recovery that your doctors declare you ‘back to normal.’
“If your injuries prevent you from returning to your pre-accident level of health, then your maximum medical improvement will be reached when you’ve recovered as much as you’re likely to,” Serrano explained.
“Your focus must continue to be on your treatment plan and getting the rest you need,” said Serrano. “Arriving at maximum medical improvement will mean you’re completely done with operations and we have a reliable idea of what the future medical care for your injuries will be.
“When you reach maximum medical improvement, we’ll know what your damages are. That’s when I can tell you the value of your claim.”
Rachel was quiet for a moment, digesting what she’d been told. “That makes sense,” she replied. “I guess I’d have been a bit skeptical if you’d just tossed me a dollar amount for my claim’s value without any reference point.”
“That’s good,” said Serrano. “You need to be wary of any attorney who comes up with a case value without any information.”
How Long will My Claim Take?
“Can you give us an idea of how long Rachel’s claim may take?” Armand asked.
“I can’t give you an exact timeline for the case, because it will depend on a couple of factors, but I can tell you what those factors are,” Serrano said.
“The first factor is how long it takes you to reach maximum medical improvement. Once you get there and we know your damages, we’ll send a demand letter to the insurance company.
“After that, your claim timeline will depend on how the insurance company responds. If they are willing to hammer out a fair settlement, we’ll be all set, but if they give us a hard time, we’ll need to take them to court,” said Serrano.
“Please don’t let the possibility of a trial concern you,” Serrano said, seeing Rachel’s eyes go wide. “Our firm has a long, successful track record of winning personal injury claims, many of which were car accident claims.
“The insurance company is bound to know who we are,” he continued. “In fact, it’s not unheard of for an insurance company to choose to work out a settlement to prevent a trial with a well-known, successful trial lawyer.
“While there are no guarantees that your claim will settle, either way, we’ll be ready to fight to get you the compensation you deserve. That’s why we always recommend you go with a personal injury trial lawyer, no matter which firm you decide on,” said Serrano.
“Another thing I can tell you about the timeline is that you were smart to contact us so quickly. Many people make the mistake of putting off filing a claim. This can cause all kinds of challenges regarding the availability of evidence and witnesses.
“In addition, the truck that hit you was a county utility truck. Many people don’t realize that lawsuits in California involving municipalities have a deadline that is much shorter than that of a private suit. Whether your claim involves a municipality or a private entity, it’s always best to begin gathering evidence and building your claim long before statute deadlines.
“Having an experienced personal injury trial lawyer to get your claim off the ground while you’re still recovering is one of the crucial benefits of hiring an attorney. Getting maximum compensation is another benefit. Your own PIP insurance will pay you some benefits, but not nearly all you need considering your injuries and how long you’re likely to be out of work. That’s where we come in. We’ll help you recover compensation directly from the liable party.”
Rachel and Armand were satisfied with the information they received in their free consultation. They retained Serrano Law and today we are happy to say Attorney Serrano got Rachel eight times the amount initially offered by the insurance company.
Call Our Hillsborough County Personal Injury Lawyer Today
We hope the information above has answered some of your personal injury claim questions. If you have questions about a personal injury, contact our experienced Hillsborough County personal injury lawyer today for a free consultation and case evaluation. You deserve compensation for your injuries. Don’t go it alone; let us help.
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