Frequently Asked Questions regarding Personal injury Cases
We have listed some of our most frequently asked questions below. If you cannot find what you are looking for or you have further questions, please contact us anytime at 850-444-4444 and we will respond within one business day.
Yes. If you want to talk to one of our lawyers about a case, just call us and ask. After you have answered a few basic questions with one of our staff members, we will be happy to discuss your case for free on the telephone or in our office.
A lawsuit must be filed within a certain period of time or you will be forever barred from bringing your claim. Each claim must be evaluated thoroughly before determination can be made as to the “Statute of Limitation”. Depending on the type of accident you have been involved in, the amount of time you have to file a claim may vary. In Florida, most accident claims must be filed within four years. In most cases of wrongful death, a personal representative must commence action within two years of the death. Claims against the state, counties or cities have special limitation periods and notice requirements. Since the Statutes of Limitation are somewhat complex, a case-by-case determination by a qualified attorney is required.
There is no definitive period of time that determines when a case should be settled. Every case has its own unique set of practical and legal circumstances. However, we take great care to diligently manage every case to eliminate unnecessary delays. While aware of our clients understandable desire to have their cases resolved as quickly as possible, we will not recommend settlement of any case until all of the losses are fully assessed and all injuries have stabilized. Even though many cases settle before trial, this does not usually happen until both sides have prepared the case. Generally, lawsuits take about two years from the initial filing to trial. This can vary significantly, in either direction, based on the complexity of your case, the congestion of court dockets and other factors. Our advice to clients? Be patient. We are always willing to tell you exactly what is happening with your case. In the meantime, you have to trust that we are working hard for you.
Our firm only handles cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that we never charge a fee unless we make a recovery for you. There will be costs associated with the handling of your case. You have the option of paying those costs yourself as they are incurred or having the firm pay them for you and being reimbursed out of the proceeds of your settlement. All financial issues will be thoroughly discussed and reduced to writing at your initial consultation.
Every personal injury case involves the analysis of two elements: liability and damages. Liability is determined by analyzing the negligence of the at-fault party. If you can’t prove liability, then you can’t recover for your damages. Deciding how much your accident related injuries are worth is a critical aspect of any accident claim and is the part of the claim which is the most difficult to generalize. The “value” of your case depends on many factors, such as the extent of your injury, the amount of your medical bills and your condition after you have finished treating. The calculation also involves the ability of the other party to pay a judgment and whether you played any role in causing the accident. We will not take your case unless we think it has a good chance of success. Even so, there are no guarantees. All we can do is give you a fair assessment of the outcome of your case based on our experience, the injury itself and what jury verdicts have been achieved in cases similar to yours.
If you hire us to be your lawyers, you will be a significant part of your case team. We will ask you to help us gather the information that we will use to support your case. Just as we will keep you informed about your case, you will need to keep us informed about your medical treatment and your physical limitations. After we file a lawsuit, you will have to answer written questions called “interrogatories” and sit for a question-and-answer session with the opposing lawyer called a “deposition”. (Of course we will prepare you first, find a time convenient for you and sit next to you during the deposition.) You may have to be evaluated by other doctors. If your case does not settle, you will have to be present for the trial.
Since a consultation is free, it won’t hurt to ask us if we think we can help. Having worked as lawyers for many years, we have a bias against insurance companies and what they might tell you. This bias is based on our knowledge that no matter how nice insurance adjusters sound on the phone, they have one goal in mind above all others -- to pay you as little as possible. Insurance companies do not work for you. They rarely help you figure out your legal rights and may not fully understand them. They rarely give you a fair assessment of the value of your case. If your injuries are significant, there are several reasons why a good lawyer can help you. When you hire a lawyer who is willing to take a case to trial, value is added to your case in a number of ways. A good lawyer will seek every category of damages that applies to your case and find ways to support those damages with evidence that will be admissible in court. The threat of a trial itself adds to your bargaining power. Make no mistake -- the insurance company knows that it’s almost impossible to take your case to trial on your own.
Case costs are the money that we pay out to others in order to get your case ready for trial. Examples would be, the filing fee required by the court and expenses for depositions and experts. Case costs vary depending on the complexity of the case. We always have an up-to-date balance available for your case if you want to see it.
Remember: if we do not recover anything for you, you do not have to pay back the case costs to us. This is not true of all law firms, so make sure you understand what other firms may propose to you. Of course, we will be happy to answer any of your questions about fees or costs before you decide to hire us.
Make a list of witnesses. Anybody that can provide firsthand knowledge of how the loss is affecting you may be important. When you realize that friends, neighbors and relatives are aware of the problems you are having, make a list of those persons’ names, addresses and telephone numbers. Save everything --every bill, record or piece of paper that has anything to do with your case. Do not discuss your case with anyone other than your attorney, pastor, priest, rabbi or doctor(s). Do not sign anything with respect to your case until you have checked with the attorney handling your case. Keep a diary of events.
The law firm of Kerrigan, Estess, Rankin, McLeod & Thompson has specialized in the area of personal injury and accidental death since 1979. It was our belief that the client’s interests would be best served by a firm that gave all its energy to this specialty. We have years of experience representing clients before judges and juries. We are tenacious and we move cases toward resolution whether through trial, settlement or alternative resolution. We thoroughly research, analyze and prepare each case and we will not enter a courtroom or a settlement conference unless we know each and every legal, factual and strategic detail. We understand how to work within the justice system and use it’s rules and procedures for our clients’ best advantage. Our firm understands that a personal injury or trauma can change a client’s entire life and the legal matters that accompany the injury frequently cause additional stress and anxiety. As your legal representative, we will be aggressive advocates on your behalf and we will do everything we can to make your experience with the legal process as free from emotion and personal frustration as possible.
What may appear to be a simple case is often not. For example, many of the worst drivers on the road are often not insured or do not carry enough insurance to pay for all of the damage and injury caused in an accident. Many people do not know that their own insurance policy may cover some or all of their damages. It takes an experienced attorney familiar with insurance policies to help you weed through the legal verbiage to make this determination. Other cases may involve injuries that do not appear serious at first but may, in fact, plague someone for life. Our attorneys and support staff are experienced in this regard and can help insure you are compensated for all of your injuries -- current and future. Sometimes insurance companies will aggressively defend even those cases that do not involve life altering injuries or complex legal issues. At Kerrigan, Estess, Rankin, McLeod & Thompson, our attorneys are experienced at dealing with the various issues that arise during the course of your case.
No. Based on the information insurance agents and insurance carriers provide us, simply because an injured person pursues a claim does not mean their insurance premium will be increased. It is when a person’s negligent or wrongful acts cause injury that their own insurance premiums are increased.
Not in the traditional sense of the word. Defendants in civil actions for personal injury do not receive jail terms or criminal fines as punishment. Those are criminal sentences and personal injury cases are civil actions. However, in some cases, juries and courts can award what are called “punitive damages” which are designed to punish defendants who have behaved recklessly or intentionally against the public’s interest. The goal in ordering the payment of punitive damages is to discourage such defendants from engaging in the same kind of harmful behavior in the future.
Whether or not your case goes to trial is largely your decision. Our years of experience and reputation for tough-minded advocacy on behalf of our clients frequently enable us to reach a timely and successful resolution with opposing lawyers through negotiation and settlement. However, our attorneys will not settle your case before thoroughly explaining to you the details of any settlement offer and receiving your informed consent. Also, remember, we will never hesitate to proceed to a jury verdict when it is in the best interest of a client.