Brandon Stein Personal Injury Lawyer Blog: PIP and Your Settlement

Brandon Stein

By: Brandon Stein

If you or someone you know was hurt or injured in an accident, contact our Fort Lauderdale car crash attorneys today.

As a personal injury lawyer in South Florida that helps those injured in car accidents, there is always one aspect to the case that my clients have a difficult time grasping. While laws surrounding automobile insurance coverage vary from state to state, in Florida, car accident attorneys must have a wealth of knowledge related to Personal Injury Protection or PIP for short.

Essentially, PIP coverage provides up to $10,000 of benefits to those injured in car accidents.  For those living in Florida, it is extremely difficult to listen to the radio or watch television without hearing an advertisement guaranteeing $10,000 if you are injured in a car accident.  Unfortunately, many Floridians take this type of advertisement at its word and fail to recognize that the entire story is not being told.

What Florida car drivers fail to recognize is that these attorney advertisements rarely inform the prospective clients that the $10,000 PIP benefits typically only applies to medical expenses, lost wages, and other limited reimbursable expenses.  Thus, if you are injured, you are not automatically entitled to $10,000 in your pocket.  In fact, when a North Miami Beach lawyer attempts to settle a car crash case, that $10,000 PIP benefit affects the personal injury claim as well.

When a person is injured in a car crash and retains a South Florida lawyer, the ultimate goal is maximizing the settlement and total recovery for the client.  However, those injured in car accidents rarely understand PIP law and how it affects their personal injury settlement.  In fact, most attorneys do not even understand PIP law due to its constant change.  And when it comes to a bodily injury settlement, insurance companies always take into account the $10,000 PIP “set-off.”

In essence, if a car accident claim is valued by a Florida lawyer to be worth $15,000, then it must be made clear to the client that the total bodily injury settlement will not be $15,000. After the $10,000 “set-off” is applied, the total bodily injury settlement that the client sees at the end of a case is a mere $5,000.  Yet, in reality, the settlement can be viewed as a $15,000 settlement assuming that the client received the necessary medical treatment which incurred bills up to $10,000.

This PIP “set-off” applies at any point in the litigation — whether it be at settlement before a lawsuit is filed by a Fort Myers personal injury lawyer, or upon reaching a verdict in a Miami, Florida courtroom.  The key is education.  A client injured in a car accident must be sufficiently educated in this area, so as to prevent skepticism and venom directed back from the client.  Ultimately, regardless as to the total bodily injury settlement reached in Florida, it is vital to tell your client that $10,000 must be added to the top to reach the true value of the claim.

Injured?  Contact our Pembroke Pines accident lawyers today!

 

Brandon Stein Law: The Power of a Lawyer Negotiating Your Settlement

By: Brandon Stein

If you or someone you know was injured in an accident, contact our Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys today.

A non-lawyer should never negotiate settlement of a personal injury claim in Florida.  As a lawyer that helps those injured in car accidents or slip and falls in North Miami Beach, I have come to recognize that the value of a claim increases exponentially when an attorney becomes involved.  In fact, many insurance companies will give insultingly low offers to those unrepresented.  Nevertheless, once a Florida personal injury lawyer sends a letter of representation to the insurance company, we have a completely different ball game.

The mentality of insurance companies is that claims must be resolved in the fastest and cheapest way possible.  These two “musts” are easily accomplished when someone injured in a car accident or slip and fall in Florida decides not to retain an attorney.  While I have never worked for an insurance company, I strongly suspect that the “game plan” for a claim changes drastically when it is known that the person injured is attempting to resolve his or her claim on their own without the assistance of a South Florida personal injury lawyer.

A key asset for Pembroke Pines injury attorneys is the possibility that a lawsuit could be filed — which ultimately could lead to trial.  That is an instance where a simple claim could turn into a nightmare for an insurance company because once a lawsuit is filed, legal counsel must be retained and of course paid.  On top of the attorney’s fees that the insurance company would have to dish out, a pricey settlement or verdict is most likely forthcoming as well.  This is the fear factor of every pre-suit claim.

The power that a lawyer has when dealing with insurance companies is the ever-present fear of what may be coming.  An injured person that is “self represented” does not strike fear in the heart of an insurance company.  In actuality, it triggers the exact opposite response.  In that case, the adjuster turns into the predator and its prey is the innocent unrepresented person.

Injured in an accident?  Contact our North Miami car accident attorneys today!

Brandon Stein Law: Is a Claim Denial Really a Claim Denial?

Brandon Stein

By: Brandon Stein

If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident or slip and fall, contact our Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys today.

As a North Miami Beach personal injury lawyer, my work is devoted entirely to assisting my injured clients with obtaining the compensation they deserve.  For those injured in slip and falls or car accidents, the first question that should always be asked is whether the offending party has liability insurance.  Once that question is answered in the affirmative, then it is my job to contact the insurance company’s representative to inform him or her that we are asserting a claim against their insured.

Unfortunately, insurance companies rarely, if ever, convey offers to resolve personal injury claims without first receiving a demand for resolution from the injured party.  As I further commented upon in my post from December 17, 2012, a South Florida attorney values a car accident or slip and fall case based upon the extent of the injury sustained by the client.  As we all know — a million dollar case needs a million dollar injury.

So, after a client obtains all of the treatment and therapy needed to remedy their injury, the time has come to submit a formal demand for resolution to the insurance company.  One would hope that the insurance company responds to this demand favorably and with a reasonable offer.  However, this is not always the case, as some insurance companies take the tactic of denying a claim without any offer.  This is especially the case if a person injured in a car accident or slip and fall attempts to settle with an insurance company without retaining the services of a Fort Myers Personal Injury Lawyer.

Nevertheless, this “denial” tactic utilized by the insurance companies often times is a way for them to flex their muscles in the early stages of the negotiation process.  Yet, this strategic move is most likely used because it works in some situations, thus when a Florida personal injury attorney or injured party receives a claim denial, they essentially give up and close their file.  But is a claim denial really a claim denial?

I cannot stress how important it is to draft a carefully crafted demand containing a legal basis for your claim.  Simply sending a demand with an arbitrary number without any legal grounds for the claim is not a sure fire way of resolving your claim for its maximum value. In fact, this sends the opposite message to the insurance company — you might as well write in fine print at the bottom of the demand: “My case is weak.”

A formal demand for resolution should not be rushed.  Other than informing the insurance company of the claim, this is the first impression that an Florida trip and fall personal injury attorney is making — so make it count and have that demand carefully worded and extremely detail oriented.

Injured?  Contact our North Miami personal injury attorneys today!

Brandon Stein Law: The Harsh Reality of Staged Car Accidents in Florida

Brandon Stein

By: Brandon Stein

If you or someone you know was injured, contact our Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers today.

Here in Florida, one would be hard-pressed to go a day without hearing an advertisement on the radio declaring that if you are injured in a car accident, then you are entitled to $10,000.00 in benefits.  While this is technically true, just like any other advertisement, it is very important to recognize the fine print.  For this particular type of ad, the fine print is that you must be injured and you must be treated by a doctor.  Oh yeah — and those $10,000.00 of benefits you are hoping for, they go directly to the doctors that treat you for your injuries.  The last place that money goes is into your pocket.

As a North Miami Beach car accident lawyer, this is a common misconception that many of my clients have, for they expect to recover $10,000.00 simply because they were involved in a car crash.  Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that the doctors and health clinics reap the benefits of the payments tendered by the auto insurance companies.  Now, there is nothing wrong with this so long as a person injured in a car accident receives the treatment that he or she needs in order to get better. However, from time to time prospective clients come through the door hoping to file a claim against an auto insurance company with the expectation of making a quick buck.  While some South Florida car accident lawyers may take on this type of client, I certainly do not.

Nevertheless, where there is a will, there is a way.  When one hears the term “insurance fraud,” the first thing that comes to mind is fraudulently taking advantage of homeowner’s insurance or a life insurance company.  Yet, it has been the auto insurance companies that have been taken to task by these fraudulent and dishonest individuals through Staged Car Accidents.

A staged accident is essentially an intentional car accident committed or staged by a driver looking to fake an injury and raise a claim against an auto insurance company. Typically, the fraudulent individual looking to stage theses types of crashes recruits an accomplice to sit in the passenger seat and fake an injury as well.  Additionally, this passenger will corroborate the driver’s story that the other innocent victim car caused the crash.

While these staged car accidents can occur in any fashion, the most common form of accident is referred to as the “Swoop and Squat.”  Essentially, this type of crash occurs by the fraudulent vehicle cutting off the innocent car and then stopping short causing the innocent vehicle to crash into their rear bumper.  Immediately following the crash, typically the passenger of the vehicle will exit the car complaining of back and neck pain from the ‘whiplash’ effect from the rear-end collision. Shortly thereafter, 911 is called and police arrive to the scene.  After a police report is generated, that is when the fraudulent individual makes a claim against the innocent victim’s auto insurance company.

Being a Fort Myers car accident lawyer, I have become extremely aware of this fraudulent “business” and always mindful of it when evaluating potential auto accident cases.   This has forced my entire firm to increase the intensity of the new client screening process, as this insurance fraud cannot be tolerated.

Injured?  Contact our Aventura car accident attorneys today.

Brandon Stein Law: Liability and Auto Insurance Companies Are Not Your Friend

Brandon Stein

By: Brandon Stein

If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident or slip and fall, contact our Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys today.

As a Fort Myers lawyer that helps those injured in car accidents and slip and falls, I spend the greater part of my days writing and speaking with claims representatives of insurance companies.  Before a lawsuit is filed, the communication I frequently have regarding my client’s injuries are with the adjuster handling the liability claim for the insurance company. Moments after a car accident or slip and fall occurs and a person is injured in North Miami, the insurance company begins its investigation of the claim — often times this occurs even before a lawyer gets involved.  In fact, the insurance investigation often begins with an innocent phone call to the injured person.

However, very rarely is this phone call innocent.  In fact, the only person who perceives this phone call as being innocent and harmless is the client who has just been injured and is not thinking clearly.  While the adjuster may seem to be concerned with your injury and extremely nice and cordial over the phone, he or she certainly has a hidden agenda and is operating under the direction of the insurance company.  Every question that the adjuster asks is calculated to lead to information that assists with their investigation.  Also, often times these ”innocent” phone calls are recorded and are utilized as a powerful tool against South Florida slip and fall lawyers in litigation.

Sadly, it is the innocent, vulnerable, injured client that is taken advantage of during the early stages of the litigation.  While the client may believe that he or she is helping the claim by arguing the case to the adjuster, typically the exact opposite occurs.  Unfortunately, it is the Naples personal injury lawyer that is left to clean up the pieces and salvage the claim.

During the course of my representation for these injured clients, I constantly educate and inform them that this entire process is viewed by the insurance company as a business and decisions made by the company are often “business decisions.”  The insurance companies rarely, if ever, sympathize with the tragic injuries that my clients endure, for the adjusters are simply looking for ways to poke holes in our case and diminish the value of the claim.

Ultimately, the reason why those injured in North Miami Beach hire car accident lawyers is to represent them and obtain adequate compensation for their loss.  Once an injured client is represented by a lawyer, then that client is (or should be) instructed not to discuss their case with anyone — including the insurance company.  While this mantra is preached during representation of a client, there is no reason why those injured do not follow this instruction even before retaining a lawyer.

Injured in a car accident or slip and fall?  Contact our Pembroke Pines personal injury lawyers today.

Brandon Stein Law: Florida Lost Wage Claim Through PIP

Brandon Stein

By: Brandon Stein

If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident, contact our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers today.

Being a Fort Myers personal injury lawyer that sues for car accidents, I frequently come across clients that use injuries from an accident as an excuse for not working.  In Florida, Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) benefits provide for compensation from your car insurance company for time missed from work due to a car accident.  According to Florida law, the insurance company may award 60% of the total lost wages as a result of the car accident.    However, these available PIP benefits may not and should not be used as a “get out of jail free card.”

While insurance companies in Florida are required to provide PIP benefits for injuries resulting from a car accident, Naples personal injury lawyers certainly understand that these benefits are not given out like Halloween candy.  This is especially the case when auto insurance companies are requested to cut checks for clients claiming lost wages from a car accident.  Insurance agencies such as Geico or State Farm employ specialized claims representatives to handle these PIP requests.

More times than not, when your North Miami Beach car accident lawyer calls the insurance company to inquire into your PIP claim, he or she would be transferred to a PIP adjuster.  These PIP adjusters evaluate every facet of the claim and especially value the medical notes from an injured client’s treatment.

When it comes to raising a claim for lost wages with your PIP insurance carrier, it is very important that your medical records indicate your inability to work.  Essentially, most, if not all, PIP adjusters will not even consider a lost wage claim unless they see language written in the medical record specifying that the injured person cannot work as a result of the car accident.  As a Coral Springs car accident lawyer, it makes my job extremely difficult, and quite frankly, impossible, to seek recovery for lost wages if this language is not included within a client’s medical record.  Ultimately, this language must indicate that the client injured from the car accident cannot work for a certain time period.

For example, I recently successfully resolved a car accident case where a client was injured and sought medical treatment immediately.  Unfortunately, my injured client was unable to work and sought to raise a lost wage claim with her PIP insurance carrier, State Farm, for her time missed from work.  Naturally, we had submitted the claim to State Farm.  With respect to this lost wage claim, I knew to include my client’s medical records that specified the time that she had missed work. Naturally, once State Farm received this information, no further questions were asked and a freshly cut check made payable to my client was sent to her attention immediately.

Long story short, without medical records supporting your lost wage claim, it nearly becomes impossible to prove and recover your lost wages as a result of the injuries from the car accident.

Injured in an accident?  Contact our Florida personal injury lawyers today.

Brandon Stein Law: A Million Dollar Case Needs a Million Dollar Injury

Brandon Stein

By: Brandon Stein

If you or someone you know was injured in a slip and fall or car accident, contact our Fort Lauderdale lawyers today.

As a Fort Myers personal injury lawyer, clients injured in car accidents or slip and falls frequently expect to become millionaires and retire off of their case.  Unfortunately, the only way to become a millionaire off of a personal injury case in Florida is when the injury is devastating and severe.  Of no fault of the injured client, they frequently come to see a personal injury lawyer to see how much they can recover from a settlement.  This is not a problem, but can escalate into a problem if the lawyer does not handle the situation properly.

For Naples personal injury lawyers that help those injured from car accidents or slip and falls, managing a client’s expectations for settlement begins before even signing up the case.  It is extremely important to give a prospective client an education on how the personal injury litigation process works.  While some people unfortunately continue to find themselves entrenched within the civil litigation system, most injured clients do not have the slightest idea of how a personal injury case works.

Being a North Miami Beach personal injury lawyer, I typically start off a new relationship with a client by telling them that: “Your case IS what it IS.”  It is vital that a South Florida lawyer’s new client understands that the nature of their settlement will largely depend upon the extent of the injury sustained from the car accident or slip and fall. Million dollar cases have million dollar injuries.  And as I briefly touched upon earlier, a million dollar injury is one that is devastating and debilitating in nature.

While clients typically want their case to become a million dollar case, what they often fail to recognize is that to have a million dollar case a severe injury must come along with it.  But don’t get me wrong, this is never the client’s fault for having these lofty expectations — it is the Florida personal injury attorney’s fault for not properly educating the client on the process and the way it works.

 

Brandon Stein Law: But what about my car?

Brandon Stein

By: Brandon Stein

If you or someone you know was injured, contact our Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers today.

For Aventura car accident lawyers, a key component to a claim against the auto insurance company is the amount of bodily injury coverage under the other driver’s policy. While that is extremely important in obtaining compensation for the pain and suffering and injuries sustained as a result of the automobile negligence, that should be more of a focus for the Florida lawyer, rather than the client.  While South Florida car accident lawyers frequently get wrapped up in the personal injury side of the crash, the client also must often deal with the repair of their vehicle.

Anyone who owns a car understands the stress of obtaining insurance coverage and dealing with the insurance company to determine which policy is best suited for your needs.  And during that meeting with the insurance representative, a boat-load of information is thrown at you from every angle — whether it be bodily injury coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, property damage coverage, or collision coverage.  While Fort Myers car accident lawyers may only stress the importance of bodily injury and uninsured motorist, coverage for the property loss to your vehicle should certainly not go unnoticed.

If you happen to be injured in a car accident in Cape Coral and retain a personal injury lawyer, then you must be mindful of property damage and collision coverage.  While those two appear to be one in the same, the nature of their coverage is completely different. Collision coverage is designed and in place to pay for damage incurred to the insured’s vehicle. However, property damage coverage is designed to cover losses for the other party’s vehicle.  Based upon my experience in Naples as a car accident lawyer, I would stress that collision coverage should always be included when deciding which type of auto insurance to obtain.

As shocking as this revelation may seem coming from a North Miami car accident attorney, when looking to obtain recovery for property loss, it may not be in the client’s best interest to have their lawyer become involved in the recovery of collision coverage.  Simply put, the moment a lawyer gets involved — a fee is involved as well.  So as it relates to recovery for collision, I frequently suggest that the client contact their insurance company directly to obtain compensation under that provision of their auto policy.

Essentially, under collision coverage, the client’s insurance company will assess the damage to the car, and based upon that evaluation, will typically issue a check for that amount to pay for the repairs.  Yet, the assessment does not take into account any attorney fee.

So, if an attorney does work to recover for the property loss, then the amount needed to repair the vehicle would be reduced to pay for the legal fee.  Therefore, money would have to come out of your pocket to cover the remaining cost of the car repair.  Long story short, it is vital for clients to take this matter into their own hands and at least attempt to recover for collision on their own — without getting lawyers involved.

Brandon Stein Law: Settlement is Not the End of a Personal Injury Case

Brandon Stein

By: Brandon Stein

If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident or slip and fall, contact our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers today.

As a Fort Myers car accident and slip and fall lawyer, the end of a personal injury lawsuit is not when all parties have agreed to a settlement.  In fact, much more occurs on the “back-end” of a case than most are aware.  Once a client agrees to a specific amount for settlement, then the responsibility of paying all outstanding medical bills falls on the shoulders of the law firm. However, for a Cape Coral personal injury lawyer, a careful evaluation of the legal document releasing the defendant from the case is a must.  This document is frequently referred to as the “Release of Claims.”

Ultimately, no defendant will ever send a settlement check without first receiving a signed Release of Claims.  So, it is vital that the language is reviewed with a fine-tooth comb and any revisions needed to be made are raised prior to the client signing the document. While most Releases are generic and contain the same information as the next, one important component is rarely included — and this is perhaps excluded by the defendant for a reason.

Being a Naples personal injury lawyer that helps those injured from car accidents and slip and falls, upon settlement of any case, I always check the Release of Claims to ensure that the only party my client is releasing from the lawsuit is the party that is in fact settling. In essence, other known or unknown parties may exist that have committed some wrongful act, but are not included in the lawsuit or the settlement as of yet.

I suggest that the following language always be included within a Release of Claims: Releasor reserves the right to pursue and recover all future medical expenses, health care  and related expenses and any other claims from any person, firm, or organization that may be responsible for the injuries sustained by the Releasor, and this provision does not include the Releasees.

This language is entirely necessary because should a client come to recognize that another party may be responsible for his or her injury, then the client must be able to pursue a negligence claim against that party.  In fact, as a South Florida lawyer that sues for personal injury, I would even go as far as to say that the failure to include this language in a release may constitute legal malpractice.

 

 

Brandon Stein Law: A Client You Can’t Trust is a Client You Can’t Afford

By: Brandon Stein

If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident or trip and fall, contact our North Miami lawyers today.

For North Miami Beach injury lawyers that sue for slip and falls and car accidents, an unfaithful client can diminish the value of the case exponentially.  A client that you cannot trust is a client that you cannot afford to represent.  And clients that lie and fail to disclose pre-existing personal injuries to their Florida lawyers do irreparable damage to their trip and fall or car accident cases.

Sadly, certain clients place Aventura car accident lawyers in bad positions by not disclosing prior injuries.  For example, if a person slips and falls and suffers injury to her back and retains a South Florida lawyer, the expectation is that given the attorney-client relationship, every single detail will be disclosed.  This is often times not the case since some, but not all, injured clients try to “work the system” and only convey information to their Florida lawyer that will help their case. The reason lawyers are hired is because clients have no experience in slip and fall or car accident cases — thus they too have no experience deciphering important information from non-important information.

As a Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer, based upon the hundreds of slip and fall and car accident cases that I have handled, the most common piece of information held back by a client is the fact that he or she has suffered injury to the same part of the body in the past.  Unless the case gets settled very quickly, this withheld information will come out sooner or later.  And the later this information is discovered by the other side, the worse it is for the case.  On the flip-side, when this information is revealed to the defendant, their case improves significantly.

Simply put, imagine a defense attorney revealing this information to a jury of your peers. Once that information is placed in the hands of a jury, the jurors go from being your peers to being an ally for the defendant.