I get this question frequently without the surrounding circumstances that lead to the injuries:
My injuries are only soft-tissue injuries do I still have a case?
Injuries to soft tissues are often more permanent and require a longer healing process than injuries to bone. Unlike a bone fracture soft tissue injuries are difficult if not impossible for the untrained eye to see. Because of this your case is often dependent on medical expert opinions. It is important to seek medical treatment as soon as you are aware that you are injured and then follow up on that treatment without allowing any gaps in treatment.
The injuries are not our only concern however. Somebody or some company other than the injured party must be at least partially responsible for causing those injuries to have a case. When someone else causes your injuries through their carelessness you have a "negligence" claim. Negligence requires several elements one of which is damages or injuries. Soft tissue injuries certainly count as damages however there are 3 additional "elements" to a negligence suit and several defenses the insurance companies will use to try to escape paying out any settlement or verdict.
When you hire an attorney to pursue an injury claim based on negligence he/she must prove all of the following elements through evidence such as witness testimony, expert testimony, photographs, and documents.
Elements of a Negligence Claim:
1. Duty - we have to prove that the other driver, the store owner, dog owner etc. owed a duty to the injured person to protect them from the specific harm that the injured person suffered.
2. Breach - Did the person/company breach the duty described above by failing to protect the injured person from the harm? Think of evidence we can present to prove this element. For example: Testimony that the other driver ran the red light, photograph of stain on ceiling of business showing that this spot leaked water and the company knew about it, or photos of a fence in disrepair that allowed a dog to escape.
3. Causation - Proof that the breach above caused your damages. Evidence here often comes in the form of medical expert opinion and eye witness testimony.
Call to discuss your situation free of charge This blog just touches the surface of a minefield of rules and legal hurdles you face when making a claim.
This is video taken by Ken Rosskopf, noted Atlanta cycling attorney, of my little brother Joey Rosskopf of Team Type 1 Sanofi taking Tour De France style KOM points on top of Hoosier Pass in the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado. The voice yelling "GO JOEY" is Ken. We are all proud of Joey's accomplishments.
A "tort" is a harm done to one by another person or entity. The one doing the harm, either negligently or with malice, is the "tortfeasor.
For example If you are involved in a car wreck caused in full or in part by another driver, you have a right to be compensated for damages to your property and to your person. In other words, you would have a tort case against the at fault driver or tortfeasor. Trial lawyers are often labeled as liberals because it is our job to protect those harmed by others. We trial lawyers do that through use of our court system. In fact, access to our courts is an important Constitutional right that should be reinforced by true conservatives rather than reformed as the article below discusses. A true conservative trial attorney is responsible in his/her case selection and careful to weed out the frivolous claims which do not need to be clogging our courts. For those truly harmed by others find a trial attorney who supports conservative values most importantly your right to access to the courts.
Read the article below by by Judson Phillips Email | Archive Judson Phillips is the founder of Tea Party Nation. Follow him on Twitter at @judsonphillips or @teapartynation.
Federal tort reform is a hot issue. Almost every Republican from Mitt Romney on down, when they start talking about their economic plans, bring up Federal tort reform.
Somehow, the notion that the tea party or conservatives support federal tort reform has become accepted an idea. Nothing could be further from the truth. Federal tort reform is neither a tea party nor a conservative value...
SUV vs. School Bus on SR 13 near Julington Creek June 2012. Think of the implications of such a wreck when reading this blog post about chronic under insurance in Florida.
"Full Coverage" is not enough. It keeps a car owner/driver compliant with state law but it does not fully protect him or her. In Florida a motorist does not have to have bodily injury (BI) protection for the injuries caused to someone else in a car wreck UNLESS the motorist has a prior accident in which he/she caused someone physical harm. The motorist with a prior wreck with injuries must carry a whopping (read sarcastically) $10,000 in BI coverage to comply with state law.
Note: The Georgia minimum is $25,000 and an insured Florida driver driving in Georgia is automatically bumped up to the Georgia minimums in most cases.]
Clients frequently tell me they have "full coverage." More often than not they have a 10/20/10 liability policy with coverage for comprehensive and collision and Personal Injury Protection (PIP). This means the client is covered for injuries he/she causes to another up to $10,000 per injured person; and up to $20,000 to cover ALL injured persons in that accident; and $10,000 to cover property damage to other vehicles or property. That is the "10/20/10" part. The "comprehensive and collision" covers damage to the insured motorist's own car.
This minimal coverage keeps the vehicle owner/driver "fully covered" enough to satisfy the State authorities BUT it leaves the insured holding the bag if he/she causes significant injuries beyond this coverage and beyond the injured parties' PIP coverage.
For example, you misjudge a left turn arrow and end up running a red light and collide with an on-coming vehicle containing a driver and passenger. That vehicle careens into a third vehicle containing a family of 4. All six people are injured and both cars are determined to be total losses. You think, "I have 'full coverage' I'm OK." Wrong. Depending on the severity of the injuries and the value of the cars you may be personally responsible for the injuries and replacement of the cars beyond the "full coverage." Your insurance company has an obligation to try to settle the injury and property claims against you within the limits of your 10/20/10 policy. If they make a good faith effort to do so but the injured parties claims exceed your policy limits and all claims cannot be resolved then you can be on the hook in the event the claimants are successful getting a judgement against you.
When purchasing insurance you must remember that the insurance is to protect you and minimize the financial risks in the event of a wreck. If you have assets that will be at risk purchase enough insurance to protect those assets. You should also purchase Uninsured/Under-insured motorist coverage (UM / UIM). UM / UIM covers you in the event the person who causes the accident, as in the example above, does not have enough coverage to fully compensate you for your damages.
Obviously this is a cursory overview of automobile insurance in Florida. We are suffering epidemic instances of under insurance in our state. The legal minimums are too low to fully compensate accident victims. We can blame the legislature and the insurance lobby for that. We can blame cut rate insurance companies for selling bare-bones coverage and not fully advising their insureds that the cut rate policy leaves the insured unprotected and the injured without complete compensation. Responsible vehicle owners must take it upon themselves to purchase adequate minimum BI and UM / UIM coverage.
Mr. Rosskopf is available for personal or group insurance evaluations for no charge. Call his office to schedule an evaluation before you are involved in a wreck.
I can't vouch for the statistics cited in this article but if they are half true it is staggering and no wonder that State Farm is involved in an awareness campaign. Make no mistake though, State Farm's motives are thinly disguised as altruism. They will fight tooth and nail against you and your child who is bitten by one of their insured's dogs. They will even blame you and your child for provoking the dog. Don't be fooled. State Farm is protecting their bank account. Make sure you have homeowners coverage for dog bites if you keep dogs. Part of being a RESPONSIBLE DOG OWNER is not allowing your beloved pet to be put in a situation where he/she reacts and causes someone harm AND having insurance coverage to pay medical bills in case your dog does what comes naturally to dogs.
An attorney must thoroughly evaluate your case to make sure you have an actual claim. Just because one attorney rejects your claim however does not necessarily mean that you do not have a case. Another attorney may see your case differently or learn new information that suggests you have a strong claim. Just because you are rejected by one attorney does not mean you should stop your search for someone to take your legitimate case. Attorneys reject cases for many reasons. They may be too busy for your case, they may not want to take a smaller case, they may have no experience in your particular areal of the law, the other side may have an absolute defense to your claims, or you may in fact not have all the elements of a legal claim. A good attorney will tell you specifically why he or she cannot take your case. Sometimes an attorney will tell you not to waste your time pursuing the claim but you should find out why that particular attorney feels that way. Make him or her explain the reasoning behind their opinion. If not satisfied with the explanation get a second opinion. Initial consultations are of no charge at the Law Office of Erik Rosskopf, P.A.
People want to know how much it will cost to hire a lawyer. The answer is, it depends. Personal injury cases, those where our client has been injured by the negligence of others, are typically based on a contingency fee. This is a fee that is contingent upon a successful resolution. In other words when the attorney is successful in negotiating a settlement or victorious at trial the attorney's fee and expenses are paid directly to the attorney out of the settlement proceeds. In personal injury cases this fee is usually 33 1/3% to 45% of any resolution proceeds.
With contingent fee cases in Florida and Georgia, this fee arrangement must be spelled out in a fee agreement signed by the client and the attorney. If you, as a client or prospective client, are not sure what the arrangement is ask the attorney. Your personal injury case also costs money for the attorney to properly advance your case towards trial if that becomes necessary. These costs include hard out of pocket costs like the acquisition of medical records, postage, court filing fees, fees to an investigator, service of process costs, medical doctor opinions, and expert witnesses. The lawyer bears the burden and the risk of these costs generally. Barring any other arrangement in the contract with the attorney, the client is not responsible for paying these costs unless and until there has been successful resolution to the client's case. If you don't win you don't have to pay the costs either.
There are exceptions to the above and alternative fee arrangements for personal injury cases. Ask your lawyer about alternative fee arrangements. If you are willing to pay up front for legal representation in a personal injury claim your attorney might be willing to consider working on an hourly basis or creating some kind of hybrid fee arrangement. Whatever the arrangement the Florida and Georgia bar associations require that the fee be "reasonable."
Other types of claims also pay on a contingent basis. Social Security Disability and Social Security Supplemental Income for example pay up to 25% with a cap of $6000 on the back due benefits when the attorney is successful in securing Social Security benefits. Workers Comp, medical malpractice, labor and employment and defamation cases are also generally contingent fee cases. In Florida and Georgia, Divorce and child custody cases may not be paid on a contingent fee.
(904) 422-4323 in FL
(404) 421-4233 in GA
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Attorney Erik Rosskopf
An active member of the Florida and Georgia bar associations, he practices in Jacksonville Florida handling cases throughout North Florida and Georgia.