Personal Injury Lawyers in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Accidents happen, and they can devastate the lives of their victims. If you are victimized by the irresponsibility of someone else, a careless driver, for example, there is no reason why you should pay the price for someone else’s mistake. That is precisely why Florida personal injury law allows for the compensation of accident victims.
Getting accident victims the compensation they deserve is what we do for a living. The law office of Hancock Gaeta, P.A. consists of attorneys Carson L. Hancock and Mark A. Gaeta. Together, we combine prior experience working on the other side of the table (defending insurance companies against personal injury claims) with extensive experience in the Ft. Lauderdale justice system. We know how the system works, and we understand how the other side thinks.
Personal injury is a very broad area of legal practice. To get a bit more specific, we frequently handle claims of the following types:
Car Accidents: More that 3,000 people died on Florida roads in 2020, one of the highest rates in the nation. Auto accidents continue to be a major source of injury in Florida. We know how to reconstruct an accident backwards, from crash to cause, to prove that the defendant is liable for damages.
Motorcycle Accidents: Motorcycles are among the most dangerous vehicles on the road, due to their total lack of frame protection. Additionally, motorcycle accidents tend to be more serious than automobile accidents. Most motorcycle accidents occur because automobile drivers aren’t looking out for motorcycles.
Truck Accidents: Truck accidents are among the most devastating types of vehicle accidents. After all, a fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Truckers are subject to a multitude of regulations. The violation of any one of them could potentially serve as the basis for a successful truck accident claim.
Pedestrian Accidents: A pedestrian has no chance against a vehicle, even a motorcycle. Tragically, in 2019 Florida was the scene of nearly 7,000 pedestrian deaths, the highest rate in over 30 years.Wrongful death claims and high-value personal injury claims are particularly common in pedestrian accident claims.
Boating Accidents: Boating accidents happen for two main reasons–inexperienced boaters and BUI. Did you realize that the state of Florida can arrest you for BUI (“Boating Under the Influence”)? A BUI charge can also be used to win a personal or wrongful death injury claim arising from a boating accident.
Dog Bites: In Florida, the owner of a dog is strictly liable for the consequences of a dog bite. In other words, the owner remains liable even if the dog had never before shown any aggressive tendencies. Although the average dog bite claim runs into tens of thousands of dollars, homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies pay most claims.
Medical Malpractice: Medical malpractice injuries are terrifying, because they remind us that doctors are human too. In fact, the American Medical Association estimates that medical malpractice is the third-leading cause of death in the US. Florida applies special rules to medical malpractice claims (an abbreviated statute of limitations period, for example) that do not apply to other types of personal injury claims.
Dangerous Products Claims that are based on defective products are resolved under product liability law. In Florida, it is possible to win a product liability claim against a manufacturer without even proving that the manufacturer was at fault. Claims can get technically complex, however, due to the necessity of proving that the product in question was defective and unreasonably dangerous. Fortunately, we know how to win product liability claims in cooperation with expert witnesses.
Slip and Fall Accidents: Slip and fall claims are normally based on premises liability cases–the duty that an owner or occupier of premises has to ensure the safety of those premises for guests. Even a guest without a specific invitation–a mail carrier, for example–could file a lawsuit citing premises liability.
Nursing Home Abuse: Nursing homes are the site of a disturbing frequency of abuse. We find this type of abuse to be among the most despicable of all personal injury claims, and we will not rest until we have uncovered the truth and held the responsible party to account.
Workplace Accidents: A workplace accident may or may not fall within the jurisdiction of Florida workers’ compensation law. Ultimately it is a tradeoff–a workers’ compensation claim is easier to win, but a traditional personal injury claim is likely to generate more compensation. We know how to win both types of claims.
Wrongful Death Claims: Any personal injury claim can become a wrongful death claim if the accident victim dies of their injuries. Although the rules for resolving a wrongful death claim differ from the rules for resolving a personal injury claim, the amount of compensation typically awarded is substantial. A losing defendant must pay compensation to the victim’s probate estate as well as to certain surviving family members.
The Economic Value of “Pain and Suffering”
Can you put a dollar value on physical pain and suffering? As it turns out, you can. Of course, insurance companies would love for you to believe that you are entitled only to reimbursement for medical expenses and lost wages when you are harmed through the fault of another.
However, this is not even close to being true. In fact, economic damages (medical bills, lost wages etc.) often amount to far less than half of the total recovery. Most of the rest of your recovery is likely to be based on “pain and suffering”–perhaps even three to five times the amount of your medical bills.
Pitfalls for the Unwary: How to Avoid Damaging Your Claim
Think of your claim as if it was a priceless vase–there are many ways to damage or even destroy it. Below are some pitfalls to avoid:
- Don’t accept the insurance company’s first offer, even if you are in financial distress. There is no better way to ensure that you will end up with a fraction of the true value of your claim.
- Don’t negotiate with the insurance company on your own, because they are full of tricks. Example: “How are you today?” “I’m fine…” “If you’re fine, then you must not be as seriously injured as you say you are…”
- Stay off social media. If you absolutely must use social media, do not mention your claim until you have already received a settlement or verdict. Do not upload any photos of yourself, especially if it looks like you are enjoying yourself or engaging in physical activity–and tell your friends not to upload any photos of you either. Don’t accept any friend requests without verifying them, because the insurance company will try to gain access to your social media profiles.
- Don’t sign anything offered by the insurance company without checking it out with your lawyer first. Do not agree to a videotaped or recorded interview with the insurance company. In fact, don’t talk about your claim with the insurance company at all once you get a lawyer–simply refer them to your lawyer.
- Don’t underestimate the value of your claim on the assumption that you can always come back for more in the future. You can’t.
- Don’t contradict yourself. Keep your memory clear and your story straight. Any inconsistency “can and will be used against you in a court of law”–or at the negotiating table.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much is my claim worth?
That is impossible to say until we take a close look at your case, because every claim is different. It is almost certain, however, that your claim is worth a lot more than whatever the insurance company is offering you.
What factors determine the value of my case?
The most important factors that determine how much your claim is worth are:
- The expenses you suffered on account of the accident;
- How your injuries affected your quality of life (and for how long); and
- How clear it is that the defendant is liable for your injuries.
The third factor above matters primarily in settlement negotiations.
How does comparative negligence work in Florida?
Florida is classified as a pure comparative negligence state This means that if you are partially at fault for the accident, the court will subtract from the value of your claim an amount equal to your own percentage of fault for the accident. This applies no matter how small or how large your fault is. If you were 1% at fault, for example, you will receive only 99% of the value of your losses, while if you were 99% at fault, you will receive only 1% of the value of your losers.
What is “loss of consortium”?
Loss of consortium is a claim filed by the spouse or domestic partner of a personal injury victim, for the loss of the usual benefits of marriage or partnership that were caused by the accident. This claim might be significant, for example, if the accident caused the victim’s spouse or partner to lose the benefit of sexual relations with the victim. Loss of the benefit of sexual relations is not the only basis for a loss of consortium claim, however.
How does Florida’s statute of limitations work?
In Florida you generally have four years after the date of an accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you don’t file it by then, your claim is forever barred unless one of a few narrow exceptions applies. A medical malpractice claim, however, must be filed within two years of the malpractice, and a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years after the date of the victim’s death.
Can’t I just deal with the insurance company on my own?
We wouldn’t recommend that course of action, any more than we would recommend that you perform surgery on yourself. Insurance adjusters are professional negotiators, because that is what they do for a living.
An insurance company adjuster is motivated by one goal—to save as much money as possible for his employer. And the more money they save, the less money goes into your pocket. Leave the negotiating to us, because there isn’t a trick in the book that we haven’t seen before. We cannot agree to a settlement without your permission.
How likely is it that my case will go to trial?
Statistically, the likelihood is well under 10%. Statistics, however, do not take into account the unique features of your case. Personal injury defendants have a strong preference for settling out of court. That remains true even after they realize that you cannot be bullied into a paltry settlement. Ironically, however, the best way to settle your claim out of court is to retain lawyers, like Carson L. Hancock and Mark A. Gaeta, who enjoy a strong track record of winning at trial.
What is a deposition?
A deposition is a statement that a witness offers under oath but not at a trial. Typically, a witness will offer this statement in response to questioning by both sides. A deposition takes place before a trial but after the lawsuit has been filed with the court. In most cases, it does not take place in a courtroom. If your statement in a deposition differs from your statement under oath in court, the opposing party will use this discrepancy to discredit you.
Let the Personal Injury Attorneys at Hancock Gaeta Handle Your Claim
Handling your personal injury case on your own is a risk. Even if you “win”, your recovery is likely to amount to far less than what you would have received even after paying the law firm that handled your case. In fact, at Hancock Gaeta, P.A., we will charge you absolutely nothing in legal fees, until and unless we win your claim.
At Hancock Gaeta, P.A., we stand ready to lace up our gloves and fight for you. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get started. Call us at (954) 281-2231 or contact us online for a free consultation, so that we can answer your questions and discuss your options.