Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

How do I choose the accident lawyer that is right for me?

First and foremost, look for a law firm that has a record of litigating and winning accident cases. Some personal injury lawyers just try to settle your claims quickly and do not want to go to trial. The insurance companies know this and don’t offer big settlements. At Michael E. Seelie, PA, we are not afraid to go to trial and we’ll keep fighting to get you the money damages you deserve.

 

 

What is personal injury law?

Personal injury law, also known as tort law, is a civil wrong or wrongs recognized as legal causes for lawsuits. Injuries sustained by the victims of such wrongs provide the basis for a claim for damages incurred by the injured party.


What is the definition of tort law?

Tort law is broken into three categories:

Intentional tort - the Defendant knew, or should have known, injury could occur as a result of his/her actions or inactions.

Negligent tort - the Defendant was unaware that an injury could occur as a result of his/her actions, and at the same time, the Defendant was not acting in a safe manner.

Strict liability tort - a specific action caused the damages rather than the lack of care on the defendant’s part.

 

 

What are the most common personal injury lawsuits?

The most common Personal Injury cases are car accidents; however dog bites and slip and falls are a close second. Others include sexual abuse, wrongful death, denial of civil rights, unfair employment practices, medical malpractice, professional malpractice, product liability, slander and damage to property. When you have received an injury to yourself or your property, seek advice from a personal injury attorney.

 

 

How do I pay for legal assistance?

In Florida, attorneys who handle personal injury claims are usually paid on a contingency basis. This means that you don’t have to pay anything unless and until we win your case. Our fees will be deducted from your settlement or award. If there is no recovery, our Florida personal injury attorneys don’t get paid.

 

 

How long will it take to get a fair settlement offer? 

Florida personal injury lawsuits can vary in length from weeks to years in some instances. We need to thoroughly investigate your claim to make sure you get all the money you are entitled to receive.

 

 

Will I have to go to court?

If the insurance company agrees to pay what we believe your case is worth, and you wish to settle for that amount, then you don’t have to go to court.
Some personal injury lawyers just try to settle your claims quickly and do not want to go to trial. If the insurance company refuses to pay the acceptable amount, then we have to proceed in court. At Michael E. Seelie, PA, we are experienced and know how much you’re entitled to and we make sure you’re fairly compensated for your injuries and losses.


What are compensatory damages?

Compensatory damages "compensate" the injured person for various kinds of losses or damages. These may also be referred to as “actual damages.” The courts do not allow attorneys to argue that the award should be what a juror would want to go through a similar injury, but the instructions call for “reasonable” compensation.


What are punitive damages?

Punitive damages may be recoverable in certain circumstances. Punitive damages exist to punish or make example of the wrongdoer for conduct that is intentional, or when the wrongdoer acts in a reckless manner in disregard for the rights of others. The actual payment of punitive damages is rare, and appellate courts frequently cut punitive damage awards down, or simply throw them out. However, the threat of punitive damages can often induce the defense to make an increased settlement.

What is a Deposition?

A deposition is a statement given under oath before a Court Reporter. This is usually done in a lawyer's office where the witness answers questions given by the attorneys representing both parties to the case. The reporter makes a written transcript of everything said at the deposition and the witness signs the transcript swearing it is an accurate rendition of the evidence he /she gave.

How will I pay all my medical bills?

If you have been injured, you will likely have medical bills from physicians, hospitals, physical therapists, and other health care providers. Those bills will be in your name and will usually be sent to your address. You are primarily responsible for paying your bills, regardless of the cause of your injuries. The at-fault person's liability insurance carrier is responsible for paying you reasonable compensation for damages incurred, which includes medical bills.

Automobile Accidents


What issues will I face in making a claim for my injuries sustained in an auto accident?

A claim for injuries, sustained in an automobile accident, is usually based upon carelessness or negligence. In worse case scenarios, it is based on an intentional or reckless act.

The two categories of issues that typically arise in a tort claim after an automobile accident are the following

Liability – who is at fault and to what degree

Damages – injuries or losses that were caused by the accident

What is "PIP"?


"PIP" is an abbreviation for Personal Injury Protection. It is the PIP coverage of your automobile insurance that pays for your own medical bills, regardless of who was at fault for causing the car accident.


What is liability coverage?

Liability coverage is the portion of your automobile insurance that protects you if another driver or a pedestrian makes a claim against you as a result of a car accident.


The adjuster for the other driver keeps calling me at home?
What should I do?

Don’t talk to an adjuster until you speak to us. Keep in mind the adjuster works for the other driver’s insurance company. Their job is to pay you no money at all or as little as possible.

 

 

Will I go to court?


Most personal injury cases are settled prior to going to court, however, your case will be prepared as if it were going to trial. A trial is needed when the insurance company refuses to settle for the true value of the claim.

 

 

What should I do if I am in a car accident?


Call the police immediately so a report can be made at the scene of the car accident. Seek medical treatment. Keep in mind the shock of being in a car accident may hide any pain until hours or even days later. Do not speak to the at-fault driver's insurance company about your injury or agree to a recorded statement. Call us immediately.

 

 

Who pays off my bills if I am involved in a car accident?


In most cases, your own automobile insurance carrier will pay for medical bills regardless of whose fault the car accident was.

Injured on anothers property

 

 

If I slip and fall at a business, is the owner of the business or other premises legally responsible for injuries sustained?

Typically, it is the duty of an owner to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance of the premises and to warn a visitor of any dangerous conditions that are known. For example, if an owner, or his employees, knows that there has been a spill within their establishment, then they must act reasonably to clean up the spill and to prevent visitors from walking through the spill.

It is the responsibility of your experienced personal injury attorney to gather the relevant facts and to know the applicable legal principles in order to determine if the owner can be held liable for the injuries caused in a fall. Frequently, it is a difficult process because most of the evidence and testimony must come from the owner and his employees.

 

 

What is premise liability?

Premise liability law puts responsibility on a property owner for some injuries suffered by other people on his property. It can include accidents that take place in the owner's home, on the owner's property, or while a person is at another's place of business.


I was injured on another's property. Is there anything I can do?


You may be able to recover damages if the property owner’s negligence caused your injury. A property owner is responsible to maintain the property in a safe condition. If the owner violated the proper duty of care for the property, he or she could be held responsible. But duty of care is not the same in all situations. For instance, a business owner has a higher duty of care to his customers than a homeowner has to someone trespassing on his property. Contact us now so we can discuss your personal injury case.

 

 

I was bitten by a neighbor's dog while walking in front of his house? Can I sue for damages?


If you were legally on another person’s property or in a public place and were bitten by a dog, you may be able to file a lawsuit for your injuries. Contact us now so we can go over the details of your personal injury case.

 

 

What does causation mean?


Causation is the connection between the property owner’s negligence and the injuries sustained. In this kind of case, it has to be proven the property owner’s negligence caused the damages or injuries.

 

 

Are punitive damages available in a premises liability case?


Yes, but gross misconduct must be proven. In other words, evidence must prove the defendant’s behavior showed a reckless disregard of a known danger and that danger caused damages.

 

 

Can a property owner be held responsible for criminal acts
that happen on his property?


Yes. If the owner knew or had good reason to know a criminal act could happen on the property and failed to take the proper steps to prevent it, he or she could be held responsible. Proving negligence in this kind of case is more difficult than a slip and fall situation, but it can be done.

Wrongful Death

 

 

What is a "Wrongful Death"?


When a death is caused by the misconduct of another person or company it is called a "wrongful death". The misconduct can range from an act of momentary negligence or carelessness to an intentional or reckless act. It can be the act of a single person or of a corporation, such as a drug company. A section 768.16-768.26 of the Florida Statutes governs the law. It provides for the compensation of the survivors when a wrongful death occurs, just as it provides for the compensation of a victim who has been injured by similar misconduct.

 

 

Who are the survivors that have a right to be compensated for a Wrongful Death?


The laws of each state identify the persons entitled to compensation for a wrongful death. It is common for the list of survivors (sometimes called "beneficiaries") to include the spouse and minor children of an adult deceased. Sometimes, as in Florida, the definition of minor children includes persons older than 18. It is also common for the survivors to include the parents of a minor child deceased. Again, Florida uses an expanded definition of "minor children". The estate of a deceased usually has rights to compensation as well.
Florida and some other states also recognize the rights of relatives other than those mentioned if they were dependent upon the deceased for support or services.


Who has the right and the responsibility to make the claims for a Wrongful Death?


In order to be certain that there is proper compensation for each survivor or beneficiary it is common for the governing statutes to provide that a particular category of person has this right and responsibility.
In Florida, the statutes require that the Personal Representative of the Estate of the deceased bring any claim and assure that the interests of each survivor are protected. The Personal Representative is frequently a spouse or parent of the deceased.
In situations where no Estate is needed for probate purposes it is necessary to open an Estate to accomplish the appointment of a Personal Representative.

 

 

What are the losses or damages that determine the compensation in a claim for Wrongful Death?


The losses or damages vary somewhat from state to state. They also are dependent upon the relationship of the survivor to the deceased. One example: a spouse is usually entitled to be compensated for the loss of the love, affection, companionship, support, and services of the deceased for the period of their joint life expectancy. Another example: a "minor" child (who might actually be in his or her twenties) is usually entitled to recover for the loss of the guidance, affection, support, and services of the deceased.
In each instance the law seeks to allow compensation for the actual losses that have been experienced by each individual survivor.
It is also common for the Estate to have the right to seek compensation for the loss of the prospective estate that would have accumulated had the wrongful death not intervened.
Lastly, medical and funeral expenses are normally recoverable by the Estate or the survivor who has paid or is obligated to pay them.

Who should start the investigation of a potential Wrongful Death claim?


Any person who believes he or she may be a survivor or beneficiary entitled to compensation because of a wrongful death would have the right to consider starting the investigation of a potential claim. Sometimes the most logical person to investigate or start a claim, such as a widow, is not willing or able to look into the matter. In such a situation, any survivor or beneficiary should contact an attorney experienced in handling serious injury or wrongful death claims. The attorney can ascertain whether the claim would have merit and what categories of compensation would be permitted under the law. He or she would also be able to determine who should be appointed as Personal Representative of the Estate of the deceased if the Estate has not been previously opened.

 

 

Are there any unusual issues that arise concerning a claim for Wrongful Death?


Yes, there are many unique issues to confront in a claim for a Wrongful Death.

 

1.It is obviously necessary to prove that the death was caused by the misconduct of another person or company. This can be complicated at times when other potential causes are present. An example would be the seriously ill person who is given improper medication in the hospital. In that circumstance, the defense would likely be that the death was really just the natural progression of the underlying disease or condition.


2. It is always necessary to prove the life expectancy of the deceased in order to determine what the future losses would be. This is not a major problem when the deceased was in perfect health at the time of the misconduct. But, it becomes complicated when the deceased had a life-threatening or life-shortening disease or condition.


3. It is likewise necessary to prove the life expectancy of each survivor or beneficiary. After all, the future relationship would only have existed during the period of the predicted joint life expectancy of the deceased and the survivor.


4.The nature of the relationship between the deceased and the survivor, in all of its relevant aspects, must be fully developed and presented. Sometimes the relationship is almost storybook perfect and sometimes it is quite different. In either event, it needs to be understood and documented in order to support the individual claim of the survivor.


5. Much of the true loss in a wrongful death claim is non-economic or emotional in nature. This requires special skills and care in the development of the proof and in its presentation. It is a matter quite different from just permitting an injured person to describe his or her back pain.


6. It is mandatory that each survivor's claims be developed and presented fairly without favoring or appearing to favor one survivor over another. This is especially true in those situations where, for example, the widow is the Personal Representative of the Estate of the deceased with the responsibility to present a claim on her own behalf and another claim on behalf of a stepchild. There are many other situations that require a special effort be made to assure a fair process at every step of the claim for each survivor.