Everybody Hurts

Painless tips for finding a personal injury attorney in Florida

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Accidents happen. In cars. At work. In hospital rooms.
 
Sometimes, they’re someone else’s fault. It might be another driver who crashed into you because he was speeding or wasn’t paying attention. It might be someone on a hospital staff who administered the wrong drug or made a mistake during an operation.
 
If you’re injured in a car accident, on the job, or as the result of a medical error, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.
 
Time, attorneys say, is of the essence.
 
“There’s a real sense of urgency to get an attorney quickly who’s in the particular area of law, who understands it and who can activate an aggressive, thorough investigation-preservation campaign,” says personal injury attorney Alan Goldfarb, of Alan Goldfarb P.A. in Miami.  
 
“The reason it becomes so important in a personal injury case is because evidence changes,” he says. “You need to preserve the vehicle. You need to make sure, sometimes, that you get to the black box so you can see the speed of the car. You need to preserve cell phone records and try to preserve your cell phone to where you can show you were not talking at the time. You need to get to the scene to make sure the scene has not changed and the defect has not been covered up.
 
“And if there is video surveillance of the incident, you want to be sure a letter is sent out that prohibits them from spoiling and destroying the evidence.”
 
Also, advises Ricardo Martinez-Cid, a partner at Podhurst Orseck in Miami, you should not speak to the other driver’s insurance company before you speak with an attorney.
 
“Their responsibilities are to their shareholders and to their insured but not to the victim of any accident,” he says. “So they’re going to operate on minimizing the exposure of the company and of the insured. Not in maximizing or even adequately compensating an injured party for their injuries.”
 
Martinez-Cid recommends finding an attorney with experience dealing with cases similar to yours. One who focuses on medical malpractice is probably best for cases involving hospital errors, for example. Some attorneys concentrate their practice even further. Among those who deal primarily with vehicular accidents, some focus on incidents involving tractor-trailers.
 
Naturally, you’ll want an attorney who understands the peculiarities of Florida law. For example, says Colson Hicks Eidson partner Patrick Montoya, it is more difficult in Florida than some other states to seek damages against an employer for a workplace accident. Generally, injured employees are limited to what they might receive through workers’ compensation. However, knowledgeable attorneys sometimes find ways to seek more.
 
“If the person was working on, say, a tow truck or a car, or some sort of machinery was involved, we will look to the manufacturer of the product rather than looking at the employer to see if there's something there to recover,” he says. “There may be liability for a product defect or design defect as opposed to the employer.”
 
Personal injury attorneys typically get paid a percentage of the award only if they win the case in court. They also put forth any costs involved in preparing the case—for experts, investigators, laboratory tests, certified documents, research, court costs, and more.
 
Clients, therefore, “shouldn’t pay anyone in advance,” says Martinez-Cid. “Normally, in the area of personal injury, the best attorneys work on a contingency basis. A person is only going to have to pay a fee and costs if there is a recovery.”
 
Clients need to provide their attorneys with as much information as possible. That might include medical reports or, in the case of a car accident, a police report. It’s also important to tell the attorney any information about the client’s past that could come up.
 
“If they have a difficult background, even with a criminal conviction, things in their past they're not proud of, they need to let us know about those things right away,” says Montoya. “Eventually, the defendant may find out, and we can deal with a lot of those problems as long as we know up front.  Surprises are very, very bad for us, because we have no time to react, no time to plan.” 

Florida

Personal injury attorneys typically get paid a percentage of the award only if they win the case in court. Clients, therefore, shouldn’t pay anyone in advance.

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