Frequently Asked Questions

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  • In a wrongful death case who is the right family member to hire a lawyer before the Personal Representative is appointed?

    Wrongful Death AttorneyFlorida law is very clear that the personal representative (PR) of the estate of the person who died is given legal authority to hire a lawyer and pursue the wrongful death claim on behalf of all survivors. However, it may take weeks before the order appointing the personal representative is signed by the judge of the Probate Court. The family often needs to make the decision to hire a lawyer before the PR has been appointed in order to investigate the traffic crash or other fatal incident. Who is the right person to engage the lawyer before the personal representative has been appointed?

    The answer may turn on whether the person who died had a will or died without a will. Florida Statute 733.301 offers guidance on who has preference to be named as personal representative. If the deceased had a will it may nominate a specific person to serve as the personal representative of the estate. That person would have first preference to be appointed by the judge as the PR and would be the appropriate person to meet with a lawyer. If the will does not nominate a specific person, the majority of the estate beneficiaries could agree on the person to serve as the personal representative. Otherwise it would fall to the best qualified beneficiary of the will. This person would hire the lawyer for the wrongful death case.

    In situations where the deceased died without a will, the person with first preference to act as the personal representative would be their surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, or if the surviving spouse is not able or qualified to act, the majority of the heirs could agree on the person to be nominated. Otherwise, it could fall to the best qualified heir closest in line to select the lawyer.

    In situations where an agreement is needed on who is best qualified to serve as PR, a meeting of the heirs or beneficiaries ideally would be held with the lawyer. If such a meeting is not feasible, once an agreement is reached on who will serve as the PR, the lawyer may give each beneficiary or heir forms to sign confirming their agreement on the person to be nominated as personal representative.

    The Benefits of Hiring A Wrongful Death Attorney

    The purpose of this system for nominating the personal representative is to have the court name one person with legal authority to act on behalf of the estate. That person has the authority to hire the attorney to pursue the wrongful death claim, approve the filing of any lawsuit and, ultimately, sign any settlement checks and releases. Retaining the wrongful death attorney is a very important decision and it should be done as soon as possible. By identifying who will serve as the PR in a smooth and orderly manner, that person can engage the wrongful death lawyer with confidence. This allows the wrongful death lawyer to be retained before the PR is officially appointed by the court so that he or she can pursue all needed steps to investigate the case at the earliest opportunity.

    Has A Loved One Died To The Negligence Of Others?

    If your loved one has died due to the negligence of someone else an experienced wrongful death attorney can help you hold them responsible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.

  • What Future Medical Expenses Can Be Considered in My Settlement?

    Calculator, money and a stethescopeIt is very common for treating doctors to tell patients they may need surgery or therapy in the future. As humans, we naturally focus on what the future might bring. With that in mind, what future medical expenses can be considered in sizing up the settlement value of a case?

    The law in Florida is very clear. Only future medical expenses which are “reasonably certain to be incurred in the future” may be considered by a jury. Claims adjusters use the same standard. This requires the doctor to say in their opinion “beyond a medical certainty” future treatment would be required. This means “probably” or “more likely than not” the patient will need the treatment.

    It may sound like a subtle difference between “surgery might be necessary”  or “will be required,” but it is a huge distinction. Treatment which “might” or “could” be necessary in the future does not meet the standard. What we are looking for is for the doctor to say surgery  “will be necessary” or “will probably be required.” When phrased in this way it means the future treatment should be compensated. 

    If you need help following a personal injury please contact us online or call us directly at 727-446-0840 for your free evaluation.

  • If My Car was Totaled in an Accident, Do I Still Need to Make Payments?

    Yes! If your car or truck was totaled in a collision, you need to inform your lender of the incident right away. Your vehicle is the collateral on their loan to you and they have a legal right to know it’s been destroyed. You also need to continue to make any regularly scheduled payments on the vehicle until the entire loan has been paid off.

    It can take several weeks to determine liability for a collision and negotiate a fair price for your vehicle (insurance companies call that price the actual cash value). During that time, you will be responsible for making payments on your loan. Once the actual cash value has been agreed upon and a check has been issued, any payment from the insurance company for the value of the vehicle will be applied to the end of the car loan agreement. This means you are responsible for making all scheduled payments until the amount is completely paid off. You do not get any credit on the front end of the loan.

    If the actual cash value of your vehicle is less than what you owe on your car or truck, GAP insurance coverage (also called loan or lease payoff coverage) purchased through your auto insurance carrier or the dealership where your car was purchased will cover the difference in price. Check the terms of your GAP policy, however, because some only pay up to 25% of the actual cash value towards the price difference. So, even with GAP coverage, you could be left to pay the bill if your vehicle is worth substantially less than the amount you owe.

    For example, if you owe $15,000 on your car loan, but the at-fault driver only had $10,000 in property damage coverage AND you do not have GAP coverage, you must continue making your regularly scheduled payments until you pay off the remaining $5,000.

    Imagine the same example, but with Gap coverage up to 25% of the actual cash value. The GAP coverage would cover $2.500 on top of the $10,000 provided by the property damage coverage. You would be responsible for the balance of $2,500.

    Now, let’s look at the same set of facts but with full GAP insurance. Your GAP insurance will pay the remaining $5,000 on the loan after the property damage coverage provides the initial $10,000.

    Have You Been Injured In A Car Accident?

    If you've been hurt in Florida car accident you should speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.

  • What Happens in a Florida Drunk Driving Personal Injury Case?

    In a personal injury case, the personal injury attorney you hire will handle your case against the drunk driver for damages like your medical expenses and other accident related expenses. The personal injury attorney will communicate with the driver’s insurance company and handle all correspondences so you don’t have to.

    Driving under the influence is a completely voluntary choice that puts every pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist on the road at risk. At Jim Dodson Law we believe those who choose to drive drunk must be held accountable for their choices. We know every case is unique and we understand there is no adequate compensation for the injury and loss a drunk driver causes, but we do our very best to get everyone the compensation they deserve.

    While most cases are not decided by a jury, predicting what a jury would do serves as the principle for arriving at the settlement value of a case. The purpose of a personal injury case is to try to make the injured person whole again or put them back in a position they were before the collision and resulting injuries. This requires an apportionment of fault for the crash, or in laymen’s terms, how much at fault was the drunk driver.

    Regardless of how the collision was caused, the injured person will be covered by his or her own PIP/No-Fault for up to $10,000 in medical expenses and wage losses. Beyond that, the drunk driver’s bodily injury coverage should be sought. If the bodily injury coverage is insufficient to fully compensate you, you should seek reparation from your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. The insurance company will be able to compensate you for accident related medical expenses such as physical therapy, medical devices and surgery.

    Because drunk driving is a crime, DUI drivers may be required to pay punitive damages out of their own pocket. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer. They go beyond simply compensating the victim and their family for actual losses. These tend to be larger sums and are the personal responsibility of the driver. In most cases, drunk drivers don’t have any money to pay punitive damages, but when they do they can be substantial.

    In Florida, it is a very common problem that people choose to drive without insurance. The lawyer you hire must understand Florida’s uninsured/underinsured motorist laws so they can help you seek full compensation for your losses. It is your lawyer’s job to uncover all available insurance so that the victim and their families are adequately compensated.

    Have You Or A Loved One Been Injured By A Drunk Driver?

    If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver you should speak with an experienced drunk driver injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.

  • What Happens in a Florida Drunk Driving Criminal Case?

    In a criminal case, the first step is the arrest and prosecution of the drunk driver. After an alcohol-related crash there are several circumstantial factors that will be considered in determining how the drunk driver will be charged: Did he or she leave the scene of the accident? Were they driving with a suspended license? After the charges have been determined, the criminal justice system, operating through the Office of the State Attorney, is responsible for seeking punishment of the accused.

    If you are the victim of a DUI crash or a surviving family member of a victim you may be called to testify as a witness in the criminal case. The State Attorney’s Office is responsible for providing services to help victims and their survivors during the criminal case.

    Victims Advocates is another service provided by the state designed to work with victims and their families as they go through the criminal proceedings. They can offer recommendations for financial assistance to help deal with medical costs, lost wages, funeral expenses, and counseling. Victim/Witness Assistance is another service available to victims of DUI crashes and their families. Their job is to help guide victims through the criminal proceedings and answer any questions they might have.

    Each criminal case is assigned to a judge who will impose a sentence after the case is tried or the defendant enters a plea with the state. In Florida, there are mandatory minimum requirements for each level of DUI. Some of the most common sentences include probation or jail, the Victim Impact Panel, community service, revocation of the driver’s license and an interlock device installed on the drunk driver’s vehicle upon reinstatement of the driver’s license.

    The judge may also order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim or their family. This can be beneficial to your injury case because Florida law states that if the defendant is convicted of the offense and is ordered to pay restitution, they cannot later deny that they were driving drunk in a civil action. It is important to demand an order of restitution and let the prosecuting attorney know of all your medical expenses.

    Have You Or A Loved One Been Injured By A Drunk Driver?

    If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver you should speak with an experienced drunk driver injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.

  • When Should I Buy a New Bicycle Helmet? Do I Need to Replace My Child's Helmet More Often?

    Many people aren’t aware you must replace your bicycle helmet after any crash where you hit your head.  The foam part of the helmet is only good for one major crash and must be replaced afterwards.

    Helmets are a simple piece of equipment but they are vital for your cycling safety. Each year about 2% of motor vehicle crash deaths are cyclists. That means two people lost their lives every day of the year in a cycling/motor vehicle accident. In the majority of bicyclist’s deaths, the most serious injuries were to the head. Statistics about head injuries resulting from cycling highlight the importance of wearing a helmet. But just because you wear a helmet doesn’t mean that you never need to replace it.

    A good rule of thumb to follow in regards to replacing your helmet is the five year rule. After five years with no major falls or crashes, replace your helmet. Of course, if you have fallen and your helmet has sustained a blow then you need to replace it. If there are any visible signs of cracks in the foam or helmet then you should replace your helmet. It’s that simple.

    Knowing when to replace your helmet is extremely important, especially in regards to children. Because children are more prone to fall off their bike than adults it is crucial that they not only they wear a helmet but that their helmet is going to be capable of minimizing the force of the impact. If the helmet has not been replaced after a crash then your child might not be as protected as you think.

    Cycling is fun and enjoyable but you still need to exercise caution in regards to safety. Make sure you and your children always wear a helmet when on a bike. If you can’t remember the last time you bought a new helmet then it is probably time to replace it. We want to make sure that you and your loved ones are safe while enjoying the fun of cycling. When you replace your helmet make sure to check out the new MIPs technology helmet which minimize the danger of a concussion.

    Have You Been Injured In A Bicycle Accident?

    If you've been hurt in a Florida bicycle accident you should speak with an experienced bicycle injury lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.

  • As a Renter in Florida, Should I Have Renters Insurance?

    The Insurance Information Institute reports only about 31% of renters nationwide have renter’s insurance. Many people have never heard of it, think they don’t need it or simply hope nothing will happen to them. In our office alone, we know two families who lost everything they owned when their rented house or apartment burned because they were not insured.

    When you rent a house or apartment the landlord will have a type of home owners policy which will protect them and the property; it will pay you nothing in the event of a loss. Renters insurance is cheap and will give you essentially the same protection you would have with homeowner’s insurance if you owned the property.

    Here are the Things to Look for with a Renters Insurance Policy:

    • Personal property protection. This covers everything  you own in your apartment or house (except cars or boats.) Imagine what it would cost you to replace all your possessions after a fire; furniture and furnishings, appliances, clothing, gear, and more. It even protects your things lost or stolen while traveling.
    • Personal liability protection. Liability insurance covers you if you accidentally hurt someone on or off your rented apartment or house. That’s right, it follows you wherever you go and protects you if you injure someone while riding your bicycle or when your kid hits a rock through a neighbor’s window.
    • Emergency living expenses. When disaster happens the last thing you need to worry about is how to pay for a place to stay while your house or apartment is repaired or rebuilt. These kinds of expenses can be part of a renter’s policy.

    Although several companies also offer it, Allstate represents online this type of policy costs as little as $15 per month. If you aren’t covered, now is the time to do something about it.

  • Should I Buy Rental Car Reimbursement On My Auto Insurance Policy?

    Absolutely. It is inexpensive and hugely convenient when you need it. Here’s why: very often after an accident caused by another driver, there is a delay of days or sometimes weeks before their insurance company can be determined or they accept responsibility for the crash.

    Many times the other driver fails to report the crash, or the driver does not have an insurance card at the time of the accident, or they are driving someone else’s car and do not know the owner's insurance company. Other times, the driver has no insurance or it was cancelled. These and other situations may delay having the driver’s insurance company provide you a rental, if there is an insurance company at all.

    We had a caller recently who was involved in an accident with someone in a rental vehicle who did not purchase the rental coverage. To make matters worse, the police did not give our caller enough information about the driver to reach them by phone. The driver was in Florida on vacation. Writing them would take time.

    Going through the rental company to get their information could easily take a week. Florida is brimming with rental cars this time of year. Having rental coverage allows you to get a car without paying out of pocket and it avoids a big hassle for you. The coverage probably costs less than $15-20 every six months and is well worth having.

    Have You Been Injured In A Car Accident?

    If you've been hurt in Florida car accident you should speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.

  • Why Shouldn’t I Hire an Out of State Attorney for My Florida Injury Case?

    By hiring an attorney who is not licensed to practice law in Florida, you are positioning yourself at an enormous disadvantage when it comes to negotiating a settlement with the insurance company. To file a lawsuit in Florida, attorneys must be licensed by the state of Florida. That means your out of state attorney cannot file a lawsuit for you without hiring a Florida attorney and the claims adjusters know this.

    You are also entrusting the outcome of your case to someone who may not know Florida law. The rules for filing documents, disclosing photographs and documents and even your rights as someone who was injured are different in Florida. Imagine how upsetting it would be to lose your chance at a recovery because your attorney from back home didn’t know the law in Florida that controlled whether you had a claim or not.

  • How Will I Communicate with an Attorney in Florida if I Live in Another State?

    We believe communication is the key to fantastic legal representation. By getting to know our clients we pick up on details that seem minute, but can make a world of a difference when drafting a settlement package or negotiating with the insurance company.

    That being said, according to surveys by the Florida Bar, the biggest complaint clients have with attorneys is not returning their phone calls. In contrast, we promise every client in writing we will return every call promptly, never longer than 24 hours from their initial call.

    Our office takes advantage of technology to keep in touch with our long distance clients. In fact, many clients who live close to our office prefer to use email and phone as primary means of communication even though they live just minutes away.

    You see, hiring a lawyer who lives around the block doesn’t do any good if he or she doesn’t answer the phone when you call. We make sure to be available and responsive throughout your entire representation. Living in another state doesn’t change a thing. No matter where you live, you will get our full attention.

    You don’t have to take our word on this. Our clients say it best. Check out our testimonials about how our clients feel they were treated.