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The most Frequently Asked Questions Asked by Accident and Injury Victims

I recently suffered physical injuries in an accident. Do I really need an attorney?

Depending on the facts surrounding the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for the injuries sustained. The compensation that you may be entitled to includes no-fault medical benefits, lost wages, property damage, anticipated future medical costs along with pain and suffering. The Florida injury law attorneys at Dolman Law Group, will assist you with filing your claim for no-fault benefits. We will handle all communications with the applicable insurance carrier(s) involved and will begin investigating the claim from day one. We utilize the services of an investigator to obtain all pertinent information and evidence relating to the accident and interview all available witnesses. Our primary goal is to maximize the available recovery (settlement or jury verdict) in your case. That process begins immediately at Dolman Law Group. Contact Dolman Law Group, today for more information.

The fact is that insurance carriers treat unrepresented injury victims much differently than those who have retained legal counsel. In fact, insurance carriers typically offer nuisance value (i.e., settlement offers with the intent to make you go away) on injury claims filed by the victim who is unrepresented. In other words, you will likely be offered a minimal amount of money. Further, the applicable insurance company will want to resolve this claim as soon as possible, which is a very dangerous proposition for the victim. It may take months before we know the full extent of your injuries. In fact, you may require extensive treatment. By resolving the case within weeks of the accident the insurance carrier is trying to remove the risk that your damages will increase and you may have suffered a permanent injury.

Can I still get my medical bills paid if I was partially at fault for the accident?

The simple answer to this question is, yes. Florida subscribes to what is called a pure comparative negligence system in dealing with tort claims. This means that if you were partially at fault for an accident, you are still entitled to recover the damages that are attributed to the negligence of others. Determining how much fault will be attributed to each party is very difficult and will be left up to the jury if your case goes to trial. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to advise you on whether or not your claim is likely to succeed. Contact the Dolman Law Group, today for advice on your claim.

How much is my injury case worth?

Each case is different and will yield a different result. Every day I am asked “how much is my case worth?” Two car accidents can appear to be exactly the same, but have two very different outcomes. There are a number of factors that determine how much a case will yield including:

  1. Total medical bills.
  2. Possible future medical expenses
  3. Percentage of fault each party is responsible for.
  4. Past and future lost wages.
  5. Effect of the injuries on lifestyle, work, family, and other important aspects of life.
  6. Characteristics of all of the parties involved
  7. Which insurance company that represents the defendant.

These are just a few of the numerous factors that determine the value of your case. The experienced personal injury attorneys at the Dolman Law Group, will walk you through the good and bad aspects of your case and try to help you better understand what to expect. Our goal is to keep our clients informed and to work with them to ensure that they are left in the best possible position after suffering a traumatic accident.

Is it really necessary for me to talk to an attorney?

Personal injury claims are often long and complicated and insurance companies employ an army of adjusters and lawyers to protect their interests from prospective plaintiffs. If you are involved in an accident that is caused by the negligence of another person, that person’s insurance company will assign an adjuster and very likely a lawyer to handle your claim and defend the case. This means that you as an individual must deal with two professionals who are trained to make your claim go away for as little money as possible. Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney levels that playing field. The lawyers at the Dolman Law Group, will represent you with the utmost tenacity; we will do everything necessary to ensure that your rights are protected and that you aren’t left holding the bag after an accident that you weren’t responsible for. Contact us for a free consultation to see how the Dolman Law Group, can help you today.

What if I can’t afford to pay for Legal Representation?

Most personal injury attorneys, including all of the attorneys at the Dolman Law Group, work for what is called a contingency fee basis. This means that the attorneys will not receive any compensation for their services until a recovery is made on your behalf. Most personal injury attorney will not charge you a retainer to ensure their services, and will even advance the costs necessary in order to recover on your claim.

In Florida, there is a limit to how much an attorney can charge on a contingency fee basis. If the case recovers less than $1 million, fees are limited to 33.3% if the case is settled before a lawsuit is filed, and 40% after the suit is filed and answered by the defendant. As the value of your case goes up above $1 million, the percentage that the attorney may charge goes down. As a potential plaintiff, it is very important that you understand how your lawyer is going to charge you for his services. The Florida injury lawyers at the Dolman Law Group, will take the necessary time to ensure that you understand exactly how they will be paid, and how that payment will affect your recovery. And of course, every client will be given the personal cell phone number of his or her assigned attorney to ensure that all questions and concerns are addressed as quickly as possible.

I just had a car accident, what should I do now?

Follow these steps to protect yourself from further harm after an accident.

  1. Get yourself to a safe place. Roadways are no place to stand or linger, so pull your car off of the roadway if possible. If not, place your emergency flashing lights on, and either remain inside your vehicle, or get off to the side of the road.
  2. Call the police. In any situation involving an accident, you need to have a trained police investigator assess the situation. Filing a police report with your account of what happened in the accident is vital in determining who will be held responsible for the crash.
  3. Get medical attention as soon as you can. Car accidents often involve violent collisions that contort the body and can cause a variety of injuries. Often, hidden injuries resulting from car accidents catch victims off-guard in the days following an accident. It is important that you seek precautionary medical attention as the effects of hidden injuries such as whiplash, TMJ, and traumatic brain injury can be devastating.
  4. Call an experienced personal injury attorney to advise you in protecting your rights. The Dolman Law Group, will always advise you of these and other steps you should take after an accident when you call us for help. Our office number is (727) 451-6900.

My car is wrecked, should I take pictures?

Yes! Pictures of the damage to your vehicle can be very useful in putting pressure on insurance companies that refuse to acknowledge your injuries. Your attorney will be able to use them to show the severity of the accident, and demonstrate the seriousness of your injuries. Pictures can sometimes be the difference in obtaining a reasonable settlement and being forced to carry a case through litigation. Try to get at least a few pictures of each side of your vehicle. A good way to do this is to walk around your car with a camera or camera-phone and snap pictures as you go. But remember, while pictures are important, safety is a much bigger priority after your accident.

What should I avoid doing after an accident?

There are a number of things that you should avoid doing after an auto accident. Some of the most important things to remember are:

  1. Don’t forget to call the police. Drivers involved in a car accident sometimes forgo getting the police involved by just exchanging information. This can cause serious problems for any future causes-of-action you have against the negligent driver: The other driver could lie about his or her identity or insurance coverage, thus leaving you without any means of recovery; you might lose or misplace the contact information by mistake; and no matter what if you choose not to call the police you will not have an official accident report to back up your account of what happened. A police report will benefit you as the victim of the accident, because it will support your story against the possibility of false representations by the other driver. So remember, after an accident call 911 first, then contact an experienced Florida attorney.
  2. Avoid recorded statements. We urge that you avoid giving any recorded statements to insurance companies. It’s important that you remember that there is a conflict between your interests and the interests of the insurance carrier. As an accident victim, your interest is in recovering the loss that you have suffered to avoid large out-of-pocket expenses from the accident. The insurance company’s only interest is in paying as little as possible on your claim. Very rarely will one of these recordings benefit the individual. We at the Dolman Law Group, recommend that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney for advice on your case before giving any official statements to the insurance carriers.
  3. Do not wait too long before seeking recovery on your claim. In Florida there is a set period of time for accident victims to sue for personal injuries. Personal Injury actions must be brought within four years of the accident which caused the harm. This means that waiting more than four years after your accident to attempt to file a claim will bar your recovery completely. Even more stringent is Florida’s statute of limitations governing wrongful death cases, which must be brought within two years of the death. It is very important that you protect yourself from these strict time limits by getting quick medical attention after your accident and contacting a Florida Personal Injury Attorney as soon as you can.

How long will it take to resolve my personal injury case?

This is one of the most difficult questions regularly asked by clients to answer. Your case may go through several different phases before it is resolved. Immediately, after the accident you will have to seek medical attention for your resulting injuries. You may have to treat with several doctors, receive medical testing, and go through treatment procedures to determine the type and severity of your injuries. Once your injury has been identified and treatment has begun, your attorney will attempt to negotiate a settlement on your behalf with the insurance carrier of the negligent party. If a settlement cannot be agreed to within a reasonable amount of time, your attorney should next file a law suit on your behalf. The Florida rules of civil procedure govern the amount of time that it takes to fully litigate and try a personal injury case in civil court. This time can be lengthy based on factors such as the jurisdiction, the caseload of the judge, and complexity of the cause of action.

One of our goals at the Dolman Law Group, is to ensure that we handle your claim in the most time-efficient way possible. We will attempt to move your case through pre-suit negotiations as quickly and effectively as possible. Most cases will move through this phase within four to six months. However, we will never ignore the best financial interests of our clients just to see that a case is resolved sooner rather than later. Our number one goal is to represent our clients in the most honest and effective way possible. Contact the Dolman Law Group, today for a free case consultation.

The person that hit me does not have insurance, what can I do?

In Florida, insurance companies offer what is call uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. What this coverage provides is protection for personal injuries that are caused by the negligence of a person with insufficient insurance to cover the costs. In order to be protected by this type of insurance, you have to carry it on your own policy. In the very small number of situations where a negligent driver is uninsured, your uninsured/underinsured motorist policy holder will be liable for the damages you incur. These claims often operate in exactly the same way as a normal personal injury case, with the difference being that you are recovering from your own insurance carrier. It is very important to remember in these situations that the representatives from your carrier are not out for your best interests. Just like every insurance adjuster, they will be looking to minimize the insurance company’s loss. Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you in these situations is the best way to ensure that you are protected.

What if I don’t know who caused my accident?

In the case of a hit-and-run where the negligent driver is never identified, plaintiffs can sometimes recover under Florida’s underinsured/uninsured motorist policies. (see above for more specifics)

Do I need to see a medical professional within the first 14 days after my accident?

You may be confused by recent radio commercials aired by lawyer referral services such as 411 Pain or 1-800-Ask-Gary. In fact, a recent 411 Pain radio spot features a non-attorney spokesperson stating that if you fail to seek medical treatment within 14 days following the accident than “it just doesn’t matter.” This is actually quite misleading. Based upon changes to Florida’s no-fault statute that went into effect on January 1, 2013, an accident victim must commence medical treatment within 14 days or personal injury protection benefits will not be applicable. However, it is important to note that based on the new provisions to the no-fault statute, a victim only has $2500.00 in personal injury protection benefits unless a physician states the individual has an “emergency medical condition.” Prior to January 1, 2013, an auto accident victim had $10,000.00 in personal injury protection benefits regardless of emergency medical condition.

At Dolman Law Group, we have resolved numerous cases with fruitful settlements on cases in which our clients waited far longer than 14 days to commence treatment. In an ideal world every auto accident victim would commence treatment immediately. Yet, this is not the case more often than not. Many individuals will wait an extended period of time to see if their pain or discomfort will subside as opposed to running to a physician as a knee jerk reaction. There is no reason for such individuals to be punished for waiting to see whether the pain and discomfort would resolve on its own. The advertisements you hear on the radio are self serving as the legal referral services have a vested interest in you seeking immediate medical treatment so they may bill your PIP benefits. For more information on this topic, please see:

Should I consider laser spine surgery?

No. This is an unproven science with no long term peer reviewed studies to determine the long term efficacy of such procedures. Please see the following article

What damages can I seek in my personal injury lawsuit?

  • physical and emotional injuries
  • loss of earning capacity
  • outstanding medical bills and out of pocket costs
  • lost wages
  • future medical costs for ongoing treatment
  • punitive damages (for willful and wantonly reckless behavior)

How much time do I have after my accident to decide whether or not to sue?

Personal Injury cases are subject to a statute of limitation, which limits the amount of time a person can wait before initiating a lawsuit. Different types of cases have different time limitations. In claims for personal injury, the statute of limitation is four years on claims against the (third party) at-fault person and five years on an uninsured/underinsured claim against your own insurance carrier.

Do I have to go to Court?

Not necessarily. In fact, a large number of cases resolve without the need for filing a lawsuit. However, even if we move forward and litigate your case; there is a strong possibility we can resolve the claim at or before mediation. Thus, only a small percentage of cases ever see the light of a courtroom.

What Can I Expect If I Choose to Hire Dolman Law Group?

Our clients come to expect a great deal from our law firm. We believe that communication between a client and his or her attorney is essential to providing quality representation. All of Dolman Law Group’s clients receive the personal cell phone number of an attorney who will be working the case. We take pride in remaining accessible to our clients.

Potential clients can also expect that their case will be handled with the appropriate attention and professionalism. Our staff on experienced attorneys and paralegals take the time to organize details of each case no matter how big or small.

What type of injury claims does Dolman Law Group handle?

The lawyers at Dolman Law Group, have experience in dealing with many types of injury claims including: musculo-ligamentous injuries; broken bones and bone fractures: neurological damage in the extremities; spinal cord damage; vertebral disc injuries; and traumatic brain injuries. Each type of injury requires a different type of attention. Fortunately, the lawyers at Dolman Law Group, have experience dealing with many different types of injuries caused by negligence.

The person that caused my injury is claiming that it was my fault, what do I do?

Many negligence cases involve a he-said/she-said situation, where it is initially unclear exactly what happened. An experienced attorney will have a plan of action for proving who caused the injury. Dolman Law Group, works with a number of investigators and accident reconstruction professionals that can often provide scientific evidence of how the accident occurred and who is to blame.

It’s important to note that not every case is the result of just one person’s negligence. Often more than one person, sometimes including the injured party, is to blame for the resulting damage. In this situation, an accident victim can often recover a percentage of the damages that he or she sustains. Speaking to an experienced personal injury attorney, like Dolman Law Groups attorneys, is often crucial for receiving compensation in this type of situation.

What will I have to do if the insurance company does pay for my injuries?

The only recourse a person has outside of accepting a settlement from the insurance company is to file a lawsuit. An experienced accident attorney will be able to walk you through all of the steps that have to be taken while your case is in litigation. At Dolman Law Group, we take pride in keeping our clients informed of the decisions that we make in trying to resolve your claim. That includes keeping clients up to date on all facets of litigation.

What questions will I be asked at my deposition?

Generally, the insurance defense lawyer will question you about your past employment history, medical history and records, information about the accident or how you sustained the injury, the severity of your injury, how the injury affects your ability to work and impedes your quality of life among others. Our litigation attorneys will prepare you in advance of deposition for the types of questions we can anticipate. Additionally we will review your medical records together to ensure you are not caught off guard.

What is the purpose of a letter of protection?

A letter of protection is a document that enables a personal injury victim to treat medically and forestalls collections on such serviced until after the case is resolved. In other words, it is akin to a contract wherein the injury victim and often the attorney will acknowledge that the balance will be earmarked at the conclusion of the case (i.e., by either settlement or verdict) to ensure the provider will be compensated. In consideration for such, the medical provider will not seek to collect on the outstanding balance until the claim is resolved. In many cases, the available no-fault benefits are not enough to cover all necessary medical treatment. Hence, the need for a letter of protection or LOP.

Should I call a lawyer referral service?

If you’ve just been in an accident, you may be wondering if you should call a lawyer referral service, one that advertises on television or the radio. In fact, in the Tampa Bay area, our market is inundated with these advertisements. You might be wondering if these services are any good. Well, keep in mind that lawyer referral services are only partly regulated by the Florida Bar. When I say partly, I mean only lawyers are regulated. The lawyer referral service can often make advertisements, claims, and statements that don’t pass Bar scrutiny. In fact, they don’t have to submit their advertisements to the Florida Bar.

If you listen to a recent radio advertisement for 411 Pain, you’ll not that the “non lawyer attorney spokesperson” makes a very curious statement. The statement they make is ” we have a very exclusive group of attorneys. We’ve spent many years putting this group together.” Well, what does that really mean? Does it mean that these lawyers are superbly talented? I don’t want to make a generalization because there are some good lawyers that belong to these networks, but really, to become a member of 411 Pain or Ask Gary, you simply have to pay to become a member. It’s a pay for play system. It doesn’t state the quality of the lawyer, how many cases they have tried, what kind of verdicts they have obtained, their experience in handling personal injury cases like yours, it simply means that they paid to be a member of a lawyer referral service.

But keep in mind that being a member of such an “exclusive” group doesn’t convey quality, it just conveys they paid.

What should I do if I’ve been assaulted?

You might be wondering “what should I do if I’ve been assaulted outside of a bar, restaurant, or nightclub?” First things first, you need to contact law enforcement. There has to be a police report evidencing the injuries that you sustained. Next it’s important to notify the manager of the establishment, or anyone else in a position of authority. Not just notify them, but make them take down an incident report. Memorialize what’s happened to you in the report. Then ask for a copy, or write down the statement that you gave to that person. It’s also important to document the injuries that you incurred as a result of the assault. Be sure to take photographs. Most of the time people have a camera on their cell phone. If you don’t have your cell phone on you, ask to borrow one from a friend or bystander. If you have a phone that has video capabilities, absolutely utilize it. Get videos of the scene, your injuries, any witnesses in order to preserve the condition of where you were and what happened to you at the time that it happened. This is imperative evidence moving forward in order to succeed with your claim.

Will my personal injury case go to trial?

You may be wondering, “will my case go to trial?” In order to answer that properly, it’s important to understand how your personal injury claim operates. When you’re involved in a motor vehicle collision, the first thing that we’ll do is send a demand to the insurance company to compensate you for your injury. Often times, insurance companies are fighting tooth and nail to pay you as little as possible for your injury claim. It’s at that point the majority of the time, we end up filing a lawsuit in the courthouse. Filing a lawsuit, or a complaint on your behalf enters us into a phase called litigation. Once we enter into litigation, we’re not just dealing with an insurance company and an adjuster, we’re also dealing with a defense attorney and the process becomes more adversarial. Chances are your case will be resolved at what’s called a mediation. A mediation is when we sit down with you and the defense, and a third party mediator. A mediator is a person that’s neutral and has no interest in the outcome of your case. It’s at this time that most cases are resolved without having to go to trial.

How do I find the best Clearwater personal injury attorney?

A question that many consumers are faced with is “how do I find the best Clearwater personal injury attorney?” Let’s start off by telling you what you should not do. Do not pick an attorney based solely on a billboard, television, or radio advertisements. The reason being is that this does not tell you the quality of the lawyer. In fact, many Clearwater personal injury attorneys are little more than settlement mills, where paralegals and legal assistants run the majority of the cases. You never get to meet your attorney, or rarely. This is a generalization. Not every law firm is like this, but many are. What you should look for is online resources. Look at legal directories. Find out what kind of awards this attorney has won. Look at their reviews. Go online to Google and see how other members of the community have reviewed this law firm. What kind of reviews do they have? Keep in mind there will always be negative reviews on anyone, but what do the majority of the reviews tell you? Is the lawyer accessible? Are they knowledgable? Are they competent? Have they tried cases before? You can’t find that out by looking at a billboard, or listening to a television or radio commercial. This isn’t a beauty contest. You get one bite at the apple. You have one chance to hit your case out of the park, so be sure to do your research.

What is an independent medical examination?

An Independent Medical Examination (known and hereinafter referred to as an ”IME”) is a tool utilized by insurance carriers wherein the examine their own insured pursuant to their auto insurance policy in an effort to suspend their medical benefits or curtail their medical treatment under Personal Injury Protection (PIP).  Do not confuse an IME with a CME (Compulsory Medical Examination), which is discussed under a separate question.  For the purpose of this discussion, an IME, is ordered by your insurance carrier prior to a lawsuit being filed.  CME’s are requested by either insurance carrier (i.e., the at fault party’s carrier or your own insurance carrier) when the case is in litigation as a tool to defeat the lawsuit or at least mitigate damages.

Keep in mind that there is very little that is “independent” about this type of examination.  The IME, is generally conducted by a physician retained by the applicable insurance carrier.  We have seen the same IME physicians time and again.  In fact, IME physicians often produce the same report over and over regardless of the complaints and presentation of the injury victim.  The insurance carrier hand picks the IME physician based on prior experiences and what they can expect.

In order to seek an IME, the insurance carrier must show that the mental or physical condition of an injured person who is covered under PIP is material to a claim for first-party medical benefits.  If the mental or physical condition of the claimant is at issue, the applicable insurance carrier can require the individual submit to an examination.

Only a physician licensed under the same statute as the treating physician can generate a report that the insurance carrier can utilize to withdraw, reduce or deny benefits for medical expenses. United Automobile Insurance Co. v. Viles, 726 So.2d 320 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999).  In other words, an insurance carrier can rely on a report generated by a Chiropractor from an IME to cut off, deny or reduce medical bills generated by the treating Chiropractor.  An Osteopathic Physician can do the same to a fellow Osteopathic Physician, Neurologist can respond to a Neurologist and so on.  Subsequent case law stands for the proposition that a report from an IME is not necessary to deny benefits only to withdraw (cut off) benefits[1].

It is essential to note that the insurance carrier has a fundamental right to an IME.  A refusal by the insured to submit to an examination or failure to attend said exam will constitute a material breach of the insurance policy (i.e., contract) and can serve to completely release the PIP carrier from liability for further payments to be made on medical services rendered[2].   However, the failure on the part of an insured to attend the IME is not necessarily deemed to be an “unreasonable refusal” to attend[3]. The Florida Supreme Court ruled (in Custer) that an insured’s attendance at an IME is not a condition precedent to the existence of PIP benefits.  Id, at 1097.  The insurance carrier has the burden of proving the insured’s failure to attend was unreasonable.

At Dolman Law Group, we typically videotape IME’s and tape every last CME without exception.  It is important to tell the physician all of your complaints.  By videotaping the examination, we are able to compare and contrast what the IME physician performed against the treating physicians, who often are far more thorough.


[1] Partners in Health Chiropractic v. United Automobile Insurance Co., 21 So.3d 858 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009)
[2] Allstate Insurance Co. v. Graham, 541 So.2d 160 (Fla. 2d DCA 1989)
[3] Custer Medical Center v. United Automobile Insurance Co., 62 So.3d 1086 (Fla. 2010)

What is a compulsory medical examination (CME)?

A Compulsory Medical Examination (CME) is a tool insurance carriers often take full advantage of in defending either a bodily injury (BI) or uninsured/underinsured (UIM) lawsuit.

Each insurance carrier and insurance defense lawyer has a handful of physicians they routinely retain to conduct CME’s.  Some of the biggest hired guns are hired by a number of insurance carriers.  For example, in Tampa Bay we see the very same physicians like Scott Cutler, D.O. (Neurosurgeon) retained by the defense/insurance carrier on a majority of spine injury and specifically spine surgery cases. We can often anticipate what the physician will state in their reports they repeat themselves so often.  CME physicians are paid quite handsomely for the work or lack thereof they perform.

It is important that you maintain a very serious demeanor during your medical examination.  The CME physician is not your friend and you should avoid making small talk with this individual.  The physician performing a CME has been retained by an insurance carrier (or by a defense lawyer being paid by the insurance carrier) to poke holes in your case. In a majority of cases they will minimalize your injuries in their reports and testimony offered at either deposition or trial.  We always meet with our clients prior to a CME just the same as before a deposition.

We strongly recommend scheduling an appointment with your own treating physician the same day as your CME.  This will enable us to compare and contrast the findings of a physician who is treating you with the doctor bought and paid for by an insurance carrier.  We have seen CME doctors stating our client has no loss in range of motion or a lack of neurological deficits when their own treating physician reports just the opposite on the very same day.  By videotaping the CME, we can often demonstrate just how little the hired gun did during their examination and often ignoring clear complaints.

The next time you wonder how that defendant could afford such an expert you must remind yourself that the at-fault party is almost always represented by an attorney paid for by their insurance carrier who pays for the physician.  The CME physician will often take shots at the treating physician while testifying at trial. In fact, you may hear the physician testify that the medical bills charged by the treating physician are absurd.  Keep in mind this physician makes a very nice living testifying over and over again for the defense and their lack of objectivity ensures job security.

If I set up my Facebook page with privacy settings to prevent anyone from seeing my photos without me first accepting them as a friend will that prevent the insurance carrier/defense from discovering such?

A recent case out of the 4th District Court of Appeals enables the discovery of such photos so long as the defense attorney/requesting party discovery request is narrowly tailored to only specific photos or videos of the individual taken over a definitive period of time (two years in this case) and the photos depict the subject participating in what might be construed as a “strenuous activity” or engaging in conduct that would discredit their claims of injury.  Nucci v. Target Corp., So. 3d , 2015 WL 71726, 40 Fla. Law Weekly D166 (Fla. 4th DCA Jan. 7, 2015)