Do I have a Lawsuit?

Law Information

If you have been involved in any type of accident or have suffered damages because of the negligence of others, you must decide if you are going to file a lawsuit. There are three important elements to consider: fault (civil liability), damages, and your chances of collecting money compensation. What follows is a brief explanation of each of these elements.

  • Fault (civil liability)
    An individual, a business entity, or a governmental entity, must be legally responsible for your damages. That is, that the other party was negligent. This means that something was not done correctly or that there was a failure to do something which should have been done. For example, if you slip and fall on the wet and greasy floor of a cruise ship and the employees knew of the danger and ignored it, the cruise ship company is legally responsible to you for your damages because its employees ignored the danger. Even an employee of the same cruise company working on his own ship is entitled to collect money compensation if he slips, falls, and injures himself because of the wet and greasy floor.
    In most states, you can file a lawsuit even when you are partially responsible for your damages. In this case, your money compensation will be reduced according to your percentage of responsibility.
  • Damages
    You must have suffered damages in order to receive money compensation. When you think about your damages remember that they include past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, past and future pain and suffering, property damage, etc.
  • Chances of Collecting Money Compensation
    Can the person or entity at fault pay for your damages? If the answer is yes, you should file your lawsuit. Even if the other side does not have much money, there could be insurance coverage or other assets. In certain situations, it is also possible to sue a third party, such as an employer. If a cruise company is involved, collecting your damages is never a problem. All cruise ships companies have plenty of insurance coverage and assets to pay for your damages.
    If you have been involved in an accident, it should be easy to decide to file a lawsuit considering the aforementioned elements: fault, damages, and your chances of collecting money compensation. With the help of an attorney, you can easily find out if you have a viable lawsuit.

A Woman Assaulted In a Parking Garage Wins a Lawsuit

Law Information

Alicia was assaulted by delinquents in the parking lot of the apartment complex where she lived. This was a building that offered “security” as part of its image, in an effort to attract tenants. The assault occurred when she was walking at night towards her automobile. Alicia filed a lawsuit against the building owner, alleging that the parking lot lights were turned off, and that the fences that protected the perimeter of the parking lot were broken, and that other tenants had complained previously to the building owner, but he had not done anything to fix these problems.

The court ruled in favor of Alicia. The court determined that the owner had the obligation towards his tenants, especially in this building “with security”, to maintain all equipment in good working order, so as to avoid any criminal acts. The owner was negligent and therefore was made responsible for the injuries that Alicia sustained.

Are Businesses Responsible For Assaults In Parking Lots?

Law Information

The huge number of cars on the road requires the use of large parking lots. These are often poorly lit and unattended. This makes them perfect places for criminals.
Victims of crimes occurring in parking lots should know that the owner of the parking lot can be held civilly liable for the property.

Formerly, the law, which is still in force in some states, decreed that owners had no liability for assaults that occurred on their property and had no obligation to protect their customers against them.

This has changed. Today, the courts consider all the circumstances of an assault to decide whether the victim is entitled to compensation. Judges or juries consider the following factors to decide whether the owner should have taken more measures to protect their customers from assaults.
These factors are:

  1. The statistical crime index in the area,
  2. Any history of similar events in the crime scene,
  3. The attractiveness of the place for criminals to exercise;
  4. And the existence of security measures such as adequate lighting, security guards, security cameras, etc.

In a recent case, a woman was assaulted in a parking lot attached to a company. The area had a low crime rate and no assault had occurred in the business’ property in over 12 years. However, a court ruled that the woman should be compensated because the assault was predictable; the area had
poor lighting, there are always people wandering in the parking lot, there were no security guards to patrol the place, and the company could have taken more safety measures to prevent assaults.

Anyone driving to a business site should try to park in safe and well lit areas. You should also be attentive when leaving your vehicle and returning to your vehicle to notice the presence of potential offenders.
At night, request to be accompanied to your vehicle by a guard or employee. Any person who suffers damage as a result of an assault near any business should consult their lawyer to evaluate if, considering all the circumstances, the property owner is responsible and civilly liable for the injuries and damages.

Who Pays Your Medical Expenses After An Automobile Accident?

Law Information

The answer to this question always surprises my clients. At the beginning of the seventies, Florida adopted the no fault law as to medical expenses which is still in force today.
The general public knows this type of insurance coverage by several names: a) PIP [personal injury protection], b) No Fault Insurance, c) Mandatory Insurance to obtain your vehicle’s tag. This third name is how the majority of the public is acquainted with it.
The theoretical underpinning of this insurance scheme is based on the following premises:

  1. An automobile accident is a horrible occurrence.
  2. Therefore, we want that all persons be able to pay the related medical expenses irrespective of fault.

The adoption of the philosophy means that you are responsible for the payment of your own medical expenses up to $10,000.00 even if you are not at fault for the accident. Neither the driver at fault nor his insurance company have to pay your first $10,000.00 in medical expenses. For example, “driver at fault” runs a stop sign and fractures his foot. He also causes the other driver a fractured arm.
The insurance company for the other driver will pay his medical expenses up to $10,000.00 and the insurance company for the party at fault is only responsible for the medical expenses that exceed $10,000.00. However, the company for the driver at fault will also have to pay medical expenses for the driver at fault up to $10,000.00.

What happens if the party at fault does not have automobile insurance and the medical expenses exceed $10,000.00?
The answer to this question is very important. The high cost of medical care nowadays virtually guarantees that if a person needs to be hospitalized the $10,000.00 in medical coverage provided by his automobile insurance will be exhausted right away. If the driver at fault does not have insurance and the other driver has health insurance, the other driver will be able to collect from his health insurance his medical expenses over $10,000.00. The driver at fault is personally responsible for all his medical expenses.

What happens if neither driver has automobile insurance?
If they have health insurance, their health insurance companies will pay for their medical bills in accordance with their policies. If they do not have health insurance, both drivers will be responsible for paying their own medical expenses up to $10,000.00 and the driver at fault will be responsible for paying the other driver’s medical expenses over $10,000.00.
Basically, the law makes every driver responsible for his first $10,000.00 in medical expenses irrespective of fault and requires that every driver buy automobile accident insurance to pay his own medical expenses up to $10,000.00.

Is there any logic to this insurance scheme?
No. This is because the driver at fault is not responsible for the first $10,000.00 in medical expenses of the other driver who is the victim of his negligence.

Does this auto insurance scheme make sense from the social point of view?
Yes. The goal of the legislature in enacting this law was to make sure that all parties in an automobile accident, irrespective of fault, could pay their medical expenses. I think this goal was accomplished.

Your Lawsuit in the Courts

Law Information

When a person has been injured as a result of an accident or the negligence of a third party, his lawsuit will follow several steps.

After all the available evidence is presented to the insurance company for the party at-fault, negotiations start. Usually, there is a great difference in how your attorney and the insurance company value your case. If this difference can be negotiated, a release is signed, the agreed upon amount is paid, and this is the end of the case. It is important to realize that ninety (90%) percent of the cases are settled this way. Therefore, we encourage all persons that have good reason to file a lawsuit to do so. They should not fear the inconvenience and waste of time that taking the case to court entails because in ninety (90%) percent of the cases the lawsuit will not get to court.

When it is impossible to arrive at an agreement with the insurance company, your lawsuit is filed in the courts. A document called a complaint which contains your reasons to file your lawsuit and your damages is filed in court. Once your complaint has been filed with the court and the other side (the defendant) has been duly notified, then the discovery or investigative phase of the case starts.

This discovery or investigative phase of the relevant facts consists of the following:

  1. depositions (sworn testimony of witnesses)
  2. interrogatories (written questions submitted to the other side)
  3. requests for production (requests for documents that the other side has)
  4. requests for admissions (asking the other side to admit some facts)
  5. inspections of places or objects (i.e. the scene of an automobile accident, the slippery floor of a cruise ship)

Depositions are verbal examinations of witnesses during which the attorneys for both sides ask questions of the witnesses while a court reporter writes everything down and creates a record of all that has been said. Interrogatories are written questions that one party submits to the other to find out specific information. Requests for production require the other side to provide copies of relevant documents in its possession. Requests for admissions ask the other side to admit or deny the truth of certain facts or acts that important for the case. The inspections of places and objects allow both parties to inspect places and objects that are important for the case. For example, the scene of a fall on a cruise ship, or a vehicle involved in an accident. Both parties have the right to use, and systematically use, all this discovery procedures. After the discovery phase is concluded and never before, the party starting the lawsuit (plaintiff) advises the court that the case is ready for trial and requests that the court set a trial date.

Nowadays, it is a legal requirement that a case go to mediation before it can go to trial. Mediation is a formal negotiation conference. Usually, the attorneys for both sides and their clients go to the mediator’s office. The mediator is usually a retired judge, a retired attorney, or an attorney that does this work for a living. The mediator does not have any power to decide the case. His job is to help both parties arrive at an agreement. If there is an agreement at mediation, this is the end of the case. The plaintiff will sign a release and the defendant will pay the agreed upon amount. If there is no agreement at mediation, the case continues to trial.

Before the trial, both parties submit to the court a list of witnesses, documents, and things that they are going to use as evidence during the trial. In addition, all the subpoenas for the witness to appear at the trial are issued. Before the trial, the attorneys for both parties appear before the judge to handle the administrative aspects of the trial. Once all preparations are complete, the process comes to its natural end: the trial.