For your convenience, common client questions are answered here. These are short answers to frequently asked questions, however the answers do not contemplate every scenario and are meant as a guide and reference only.
A claimant is an individual or business who is making a claim against you or your business for damages. These claims are usually for bodily injury, property damages, or other damages arising out of an accident, but could arise from a contractual dispute. The claimant will make a claim and demand against your insurance carrier or yourself prior to filing a lawsuit.
A plaintiff is the title referred to by someone who is bringing a lawsuit against an individual or company. A plaintiff may also be referred to as a claimant.
A tortfeasor is an individual or business who is alleged by a claimant or plaintiff to have committed a tort against them. A tort is usually negligence, which is the basis for a claim for bodily injury or property damage in accidents such as a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, or aviation accident. A tortfeasor may be liable even if only passively negligent such as owner of a vehicle driven by another individual or employer of an employee.
The defendant is the person or business being sued by a plaintiff.
The plaintiff is alleging the damage sought are within the County Court jurisdiction, less than Circuit Court but higher than small claims. However, this does not mean that damages awarded cannot exceed $30,000.
The plaintiff is alleging the damages sought are less than $8,000 and invoking the jurisdiction of Small Claim Court.
Circuit Court has jurisdiction for all matters in which damages sought, exclusive of attorney fees and cost, are in excess of $30,000. Beginning January 1, 2023, the threshold amount in controversy for Circuit Court increases to $50,000.
The statue of limitations is the time limit within a claimant/plaintiff must file a lawsuit or be forever forbidden from making such a claim. Statute of limitations are different for different claims.
Voir dire means to speak the truth.
Jury selection is the process of selecting a jury. During this process, the attorneys from each side can ask questions to the jury both as a panel and individually. This process can take a few hours or last several days, this is the only time the attorneys get to speak to the jurors. Jury selection is really a de-selection, as each side is allowed to remove a juror for cause (if there is cause) and usually 3 preemptive strikes (no reason needed). Once this is done, the first 6 jurors left make the jury, leaving the next 1-2 available as alternates.
Discovery is the investigative phase of the legal process that involves gathering facts in a case. There are many forms that discovery may take including request for admissions, request to produce, subpoenas for relevant documents, interrogatories consisting of written questions and depositions.
A request for admissions is a discovery mechanism, that allows a party (plaintiff or defendant) to request another party admit or deny factual evidence under oath. If admitted, the statement is considered a fact throughout the remainder of the case. The court can potentially award attorney’ fees for proving a denied fact.
Request to produce is a discovery mechanism where the opposing party (plaintiff or defendant) can force you to provide copies or make available for inspection, evidence or documents in your possession that may reasonably lead to admissible evidence.
Interrogatories are a discovery mechanism where the opposing party (plaintiff or defendant) can have you answer written questions under oath.
A deposition is a sworn testimony from a witness, this discovery mechanism is used to gather information. A deponent is the title given to the witness who is being deposed. In a deposition, the attorney for one of the parties will question the witness concerning the case and claims. The opposing attorney will then have time to ask follow-up questions of the deponent. A court reporter swears in the witness's and transcribes everything that is said. Depositions may be used at trial by publication or for impeachment of the witness/party.
A videotaped deposition is a deposition that is videotaped. This might be done for a variety of reasons including to memorialize the body language, to use for impeachment of a witness/party at trial, or simply to play at trial. Many witnesses, such as doctors, experts, and witness greater than 100 miles away will have videotaped depositions taken to play at trial instead of appearing live for testimony.
A CME is a mechanism where the defendant can force the plaintiff to be present for an examination by a doctor of the defendant’s choice. The doctor will then preform an examination consisting of both an oral and physical component. The doctor will perform a detailed medical record review and state there opinion as to the causation of the plaintiff injuries and the injuries themselves.
A Proposal for Settlement (PFS) is an offer of a certain monetary amount that the filer is agreeable to in order to settle the case. According to Section 768.79 of the Florida Statues, PFS is deemed rejected if not accepted in writing within 30 days. If the ultimate judgment is better than 25% of the rejected proposal for settlement, the party making the proposal is entitled to attorney’s fees and costs from the date of service.
Florida’s no fault automobile insurance laws limit the liability, or legal responsibility, of the person whose negligence caused the accident and injuries to other people. Under our no fault laws, if you are injured in an auto accident caused by someone else, you cannot recover certain monetary damages for pain and suffering from the person at fault unless you can prove your injuries meet certain criteria including having over $10,000 in medical bills and being permanent injured. The no fault insurance provides you with $10,000 in total coverage for medical and lost wages. The $10,000 is set off from any judgment obtained by a plaintiff.
Florida has a unique law requiring each owner of a vehicle registered in the state of Florida to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits with the exception of mopeds under 50 cc. The purpose of the PIP under the Florida no fault law is to provide for medical, surgical, funeral, and disability insurance benefits without regard to fault. That means that your OWN insurance company will pay a portion of your medical treatment and lost wages whether you caused the accident or somebody else. PIP benefits will pay 80% of your medical bills for medically necessary treatment and/or 60% lost wages up to $10,000 in coverage. If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and intend for PIP to cover your medical bills, it is important to get treatment right away. Initial treatment must be rendered within 14 days of the motor vehicle accident. If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and do not own a vehicle or do not have the required PIP benefits, you may be entitled to PIP benefits under somebody else’s policy.
Florida law allows for you to receive PIP benefits for the following reasons:
- If a relative in your home has PIP.
- You are operating a vehicle in which the owner has PIP.
- You are a passenger in a vehicle in which the owner has PIP.
- You are a pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle under certain circumstances.
If a claim is made against you, you are entitled to a set off for the $10,000 in PIP coverage paid or payable to the claimant.
MedPay is insurance coverage provided by your insurance policy or someone else's insurance that provides medical coverage to the applicable limits for medical bills regardless of fault for the accident. Most auto insurance, aviation insurance, homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, and boat insurance provide MedPay coverage however, the coverage limits are usually only around $5,000 but can be more. Unlike PIP coverage, the insurer has a subrogation right against the tortfeasor or lien against the claim of a claimant or Plaintiff.
Florida Statute 627.70132, states that a claim for windstorm damage must be made within 2 years. However, an individual policy could state a shorter term.
Florida Statute 627.4025, defines windstorm to mean, wind, wind gust, hail, rain, tornadoes, or cyclones.
This is coverage for loss or damage caused by the peril of windstorm during a hurricane and includes ensuing damages to the interior of a building from an opening caused by the windstorm.
Florida Statute 627.4025 defines a hurricane as a storm system that has been declared to be a hurricane by the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service. In the state of Florida, this timeframe begins when a hurricane watch or warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center, continuing for the time period during which the hurricane conditions exist anywhere in Florida; and ends 72 hours following the termination of the last hurricane watch or hurricane warning.
Most policies have a sublimit of $10,000 for damages associated with mold. This sublimit includes all damages arising out of the mold, including testing, remediation, build back, and loss of use.
This page accompanies your insurance policy. It tells you the limits applicable to your policy coverages and states the endorsements that are part of your insurance policy. For instance, a car insurance policy will have a property liability limit, a per person bodily injury limit, a per accident aggregate limit for bodily injury, and an uninsured motorist coverage limit. A homeowner’s policy will have limits for the dwelling, other structures, contents, loss of use, liability, but may have sublimits for mold/fungi/wet rot, water damage, sewage back up, etc.
An insured is the policyholder of an insurance policy or otherwise covered by the insurance policy. The insured can be a named insured or an additional insured. An example of a named insured is the homeowner named on the policy. An additional insured could be an additional owner on title but not named in the policy or someone who resided in the property and is covered by the policy.
An insurer is the insurance company that issued the insurance policy.
Law and Ordinance coverage is insurance coverage or exclusions in property insurance coverages. Law and Ordinance applies when repairs to the property require upgrades due to changes in building code or local ordinances. An example is a roof built prior to 2005 requires re-nailing of the sheathing (roof deck) to comply with the building code when the roof is being replaced.
Florida Statute §627.70152 requires that a policy holder provide the insurer notice of intent to litigate a property insurance claim dispute through Florida’s Department of Financial Services, prior to filing a lawsuit. The demand includes the wrongful actions in which the insurer has done, either denied claim or under paid the claim, provide a pre-suit demand, itemizing attorney fees, cost, and itemize estimate of damages. The insurer then has 10 days to respond to the notice.
Actual Cash Value (ACV) in property insurance is the value fair market value of the property immediately before the loss and the cost to repair or replace the damaged property minus depreciation. Most insurance companies calculate ACV as the depreciated cost to repair or replace your damaged property.
Replacement Cost Value is the cost to repair or replace your damaged property without deducting for depreciation. If the policy provides for RCV coverage, most insurers will pay the ACV until you have completed the repairs or at least under contract, then the will release the recoverable depreciation value.
Attorney Fees are the fees incurred by the attorney representing you. This is the percentage charged against the recovery, or, if negotiated or awarded by the Court, the fees are calculated by the hours the attorney worked on the case, measured in 1/6 of an hour multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate.
Cost are the expenses incurred by the firm on your behalf. Costs include the filing fee with Court, fees for service of process, court reporter fees, expert fees, cost for printing/copying, and mail and the like.
Is my small claim worth hiring an attorney? I have a small insurance claim, but my insurance company will not pay. Won’t it cost me more to pursue the claim than I can recover?
We handle all insurance claims, even small ones. There is no upfront cost to you and we only get paid when we recovery. Upon filing a suit, we seek attorney fees from the insurance company. If the insurance fights the claim and we recover, the insurance company has to pay our attorney fees. Florida law allows the insured to recover attorney fees if they prevail against the insurance company to allow the policy holder to get the benefits owed. We file claims in small claims court, county court, and circuit court. Please see the Insurance Prevailing Party Attorney Fees.
My insurance company has agreed to pay my claim but has offered me less money that I believe I am entitle. What can I do?
It is common for an insurance company to underestimate covered damages to your property. The good news is that your insurance company has agreed there is coverage. We can pursue the claim for breach of contract based on price and scope dispute. After evaluation of the coverage and payment decision, we can address whether coverage was properly applied or if additional coverage is available. We also retain experts to prepare line -item estimates to ensure you get all the money owed on your claim.
A trust account, or IOTA account is an account in which the law firm holds funds for a client. The funds maybe for future legal bills, expenses, or settlement funds that will be disbursed to clients or others on the client’s behalf, including the client’s legal fees. Trust funds are governed by the Florida Bar. Interest earned on a trust account goes to the Florida Bar, which helps fund legal aid and other programs as designated by the Florida Supreme Court.
A contingency retainer is a retainer used to hire an attorney in which you do not pay any upfront fees and the law firm only gets paid if you prevail. The fees will be a percentage of the amount collected. After the attorney fees are collected, the cost that were incurred by the attorney for representation is deducted. The Florida Bar – Rule 4-1.5 sets the parameters for contingency fee retainers. Before filing of an answer or demand for arbitration, the percentage is capped at 33 1/3% for any recovery up to $1 million; plus $30% of any portion of the recovery between $1 million and $2 million; plus 20% of ay portion of the recovery exceeding $2 million. After the filing of an answer or demand for arbitrators, or the expiration of the time period provided for such reply, the recovery cannot exceed 40% of any recovery up to $1 million; plus $30% of any portion of the recovery between $1 million and $2 million; plus 20% of any portion of the recovery exceeding $2 million.
Florida allows for policy holders to recovery attorney fees and cost against the insurance company if they prevail in a legal action. Florida Statutes §627.428 and §627.70152 allows for only the policy holder to have the ability to recovery attorney fees. In the event the insurance company admits coverage but disputes the amount of the loss, then the policy holder must obtain at least 20 percent of the difference between the amount demanded in the NOI and the amount offered by the insurer. At that point, the policy holder may recover attorney fees on a pro-rata basis. If the recovery is at least 50% of the NOI difference, then the policy holder may recovery all attorney fees incurred. Attorney fees are calculated by the number of hours expended on the case multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate of the attorney who worked on the case.