I Don’t Care If You Got A Ticket

 

Many law firms will not accept a client in a personal injury case if the potential client received a ticket in a crash. That is because those law firms would rather get the “best” client. That means they want to represent the other driver if possible, and if they accept you as a client, then they must turn down who they think is the better client.

But what do tickets mean in a personal injury lawsuit?

Absolutely nothing.

Police officers usually do not see crashes happen. They write tickets after the crash occurred. Tickets are not admissible evidence in court because they are what are called “hearsay.” That means that a jury will never learn that you received a ticket except in very few circumstances.

Police officers do not determine who is at-fault in a crash. The only thing a police officer tries to do is determine if somebody broke the law, and judges often disagree with police officers over tickets. Tickets get dismissed very days in Florida.

Even a claims adjuster’s does not mean anything in a personal injury lawsuit. The claims adjuster did not witness the crash and often relies upon hearsay to make a liability decision. I’ve beaten claims adjusters’ opinions before.

Juries decide who is at fault in a personal injury lawsuit, and they determined that based upon the testimony and evidence that both sides present. Tickets do not matter. Police officers’ opinions do not matter claims adjusters’ opinions do not matter. Tickets do not matter.

The other issue is that for that is what is called a “pure comparative negligence state.” What that means is crashes are not 100% the fault of one party of another, and you can recover the amount of your damages for which you are not at fault. Here is how that works:

Driver A and Driver B get into a crash together. Driver A is 75% at-fault. Driver B is 25% at-fault. If Driver A and Driver B both have one dollar in damages each, then Driver A can collect $0.25 of his one dollar and damages, and to Driver B can collect $0.75 of her damages.

Guess who want firms would rather represent? Driver B, of course.

I do not agree with that philosophy. I think that everybody should be able to recover as much of their damages as possible. Denying representation a potential client because he received a traffic ticket does not set well with me. But that is how many large law firms operate.

I do not mind accepting cases that other law firms have turned down just because the client is received a traffic ticket. I do not mind it at all. I love it when I get a great result for a client that other law firms didn’t want.

That makes my day.

Making Clients’ Lives Easier

The most common complaint clients make to the Florida Bar about attorneys is a lack of communication about what’s going on in their cases.

Clients are sometimes anxious about their cases. The process is new to them and lawyer advertising doesn’t do a good job of explaining how the legal system works.

Lawyers should call their clients once a month to give them updates. Sometimes clients want information NOW though. I get that. I’ve been there myself. It’s stressful.

My way of helping clients deal with that stress is to use a Cloud-based case management system called MyCase.

MyCase allows my clients to see and read every document I send to an insurance company, adjuster, or the other side’s attorney.

My clients can also see and read every motion I file with the court and every motion the other side files.

All my clients need to do if they want to know what’s going on with their cases is sign onto MyCase. They can even download documents if they want copies for themselves.

My clients can also message me 24/7 using MyCase’s encrypted messaging tool.

Want to know your next court date? When you must respond to discovery requests? It’s all in MyCase’s Calendar section.

Most “traditional” law firms use PC-based case management systems like Client Profiles, Prevail, and others. I don’t like those systems. You need a real computer and Internet connection to use them and clients don’t get access to those systems. They also tend to be bloated with features most people don’t use.

That causes a lot of needless phone calls and questions. I believe in making things simple for my clients.

My clients and I can access MyCase from our cellphones if we want. I’ve sent clients documents and responded to their messages from the Bahamas. MyCase allows me to work on a client’s case from anywhere that has a cellular connection.

Sometimes all clients want is a little knowledge to make them feel better. I’ve used other software systems at other law firms, and no case management system has made my clients happier than MyCase.

–Chris

Can I Sue If The Other Driver Didn’t Have Insurance?

This is a frequent Avvo.com question. What typically happens is someone without bodily injury insurance hits someone who doesn't have uninsured motorist coverage. The person who was hit visits several attorneys, and they all tell her that they can't represent her because there's no way for the attorney to get a recovery. Maybe you're in that position right now. If you are, well, I'm sorry. I cannot help you either.

Law firms are businesses, too, just like any other business. Personal injury attorneys like me make our money off insurance companies, through either bodily injury or uninsured motorist coverage. If neither exists, then we won't touch your case. It's a bad investment.

So, can you sue the other party anyway?

You can sue, but our courts award judgements, not money, and it's up to you to collect on those judgements. Most people who carry only basic insurance are "judgement-proof." In other words, they have nothing, so you get nothing. Litigation isn't free, either. You'll need to pay the filing fee, the process server fees, expert witness fees, and a myriad of other costs. In the end, you might have a worthless judgement that you will never have any hope of collecting on unless the defendant wins the lottery. I wouldn't hold my breath hoping for that to occur.

Here's my advice: Take that money and buy insurance, and buy as much stacked uninsured motorist coverage as you can afford. You'll be glad you did it the next time some other uninsured driver hurts you.

Why You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Imagine not being at-fault in a crash but having medical bills that can bankrupt you because the other driver did not have bodily injury liability coverage.

I've seen it happen far too many times in my nearly 15 years as a claims adjuster and attorney.

Approximately 25% of Florida drivers do not have any insurance coverage. Even those drivers who have insurance coverage often don't have bodily injury liability ("BI") coverage. That's because Florida doesn't require BI coverage to drive in this state. You could be stuck with enormous hospital bills and only your $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection ("PIP") to soften the financial blow, and $10K doesn't last long.

Some people do have BI coverage, but usually, it's at very low amounts of $10K per person and $20K per crash. That's not much help either in many cases. I reviewed a client's hospital bill last night, and it was over $58,000 for his emergency room visit. My client didn't have any broken bones and did not require surgery.

Sadly, I wasn't shocked.

The client was somewhat fortunate that the other driver had $10K of BI coverage, but his $10K of PIP and the $10K of BI coverage really won't help much unless the hospital agrees to reduce or waive his bill. The chances of the hospital waiving his bill are very slim. I've been able to do it in the past, but there's no guarantee it will happen this time. As I tell my clients, those people don't work for me and I cannot force them to do anything. All I can do is ask nicely.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Buy as much uninsured motorist ("UM") coverage as you can afford. It's inexpensive protection.

Insurance companies don't want to sell it to you. That's because Florida is a risky place to drive and your chances of being injured in even a minor collision are very high.

Don't let an insurance agent talk you into not buying UM coverage. Buy as much as you can afford. You should also buy "stacked" UM coverage rather than non-stacked UM coverage even if you only own one vehicle. There are several advantages to stacked UM coverage that I'll discuss in another post.

Buy stacked UM coverage. Don't count on the other guy to protect you.

Be safe out there.

--Chris
DillinghamLaw.org