Frequently Asked Questions

Answers from an Experienced Panama City Personal Injury Lawyers

Have you or a loved one just been hurt in a serious accident? Are you unsure what your legal options are or how you should best proceed to take action against those responsible? You're not alone. In fact, most injury victims are initially in the dark about what they can do to seek relief for their injury and their accumulating medical bills and lost wages.

Below, our knowledgeable Panama City personal injury attorneys have compiled some of the most common questions we hear from injury victims—and the answers they need to make informed decisions. Browse the questions below or request a free consultation with our experienced legal counselors today. With more than 65 years of legal experience, we know what it takes to navigate our clients to the best outcome possible.

We're ready to guide you during this difficult time. Call (850) 795-4979 to start the process.

WHO PAYS FOR MEDICAL BILLS AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT?

In Florida, if you own a vehicle that is registered in your name in Florida, then by law you are required to have Personal Injury Protection (commonly called PIP) and this takes care of the first $10,000 of your medical bills and lost wages after a car accident. This coverage applies and pays regardless of who is at fault. This is why you hear that Florida is called a “no-fault” state.

IF I WAS HURT AS A PASSENGER IN SOMEONE ELSE'S CAR, DO I HAVE TO NOTIFY MY INSURANCE COMPANY?

If you have any injuries and need medical attention then you should notify your insurance company. This will allow a PIP claim to be established so you can receive medical attention when you need it. If you were not injured and need no medical attention, then there would generally not be a reason to contact your own car insurance company.

SHOULD I TAKE PICTURES OF MY CAR AFTER AN ACCIDENT?

ABSOLUTELY! This is something we strongly, strongly recommend for several reasons. First, the damage to your car may become critical later in determining how the crash occurred, where the crash occurred, the speed at impact and a host of other issues. Pictures are easy, quick and cheap. In our opinion, there is simply no good reason not to get photographs. We recommend starting at the front of the car and just walking around it and take 12 good pictures. Imagine you are walking around a clock and take a photo at 12:00; 1:00; 2:00 and so forth all the way around the car. Take more pictures can be taken at the site of the damage.

SHOULD I TAKE PICTURE OF MY INJURY?

Same answer—ABSOLUTELY! Photos help establish the extent of your injury. They help tie the problems you are having to the wreck. They also become demonstrative evidence of the physical condition you were in following the crash. It will be your job to demonstrate your injuries and because the photos are easy, quick and cheap there is simply no reason not to document your injuries. The old saying a picture is worth 1,000 words still holds true.

WHO PAYS TO FIX MY CAR?

If the other driver was at-fault, then his/her Property Damage Liability (PD) should pay to fix your vehicle. If your car is worth (fair market value) $8,000 and the other driver has $10,000 in coverage then you should be fine. The problems come in when your car is worth $25,000, it is totaled, and the at-fault driver only has $10,000 in coverage. In that scenario, the way to make up the difference is with your collision coverage. This is a specific coverage that you purchase on your car insurance policy. Further, if you were at fault in the wreck, your collision would still pay to fix your car for you.

AM I ENTITLED TO A RENTAL CAR?

If the other driver was 100% at fault, then YES that driver’s insurance company should provide you a rental car for the period of time necessary to get your car fixed or if totaled until you receive your check for your car. If the insurance company does not immediately provide you with a rental car, then do not lose hope. The law entitles you to the loss of use of your vehicle which equals the cost of a rental car. You are entitled to this whether you rent a car or not. So if you can’t use your car for 10 days due to repairs, then demand $20 or $25 per day for your loss of use. You are entitled to this whether or not you rent a car because you still incurred the loss of use of your vehicle.

If the wreck was partially your fault, then expect problems in this area. This is because the other driver’s insurance company will have a defense to your claim (your own negligence). If the other driver has insufficient coverage for all the damage they caused, then you can also expect problems. This is because the insurance company is they don’t have enough money to pay for the property damage itself and as a result, they may be unwilling to furnish you with a rental car. In either of these scenarios, you are still protected if you purchased rental car coverage on your own car insurance policy.

SHOULD I GIVE THE INSURANCE COMPANY A TAPED STATEMENT?

We strongly recommend against this. Put simply, the insurance company and your interest are not the same after an accident. You want your bills paid. The insurance company would prefer to pay no claims if at possible. When claims are required, the insurance company wants to pay the smallest amount possible. You want your car fixed. The insurance company wants to pay the smallest amount possible. You want your future medical bills paid. The insurance company wants to pay the smallest amount possible.

Whatever your issue is, remember the insurance company wants to pay the smallest amount possible. As a result, you need some basic information about how to protect yourself because your words can come back to haunt you. Not because you were not truthful or did not do your best, you simply were an amateur playing with the pros.

HOW LONG WILL MY CASE LAST?

Generally, a case takes at least six to 18 months. There are several reasons why this is true. First, before you should even consider resolving your claim, you need to know how the injuries you sustained are going to affect you long term. With only two weeks of treatment, you probably won’t know whether your pain and problems are going to be permanent or not. Until you complete your medical care you will not know if you may need a surgery in the future, you will not know how much your medical bills are for all the treatment you will need. You will not know how the injuries are going to affect you on the job, with your family, and with your hobbies. All of these things are very important in evaluating before you resolve your case.

Now the exceptions: my injury occurred, I had surgery two days after the crash and the other driver only has $10,000 in coverage. In this case, it may not be necessary to wait another 6 months because your injuries may already warrant the other driver’s policy limits. Again, each case is different and naturally, there are always going to exceptions—especially in the area of law.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?

We ask 4 basic questions. One: Was the other party at fault or mostly at fault?

Two: Is your injury specific to a certain part of your body—broken arm, torn ligament in your knee—something that is readily identifiable? This is not always required, but it provides a better foundation for explaining your case to the insurance company.

Third: Did you seek medical attention soon after the accident? If the delay in seeking treatment was 10 days or greater, then do you have a very good reason why treatment was delayed?

Fourth: Does the other driver have the “right kind” of insurance and if not, do you have the “right kind” of insurance. The insurance questions are multiple and they are more than can be covered here. For more information on car insurance and what Florida requires and what the different types of coverage please download my book—The Ultimate Consumer Guide to Automobile Insurance in Florida.

HOW MUCH IS MY CLAIM WORTH?

There is no set number for the value of any particular case. Case value is affected by many different things:
  • How clear is it that the other person was at fault?
  • How much do your medical bills total?
  • How much do your lost wages total?
  • How much will your future medical bills and future lost wages total?
  • How has the injury affected your ability to work, play, sleep, run, dance, swim, ride, hunt, bowl, focus, study... this list is endless but what has changed in your life from before the wreck to after the wreck.
Once you know the answers to these questions, then the attorney can begin to place an appropriate range of values for your case.

HOW DO PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEYS GET PAID?

Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means the attorney does not charge you anything to start your case and will also most likely advance any costs necessary to pursue your case. In the event a recovery is made, and only when a recovery is made, the attorney will then receive a percentage of the amount of money recovery as attorney’s fees for his or her services.

The Florida Bar limits the amounts attorneys may charge for personal injury contingency fees in Florida. For case values less than one million dollars, the fees are limited to 33.3% if no lawsuit is filed; 40% if a lawsuit is filed and the defendant files an answer, and potentially an additional 5% if the case has to go on appeal for one reason or another. As with everything, there are some variances to the fees charged and they can be less, but this is a general overview.

CAN I CANCEL MY CONTINGENCY FEE CONTACT AFTER I SIGN?

The Florida Bar requires that each contingency fee be in writing and the contract must state that the client has three business days to cancel the contract. At Syfrett, Dykes & Furr, our first and foremost goal is to keep the client satisfied. As a result, if the client desires to leave for any reason and no recovery has been made or offered, the client’s file will be copied for them at no charge and the appropriate parties will be notified that we are no longer counsel on the case. Fortunately, this is a circumstance that occurs very rarely.

One of our goals is to educate our clients about the contingency fee contract, how the attorney’s fees and costs will be paid at the end of the case, and how long the process is expected to take. One of the main reasons for client dissatisfaction is they feel there is a lack of communication with their attorney. To improve client satisfaction, we start at the beginning by thoroughly discussing the case process and we also provide a written handout that gives our clients an overview of a typical personal injury case with a time frame for how their case will likely progress.

Have more questions? Ready to inquire about representation? Our firm is ready to assist you. Contact us today to request a free consultation.

Put Syfrett, Dykes & Furr on Your Side

    • Please enter your name.
    • This isn't a valid phone number.
      Please enter your phone number.
    • This isn't a valid email address.
      Please enter your email address.
    • Please make a selection.
    • Please make a selection.
    • Please enter a message.
Put Us On Your Side