A Simple Miami Car Accident Case Gets Complicated

Charles Terek’s 2004 car accident case in Miami has taken one of the strangest legal journeys I have seen in more than 20 years of practicing law in Florida. From the record, it is unclear how the accident happened, though most likely he was rear-ended by the vehicle driven by Paul Pugliese, and that collision caused Mr. Terek to sustain a spinal surgery known as a percutaneous discectomy. ARVE Error: no video ID set The first unusual thing about this case is that Mr. Pugliese admitted to causing the accident, and he admitted that Mr. Terek’s surgery was necessitated, or caused, by injuries Mr. Terek suffered in that accident. The orthopedic doctor hired by Mr. Pugliese himself examined Mr. Terek and confirmed his injuries. Dr. Stephen Wender opined that the surgery was in fact necessitated by the accident and that after the surgery Mr. Terek had reached what is commonly referred to as Maximum Medical Improvement or MMI. He relied in part on a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI), which confirmed no fractures but revealed one herniated disc, consistent with the surgical procedure. MRIs are the gold standard for diagnosing and proving spinal injuries in these types of accident cases. Leer este artículo en español MAXIMUM MEDICAL IMPROVEMENT (MMI) MMI is a key term in motor vehicle cases in Florida because it suggests that the plaintiff has crossed the magical threshold of having a permanent injury and therefore should be entitled to make a claim for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages, rather than just lost wages and medical bills. To read more about what PIP (Personal Injury Protection) and...

Accidents Caused by Police

As a Miami accident attorney, Uninsured Motorist Insurance is without question the most important insurance drivers can buy in Florida to protect them and their families in the event they are involved in a traffic accident. UM is designed and sold to pay people who have been involved in traffic accidents either in cars, trucks, on bicycles, or even crossing the street, when the driver who caused the accident either has no insurance or not enough to compensate the victim. Many have asked Miami accident attorneys, “What happens when a car crash is caused by a police officer, sheriff, or another person acting in an official capacity as a governmental agent or employee?” Recently, a Florida man, Scott Christopher Siergiej, was severely injured in his back and ankle while he was working, when a motorcycle operated by a Lee County Florida Sheriff collided with him. Fortunately—or not—Mr. Siergiej had purchased Uninsured Motorist coverage from State Farm. Lee County, like virtually every other governmental agency in Florida, enjoys protection from legal liability based upon the ancient legal concept known as sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is derived from our legal ancestors in England at a time when the Crown or King could commit all sorts of atrocities upon their subjects without consequence. Somehow this medieval legal concept has survived the test of time and arguments by personal injury lawyers in Miami, and it continues to provide caps on damages and other legal protections when negligence is committed by public schools, hospitals like Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Broward Hospital District, the Department of Children and Family Services, Florida’s Department of Transportation,...

Florida Truck Accident Attorney: The Best Way to Ruin Your Case

Perhaps the most frequent question I am asked by people making in personal injury claims in Florida is, “What should I say” to my doctors or to the defense lawyer about my alleged injury? And my answer has and will always be–“Just tell the truth?” I have seen on an almost daily basis clients trying to “help” maximize the value of their cases with their perceptions of what could or would make their case more valuable.   SHOULD I WORK AFTER AN ACCIDENT? ARVE Error: no video ID set Should I work? Yes, if you can. Injury claimants seem to think a jury or adjuster might magically believe their cases are much more valuable if they miss time from work. However, after more than 20 years of standing in front of juries across the State of Florida, I believe no jury will award or reward plaintiffs for lost wages simply because they did not work-rather than could not work. Unless a doctor says “Don’t work” or the injury is so obviously significant that nobody could reasonably expect one could work with the injury, I encourage my clients to get back to their jobs–or at least try. Juries, I have found, like to help those who cannot help themselves, but rarely reward those who are sitting at home waiting for a verdict. This is why I tell most of my clients to get up and try to get back to your normal life–whatever that may have been before the accident. WHAT SHOULD I TELL MY DOCTORS? Very rarely have I represented claimants who, for example before a truck accident in...

Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Law

Did you know that if you own a car, truck, or motorcycle in Florida and decide one day to hand the keys to a friend, employee, or even your own child, you are legally responsible for whatever injury the driver causes–even if you are not in the car at the time? This is called the doctrine of dangerous instrumentality, and it is based on ancient common law in England recognizing that careless drivers of cars and trucks are capable of causing carnage, and often vehicle owners have more adequate financial resources than the actual drivers. ARVE Error: no video ID set Of course, this law applies to private owners, not rental car companies or lessors of vehicles. Florida has an entirely different set of laws that allow those corporate giants essentially to escape responsibility when a driver of one of their vehicles injures or kills somebody. I recently wrote about this unfair law in my blog for the Huffington Post: “Why Florida’s Governor Wants Tourists to Rent Cars.” The tragic deaths of Lickson Gabriel and his passenger Luis Valentin illustrate how Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine should work. The accident happened in the early hours of the morning when Lickson, driving his father’s car, ran a red light and hit a semi-tractor trailer truck. Wanda Roman, the mother of Luis Valentin, sued the Personal Representative of Lickson Gabriel’s Estate as well as Lickson’s father, Lesore Gabriel, under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine, as the car’s owner. She settled her claim against Lesore for $10,000 and a document known as a release. That specific release discharged Lesore Gabriel of any responsibility, along...

Why PI Attorneys Refer Clients to Doctors

Injury lawyers in Florida refer their clients to “certain” doctors for a variety of reasons. Some lawyers have ongoing relationships with orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, radiologists and neurologist. For example, when a client comes to our Miami law office for a slip and fall, car or truck accident, we recommend healthcare providers we know and trust. We do this because it is important that our client receive the proper diagnosis and treatment. In addition, we try to work with doctors who are ready, willing and able to participate and testify if needed. Not surprisingly, most Florida doctors want nothing to do with a patient’s personal injury claim. Often a client will call their own primary care doctors after an accident, only to be told that the doctor “does not treat personal injuries.” Perhaps, the doctor knows that accident injury claims result in a greater scrutiny of medical records and bills. They also know that there is a high probability they will be subpoenaed to testify at a deposition or trial. Testifying can play havoc on a doctor’s busy schedule; keeping them out of their office or off the golf course for a day. ARVE Error: no video ID set There are also some Florida doctors and “accident clinics” that love personal injury cases. They have their entire practice set up to process insurance claims. Most of these accident clinics provide medical service on what is commonly referred to as a Letter of Protection, or LOP. An LOP is a contract between the health care provider, patient and lawyer promising that the doctor will get paid for all treatment, testing and...

5 Reasons Why You Really Need a Lawyer After An Accident

Do you really need to hire a lawyer after a Florida car accident? I get asked that question a lot. And the answer is; yes, regardless of the circumstances. Here are five reasons why: 1. It may not be as simple as it looks. All car accidents and injuries are different; but In order to fully evaluate each specific case, you need to consult with a lawyer. As a Miami lawyer that sues for car accident insurance settlements I recommend that if you are seriously hurt in a car, truck or motorcycle accident to hire a lawyer before talking with an insurance claims adjuster. 2. You get the benefits not some clinic. In South Florida, I hear radio advertisements constantly trying to lure crash victims to some “accident clinic” promising benefits of up to $10,000. These ads are misleading and geared to accessing just PIP medical benefits rather than reimbursing claimants for lost wages. Even in small damage car crashes, those insured with PIP are eligible for lost income reimbursement. Most people simply do not know about this. The definition of Florida’s PIP requirements are buried deep in Florida’s Insurance Statute §627.736. Most are unaware that PIP pays sixty percent of any loss of gross income and loss of earning capacity. PIP’s lost wage benefits pay those who cannot work after a car, truck or motorcycle accident. The statute defines lost wage benefits as “disability benefits” and insurance companies are required to make payments every two week up to $10,000 or the remaining balance of PIP. 3. Death Benefits for the Family. Florida’s PIP law also requires the insurance...
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