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This page does not take the place of legal advice from a lawyer in your state when you are confronted with a legal problem.

This page contains answers to common questions handled by our firm.


How Long do I have to file suit on a personal injury negligence action?

Under Florida's statute of limitations for personal injury cases, you have four years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit in Florida's civil courts (this law can be found in Florida Statutes Annotated section 95.11)

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How much will I have to pay to retain your firm?

We do not charge an up front fee for our services. We offer a FREE Consultation to determine if we will agree to accept your case prior to entering into a contingent fee agreement.  Such an arrangement is called a contingent fee. Under the lawyer's ethics rules, the lawyer and client must enter into a written fee agreement at the outset of the representation, stating what portion of the recovery the lawyer will receive. The fee is generally fixed at a percentage of the recovery.

In a contingency fee contract, you and your lawyer agree that the lawyer will not get paid any fees unless you win your case. However, you may be charged for costs such as court filing fees or expenses paid to witnesses. If you win, these expenses may be deducted from your share of the recovery.

The following limitations are contained in the Rules of Professional Conduct and only apply in cases involving personal injury or property damage that occurred as a result of negligent conduct such as auto accident or products liability cases. If you and your attorney settle your case before the filing of an answer or demand for appointment of arbitrators or, if no answer is filed or no demand for appointment of arbitrators is made, the expiration of the time period provided for such action, the fee is 33 1/3 percent of any recovery up to $1 million. · If the case is concluded at any point after the filing of an answer or demand for appointment of arbitrators or, if no answer is filed or no demand for appointment of arbitrators is made, the expiration of the time period provided for such action, through the entry of judgment, the maximum fee is 40 percent of any recovery up to $1 million. · In addition to the above fee, if you and your attorney settle your case for an amount between $1 million and $2 million, or if you win at trial and your recovery is between $1 and $2 million, the fee is 30 percent of the recovery between $1 million and $2 million. · In addition to the above fees, if you and your attorney settle your case for an amount above $2 million, or if you win at trial and your recovery is above $2 million, the fee is 20 percent of the recovery above $2 million. · At times, the person you are suing may admit that they are liable but may disagree with you on the amount of damages that they owe you. If all of the defendants admit liability when they file their answers and only want a trial on the question of damages, the fee is 33 1/3 percent of any recovery up to $1 million, 20 percent of any recovery between $1 and $2 million, and 15 percent of any recovery in excess of $2 million. · If after the trial or settlement your case is appealed or your attorney has to seek post-judgment relief or file an action to help you collect your judgment, an additional 5 percent of the recovery may be added to the fee.

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How to hold down legal costs.

Before meeting with your lawyer:
· Gather all information together in a logical order;
· Be sure you have current correct telephone numbers and addresses of interested parties and witnesses, if applicable;
· Prepare a written statement of your case and what you want done;
· Make photocopies of everything and offer originals or photocopies to your lawyer. Let your lawyer decide if originals or the copies are needed.

During your initial consultation:
· Present an overall view of your case.
· Share all relevant information, let your lawyer decide what is not in your favor. It is much better for your lawyer to know, rather than be surprised later.

 

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What insurance should I have?

PIP insurance: Personal injury protection insurance covers you regardless of whether you cause an accident (are "at-fault") − up to $10,000 minus your deductible amount. PIP is designed to reduce the necessity of suing for reimbursement of medical and related bills from auto accidents. PIP pays up to: ● 80 percent of reasonable medical expenses related to the accident. ● 60 percent of lost wages as a result of the accident. ● $5,000 for death benefits. For accidents that happen in Florida, PIP covers you, relatives who live in your home, certain passengers who do not own a vehicle, and others who drive your car with your permission. Pedestrians and bicyclists are also covered if they are Florida residents. PIP coverage also provides coverage for acts of violence against the policyholder while driving, including injuries sustained as a result of road rage or a carjacking. For accidents that happen outside Florida but inside the U.S. or Canada, PIP covers you and relatives who live in your home. In this case, you must be driving your own vehicle. People other than you or your relatives are not covered.

Uninsured/Underinsured insurance: It is vitally important to know that you are entitled to insurance to pay for your personal injury in cases where the party at fault does not have liability insurance. The cost for this coverage is very little as compared to the benefits to which you are entitled. We recommend to all our clients to obtain Uninsured/Underinsured coverage whenever they purchase an auto insurance policy. Uninsured motorist (UM) insurance pays if you, your passengers or family members are hit by someone who is "at fault" and does not have insurance, or has insufficient liability insurance to cover the total damages sustained by you. This applies whether you are riding in your car, riding in someone else's car or are struck by a car as a pedestrian. UM insurance also applies in a hit-and-run situation, or in a “phantom” vehicle accident. UM insurance pays for medical expenses, lost wages (beyond your PIP coverage), bodily injury, sickness, disease or death resulting from a motor vehicle accident that you and your passengers suffer.

Bodily injury liability insurance: Bodily injury liability coverage (BIL) is generally not required in Florida. However, if you have been convicted of a DUI, BIL is required for a period of three years after your license has been reinstated. If you were convicted on or before Oct. 1, 2007, you must get a minimum of $10,000 worth of coverage per person and $20,000 worth of coverage per incident. If you were convicted after Oct. 1, 2007, you must have $100,000 worth of coverage per person and $300,000 worth of coverage per accident. You also must have a minimum of $50,000 in property damage coverage. BIL pays for serious and permanent injury or death to others when your car is involved in an accident and the driver of your car is found to be at fault to some extent. This policy pays for injuries caused by you and relatives who live with you, even if they are driving someone else’s car. It also covers people who drive your car with your permission. BIL coverage applies only after PIP benefits are exhausted. With this type of policy, the insurance company also will pay for your legal defense if you are sued. 

Other types of insurance: Although it is not required by law, many drivers buy other types of insurance coverage in addition to the mandatory PIP and property damage liability insurance. Common optional coverage purchased includes: collision, comprehensive, medical payment, towing, rental reimbursement, and accidental death and dismemberment. Collision insurance pays for repairs to your car if it collides with another vehicle, crashes into an object or turns over. It pays regardless of who causes the accident. Collision insurance does not cover injuries to people or damage to the property of others. Comprehensive insurance pays for losses from incidents other than a collision. Examples would be fire, theft, windstorm, vandalism, flood or hitting an animal. Damage caused by falling objects is also covered under this policy. If you have comprehensive coverage, windshield replacement is the only claim for which you are not charged a deductible. Florida law requires this waiver to encourage drivers to immediately replace damaged windshields. You may be required to purchase comprehensive and collision insurance if your car is financed. However, it is illegal for the lending institution to require you to purchase insurance from a particular company or agent. . Medical payments insurance differs from bodily injury liability coverage in that it covers the medical expenses of you, members of your family and your passengers regardless of who is "at fault." Medical payment insurance covers medical expenses, beyond those covered by PIP, that result from accidental injury. Medical payment insurance applies whether the injury occurs in your car or someone else's car, or on the street as a pedestrian. Note that health insurance also covers medical expenses from auto accidents beyond those covered by PIP. Rental reimbursement coverage will permit you to be reimbursed for car rental if an accident leaves your car unable to be driven. If the other driver was "at fault," that driver's liability insurance coverage may reimburse you for renting a vehicle similar to your own. Accidental death and dismemberment insurance provides coverage, up to the limits of the policy, for accidental death or dismemberment in an auto accident, regardless of who is "at fault." It covers you and relatives who live in your home. Rental car companies often sell collision damage coverage that, although similar to insurance, is not insurance and does not fall under the regulatory authority of the Department of Financial Services. If you have collision coverage or property damage liability, you may be covered for damage to rental cars driven by you, depending on the terms and conditions of your policy. You also may be automatically covered by your credit card company if you used the card to rent the vehicle. Check your policy before you rent a car, and call your agent or credit card company if you have any doubts.

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Florida's Motor Vehicle Lemon Law

Chapter 681, Florida Statutes, provides remedies for consumers who purchase or lease new or demonstrator motor vehicles with “nonconformities” that have not been corrected by the manufacturer, or its authorized service agent (typically a dealership), “within a reasonable number of repair attempts.” A “nonconformity” under the Lemon Law is defined as a defect or condition that substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle, and can include problems such as faulty paint, leaks and electrical or mechanical problems.

In order to qualify under the Lemon Law, the vehicle in question must have been sold (or leased) in Florida. The purchase must not have been for resale purposes and must fall into one of the following categories: (1) the vehicle is used for personal, family or household purposes; (2) the vehicle was acquired from the first owner for the same purposes during the first owner’s first 24 months of ownership; or (3) the owner or lessee is a person who is entitled to enforce the warranty.

Two presumptions

The statute creates two presumptions for when a vehicle has not been repaired “within a reasonable number of attempts.” Under the first presumption, if a consumer has taken the vehicle to an authorized service agent for repair of the same nonconformity on at least three occasions, and the nonconformity has not been repaired, then the vehicle owner or lessee must notify the manufacturer of the nonconformity in writing, by registered or express mail, in order to give the manufacturer a final opportunity to repair the defect. The manufacturer has 10 days from receipt of the notification to direct the vehicle owner or lessee to a reasonably accessible repair facility. After the vehicle is delivered to the repair facility, the manufacturer has no more than 10 days to fix the nonconformity (45 days for a recreation vehicle). If the manufacturer fails to correct the nonconformity, the vehicle is presumed to be a lemon.

Under the second presumption, if a consumer’s vehicle is out of service for repair of one or more nonconformities for a cumulative total of 15 or more days, the vehicle owner or lessee must send written notification of this fact to the manufacturer by registered or express mail. After receipt of the notification, the manufacturer or authorized service agent (usually the dealer) must have at least one opportunity to inspect and to repair the vehicle. Once the vehicle is out of service by reason of repair of one or more nonconformities for a cumulative total of 30 days (60 days for a recreation vehicle), the vehicle is presumed to be a lemon.

The process

When providing the statutory written notification to the manufacturer, consumers should use the Motor Vehicle Defect Notification form found in the “Consumer Guide to the Florida Lemon Law” booklet. State law requires the selling/leasing dealer to provide this booklet to the consumer at the time the vehicle was acquired, or you can call the Lemon Law Hotline at (800) 321-5366 to request the guide. The form also can be found online at the Attorney General’s website, www.myfloridalegal.com/lemonlaw. External Link

In order to qualify for relief under the Lemon Law, there are certain steps that must be taken by the vehicle owner or lessee.

If the manufacturer has in effect a state-certified informal dispute settlement program, and the owner or lessee has been informed in writing how and where to file a claim with the program, then the owner or lessee must first seek relief through the certified informal dispute settlement program. This information is typically found in the vehicle’s warranty booklet or owner’s manual. If the manufacturer’s certified informal dispute settlement program does not decide the dispute within 40 days of the date the dispute is filed, or if the owner or lessee is not satisfied with the decision, the vehicle owner or lessee can then apply to the Florida Attorney General’s Office to have the dispute arbitrated by the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board. If the manufacturer does not have a state-certified informal dispute settlement program, the vehicle owner or lessee can apply directly to the Florida Attorney General’s Office to have the dispute arbitrated by the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board.

Vehicle owners or lessees can obtain a Request for Arbitration form from the Attorney General’s Office by calling the Lemon Law Hotline at (800) 321-5366, or (850) 414-3500. The form and additional information about the Lemon Law is also available online via the website of the Attorney General’s Office at www.myfloridalegal.com/lemonlaw. External Link

Once the request is approved for arbitration by the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board, the board will hear the dispute generally within 40 days. The consumer may ask for a continuance of the hearing, but this will waive the 40-day period. The consumer does not need to have a lawyer for this hearing but may do so if desired. If the board decides the case in favor of the vehicle owner or lessee, the manufacturer must comply with the decision within 40 days of its receipt.

Requests for arbitration MUST be filed with the manufacturer’s certified program (if applicable), or with the Attorney General’s Office if there is no certified program, within 60 days after the expiration of the Lemon Law Rights Period, which is two years after the date of delivery of the motor vehicle. Failure to timely file will result in rejection of the request.

Remedies

Remedies awarded to consumers through a manufacturer’s certified program will vary, and consumers should contact the particular program directly if they have questions. In cases heard by the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board, if a consumer’s vehicle is found to be a lemon, the manufacturer must either replace the vehicle or refund the full purchase price, depending upon the wishes of the vehicle owner/lessee. Both the refund and the replacement vehicle remedies include payment by the manufacturer of collateral charges (reasonable expenses wholly incurred as a result of the acquisition of the vehicle) and incidental charges (reasonable expenses directly caused by the substantial defects) incurred by the owner/lessee. An offset for use of the vehicle is charged to the owner/lessee based upon a formula contained in the statute.

In a refund remedy, the consumer will be paid only for nonfinanced collateral charges; financed collateral charges are paid off by the manufacturer through payoff of the loan. As applicable, the amount of any net trade-in allowance, cash down payment and periodic loan or lease payments will be included in a refund remedy. If the purchase was financed, the manufacturer must also pay the lien holder according to its interest (which is the balance due or payoff of the loan). If the vehicle was leased, the manufacturer must pay the lessor an amount specified by the statute. The lessor cannot charge the lessee an early termination penalty.

Before filing a civil action in court under the Lemon Law, consumers must attempt to seek relief through arbitration under Chapter 681, Florida Statutes.

Appeals and fees

Adverse decisions of the Arbitration Board can be appealed to the circuit court. A petition to appeal must be filed within 30 days of the receipt of the decision. If a decision of the board in favor of the owner or lessee is upheld by the circuit court, the owner or lessee can recover against the manufacturer the amount awarded by the board, plus attorneys’ fees, court costs and $25 per day for each day beyond the 40-day period following the manufacturer’s receipt of the board’s decision.

NOTE: If the motor vehicle is a recreational vehicle (RV), towable RVs are not covered by the Lemon Law, and the Lemon Law also does not cover the “living facilities” of motorized RVs (those portions of the RV designed, used or maintained primarily as living quarters). In addition, disputes must be submitted to the RV Mediation/Arbitration Program (not the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board), which is administered by DeMars and Associates (800-279-5343). The dispute will be submitted to mediation first, during which the parties can, with the help of a neutral mediator, agree to attempt to resolve both living facility complaints and mechanical complaints. If no resolution is reached during mediation, the dispute will be referred to arbitration. The arbitrator will not be the same person who served as the mediator. The arbitrator will be limited to consideration of matters that are covered by the Lemon Law, unless both parties agree in writing to expand the scope of the arbitration hearing to include claims involving the living facilities. The time limits for compliance with and appeal of arbitration awards are the same as those for decisions of the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board.

Final thoughts

The Lemon Law also provides that an owner or lessee can file an action in court to recover damages caused by a violation of the Lemon Law. If the owner or lessee wins such an action, recovery will include the amount of any pecuniary losses, litigation costs, reasonable attorney’s fees and other relief the judge decides is fair and just. However, a separate suit to collect only attorneys’ fees the consumer has incurred in the hearing before the board is not allowed.

Vehicles taken back by a manufacturer must have their vehicle titles marked to show that they had been repurchased under the Lemon Law. This fact must be disclosed to persons purchasing these vehicles after they have been repurchased by the manufacturer.

The statutory procedure for getting relief under the Lemon Law is technical, and there are strict time limits and other requirements. The time frames and dispute resolution programs differ if the motor vehicle is a recreational vehicle

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Biography Frank J. Morelli, Esq.

Rutgers University, B.A. Political Science, Pre-Law, Languages

Seton Hall University Law School, J.D. Juris Doctor

Post Graduate Courses: Eminent Domain From Start to Finish; Employee Handbooks & Policies; Commercial Landlord Tenant Law, Civil Trials; Real-World Strategies & Practical Tips; The Affordable Care Act's Impact on Injury Settlements; Practicing with Professionalism; Auto Injury Litigation From Start to Finish; Tax Exempt Organizations From Start to Finish; Water Policy Management and Environmental Contaminants; Environmental Law Studies and Litigation; Contract Litigation; Mobile Phone and PDA Forensics and Evidence; Employment Law; Immigration Law; Preserving Appellate Rights; Essential Trial Motions; Post-Verdict Motions; Appeal Preparation and Briefs; First Amendment: The First 90 Years; Carbon Trading: Allowances and Market Oversight; Redeveloping Redevelopment Law; Current Issues/Environmental Compliance; Real Estate Investment Trust Law and Procedure (REIT's)

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Recording Telephone Conversations Without Consent of the Parties

Anyone whose communications have been illegally intercepted may recover actual damages or $100 for each day of violation or $1,000, whichever is greater, along with punitive damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. Fla. Stat. ch. 934.10. Each recorded phone call made illegally that is a felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum $5,000.00 fine

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