111 N Belcher Road, Ste 204, Clearwater, Florida 33765

111 N Belcher Road, Ste 204, Clearwater, Florida 33765. mikelygnos@gmail.com

Personal Injury

Many people who are involved in accidents do not know all their rights under the law. Mr. Lygnos will advise you regarding the feasibility of pursuing a claim for damages. This office represents individuals injured as a result of:

Automobile Accidents

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims

Trucking Accidents

Slip and Fall

Motorcycle/Bicycle Accidents

Dog Bites

Assault & Battery

Burn Injuries

Wrongful Death

Premises Liability

Industrial Exposure & Injuries

What should you do if you have been involved in an accident?

Under our system of laws, monetary compensation is next best way to make accident victims whole. Some people are uncomfortable with this concept, and trial attorneys are unfairly attacked in the media over money damages, but when it is your life that was disrupted, when it is your health that was taken from you unjustly, when it is you and your family doing without and suffering by no fault of your own, then you tend to understand the important function that people like Mr. Lygnos, personal injury attorneys, serve. The insurance lobby demonizes the personal injury suit as the ruin of our country. But tort reform has not brought down your medical or insurance costs. You deserve to be compensated. How else can you recover your property that was damaged, your lost wages, or all of the pain and suffering you have endured through no fault of your own? What about the impact that your injuries have had on your life, your family, your friends?

Clearwater, Florida Car Accident Lawyer

Personal Injury Claims: What you need to know

Whether you have been injured in an automobile / motorcycle / trucking accident, a slip and fall, an airplane or train accident, an assault, or any other kind of incident, nothing can be more frustrating than dealing with all of the procedural issues that come up – on top of trying to heal from your injuries. Some people may be reluctant to seek help from an attorney because they don’t want to be seen as litigious or greedy. But there are some very simple truths you about which you should be aware:

1. The insurance company is trying to pay you the lowest amount possible. If you have any experience dealing with an insurance adjuster, you have probably already figured this out. First, let’s look at the obvious (but often overlooked). This person’s title is “adjuster.” So what are they charged with adjusting? Your claim, downward. Adjusters do not get promoted for paying more than a claim is worth, or for repeatedly paying what a claim is worth. Their job is to “adjust” your claim to the lowest possible amount you will accept.

2. Many injury victims think it will be easier, quicker, and cheaper to handle their own claim. In their mind, they can’t justify paying an attorney a fee from the proceeds of the settlement or verdict. They think the fee will reduce the net amount they are receive for their claim. In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

3. An insurance adjuster will usually not take your claim seriously if you are not represented by an attorney. They have handled thousands of claims, and will often take advantage of those who have never negotiated a claim. An adjuster often will believe that if you didn’t think your claim was serious enough to hire an attorney, then why should he or she view your claim as being serious.

4. Your Insurance Adjusters' job is to pay you less on your claim. Not only is the adjuster’s job to pay you as little as possible, but there is also a collection agent, or a lien holder’s representative, whose job is to try to have you pay as much as possible for the medical bills, even if you had a policy of auto or health insurance in place at the time of the incident. With these two professionals “working” on your claim, are you qualified to look out for your own interests?

5. The persons that injured you will not, in most cases, be financially destroyed if you are paid full value on your claim. Unless the conduct causing the injury was reckless (e.g., drunk driver) or intentional (e.g., an assault) many personal injury victims are concerned that if they are paid full value on their claim that they will financially destroy the person who injured them. Many people, out of the kindness of their own hearts, are reluctant to enforce their rights because they don’t want to punish somebody for an accident. This is usually derived from two courses of thought: (1) they realize that they could have made the same mistake; and (2) they believe that insurance rates are already too high because of “greedy” Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs’ attorneys.

6. It is important to remember that people/companies have insurance policies to cover injuries to a third party – you. Secondly, there is a chance that you will be suffering long after all of the financial aspects of your claim have ended. Do you really want to feel sorry for the insurance company, whose sole purpose is to provide coverage for these types of events, especially knowing that they are trying to pay you as little as possible.

7. It is not a good strategy to find out what the insurance company is willing to pay, and then decide if you need an attorney. Many personal injury victims, in an attempt to “save money,” avoid conflict, and/or “choose the high road” will attempt to first resolve their claim on their own and then seek representation when they are dissatisfied with the insurance company’s offer. This is a very bad strategy for several reasons. First, the insurance adjuster is trained to use everything you say against you. This is why they will politely ask you if you mind if they record the telephone conversation.

8. You should not give a statement to an adjuster without advice from a lawyer. You should not give a statement to the other driver's insurance adjuster but you must give a statement to your own insurance adjuster, if they ask. They should wait until you can get a lawyer and allow your lawyer to record the conversation. Many of you will speak with an adjuster and not realize who the adjuster represents. When you allow adjusters to question you, they will then pick and choose what you say and twist it into saying that you were at fault or are recovering at a rapid rate and that you will be fully recovered in no time, regardless of whether or not this is true. They will also politely ask you to sign a release to obtain all of your medical records. They do not do this to see if there are other injuries for which they can provide compensation. Rather, they are looking for pre-existing conditions to use against you at a later date, in order to argue that your claim is worth less. Of course, they rarely tell you that you have the right to refuse to provide them with these records (at that time), but it is often written in the authorization/release in such a manner that most laypersons don’t see it, or understand it.

9. Most injury victims do not have enough experience or training to meaningfully represent themselves. You are negotiating something that is too personally close. It is said that “a lawyer representing himself has a fool for a client”, that’s why a smart lawyer will hire another smart lawyer to represent him when he has a legal claim. You may also be on medication or experiencing levels of pain that have an adverse impact on your judgment. Insurance adjusters are trained negotiators with respect to injury claims. You may be smart but they do this everyday, all day long. You are at a big disadvantage.

10. Speak with a Personal injury Attorney promptly If you do not see a medical professional who within 14 days documents your need for medical care following the crash, you can lose 75% of the PIP coverage you have paid for. If you speak with adjusters, give statements, sign releases, or even just wait and do nothing until you decide to seek representation, any mistakes you make in the negotiation will most likely hinder your attorney’s negotiation. Every time an adjuster speaks to a claimant or an attorney on the telephone, they are taking down notes, and “documenting the file.” Any perceived weakness, whether real or imagined, in your negotiation, will be used against you at a later date. Hiring an attorney after this process can minimize the damage, but it is not in your best interest to have your attorney enter into negotiations having to undo harm that you have done to your case.

11. You deserve to be compensated. In my decades of experience, I cannot recall one seriously injured person who was happy to have received even extremely large amounts of money for their injuries. Every last person would rather have their health back and would trade the money for it. How much money would be enough for you to sacrifice your leg or arm? Would you take a million dollars in return for your ability to walk? Ten million? Twenty million? Most agree no amount of money could adequately compensate them for losing their ability to walk.

Don’t Hurt Your Auto Accident Claim Value

We see it too often. A person is injured in a Clearwater Florida auto accident and has hurt the value of his or her claim by not reporting it, or not documenting it, not seeking medical attention until weeks later, or giving a statement to an insurance adjuster before speaking to an attorney, etc.,. Avoid making these common mistakes that will sabotage the settlement value of your claim.

1. Do not admit fault at the accident scene.
Avoid talking about fault or blame at the accident scene, unless it is you telling the police what the other driver did wrong. Do not admit fault, even partial fault to the other driver. For instance, you may think you might have been able to avoid the car making a left turn into your path, but under Florida law, that person is primarily at fault, and possibly 100% at fault.

2.Call the police after the accident. 
Although Florida law says you do not need to report accidents when there are no serious injuries or less than $500 in property damage, you should report the accident to the police at the scene and wait for them to arrive and write a Crash Report. The other driver may later deny it ever happened, or blame you, or give you a fake license or insurance information, so that you cannot recover your damages. We have heard that the other driver promises “to take care of the damages, without insurance” and then you cannot get them to honor the deal. One especially horrific situation was where a young fellow told an elderly woman that he would take her car and fix it up better than new at his body shop, and never returned her car. He did not own a body shop, and he was not overly concerned when she filed a crime report, because she lent him her car. It was returned with even more damage. The Crash Report is given great weight by the insurance company. So, you want to get one made up, if possible and:

3. Obtain a copy of the Crash Report as early as possible.
Many reports have some information wrong, and sometimes the mistake is important, so you want to carefully review the report as early as possible and if it is wrong, ask the police to fix it. Also, reviewing it will show why you need to:

4. Collect the names and contact information of witnesses and don’t lose it.
Police often list no witness on the crash report, or only one witness when there were many. If you are able, collect complete contact information of witnesses to the crash. Get their full address, phone number and email address. A bystander is a non-biased witness who will win your case for you.

5. Try to get pictures of the crash scene and the damages to the vehicles. 
If you are too hurt to walk around taking pictures, then do not do so. If you or someone with you, are waiting around for the police to arrive, you can take some pictures on your cell phone camera. Only do so, if it can be done safely. Hold the camera steady and take pictures of the road, the intersection, traffic light, road signs, skid marks, debris from the accident and damage to the cars from different angles. These will probably be the only pictures of the crash scene we will get. Take a lot of pictures and save them to a place other than your phone. Put the pictures on the “cloud” and print up copies of send them to friend’s email address. Even better send them to your lawyer early. The police will not take pictures.

6. Do not delay getting medical treatment.
You hope the injury is temporary and you’ll be fine, but you are not. It gets worse, and worse and after a month you finally go to a doctor. Now you have hurt your case in two ways. First, the insurance company will argue you probably hurt yourself after the accident and trying to put I on your insurance; or how bad could you have been hurt if you did not need to see a doctor for a month? Second, in Florida, your PIP (Personal Injury Protection) coverage will pay 80% of your medical bills up to $10,000 (subject to a deductible). But if a medical doctor, or otherwise qualified medical provider (not a chiropractor), does not certify you have emergency medical condition within 14 days of the crash, your PIP benefits are limited to $2,500. As unfair as it is, you lose your right to collect from your own PIP insurance you have paid for, when you wait too long to see a doctor.

7. Report every single injury to the doctor as soon as possible. 
Sometimes you do not notice much pain from an accident until days later. It could be adrenaline that masks the pain, or the injury has not become inflamed and swollen at first. Often, a person seeing the doctor is nervous and mentions the worst injury but forgets to mention other less severe injuries they sustained. It’s like triage, you deal with the worst problem first. You may not have noticed the other problem, or it did not seem so bad, but has gotten worse. Or what seemed like a minor neck soreness gets worse after a few weeks. Better to mention every injury at first, even the more minor ones and when the condition is resolved, that complaint can be withdrawn. When you mention new injuries, the insurance company will argue you are not being truthful, and you are exaggerating, but it is common. In fact, it is important that you realize that everything you say to the doctor is being written down, and it is not confidential like speaking to a priest, or lawyer, but will be disclosed to the insurance companies, if you have an insurance claim, so you need to:

8. Review the doctor’s reports as early as possible.
Especially the first visit. Doctors are human and they make mistakes same as everyone else (except lawyers). We have seen instances where a doctor left important complaints out of a report, or wrote down information that was inaccurate. We suggest you make a list of every pain and complaint you have, and make sure you slowly read them all to the doctor, so they can be written down. You should ask your attorney to get you a copy of the medical reports to review, or ask the doctor for the report, so you can insure they wrote everything down. It takes a week or more for the report to be typed, so be patient. Some medical providers are better than others at writing accurate and helpful reports, so it is advisable you:

9. Treat with a doctor who has experience with car crash injuries. 
Many family doctors do not treat crash victims because the the billing is different and they are not set up for it, there are special terms and rules, that they are not dealing with every day, and they are not expert in treating crash injuries. Treating a car crash victim is different. Car accident victims can have broken bones, cuts, bruises and "soft tissue" injuries. Soft tissue injuries include tendon, ligament, muscle and cartilage sprains, strains, tears, and bulging and herniated discs in the neck and back. They can also include pain syndromes and nerve damage. Identifying these types of injuries and treating them effectively involve special skills. Writing reports in this area also requires special knowledge and experience that some doctors are inexperienced with.

10. Use your car insurance coverage for treatment of car crash injuries. 
Any injuries that you suffer in an auto accident should be paid first under your auto insurance PIP benefits. You can also give your health insurance information to pay for any deductible or co-pays, but auto insurance coverage is primary after an accident and it should be used. If you go to the emergency room or doctor for a car crash injury, give them your PIP coverage information. Hopefully, you will have some additional Medpay coverage as well. Speak to us about the insurance coverages as early as possible.

11.DO NOT give a recorded statement to the other driver's insurance company.
Insurance adjusters are professionals who deal with car crashes every day and are skilled at asking questions. They will suggest that they will get your car repaired for you, if they can just get some information. This information they want cannot help you. But it can hurt your case. Your words can get twisted or some small inaccuracy can get highlighted to suggest you are being untruthful, which if believed, will harm your case. Also, watch for letters from the other insurance company asking for medical authorizations and statements of what happened. While you need to provide a PIP application to your own insurance company, you need not provide any written information to the other insurance company. Better to ask your own attorney to help you fill out any paperwork you receive.

12. Understand that insurance companies, even your own insurance company, make their money by lowering the value of, or denying, your claim. 
After you get into an automobile crash and the claim is reported, the insurance companies will assign adjusters to handle the various claims. Insurance companies are publicly held companies that are constantly working to improve their earnings so the stock price goes up. They are happy to collect your premiums every year, but when it comes time to pay a claim, they use every trick and argument to reduce the claim payment amount, paying a few thousand dollars less on a claim equates to many millions of dollars in savings in every state because of the thousands of claims filed every year. You need a professional helping you get the best settlement possible from the insurance company. You need a Florida attorney like Clearwater personal injury attorney Michael N. Lygnos.

13. DO NOT RUSH INTO A FAST SETTLEMENT. Wait a while before you agree to settle a case and sign a release of all liability claims.
As written above, some injuries do not show themselves right away.   Do not rush to settlement and never sign a Release of rights until you have spoken to a personal injury attorney.

14.Purchase sufficient auto accident insurance coverage. 
I bet you have “full coverage”? I say this because everyone says they have “full coverage” yet, cannot define it. Hint: No one knows what it means. In Florida, you are required to have PIP ($10,000 personal injury coverage for your own injuries) and either a small amount of property damage or liability coverage to pay for the other guy’s injuries you caused. With Emergency Room costs sometimes exceeding $10,000 for a small auto accident crash, (I have seen ER bills for a auto accident exceed $60,000, and many exceeding $20,000, all without admitting the patient), the PIP coverage does not cover much of your medical bills. You will be looking to the other guys liability insurance coverage to cover your damages. In Florida, about 25% of drivers are uninsured and a large number of those insured carry only small coverage limits, so there is a likelihood that you could be hurt by an uninsured driver, or one with just a small amount of insurance, that will not even cover your medical bills. It is highly recommended you carry UM/UM – Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists coverage in an amount as much as you can afford, at least $50,000, and if possible, much more. You should also carry Collision coverage, and GAP coverage, if you cannot afford to replace your auto or have a large loan balance outstanding.

15. Do not try to settle your case yourself.  
Insurance adjusters dream about dealing directly with injured people who have not hired an experienced personal injury attorney. The adjuster is polite and offer to help you out and get your car fixed and a settlement check to you quickly. They may tell you that "you don't need an attorney" and seem very nice. They know that they can settle your case with you for far less, usually thousands of dollars less, than if you had an attorney. Do not trust the other guys insurance adjuster. If you have a UM/UM claim, you should not trust that adjuster either, although that adjuster works for your insurance carrier. Most clients will do much better, even after paying attorney fees, if they use an experienced auto accident attorney, rather than settle their case alone. You just do not know what is important. You do not know what are the coverages. You do not know about typical settlement values and jury verdicts for similar claims. Leave medical issues to medical professionals, and leave legal issues to legal professionals.

16. Call an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your rights and options.
Michael Lygnos will speak with you over the phone for free. He will meet with you in his office about your case for free. Home or hospital room visits can be arranged under certain circumstances. We would like to help you, and would like to start working on your case immediately. We are ready to answer any additional questions you have. The consultation is free. There are no up-front costs or fees. In fact, we get paid only if we win a settlement or verdict on your behalf.