Without question the biggest obstacle I face on a daily basis being a car accident lawyer in Miami is managing and operating my own law firm. I have written extensively about this challenge in my book “Make It Your Own Law Firm.” I have partnered with West Legal to conduct a live webinar on how to start your own law firm tomorrow.
I have found that since our economy has slowed down, “the game” has become increasingly difficult for all lawyers who battle on behalf of the injured against the increasingly fortified insurance defense industry.
Our accident lawyers in Miami are often contacted by clients that have legitimate claims, ranging from medical mistakes that cause a birth injury or spinal cord damage, to falling down while on a cruise ship. Unfortunately, the cost of litigating these kinds of cases make it almost impossible to accept cases where there is not a significant or permanent change in the quality of the injured person’s life.
For the typical Florida automobile accident law suit, a case has to be filed in the Circuit Court. If the accident happens in Miami, one would have to file the personal injury law suit in the Miami-Dade County Civil Court. This court operates on two levels: Circuit Civil and County Civil. The Circuit Civil level has jurisdiction for cases where the amount of damages is in excess of $15,000. The County Civil Court has two jurisdictions, Small Claims Court, where the damages can range from $.01 up to $5,000, and County Court where damages range from $5,000.01 to $15,000. Additionally, County Court is where most residential landlord/tenant actions are handled.
The State of Florida is divided up into twenty distinct Circuit Courts. The circuit where a particular Florida car accident law suit can or should be filed is dependent upon a number of complex factors such as where and when the accident happened as well as who and where the parties are. Each circuit has particular rules and regulations regarding the way cases are processed. In addition, each circuit has its own fees that are charged for filing particular pleadings and documents . For instance, the filing fees for a car accident law suit in Miami is $401.00. The cost for filing a Petition to Extend the Statute of Limitations in a Medical Malpractice Case is $42.00. By contrast, the filing fees for the same car wreck case in Monroe County is $400.00 and the cost to extend the Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations 90 days is $42.00.
Filing the complaint in a car accident law suit is just the beginning. Most cases require multiple depositions, retaining experts witnesses, deposition transcripts, medical records, photographic evidence, travel costs and parking. The average car accident case can cost $25,000 to $50,000, not to mention several grueling years of litigation simply to get a case to a jury trial; without the lawyer being paid a penny. Most Florida personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis meaning they do not get paid until they win and collect. This constellation of factors make most “small injury cases” financially unsound investments for any lawyer representing the injured, especially when they are battling highly funded insurance defense lawyers with unlimited resources.
Accordingly, as times get tougher for those injured and the devoted lawyers who represent them, I fear that many who have sustained minor, non-life-changing injuries will simply go uncompensated and unrepresented. And once Florida’s new PIP insurance law goes into place in January 2013, it appears many will also go without medical treatment.