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Our client’s accident occurred on March 11, 2020. He was a 25-year-old physics major who at the time worked at Publix and in a laboratory developing chemicals. Before the crash he had already taken the ASVAB exam and had plans to join the military like his brother. He was in a Publix service road entering a parking lot to go to work when another driver pulled Infront of him. The other driver claimed that a hedge in the parking lot was obstructing her view and that she never had a chance to see our driver until his car “collided” with her vehicle.
We sent a demand for settlement on March 09, 2021, about a year after the initial accident. The insurance carrier made an initial offer of $127,000. Based upon our client’s medical bills at the time and future medical care needs we declined this amount and told the adjuster that if they did not significantly increase their offer, we would file a lawsuit the next day.
The adjuster continued to focus on the fact that our client had a prior shoulder injury in a 2017 pool incident and refused to value the claim any higher because he felt that the car crash was not the cause of our client’s shoulder pain. We reminded the adjuster that under Florida law, a person is responsible for harms and losses of the aggravation of a pre-existing condition. This means that even if our client had a prior shoulder injury, he never had the same level of pain in that shoulder until after the car crash.
He continued to debate us on this issue, so we prepared and drafted a formal complaint to be filed in the 12th Judicial Circuit for Sarasota County Florida. The complaint was filed on April 12, 2022 (approximately 13 months after the accident). The insurance company quickly retained one of the most experienced and biggest defense firms in the state of Florida.
Trial – Discovery Phase
During this phase, each side quickly went about taking depositions of key witnesses in the case. The defense took the depositions of our client and his employers. We took depositions of the defendant driver. It became clear from these depositions that the defense would deny responsibility whatsoever for causing the accident. They also felt that our client’s injuries were greatly exaggerated. On the other hand, the employers for our client both testified that he was a very dependable and hardworker. One of his employers stated that he had never seen our client have any type of shoulder or neck pain while he worked at the company for two years prior to the car crash. He said the did in fact notice that our client required the use of a sling on his shoulder and was not able to help operate machinery at the laboratory or engage in rudimentary tasks like picking up lab supply shipments that had to be delegated to other employees.
Selecting Trial Date – July 2023
We also met and conferred with opposing counsel and choose the soonest trial date we could get. The Supreme Court of Florida has held that 14-months after the date of filing of a lawsuit is a reasonable time frame. Therefore, we selected July of 2023 for the trial date. At this time, the defense requested to have a mediation. A mediation is a process where a neutral third party – usually a former trial attorney with significant experience – listens to the arguments of both sides and then makes recommendations on settlement. The defense selected a mediator on the east coast of Florida who told my dad and I that we were misevaluating the case and asking for way too much money. He cited the fact that the car collision had low property damage, liability was contested, and the medical bills were much higher than they should be. Ultimately, we recommended our client turn down the $250,000 final offer made at mediation and luckily, he trusted in our counsel.
As the July trial date approached, Defense counsel requested a trial continuance and set a hearing with the judge. At that point it was clear that our case would not even get to be presented at trial in July because the local court was so behind on its case law. The case was moved to December of 2023.
In September, Defense took the deposition of our life-care planning expert, a physician and physiatrist, who we hired to give expert testimony in our case at trial. In this doctor’s opinion, our client would need within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, $1.7 million in future medical treatment on top of the $289,000 in past medical bills he had accrued. His testimony was rock solid because he was one of the top experts in the field across the state of Florida. We had paid this expert over $9,000 dollars of our own money to ensure that we got the best of the best for trial. Defense at this point suggested a second mediation with a different mediator. They agreed to use a well-respected mediator in Sarasota County.
At the second mediation we thoroughly prepared the case as if our life depended on a successful outcome in anticipation of the eventual trial. We tailored classic arguments to the facts of our client’s case.
After six hours of intense negotiations, the defense ultimately agreed to pay $575,000 to resolve this matter. This was a great result for our client who would have risked a verdict of 0$ based upon juries having a hard time agreeing that small impact collisions can result in severe harms and losses to injured persons. We felt that our client’s stellar work ethic and character was a big component of this offer.
Tom Harris, Florida Injury Attorney, has over 39 years of experience, including 17 years of defending insurance companies before reinventing his law practice to represent injured people as a personal injury attorney.
Kyle Harris is a Florida licensed attorney who joined the family practice after starting his career as a licensed attorney in California