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Wife rear ended someone. Other party hired a lawyer. What to do next?

Discussion in 'Auto Accidents, Injuries' started by Jack Taylor, Dec 13, 2019.

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  1. Jack Taylor

    Jack Taylor Law Topic Starter New Member

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    A few months ago, my wife was in an automobile accident here in Florida in which she rear-ended a car with our Chevy Express van. Both of our names were on the title. Fortunately, at least from the looks of things at the accident scene, no one was seriously injured. There were a total of three cars involved in the accident. I understand Florida is a ‘no fault’ state, but my wife was obviously the at-fault driver.

    After the rear-ending the lady she rear-ended got out of her car, walked over to my wife who was in a confused state still sitting in her driver’s’ seat. She walked normally to my wife’s window, stood there and then spoke normally with my wife. But shortly thereafter she began to cry probably due to the shock of the situation.

    A few weeks ago we learned from our insurance company that the driver whom my wife rear-ended hired an attorney, and just yesterday we heard from our insurance company that “the value of the bodily injury claim(s) of relating to XXXXXX may exceed the limits under (our) policy.” The limit we have at the insurance company’s suggestion is $50,000.

    Our insurance company also stated we have the right, if desired “to hire an attorney of (our) own choosing and expense for advice and counsel… (we) face personal exposure for liability for any damages above (our) insurance protection…a jury could determine that (we) are liable for all or a part of medical bills incurred to date, any future medical bills, any wages lost in the past or in the future as a result of the injuries from the accident, as well as any compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life…but we will make every effort to settle this case within your insurance coverage in exchange for a full and final release of all claims,” etc.

    We are broke. We have nothing. I am a father of four and the soul breadwinner for our family of six. The only items we have one might consider assets are our 17-year-old Ford Taurus and my job, a job I am struggling to keep with my worsening young onset of Parkinson’s disease. My wife has not worked for years, at first to stay home with our autistic child, and more recently because of her disabling COPD and near deafness from a worsening hearing problem. This past March she was hospitalized with flu and pneumonia and nearly died.

    I was laid off from my job of 18 years at the end of 2015. After that, my Parkinson’s worsened, and my wife’s health declined. Because of this we relocated to Florida since our doctors thought the warmer climate would be good for our health. But, I did not feel up to working with my Parkinson’s symptoms, and neither did my wife, so neither of us earned any income for around a year and a half. We quickly blew through the proceeds from the sale of our home, my severance pay, my 401K, any other funds we had and used pretty much all the credit we had just to survive. Eventually we were on “food stamps” and Medicaid and going to a local pantry for the poor for some of the basic necessities. I made a sign to go out in the streets begging at one point, although I did not end up using it. Ultimately, because of all of this, we are $40K-$50K in debt, and a huge chunk of what I make goes towards those bills, along with thousand of dollars in hospital bills.

    But now, I have been feeling a little better and working again, trying to dig us out of a massive hole knowing I will become too disabled to work eventually (although I have no idea how we would survive on disability either), and then this happens.

    So, what all could happen to us here in this situation in Florida, and what if anything, can we do to protect ourselves, e.g. my income, from this legally?
  2. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    The reality is that given your limited assets and income the other driver may be willing to settle for policy limits. If your insurance company negotiates that then you've nothing more to worry about with regard to the other driver's claims. If the insurance company fails to get an agreement to settle for policy limits and you get sued then you may want to at least get an initial consult with a lawyer about what do with the lawsuit.
    hrforme likes this.
  3. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    The determination of liability (as in fault) can only be determined after trail in a court of law.
    Despite persistent public belief, fault is never determined by the police, who issue citations after the incident has occurred.

    It might behoove to avoid using the word "fault" anytime you discuss the "incident".

    I suggest you do nothing about this that you haven't already done.

    The matter is in the hands of your insurer.

    Please allow your insurer to do that which you are paying them to do, protect your interests.

    To do that, don't discuss this matter with anyone but your insurer and the lawyers it hires on your behalf.

    There are existing state and federal laws that protect you from being financially destroyed by matters of this moment.

    I could type endlessly about them, just accept my representation that you are insulated from destruction.

    Stay in contact with your insurer, follow their instructions and use your right to remain SILENT (except to the insurer and the legal counsel they will provide).

    Focus on your health issues, your family, and your future.

    As the ancient Persians said, "This too shall pass."

    As in says in The Bible, Acts 2:21: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

    Bonne chance, mon ami. Good luck, my friend.
  4. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Agree with Tax Counsel that the other party's attorney is likely to learn about your financial situation rather quickly and settle within your policy limit for a quick payday.

    It's only been a couple of months so my guess is that the claim is just in the demand stage and not the lawsuit stage.

    What you should also know is that, in addition to proving fault (almost a given) and damages (iffy), for a plaintiff in Florida to collect any money for an injury, the plaintiff must also prove the following (I quote from Florida Statute 627.737):

    Statutes & Constitution :View Statutes : Online Sunshine

    That is a significant hurdle for a plaintiff to surmount and is the first step in any Florida injury lawsuit before fault and damages can be addressed.

    If the plaintiff can't convince the court that the injury surpasses the statutory threshold then there is no case.

    A plaintiff has 3 years to file a lawsuit so you probably don't have to lose any sleep over this for a long, long time.
  5. flyingron

    flyingron Active Member

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    In fact, Florida is somewhat unique in requiring the policy limits to be disclosed in such actions. Oddly, these cases settle for exactly that amount.

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