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FFP PODCAST: EPISODE 6 – The Factors of a Personal Injury Case

Interviewer: You’re listening to the Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano podcast. Today, we have on a partner and founder of Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, Jack Fine. Jack, how are we doing?

Jack: We’re doing great today.

Interviewer: When someone decides to hire Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano and they come in for that first meeting at the office, what are you particularly looking for in the client, in the case, you know, to help them out and give them the proper advice moving forward?

Jack: Well, it’s always important to listen to what the client has to say. And one of the things I omitted in my discussion of what to look for in a lawyer is a lawyer who will listen, and in fact, you want a lawyer who will listen. Some local firms don’t have lawyers representing people who’ve been involved in crashes, they have case managers and until the case moves to a litigation posture, it’s a case manager who handles the case, not a lawyer. We don’t do it that way, we have the lawyers from beginning to end handling your case.

And what the lawyers in our firm will look at are several different factors or variables to size up a case. And I’ll go through them fairly quickly, it’s not an exhaustive list. First, we look at liability. If it’s a car crash case, we look at the accident report, we see if the other driver is cited or if there’s a good argument for liability on the part of the other driver.

Liability means fault. Unless we’re dealing with a product that is defective, we need to establish fault on the part of the other party. If it’s a defective product, it’s just a defective product and you don’t need to show negligence per se. But in a car crash, you need to show fault on the part of the other party, it’s usually determined by the accident report, although that is not absolutely definitive.

We also look at the impact, is it a little impact or a big impact? Obviously, if the impact is large, if the impact is dramatic as shown by photographs or video, it helps in making the case a better, stronger case. That doesn’t mean that a low impact case cannot be pursued. In a recent trial, it was my wife’s trial, there was a relatively small dent in the trailer hitch of my client’s car. We hired an expert in that case to testify, to examine the trailer hitch and testify that this trailer hitch was made of really high-grade steel. And that small dent in the trailer hitch represented a tremendous amount of force.

That expert came to trial, we paid him more than $20,000 because he did a fairly exhaustive analysis and a $10,000 offer on the part of the national known insurance company resulted in an over $400,000 verdict largely because of the case that the trial lawyers, and this was Cherie Fine and Julie Fine put together. They did a great job. It was Cherie’s idea to hire this expert and he was able to explain to the jury that what appeared to be a low impact was actually a significant impact. They disassembled the trailer hitch, brought it into court on a dolly, and the jury was really able to see the heavy gauge steel and returned an appropriate verdict far in excess of what was offered by the insurance company. Along with the liability and the impact, of course, we look at the policy limits. We look at how much money is there in the policy? This can include both the bodily injury liability coverage of the wrongdoer or the defendant and the UM coverage in your policy if you have had the foresight to buy underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage.

We have had cases where we were able to exceed the policy limits and make recoveries for various technical reasons and through good work of the lawyers but I’m not gonna go into the details of that here. We look at the objective evidence of injury. If there’s MRI or X-rays showing broken bones or fractures, it makes the case more valuable. We look at the lost wages and the medical bills, the more lost wages, if an individual can’t work, if he’s a high wage earner or a low wage earner, he’s still entitled to be compensated for what he has lost, what’s been taken from him. Those are significant variables that we look at in sizing up a case.

We look at the history, we look at the preexisting injuries to that body part, did he already have a herniated disc? Did he already have a leg that was damaged or injured? Those issues are important. And lastly, we look at something really boring, which is the subrogation and we advise the clients that we may have to pay back the health insurance company and that impacts the amount of money that the client is gonna get. So, those are the factors.

Once again, we look at liability impact, the policy limits, the objective evidence of injury, lost wages, medical bills, preexisting history, and any subrogation issues. And then we could give the client a very rough estimate of what his case is worth. But every case is different, you can’t size it up exactly at the initial appointment with the client. You can tell him about the strengths and weaknesses and how he can make the case better and what he shouldn’t do, what mistakes are out there to be avoided. And we try to give the best advice possible for the clients and hopefully they listen. We also give some medical suggestions if they don’t have a treating physician and we try and get the best results.

Interviewer: Someone gets hurt in our local greater Gainesville community and they’re looking for a lawyer, why should they hire, why should they call Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano?

Jack: There are many qualified lawyers so I hesitate to single us out but let me try and answer your question. First off, we have qualifications. We’re all graduates of the University of Florida. I don’t want to speak for the other lawyers but just summary of qualifications here on my part. I graduated with honors, I’ve been president of the local trial lawyers organization, I’ve taught at the law school for more than 25 years. And what I teach is actually how to try cases in court day in, day out in front of our local judges. So we are qualified and we are experienced. But more than that, we’re familiar with the community. Lawyers in our firm have served or are serving as officers of so many community organizations.

Cherie Fine, for instance, is on the board of the Humane Society. We support Woofstock which is the main fundraising drive for the Humane Society. We bring our dogs to work, I bicycle to work, I belong to the various cycling organizations both statewide and local. Cherie also is on the board of the University of Florida Foundation. She’s a Double Gator through and through. She has been president of the Friends of Music organization.

Now, this doesn’t all relate to personal injury cases but it relates to how we feel and what we know about others in our community. We enjoy being here, whether we’re tubing or swimming in the Itchetucknee River or kayaking on Lake Santa Fe or going to Gator football, basketball, volleyball games or other events, we’re part of the community, and it helps to have someone that you can talk to who’s familiar with the community, who’s familiar with the people in the community, who knows what it’s all about.

So, we’re qualified, we’re motivated, we’re here, we support local charitable endeavors and organizations, and we want to do what we can to better our community. And of course, we do that by both representing individual plaintiffs as hard as we can to get the best result possible and supporting worthwhile organizations in the community.