Release Agreements: Do I sign it? Do I need an attorney?

By Daniel F. Dickenson, Esq.
At some point in our lives, just about every person gets involved in a legal dispute or makes an insurance claim. Part of making, negotiating and settling a legal dispute or insurance claim is entering into a release agreement. Release agreements can contain a very broad variety of terms and conditions which limit your rights once you settle. It is important to first understand that a release agreement is a contract. The formation of a contract requires an offer, an acceptance of that offer and consideration. Consideration means something of value. In a typical release scenario, a defendant (or potential defendant) offers to pay money to a plaintiff/claimant. The plaintiff, in turn, may accept that offer. Each side provides consideration/something of value to the other. The plaintiff/claimant gets money. The defendant gets a release from liability. Offer, acceptance, consideration. Some release agreements are one page, others can be twenty pages or more. When an agreement is reached to settle a dispute, the parties need to memorialize their agreement with a writing. That is when a well written release is critical. Litigants or claimants must be very careful when navigating these issues. A release may forever bar you from future compensation. In fact, that is the purpose of a release agreement, but that might not be your understanding when you enter into a release. This is why you need a Florida lawyer to review your release. At the same time, an attorney can help you negotiate terms in the release that benefit you. Going forward it is always best to consult with a licensed Florida attorney on this subject. However, your best move is always to understand what you are settling for and who you are releasing. You must also understand the language of the document you are signing. If you are facing the prospect of signing a release agreement, I can help you maximize your recovery and protect you from future litigation. Please call 561-843-6627 for a free consultation.
Daniel F. Dickenson, Esq.
Daniel is a trial lawyer specializing in personal injury, insurance litigation, general civil litigation, and transactional matters in Boca Raton, Florida.

Personal Injury: First Steps. I was injured, now what do I do?

By Daniel F. Dickenson, Esq.
You've been in an accident. The type of accident, the type of injuries, and who or what caused the accident are all factors that can drastically affect the value of your claim. Fact is, there are certain things you cannot control, but there are some things you can control. Specifically, timely medical treatment. I often have personal injury clients that come in and have concerns about the nature of the accident, the potential defendant/insured, and getting police reports. Claimants worry about trying to prove their case before they have even fully realized the extent of their injuries. This part is the lawyer's job. As a Plaintiff, the best possible thing you can do is to seek immediate treatment and leave the rest to us. If you get into an accident, you must seek treatment immediately in order to avoid the "gap in treatment" defense that the insurance company will inevitably use. Essentially, if you get into an accident, the insurance company believes that if you do not get treatment immediately, you probably were not injured or not injured very badly. Oftentimes Plaintiffs come to me and say that they waited to go to the doctor until the next day, the weekend or the following week just to see if they would get over their injuries. This is one of the biggest mistakes that claimants make. After an accident, there is a period of time when the claimant will feel what seems like soreness. Despite the potential for bone, spinal or ligamentous injuries, the swelling that one initially feels often masks the real injury that they feel later. Once the initial swelling goes down, it stops masking the real injury. IF there is a significant injury, this is when the claimant may begin to feel numbness, tingling, stabbing pain, shoulder pain and soreness, among other symptoms. You do not want to discover that you have had a serious injury and need to make a claim against the other driver after not going to a doctor for a week. Not only can you put a PIP claim in jeopardy, by waiting, you are giving the insurance companies a built-in excuse to demand a discount on your claim. You best move is to get treatment first, then consult with a Florida personal injury lawyer.
Daniel F. Dickenson, Esq. Daniel is a trial lawyer specializing in personal injury, insurance litigation, general civil litigation, and transactional matters in Boca Raton, Florida.  

Homeowners Property Damage Claims

By Daniel F. Dickenson, Esq.
With Hurricane Ian hitting the west coast of Florida, now is the time when Floridians should be examining their homeowners policies and making sure they are prepared in the event of a major storm. However, homeowners' claims in Florida are not only due to hurricanes or windstorm events. In fact, most homeowners' claims are not. Often, homeowners are the victims of lightning strikes, water intrusion, burst pipes, leaking air conditioners, and a number of other potential perils. When the Homeowner puts the insurer on notice of a claim, the insurance company will send a field adjuster to the property. The hope is that the insurer will create a reasonable estimate of the damages, accept coverage, and a check is issued without further discussion. Unfortunately, this is not what usually happens. When the settlement check is insufficient to cover all of the damages, the homeowner needs to consult with an attorney to learn the full extent of their rights. The insurance company is relying on many of the policy holders not making that phone call. Homeowners insurers in the State of Florida are held to the same standard as any other insurer. They have a duty to adjust claims in good faith. If they fail to follow any of a number of statutory rules which require good faith, they can be sued and attorneys fees can be payable under Florida Statute 627.428. The Statute provides as follows: 627.428 Attorney fees.— (1) Upon the rendition of a judgment or decree by any of the courts of this state against an insurer and in favor of any named or omnibus insured or the named beneficiary under a policy or contract executed by the insurer, the trial court or, in the event of an appeal in which the insured or beneficiary prevails, the appellate court shall adjudge or decree against the insurer and in favor of the insured or beneficiary a reasonable sum as fees or compensation for the insured’s or beneficiary’s attorney prosecuting the suit in which the recovery is had. In a suit arising under a residential or commercial property insurance policy, the amount of reasonable attorney fees shall be awarded only as provided in s. 57.105 or s. 627.70152, as applicable. Section 627.428 provides homeowners protection from against unscrupulous insurers. The leverage created by this statute allows property damage attorneys to more quickly and effectively resolve their clients' claims. Once the insurers see that you have a Florida licensed attorney, a legitimate claim and the willingness to proceed to a lawsuit, your claim is often taken much more seriously. Consult with a licensed Florida attorney on this subject to maximize your recovery and get your home repaired in a timely manner.
Daniel F. Dickenson, Esq. Daniel is a trial lawyer specializing in personal injury, insurance litigation, general civil litigation, and transactional matters in Boca Raton, Florida.

Civil Theft in Florida: A statute designed to help victims.

By Daniel F. Dickenson, Esq.
In my practice, I often find clients who have been the victims of theft of considerable sums of money. Often there are serious impediments to recovery such as a difficult to find perpetrators or uncollectible defendants. Frequently, I hear that the police are unwilling to pursue the perpetrators. I often hear second hand from clients that the police have told them that the theft is not a criminal matter, “it’s a civil matter.” Well, technically, it is both. In a criminal context, a theft is defined in Florida as follows: 812.014 Theft.— (1) A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently: (a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property. (b) Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property. Technically, it is a criminal matter as long as the above elements are met. Frequently, clients come to me very frustrated with the lack of action on behalf of law enforcement in pursuit of their hard earned money. The good news is that Florida’s Civil Theft Statute offers victims the opportunity to recover their money, their attorneys’ fees and potential treble (triple) damages. At the end of the day, most clients just want their money back and the Civil Theft Statute offers them the ability to do so. The statute reads as follows: 772.11 Civil remedy for theft or exploitation.— (1) Any person who proves by clear and convincing evidence that he or she has been injured in any fashion by reason of any violation of ss. 812.012-812.037 or s. 825.103(1) has a cause of action for threefold the actual damages sustained and, in any such action, is entitled to minimum damages in the amount of $200, and reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs in the trial and appellate courts. . . . The Civil Theft Statute can be tricky in litigation. If you do not succeed at trial on a claim of civil theft there is a possibility that the defendant can recover their attorneys fees against you, the plaintiff. This is why you need a Florida lawyer to navigate you through this type of litigation and help you use Florida’s Civil Theft Statute to obtain justice.
Daniel F. Dickenson, Esq. Daniel is a trial lawyer specializing in personal injury, insurance litigation, general civil litigation, and transactional matters in Boca Raton, Florida.
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