Frequently Asked Questions


What exactly is a personal injury case?
Personal injury cases arise from such a wide range of circumstances that it's impossible to list them all here. Some of the most common are car accidents, slip and fall injuries, motorcycle accidents, and work injuries, but any time someone is harmed by the negligence of another person or company, there might be a personal injury claim. In fact, personal injury lawyers often handle negligence claims that don't actually involve personal injuries at all-negligent destruction of property, for instance. A personal injury lawyer will be able to tell you whether or not you might have a personal injury case.

What is negligence?
The law requires acting within "reasonable care." The specifics of what constitutes reasonable care vary somewhat from state to state and from situation to situation. When someone fails to act with the reasonable care required by a given circumstance, that's negligence. That is important to you because in order to recover from most personal injuries, you will have to prove (with your personal injury attorney's help, of course) that another person or a business was negligent and that the negligence caused your personal injury.

How do I know if I have a personal injury case?
The best way to find out whether or not you have a viable personal injury claim is to talk to a personal injury lawyer. In general, you and your personal injury attorney will have to prove three things in order to recover in a personal injury case: that you suffer damages, that the defendant was negligent, and that the defendant's negligence caused your damages. Even if you have a valid claim, though, your personal injury attorney will have to investigate whether or not you would be able to collect on your claim. If the other party does not have insurance and does not have other assets that could be used to compensate you, then it may be that you have a valid claim but will be unable to collect compensation for it.

How much is my personal injury case worth?
A number of factors figure into the monetary value of your personal injury claim. For instance, the value of your case is impacted by the nature and extent of your personal injury; the amount of your medical bills, lost wages, property damages and other financial losses; pain and suffering; and present and future disability. Even when those factors are considered, there are significant variations in the value of a personal injury claim based on the amount of insurance involved or the assets of the defendant, any partial fault on the part of the injured person, the victim's willingness/ability to invest a long period of time in litigating the claim versus the need for a relatively quick settlement, and more. Assessing the value of your personal injury case isn't an exact science, and your personal injury attorney won't be able to give you a definite value up front. However, an experienced personal injury lawyer will know how to weigh the various factors to give you an overall picture of the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

What should I do if I'm hurt in an accident?
First and foremost, get medical attention. At the same time, if you are able, you should create a record that will help protect your claim. File a police report, either at the scene or as soon as possible afterwards. Try to get names and contact information from any witness. If you are able, write down exactly what happened as soon as possible after the event. Accident scene photographs often provide valuable evidence that cannot be duplicated after the fact. And, of course, talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible so that you can get advice about how to proceed, what kind of records you should keep, and how to handle the inevitable phone calls from the other party's insurance company.

What shouldn't I do if I suffer a personal injury?
Do not sign anything without consulting a personal injury attorney. Do not attempt to negotiate with an insurance company (your own or the other party's) without consulting a personal injury attorney. Do not make any kind of statement, even one that the insurance company rep or other party tells you is "off the record," without consulting a personal injury attorney. Do not downplay your personal injuries before you know the extent of them - it's not always immediately apparent how serious your personal injuries are, and if you've said you were "fine" at the scene, that may come back to haunt you. The bottom line is that it's best to get advice from a personal injury attorney before taking any kind of action outside of seeking medical attention.

Why shouldn't I deal with insurance companies on my own?
No insurance company has your best interest at heart. The business of an insurance company is to take in as many premiums as possible while paying out as few claims as possible. Their representatives are trained to minimize or outright deny your claim, and they employ a variety of tactics to accomplish that - sometimes even pretending to be on your side and want to help you get your claim resolved quickly. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to work with and against insurance companies.

When should I call a lawyer?
Immediately after your injury would be ideal. If it's past that point and you haven't already contacted a personal injury attorney, the second best time is now. Simply fill out the free personal injury case evaluation form on the contact page or contact the office at 386-258-0049, and a free consultation will be set u at your convenience.

What is the likelihood that my case will go to trial?
Less than 25 percent of personal injury cases go to trial, and most of those settle before the trial ends. Whether or not your personal injury case goes to trial isn't dependent just on the odds. It's dependent on a variety of factors like the value of the claim, the insurance company involved, the certainty of the evidence, and whether or not yours is a case that will likely go to trial, but just like case evaluations, the analysis is not an exact science.

Will you guarantee that my case will be won?
It is unethical for a lawyer to guarantee success. Any lawyer who does should be doubted merely for making such a claim. You will, however, be given a realistic estimation of the strength and weakness of your case. Mr. Warnock will be candid about what hes think can be accomplished for you. The promises made will be kept. Your case will be handled in keeping with the highest ethical and moral standards. The representation provided will be aggressive and highly skilled.

How much do you charge for a personal injury case?
Unless there is a settlement or a winning verdict at trial, you will not pay anything. Typically, if the case is won, you will be charged on a contingency fee basis, meaning the fee is a percentage of the total case recovery, in addition to case costs.


How long after an accident do I have to report it to my employer?
You should report it as soon as possible but no later than 30 days or your claim may be denied.

What kind of medical treatment can I get?
The medical provider, authorized by your employer or the insurance company, will provide the necessary medical care, treatment and prescriptions related to your injury.

Do I have to pay any of my medical bills?
No, all authorized medical bills should be submitted by the medical provider to your employer's insurance company for payment.

Will I be paid if I lose time from work?
Under Florida law, you are not paid for the first seven days of disability. However, if you lose time because your disability extends to over 21 days, you may be paid for the first seven days by the insurance company.

How much will I be paid?
In most cases, your benefit check, which is paid bi-weekly, will be 66 2/3 percent of your average weekly wage. If you were injured before October 1, 2003, this amount is calculated by using wages earned during the 91-day period immediately preceding the date of your injury, not to exceed the state limit. If you worked less than 90 percent of the 91-day period, the wages of a similar employee in the same employment who has worked the whole of the 91-day period or your full time weekly wage may be used. If you were injured on or after October 1, 2003, your average weekly wage is calculated using wages earned 13 weeks prior to your injury, not counting the week in which you were injured.

In addition, if you worked less than 75 percent of the 13-week period, a similar employee in the same employment who has worked 75 percent of the 13 week period or your full time weekly wage shall be used.

If I'm only temporarily disabled, how long can I get these checks?
You can receive Temporary Total, Temporary Partial Disability payments or a combination of the two benefits during the continuance of your disability for no more than a maximum of 104 weeks.

Can I receive social security benefits and workers' compensation benefits at the same time?
Yes. However, an offset, or reduction in your workers' compensation check may be applied because the law states that the two combined may not exceed 80 percent of your average weekly wage earned prior to your injury. For further information on Social Security, you may contact the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or visit their website at

Can my employer fire me if I am unable to work because of an injury and am receiving workers' compensation benefits?
No, it is against the law to fire you because you have filed or attempted to file a workers' compensation claim.

If I am unable to return to the type of work I did before I was injured, what can I do?
The law provides, at no cost to you, reemployment services to help you return to work. Services include vocational counseling, transferable skills analysis, job-seeking skills, job placement, on-the-job training, and formal retraining. To find out more about this program, you may contact the Department of Education, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Bureau of Rehabilitation and Reemployment Services at 850-245-3470 or visit their website at

Is there a period of time after which my claim is no longer open?
If you were injured on or after January 1, 1994, the claim is closed one year from the date of your last medical treatment or payment of compensation. This period of time is referred to as the statute of limitations.

Can I get a settlement from my claim?
Settlements may be made under certain circumstances and are voluntary, not automatic or mandatory.

If I settle my claim for medical benefits with the insurance company and my condition gets worse later, who pays for my future medical care, surgeries, etc?
You are responsible for your future medical needs after your claim for medical benefits is settled.

What can I do when it is difficult to get a prescription filled or I am having problems with the pharmacy where I get my workers' compensation medications?
In Florida, an injured worker has the right to select a pharmacy or pharmacist. Florida law prohibits interference with your right to choose a pharmacy or pharmacist. However, a pharmacy is not required to participate in the workers' compensation program. If at any time, you become dissatisfied with your pharmacy or pharmacist's services, you can seek another pharmacy to fill your prescriptions.


How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?
Disability under Social Security for an adult is based on your inability to work because of a medical condition. To be considered disabled:

  • You must be unable to do work you did before and we decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of a medical condition.
  • Your disability must last or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability.

For adults, a five-step evaluation process is used to decide whether you are disabled under Social Security. The process considers any current work activity you are doing, your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. For more information, it is recommended that you read the following publication, Disability Benefits (SSA Publication No. 05-10029)

How much can I earn and still receive disability benefits?

There are special rules called "work incentives" that help you keep your cash benefits and Medicare while you test your ability to work. For example, there is a trial work period during which you can receive full benefits regardless of how much you earn, as long as you report your work activity and continue to have a disabling impairment.

The trial work period continues until you accumulate nine months (not necessarily consecutive) in which you perform what we call "services" within a rolling 60-month period. Your work is considered "services" if you earn more than $670 a month in 2008. For 2007, this amount was $640.

After the trial work period ends, your benefits will stop for months when your earnings are at a level we consider "substantial," currently $940 in 2008. For 2007, this amount was $900. Different amounts apply to people who are disabled because of blindness. The monthly substantial amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2008 is $1,570; for 2007 this amount was $1,500.

For an additional 36 months after completing the trial work period, your benefits can begin again if they fall below the "substantial" level and you continue to have a disabling impairment. For more information about work incentives, it is recommended that you read the leaflet, Working While Disabled-How We Can Help (SSA Publication Number 05-10095).

Can I receive Social Security benefits and SSI?
You may be able to receive SSI in addition to monthly Social Security benefits, if your Social Security benefit is low enough to qualify.

The amount of your SSI benefit depends on where you live. The basic SSI check is the same nationwide. The SSI payment an eligible individual or eligible couple will receive may change on an annual basis. Many states add money to the basic check.

If you get SSI, you also may be able to get other help from your state or county. For example, you may be able to get Medicaid, food stamps, or some other social services. For information about all the services available in your community, call your local social services department or public welfare office.

For complete information on the eligibility requirements for SSI, you should read Social Security pamphlet "Supplemental Security Income".

To find out if you might be eligible for SSI in your state, call toll-free, 1-800-772-1213.

If I go back to work, will I automatically lose my disability benefits?
No, the Social Security Administration has several work incentives that may help you to return to work without losing your benefits.

For more information about Social Security's work incentives, call toll-free 1-800-772-1213, contact your local Social Security office, or visit the special " Worksite." For more information on SSA's work incentive rules, see also the Red Book on Work Incentives.

Do disability benefits change once I turn full retirement age?
When you reach full retirement age, nothing will change, except for Social Security purposes, your benefits will be called retirement benefits instead of disability benefits. You do not need to take any action.

Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, you will get your benefits with no limit on your earnings. These new rules apply for the entire year of 2000, starting in January.

What is Your Full Retirement Age?

Year of BirthFull Retirement Age
1937 or earlier65
193865 and 2 months
193965 and 4 months
194065 and 6 months
194165 and 8 months
194265 and 10 months
195566 and 2 months
195666 and 4 months
195766 and 6 months
195866 and 8 months
195966 and 10 months
1960 and later67

Why is there a five-month waiting period for Social Security disability benefits?
The five month waiting period ensures that during the early months of disability, we do not pay benefits to persons who do not have long-term disabilities. Social Security disability benefits can be paid only after you have been disabled continuously throughout a period of five full calendar months. Therefore, Social Security disability benefits will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability began. You are not entitled to benefits for any month in the waiting period.

Will I automatically get Medicare benefits if I get disability benefits?

Mr. Warnock will automatically enroll you in Medicare after you get disability benefits for two years. The count will start 24 months from the month you were entitled to receive Disability, not the month when you received your first check.

People with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) get Medicare beginning with the month they become entitled to disability benefits.

Medicare has two parts - hospital insurance and medical insurance. Hospital insurance helps pay hospital bills and some follow-up care. The taxes you paid while you were working financed this coverage, so it's premium free. The other part of Medicare, medical insurance, helps pay doctors' bills and other services. You will pay a monthly premium for this coverage if you want it.

What is the earliest age that I can receive disability benefits?
There is no minimum age as long as you meet the very strict social security definition of disability. To qualify for disability benefits, you must have worked long and recently enough under Social Security to earn the required number of work credits. You can earn up to a maximum of four work credits each year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels rise.

The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled.

Go to to see how many credits you may need to qualify for disability benefits.