Personal Injury and Criminal Defense FAQ

What if the car accident was partially my fault? When do I have a legitimate premises liability claim? What is the first step I need to take after a dog bite? We answer questions like these and many more on our personal injury Frequently Asked Questions page.

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  • What makes a search illegal?

    In Florida and across the country, you have certain rights under the U.S. Constitution; however, you cannot protect your rights if you don’t know what they are. What are police allowed to do at a traffic stop, for example? Can they enter your home without your permission? If you were caught with drugs, there’s a chance it was the result of an illegal search. We explain the Fourth Amendment here.

    Your Fourth Amendment Rights

    Added to the Constitution as part of the Bill of Rights in 1791, the purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to protect citizens from arbitrary and unwarranted searches and seizures of property by the government. It is the basis of modern laws regarding search warrants, wire-tapping, stop-and-frisk, etc. Specifically, the amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” This means that police officers or federal agents must have a good reason to initiate a search and must have a warrant to do so.

    What This Means When Police Are at Your Door

    In order to enter your residence to conduct a search, a police officer or federal agent must meet one of the following standards:

    • Has a search warrant. A search warrant is a legal document issued by a magistrate or judge that authorizes police officers to search a premises. In order to obtain a warrant, the prosecutor must prove to the judge that it is likely that a crime has been committed or is being committed on the premises (probable cause).
       
    • Is able to justify a search without a warrant. In certain situations, police may enter and search a premises without a warrant. Some examples include being in hot pursuit of a suspect or believing someone’s life is in danger.
       
    • Has your consent to search. If you grant law enforcement permission to enter and search your home and they find something, it will be considered a legal search.

    Car Searches Fall Under Less Restrictive Laws

    The Fourth Amendment applies primarily to searches in your home. Law enforcement has more freedom when searching your car. As long as they have probable cause, they can search your car without a warrant, and it’s not hard for them to claim probable cause. It may be enough for an officer to claim he saw you swerve out of your lane or that he smelled marijuana in your car. However, it may be possible to argue that drugs found in a car were the result of an illegal search, depending on the specific facts of the case.

    Clifton Law Office Will Leave No Stone Unturned

    When you face drug charges, I will investigate every possible defense to the charges, including the possibility that evidence was obtained illegally. Contact me as soon as possible after your arrest so that I can help you every step of the way.

     

  • What is a plea bargain and should I agree to one?

    A criminal case—from arrest through sentencing—can take months to work its way through the system. Due to an overburdened justice system, the legal process is a slow one and prosecutors and judges are highly motivated to resolve cases and clear dockets as quickly as possible. One way they do this is through plea bargaining. A plea bargain—also known as pleading out or taking a deal—is an agreement between the prosecutor’s office and the accused in which each side gives something up in order to conclude the case.

    How Does a Plea Bargain Work?

    The purpose of a trial is to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence and, if he is found guilty, to issue a sentence. With a plea bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty or “no contest” in exchange for a lesser charge or a reduced sentence, thereby avoiding court altogether. A no contest plea is a way for a defendant to accept a sentence without having to declare that he or she is guilty.

    Should I Take a Plea Bargain?

    There are advantages and disadvantages to plea bargains. Depending on the consequences you face, it may make sense to accept a deal. On the other hand, your case may be solid enough to be successful at trial. This decision should never be made without consulting a criminal defense attorney; however, we discuss some points for and against here. The main advantages to plea bargaining include the following:

    • Quick resolution. In some cases, a plea deal is offered soon after an arrest. If the terms are acceptable, the case can be resolved within days of the original charge. Even when it doesn’t happen that swiftly, plea bargains resolve cases much more quickly than going to trial.
       
    • Guaranteed outcome. No matter what evidence you have to show your innocence, the outcome of a trial is never a sure bet. With a plea bargain, you know exactly what to expect and even have some say in the outcome.
       
    • Less costly. It takes a lot less time for an attorney to negotiate a plea bargain than to prepare a case for trial, so taking a deal could end up costing you less in legal fees.

    If you are innocent of the charges, you obviously do not want to plead guilty just to save time and money. The downside to plea bargaining includes the following:

    • Criminal record. A plea deal goes on your record as a criminal conviction, even if you plead no contest. This can affect all aspects of your life, including your ability to get a job.
       
    • Opportunity for coercion. In an effort to conclude a case quickly, a prosecutor may pressure or even threaten a defendant to accept a plea. Sometimes, even innocent defendants end up pleading guilty under the pressure.
       
    • Potential for court rejection. Plea deals are non-binding on the court meaning you might think you have a deal only to have the court reject it and you are forced to go to trial anyway.

    Talk to Your Lawyer

    No matter how persuasive a prosecutor is or how many threats he makes, you should never accept a plea deal without talking to your criminal defense attorney. At the Clifton Law Office, we have the best interests of our clients in mind and we will help you reach a decision that makes the most sense for you. Before you do anything, call our office.

  • What is a premises liability claim?

    Unless you are a lawyer, the term premises liability may be unfamiliar to you. However, you have probably heard of lawsuits related to slip and fall accidents in hotel lobbies, dog bite injuries in public parks, and injuries sustained in parking garage stairwell falls. These are all examples of possible premises liability claims. The law says that property owners must make a reasonable effort to keep their premises safe for guests and visitors. When they fail to do so and someone is injured, the property owner is responsible for any financial losses the victim suffers.

    How Do You Prove Premises Liability?

    Like other personal injury claims, premises liability claims are based on negligence. In order to prove a claim, you must show that the property owner was negligent in some way. For example, if a parking garage owner knew that a stairwell had a burned-out lightbulb and you fell down the stairs, he would be considered negligent. You must also show that his negligence was the direct cause of your injuries. In our example, you would have to produce evidence from a doctor stating that your injury—broken bone, traumatic brain injury, back injury, etc.—was caused by the fall down the stairs. Finally, you would have to show that you were in the parking garage for a legitimate reason, such as parking your car, and not to make mischief. Trespassers are generally not covered under premises liability claims.

    Types of Premises Liability Claims

    Premises liability claims can be made against homeowners, business owners, municipalities, and others. Some common claims include the following:

    • Slip and fall. When property conditions cause you to slip or trip and fall, the owner may be liable. However, you must show that he knew or should have known about the dangerous conditions and that he failed to correct them. These accidents occur on wet floors, icy sidewalks, floors with unsecured rugs, stairs with broken handrails or missing steps, and broken or uneven surfaces.
       
    • Dog bite. If you are bitten by a dog—even it is the first time the dog has been reported for biting—you can hold the dog’s owner responsible for your injuries. Exceptions to the law include people who purposely tease or provoke dogs and people who are unlawfully on the property when they are bitten.
       
    • Inadequate building security. If you are assaulted or a loved one is killed by an intruder and it can be proven that building security was lax, you may be able to hold the building owner responsible for your losses.
       
    • Swimming pool accidents. There is no shortage of swimming pools in Florida, and owners are required by law to keep them safe and secured. If a pool is left accessible and a child is injured or killed, the owner may be liable. Swimming pool owners must also keep the pool deck safe and could be liable for guests’ slip and fall accidents.

    Premises liability claims are usually paid by insurance policies, such as a homeowner’s or business owner’s liability coverage.

    These Are Not Easy Claims to Win

    Premises liability claims often come down to the victim’s word against the property owner’s. If you suffered because of a property owner’s negligence, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side. Call the Clifton Law Office to find out if we can help you recover damages when you are injured.

  • What should I do after I am injured in a car accident in Florida?

    Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to make decisions after a Florida car accident. For some victims, decisions are made for them as they are rushed off in ambulances or rescue helicopters. If you are conscious after a crash, you should have these steps in mind to protect your welfare and your potential for a financial recovery.

    Safety First

    The very first thing you should do is make sure you are not in danger of further injury by moving your car off the road, turning off the ignition, turning on your hazard lights, and putting out warning cones, if you have them. Once you have taken those steps, we recommend doing the following:

    • Call for help. Even if damage and injuries seem minor, call 911 and report the accident. If there appear to be any injuries at all, it is a good idea to request an ambulance. When the police arrive, they will investigate the accident and write a report that could be helpful if you need to file a claim or have cause to sue the other driver later on.
       
    • Gather information. Even though it should be in the police report, get the names and contact information for anyone else involved in the accident as well as any witnesses that are around. If others at the scene are uncooperative, be sure to at least get the license plate numbers and the police officer’s name and badge number.
       
    • Take photos. Taking photos with your cell phone will help document the scene and the damage done to your vehicle before the site is cleaned up. This can help experts determine how the accident occurred if fault becomes an issue later on. You can also get photos of license plates and the surrounding area for additional information.
       
    • Watch what you say. No matter what happened, avoid saying anything that could be construed as admitting fault. Something as simple as apologizing could be taken to mean you caused the accident. Other than answering the police officer’s questions and sharing your name and contact information, you do not need to say anything else.
       
    • Notify your insurance company. Let your insurance agent know as soon as possible about the accident. If you are contacted by the other driver’s insurance company, do not agree to sign anything and do not allow them to record a statement from you.
       
    • Call an attorney. If you are injured in the accident, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney to discuss your claim. Medical bills can pile up quickly and you may be entitled to compensation from the other driver. The sooner you call an attorney, the better.

    The Clifton Law Office Is Here for You

    You may be told by the responding officer or by your insurance agent that, because Florida is a no-fault state for car accidents, there is no need to call an attorney. However, there are exceptions to the no-fault law that are best discussed with a local personal injury attorney. Call us or connect with us through the form on this page to learn more.

  • What is my personal injury claim worth?

    This is often the first question injured clients ask their attorneys. As bills start to mount, they wonder if they will be compensated for all of their losses. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. That is because every injury case is unique and the amount of your settlement will depend on factors related to your specific case. While we can’t really even give a ballpark figure here, we will discuss the factors that can raise or lower the amount of a settlement. When you meet with us to discuss your case, we will be able to give you a better idea of its value.

    Factors Affecting the Value of a Personal Injury Claim

    The factors deciding the value of the claim depend on whether you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, a slip and fall, an assault, or other incident that falls under a personal injury claim. Because of Florida’s no-fault auto accident law, recovery for motor vehicle crashes is different than for other types of accidents. The following is a guideline:

    • Available money. If another party is found to be at fault in your accident, you can sue them for damages. Those damages would come from whatever liability insurance they carry and would be limited to the amount of coverage. For a motor vehicle accident under Florida’s no-fault law, you would first turn to your own personal injury protection (PIP) policy to pay your medical bills, which should pay 80 percent of your medical costs and 60 percent of lost income, minus your deductible and up to the limit of your policy. Florida requires all drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 in PIP coverage, but you can opt for more coverage.
       
    • Extent of injuries. Determining the amount of damages you are owed will primarily depend on the extent of your injuries and your medical bills. If the other party is 100 percent at fault for your injuries and they have enough insurance, you should receive damages for the total amount of your medical bills. For a car accident, there are exceptions to the no-fault law. If you suffered permanent injuries, a loved one died, or your medical bills are expected to exceed $10,000, you may be able to sue the other driver for compensation if he or she was found to be at fault. In this case, your compensation would come from that driver’s bodily injury liability (BIL) policy, if he has it, and would be limited to the amount of the policy.
       
    • Other losses. An attorney will be able to argue for additional damages to cover other losses, including lost wages, pain and suffering, wrongful death, childcare, and more. These losses can be difficult to quantify and you will need an experienced personal injury attorney to help you.

    Call Our Office to Learn More

    Florida’s injury compensation laws are complicated; however, it is important that you not take the word of insurance agents or other people about the value of your claim. Call our office to discuss your case and find out what the value of your claim could potentially be.

  • Do I need a personal injury attorney for my car accident?

    Your recent car accident has turned your life upside down. The crash was traumatic and the injuries you sustained have kept you out of work and seeking medical treatment. The other driver was ticketed and his insurance company has contacted you, but you do not know what to do. Do you need an attorney?

    An Attorney Can Ease Your Burden

    As an accident victim, you are never required to hire an attorney to represent you. However, an attorney can help you in your recovery in many ways. From the minute you call the Clifton Law Office, we will take over the case, allowing you to focus on your recovery. You can count on our attorney to do the following:

    • Gather evidence and speak to witnesses. In order to present a strong case for maximum compensation from the insurance company for the at-fault driver, you will need to present facts about how the accident occurred. Your attorney will gather important evidence to support your claim.
       
    • Get police report and medical records. The insurance company will want to see documentation of the crash and of the extent of your injuries. While you can request these documents yourself, having an attorney take care of it is one less thing for you to worry about.
       
    • Communicate with the insurance company. As soon as you hire an attorney, you can stop communicating with the insurance company and direct them to talk to your attorney. Their goal is to confuse and pressure you into accepting a settlement that is lower than what you deserve. An attorney will not allow that to happen.
       
    • Get your bills paid. As you recover and wait for settlement money, you will have medical bills to pay. Your attorney can work with the hospital and your insurance policies to take care of your bills.

    For many people, taking care of these tasks while recovering from serious injuries is just too much to bear. When you have an attorney representing you, you level the playing field between you and the insurance company. Your settlement is likely to be much higher when an attorney is negotiating for you.

    When You Need an Attorney

    In any injury case, you will likely benefit from having an attorney, but in the following situations, you should seriously consider hiring an attorney:

    • Catastrophic injuries. If the crash left you with a traumatic brain injury, limb amputation, paralysis, or other serious injury, you will need a settlement that considers your long-term care as well as your non-economic damages.
       
    • Question of fault. If the other driver is claiming that you contributed to the crash, your settlement could be reduced. An attorney can present evidence to prove you are not partially at fault.
       
    • Commercial truck. If you were injured in a crash with a commercial truck, you will be facing a team of corporate attorneys who will try to reduce or reject your settlement. You need to fight fire with fire to get what you deserve.
       
    • Drunk driver. If the driver who hit you was drunk, or was acting maliciously in another way, he should be required to pay punitive damages, which could be significant. An attorney can argue this point to a judge.

    You Don’t Pay Unless We Win

    When you call the Clifton Law Office, you are under no obligation to hire us. We will schedule a free consultation and be straight with you about what we can do for you. No money will be due up front. In fact, you won’t owe us anything unless we win your claim. You have nothing to lose, so call us today!