Auto Accident & Personal Injury Attorney Ronald Slonaker
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Based in Ocala, FL (Marion County) with services extending throughout Central Florida
Suffering a serious injury in an accident can greatly impact your life. In addition to the physical pain you have to endure, medical bills can put a serious strain on your finances.
If your injury prevents you from going back to work for an extended or indefinite period of time, it can be immensely stressful wondering how you will earn a living and provide for yourself and your family.
If you were injured in an accident or lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to receive compensation for damages.
Quality Representation You Can Trust
You need someone on your side who will help guide you through the emotional and physical healing process, as well as help you get the justice you and your family deserve.
Personal injury victims and families of lost loved ones in Marion County have come to rely on the Slonaker Law Firm in their hour of need.
Lead Attorney Ronald Slonaker provides each client with personalized one-on-one service, which is something you’d be hard pressed to find at a larger firm. He is dedicated to helping his clients obtain the maximum compensation available and will passionately advocate for your best interests at every stage of your claim or lawsuit.
As a former police officer and insurance defense attorney, Slonaker brings a unique blend of expertise and perspective to every case he takes on.
No matter what type of injury you have sustained, Slonaker knows how to negotiate effectively with insurance companies to get you a fair settlement. If the insurance company or at-fault party is unwilling to accept liability or offer proper compensation, Slonaker will not hesitate to aggressively fight for your rights in court.
Call today to schedule a Free case evaluation. (352) 629-6656 or after hours call 352-777-8176.
If you are unable to meet at our office for a consultation, Attorney Slonaker can arrange to visit your hospital room or your home to discuss your legal needs.
Slonaker Law Firm offers skilled representation in all types of personal injury cases, including:
Types of Injuries
Injuries caused by accidents can range from mild to catastrophic.
The most common types of injuries associated with accidents and personal injury claims include:
- Open and closed head injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Neck injuries and whiplash
- Broken bones and fractures
- Damage to soft tissue and internal organs
- Blood loss
- Repetitive motion injuries
If you have suffered a severe injury in an accident, we may be able to help you collect damages for compensation beyond that which is available through insurance claims.
These injuries are typically classified as “severe”:
- Loss of limb/s or other body part
- Brain damage
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
Get The Compensation You Deserve:
A serious injury following an accident in Central Florida can be very expensive. Medical expenses and property damage costs can easily exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars
Depending upon the specifics of your case, Slonaker Law Firm can help you recover:
- Past, current, and future medical expenses related to your injury and recovery
- emergency room, hospital or clinic visits
- physical therapy
- lab tests, x-rays, MRIs, CT Scans and any other tests or exams
- medical aids like crutches and slings
- gas mileage and parking fees for medical-related travel
- Past, current and future wages and other earnings lost due to the accident
- lost income can be verified with a letter from your employer detailing your normal pay rate, the hours you lost, and the total amount of compensation you lost by not being able to work due to your injury.
- Loss of earning capacity
- Personal property damage
- cost of repairs (if your vehicle was totaled, an amount representing its fair market value)
- personal items damaged in the accident (laptops, jewelry, cell phone, etc.)
- Permanent disfigurement or disability
- Pain and suffering, emotional distress
- Loss of consortium (interference with family relationships)
- Wrongful Death (lost wages, medical expenses, funeral costs)
Types of Personal Injury Claims in Florida And Theory of Liability
You are entitled to file a personal injury claim in Florida if you have been injured in an accident that someone else caused through
careless actions, recklessness or negligence. The responsible parties can be individuals, small, medium or large businesses and government agencies.
Slip and Fall Accident Claims: If you slipped or fell on property owned by someone else, the owner may be held liable if he/she was aware of the dangerous condition and failed to correct it.
Product Liability Lawsuit: If you were hurt by a product that was defective, the manufacturer or distributor may be held liable.
Workers’ Compensation Law: Employers in Florida are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. If you are injured on the job or developed an occupational illness, your employer and/or their insurance carrier is responsible for compensating you for medical expenses and lost wages while you are out of work. If your injury was caused by a third-party, you may be able to file a personal injury claim in addition to receiving workers’ comp benefits.
Wrongful Death/Medical Malpractice Cases: If your loved one was killed as the result of a negligent or reckless act you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Doctors and other medical professionals must adhere to a standard of care.
Auto Accident Claims: In car accidents only, Florida follows a no-fault system. This means that if you were in an auto accident, you would rely on your own insurance coverage to pay for your medical bills and lost income regardless of whether someone else caused your accident.
The only circumstance in which you may be able to sue a negligent party for additional damages would be if your injuries meet or exceed the personal injury “threshold.”
In Florida, this is defined as:
- Loss of an important bodily function, or
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability other than scarring or disfigurement, or
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or
Your treating physician’s medical opinion will be instrumental in determining whether or not your injury is permanent and meets the injury threshold.
To get an accurate assessment of your condition, he/she will have to wait until your treatment has progressed to the point where you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement or MMI. MMI means that your recovery will not get better or worse with future treatment but is as “good as it gets”
Once you have reached MMI, your doctor will assign you a disability rating. The higher the disability rating in most circumstances, the greater the value the insurance company is likely to place on your case.
Auto Insurance Requirements in Florida:
Personal Injury Protection
In Florida, you are legally required to obtain Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. PIP will pay 80% of your medical
expenses and 60% of your lost wages up to a maximum of $10,000.
Regardless of whether you were at fault, PIP will still pay your medical bills and lost wages.
If a loved one was killed in a car accident, no-fault insurance will provide compensation to the survivors for the income your deceased would have made, usually limited to a maximum amount per month for a set time period.
Medical Payments Coverage
Under your own insurance policy, you may have coverage called Medical Payments Coverage, or Med Pay, in the amount of $5,000. If your PIP covers 80% of your medical expenses, Med Pay will cover the remaining 20%.
Med Pay is available for motor vehicle accidents and accidents at a premises.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage is not required in Florida, but it can be one of the best ways to protect yourself after an accident. Unfortunately, nearly a quarter of Florida drivers do not have auto insurance. In fact, the state has the fifth highest rate of uninsured drivers in the nation.
If your accident was caused by an uninsured driver, we would make a claim for you under your own uninsured motorist coverage. If you don’t have UM coverage, you may be able to seek coverage under another policy (member of your household). Attorney Slonaker can discuss these options with you.
If the person who caused the accident has liability insurance but the coverage does not adequately compensate you for your injuries, we could make a claim for you under your own underinsured motorist coverage. Your insurance carrier would then cover the difference up to the limits of your policy.
Tips To Protect Your Rights After An Accident
There are certain basic steps you can take after an accident that can protect your rights and strengthen your claim.
- Notify the Authorities: Always call law enforcement to the scene of an accident, even if injuries are minor and there is limited property damage. If it’s a work injury, notify your manager.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible after your injury (no later than 14 days). Make sure to notify the doctor of all your aches and pains.
- Gather information from other parties involved in the accident. Take pictures and/or video of accident scene.
- Do not admit fault to other parties or to witnesses.
- Do not provide a written or recorded statement for an insurance adjuster and do not to sign any documents without consulting a lawyer.
Should I File A Personal Injury Claim or Lawsuit?
If your accident and subsequent injury was due to the negligence of someone else, you have two options for legal recourse:
- file a personal injury claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company; or
- file a lawsuit against the at-fault party directly
Going the Claims Route…
The personal injury claims process involves participating in a series of negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance adjuster. The goal is to reach a settlement that adequately and fairly compensates you for your losses.
Unfortunately, insurance adjusters don’t always have your best interests at heart and can be very difficult to negotiate with. In fact, they will often try to minimize their payout to you in order to achieve high profit margins for their shareholders.
It’s very common for an insurance adjuster to offer a quick settlement. This may sound great but don’t take the bait!
The first settlement offers are usually much lower than the true value of your claim and can leave you without the necessary funds to cover all your expenses.
However, with Attorney Slonaker on your side, the insurance company won’t be able to take advantage of you. Early in his career, Slonaker was a defense attorney for insurance companies — he knows how the other side operates! He can negotiate directly with the adjuster on your behalf and will make sure you get nothing less than you deserve.
Filing a lawsuit…
If negotiations breakdown and an adequate settlement offer can’t be reached through mediation or arbitration, the next step to consider is filing a lawsuit. Many claims for serious injuries or wrongful death are not able to be resolved in settlement and end up in court.
Deadline for Filing A Claim or Lawsuit in Florida:
Every state has a statute of limitations, or time frame, to abide by when filing a claim or lawsuit. In Florida, most personal injury cases must be filed within four years of the date of the accident.
Medical malpractice suits are subject to a two year statute of limitations from the date that you knew of the malpractice.
Wrongful death suits are subject to a two year statute from the date of death.
Failure to file within the statute of limitations may result in your right to recover monetary damages.
The Lawsuit Process: What To Expect
If negotiations do not proceed as smoothly as we’d like, we will file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf. This is often the last resort, but sometimes necessary if the adjuster continues to deny that you were seriously injured and doesn’t offer proper compensation.
Step 1: Filing The Petition
The lawsuit begins with us filing a petition in the Circuit Court. The alleged at-fault party would then be served with the Petition and given 20 days to file an answer or response.
Step 2: Discovery
Before trial, both sides are allowed to engage in an information gathering process known as discovery.
In discovery, both sides can request and disclose information pertinent to the accident. This may include:
- medical records
- wage statements
- property damage
- police reports
- insurance policies
- other relevant records
To obtain this information, interrogatories or questions are sent from one party to the to be answered under oath and sent back within a certain amount of time. Depositions may also take place, in which witnesses provide testimony under oath. Doctors involved in your medical treatment may also offer testimony to offer their medical opinion on your injury.
Step 3: Mediation
95% of all lawsuits are usually settled before going to trial. In Florida, you are required to attempt to resolve your claim in an alternative dispute resolution process called mediation. If you can reach a settlement, you will avoid the risk, time, expense, and energy associated with going to trial.
Mediation is a settlement conference where the judge orders all the interested parties to sit down with a neutral mediator to try and work out an agreement.
A mediator does not decide who “wins” and who “loses.” Their job is merely to facilitate discussions aimed towards reaching a compromise.
You will not be forced to accept an offer you are not comfortable with. Attorney Slonaker will supervise the process and make sure you are getting a fair deal.
If a mutual agreement is reached, it will become legally binding through a signed agreement. Your case is over and you will be paid (usually within 2-6 weeks).
Step 4: Proceed to Trial
If efforts to reach a settlement through negotiations and alternative dispute resolutions fail, your personal injury case will continue to trial.
At trial, Attorney Slonaker will present a convincing argument on your behalf to the judge or jury, and then the party who injured you (defendant) puts on their defense. After each side presents their arguments, the judge or jury determines:
(1) if the defendant is liable (legally responsible) for your injuries and harm, and
(2) if so, the amount of damages the defendant must pay you.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
There are many factors that can impact the value of your personal injury claim. Calculating your claim’s worth can get complicated but Attorney Slonaker knows how to crunch the numbers!
To determine the “Full Value” of your claim, you would add up all your damages from your injury:
past and future medical expenses + past and future lost wages + pain and suffering
Factors that may increase the full value of your claim could include:
- extent of liability on the alleged at-fault party
- the permanence of your injury, disability rating
- surgical procedures
- taking an ambulance to hospital
- photo evidence or video surveillance which captures the severity of the accident and injury and/or incriminates someone for causing the accident
Factors that may decrease the value of your claim could include:
- gaps in medical treatment
- pre-existing conditions
- evidence that you were partially at fault for accident
When catastrophe strikes and threatens to change the outcome of your future, it is critical that you contact a seasoned Florida personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case.
Regardless of what kind of accident you or a loved one were involved in, an injury lawyer in Florida can help you get through this difficult time step-by-step.The Slonaker Law Firm, LLC has substantial experience working with individuals and families who have been the victims of an accident and is well-prepared to fight for your rights.
Ronald Slonaker is a skilled Florida personal injury attorney who has a solid track record of success in personal injury claims. He is committed to obtaining a positive outcome for you and your loved ones after a devastating incident.
Contact the Slonaker Law Firm today to discuss the options you have available to you and to learn more about getting the compensation you deserve. Call now at: (352) 629-6656 or after hours call 352-777-8176.