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Florida Supremes Allow Trial Court to Reevaluate Fender Bender Case

The Florida Supreme Court recently produced an interesting ruling that could spell serious trouble for insurance companies who argue that a simple rear end accident cannot produce serious injuries. PIP medical providers are all too familiar with an insurance company’s questions about the extent of damage to the vehicle following an accident, whether the car could be driven away from the scene, or whether the insured person involved in the crash was taken to the hospital for treatment. In Van v. Schmidt, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled in favor of a trial judge who found that while the vehicle an injured person was driving suffered only minimal property damage, such an accident could result in serious medical problems for someone involved in the accident.

The accident giving rise to this case occurred back in October of 2007. Mr. and Ms. Van were driving their family vehicle when they were rear-ended by a car driven by the Defendant, Mr. Schmidt. Following the accident, Mr. Van claims to have undergone a complicated surgery known as spinal fusion in order to fix a neck injury that he claimed was the result of the fender bender accident. Van then sued Schmidt to recover for the medical bills associated with the surgery. At trial, the Defendant Schmidt stated that while he had indeed caused the accident, that the accident had not actually caused Van’s injuries. If Schmidt could show that the accident did not cause Van’s injuries, he would not be liable for the medical bills at issue. Schmidt supported this argument by stating that the accident was a minor fender bender which caused only $800 worth of damages to the other vehicle, that Van had pre-existing back and neck conditions at the time of the accident, and that other elements of Van’s medical history had caused the injury which required surgery; not the accident.

In order to prove that the wreck had indeed been the cause of Van’s injuries, evidence was presented at trial that prior to the accident Van was doing yard work, playing with his grandchildren, walking his dogs, swimming, and sitting for extended periods of time. Through the testimony of Van’s daughter and wife, it was established that the pain felt by Van following the accident would no longer allow him to do any of these activities. On top of this testimony, three separate expert witnesses, one who was even testifying on behalf of the at fault driver, stated that Van’s injuries were at least in part caused by the accident that occurred in 2007.

After a trial which lasted three days, the jury in the case returned a verdict finding that Van had not suffered an injury as a result of the 2007 accident. Shocked by this ruling, Van filed a motion for new trial arguing that the verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Once a verdict had been returned in a jury trial, the judge holds a special inherent power to overrule the jury and order a new trial. In this case, the judge ruled that whether Van had been injured by the accident was conclusively proven by the expert witness testimony presented in the case. The Judge therefore ordered that the case be tried again so that this issue could be reexamined by a jury.

On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of Van and allowed the trial judge to further consider the case. This ruling is important because it reaffirms two things. First, it is extremely important to make sure that at trial, all of the relevant evidence possible should admitted into evidence. This is critical for situations like this where the jury was mistaken about the evidence but the judge has a chance to grant a new trial. If Van’s attorney had not presented all of the evidence available, it would have been much more difficult for the judge to enter a judgment calling for a new trial. Second, almost nothing is more important than having an attorney who knows the law, has trial extensive trial experience, and has experience building a record for appeals Had the attorney in this case not built a good record during trial, the Florida Supreme Court may have been hard pressed to rule in favor of the Plaintiff on this issue.

This case is a perfect example of justice in action. It is important to remember that what may seem to be a simple fender bender can lead to horrendous medical costs and severe loss in a person’s quality of life. Although insurance companies may be quick to argue that no serious injuries could result from a small accident, we here at PIP Guru are dedicated to exposing all of the facts and getting our clients the medical benefits they deserve.

Furthermore, we have the legal knowledge and trial experience to make sure that our clients have the best chance possible of winning their case. If you believe that an insurance company has failed to adequately compensate you for your injuries as a result of a car accident, feel free to call us here at 305-821-3100 or 1-800 ACCIDENT.

The Patiño Law Firm Launches “Justice Teaching” Mentoring Program at Grace Academy International in Opa Locka

Attorney Richard Patiño to teach about Florida’s justice system to middle and high school students

Hialeah, FL–November 21, 2013–The Patiño Law Firm, the boutique law firm behind 1-800-ACCIDENT in South Florida, today announced it launched the “Justice Teaching” mentoring program at Grace Academy International in Opa Locka to teach middle and high school students about the Florida justice system. As part of their community outreach efforts, the Patiño Law Firm is actively involved with schools in Miami-Dade County, even offering clerkships, internships, mentorships, and employment to local students.

Managing partner Richard Patiño along with his associate attorneys Ryan Peterson and Charles Hubley will be visiting the Grace Academy, a K-8 private school, once a month to offer first-hand teaching about the Constitution and the laws that govern the Sunshine State. The program aims to promote an understanding of Florida’s justice system, as well as demonstrate the effective interaction of the courts within the constitutional structure.

Justice Teaching began in 2006 as a major effort to further law-related education in the State of Florida. The initiative is the brain child of then Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis. The ultimate goal of the program is to pair a legal professional with every elementary, middle and high school in the state of Florida.

“We are honored to have been selected for this experiential learning program and give back to our community,” said Richard Patiño, Managing partner of the Patiño Law Firm. “We are helping in a small way to increase these students’ passion for the justice system and may be molding the future lawyers, judges and even Supreme Court Justices.”

Celebrating its 20th anniversary next month, the Patiño Law Firm has been a mainstay in the South Florida community and a staunch supporter of public education. The firm has been instrumental in helping local schools, including David Lawrence Jr. K-8 and Alonzo & Tracy Mourning Senior High raise over $1 million over the last eight years. The Patiño Law Firm also sponsors the Mourning High School Law Academy and awarded $5,000 in scholarships to students last year. The Patiño Law Firm also sponsors the Mourning High PTSA Scholarship Fund, which has given away over $50,000 in scholarships in the last four years. Extremely hands on in the community, the Patiño Law Firm has hosted judicial panels, participates in the Teen Court program, and supports the annual Law Day activities at the Hialeah Brand Courthouse and the North Dade Justice Center.

As part of his participation in the Justice Teaching program, Richard Patiño and associates will be holding mock trials and bringing everyday legal scenarios to life in the classroom for a hands-on approach at learning.

Some of the distinguished awards Patiño and his team have received for community involvement are:

• In 2011, the Miami Dade County School Board honored The Patiño Law Firm as an “exemplary Dade Partner.”
• In 2012, the Miami Dade County School Board awarded the Patiño Law Firm the “Dream Award” for being an “outstanding partner” of the Miami Dade County School District.
• In 2013, the firm was awarded the State of Florida Department of Education, “Commissioner’s Business Recognition Award for Outstanding Support of Education.”
• In 2013, Richard Patiño was also inducted into the Miami Dade College Alumni Hall of Fame.

To learn more about the Patiño Law Firm’s community involvement and public affairs activities, please visit them on Facebook or follow on Twitter: @patinolawfirm using the hashtag #SomosTuGente.

About the Patiño Law Firm
The Patiño Law Firm is a boutique Miami Law Firm comprised of a passionate and dedicated legal team that has been serving the South Florida community for 20 years. The team of attorneys is bold and relentless, with nearly 50 years of combined experience, bringing extensive insight and knowledge to every case. The Patiño Law firm is focused on working closely with clients, treating each case as if they were our own and fighting aggressively. The Patiño Law Firm has represented thousands of accident victims, obtaining millions of dollars in compensation for their injuries. Dedicated to the clients, services are available to all injured victims and families, insurant claimants and medical providers throughout the State of Florida. For more information, call 1-800-ACCIDENT or visit