Injury Law Updates:
Week of June 24
None Discussed This Week.
None Discussed This Week.
GEICO General Insurance Co. v. Steinger, Iscoe & Greene-II, P.A. (No 3D18-1280) – Charging Lien
Steiner, Iscoe & Greene-II, P.A. (“SIG”) represented an injury victim. During their representation of the injury victim, they were discharged. Following being discharged the injury victim hired another lawfirm, Litigation Law, P.A. to represent her. Also following discharge, SIG sent a notice and claim of attorney’s charging lien to GEICO, Litigation Law, P.A. and their former client. In their letter SIG requested to be named as payee on any check issued by GEICO.
Following receipt of the notice and claim of charging lien, GEICO and Litigation Law, P.A. entered into a settlement of the injury victim’s case. GEICO then mailed the settlement check and release to Litigation Law, P.A. and did not include SIG on the check, as SIG had requested. As a result, Litigation Law, P.A. disbursed the settlement proceeds. When negotiations as to SIG’s quantum meruit fee failed, SIG filed suit and, ultimately, GEICO was found to be negligent and responsible for payment to SIG for their attorney’s fees.
GEICO appealed and the appellate court affirmed. Finding that it was undisputed that the charging lien had been received by GEICO, the appellate court found that GEICO had “an affirmative duty to notify [SIG] of the settlement and protect [SIG’s] lien interest.” In failing to do so, GEICO was responsible for the lien.
Dodgen v. Grijalva (No 4D-19-1010) – Discovery
Grijalva alleged Dodgen caused injury to her following a car accident. When the parties were unable to resolve amicably, Grijalva filed a lawsuit against Dodgen seeking monetary damages for her physical injuries. During that lawsuit, Grijalva underwent a Compulsory Medical Examination (“CME”) with a doctor hired by Dodgen’s attorney for the purpose of providing opinion at trial. Grijalva then sought information about the financial relationship between the CME doctor and Dodgen’s attorney and Dodgen’s insurance company. Dodgen objected to this request citing to a recent Florida Supreme Court opinion which held the financial relationship between an injured party’s treating doctor and their attorney is not discoverable. The trial court overruled Dodgen’s objections and required him to respond. Dodgen appealed that ruling.
The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling. However, the court expressed concern about the fairness of denying financial relationship discovery between an injured party’s treating doctor and attorney while requiring disclosure of the financial relationship between the alleged at-fault driver’s hired medical expert and the alleged at-fault driver’s attorney. Noting that this is not the first case where this issue has arisen, it affirmed the ruling of the trial and certified the matter to the Florida Supreme Court for clarification.
NOTE: The issue in this case, and in most injury cases, is how much financial discovery are the parties entitled to. Defendants, or those alleged to be at-fault for injuring someone else, almost never hire an attorney to represent them. Instead, the insurance company pays for their attorney. The insurance-hired attorney then retains and pays for the medical experts to be used in the case. However, since the insurance-hired attorneys become comfortable with only a limited number of medical experts, they tend to retain the same medical experts over and over again. This is often very profitable for the medical experts who can make millions of dollars testifying for insurance hired attorneys.
Juries are smart and they pick up on the financial relationship between the insurance-hired attorney and their retained medical expert, who wants to continue to make money. In exchange, the retained medical expert usually provides testimony that benefits the alleged at-fault party and is against the injured party.
To combat this, insurance-hired attorneys have sought to seek information as to how much injury attorneys have paid doctors who have treated injury victims. The hope is to tell a jury, essentially, “see we both have paid the witnesses money in the past.” The problem is that these amounts do not represent the same thing. While insurance-hired attorneys retain medical experts for the sole purpose of providing favorable testimony, injury attorneys payments to treating doctors are done usually to pay off a client’s balance from having treated with that doctor. For that reason, the courts have treated retained medical experts differently than treating doctors. However, the makeup of the Florida Supreme Court has recently changed. Due to the mandatory retirement of some justices and the appointment by Gov. Ron DeSantis of others, insurance companies now think this may be the best opportunity to have the Florida Supreme Court revisit and change the opinion it issued just a few years ago.
None Discussed This Week.
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If you have been injured, contact Presser Law for a free case review with an attorney to determine your legal rights. For over 10 years I have represented injury victims throughout Central Florida in their times of need and I would be honored to help you as well.
About Injury and Wrongful Death Attorney Justin H. Presser
Justin H. Presser is an award-winning attorney and founder of Presser Law, P.A. representing clients in the areas of personal injury, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, wrongful death and more. With an office located in Altamonte Springs, Florida, Presser Law, P.A., proudly services clients throughout Central Florida including the following areas: Orange County including Orlando, Ocoee, Doctor Phillips, Apopka, Winter Garden, Winter Park, Maitland, College Park, Thornton Park; Seminole County including Altamonte Springs, Longwood, Winter Springs, Lake Mary, Oviedo, Casselberry, Chuluota; Lake County including Clermont, Mount Dora, Eustis, Tavares, Leesburg, Sorrento; and Brevard County including Melbourne, Merritt Island, Cocoa Beach, Titusville, Palm Bay.
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