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Four Important Reasons Why You Need a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer

You are driving your SUV on Fleming Street in Key West, Florida when a sedan being operated by a texting teenager smashes into your vehicle. The distracted teen was speeding, so the impact was quite severe, resulting in extensive damage to you and your vehicle. In fact, you had to be transported to the hospital with injuries to your neck, back, and knees. In this scenario, hiring a Florida personal injury lawyer is extremely important. Below are four reasons why.

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Matt Lemmon via flickr

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Matt Lemmon via flickr

Focus on Recovery

Do you really want to spend your days haggling with an insurance company to get the money you deserve? Instead, you should focus on your recovery and getting back to 100% health. Focus on your physical therapy visits and picking up the pieces of your life. Let your Florida car accident attorney haggle with the insurance company.

Knowledge of Personal Injury Law

Do you know the applicable statute of limitations for a personal injury case? Do you know where to find all of the applicable sources of insurance coverage for your claim? If you do not, that is totally understandable. Most non-lawyers do not. A personal injury lawyer is experienced in this area of law and that knowledge and experience can be put to use to help you get the compensation you deserve.

The Insurance Company Has a Team of Lawyers

When you file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, the claim is initially handled by a claims adjuster, but the insurance company also has a team of experienced defense lawyers ready to litigate personal injury claims with a goal of denying you from getting any money. Remember, insurance companies focus on making a profit. Your injury claim hurts their bottom line, so they want to pay you as little as possible and would prefer to pay you absolutely nothing. You will hear reason after reason why you should not get any money from the claims adjuster and/or the insurance defense lawyer.

Level the playing field. Your Florida personal injury attorney will be your advocate. He or she will fight to get you the money you rightfully deserve. He or she will go to bat for you with a laser focus on protecting your interests rather than the interests of the insurance company. If you want to get the highest amount of restitution available, you need a personal injury lawyer.

Insurance Companies Treat Non-Represented Claimants Differently

It is an unfortunate truth that insurance companies treat claimants who do not have an attorney differently. They drag their feet in the hopes that you will let the statute of limitations expire. They will not offer you the most money they have available for settlement because they are not worried about you taking the case to trial and representing yourself to get a big judgment or verdict. Having a Florida personal injury attorney on your side changes that completely. They know that an experienced, aggressive injury lawyer can get a big verdict that will cost them even more money.

Contact the Experienced Injury Lawyers at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti Today

At the Law Offices of Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A., you will be represented by a Florida personal injury law firm with over 30 years of experience representing people harmed in automobile accidents and other serious accidents. Contact our firm today to set up a no-cost, no-pressure consultation.

Bankruptcy Does Not Mean You Become Debt Free

Some people mistakenly believe that after they file for bankruptcy, their debts are wiped clean and they get a completely fresh start. Unfortunately, the federal bankruptcy code is not that kind.  If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the majority of your debt will be cleared away, but there are some debts that are “nondischargeable.” This means they stay with you even after your bankruptcy is filed and done.

Types of Nondischargeable Debt

The Bankruptcy Code lists 19 categories of nondischargeable debt. These types of debts do not require a court hearing to determine whether or not they will be dischargeable. The burden is on the debtor to show extraordinary circumstances in order to convince a court to discharge on the debts listed below. Here is a sample:

  • Student loans
  • Child support and alimony
  • Debts from a civil judgment related to drunk driving
  • Debts which are the result of fraud or criminal acts

No Right to a Debt Discharge

When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it is important to keep in mind that you do not have an absolute right to a discharge of any debt. In order to receive a discharge, you must follow the provisions set forth in the Bankruptcy Code.

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Jeremy Crawshaw via flickr

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Jeremy Crawshaw via flickr

For example, Section 727(a) of the Bankruptcy Code outlines a list of reasons why the court may deny a Chapter 7 discharge. Basically, this Section states that if you fail to follow the express rules and regulations, or do not provide the necessary information, then a creditor, bankruptcy trustee, or the U.S. trustee may object to your Chapter 7 discharge. If the court agrees, it can deny your debt discharge outright. This is a big reason why it is important for you to have an experienced Florida bankruptcy attorney by your side to help you navigate through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. Even an inadvertent mistake or a set of missing documents can torpedo a debt discharge.

Debts Are Not Dischargeable if a Creditor Successfully Objects

Along with near de facto nondischargeable debts like alimony and child support, there are other types of debts not automatically excepted from discharge that will need a court hearing to determine dischargeability. The burden is on a creditor to request a hearing so a judge can examine the debts and determine if they are dischargeable or not.

The types of debts subject to this type of hearing are usually those that were accrued shortly before you filed for bankruptcy. For example, if you purchased “luxury goods” via credit card totaling more than $650 within 90 days of filing for bankruptcy, the credit card company can challenge the dischargeability of this debt. The reason is that public policy wants to limit the risk that someone will go out and make lavish purchases just prior to filing for bankruptcy. The burden is on the creditor to present the facts to the court. If you prove that you intended to pay the charges back or that the goods are not “luxury” items, then the debt will likely be discharged.

The same discharge challenge can be made for cash advances totaling more than $925 within 70 days of filing for bankruptcy.

Speak to a Florida Bankruptcy Lawyer Today

As you can see, filing for bankruptcy is not a cakewalk to a fresh start with debts taken off your back. Once you file for bankruptcy, you have to navigate a complicated maze of regulations and laws embedded in the bankruptcy code. Speak to the experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, PA. The firm offers free, confidential consultations so that you have nothing to lose.

Understanding the Similarities and Differences Between SSDI and SSI

You may have heard of disability benefits, though you may have questions regarding the regulatory maze that disabled individuals must work through to obtain them. A major area of confusion is the distinction between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplementary Security Income (SSI). Both programs are administered through the Social Security Administration and have different criteria and requirements. This blog is meant to help demystify these two important federal programs and help you understand whether you or a loved one qualify.

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Aric Riley via flickr

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Aric Riley via flickr

Similar Medical Criteria for SSDI and SSI

SSDI and SSI are similar in the area of medical eligibility. For both programs, there must be some evidence of a disability. Additionally, the disability must be diagnosed by a licensed medical treatment professional, must have lasted or be expected to last at least one year, and must be defined by the Social Security Administration as being disabling.

To keep it simple, if you are considered disabled under the SSDI program, there is a very good chance you will be deemed medically eligible for SSI benefits.

Financial Eligibility

The biggest distinction between the two programs is the financial requirements to obtain SSI benefits. Generally, SSI is meant to be accessed by senior citizens 65 or older, the disabled, or the blind whose income is below the federal benefit limit. SSI is provided for the disabled when they do not qualify for SSDI, or the amount of benefits they receive through SSDI and any other income they might have is not enough to place them above the government’s financial standard.

Source of Benefits

Another key distinction is where the benefits come from. SSDI funds are taken from pooled contributions you make throughout your working life. Basically, you pay into the SSDI program through taxes. You essentially insure yourself to protect you in case of a disability. This is why the Social Security Administration requires SSDI applicants to have worked a minimum period of time prior to qualifying for benefits. Conversely, SSI benefits are funded by general tax revenues and do not require you to have worked for a specific period of time to qualify.

Can I Apply for Both SSDI and SSI Benefits?

It is possible to be eligible and apply for both SSDI and SSI. To obtain benefits through both programs, you must suffer from a medical condition listed as disabling by the Social Security Administration under both programs. That is key to ensure you qualify for SSDI benefits since those who can work generally would not qualify for SSDI.

To obtain SSI benefits, your monthly income must be below the SSI federal benefit rate. In 2015, that rate was $733 per month. In addition, to obtain SSI benefits, you must have total assets worth less than $2,000 if you are single,or $3,000 if you are married.

If you meet the criteria set forth above, there is a good chance you can get benefits through both SSDI and SSI.

Speak to an Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer Today

As you can see, social security law is complex and requires a level of understanding to navigate the federal benefit system. At Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, we are here to help you and your loved ones. We offer free, confidential consultations so that you can understand your rights under both federal programs. There are no fees for representation before the Social Security Administration in disability claims unless we win your case.

Social Security Disability Versus Veterans Disability Benefits

If you served our country and suffered a serious injury during combat, or developed a debilitating injury or condition after being discharged, you may be tempted to pursue both Social Security and veterans’ disability benefits. It is quite common for veterans to have claims going on simultaneously. You can receive VA disability benefits and Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits at the same time. This is because VA disability benefits are not tethered to income, unlike SSDI insurance claims.

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Port of San Diego via flickr

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Port of San Diego via flickr

Understanding the Differences Between Social Security and Veterans Disability Benefits

A major difference is that the process of qualifying for VA benefits is less stringent when compared to qualifying for SSDI benefits. To qualify for veterans’ disability benefits, you do not need to be totally disabled in order to be eligible. SSDI benefits, on the other hand, are not accessible for a mere partial loss of employment. For SSDI, you must be totally disabled to get compensation.

Another difference is the “treating physician rule.” For SSDI claims, your physician is considered your “treating physician” and their opinion is given deference. Conversely, for VA disability benefits, your treating doctor’s opinion is not given deference. The VA has broader authority and can determine that your physician’s opinion is biased. This means the VA could require you to undergo an independent examination.

Pursuing Both Benefits Can Actually Work Synergistically

If you are eligible, it makes sense to pursue both VA and SSDI benefits. Why? Because if you are approved for VA disability benefits, it can help you qualify for SSDI benefits. This is due to the fact that another federal government agency has determined you are either incapable of working or you are disabled to the point where full-time employment would be difficult for you to maintain.  In fact, many federal courts have held that the VA’s assessment of your disability, and the associated disability rating, are entitled to “great weight” in the determination of whether you are actually disabled (and would therefore qualify for SSDI benefits). So this means that the Social Security Administration will likely place major weight on the VA’s determination of whether you receive disability benefits.

On the other hand, the VA does not place much weight on an SSDI benefit award. Why? Because the VA’s assessment of whether you qualify for benefits under their program depends largely on your service record and when you developed your disability. This means it is not necessarily the fact that you are disabled, but whether it is service-related. Nevertheless, the VA should be given your entire SSDI file and decision since this information could provide evidence to support your VA claim. In fact, the VA is required to consider your SSDI records.

Contact an Experienced SSDI Benefit Lawyer Today

As you can see, qualifying for SSDI benefits can be quite complex and there are numerous hurdles you must overcome. We are here to help. The experienced SSDI lawyers at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, PA offer free consultations to determine whether you qualify for disability benefits.

Is a Short Sale Right for You? Understanding the Law

If you are under water on your mortgage (i.e. you owe more than the house is actually worth) and you are having difficulty making monthly mortgage payments, you may want to consider a short sale. This type of sale may benefit you in the long-run by avoiding a hit to your credit from a foreclosure.

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Trulia via flickr

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Trulia via flickr

Understanding the Basics of a Short Sale

A short sale would enable your home to be sold for its current value, as opposed to the presumably higher value of your mortgage. So, for example, if you owe $250,000 on a home in Dade County, but the home is currently valued at $200,000, the short sale would put the home on the market for $200,000.

Entering into such an arrangement is a serious consideration, for which there are (at least) two big things to keep in mind:

  1. A short sale must be approved by your lender
  2. This type of sale negatively affects your credit, just not as severely as a foreclosure

Florida Law and Foreclosures – Why a Short Sale May be an Attractive Option

Under Florida law, lenders have the right to pursue borrowers for up to 20 years after a home foreclosure to get their money back. This means you, or a loved one, could face decades of wage garnishment long after you have left the home and tried to rebuild your life. An article published in the Wall Street Journal is a prime example of how lenders are willing to engage in a long, drawn-out battle over a foreclosure. The homeowner in that article has been battling her lender for over 25 years.

When it comes to a short sale, lenders may be willing to write off the remainder owed on the loan if they believe there is a good chance they will recover the value of the home via the sale. It is a pretty basic calculus the lender must go through – do they swallow a $50,000 loss through a short sale but still recoup the remaining $200,000 owed, or do they risk not getting any money back by the homeowner going into foreclosure? This is why lenders are open to agreeing to short sales, especially if the homeowner has not shown the ability to pay their mortgage on time.  

Keep in mind, there is still a risk that the lender will try to collect the balance, but such a pursuit occurs much less frequently compared to foreclosures. This may be due to the fact that, for short sales, the homeowner is attempting to work with the lender and the lender is getting a good portion of their loan back. Also, the law is much stricter on a lender going after a homeowner post-short sale. In fact, with a short sale, the lender must obtain a judgment from a court to get the authority to pursue the borrower for what is owed on the principal. For foreclosures, the lender can immediately pursue the borrower for what is owed.

A Short Sale Is Not a Solution for All Housing Difficulties

Whether a short sale is the right option depends largely on the specific facts of your situation. A big drawback with a short sale is that you have to disclose your financial information to the lender. This can actually encourage the lender to go after you to try and recover on the remaining principal owed. Nevertheless, someone who is having a hard time paying their mortgage probably is not concerned about the lender discovering a hidden treasure trove of assets.

Speak to an Experienced Short Sale and Foreclosure Defense Law Firm Today

Do not try and take on the lender by yourself. You should have an advisor on your side looking out for your best interests. For any short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure transaction, make sure you have a legal counsel experienced with short sales to protect your interests.  The law firm of Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. offer free, confidential consultations. We are here to help.