Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Florida injury and criminal defense law firm answers common questions
The Florida law firm of Fallgatter Catlin & Varon, P.A. in Jacksonville represents plaintiffs and defendants in civil and criminal cases in federal and state courts. We have heard a number of common questions from our clients during our eight decades of combined experience. While the following questions and answers do not replace a consultation with our attorneys, they can help to enlighten you about certain aspects of personal injury and criminal law.
The investigative phase is the right time to seek legal support. Every criminal case begins with an investigation, which is one of the most critical stages in any potential criminal case. This is the time the police make the initial, critical decisions that can influence if the prosecution ever files charges against you. For that reason, this stage of your case can represent a perfect opportunity to influence favorably the outcome. In fact, in some cases, our skilled Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys can use this time to get your case closed without prosecution or lay groundwork for a positive resolution at a later stage.
The best thing you can do for your case is to have the information needed to make an informed decision about how to proceed. That is why you should consult an attorney before ever agreeing to a police interview. Ronald Reagan once said, that to him, the 10 most frightening words in the English language are, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you." We advise our clients never to talk to the police without meeting with us first, so we can investigate their situation, including finding out what the police are up to. The police generally do not try to help you. They may believe you are guilty of some crime and want you to confess and make their job easier. We recently had a case in which an individual agreed to talk to the police without consulting an attorney. The police later admitted that, had he refused to talk to them, they would have closed their case. Unfortunately, the individual tried to explain things to the officers. He is now in federal prison.
Retain legal help immediately. The period between an arrest and that next court date is vitally important. The police arrest citizens under the assumption that they have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person arrested committed the crime. This is not the same thing as a decision to prosecute. An attorney in the State Attorney's office (a filing attorney) makes the decision to file charges and what charges to file. Without representation by an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney on your side, the prosecution makes decisions about if to prosecute based solely on the information from the police. As you can imagine, the police always seek to justify their arrest and seek prosecution. They do not present your side, which almost always results in formal charges — often the most serious charges. We begin fighting for you before the prosecution makes any charging decision. We frequently can obtain the best possible outcome during this brief window in time, before the prosecutor decides whether or not to prosecute you. Do not wait and allow a stranger to make what could be the most important decision about your future without hearing your defense.
Choosing a lawyer to defend you in a criminal case is one of the most important decisions you (or your family) may ever make. There are many adequate attorneys out there. Some may take your money and make a deal in your case. That is not good enough for us, and it should not be good enough for you. You want the best result possible — not second or third best. Make sure your lawyers have the knowledge and experience necessary to handle your case. Learn about lawyers' levels and years of experience and if they have received recognition for their work. Meet them personally. Discuss your case, and learn what approach they plan to take to defend you. While the system is supposed to presume you are innocent, it is dangerous to trust that. The criminal defense attorneys at Fallgatter Catlin & Varon, P.A. fight for our clients. We are proactive, not reactive. Your lawyer should be aggressive and work hard and fast. We do just that. Find a lawyer who uses a team approach with his or her office and with you. We know the law, but you know the facts and your personal circumstances. Only by combining forces can you get the best outcome. Know what you are paying for. We put everything in writing, so there are no surprises. Many times, a client comes to us after hiring someone else and being unhappy. We ask them what they paid for (that is, what the lawyer promised to do for him or her), and they often do not know because they did not get a written contract. Finally, and perhaps most important, your defense attorney should care enough to make sure you completely understand your case and your options. You should never leave the office of your lawyer or court wondering what just happened or what anyone said. We make sure that never happens to our clients.
Our FAQs are based on our more than 50 years of combined experience in criminal law. We want to help you, and we want you to know the problems that arise. Facing criminal charges can be overwhelming, and we are with you every step of the way. Do we want to be your lawyers? Our highest honor is representing citizens accused of crimes — and helping them get through a justice system often bent on breaking them. We believe in the Constitution and that your rights under the Constitution are just as important as any laws the police officers try to enforce. You will become part of our law firm family. Our entire staff has a strong dedication to helping you through these most trying times. E-mail us. Make an appointment. See for yourself that we are the lawyers you want on your side. Consultations are free. If you decide not to hire us when the consult is over, all you owe us is a handshake. We know how to help, and we look forward to the opportunity and honor to do so.
Personal injury FAQs
Click the links below to get answers to common questions. If you have additional questions or want to set up a consultation to discuss your legal options, please contact us online or call us at (904) 353-5800 today.
Not necessarily. The first goal is to accomplish what is in your best interest. About 90 percent of the time this means we can resolve your differences with the person or business that caused your injury. We hope that person carries coverage by an insurance company that acts reasonably, so you can receive full settlement quickly and easily. However, if the insurer attempts unfairly to reduce or deny your claim, you may have to consider a lawsuit. We examine the alternatives with you so you can make an informed decision. The experienced trial attorneys at Fallgatter Catlin & Varon, P.A. are ready to provide the level of legal support you need.
Under Florida law, your contributory fault for an accident does not bar you from pursuing compensation from other at-fault parties. But then the law reduces the value of your monetary and non-monetary damages based on your contributory negligence. Thus, if your total damages amount to $1,000 but your own negligence contributed 10 percent to the accident, you typically can collect $900 in damages.
You pay no attorney fees unless we make a recovery on your behalf. Then our Jacksonville injury law firm operates on a contingency fee basis, meaning you pay a percentage of the recovery plus our costs.
The length of a personal injury case varies from person to person and depends on your healing process and other factors, such as insurance availability. Some cases take less time because we can calculate the full expenses associated with the injuries and settle more quickly. But then when victims take a longer time to heal, we want to make sure we understand the full extent of your medical issues and their costs before trying to resolve your claim through a settlement or lawsuit.
We are proud of our staff and their expertise and experience. However, we believe you need a relationship with your attorney, and we find it unbelievable that some people who use other law firms never meet or speak with an attorney. That does not happen at Fallgatter Catlin & Varon, P.A. At our firm, you meet with your attorney, who handles all aspects of your case, answers your questions and advocates on your behalf. Our team remains available to gather and assimilate important information for your case and to keep in contact with you.
If you have additional questions regarding personal injury or want to set up a consultation to discuss your legal options, please contact us online or call us at (904) 353-5800 today.