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Live, work, pay.

How an accident pushed one Orlando woman into the intersection of our city's professional-incest machine...

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: Rob Bartlett, License: N/A

Rob Bartlett

Fortunately, Pfeiffer’s own vehicle was covered through Progressive Insurance, and she had $25,000 in uninsured motorist coverage. Her medical insurance was covered under her mother’s policy through United Healthcare, though United wouldn’t kick in payments until Pfeiffer’s Progressive coverage was exhausted.

Meanwhile, Pfeiffer spent four days a week at physical therapy at RDV Sportsplex, trying to get her knee back in working order. The initial surgery, which involved pins and wires to pull her knee back together, didn’t take, and before the end of 2010, she needed another surgery and another round of physical therapy. She also says she needed psychological therapy for the incident. She racked up more than $8,000 in physical therapy bills and nearly $65,000 in medical expenses for the first surgery alone (before insurance). She says the second surgery doubled that number, and between co-pays and prescriptions, she was deep in the hole.

“It’s hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she says.

According to John Morgan – Udell did not return calls for this story – cases like Pfeiffer’s are not uncommon. He says in a state where 30 to 40 percent of drivers are uninsured, fair payoffs are often unlikely.

“People get mad,” he says. “They really shouldn’t be mad at us, they should be mad at the lawmakers. The Graves Amendment is a bad deal for our clients. Over the past 12 years in Florida, there’s been an increase in anti-consumer tort reform. It’s brutal.”

Morgan & Morgan takes in “almost 50,000 new cases a year,” Morgan says, and usually the firm knows within two months whether there is going to be a successful outcome. Asset checks are performed on uninsured motorists, and if there’s no money there, “you can’t get blood from a turnip. We don’t have debtors’ prisons in America anymore. People have had catastrophic injuries, and there is no insurance to help them.” In other words, if there’s no insurance, there’s no use pursuing the case.

Even the far-flung notion of suing the city for allowing O-Cartz to operate uninsured isn’t much of an option, he says. For one, the city caps its liabilities at $100,000. Lawyers are only allowed 25 percent of that, which is hardly worth it for the expenses they would incur.

“The better question to the city is why are you giving this guy goodies when he is responsible for something like this?” Morgan says, alluding to the fact that Lamb was in receipt of city grants for another business he operates, called Oopsy Scoopsy Frozen Yogurt.

Morgan has nothing but praise for Pfeiffer’s current attorney, and sympathizes with the no-win position he is in. “[Udell] is a very thorough lawyer,” he says. “He gets paid on what he produces. The thing about contingency work is that our tail is on [Pfeiffer’s] kite.”

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