About – My Story

I began treating injury patients at my Florida Chiropractic Office in 1996. In 2004, an SUV turned into my pickup truck and I ended up like this:


In a split second I had entered the injury system – only this time as a patient and a client, instead of a physician.

When a crash leaves you upside down, dangling by your seatbelt, while your fluid-leaking vehicle slowly spins to a stop in the middle of a busy intersection, all you can think of is to get out as quickly as possible. I unclipped my seatbelt and fell to the roof, crawled across a pile of glass and wriggled through the side window into the open air. I ran to the side of the street and collapsed onto the grass. After a few moments, I instinctively started checking my body for injuries: Some blood coming from my head but not much, glass embedded in my knee and forearms but not too bad, bones and joints seemed intact and functional – and most importantly – no pain. I stood up, walked around and breathed a sigh of relief.

I could hear someone near me, “Are you okay? I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”

“Yes, yes, I’m okay,” I said reassuringly to the driver of the SUV – my will to comfort her trumping my wisdom to keep quiet. Sirens could be heard in the background as witnesses began to gather near the wreckage, all looking at me with concern. A coldness on my face reminded me that my head wound was still leaking so I quickly wiped off my face, smiled at the crowd and gave them a thumbs up.

I looked over at my truck – it was toast. I smiled again at my next thought: I had just made my last payment only a few weeks before. My first fully owned vehicle hadn’t made it long. There were contents of my cab spread out along the road – a recently removed ceiling fan had spilled from the bed. I saw my cell phone and walked out to grab it from the rubble. I called my wife. “I was just in a car accident. I’m okay – don’t worry, but I need you to come pick me up.” A paramedic interrupted and asked to check me out. “I’m okay,” I said with the authority of a physician, but how was he supposed to know.

My wife interpreted my calmness correctly – she knew that it was much worse than I had let on. “Are you okay?” she shouted. My daughters asked, “What’s wrong, mommy?” in the background.

“I’m really okay,” I said, “I promise.” I looked at my upside down truck. “If the girls are with you, maybe you better not come. I’ll be alright.”

“I’ll be there in five minutes,” she exclaimed.

My daughters were 3 and 5 at the time and immediately began crying when they saw me and the ensuing mayhem. I knew I was okay – knew I didn’t have any life threatening injuries but also knew that it might have been wise for other reasons to make a visit to the ER. However, I wasn’t about to leave my girls for the hospital in the state they were in. I assured them that I was okay, that my truck and my seat belt had protected me. We went home and I cleaned up.

A few days later the lower back pain started. Before the accident I was a healthy and active 36 year old. I played basketball competitively a couple night per week, I rode my bike on the Pinellas trail, I ran around and played with my girls – hoisting them up in the air and swinging them around as all dads do. I played a regular game of golf with my dad on my day off – my best way to spend a few hours with him each week. From that day forward everything changed.

Dr. Dave Sandefur, Esq.

Dr. Dave Sandefur, Esq.

Since I had been treating accident patients under a regimen that I wholeheartedly believed in, I knew that I would have to do the same. I underwent a chiropractic examination, had x-rays and started a post-accident treatment plan. When the back pain worsened with referral pain down my left leg, my doctor ordered an MRI. I had never had an MRI before. It revealed that a lumbar disc was herniated – an extrusion at L5/S1 – the worst kind of disc pathology. Disc bulges and protrusions could be helped with chiropractic care – an extrusion was usually a candidate for surgery. My orthopedic surgeon concurred. In my experience, back surgery was the very last treatment option – a point of no return – so I continued conservative care in the hopes that my pain level would decrease to something livable. It eventually did.

There was no doubt that my accident had changed my life forever, had caused permanent injuries that would stay with me from that point forward. I would never again ride a bike, play competitive basketball or swing my girls. I hired an experienced trial attorney and we put my case together. Three years after the crash and after multiple roadblocks in any reasonable negotiations, we went to trial. It lasted five days and was an eye-opening experience. I learned the hard way how the legal system works in this regard. My attorney did an excellent job, selecting an impartial jury and presenting our case in an ethical and professional manner. The defense was professional as well. However, I quickly learned how far they would swing the pendulum away from reality in order to do the very best for their client – not the relatively innocent woman who had accidentally swerved into my lane and whom had been forced to sit at the defense table to play the part of the exasperated opposing party, but the actual defendant, the insurance company that was doing everything in their endless financial powers to avoid offering me anything fair. They would ultimately spend much more defending my case than I would have settled for prior to the trial.

I should have known better. I was quite aware that a criminal trial demanded both sides to vigorously defend their positions, to confuse the jury with issues that weren’t in their side’s favor and to offer hypothetical explanations to create reasonable doubt when circumstantial evidence weighed against a side. In my trial, the defense wisely followed this tact. With an ethical responsibility, we instead attempted to offer the truth. In retrospect, we should have followed the same strategy as the defense.

For example, my expert medical witnesses were my treating chiropractor, my orthopedic surgeon and a highly respected radiologist who interpreted my MRI studies. These experts were actual practicing physicians in their fields. The insurance company instead employed hired guns – doctors who make their money testifying, not actually caring for patients. Their neurosurgeon and radiologist were professional witnesses for the defense, having created testimony belittling injuries in every case they had testified in. A circuit judge literally told me one day, “I wish juries could know that the radiologist who just testified will be traveling from courtroom to courtroom, day after day, saying whatever the defense wants them to say.” Their neurosurgeon told the jury that my injuries were in existence long before the accident and even if I did need back surgery it could easily be performed for less than $6,000, not the $40,000 that my orthopedic surgeon had testified to (Interestingly, I have since attempted to refer my patients for the $6,000 surgery but it laughably does not exist). The radiologist told the jury that my MRI showed obvious signs that the disc herniation had been there for years before the accident – that my roll-over crash didn’t have anything to do with the first clinical finding of a disc injury.

I can’t say that the jury was gullible enough to completely buy their biased testimony, but it did have an effect on their verdict. I won the case, but because of the defense’s influence the jury reduced my damages to a small percentage of what we believed it was worth. Their award barely covered my existing medical bills and attorney fees.

While the shock of that loss was sinking in I realized what we should have done differently. We should have played the game just as the defense had done. It was foolish to enter that trial on an uneven playing field. Knowing that the defense was planning on swinging the pendulum well away from reality, we should have never presented our side of the case so succinctly. If the goal of the trial was to achieve a fair outcome we should have employed our own hired guns. It was short sighted to allow actual treating physicians to testify on my behalf. We should have hired professionals to tell the jury that I was one false move from being a paraplegic, that my MRI findings proved that my injuries could only have been caused from the accident and that my inevitable back surgery would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and likely leave me in a wheelchair for life – that would have been fighting fire with fire and likely would’ve allowed the jury to make a middle-of-the-road, fair judgment.

The experience was an inspiration. Shortly after the trial I began researching law schools. For kicks, I took the LSAT and did well enough to apply. I was accepted into Stetson’s part-time program which allowed me to continue my chiropractic practice. It was a grueling schedule and when I considered giving up, putting in 10 hour days seeing patients and then driving to Tampa to sit through 3 hour law lectures, I called upon that trial experience and pushed through. I took a deep breath and soon the worst was over. I was fortunate to pass the Bar on the first try and was sworn in as a licensed Florida attorney in April of 2014.

Things happen for a reason. Had things turned out better at my trial, the money would probably be gone and becoming an attorney would be a fading dream. I’m so thankful it turned out the way it did. I am now gathering all of this experience and focusing my energies on doing the very best for victims of injuries caused by others. If you choose to go with me – Florida Law Doc – you will not only have 18 years of experience as an injury physician on your side, but you will have an insuppressible advocate for your case – an injury attorney that understands what it takes to win – to get a fair outcome in negotiations or trial. The Florida Bar prohibits attorneys from holding themselves out as better than other attorneys. It’s up to you to pick who you think would be the best in your corner. I hope my story can help you make that decision.

David A. Sandefur, DC, Esq.