Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Don’t Try to Handle Your Lyft Accident Claim Alone

When utilizing a ridesharing service like Lyft, you expect to safely reach your destination every time, and an accident is likely the last thing on your mind. However, if an accident does occur, you will have to make many difficult decisions, including whether to hire an attorney. While legal resources are widely available on the internet, and you may be able to directly negotiate with the insurance company, hiring an experienced attorney can help ensure the best possible result in your case.

You’re Outranked

We want to help our clients recover as much money as possible for their Lyft accident claims, and we also want victims to understand why they shouldn’t attempt to handle such a claim alone. First, the average claims adjuster has more experience than a first-time victim, and may attempt to trick you into signing paperwork that limits your right to fair compensation. For example, the adjuster may offer you $500 to sign a document that waives your right to seek additional money. To avoid being hoodwinked, you should hire an experienced attorney to guide you through the entire process.

No-Fault Benefits—How Car Accident Bills Get Paid

Florida is a no-fault jurisdiction for car accidents, meaning that each driver, vehicle owner, or passenger must go to his or her own auto insurance policy for the first $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. Any medical bills exceeding this amount may not be covered, unless you have private medical insurance or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Florida’s New Ridesharing Law

Under the new Florida ridesharing law, each driver is defined as a member of a transportation network company (TNC), such as Lyft, that provides a prearranged ride to another person or group through a device that accesses a digital network. All such drivers must carry a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage (which extends to personal injury, death, and property damage).

Even when a TNC driver is off-duty, he or she must have at least $50,000 in personal injury and property damage liability coverage for the vehicle used for rideshares. In each case, the level of coverage that applies from the TNC’s policy (i.e. Lyft’s national insurance policy), and the driver’s insurance, will depend on what the driver was doing at the time of the crash.

For example, a driver could have been waiting for a new job, driving to pick up a new rider, transporting a rider, or operating the vehicle off-duty. A qualified attorney can help you determine if you have a claim against the driver of the vehicle you were riding in during the crash, or if there is a claim against another Lyft driver who struck your vehicle. Other possibilities include that you were a pedestrian, a bicyclist, or a motorcyclist hit by a Lyft driver.

Choose Our St. Petersburg Lyft Crash Lawyers

Sustaining an injury while taking a Lyft drive is a serious matter. This type of case may take years to resolve, and there is no guarantee that you will recover any damages. The attorneys at the Dolman Law Group have the experience to help you take on Lyft’s insurance carrier and/or the driver’s carrier. You will be required to prove that the driver or company was responsible for your injuries. In the past, we’ve helped many accident victims secure monetary relief under Florida’s tort laws.

Each Lyft Accident Case Is Unique

Lawsuits that involve ridesharing companies and/or their drivers have increased in number over the past few years. As a result, in 2017 Governor Rick Scott passed the ridesharing law discussed above to clarify the obligations of TNC drivers, including that they carry the required insurance. If you are injured in a Lyft accident, you have the legal right to pursue a claim, and seek compensation for your injuries. In general, Florida law provides victims with four (4) years from the date of the accident to initiate a claim. Furthermore, victims must demonstrate how the accident caused a permanent injury, significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or significant and permanent loss of one or more bodily functions.

Typical Damages in Auto Accident Cases

If you were injured after hailing a ride over a digital network, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries. Types of expenses for which you may be able to recover include:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages (past and future)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Therapy
  • Transportation to doctor appointments
  • Pain and suffering
  • Legal fees and costs
Punitive damages (generally occurs when the defendant’s insurance carrier does not make an offer before trial)

How Will Lyft Drivers Pay Their Fair Share?

Many factors affect whether you have a claim against a Lyft driver following an accident. The first step is often to send a demand letter to the defendant’s insurance carrier, which includes a breakdown of your expenses and a proposed settlement amount. The carrier may offer you a settlement, or you may have to take the case to trial.

Regardless, hiring an experienced attorney to handle this process for you will help achieve the best possible result. While we cannot guarantee a favorable result in your case, as each case depends on the specific circumstances of the accident, we at the Dolman Law Group have significant experience representing victims in Lyft accidents. We understand how to argue for damages based on your medical records and other compelling evidence.

In Florida, attorneys are not permitted to promise that they will secure a specific settlement amount or damages award, and there are no guarantees that you will win any money; however, you want an experienced personal injury attorney on your side who knows how to navigate Florida’s complex legal system.

How Do I Pay My Lyft Accident Lawyer?

At the Dolman Law Group, we regularly represent individuals who have been injured in car accidents, and in appropriate cases, we do so on a contingency fee basis in which we collect attorney’s fees out of any settlement amount or damages award that we secure for you. We provide free consultations, during which we discuss the validity of your case and the relevant fee structure; you are not obligated to hire us after your consultation. It is important to understand that every Lyft accident claim is different, and that your recovery could be limited by a number of factors. However, recovery is possible. If you were injured, or lost a loved one, in a car accident that involved a Lyft driver, contact us at (727) 222-6922, or online, and speak to an experienced attorney today.

Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(727) 222-6922

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Personal Injuries Can Potentially Happen Right in Your House

Do you frequently invite guests to your home for parties or business gatherings? What would you do if someone suffered an injury on your property? You may consider your home safe and dismiss this possibility, but it happens more frequently than you might expect, and it could happen to anyone, including you.

What steps would you take to deal with an injured person in your home? Are you liable for injuries sustained by your guests?

Below we discuss premises liability laws in Florida, and what types of accident scenarios are most likely to occur. If you suffered an injury on someone else’s property, or if someone suffered an injury on your property, and you’re worried about potential liability, the Dolman Law Group can help!

What Kind of Premises Liability Laws Does Florida Have?

Even if you’ve lived in Southern Florida for your entire life, you may not be familiar with the state’s premises liability laws. That’s understandable if you’ve never had a guest suffer an injury in your home.

The Florida Bar outlines exactly what safety responsibilities you have as a homeowner when a guest enters your home. You must provide invitees (whether social or business) with warnings of any known dangers on the property. Florida law also requires that you maintain your premises in a reasonably safe condition, including guarding against potential third-party crimes.

Regarding uninvited guests, Florida law only requires that you refrain from causing any willful or wanton injury. For example, you must remove any traps that you may have installed in your home to ward off thieves, but you do not need to guard against third-party crimes or provide any up-front warnings.

Tripping and Falling

Falling is one of the most common household injuries in the United States. According to recent statistics, 6,000 deaths per year are the result of falling in a house. A guest visiting you could end up losing his or her life, or suffer severe injuries in your home, if they fall on your property; and you could be liable.

These falls are sometimes caused by situations that you might not even realize are dangerous. For example, maybe your floor is slippery due to water being tracked inside from the rain, and one of your guests loses their footing and falls. Or, you may own furniture with sharp edges, which could lead to serious head injuries in the event of a fall. Other potential hazards include hardwood floors and stairs, both inside and outside.

Children Poisoned From Items in Your Home

One home-related danger that may not be as obvious as stairs or slippery floors is the risk of a child inadvertently consuming something poisonous. It is easy to place prescription drugs on the bathroom counter and forget the risk this may pose for small children. This scenario could also apply to insecticides, household cleaning supplies, and small objects; a child may not realize the danger these items pose, and ingest something out of curiosity. The accidental poisoning of a child could lead to a major lawsuit filed by the parents that names you as a defendant, even if you are friends with them.

In Florida, home poisonings are a leading cause of death and permanent injury. Poisonings can result from more than just medications and pesticides; children and adults can be poisoned by carbon monoxide, poisonous plants, or even commonplace household products.

To prevent accidental poisonings, inspect your home before having children over, and identify objects that should be removed or situations that should be avoided prior to their arrival.

Injuries From Firearms

Gun ownership is commonplace in Florida. You may have one hidden in a drawer for personal safety, but also where a child could easily find it. Imagine a scenario where you have guests over for a party, and someone’s child snoops through your drawers and finds your firearm. If you forgot to initiate the trigger lock, the child could accidentally fire it, which could obviously result in severe injury or death. Adults could become injured this way as well, whether from being struck by a firearm fired by a child, or accidentally firing one themselves.

Florida already experiences far too many accidental deaths due to firearms, particularly child deaths. These numbers have increased in recent years, and the state has been slow to respond to and recognize this danger.
While accidental firearm deaths are a serious concern on a societal and emotional level, they also are an important part of personal injury law and homeowner liability.

Water-Related Injuries

Anyone who has lived in Southern Florida understands that extreme heat is a problem throughout the entire year, particularly during the summer. If you own a pool, you are likely to invite guests over for a swim during periods of extreme heat. Pools can be hazardous if you fail to take the proper safety precautions.

Do not allow guests, particularly children, to swim in your pool without your supervision. In the event an accident does occur, you want to be there to help and understand what happened. Furthermore, using four-sided fencing that separates the pool from your house and yard can help avoid accidents. Finally, don’t allow electronics around the pool, as that increases the risk of electrocution.

Pool accidents are far too common in Florida, and they can be serious. To avoid an accident, you should take preventative safety steps, including checking for slippery surfaces, inspecting your diving board, and watching out for faulty flotation devices.

Finding Legal Help Immediately

If you have suffered a serious injury as a guest in someone’s home, or if a guest was injured on your property, contact the Dolman Law Group today! Call us at (727) 222-6922, or contact us online, to speak with an experienced attorney regarding your accident. To succeed in court, you may need to gather evidence and understand the intricacies of personal injury law. Having an experienced attorney on your side can help at all stages of your case!

Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(727) 222-6922

Friday, September 7, 2018

How Does Bad Weather Influence Traffic Accidents?

If you live in Florida, you know all too well that weather can become unexpectedly volatile very quickly. It can be sunny one minute and hailing the next. Depending on where you live in the Sunshine State, other freak weather can also occur, like flooding, wind, and lightning.

How does this bad weather influence traffic accidents?

Unfortunately, severe weather influences accidents more often than one might think, which is why it’s important to expect the worst, and be prepared. Regardless of how prepared you are, accidents may prove unavoidable. If you are in a weather-related accident, you may need legal assistance.

We’re here to help at Dolman Law Group.

Statistics on Weather-Related Accidents

According to national statistics, weather-related automobile accidents cause more deaths every year than hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. While it may be hard to believe that these weather disasters, combined, cause fewer deaths than weather-related accidents, consider that these events usually provide plenty of forewarning. For example, most Floridians understand how and when to evacuate for a major hurricane.

However, in a weather-related automobile accident, you don’t always have time to prepare. Sudden inclement weather can strike without any warning, leading drivers into potentially deadly situations. In some cases, an accident may be caused by a negligent or inexperienced driver.

Whether you have lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, your entire life, or are a new transplant, it is important to be aware of the area’s weather and potential dangers. The more aware you are, the more you will understand how the weather may affect the roads; and this increased awareness will improve your driving.

The Dangers of Rain in Florida

Anyone who’s driven the roads of Southern Florida knows that extreme rain can hit at a moment’s notice. These sudden storms often cause serious car accidents, and we frequently represent individuals involved in such accidents.

Last May, rains from the subtropical storm Alberto caused three deadly car accidents in three different locations. Each accident was the result of high water and drivers losing control of their vehicles.

During these storms, drivers often don’t have time to adjust to the changing conditions. Accidents can occur when one driver doesn’t understand how to navigate through torrential rains, and collides with another vehicle. Accordingly, it is important to learn how to control your vehicle during major storms.

Even if you take precautions when driving in the rain, someone else may not. Ultimately, you could end up suffering serious injuries due to another driver’s negligence.

How Extreme Heat Can Cause Car Accidents

Anyone who has lived in Florida knows about the extreme temperature differences that the state can endure. Northern Florida often experiences cooler temperatures, even snow; whereas Southern Florida enjoys year-round warm temperatures that rarely fall below freezing. As a result, summer temperatures in the southern portion of the state can be treacherous, often climbing into the triple digits. These high temperatures can make driving less safe.

Extreme heat increases the risk of tire failure, just one example of the driving risks caused by high temperatures. Imagine driving on a major highway, and your tire falls apart due to the high temperature of the roadway. If surrounded by traffic, you could cause a serious accident.

Beyond equipment and mechanical issues that can be caused by extreme heat, consider how heat affects your mood while driving. If your vehicle’s air conditioning fails, the extreme heat could affect your awareness while driving. If hot enough, the heat could even cause your or another drive to suffer a heat stroke while driving on a busy road. This is a recipe for disaster.

Driving Through Tornadoes or Hurricanes

Along with rainstorms, hailstorms, and extreme heat, Florida is also known for experiencing tornadoes and hurricanes.

While many drivers know what to do when these weather disasters occur, including to stay off of the roads entirely, some individuals panic and attempt to drive. Individuals trying to escape a tornado or a hurricane often leads to chaos on the state’s highways. Hundreds of panicked drivers on the road at once could result in a serious accident. The last thing you want while trying to escape a tornado or hurricane is an irate driver running into your car.

Your best option when extreme weather hits is to stay where you are, and try to seek shelter without driving anywhere. Trying to escape a storm by getting in your car and hitting the road is going to lead to less awareness while driving, and will likely only intensify the situation.

The Very Rare Winter Event

While Southern Florida rarely experiences any type of winter weather, it has happened before, and it could happen again in the future. Given that these winter events only happen generally once every one hundred years, and that it has been over one hundred years since the last one, we may be overdue for our next snowstorm. Most people in Southern Florida would be unprepared if the temperature ever dipped below freezing.

Imagine the types of accidents that an unexpected snowstorm could cause, especially if water on the pavement suddenly freezes.

While most of us at Dolman Law Group haven’t seen any type of winter weather since we began practicing law, we are prepared for anything. We understand that as the weather continues to become more unpredictable, a snowstorm may become more of a possibility. Beyond winter weather, we have experience representing individuals injured in all types of weather-related automobile accidents, and we understand the important steps and nuances of personal injury cases.

It is important to note that Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to car accidents, which means drivers generally enjoy low insurance premiums. However, this system can also favor insurance companies at the expense of the claimants. Hiring an experienced attorney is the best way to avoid being swindled by an insurance company.

If you have experienced a weather-related accident, contact the Dolman Law Group at (727) 222-6922, or online, and speak with an experienced attorney today.

1663 1st Ave S
St. Petersburg, FL 33712

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Top 5 Most Common Bicycle Accidents

Everything about riding your bicycle makes you happy: From the slight burn in your leg muscles as you pedal up a hill, to the reduction in your gas bill as you rely more and more on two wheels to get around. You’re not alone. According to the League of American Bicyclists, commuting by bike has jumped 62 percent since 2000. People are increasingly looking to bicycle riding as a way to lose weight, improve cardiovascular health, enjoy nature, and reduce environmental impact.

But there’s a downside to riding a bike: Accidents between motor vehicles and bicycles typically don’t favor the cyclist. In 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 818 people lost their lives and 45,000 others sustained injuries in bicycle-vehicle collisions.

What can you do to stay safe? Most importantly, wear protective gear, including a helmet sized to fit you. Another key to maintaining safety on the roads is to understand and follow all the laws that pertain to cyclists. After all, if you’re alert and obeying traffic laws, you’re less likely to be hit by a car.

Being alert is also vital. By knowing which situations are most likely to result in an accident, you can avoid putting yourself in unsafe places. Here are five common bicycle accidents, and more importantly, how to avoid them.

1. Drivers and cyclists run red lights.

One study of more than 5,000 cars, at six intersections in three cities, found that 35.2 percent of light cycles had at least one red-light runner. That’s about 10 people running red lights at each intersection, every hour! Even if your city has more law-abiding drivers, there’s a good chance that someone will put you at risk by rolling through an intersection against the light.

Bicyclists aren’t immune from going full speed ahead when the light is red, either. An Australian study from 2010 revealed that 37.3 percent of bicyclists ignore red lights at least occasionally (Informal research in the United States confirms a similar number of American cyclists run reds, too).

Why would cyclists take the risk of running a red light? Excuses range from not being able to set off the loop detector that changes the light, to not wanting to stop if no traffic is approaching on the cross street.

What you can do to stay safe: Never run a red light for any reason. If a loop detector does not function correctly, position your bicycle over the outside portion of the loop circle. A bike with a frame made of carbon fiber may not trigger the detector, so consider using a gadget designed to trip the light or install a thin loop of metal wire around your frame. If all else fails, dismount and trigger the pedestrian button to cross.

2. Drivers turn left at a non-dedicated intersection without looking.

Another common accident scenario occurs when a motor vehicle driver turns left at an intersection without yielding to a cyclist who is going straight forward. The rider ends up being run over by the car, or colliding with the front passenger side of the vehicle.

Research from Australian National University shows why this happens. In the study, 56 people were shown photos of a road scene. One of the scenes showed a motorcycle, which a full 65 percent of participants didn’t recall seeing when questioned. Not seeing an object that is present on the roadway is called inattentional blindness, and it applies to bicycles just as much (or more than) as it does to motorcycles. In other words, drivers of motor vehicles simply don’t see a smaller vehicle on the road, because they’re not expecting one to be there.

What you can do to stay safe: Never assume that a vehicle driver sees you approaching at an intersection. Have what’s called a bail out option at an intersection: a place to go if it looks like an accident is going to happen. If all else fails, yield to drivers even if you should have the right of way.

3. Drivers turn right across the bike lane without looking.

What’s supposed to happen, according to Florida law: A motor vehicle moves to the far right of the roadway when the driver is planning to turn. Correctly marked bicycle lanes will change from a solid white line to a dashed line for 50 to 200 feet before the intersection to indicate that any right-turning vehicle should move over. In theory, this means that a car will be all the way to the right, into the bike lane, and the bicyclist should be behind the car waiting to turn.

What really happens: The motorist stays in the main lane and does not move over to the bike lane, which allows a bicyclist room to move all the way up to the intersection. The cyclist, thinking that the driver sees him or her, moves forward when the light changes; at the same time, the car begins to turn.

What you can do to stay safe: Position your bike behind a car stopped at a light, especially one that is signaling to turn. Do not move forward until you are certain the driver has seen you and waved you forward, even if you have the right of way.

4. Bicyclists run into hazards on the roadway.

Because of their smaller size, bike riders are much more vulnerable to issues on the street like potholes, cracks, debris and other imperfections on the driving surface. Even shadows in the road can pose problems for cyclists who aren’t completely focused. A motor vehicle driver might not even notice a problem that could cause a bicyclist to lose control.

What you can do to stay safe: Scan the roadway ahead of you for problems that could arise. As with defensive driving when you are concerned that a motorist might not see you, have a bail out plan for how you might react if you run into an issue.

5. Drivers open their doors into cyclists.

When drivers open their doors without looking and hit an approaching cyclist, it’s called dooring, and it happens more often than you’d expect. Bike lanes often run right beside parked cars, and exiting drivers or passengers can simply not see approaching riders.

The biggest issue with a dooring accident is that a cyclist may not have any time to react, leading to a traumatic accident. If the bike rider does react, it could mean steering into traffic and an approaching vehicle striking the cyclist.

What you can do to stay safe: Keep your eyes open ahead of you for potential issues and don’t ride too close to cars in situations like parking lots. Where you must ride beside parked cars, stay in the middle of your lane and don’t ride too close to the vehicles.

Call the Dolman Law Group if You Were in a Bike Accident

No matter how safe you work to be, you may not be able to avoid all accidents when you’re on your bicycle. That’s why you need to know that there are experienced lawyers who understand the traffic laws that affect bicyclists, and can be your advocate if you are involved in a crash that causes you to be injured. If you’ve received major—or minor—injuries in a collision with a motor vehicle, call us today at (727) 222-6922 or write to us online for a free consultation.

Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(727) 222-6922

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Why You Still Need a Lawyer to Represent You

If you’ve filed a lawsuit to recover damages for your injury, you don’t have to wait for a trial date. alternative dispute resolution is a reasonable way to advance your case. It allows plaintiffs, defendants, insurance companies, and their attorneys to resolve legal disputes in a less formal setting.

Mediation is mandatory in federal court proceedings for employment discrimination, violation of civil rights, or Family and Medical Leave Act cases. Sixth Judicial Circuit Judges serving Pinellas and Pasco Counties have the authority to mandate ADR; It allows the courts to dispose of cases that could remain on the dockets for years.

Litigation is time-consuming, expensive, and the results are often unpredictable. ADR is far more efficient, and less costly. You won’t have to wait for an opening in a judge’s trial schedule. Your attorney won’t have to prepare expensive exhibits, pay experts for court testimony, or summon witnesses to appear. ADR lets you avoid much of the traditional courtroom formalities. Nonetheless, you’ll have a better chance to resolve your case if your lawyer represents you during your ADR process.

Why You Still Need a Lawyer

Alternative dispute resolution simplifies personal injury disputes by bringing parties together for a meaningful dialogue. Attorneys aren’t always required, but if you decide to go it alone, you may be placing yourself at a disadvantage for these and other reasons:

  • You must explain your case and present enough evidence to support it.
  • You’ll need to understand how to rebut the defendant’s liability defenses.
  • To avoid jeopardizing your case, you should know what to say and what not to say.
  • You must correctly explain your liability position to the mediator/arbitrator, plaintiffs, their attorneys, and their insurance representatives.
  • Your ADR may present a good opportunity to settle your case. You need a negotiation strategy in place and the confidence to implement it.
The other parties will likely have their legal counsel at the mediation or arbitration; so should you.

What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Cases often go into litigation because injured parties and the parties who caused their injuries won’t communicate. Settlement becomes an unrealistic goal when plaintiffs, defendants, attorneys, and insurance companies aren’t willing to negotiate. As the name suggests, the Alternative Dispute Resolution process gives litigants a viable alternative. It breaks the cycle of unproductive confrontation by providing an informal forum to exchange information and promote settlement. Mediation and Arbitration are the most common types of Alternative Dispute Resolution.

How Does Mediation Work?

Mediation is facilitated negotiation.” A trained, impartial, court-certified mediator brings adverse parties together and helps them discuss their case in a neutral setting. The process often achieves or promotes settlement despite previously unsuccessful attempts. To set up a mediation, the parties agree on a mediation service, decide an appropriate time, and arrange to share the costs. Judges may select the mediator when the process is court-ordered.

Mediators are governed by Florida Rules for Certified & Court-Appointed Mediators. All parties must follow the guidelines and instructions outlined in The Mediation Process: Pinellas County.

  • Plaintiffs must come ready to negotiate.
  • A defendant corporation representative and an insurance company representative must show up.
  • Defendants and their insurance companies must have higher authority than previous offers.
  • Legal representatives must send the mediator a written summary of the case one week before the meeting.
  • Legal representatives must attend unless the participating parties and the mediator agree that they aren’t necessary.
The mediation may last several hours to allow a thorough exchange of information. Each mediator has their own style which dictates how the mediation format. Here’s one likely scenario.

All parties sit at the same table. The mediator encourages relaxation and familiarity by introducing the parties or asking for self-introductions. The mediator begins the dialogue by presenting a fault-neutral description of the dispute and attempting to get a consensus on the basic facts.

The mediator separates the plaintiffs from the defendants by placing them in a separate room. The mediator then seeks more details from the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs may share evidence that supports their client’s injury claim, their take on liability, or other relevant issues. They may also tell the mediator the settlement amount they’re looking for. The mediator won’t reveal the plaintiff’s information to the defendants unless the plaintiffs agree to the disclosure.

Next, the plaintiffs leave the room and the defendants participate in a similar exchange. They may explain their issues concerning liability, damage, medical issues. They may provide any evidence they have to dispute the plaintiff’s case. The defendants may also reveal their maximum offer. By separating the parties and listening to their thoughts, the mediator develops a better understanding of each side’s position and the nature of their conflict.

When the plaintiffs and defendants come together again, the mediator makes any authorized disclosures and encourages the parties to discuss their differences and commonalities.

A case may not settle during a mediation, but the defendants and plaintiffs leave with more information. The issues are often clearer and easier to resolve as the case moves forward. The tone of the dispute may change after the parties come together for a meaningful exchange of information.

How Does Arbitration Work?

Arbitration is different from mediation in that it’s similar to an informal hearing. The parties present their case, and the arbitrator decides the outcome and awards damages. An arbitrator can decide only those issues submitted for consideration. If the parties come to an agreement before or during the arbitration, the arbitrator may make an award based on that agreement, but only if he/she is satisfied with the terms.

Arbitrators follow rules similar to mediation rules. They’re also required to comply with guidelines outlined in Florida Rules for Court-Appointed Arbitrators.

Let Us Help You

Alternative dispute resolution is a great way to move your injury case toward settlement. We have faith in the process, but we also caution you to keep your attorney involved. At the Dolman Law Group, we handle the ADR process with the same knowledge and experience we use in the courtroom.

If you have an upcoming arbitration or mediation, contact the Dolman Law Group at (727) 222-6922. We do our best to make alternative dispute resolution work in our client’s favor, and can serve as valuable advocates throughout the negotiation process. Contact us now for a free consultation.

Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(727) 222-6922

Monday, August 27, 2018

Can a Bar be Liable for Over-Serving Alcohol to a Patron?

All 50 states have laws that allow injured parties to seek compensation for an injury caused by someone else’s negligence. When alcohol is involved as the cause of the injury, several states also have statutes that allow injured persons to impart liability to the third party involved in serving the alcohol. These alcohol-related statutes are known as “dram” laws, harking back to colonial days when alcohol was served in measurements called drams.

Excess drinking has been a problem since the commercialization of alcoholic beverages, and the newly formed colonies were no exception. By 1779, in Connecticut alone, more than 80 laws regulating the sale and use of alcohol had passed. Most of these laws were based on church doctrine.

In the early part of the twentieth century, alcohol regulation culminated in 1919 with the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Volstead Act. After their repeal in 1933, the federal government largely handed control of alcohol over to the states, which have had the task of regulating sale and use since 1933. Nearly all states enacted dram acts in an effort to define who is responsible when alcohol-caused accidents occur.

According to an article in the Marquette Law Review, the New Jersey Supreme Court blazed the trail for social host liability in 1984. It ruled that social hosts could face liability for injuries resulting from the negligent driving of their intoxicated adult guests. Slowly, other states began to adopt similar statutes.

Florida Statutes section 768.125 provides the specifics of the state’s dram shop law. If a person “willfully and unlawfully” provides alcohol to a people younger than 21, or “knowingly” provides alcohol to a person “habitually addicted” to alcohol, that person may face liability for any injuries caused by the minor or the “habitually addicted” person.

Prior Knowledge of Alcohol Addiction

Florida’s dram laws are considered weak by some, because they require that the server of the alcohol have prior knowledge that the patron is “habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.” As a server in a bar, it is highly unlikely that you would know of a person’s addiction to alcohol. It could be possible, however, especially in the situation of a bar that has “regulars” that come in often. The burden of proof of this foreknowledge is on the claimant, and can be particularly difficult to prove.

A unique part of the Florida statute allows for a patron who is younger than 21 (or has an addiction to alcohol) who causes an injury due to intoxication, to seek damages against the server/vendor along with the injured party, for serving the alcohol to them. What is missing from Florida’s dram laws is the provision that many other states have regarding serving visibly intoxicated persons. A server, under this statute, can’t face responsibility for over-serving an intoxicated patron who causes an injury because of intoxication.

Comparison to Georgia Law

As a comparison, neighboring Georgia’s dram laws are more strict, in that anyone serving an intoxicated person, whether in a bar, restaurant, or home, can face liability for injuries caused by the recipient’s intoxication. Other important features of the Georgia law is that the server must know that the intoxicated person will operate a vehicle, and the intoxication must form a proximate cause of the accident.

Serving Alcohol to Underage Persons

Bars in Florida that “willfully and unlawfully” serve alcohol to an individual younger than 21, who subsequently causes injury due to intoxication, may face liability for the accident and suits in civil court. In addition, underage individuals can bring suit against the establishments that served them. This is a rare occurrence in dram law statutes, with only a few states following suit.

Social Host Liability

An important aspect missing from the Florida dram law is the omission of social host liability (again, with the exception of underage persons). Florida Statute 322.057 provides that those found guilty of serving underage people alcohol in social host settings can lose their driver’s licenses and face criminal prosecution.

In a social setting, the host cannot face liability for over-serving an intoxicated person, or for serving an alcohol-addicted person. This is an important distinction, because just over the border, in neighboring Georgia, under state law, the social host is as liable as a bar or other alcohol-serving establishment regarding over-serving alcohol, and can face civil lawsuits.

Outside of Dram Laws

Dram laws notwithstanding, people who are injured in acts caused by an intoxicated person can bring civil claims against any individuals or establishments who are legally responsible for the injuries. For instance, a fellow patron in a restaurant was served alcohol by that restaurant to the point of intoxication and assaults you, you may very well have a civil case against the restaurant (as well as the individual).

Even in states with no dram laws, commonplace negligence laws can still apply—that is, not doing what any reasonable person could be expected to do under a certain set of circumstances. With regard to alcohol, an establishment could face a suit if it fails to limit an intoxicated person’s potential for harm or self-harm.

When it comes to liquor liability, you must know your state’s dram shop and social host liability laws. We have outlined Florida’s laws here, but realize this should only serve as a guide. Laws change all the time, so have a lawyer in your corner to advise you. If you are involved in, or expect to be involved in, dram shop litigation in Florida, contact or call us at (727) 222-6922 today for a free consultation.

Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(727) 222-6922

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Medical Malpractice versus Ordinary Negligence Claims in Florida

Medical professionals play a valuable role by treating illness, disease, and injury, but it can be emotionally and physically devastating when one fails to uphold their obligation to provide a certain standard of care. When that duty of care is breached, your lawyer may advise you to file a medical malpractice suit, but what happens when medical malpractice cases aren’t so clear? Consider a case where a medical professional injures you, but they aren’t providing you care. For example, a nurse spills hot liquid on you, or your doctor trips over a cord in your hospital room that results in an injury. The advice lawyers may provide you in these types of cases likely differs, as medical malpractice claims are handled differently than ordinary negligence claims in Florida.

Statute of Limitations

Ordinary negligence cases, such as slip-and-falls, and other personal injury claims have a four-year statute of limitations in Florida. The same goes for damage to personal property. Florida law (Fla. Stat. 95.11) provides statutes of limitations for most any civil situation, but you should consult with an attorney for a definitive answer. In the case of medical malpractice, victims have a two-year statute of limitations:

“An action for medical malpractice shall be commenced within 2 years from the time the incident giving rise to the action occurred or within 2 years from the time the incident is discovered, or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence.”

In rare circumstances, the court may make an exception. Also, children under age eight have no statute of limitations for a medical malpractice suit.

Presuit Procedural Requirements

In an ordinary negligence claim, your lawyer will collect as much information as possible to help you win your case, but no requirements exist that require any specific procedures prior to filing the claim. In contrast, those who file a medical malpractice suit in the State of Florida are subject to a presuit investigation (Fla. Stat. 766.203) and screening requirements (Fla. Stat. 766.106).

Presuit Investigation Procedures for Medical Malpractice Claims

Your attorney will submit an application for a presuit investigation that provides

“reasonable grounds” that your medical professional was negligent in your care or treatment, and that his or her negligence caused injury to you. The court requires a verified, written opinion from a medical expert to provide “reasonable grounds.” Florida law defines a medical expert as one who is “duly and regularly engaged in the practice of his or her profession who holds a healthcare professional degree from a university or college...”

Once your lawyer has received an opinion from a medical expert, the following steps must take place according to Florida law (Fla. Stat. 766.106):

Your lawyer will notify your medical professional and anyone else who may be listed in the lawsuit, such as the hospital. The notice must include copies of the medical records that the medical expert used for their affidavit, plus a list of all known healthcare providers that you have seen as a result of injury and all providers during the two years leading up to the injury.

Once your lawyer serves the defendant(s) with a complaint, you must provide a copy of the complaint to the Department of Health. If you have named a hospital or other facility in the suit, then you must also send a copy of the complaint to the Agency for Health Care Administration. These agencies review the complaint to look for the possibility of disciplinary action.

The defendant (health care professional and/or facility) now has the opportunity to perform their own presuit investigation. This begins a 90-day waiting period in which the defendant’s insurance carrier(s) determine liability, which may include an internal review by a claims adjuster, a panel that includes a lawyer, an expert, and a claims adjuster, or a medical review committee provided by a state or local professional society.

At the end of the 90 days, the defendant or the insurance carrier must respond to the claim:

  • They may reject the claim.
  • They may make a settlement offer.
  • They may admit liability, but offer to enter arbitration on damages.

At this point, you have 60 days or the remainder of the statute of limitations period to file a suit, whichever is longer.

Florida Supreme Court Ruling: National Deaf Academy, LLC v. Townes

This process is in place to protect medical practitioners from frivolous lawsuits, but it does create extra steps in comparison to an ordinary negligence claim. Whether or not a claim should be a medical negligence claim is a question that has plagued Florida lawmakers, courts, and lawyers for years. Because of the extra requirements, many practitioners prefer to file an ordinary negligence claim when possible. In April 2018, the Florida Supreme court issued an opinion in the case of National Deaf Academy, LLC v. Townes that sets clear guidelines on the difference between a medical malpractice claim and an ordinary negligence claim.

In this case, the victim was injured by a bed restraint while in the hospital. The court ruled that this was an ordinary negligence claim because although a registered nurse placed the restraint, any member of the medical staff, including those who are unlicensed, could have done so. Further, the court clarified that just because a wrongful act occurs in a medical setting does not mean it is medical malpractice. Two conditions must be met for a medical malpractice claim:

  • The negligent act must be a result of medical diagnosis, treatment, or care.
  • The diagnosis, treatment, or care must have been provided by a healthcare provider.

If you have been injured in a medical setting, you may be overwhelmed with pain, loss of wages, medical bills, or other damages. You may be able to recover those damages with a medical malpractice claim or an ordinary negligence claim. You should call an attorney as soon as possible; statute of limitations can run quickly, and hesitating can make it difficult to acquire the evidence required for a strong case. Focus on your recovery, and let a skilled attorney navigate the court system for you: contact the lawyers at Dolman Law Group in St. Petersburg at (727) 222-6922 for a free consultation.

Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(727) 222-6922