Thursday, February 22, 2018

PIP Insurance Limits and Your Rights to Seek Additional Compensation

Automobile accidents can cause devastating injuries that require extensive medical treatment and extended bed rest in order to make a full recovery. Accident victims often miss work and fear that they won’t be able to support their families anymore. Florida’s no-fault insurance scheme was designed to help accident victims receive compensation quickly for their injuries, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. However, the low policy limits also mean that many people need additional compensation to pay their bills.

PIP Insurance Limits

Florida law requires that all drivers have personal injury protection (PIP) benefits as part of their automobile insurance. Although you can choose your amount of coverage, many people automatically choose the minimum that the law requires--$10,000. This amount of money can certainly cover medical expenses in a minor car accident, but many accident victims will need much more. And given how inflated medical care has become, even a minor accident can quickly eat up all of your benefits.

Furthermore, your PIP benefits won’t cover your entire loss. Instead, you’ll be reimbursed for only 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your lost wages up to your maximum policy limit. If you have $4,000 in medical expenses and $2,000 in lost wages, you’ll only receive $3,200 and $1,200, respectively. Losing out on 20% of your medical expenses and 40% of your lost wages is a bitter pill for many people to swallow—especially when you weren’t to blame for the accident.

Maxing Out Your Policy Benefits

What happens if you need more compensation even after maxing out your PIP benefits? As noted previously, many times the PIP benefits will not fully cover the expenses incurred for pricey medical treatments. Taking time off work, lost wages, and missed future earnings can add to the stress of recovering after an accident. The good news is that you can bring a lawsuit against the other driver—but only if you weren’t to blame for the accident. You’ll need to prove that the other driver was negligent in some way and that their negligence caused your injuries.

Your injury must also have been serious enough to warrant a lawsuit. According to law, the following injuries will qualify:

  • Death
  • Significant and permanent disfigurement
  • Significant and permanent scarring
  • Significant and permanent loss of a bodily function
  • Serious permanent injury other than scarring or disfigurement

If you’ve suffered any of these injuries, or if a loved one has died, then you might be able to bring a lawsuit. If successful, you’ll be able to receive compensation to cover your full medical bills and lost wages. Only a qualified attorney can analyze your medical records and see if you qualify, so contact a St. Petersburg personal injury attorney today.

Receiving Compensation for Pain and Suffering

Florida’s no-fault insurance scheme was adopted, in part, to keep people for suing for pain and suffering damages when they suffer only whiplash or another minor injury. The legislature didn’t want people suing for hundreds of thousands of dollars when it was obvious that they would recover quickly from their injuries. However, the legislature wasn’t entirely unreasonable but instead recognized that some people suffer permanent injuries, and these should be compensated. Accordingly, you can tack on pain and suffering damages to your lawsuit if you suffer from a serious injury as defined above. You can also sue for other non-economic damages such as inconvenience and mental anguish caused by the accident. Although each situation is different, these non-economic damages can run to tens of thousands of dollars—if not more—and can fully compensate you for your loss.

What You Need to Prove in order to Sue

You can’t bring a lawsuit if you were to blame for the accident. Instead, at-fault drivers will have to make due with their PIP benefits. However, if you can show that the other driver was negligent, then you might win your lawsuit. Negligence is simply the legal term for carelessness, and negligence can take many forms:

  • Speeding
  • Swerving
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Running a red light
  • Driving while distracted (talking on the phone, texting, or talking to someone in the back seat)
  • Not maintaining your car properly so that it is dangerous to operate

Soon after the accident, you should document what happened as thoroughly as possible. Write down your memories of what happened—what did you do? What did the other car do? If passengers were riding in the car with you, ask them to write down their memories while they are fresh. Your personal injury lawyer will use this information to help reconstruct what actions the other driver took and whether they were negligent.

You should also return to the scene of the accident as soon as you feel ready—or send a family member out. Take photographs of the scene, including any obstructions. If possible, someone should take pictures soon after the accident, while the cars are still on the road. An accident reconstructionist can use this information to determine who was to blame for the accident.

If you are suing for pain and suffering, then you must convince a skeptical jury that you are truly in a lot of physical or emotional pain. To help your case, you can have family members testify as to changes in your mood and routine, such as an inability to pursue your favorite hobbies or be intimate with your spouse. You can also introduce evidence of your prescription drugs for pain relief, as well as a pain journal in which you carefully document how much pain you feel each day.

Call a St. Petersburg, Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Accident victims need financial compensation to get back on their feet and provide for their families. Unfortunately, Florida’s PIP laws are needlessly complex and hard for most people to navigate. At Dolman Law Group, our personal injury lawyers have decades of experience with Florida’s PIP laws and can help our clients get the compensation they deserve. Call us today at 727-222-6922 or fill out our online contact form.

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

Friday, February 16, 2018

FAQs about Florida Personal Injury Litigation

The civil law system exists to help people recover from injuries caused by someone else. At Dolman Law Group, we field questions every day from people who have been injured but need more information to decide whether they can sue. Read on for answers to some of the more common questions about Florida personal injury litigation.

What is a “personal injury”?

A personal injury is a kind of injury to your body or mind that you can receive financial compensation for. Of course, people can suffer all kinds of injuries that aren’t personal. For example, someone might steal from you, in which case you have lost property.

You can suffer a personal injury in several ways:

  • Someone or something intentional strikes you, e.g., you get in a bar fight or a dog bites you
  • Someone accidentally hurts you because they were careless, e.g., someone negligently hits you with their car while pulling out of their driveway
  • A dangerous product doesn’t operate the way you would normally expect it to, and it injures you, e.g., a kitchen blender explodes and hurts you

Doesn’t the Prosecutor Deal with Crimes?

Yes. If someone intentionally punches you, they have probably committed a crime. However, they have also committed a civil wrong, called a “tort.” A defendant’s act can be both a crime and a tort, but the criminal and civil courts are separate.

The purpose of the criminal justice system is to punish someone and possibly remove them from society or rehabilitate them. As the victim, you can report the crime to the police and possibly testify at trial, but you don’t decide whether to prosecute the offender or whether they should spend time in jail.

The civil system is different. It exists to compensate victims for the injuries they have suffered, and the victim must decide to file a lawsuit in court. The civil courts cannot put the defendant in prison, but they can order the defendant to pay you money to help you recover from the injuries they caused.

How Much Time Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?

States don’t give victims forever to bring lawsuits, and each state has a statute that tells you the maximum amount of time you have. This statute is called a “statute of limitations.” In Florida, the statute of limitations for personal injuries is four years after the accident.

However, an exception exists if you didn’t discover your injury until after the statue of limitations period had ended. In this situation, the window of time might be extended because of something called the “discovery rule.” In any event, it’s in your best interest to contact a St. Petersburg personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident in order to protect your rights.

Can I Sue Even if I Am Partially at Fault for My Injuries?

Yes. Florida has a “pure comparative negligence” system. This means you can receive compensation even if your own carelessness contributed to an injury. As an example: you might have been struck by car in a parking lot by a driver who was distracted. However, you weren’t looking where you were going because you were texting as you walked. In this situation, you might be 50% responsible for your injuries, but you can still sue. If you win your lawsuit, the amount you receive will be reduced by your amount of responsibility. For example, if you win $20,000 but are 50% responsible, you will only get $10,000.

What Kind of Compensation Can I Receive?

If the court finds the defendant responsible for your injuries, they can award you a sum of money called “damages.” Personal injury victims can often recover damages for several types of injuries, such as the following:

Your medical bills. This includes doctor’s bills, rehabilitation and therapy costs, and money spent for prescription or over-the-counter drugs.

Lost wages. If you missed work to recover, you might receive the amount you would have made had you not been injured.

Lost future wages. Some injuries will prevent you from returning to your old job, so you might be able to receive an amount of money to compensate you.

Pain and suffering.
Money is probably a poor substitute for feeling pain-free, but it’s the best the legal system can do to compensate you.

Loss of consortium. This term refers to changes in your personal relationships, such as with your spouse or children. In some situations, they can be compensated for the loss of intimacy, love, instruction, and care.

Not every victim will qualify for every type of damages. For example, the law limits your ability to sue for pain and suffering damages if you were injured in a car accident. In that situation, you’ll only be able to sue if your injury is sufficiently serious (e.g., being permanently disfigured or permanently losing an important bodily function). Only an experienced St. Petersburg personal injury lawyer can assess your situation and estimate the amount of compensation you can receive.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Most damages you receive will be compensatory in nature. They are meant to put you back in the position you would have been in had you not been injured. However, Florida also allows punitive damages in some situations, such as where the defendant’s conduct was particularly dangerous. Generally, you can only receive up to three times your compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.

What Are Contingency Fees?

Lawsuits are expensive. It can take hundreds of hours just to thoroughly investigate a case to pinpoint the precise person or business to sue. Filing motions in court and preparing for trial also take a lot of time. Most people don’t have the money to pay a lawyer for all of this work—and on top of everything else, they might no longer be able to work because of their injury!

The law recognizes that people still need skilled legal representation to protect their rights, so Dolman Law Group can offer contingency fee agreements to our clients. Under this arrangement, we will forgo our fee and instead take a percentage of any jury verdict or settlement if we win the case. If we don’t win, then we won’t collect any fee. Contingency fee agreements encourage your lawyer to work hard for you; otherwise, they won’t be compensated for their time.

Speak to a St. Petersburg, Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Today

If you’ve suffered a personal injury, you are probably in a lot of pain and confused about what to do next. At Dolman Law Group, our attorneys help accident victims receive a just settlement to help them get back on their feet. Contact us for a free consultation at 727-222-6922.

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

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Personal Injuries Can Happen Right in Your House

Your home is where you retreat for comfort and safety after a stressful day at work, but your home also contains many hidden hazards. In particular, many people are injured by products in their home that don’t work as they expected, causing serious injuries which might force them to miss work and cost thousands of dollars in medical bills. If you’ve been injured by a product in your home, you should reach out to a St. Petersburg products liability attorney today.

Dangerous Products

Almost any product can be dangerous depending on how it was manufactured or designed—appliances, medicines, food, furniture all have potentially dangerous design flaws. Some products are dangerous no matter what, so the manufacturer will need to warn you of the dangers or tell you how to use the product to minimize the risk. It’s impossible to identify by sight what products are dangerous. However, over the past few years, there have been some famous defective products:

  • In the early 1980s, Tylenol recalled over 31 million bottles of Tylenol because of cyanide poisoning.
  • In 2006, Dell recalled over 4 million laptops over concerns that batteries would overheat and catch fire.
  • Over 9 million toys were recalled by Mattel because of lead poisoning.
  • More than 400,000 cribs were recalled in 2009 after a child suffocated because of a defect.
  • Following the death of three infants, 1 million baby slings were recalled in 2010 over concerns involving suffocation.
  • Over half a million two-wheeled self-balancing scooters—called hoverboards—were recalled because of reports that they caught on fire.

Each year, manufacturers recall products, but many consumers never hear about the recall or the recall comes too late. If the product injures a consumer because it is unreasonably dangerous, then the manufacturer will be strictly liable for any injuries. This means you don’t have to show the manufacturer was careless; instead, it’s enough that they sold an unreasonably dangerous product that injured you.

Three Bases for a Products Liability Claim

You can’t necessarily sue a manufacturer simply because you were injured by a product. For example, if you are clumsy and you cut yourself with a knife, you probably can’t sue the knife manufacturer, who didn’t do anything wrong. Instead, the product must be “unreasonably dangerous,” which means it failed to perform safely as an ordinary consumer would expect it to when used in the intended manner. Basically, you can bring a products liability lawsuit in the following three situations:

The product was manufactured in a defective manner. Imagine you bought an electric mixer and plug it in, expecting it to work as most mixers work. Instead, the thing explodes, and you end up getting cut by glass and metal. This mixer might have been manufactured in a flawed manner—maybe it was put together wrong, or defective materials were used that broke down under stress. If you compared the product to the blueprints used by the manufacturer, you will be able to find a mistake.

The design was defective. Some products are put together exactly as specified in blueprints using quality materials. However, the product was designed poorly, which has caused the product not to operate as expected. Often, when there is a design defect, many people across the nation will be injured.

You weren’t provided adequate instructions or warnings. Some products are simple to use. For example, you should know how to use a can opener. But more complicated products should have detailed instructions, and dangerous products should have appropriate warnings. If instructions or warnings are insufficient—or missing altogether—then you might be able to hold the manufacturer legally responsible for the injuries.

Who Can I Sue?

Often, you sue the manufacturer that designed or created the dangerous product. Some products are made from many different parts, and a separate manufacturer will supply the part. In that situation, you can often sue both manufacturers—the company responsible for the defective part and the manufacturer that assembled the entire product. Depending on the circumstances, you might be able to sue others in the distribution chain, including:

  • Wholesalers
  • Suppliers
  • Distributors
  • Retailers

An experienced products liability attorney can identify who in the distribution chain you can hold legally responsible for selling an unreasonably dangerous product. Identifying the right parties can help maximize the amount of financial compensation you receive and make sure you get the compensation you deserve.

What Kinds of Compensation Can I Receive?

Defective products can cause a range of injuries, from mild to catastrophic. You might suffer burns, disfigurement, and broken bones, or you could be rendered temporarily or permanently disabled. To compensate you, the courts allow you to bring a products liability suit against the party responsible for for the defective product. Consequently, you can receive compensation for the following:

  • Medical bills, including the costs of therapy and rehabilitation.
  • Lost wages while you recover, including expected wages if your injuries prevent you from returning to work in the future.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Mental anguish.
  • Inconvenience.
  • Changes to your relationship with your spouse and children, which is called “loss of consortium.” 

Your ability to receive money will depend on the quality of your evidence. For example, pain and suffering is difficult to prove to skeptical juries. However, the lawyers at Dolman Law Group are skilled at putting together a compelling case consisting of testimony from friends and family that your lifestyle and mood have changed because of the accident. You can also testify on your own behalf.

Call a St. Petersburg, Florida Products Liability Attorney

Defective products can cause devastating injuries, and victims need financial compensation to help them begin to put their lives back together. If you or a loved one has been injured by a dangerous product at home, you should contact a skilled St. Petersburg products liability attorney now. At Dolman Law Group, our attorneys have helped many victims in the St. Petersburg area obtain a fair settlement for their injuries. Call us today at 727-222-6922 or fill out our online contact form. Consultations are free.

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

Friday, February 9, 2018

Pedestrians Can Be Hit in Parking Lots

When you think of automobile accidents, you probably think of two cars smashing into each other at an intersection or on the highway. However, automobile accidents can also occur when a car slams into a pedestrian—even in parking lots. In fact, about 20% of car accidents occur in parking lots. And these accidents seem to be on an upswing in many parts of the country, especially during busy shopping periods. If you’ve been struck by a car in a parking lot, you might be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries, so it is critical that you contact a St. Petersburg, Florida personal injury attorney right away.

Does Car Insurance Apply?

In Florida, all drivers must carry no-fault, personal injury protection coverage called PIP, which covers accidents where a driver strikes a pedestrian. This insurance will provide a modest amount of compensation to cover your injuries. As of 2018, the minimum amount of PIP coverage you must get is $10,000, which is about the maximum that most drivers purchase. Although this isn’t a lot of money, it might be enough to cover your medical bills and even a portion of any lost wages. What’s great about PIP is that you don’t need to prove the driver is legally “at fault” for hitting you.

Your own PIP policy should also apply, even if you were struck as a pedestrian, which means you don’t have to worry about whether or not the driver was insured. Before you can get PIP benefits, however, you must visit the doctor within 14 days of the accident. This is a critical deadline, and if you miss it then you probably won’t be entitled to any benefits.

What Should I Do After the Accident?

In addition to receiving immediate medical attention, you should begin collecting evidence so that you can figure out what actually happened. Your health should always be your first priority, but if you were walking with a friend or family member, you can ask them to do the following soon after the accident:

  • Get the driver’s insurance information. Although you’ll make a claim with your PIP insurance provider, in some situations you might need to work with the driver’s insurer.
  • Identify witnesses. Witnesses are helpful because they can explain if the driver wasn’t paying attention. For example, the driver might have been talking on her phone when she backed into you.
  • Take pictures. Have a friend or passerby use their smart phone to photograph the car and the point of impact. You don’t have to have a picture taken of you lying on the ground waiting for an ambulance, but you want some sense of what the scene looks like.
  • Check for surveillance footage. If you’re involved in a hit-and-run, then surveillance footage is helpful. You can use it to identify the driver of the car.

This is a lot to remember, especially if you’re in a lot of pain. If needed, you or a friend can return to the scene of the accident later to try and get some of this information.

Common Injuries to Pedestrians

Most accidents in parking lots are probably at a low speed. Nevertheless, it’s possible to suffer serious injuries as a pedestrian even when a vehicle is not going fast. Remember, it isn’t only the car strike the causes injuries but how (and where) you fall. For example, you might suffer the following:

  • Concussion. This occurs when you strike your head, for example by falling to the ground. A concussion is an internal brain injury which can cause you to black out. You might also have difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly for days afterwards.
  • Other traumatic brain injuries. More serious brain injuries might occur if you are thrown and strike your head against a concrete barrier, light pole, or other hard object. TBIs can result in difficulty speaking, walking, and taking care of yourself.
  • Broken bones. Either the strike itself or your fall can cause broken bones in your legs, arms, hips, or face.
  • Back injuries. The human back is very complicated and is made up of muscle, bones, tissue, and tendons. A lot can go wrong with your back, which can render you immobile and in a lot of pain.
  • Cuts and abrasions. After being struck, you might slide away from the car. This can cause all kinds of nicks, cuts, and abrasions which carry a risk of infection.

Even if you feel “okay” after being struck in a parking lot, you should still go to a doctor to be checked out. Some problems, such as back injuries, are slow to develop or hard to spot. Early detection is critical so that you can begin an appropriate course of treatment.

When Can I Sue?

Florida’s no-fault scheme prevents most people from suing the driver for their personal injuries. In particular, you can’t sue to receive compensation for pain and suffering unless you have suffered a serious injury. According to the state’s statute, the following situations apply:

  • You suffer a significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function. For example, you can no longer walk.
  • You suffer a permanent injury.
  • You suffer significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
  • Your loved one died because of the accident.

In the above situations, you can step outside the PIP system and receive additional compensation for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and other injuries. Because every situation is different, you should meet with a car accident attorney to review your medical records and prognosis.

Contact a St. Petersburg, Florida Automobile Accident Lawyer

Florida’s insurance laws are confusing, and you might not know whether you have a legal case that is worth pursuing through the courts. At Dolman Law Group, our attorneys are well-versed in Florida automobile accident law and can identify how much compensation you are likely to receive. Don’t assume your injuries are too minor to warrant compensation. Instead, call us today at 727-222-6922 or fill out our online contact form. Initial consultation and case evaluation are free.

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

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Know What to Do if Your Child Is Hit on their Bike

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: your child is involved in an accident. Even worse, your child was riding a bicycle when they were struck by a car. What are you supposed to do? After taking a deep breath, follow these steps to help your child recover from their injuries.

Get Medical Treatment

If your child is seriously injured, then you should call emergency services (9-1-1). Try to stabilize your child so that they don’t move around too much, which can only make their injuries worse. For example, any injury to your child’s spine is serious, but your child might be able to recover if the spinal cord itself isn’t damaged. Rolling around on the ground can aggravate a spinal fracture and cause it to become something much worse. If possible, place heavy towels on either side of the neck to keep your child still.

Apply cold water to any burns, cuts, or scrapes, and try to comfort your child until the ambulance arrives. If your child’s injuries are less serious, you can take them to the hospital yourself, but remember that serious internal injuries might not be visible, so don’t assume they aren’t badly injured simply because you don’t see blood.

At the hospital, tell the doctor what happened (if you know). Your child might have trouble speaking, especially if they suffered a concussion or other brain injury, but ask them to describe what happened as best as they can.

Find Witnesses

Once your child is safe and receiving medical care, you should begin identifying any witnesses to the accident. You’ll need the witnesses to help understand if the car driver is legally responsible for the accident and for your child’s injuries. Ideally, one parent can ride to the hospital with your child while the other parent (or family friend) stays at the accident scene to collect information. The parent who stays behind should have a notebook with them and identify themselves to whoever they speak to.

Get the names and contact information for any witnesses. A work number is okay, but people often change jobs, so you want to make sure you can get ahold of them in the future. For this reason, a personal email or phone number is probably best. Also, ask each witness to briefly describe what they saw:

  • Did your child make any erratic movements? For example, did they scoot in front of the vehicle?
  • Was the driver distracted? Were they talking on their phone, sending a text message, or reaching for something in the car when they struck your child?
  • Did the driver say anything, such as “I’m sorry!” or “I can’t believe I did that?” after striking your child.

If the driver is still at the scene, you can talk to them and ask for their insurance information. And last but not least, call the police so that they can come and document the accident with a police report, which can be very useful.

You might be a single parent and not have had anyone who could stay at the scene of the accident to collect information. That’s okay. Remember that your child’s health is your priority. If necessary, you can try to find witnesses at a later date or have your lawyer visit the scene.

Collect Evidence

In addition to witnesses, you should get pictures of the scene of the accident. Snap pictures as soon as possible, using your smart phone if necessary. For example, you should probably get the following:

  • Pictures of where the bike has ended up after your child was struck
  • Pictures of the car, including closeups of the part of the car that struck the bike (front fender, rear fender, etc.)
  • Any obstructions that might have blocked the driver’s view, such as other parked cars, trees or shrubs, etc.
  • Pictures of anything your child might have hit when they were thrown off the bicycle—a trash can, the curb on the street, a fire hydrant, etc.

Don’t be afraid to take pictures of something even if there is blood visible. You might be emotionally shaken by the sight of your child’s blood, but it’s better to have graphic images of what the accident scene looks like.

Hold onto Paperwork

The person who hit your child might be responsible for your child’s medical treatment, so you should carefully document all money you spend helping your loved one get well. Although it’s important to be organized, you might feel mentally scattered in the immediate aftermath, so make things easy for yourself by getting a big envelope. Stuff all medical bills, receipts, and credit card statements into the envelope. Later, when you are thinking more clearly, you can put the documents into some kind of order and even scan them so you have a good digital copy.

If you had to miss work to care for your child, document the days you missed since you might be able to receive financial compensation for lost wages. Hold onto copies of pay stubs that show how much you make; or, if you are self-employed, find your most recent profit-and-loss statement. Keep copies of any emails or letters where you decline work because you need to take care of your injured child.

Contact a St. Petersburg, Florida Bike Injury Attorney

Depending on the circumstances, the driver might be legally responsible for your child’s injuries and will have to pay compensation to you. For example, the other driver might not have been paying attention while behind the wheel, which is called negligence. When a driver is negligent, they must pay money to the victim; the amount will usually depend on the seriousness of the injuries. Only a qualified St. Petersburg personal injury attorney can analyze the situation and identify the people to hold responsible, so contact one right away.

At Dolman Law Group, we have decades of experience helping accident victims and their families get the compensation they deserve. Call us today at 727-222-6922 for a free consultation and case evaluation, or send us an email using our online contact form.

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

Friday, February 2, 2018

Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Florida

If you’re injured on the job, you’re probably worried about how you’ll cover your medical expenses and provide for your family. Fortunately, Florida’s workers’ compensation scheme provides injured workers with benefits when they can no longer work. Because of workers’ compensation, injured employees cannot sue their employers for their injuries. However, employees also don’t need to show that their employer is at fault for the injury. To learn more about Florida’s workers’ compensation system, read on.

Reporting Your Injury

Florida law requires that you report your injury within 30 days. If you wait too long, then your employer’s insurance carrier can deny your claim. Once you report, your employer has seven days to report the injury to their insurer, and 3 days later you should receive a brochure from the insurer. This brochure will explain your rights and duties and is definitely something you should read carefully.

Receiving Medical Benefits

One feature of Florida’s workers’ compensation scheme that confuses people is that your employer gets to choose who you initially receive medical care from. If you choose not to go to that person, then your claim can be denied, so it’s in your best interest to receive medical care from them. After you receive initial treatment, the insurance carrier will decide who will provide all subsequent treatment.

Workers’ compensation insurance should pay for all authorized medical care and related expenses, such as:

  • Travel expenses
  • Prescription drugs
  • Wheelchairs
  • Prostheses

Obtaining Disability Benefits

Your injury might be so serious that you can’t return to work either temporarily or permanently. Workers’ compensation provides four types of disability benefits.

Temporary partial disability benefits. Your doctor might release you to return to work; however, they might limit the number of hours you can work. Consequently, you can qualify for temporary partial disability benefits if you are unable to earn at least 80% of your wages before the injury. You will receive a partial replacement of the wages you can’t earn. You can receive temporary disability benefits for a maximum of 104 weeks.

Temporary total disability benefits. If you can’t work at all, you might qualify for temporary total disability benefits. You should receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage. The maximum amount you can receive changes each year.

Permanent partial disability benefits. Once you have finished your course of treatment, your doctor will determine whether or not you still are impaired. For example, a back injury might permanently limit your ability to raise your arms over your head, in which case you might not be able to adequately perform all of your job duties. Permanent partial disability benefits will be based on the severity of your impairment.

Permanent total disability benefits. You most likely will only qualify for these benefits if you suffer from a severe injury. Under Florida law, the following types of injuries are sufficiently serious:

  • A spinal cord injury that paralyzes an arm, leg, or your trunk
  • An amputation of a limb
  • Severe brain injury
  • Severe burns over a large area of your body

Death benefits are also available if a worker dies because of an on-the-job accident. Typically, the survivors (spouse and children) will receive funeral expenses and a percentage of the deceased’s weekly wage.

Returning to Work

It is against Florida’s law to fire you because you filed a workers’ compensation claim. However, the law does not require that the job stay open until you recover. That might seem unfair, but there’s a valid reason—your employer still has to satisfy customer demands even if you can’t work, so they might need to hire someone else.

If you are unable to return to your same job, you might qualify for free vocational rehabilitation services, which will help you return to productive work and begin supporting your family again. Rehabilitation services include the following:

  • On-the-job training
  • Job placement services
  • Skills analysis
  • Formal retraining

Knowing When You Can Sue

Generally, you can’t sue your employer for your on-the-job injuries. However, you might be able to bring a lawsuit in certain circumstances. Consider some of the following common examples:

  • Someone other than your employer or a coworker injures you. For example, you might have been driving as part of your job when someone runs a red light and slams into you. In this example, you can sue the other driver even though you were technically injured on-the-job. You might also be able to sue a customer or vendor for your injuries if they are responsible.
  • You are injured by a defective product or toxic substance while on the job. In these situations, you can sue the manufacturers.
  • Your employer intentionally harmed you.
  • Your employer doesn’t carry sufficient workers’ compensation insurance (or any insurance at all). 
If you sue, you are able to receive a wider range of financial compensation than you can through the workers’ compensation system. For example, you might be able to receive compensation for pain and suffering.

Receiving Your Benefits

The workers’ compensation scheme was designed to work smoothly and efficiently. Any injured employee should receive prompt medical attention which their employer should pay for. If you are temporarily or permanently injured, you should also receive needed benefits as well.

But sometimes claims are unfairly denied. In these situations, you will need to bring an appeal of the denial, which you file with the District Court of Appeal. Because appeals are complex, you will benefit from having an experienced Florida workers’ compensation lawyer in your corner. Your lawyer can help you gather the necessary medical records that show your injury and can make a compelling case to the appeals court.

Contact a St. Petersburg, Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today

Injured workers and their families need benefits to help them heel and pay expenses. At Dolman Law Group, we understand how stressful it can be when a breadwinner is unable to work through no fault of their own. Our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys will thoroughly review your case to identify the best way to get you and your family the benefits you need. Contact us for a free consultation at 727-451-6900.

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

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Who Is Liable for Injuries at an Airbnb?

Like ridesharing apps Lyft and Uber, Airbnb has remade its industry. These businesses provide consumers with a multitude of low-cost options while at the same time allowing ordinary people to make money by competing directly with big hotel or taxi cab companies. To use Airbnb, you create a profile and then search for rooms available at your destination. If all goes well, Airbnb users will find a room at a convenient location and enjoy a stress-free stay.

But what happens if you are injured during your stay? Ideally, you will be able to sue and receive financial compensation to cover medical bills and any lost wages or pain and suffering. But identifying whom to sue is a complicated issue, which will require a skilled personal injury attorney to help you figure out the process. At Dolman Law Group, we help injured travelers receive the compensation they need by identifying the correct person to sue.

What Do You Need to Prove?

The owner of the premises isn’t responsible for every conceivable injury you could suffer. For example, if you are clumsy and fall down someone’s stairs, you can’t sue because of your own carelessness. To bring a successful lawsuit, you should identify some hazard in the rental that the owner either knew about or should have known about. Premises owners have a legal duty to keep their premises reasonably safe for business invitees and other guests, and this duty applies to people who rent out rooms using Airbnb.

Determine Who Owns the Property

The key part of receiving compensation for your injuries will be determining who is responsible for the property so that you can sue them. If you’re injured in a hotel, then it is pretty straightforward who you will sue: the hotel. After all, the premises owner is responsible for ensuring the safety of their premises for paying guests.

However, things are more complicated when you rent a place through Airbnb. For example, a homeowner might rent out a room in a home they own, but it’s also possible that the person renting to you is also a renter, in which case someone else owns the property. You’ll need to research land records to see who owns title to the property.

Another possible defendant might be Airbnb themselves. The company probably has deeper pockets than any home owner or renter, so they are a juicy target for a lawsuit. Unfortunately, when you sign up for Airbnb, you agree to settle all disputes using arbitration instead of a lawsuit. It might not be clear cut that this waiver will hold up in court, but it probably will.

Does the Defendant Have Any Money?

If you win a lawsuit, then all you receive is a judgment, which is a piece of paper. The defendant still must pay you what you are owed. If they don’t, you can try to go after their property, such as vehicles or their home. Nevertheless, they need something you can sell in order to get any of your money. If the defendant has few assets, then your judgment will just sit there, unpaid.

Fortunately, homeowners typically carry homeowners’ insurance to cover slips, falls, and other injuries on the property; and landlords also carry insurance. These insurance policies pay out money to defray the costs of your injuries.

Unfortunately, things can get tricky depending on the defendant’s policy. For example, most homeowners’ insurance policies won’t cover injuries caused during commercial activities such as renting a room to someone. This means the insurer might not pay your claim even though you were injured on the property. The same is true of renter’s insurance (if the person on Airbnb rented their apartment instead of owned it). In these situations, the owner’s insurance might refuse to cover your injuries, which means you’ll need to look for other ways to collect money to compensate you.

Collecting on a Florida Judgment

Before deciding to go ahead with any lawsuit, a skilled personal injury lawyer should perform an asset search to uncover whether the defendant has any assets you can go after if you win your lawsuit. Chances are, they probably have some property, so the fact that their insurance won’t cover your injuries doesn’t mean you can’t bring a lawsuit. If you win, you will become a “judgment creditor,” and you might be able to force a sale of the following:

  • The defendant’s real property, such as land or building (but not their homestead).
  • The defendant’s personal property, which is movable property like jewelry, cars, boats, and furniture. This does not include property the defendant rents.

The property must be in Florida, and someone can’t have a senior lien on the property. For example, if a bank holds a mortgage on a piece of land then they are entitled to any proceeds from a sale before you are. Once your lawyer locates property, they will need to file a judgment lien with either the Secretary of State or with the land records office. The sheriff will then sell the property at auction to a seller with cash in hand. You can also bid on the property if you want.

After the sheriff is reimbursed for the costs of the auction, you should get the remainder of the purchase price which you can use to satisfy the judgment against you. Levying property this way isn’t ideal. But, depending on the circumstances, you might be able to recover quite a bit of money that the defendant owes you.

Contact a St. Petersburg, Florida Personal Injury Lawyer

Personal injuries can dramatically reduce your quality of life. Victims are usually in a great deal of pain and worried about how they will support themselves and their families if they are unable to work. At Dolman Law Group, our team of seasoned personal injury attorneys will thoroughly review your case for free and identify whether a lawsuit is appropriate. Call us today for a free case evaluation and consultation at (727) 222-6922 or complete our online contact form.

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