Friday, April 27, 2018

Common Traffic Law Violations in St. Petersburg

Car accidents can be the result of many different factors. Often, however, they are the result of another driver’s traffic infraction. A citation or other evidence of a traffic infraction can be used in a civil case as evidence that the driver was negligent. While a citation alone does not automatically prove that a driver was negligent, it is often persuasive evidence which can cause an insurance company to accept liability or convince a jury that the driver was negligent. Learn more about common types of traffic infractions and how an experienced St. Petersburg personal injury attorney can help victims access compensation for injuries they sustain as a result of a violation of Florida traffic law.

Chapter 316 of the Florida Statutes is known as the State Uniform Traffic Control. This Chapter provides for the use of photo enforcement cameras, obedience to traffic control devices, high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, duties to yield, no passing zones, following too closely, driving on divided highways, left turns, pedestrians, school buses, speed regulations, reckless and careless driving offenses, impaired driving regulations, and many other important traffic laws. The Chapter also provides regulations for the operation of motorcycles, mopeds, all-terrain vehicles, golf carts, motorized scooters, and swamp buggies on the public roadways of Florida. These laws form the majority of Florida’s traffic offenses. Drivers can also be cited for violations of county regulations, municipal ordinances, and other traffic regulations which are applicable in the jurisdiction where they are driving.

Photo Enforcement

Photo enforcement of traffic laws has become a common - and controversial - practice across the United States. Many different legal challenges have been launched which question the constitutionality of this practice. The Miami Herald reports that the Florida Supreme Court has taken a case which challenges the manner in which the city of Aventura issues traffic citations from photo enforcement devices. Aventura, like many other cities, has contracted with American Traffic Solutions to maintain red light cameras within its jurisdiction. The company then reviews photos and either discards them as invalid (for example, if a camera misfired or a license plate is illegible) or sends them to law enforcement agents for review. A law enforcement agency must then issue citations. This is due to a 2010 state law which allows contractors (such as American Traffic Solutions) to review photo enforcement images but requires citations to be issued directly from a law enforcement entity.

Luis Torres Jiminez received a photo radar citation from the city of Aventura in 2011. It was initially thrown out by a judge but later reinstated on appeal. Now his case has made it to the state’s supreme court, where his attorney argues that the city illegally gave “unfettered discretion” to American Traffic Solutions to review images and print and send citations. The justices seemed skeptical of the argument that the city’s delegation of authority to not issue citations was a violation of the 2010 law. Nonetheless, these and other legal challenges are currently progressing through state courts across the country.

Golf Cart Accidents

Golf carts a popular mode of transportation in sunny Florida, but they too are subject to traffic regulations. The Villages News provides tips for golf cart safety and complying with traffic regulations. First, operators whose driver’s licenses have been canceled, suspended or revoked cannot legally drive a golf cart on public roadways. This is because the Florida statutes define golf carts as motor vehicles. Criminal penalties are provided for the operator of any motor vehicle (including a golf cart) who drives while his or her license is not valid. The statutes also prohibit the operation of a golf cart on a public roadway unless it has been specifically designated for that purpose by the local municipality. Even on designated roadways, a golf cart may not be operated by anyone under the age of fourteen.

Golf cart accidents can cause injuries. Without the safety equipment of a regulated passenger vehicle, these injuries can sometimes be even more severe than those sustained in an auto accident. Negligent golf cart drivers have a legal obligation to compensate victims who are injured as a result of their negligence. This can include passengers, pedestrians, bike riders, and other road users. On a golf course, this may include other golfers, caddies, groundskeepers, and other workers. Golf cart drivers have a legal obligation to drive with due care.

Florida’s Point System

Like many other states, Florida has enacted a system of points by which a driver can face suspension or revocation of driving privileges. The penalties faced depend upon the number of points which are accrued. The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles reports on the points assessed for common traffic violations, including leaving the scene of an accident (6 points), unlawful speed resulting in an accident (6 points), reckless driving (4 points), passing a stopped school bus (4 points), having an open container of alcohol (3 points), and a child restraint violation (3 points). According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, accrual of 12 points in a 12 month period results in a 30-day suspension of driving privileges. 18 points in 18 months will result in a three-month suspension, and 24 points within 36 months will result in a one-year suspension of driving privileges. Points are calculated based on the date the ticket was received.

Drivers can avoid accruing points for certain eligible offenses by attending traffic school. This prevents the administrative consequences of accruing points and also prevents an auto insurance carrier from canceling the driver’s policy or increasing the premiums for an existing policy.

The Right Representation for Your Car Accident Injury Claim

Victims who are injured in auto accidents have the legal right to be compensated for their financial losses. For years, injury victims in the St. Petersburg area have trusted the Dolman Law Group to protect these legal rights. Call (727) 222-6922 to schedule your free consultation with a personal injury attorney today. Our skilled personal injury attorneys have the experience necessary to achieve results.

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

How a Brain Injury Can Affect Your Child’s Future

Brain injuries often result in permanent deficits to a person’s cognitive functioning. This can affect all aspects of daily life: household chores, education, professional life, and interpersonal relationships can all be impacted by the difficulties presented by a brain injury. These challenges can be made even more difficult when the brain injury victim is a child. Young children have brains which are still forming and developing. While this enables some child victims to recover from a brain injury, it leaves others with lifelong cognitive difficulties. Children who are victims of brain injuries often have the right to be compensated for their losses. The experienced brain injury attorneys at the Dolman Law Group can help parents file claims, negotiate settlements, and determine whether to accept a settlement or file a lawsuit. Parents and attorneys can work together as partners to protect a child’s legal rights.

What to Expect After a Child Sustains a Brain Injury

Because children do not yet have the full cognitive capabilities of an adult, the symptoms of a child’s brain injury may not be immediately obvious. Symptoms can also vary greatly depending on the location and severity of the injury. The Brain Injury Association of America reports on common symptoms of brain injuries. Physical impairments may include changes in speech, vision, hearing, balance or motor coordination. The child may also experience headaches and fatigue, or muscle spasms. Severe injuries may result in seizures or paralysis.

There are also many cognitive impairments a child may suffer after a brain injury. Short-term memory, concentration, attention span, perception, communication skills and judgment can all be impaired by a brain injury. Challenges to these skills can make it more difficult for a child to plan, read and write. A brain injury can also cause a child to think more slowly. All of these deficits make school work difficult for many child brain injury victims.

Brain injuries can also result in different emotional impairments. Victims may find themselves suffering from mood swings, self-centeredness, anxiety or depression. They may be in denial about the extent of their injuries or the impact the injuries have on their daily life. All of this can result in lowered self-esteem. Restlessness, a lack of motivation, and difficulty controlling emotions can also be symptoms of the depression and anxiety caused by a brain injury. As adults, some brain injury victims also experience interruptions in the sexual functioning as a result of a brain injury.

Brain Injuries Can Affect a Child’s Mental Health

The emotional symptoms of a brain injury are not always a short-term condition. Reuters reports that researchers have found psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression, and phobias to be present in adults more than a decade after sustaining a childhood brain injury. Scientists had previously believed that brain injuries only caused short-term emotional effects. The new study suggests that a brain injury can result in long-term conditions which must be identified and addressed throughout adult life. Compared with adults who had no history of traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a child, those who had sustained childhood brain injuries were five times more likely to have an anxiety disorder. They were also four times more likely to suffer from panic attacks, specific phobias, and depression. Children with more severe brain injuries—and female victims in general—were to found to be at the greatest risk for long-term psychological effects.

Brain Injuries Can Make School More Difficult for Child Victims

The extensive and varied symptoms caused by a brain injury almost always have some impact on a child’s ability to learn. School work can become an enormous burden for a child who must manage the symptoms of a brain injury and the challenges they present to the learning process. Time reports on a study which found that children can experience cognitive deficits more than a decade after sustaining a brain injury. The lead researcher had previously found effects which lasted five years after an injury but now was able to demonstrate longer-lasting deficits. This means that the effects of a brain injury can impact a child’s ability to learn well into their college years.

Children who have sustained a brain injury will likely need help to be successful in school. If a child receives educational services, the law requires an individualized education plan to be created by both parents and educators and implemented by the school. This plan can hold a school accountable for providing necessary services. Tutoring, personalized lesson plans, slower pacing, and other accommodations can help a child be successful in school—even with the challenges presented by a brain injury.

The Long-Term Costs of a Childhood Brain Injury

The costs of a childhood brain injury can follow the victim well into adulthood. Medical care, rehabilitative therapies, and mental health services can continue for many years after a brain injury occurs. For severe symptoms, such as paralysis, the victim may require lifelong care. Severe brain injuries can also permanently impair a person’s earning capacity. All of these costs are financial losses which are subject to compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. If a person or company is found legally responsible for causing a brain injury through negligence, they are also obligated to compensate the victim for all financial losses caused by that negligence. Valuing these long-term losses can be both difficult and speculative when the victim is a child. In many cases, expert witnesses must be called upon to project the financial losses which are reasonably attributable to the brain injury.

Experienced Brain Injury Attorneys to Aggressively Defend Your Child’s Personal Injury Claim

Florida law protects the rights of brain injury victims. They are legally entitled to be compensated for all financial losses which are attributable to the brain injury. The Dolman Law Group has years of experience in protecting the rights of brain injury victims in and around the St. Petersburg area. Call (727) 222-6922 today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced, aggressive brain injury attorney. We will work with you to protect your child’s legal rights so your family can focus on recovery.

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Surgical Complications Due to Medical Negligence

Surgery can be an overwhelming experience for a patient. Patients rely on the advice of doctors who recommend surgeries, and they have the right to expect that a surgeon will competently perform the surgery. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Negligence on the part of a doctor or surgeon can cause serious, long-lasting effects for the patients who trusted them. Surgical complications can result in death, paralysis, the inability to work, and many other devastating (and costly) consequences. When this occurs, Florida law allows patients to recover compensation for their financial losses from the doctor or facility which negligently performed the surgery. The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at the Dolman Law Group are highly skilled in negotiating and litigating legal claims arising from surgical complications.

The Many Different Acts Which Can Lead to a Finding of Negligence

In order to be held legally responsible for surgical complications, a surgeon must be found negligent. Doctors are negligent when they fail to act as the reasonable doctor (or surgeon) or similar training and experience would in similar circumstances. Common negligent acts include failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, prescribing an incorrect medication, or recommending a risky treatment when the patient’s condition is too delicate to support it. A patient can challenge these actions by filing a claim with the doctor’s medical malpractice insurance carrier.

If the claims adjuster agrees that the doctor or surgeon was negligent, the insurer will accept liability. If not, a patient may have to file a lawsuit and let a jury determine whether the doctor was negligent. This is often accomplished by each side presenting an expert witness. The plaintiff’s expert will testify that the doctor did not meet the level of care required of doctors in the community. The defendant’s expert will testify that the doctor’s treatment did meet this standard. The jury must then sort through this “battle of the experts” to determine whether the doctor was negligent.

It is not just medical decisions that can lead to a malpractice claim. In Fresno, California, a heart surgeon was sued for leaving the operating room during a surgery. The Fresno Bee reports that the surgeon let a physician assistant close the patient’s chest. The elderly patient, then seventy years old, lost blood and fell into a coma. He remains in a coma six years later. A jury found the surgeon negligent and must now determine whether the patient’s family is eligible for punitive damages in addition to compensation for their other financial losses.

When Medical Centers Cannot Manage Surgical Complications

Medical facilities can also be held liable for the negligence of their doctors and surgeons. There are different sources of this liability. First, any employer can be held liable for the negligent actions its employees committed within the scope of their employment. A hospital that employs doctors and surgeons can, therefore, be liable for medical malpractice committed by these professionals. Second, a medical facility can also be independently liable for its own policies and procedures which lead to surgical complications. If a hospital does not properly train surgeons, supervise new doctors, or assign enough nurses to adequately monitor patients, these actions can be deemed negligent and found to contribute to surgical complications.

Surgical complications in medical facilities are not isolated incidents. The News-Press reports that there have been 335 cases of fatal or life-threatening incidents at ambulatory surgical centers in Florida since 2013. Such ambulatory surgical centers have become far more popular in recent years. Their limited services allow patients to undergo routine procedures at reduced costs, and with less inconvenience. Unfortunately, these limited services also mean that staff at such centers are not always prepared to manage medical emergencies.

Many lawsuits from Florida cases detail egregious conduct and shocking incompetency. One patient showed clear signs of an overdose after being administered a powerful opioid painkiller at a clinic. He was discharged in spite of this and died hours later at home. Another patient reported being discharged while not fully conscious and still under the effects of anesthesia. Similar conduct is reported on many other occasions.

Inadequate care at an ambulatory surgical center was also the cause of popular comedian Joan Rivers’ death in New York in 2014. According to USA Today, Rivers had gone to an outpatient clinic for an endoscopy of her vocal cords. During the procedure, she went into cardiac arrest. She remained in a coma for a week before dying at Cedars Sinai Hospital. In the course of the case, “outrageous” conduct was identified by the endoscopy clinic. Doctors were accused of taking selfie photos with an unconscious Rivers during the procedure. Health authorities concluded in their investigation that the clinic had failed to identify Rivers’ deteriorating vital signs—one of the most basic tasks of any surgical team. Ultimately, Rivers’ daughter Melissa settled her claim out of court and continues to advocate for patient safety in outpatient surgical clinics.

Like Melissa Rivers, it is important for other victims of medical malpractice to hold providers and facilities accountable for substandard care. This protects other innocent victims from being harmed by a doctor or surgeon’s negligence. Reports to medical authorities can also trigger investigations which identify important issues of patient safety. Financial settlements and jury awards not only compensate patients and families for their very real financial losses but also provide the financial incentive for doctors and hospitals to provide safer care. For all these reasons, it is important to hold medical providers accountable for negligent care.

Experienced Attorneys to Aggressively Defend Your Medical Malpractice Claim

Victims of medical malpractice have important legal rights under Florida law. They have the right to seek compensation for all losses resulting from their injuries, which can include ongoing medical care, ongoing lost earnings, and all other costs stemming from the negligent medical treatment. The Dolman Law Group has extensive experience protecting the rights of medical malpractice victims in and around the St. Petersburg area. Call (727) 222-6922 today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced and committed medical malpractice attorney.

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Should You be in a Hurry to Return to Work After an Injury?

Returning to work after an injury is a difficult decision for many personal injury victims. Many factors can affect this decision: a boss or clients may exert pressure to return to work, a position may feel insecure while the worker is out of the office, or the injury victim may simply need to continue receiving a steady paycheck. In any event, these pressures should not be allowed to pressure an employee to return to work before injuries have had time to properly heal. Injury victims should consult with all medical providers and carefully evaluate their condition before making the decision to return to work. An experienced personal injury attorney can help victims explore options for covering medical expenses and obtaining compensation for lost wages through a personal injury claim.

Balancing the Needs of Employers and Employees

Returning to work is a delicate balance of the needs of both employers and employees. On one side, employers wish to mitigate the lost productivity costs by returning an employee to work as soon as possible. On the other hand, an employee must protect his or her health, and not return to work before it is safe to do so.

The United States Department of Labor has issued suggestions and tools for employers seeking to balance these needs. The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy recommends returning employees to work in some capacity as soon as they are able to do so. This can be done through part-time work, telecommuting, modified schedules, modified duties, and other reasonable accommodations. These accommodations can be helpful tools for employees who are not quite ready to return to full work duties. Injury victims should carefully consult with their medical providers to identify what work schedules and duties will be appropriate and not further exacerbate their injuries.

Many Different Options for Accessing Compensation and Protecting a Job

There are many different sources of compensation which might be available to an injury victim, depending on where and how the injury occurred. Workers who are injured while on duty may have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim. The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation maintains helpful information for employees who are returning to work after a workplace injury. A workers’ compensation claim has different eligibility requirements and offers different types of compensation that a personal injury claim does.

In other types of injuries caused by negligence—such as auto accidents, slip and fall injuries, or medical malpractice—a victim is entitled to compensation for all of the losses he or she sustains as a result of the accident. This includes lost wages for all time during which the employee was unable to work because of injuries. It can also include permanent decreases in the worker’s earning potential. This can occur when an employee is permanently unable to work or can only work at reduced hours or workloads. These accommodations result in a permanent impairment of the employee’s earning capacity, and a negligent defendant is obligated to compensate the financial loss.

Of course, lost wages are not the only reason employees may feel rushed to return to work. For many injury victims, the fear of losing a job is a very real concern. Many employees can be protected from such a job loss by the Family Medical Leave Act. This federal law allows an employee to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave in a year without losing his or her job. The employer, employee, and illness must all be eligible in order to qualify for FMLA protection. When they are, this is yet another legal tool injured workers can use to protect their career interests after an injury.

Knowledge Is Power

In order to make the best possible decision about returning to work, it is important for an injury victim to get as much information as possible. Start by seeking opinions from all medical providers who are treating your injuries. This can include a primary care physician, a worker’s compensation doctor, a specialist who is treating specific injuries, a physical therapist, a mental health counselor, and anyone else who is involved in the recovery process. Learn what their specific concerns are about returning to work. Consider any conditions they recommend which might allow you to return to work on a limited basis (such as restricting hours or work duties).

Next, be sure to access all the relevant legal information about returning to work. Consult with an attorney about your personal injury claim. If a worker’s compensation claim is involved as part of a workplace accident, confirm that all requirements are met to retain your eligibility for coverage. Explore all legal options for protecting your job and recovering compensation for any time lost. A personal injury attorney can help you consider all legal interests implicated by a return to work—or the decision not to return to work.

Every injury is different. Every legal case is different. As a result, there is no right answer about returning to work. Ultimately, it is important to follow medical advice and not exacerbate your injuries unnecessarily. Of course, it is also important to return to work when it is safe to do so, and not delay your return unnecessarily. Gathering information from both medical and legal professionals will help you balance these interests to make the best decision about returning to work after an injury.

The Right Attorneys for Your Personal Injury Claim

Injury victims have legal rights under Florida law, and the attorneys at the Dolman Law Group have years of experience in protecting these rights. Learn why injury victims in and around the St. Petersburg area trust our personal injury attorneys to protect their legal interests during a difficult time. Call (727) 222-6922 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced, aggressive personal injury attorney today. Our highly skilled attorneys will find the right legal strategies to give you the strongest, most effective case possible.

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Do You Know What to Do After a Car Crash?

Traffic accidents are often a chaotic situation involving many different people. Unfortunately, your legal rights can be dramatically affected by things you say or do in this overwhelming situation. With a little bit of preparation, you can be prepared to protect your legal rights while interacting with law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, bystanders, and even the other driver. Once you have safely left the scene of an accident and received immediate medical attention, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. The Dolman Law Group helps accident victims file claims, negotiate settlements, file lawsuits when necessary, and protect their legal rights throughout these processes.

What to Do at the Scene of an Accident

As soon as an accident occurs, find a safe place to pull off the road. If your vehicle is disabled, get out of the vehicle and get to a safe place. Staying on the roadway or inside a disabled vehicle can expose you to the risk of yet another accident or injury. Once you are in a safe place, determine whether you—or anyone else on the scene—need medical attention. Call 911 right away and request emergency medical services for anyone who has been injured in the accident. It is also essential to call 911 so that officers can respond to the scene and make a report. Some drivers are hesitant to summon police to the scene of a minor accident, but it is important to have an accident report from a third party. Police officers can also ensure that you receive accurate insurance information from the other driver and that any additional offenses (such as driving without a valid license or driving under the influence) are dealt with appropriately.

Once you have received emergency medical care and made your statement to police officers, there are a few simple things that you can do to help protect your legal rights. If you are able to safely do so, take photos of the accident scene and vehicles. Many camera phones are also equipped with video capabilities. Videos can be helpful in forming a comprehensive view of the accident scene and what occurred. Do not allow your photos or videos to interfere with any police investigation that is occurring. You should also not allow photos or videos to prevent you from obtaining immediate medical care if it is necessary.

Statements made at the scene of an accident can be used against you later in the claims process. Be especially careful about speaking to the other driver. Feel free to ask if he or she needs an ambulance or other immediate medical care. Drivers should also freely exchange insurance information. Other than that, do not discuss what happened or admit responsibility for the accident. When speaking to the police, give your honest and accurate statement of what happened. The officer will use this information to make a report of the accident. This report is important evidence to an insurance company, and it often crucial to determining liability. Be sure to ask officers on scene how you can obtain a copy of the report (once it has been finalized).

Failure to Stop After Being Involved in an Accident is a Crime

The Florida Statutes require a driver to stop after being involved in any accident. Section 316.061 requires drivers to stop at the scene of an accident which resulted in property damage. Failure to do is a second-degree misdemeanor. Section 316.027 requires drivers to stop after an accident causing serious bodily injury or death to another person. Failure to do so results in a mandatory driver’s license revocation of at least three years. Failure to do so while driving under the influence results in a prison sentence of at least four years. Leaving the scene of an accident after a prior conviction for doing so is a first-degree felony. Violators may also be sentenced to 120 hours of community service in a hospital or trauma center which regularly received traffic accident victims.

As you can see, there are serious legal consequences for failing to stop after an accident. It is important to stop after any accident. Even if you are worried about other legal consequences, even if you are not sure who was at fault, or even if you are not sure whether property damage occurred, it is important to stop and fulfill your legal obligations.

Monitor Your Injuries Carefully in the Coming Days

An auto accident subjects the body to many different types of forces which can result in many different types of injuries. Often, these injuries are not immediately apparent at the scene of an accident. It is important for accident victims to carefully monitor their physical state after an accident occurs. Pain, swelling, bruises, and other symptoms can surface days - or even weeks - after the initial accident. Be sure to seek any necessary medical treatment for these injuries when they become apparent.

In some cases, an auto accident can aggravate other, older injuries. Claims adjusters will often try to use this to reduce a personal injury award, claiming that the defendant is not responsible for compensating an old injury. This is not exactly the case. A negligent driver may not be responsible for compensating an old injury, but he or she is responsible for exacerbating the condition. Renewed pain, swelling, suffering, and other symptoms are all compensable in a personal injury award. It is therefore important for injury victims to seek medical treatment when old injuries are triggered in an auto accident.

The Right Legal Representation for your Car Accident Injury Claim

The Dolman Law Group has years of experience in protecting the rights of car accident victims in and around the St. Petersburg area. Regardless of the types of injuries you have sustained, our experienced, aggressive attorneys will help you access fair compensation for your injuries. We also hold negligent drivers accountable for their dangerous conduct, so that no other innocent victims are hurt. Call (727) 222-6922 to schedule your free consultation with a personal injury attorney today.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Timeline of a Personal Injury Claim

One of the most important questions many personal injury victims have is when they can expect to receive compensation for their losses. This timeline can vary greatly from case to case. In order to make a better estimate of when a victim will be paid, it is important to understand how the personal injury claims process works.

Claims are opened with the insurance carriers for all involved parties

The first step toward receiving compensation is opening a claim with the defendant’s liability insurance carrier. It is important to identify all potential defendants to give them notice of your claim before the statute of limitations has run on it. In the case of an auto accident, it is important to open a claim with your own auto insurance carrier, even if the other driver was at fault. This is because your policy may have coverage for medical payments, uninsured motorists, or underinsured motorists, and these coverages may be available to compensate you for your injuries.

There are many different defendants who may bear legal responsibility (liability) for the accident. In the case of a slip and fall accident, a landowner can be held liable for negligent conditions on the premises which lead to many injuries. Such landowners may be a retail store, restaurant, amusement park, recreation facilities management, or even a private homeowner. In the case of a medical malpractice case, liability may extend beyond the negligent doctor or surgeon. A hospital or medical facility can be held liable both for the negligent acts of its employees (including doctors) and for negligently managing its operations. Each personal injury case presents a different set of facts which can lead to liability for different persons, companies, or other legal entities. It is important to have an experienced attorney review your case in order to identify all potential defendants who may have a legal obligation to compensate you for your injuries and losses.

Liability is determined—or litigated

Once a claim is opened, the insurance carrier will conduct an investigation to determine whether or not the insured party is liable for the injury. In the case of an auto accident, the goal of this investigation is to determine which driver or drivers were at fault for the collision. In the case of a medical malpractice claim, the investigation must determine whether the doctor met his or her legal duty of care. (Section 766.102 of the Florida Statutes defines this duty as a breach of the prevailing professional standard of care exercised by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.) Liability can be assigned entirely to one defendant or apportioned between multiple defendants. A plaintiff can even be assigned a portion of liability and still recover compensation from defendants for their portion of liability.

In some circumstances, liability is a relatively simple determination. For example, a rear end accident almost always results in liability to the rear position driver. Unless there are exigent circumstances, the rear position driver will often have violated a duty to control his or her speed in order to avoid a collision. In such a case, the negligent driver’s insurance carrier will often accept liability and proceed with settlement negotiations.

Other car accidents have more complicated causes which are more difficult to uncover. In these conditions, the insurance carriers for several drivers will often challenge the amount of liability that their own driver bears for the collision. If they cannot agree, the plaintiff is often forced to file a lawsuit against all the defendants, and let a jury determine who bears what portion of liability for the accident.

Liability can also be difficult to determine in professional liability cases. If a plaintiff alleges that a doctor, lawyer, accountant or other professional gave bad professional advice, it is up to that plaintiff to prove that the professional was negligent. Often, this results in the plaintiff and defendant each producing an expert witness: one who testifies that the professional was negligent, and the other who testifies that he or she was not. This fundamental dispute forces a plaintiff to file a lawsuit and let a jury determine whether the defendant met his or her professional duty of care.

The amount of the claim is negotiated—or litigated

In cases where the parties can agree upon liability, the claim proceeds to a valuation process. If the parties can agree upon the value of the claim, the defendant or its insurance carrier will issue payment, and the case will be resolved. Often this will require intense negotiations between the plaintiff’s attorney and the defendant’s insurance carrier. Sometimes, these negotiations result in an agreement upon the value of the plaintiff’s claim. When they do not, the plaintiff must file a lawsuit and let a judge or jury determine the value of the claim. 

The overall value of a personal injury claim is a combination of many separate components. The victim must first document all expenses which were incurred as a direct result of the defendant’s negligence. This can include medical bills, lost wages, property damage, pain management or rehabilitation services, and other similar costs. These documented expenses are not usually the subject of dispute in the valuation process. It is subjective costs—such as pain and suffering, decreased enjoyment of hobbies, or the inability to interact with family members—that are far more difficult to value. Because these losses are so subjective, a claims adjuster will almost always try to decrease their value. Such lowball offers must often be countered with persuasive facts and legal argument. This is why personal injury victims often receive larger settlements when they are represented by an attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney will know what tactics the insurance company is likely to use and how best to fight them. This all works to protect the victim’s legal interest in compensation for his or her injuries.

The Right Attorneys for Your Personal Injury Claim

Injury victims have legal rights under Florida law, and the attorneys at the Dolman Law Group have years of experience in protecting these rights. Learn why injury victims in and around the St. Petersburg area trust our personal injury attorneys to protect their legal interests during a difficult—but critical—time. Call (727) 222-6922 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced, aggressive personal injury attorney today. Our highly experienced attorneys will find the right legal strategies in order to give you the strongest, most effective case possible.

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

Friday, April 6, 2018

Injuries at the Airport

Most air travelers trust that they can safely navigate the airport. While long lines or inconvenient security screenings are expected, injuries are not. But the fact is that injuries do occur at airports. When they do, victims often have the right to be compensated by the facilities management service, airline, security agency, or other entity whose negligence caused the injury. The experienced St. Petersburg personal injury attorneys at the Dolman Law Group can help injured travelers protect their legal rights.

Premises Liability

Landowners have a legal obligation to make their premises safe in order to prevent injuries. The exact nature of this duty depends upon the status of both the landowner and the injured victim. Homeowners, for example, are held to a lower standard of care than business establishments. This is because business owners invite the public to their premises for the purpose of conducting business (ultimately benefiting the business owner). The lowest duty of all is toward a trespasser who had no permission to be on the property. In general, a landowner must only avoid intentionally inflicting injury upon a trespasser. These rules (known as “premises liability”) can make landowners legally responsible for slip and fall injuries which occur on their property.

An airport falls under the category of business owners. The building owner, the management company, or airlines which have designated space under their control within the airport are all companies inviting passengers onto the premises to conduct business. These companies have a general duty to inspect the premises and make them safe for passengers who pass through the airport. If a passenger is injured by a dangerous condition (such as a wet floor, lost baggage, or other debris) the airport may be found negligent. Negligence creates a legal obligation to compensate a victim for injuries and financial losses which result from it.

Florida law imposes an additional obligation upon plaintiffs who claim a property owner is liable for a slip and fall accident. Section 768.0755 applies to injury victims who slip and fall on “transitory foreign substances” in a business establishment. A common example of this is squished produce at a grocery store. To hold the business owner liable, the victim must prove that the business knew or should have known of the foreign substance that caused the fall. The statute further defines situations in which a business should know of such a dangerous condition. These include conditions that occur regularly (and are therefore a foreseeable problem for the business owner), or substances that have been on the floor long enough that a reasonable business owner would have discovered and remedied them.

Plane Crashes

Premises liability is not the only way in which a passenger can be injured at an airport. Plane crashes can also result in injuries, and often these injuries are serious, or even life-threatening. One such local accident occurred at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport. According to U.S. News and World Report, a pilot was left with serious injuries after crashing his single-engine, fixed-wing plane. The plane had departed for Pensacola but crashed just east of the runway. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the accident.

Plane crashes can injure more victims than just the passengers on-board. In one bizarre case near Daytona Beach, a small aircraft crashed into a home while the owners were inside. Fox News reports that the pilot, just 21 years old, was receiving flying lessons from her brother, 23. The young siblings were both injured in the crash. By happenstance, the damage to the home was limited to the carport, and no family members were injured in the crash. “It’s just my carport, that can be replaced,” the homeowner told reporters. This homeowner recognized how seriously she could have been injured. The pilot was listed in critical condition, while her brother’s condition was reported as serious, but stable.

When plane crashes occur, there are many different potential defendants. An airline can be held liable for the negligence of any employee—including a pilot. Small, private plane owners often carry insurance that covers negligent acts. An airport may be found liable for failing to design or implement appropriate safeguards. Liability may also be imposed if safety regulations are ignored, safety equipment is not properly maintained, or other safety violations contribute to a plane crash.

Jurisdiction for International Flights

Some passengers may assume that they are not entitled to compensation for injuries sustained on an international flight if they were outside the United States at the time of the accident. This is not necessarily the case. The Montreal Convention governs liability for accidents that result in injury or death on an international flight. The Convention also extends jurisdiction to all operations of embarking or disembarking. Thus, if a passenger is injured on the runway while disembarking from an international flight, the Montreal Convention can provide jurisdiction for a lawsuit against the airline. More importantly, the Convention provides strict liability for incidents that meet the legal definition of an “accident.” This means that an injured passenger does not have to prove that the airline was negligent. The victim need only prove that a legal accident occurred during an international flight (including embarking or disembarking).

In the case of Air France v. Saks (470 U.S. 392, decided March 4, 1985), the United States Supreme Court formed a definition for an airline accident that would be used for purposes of applying the strict liability of the Montreal Convention. The Court defined an airline accident as an unusual or unexpected event that is external to the passenger. By implication, the event is therefore related to the operation of the aircraft or airline equipment.

The Right Representation for Your Airport Injury Claim

Whether you have been injured in a plane crash, a slip, a trip, or a fall, you have legal rights that must be aggressively defended. For years, injury victims in the St. Petersburg area have trusted the Dolman Law Group to protect their legal interests. Call (727) 222-6922 to schedule your free consultation with a personal injury attorney today. Our skilled personal injury attorneys have the experience necessary to achieve results.

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