Thursday, May 31, 2018

Proving the Four Elements of Negligence

Some injuries occur intentionally because someone deliberately tried to harm you. But a larger percentage occurs accidentally. These accidents are caused by someone’s carelessness or recklessness. In this situation, someone “negligently” injured you. In Florida, injured victims must prove four elements to bring a successful negligence claim.

The Defendant Owed You a Duty of Care

In some situations, it is easy to establish a duty of care. For example, a doctor who agrees to treat you has created a doctor-patient relationship and owes you a duty of care. Similarly, an amusement park that sells you a ticket for a ride has created a duty to keep their premises, including their rides, in a safe condition.

Duties can also be created simply by physical proximity. For example, a driver owes other vehicles on the road a duty to drive carefully. No contract exists between drivers. However, the duty exists because a driver's carelessness could injure other people. The same is true of a person in a grocery store who has a duty to push their cart so that they do not injure anyone in the store.

To figure out if someone owed you a duty, you should step into their shoes. Ask yourself: Did their actions create a general risk that they would harm you? If the answer is no, then according to the Florida Supreme Court they owed you no duty of care. If the answer is yes, then they owe you a duty of care.

The Defendant Breached the Duty of Care

The second element looks at the defendant’s conduct and asks whether it was sufficiently careful. In a negligence suit, no defendant is required to be perfect. However, they must exercise the same care as a reasonably prudent person. Under this standard, the jury considers how a prudent person would have acted in the circumstances and then measures the defendant’s conduct against this standard.

This test is “objective,” which means the jury does not consider the defendant’s subjective mental state. For example, it doesn’t matter if the defendant was a klutz who was really “trying” to be careful. He either is objectively careful, or he isn’t.

In some situations, a defendant must be more careful than ordinary people. For example, a surgeon must have more skill than a layperson. In medical malpractice cases, defendants must exercise the skill and experience of other reasonably prudent medical professionals under similar circumstances. If the medical professional is a specialist, then they must have the skill that a specialist in that profession would have.

In most cases, the jury will rely on its experience about how careful people should act. However, in other medical malpractice cases, you might need expert testimony if the subject matter falls outside the jury’s experience. For example, in many medical malpractice cases, you need another doctor to act as an expert witness to testify about how a reasonably careful doctor would have acted in the circumstances.

You Suffered a Legally Recognizable Injury (“Damages”)

In a negligence lawsuit, you seek compensation for injuries you have suffered, called “damages.” In most negligence cases, the injury will be physical, such as:

  • Lacerations
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Burns
  • Soft-tissue injuries
  • Pinched nerves
  • Spinal cord injuries
However, legally, injuries are classified as economic and non-economic. Economic injuries include:
  • Medical expenses to treat your physical injury, including hospital visits, equipment, rehab, and prescription drugs.
  • Lost wages if you cannot work because of your injury.
  • Damage to your property, such as damage to your car in an accident.
  • Common non-economic injuries include:
  • Physical pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress from feelings of anger, grief, embarrassment, depression, irritability, etc. stemming from your injuries.
  • Loss of consortium for negative changes to your intimate relationships.

To sue for negligence, you need to have incurred some injury. Furthermore, in most negligence cases, you will need some sort of physical contact to qualify for emotional distress damages. This is called the “contact rule” in Florida. Consider the following example:

You are walking past a parking garage late at night. Without warning, a car races out of the garage and doesn’t honk its horn. The car barely misses you. Because of this near miss, you have trouble sleeping and struggle with depression and other negative emotions. However, because the defendant did not contact you, you cannot receive emotional distress damages.

By contrast, if the defendant hit you, fracturing your leg, you have suffered a physical injury and can receive compensation for all necessary medical care and possibly lost wages. You can also receive emotional distress damages because the defendant contacted you.

To prove your injury, you can submit medical bills, medical records, and proof of missed employment. You can also testify to your emotional distress and pain and suffering.

The Defendant’s Lack of Care Caused Your Injury

Causation is the final element in a negligence lawsuit. The defendant’s conduct must have directly caused the injury. One way to look at direct causation is to ask, “But for the defendant’s conduct, would I have been injured?” If the answer to this questions is “no,” then there is direct causation. Of course, an injury can have more than one cause, so the defendant’s conduct must have contributed substantially to your injury.

In addition, your injury must have resulted in a natural and continuous sequence after the defendant’s actions. Often, this is easy to prove. For example, an aggressive driver who plows into the rear end of your car has directly injured you, and the injury followed naturally and continuously from hitting you. In other situations, you might need expert testimony to establish causation.

Sometimes, causation will not exist because the specific injury was not foreseeable. In the words of the judges of the Florida Supreme Court in McCain v. Florida Power Corp. (1992), these include “freakish” and “improbable” sequences of events that lead to injuries that were not foreseeable. For example, if someone shoots a gun, which startles a dog, which races into the road, which causes a driver to swerve off the road onto the sidewalk, which scares someone in his backyard grilling, who accidentally burns himself. In this attenuated situation, the burn injury was not a foreseeable result of a person firing a gun, so causation might not exist.

Speak With a St. Petersburg Personal Injury Lawyer

Negligence lawsuits take many forms. Some, like car accidents, we see every day, whereas others present novel fact patterns. Regardless of how you were injured, you might have a case for negligence if someone else’s carelessness is the cause. If you suffer injuries from an accident that may be someone else’s fault, speak with a personal injury lawyer at Dolman Law Group in St. Petersburg today. You can schedule your free consultation by calling 727-222-6922 or submitting our online contact form.

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Drunk Drivers on the Job—Who Is Liable?

Many Americans struggle with alcohol addiction. They not only drink themselves into a stupor in their off hours, but many will show up to work drunk. Unfortunately, drunk employees are a danger to society, especially when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Many jobs require that their employees drive as part of their job duties, so these drunk employees risk injuring people on company time. Unfortunately, if an accident happens and you suffer injuries, it is not always clear who is liable for your injuries.

The Basis of Employer Liability

“Respondeat superior” is the legal concept that employers are responsible for any injuries caused by their employees during the course of their employment. This Latin phrase means "let the superior answer," and it has several justifications. For example, employers are well-positioned to screen and monitor their employees, so the law should create financial incentives for them to do so. Furthermore, most businesses have more money to pay compensation to injured victims than their employees do. Lastly, the only reason the employee is on the road is that their employer wants them there.

Unfortunately, employers are not always held responsible when their employees collide with others. Consider the following factors:

Is the Driver Actually an Employee?

According to respondeat superior, employers are responsible for injuries caused by their “employees.” An independent contractor is not an employee, and therefore the employer is not responsible for injuries caused by independent contractors.

Many businesses today employ independent contractors. For example, ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft use independent contractors to pick up people and shuttle them to their destinations. The drivers are not employees, so Uber and Lyft are not legally responsible for any injuries the drivers cause. Other companies, like Courier Express, hire independent contractors to make deliveries of goods and packages.

Testing to determine whether someone is an independent contractor or employee is complicated. For example, the fact that an employer calls the person an "independent contractor” does not necessarily resolve the issue. Instead, look to the following:

  • Does the driver have opportunities to work for other people or only the employer? If the driver can work for many different people, then he or she looks more like an independent contractor than an employee.
  • Does the employer set the schedule for the driver? If so, the relationship looks more like an employer-employee one.
  • How permanent is the driver’s job? The more permanent, the more likely the driver is an employee.
  • Does the driver provide the car? If so, then they look more like an independent contractor.
The independent contractor analysis relies on these and other factors. Usually, there is no crystal-clear line dividing independent contractors from employees, so your lawyer will need to perform a complete analysis of all surrounding circumstances.

Did the Driver Injure You in the Course and Scope of Their Employment?

An employee who gets off work and collides with you is not "on the job," so their boss is not legally responsible for the injuries. In Florida, whether the employee injured you in the course of employment depends on analyzing many factors, including:

  • Whether the employee’s actions were taken to further the employer’s business. If so, then the employee probably was acting within the course and scope of their employment.
  • Whether the employee stepped outside their employment to commit the wrongful act. If so, then the employee probably was not acting within the course and scope of their employment.
  • Whether the employer directed the employee’s course of conduct. If so, then the employee probably was acting within the scope of their employment.
  • Whether the employer could have foreseen the employee would act the way they did. If so, then the employee probably was acting within the scope of employment.

Under this analysis, if the driver operates a vehicle while intoxicated, how the employee became drunk and whether they were driving as part of their job to further their employer's business determines whether the employer may be held liable.

For example, an employee might take a lunch break and go to a bar and have multiple drinks, becoming intoxicated. The employee then leaves the bar and heads to the bank to deposit a check, but crashes into another driver on the way, causing injuries. In this example, the employee did not act in the course of employment at the time of the crash, so her employer should not be legally responsible.

This analysis is fact-specific and can be complex, so if you have been injured in an accident where an employer may be responsible, reach out to a personal injury lawyer at The Dolman Law Group to help determine who may be held liable for your injuries.

Were You Injured Intentionally?

Employers are generally not legally responsible if their employees intentionally cause injuries. For example, if a driver deliberately ran into you in a fit of rage, then their employer might not be liable under respondeat superior. In Florida, voluntary intoxication resulting in a DUI accident may be considered an intentional tort. However, you may still be able to recover compensation from the employer for your injuries in certain instances.

Is the Employer to Blame in Any Way?

Under respondeat superior liability, an employer is liable for the injuries an employee causes even if the employer is completely innocent. The employer does not need to do anything wrong for an injured motorist to receive compensatory damages for lost wages, medical care, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

However, if the employer was to blame in some way, the injured motorists might also receive punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not designed to make you whole. Instead, they are meant to punish the defendant—in this case, the employer. According to the Florida Supreme Court, an injured motorist can receive punitive damages if there is evidence of the employer’s knowledge or role in the employee’s intoxication.

For example, an employer might have:

  • Known the employee was drunk when they arrived at work that day, but sent them out to do errands anyway. 
  • Known that the employee had an alcohol problem but did nothing to intervene, such a suspending the employee or monitoring them closely.
  • Supplied the employee with alcohol, at a holiday party for example.

Speak With a St. Petersburg, Florida Car Accident Lawyer

Drunk drivers cause inestimable damage and fatalities on Florida’s roads each year. The personal injury lawyers at Dolman Law Group have years of combined experience suing drunk drivers for the devastating accidents and injuries they cause. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation at 727-222-6922 or by filling out an online contact form.

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

Friday, May 25, 2018

Common Injuries to Restaurant Workers

Restaurants can be a dangerous workplace. Workers can be injured by burners, cleaning chemicals, sharp knives, broken glass, and many other hazards commonly found in a restaurant. When injuries do occur on the job, restaurant workers have the legal right to be compensated for their injuries. The Dolman Law Group has decades of experience in protecting the legal rights of injured St. Petersburg restaurant workers. In this blog, our highly skilled attorneys explain common injuries that occur in restaurant workplaces, and how injured workers can protect their legal rights.

The Most Common Types of Injuries in Restaurants

QSR Magazine reports on a statistics released by Cintas Corporation, which identified the four types of restaurant injuries most commonly reported to Cintas. These included:

  • Sprains and strains. Restaurant work can be physically demanding, and overexertion injuries often occur as a result. 
  • Lacerations (cuts) and punctures. Many cooks must work with knives, slicers and other sharp tools. All restaurant workers face the risk of encountering broken glass and dishes. These types of injuries pose the risk of infection if not properly treated.
  • Eye injuries. Grease, cleaning products, and other common kitchen liquids pose splash hazards. Many of the products found in restaurants are known eye irritants. These can cause serious - and sometimes permanent - eye injuries. 
  • Burns. Some estimates place restaurants as the site of nearly one in every three burns sustained by American workers every year. 

QSR also reports statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which found that for every dollar spent on safety programs, employers saved between $4 and $6 on the costs of workplace injuries.

In addition to accidents, restaurant workers also face the risk of repetitive stress injuries. These are injuries caused to muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, and bones by a repeated action. Common examples include “tennis elbow” (an inflammation of the tendons surrounding the elbow joint) and “chef’s foot” (hallux rigidus, or arthritis of the big toe). The physically demanding work of a restaurant can cause these conditions to develop over time - particularly in workers who have been employed in the restaurant industry for many years. These, too, are considered workplace injuries, which are typically covered by worker’s compensation insurance.

Workers’ Compensation Coverage

For many injured workers, their employer’s workers’ compensation coverage is the first place they turn for compensation for their injuries. Workers’ compensation is an insurance coverage that most employers are legally obligated to carry. It pays for medical expenses directly related to injuries that occur on the job. Injured workers do not have to prove who was legally responsible for causing the accident. They need only show that their injury or illness occurred within the scope of their employment. This makes it easier for injured workers to obtain compensation for immediate medical needs.

Workers’ compensation does not, however, cover all financial losses incurred as a result of a workplace injury. In general, this coverage pays only for medical expenses related to the injury, and temporary benefits for partial or total disability. Lost wages may or may not qualify for disability benefits. Pain and suffering (which is often the largest component of a personal injury award) is not covered by workers’ compensation insurance. These and other losses must be pursued through other legal claims against third parties.

Third Party Claims

Unlike workers’ compensation coverage, a personal injury claim against a third party requires the victim to prove that the defendant was at fault for causing the injury. Once he or she has done so, however, the defendant is legally obligated to compensate the victim for all financial losses caused by the accident. This includes property damage, lost wages, future medical bills, any decrease in the victim’s future earning potential, and any other financial losses caused by the defendant’s conduct.

There are many different types of third party claims that can arise from a workplace injury. For example: a worker is injured in a car accident while running a work errand in a personal vehicle. Because this occurred within the scope of employment, the injured worker has access to workers’ compensation coverage for any medical bills incurred as a result of the accident. But the injured worker may also have a claim against another driver who caused the accident. Regardless of any workers’ compensation coverage, the negligent driver still has a legal obligation to compensate the injured worker for his or her losses. In this example, the negligent driver’s insurance company would pay for pain and suffering, lost wages, damage to the vehicle, and other losses not covered by workers’ compensation. The driver’s insurance company would likely also have to reimburse the workers’ compensation carrier for any medical bills it paid.

Another example of a third party claim is products liability. Companies that manufacture products to be sold to the public have a legal obligation to ensure that their products are safe for ordinary use. If, for example, a restaurant worker is cut by a negligently designed electric knife, or burned by a malfunctioning stove, he or she would have a personal injury claim against the manufacturer of the defective product. This, too, is in addition to workers’ compensation coverage available to the injured worker.

Because an injured worker may have several different legal claims as the result of a restaurant injury, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney if you are injured on the job at a restaurant. An attorney will help identify all your claims and find all sources of compensation available to you. An attorney can also help ensure that all defendants who were legally responsible for causing your injuries are held accountable.

Aggressive Pursuit of Your Workplace Injury Claim

A single workplace injury can give rise to many different types of personal injury claims. It is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that you recover compensation for your workplace injuries from all appropriate sources. For years, injury victims in the St. Petersburg area have trusted the Dolman Law Group to protect their legal interests throughout the resolution of their personal injury claim. Call 727-222-6922 today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced, aggressive personal injury attorney. We fight hard to secure the compensation you deserve.

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

Friday, May 18, 2018

How Personal Injury Settlement Negotiations Work

The personal injury claims process can easily become overwhelming to an injury victim who has not had to go through the process before. Filing a claim with another person’s insurance company, proving fault, establishing the amount of your pain and suffering, and other tasks can be daunting for anyone. All of these steps often must occur before a lawsuit is even filed. The experienced St. Petersburg personal injury attorneys the Dolman Law Group know how to navigate a successful personal injury settlement from the start.

Step One: Identifying the Correct Defendant(s)

The first step in any personal injury claim is to identify the person, persons, companies, or other legal entities at fault for causing an accident. In the case of an auto accident, this is often another driver. Multiple drivers may also be at fault. In this case, the respective insurance companies involved will apportion fault based upon each driver’s actions.

When personal injuries are caused by a defective product, the injury victim must identify which companies were responsible for placing the product in the marketplace for consumer use. Most often the claim is filed with the company that manufactured the product. But importers, distributors, retailers, and other companies can also be held responsible for placing the defective product in the stream of commerce. This is known as products liability.

Products liability may also be an issue in other types of accidents. If, for example, a car accident was caused by a vehicle with defective brakes, the brake manufacturer could be held liable for the accident. Or a workplace injury might have been caused by heavy machinery with improper safety warnings. This, too, could lead the equipment manufacturer to be held liable for compensating the workplace injury.

The person or company who is responsible for causing an accident will depend upon the specific facts and circumstances of an accident. This is why it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney review your case, to ensure that the correct defendant has been identified, and that no defendants are escaping liability for negligence.

Step Two: Establishing Liability

In order to recover compensation from a defendant, an injury victim must prove that the defendant was legally responsible (or “at fault”) for causing the accident. This is called liability. In order to prove liability, the injury victim must establish that the defendant violated his or her duty of care, and was therefore negligent. The duty of care required depends upon the type of injury that occurred:

In the case of an auto accident, every driver has a duty to drive with due care. Due care is what a reasonably prudent driver would exercise. Violations of traffic laws (such as speed restrictions, left-turn statutes, or failure to yield the right of way) can be used as evidence that a driver failed to meet this duty of care.

In the case of medical malpractice, a physician’s duty of care is defined by the Florida Statutes. Section 766.102(1) of the Florida Statutes defines the prevailing professional standard of care for a health care provider is the level of care, skill, and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers. Essentially, this means that doctors must act as a reasonably prudent doctor would in similar circumstances.

In the case of products liability, manufacturers of consumer goods have a duty to sell only those goods that are safe for ordinary uses by the consumer. Defects in design or in manufacturing can be used as evidence that the product was unsafe. However, a consumer who misuses a product (for example, using a curling iron on parts of the body other than hair) may be unable to prove products liability. Products liability extends to all consumer goods. This includes: automobiles, boats, heavy machinery, food, toys, electronics, furniture, clothing, pet products, household cleansers, medications, and any other product sold to the public.

Premises liability refers to a property owner’s duty to maintain his or her land in a safe condition. The duty of care depends on the landowner’s status. Business owners and retail stores, for example, have a higher duty of care, because they invite the public onto their property for the purpose of conducting business. These businesses generally must inspect and make their premises safe for patrons. Private homeowners have less responsibility to their guests, but still have a duty to warn guests of hidden dangers (such as an uneven step).

Liability can be simple or very difficult to establish, depending on the circumstances of an accident. For example, rear end auto accidents almost always result in liability for the rear driver. These accidents are almost always the result of a breach of that driver’s duty to control his or her speed in order to avoid a collision. Similarly, a vehicle that spontaneously brakes as a result of a faulty braking system will almost certainly result in liability for the auto manufacturer, which violated its duty of care to sell consumer goods safe for ordinary use. In some cases, an attorney must fight hard to use statutes and case law in order to prove that the defendant was, in fact, negligent.

Step Three: Negotiating Legal Damages

Legal damages are the losses that an injury victim incurs as the result of an accident. This can include lost wages, medical bills, and property damage. However, the largest component of a victim’s legal damages is often the pain and suffering endured as a result of the defendant’s negligence. This can be difficult to prove. Pain is subjective, and so is the suffering one endures as a result of its limiting effect on family interactions, work, and favorite pastimes. This, too, is an area where an experienced attorney must present effective legal arguments in order to support a victim’s claim for pain and suffering damages.

The Right Attorneys for Your Personal Injury Claim

Be very careful in selecting the right personal injury lawyer for your potential case. There are many ways to settle a personal injury claim. The aggressive personal injury attorneys at the Dolman Law Group can help you select the best method of resolving your claim. Call 727-222-6922 today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced, aggressive personal injury attorney. We will examine the specific facts of your unique case in order to recommend the fastest, most cost-effective method of achieving the best possible resolution of your personal injury claim.

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

How Nursing Home Neglect Leads to Serious Injuries

Although the costs of nursing home care can be over $80,000 a year in Florida, many nursing homes still cut corners and are understaffed, leaving residents untended. Other nursing homes are far too careless with how they hire staff, and end up bringing on employees who are incompetent or suffer from drug or alcohol addictions. Many nursing residents suffer serious injuries as a result.

How Much Attention Should a Nursing Home Give My Loved One?

Nursing homes have a duty to take care of the people in their charge. These duties arise in two ways—by contract and by law.

When you admitted your loved one to the nursing home, the home might have made certain promises, whether in writing or orally. For example, they might have claimed that they have a doctor on staff 24 hours a day. This is a legal promise made to you, and if you relied on it, then the nursing home needs to meet that commitment.

However, some duties are imposed by law, regardless of whether there is a contract. Generally, nursing homes must provide the care that a reasonably careful nursing home would, based on the circumstances.

Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

Many elderly residents are unable to communicate effectively, either because of stroke, dementia, or another condition. For this reason, it is not always realistic to expect them to complain to family members when they suffer neglect. Also, many residents are afraid of the staff at nursing homes. Neglect and abuse often go hand in hand, and your loved one might fear retribution if they complain.

That means you should be vigilant for the common signs of nursing home abuse that should prompt further investigation:

  • Dehydration
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Illnesses or injuries you were never told about
  • Poor hygiene, such as poor dental care, matted hair, or body odor
  • Dirty facilities
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Loss of mobility
  • Emotional isolation
  • Fear
  • Refusal to take medication

Of course, accidents can and do happen, even when nursing homes are diligent. Seeing any of the above does not necessarily mean your loved one is being neglected. However, you absolutely should investigate. Speak to management and explain why you are concerned. There might also be a formal complaint process you can use. If you continue to see signs of neglect, then there may be a problem that warrants retaining an attorney who has experience with nursing home neglect.

Common Accidents Caused by Neglect

When an elderly loved one is neglected, he or she can suffer all kinds of injuries. Common accidents that cause injuries in nursing homes include:

  • Neglected residents being injured in a fall
  • Residents suffering injuries because they are not given medication in adequate doses at proper times.
  • Residents becoming malnourished because they are not fed.
  • Neglectful staff not ordering the appropriate medical intervention in a timely manner after a resident is injured or becomes ill.

These injuries typically stem from the failure of the nursing home to be sufficiently careful in how they run their business.

Negligent Hiring

Sometimes, the nursing home injures your loved one because the home is careless in its employment practices. There may not be enough staff, or the staff may be either incompetent or an outright danger to residents. Nursing home negligence related to staffing includes:

  • Failing to supervise staff properly.
  • Failing to follow up on complaints against staff.
  • Failing to discipline staff or fire staff, as necessary.
  • Failing to perform background checks on staff before hiring them.
  • Failing to train staff properly so that they do not harm residents.
Here is an unfortunately common situation: a nursing home, pressed for staff, hires someone without pulling a criminal history background check or even calling the applicant's former employers. Had they called, they would have found out that the applicant was careless in their job duties or, even worse, had a temper and abused residents. The nursing home goes ahead and hires this person, who turns out to be no different at their new job than they were at their old one. In this situation, the nursing home can be held liable for any injuries that result.

A Crisis for Florida

According to the Naples Daily News, many residents are dying or suffering horrific injuries in our state’s nursing homes. Over 50 of Florida’s nursing homes have a documented history of neglect and death—yet they continue to operate. Some of the deaths draw widespread media attention, as did the case of 12 residents left to die in a Hollywood Hills nursing home after Hurricane Irma.

Unfortunately, the state has not cracked down on negligent and abusive nursing homes, sometimes fining them as little as $5,000 for violations. Since 2013, the state has closed only two nursing homes. When inspectors find over 7,000 violations in our state’s nursing homes, Florida’s system of oversight clearly needs improvement.

Steps to Bringing a Lawsuit

Given the inability of the state of Florida to force nursing homes to stop abusing and neglecting residents, worried family members need to be proactive. You should hire a nursing home abuse lawyer who can start investigating the situation by requesting records from the nursing home pursuant to F.S. 400.145. Your lawyer can analyze them and consult with experts to figure out whether you have a valid claim for neglect.

If your case is solid, your lawyer will give the nursing home a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation. The purpose of the notice is to give the nursing home time to investigate and obtain statements. You may also enter into mediation to resolve the dispute so that the complaint does not go to trial.

  • For mediation to be successful, you must know what you want. Generally, our clients seek:
  • Compensation to pay for necessary medical care to treat their loved one’s injuries.
  • Compensation for the pain and suffering that accompany their loved one’s physical injury.
  • Money damages for any emotional distress their loved one has suffered.
If you cannot reach an agreement, your lawyer will need to file a lawsuit in court. Lawsuits are typically long and drawn out, and can take over a year before trial. There is a long fact-finding phase called "discovery" where each side can request records and ask questions of the other side. Your lawyer will try to find out what assets the nursing home has, as well as who was involved in the neglect of your loved one.

However, the nursing home may attempt to settle the lawsuit at any time. Be aware that many nursing homes will wait until you file a lawsuit to increase the amount of compensation offered.

Speak With a St. Petersburg Nursing Home Lawyer Today

Negligent nursing homes must be held accountable for the resulting injuries to residents. To stop nursing home abuse and neglect, you must speak up on behalf of those who may not be able to speak for themselves. Start the process of investigating a negligent nursing home by contacting Dolman Law Group today for a free consultation at 727-222-6922 or submit an online form

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Pre-Existing Conditions and Personal Injury Claims

Many victims of car accidents, slip and fall accidents, or workplace accidents find that an injury aggravates a pre-existing medical condition. When this happens, many insurance companies attempt to reduce the victim’s personal injury settlement, claiming that the defendant is not responsible for the underlying condition. This is not the case. Defendants are legally obligated to compensate all financial losses caused by their negligence. The experienced St. Petersburg personal injury attorneys at the Dolman Law Group know the best ways to protect your claim from being reduced unfairly because of a pre-existing medical condition.

The Eggshell Plaintiff Rule

A familiar saying in personal injury law is that defendants must take plaintiffs “as they find them.” This means that, even if another plaintiff would not have suffered such serious injuries in the same accident, the defendant is still obligated to compensate all of this plaintiff’s injuries. This rule is informally referred to as the “Eggshell Plaintiff Rule.” Even a plaintiff who is fragile (like an eggshell) is still entitled to compensation for all injuries caused by a defendant’s negligence.

Consider this example: Imagine that an elderly car accident victim suffers from osteoporosis. A negligent driver rear-ends the victim at low speed, and in most instances, the victim’s injuries would have been minor. But this victim suffered many broken bones as a result of osteoporosis. The negligent driver is still obligated to compensate the full value of this victim’s medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses associated with the broken bones, because those injuries were nonetheless caused by that driver’s negligence.

The Eggshell Plaintiff Rule resulted in one jury awarding a victim nearly double the amount he had initially offered to accept in settlement. The National Law Review reported that the elderly victim was injured in a car accident. He eventually had MRIs performed on his neck and back, which showed degenerative damage to the areas. These conditions would normally be treated by a surgical decompression procedure. The victim, however, was unable to undergo surgery due to a heart condition and diabetic neuropathy. His doctor therefore recommended alternative pain management strategies (such as acupuncture and physical therapy). These alternatives could reduce his pain, but not completely correct the damage caused by the car accident, and the victim was left with lifelong pain and suffering. He initially offered to settle his case for $60,000. The insurance company refused—and the case went to trial, where a jury ultimately awarded the victim over one million dollars.

How Settlement Negotiations Work With a Pre-Existing Condition

Any personal injury claim begins with the victim identifying who was legally responsible (“liable”) for causing the injury. This could be a negligent driver, the manufacturer of a defective product, a retail store that failed to maintain its premises in a safe condition, or an employer who exposed employees to dangerous working conditions. The victim can then make a claim with the defendant’s liability insurance carrier to seek compensation for his or her injuries. When a claim is opened, the insurance company will conduct its own investigation into the accident. This allows the carrier to determine whether its client was, in fact, responsible for the accident. If liability is accepted, the insurance company will determine how much the claim is worth to make a settlement offer.

In assessing the value of a claim, a claims adjuster will review the victim’s medical records and bills, which an injury victim must supply in order to document his or her injuries. If the victim has a pre-existing injury or illness that impacts current injuries, this will be reflected in the medical records. Some unscrupulous claims adjusters will immediately cite such a condition as a reason to devalue a personal injury claim. If so, it is up to the victim (or his or her attorney) to establish that the pre-existing injury should not reduce the value of the present claim.

When an accident worsens an existing injury with affiliated chronic pain, the victim does not suffer new pain and suffering, but only an increase in the amount of pain and suffering experienced. For example, if the vulnerable car accident victim had MRIs performed immediately before and after the accident, which showed a change of exactly ten percent in the degeneration that occurred in his neck and back, then the defendant would be liable for only the ten percent change attributed to the accident. This is because the accident did not trigger new pain and suffering; it only exacerbated an existing condition by ten percent. This is sometimes referred to as the “crumbling plaintiff rule.” It can be difficult for an insurance company to apportion pain and suffering, and prove that only a specific portion of the victim’s pain and suffering was caused by the defendant’s negligence. It is possible, however, and many insurance companies use this rule to mitigate their costs associated with a pre-existing injury.

Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys Who Fight for Just Compensation for Your Injuries

All personal injury victims have legal rights under Florida law. They are legally entitled to be compensated for all losses resulting from their injuries, including long-term medical care and rehabilitation; decreased future earning potential; and all other costs attributable to the negligent medical diagnosis or treatment. The right to compensation is not altered by the fact that an injury victim has a pre-existing medical condition. The Dolman Law Group has years of experience in protecting the rights of personal injury victims in and around the St. Petersburg area. Call 727-222-6922 today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced, aggressive personal injury attorney. We can help you protect your personal injury claim against devaluation as a result of a pre-existing condition.

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Fighting a Workers’ Comp Claim Denial

Some people mistakenly think that workers’ compensation benefits are never denied. Unfortunately, a large number of injured employees each year have their claims denied by overly stingy insurers. If your claim is denied, contact Dolman Law Group as soon as possible to discuss your options.

Identify the Reason for Your Denial

A claim for workers' comp may be denied for many reasons. Some of the more common include:

You waited too long before notifying your employer. You should notify your employer no later than 30 days from the date of your injury, preferably sooner. If you wait for more than 30 days, your claim can be denied.
  • The insurer does not believe you were injured on the job.
  • The insurer does not believe your injury is serious enough.
  • Your injury is not covered by the workers’ compensation policy.
  • Your injury resulted from a pre-existing condition.
Read your denial letter for information about why your claim was denied. The letter should also include important information about your deadline for bringing an appeal. Generally, you have two years from the date of the denial. If you do not see this information anywhere on the letter, contact an attorney right away to protect your appeal rights.

Understand the Appeals Process

The Florida Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC) is the administrative body that oversees workers' compensation claims. First, you will most likely need to file a Petition for Benefits with the Division of Administration. After filing this petition, you will be assigned a judge.

At this point, the judge might order mediation as a way to resolve the dispute. In mediation, both sides meet with a third person, the mediator, who is neutral and attempts to get everyone talking and listening to each other. Mediation is sometimes successful at clarifying disputes and allowing both sides to reach an amicable solution. Try to enter mediation with an open mind, yet stick to your position. If mediation is successful, you should qualify for benefits, and the appeals process stops.

If however, the mediation fails, you will need to prepare for a hearing where you must show that you qualify for benefits. You can present any evidence that you like, including a doctor’s testimony. A judge will hear the evidence and make a ruling within 30 days. If you are not happy with the result, you can then appeal to the First District Court of Appeals.

You are not able to present new evidence at the First District Court of Appeals. Instead, the court will rely entirely on the evidentiary record established below. You will not go to court, but will instead submit a written brief that argues you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits based on the facts presented at the hearing stage.

The Independent Medical Examination

Before your appeal, the insurance company might request that an independent doctor examine you. The company will choose this doctor, so you should not be surprised if the doctor agrees with the insurance company that your injuries are not serious. The doctor might perform only a cursory examination and then pronounce that you don’t have any problems that qualify you for workers’ compensation benefits.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult, if not outright impossible, to get out of an independent medical examination. However, you can do things to prepare for it. For example, you can ask a friend or family member to attend. This person can serve as a vital witness as to how cursory the doctor’s examination was. Second, you should write down your symptoms ahead of time so that you give the doctor accurate information. You don’t want to say anything to the doctor that can be used against you.

Lastly, your lawyer can contain the damage from the doctor’s testimony. Your lawyer should be skilled at attacking the credibility of the doctor and exposing his or her bias, so the “independent” doctor’s opinion is not given controlling weight during your appeal.

Build Your Case

To bring a successful appeal, you need high-quality evidence that shows you were injured on the job. With your workers’ comp attorney, you should identify evidence that supports your appeal, such as:

  • Medical records that outline the severity of your injury.
  • Testimony from eyewitnesses who saw you get injured on the job.
  • Any video surveillance that might have captured the accident that led to your injury.
  • Your own testimony about how you suffered the injury.
  • Testimony from a vocational specialist about whether you can return to your job with your injury.

The evidence you need will depend on the reasons why your claim was initially denied. One of the benefits of working with an experienced workers' compensation attorney is that they know what evidence a judge finds persuasive. A lawyer also has the time and resources to gather this evidence, which you might not be able to do if you are trying to recover.

Because you cannot introduce new evidence in front of the First District judge, you need to gather your evidence quickly so that you can present it to the OJCC. It is also important to present your evidence in a professional and logical manner at the hearing stage. If you don’t, then it will be very difficult for the First District judge to understand what evidence you have in support of your claim for benefits. An experienced attorney can elicit witness testimony in an efficient and clear manner that a worker who is representing themselves might not be able to equal.

Contact a St. Petersburg Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Effective appeals require careful planning and attention to detail. They also require extensive knowledge of Florida’s workers’ compensation laws. The lawyers at Dolman Law Group have brought many successful workers’ compensation appeals, and we credit our commitment to our clients as well as our knowledge of the appeals process for our successes. To begin fighting for your workers’ compensation benefits, please schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. Call 727-222-6922 or fill out our online contact form today.

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

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Were You Injured While Riding in an Uber?

The sharing economy has given consumers more options, and nowhere is this clearer than in transportation. Only a few years ago, someone who needed to go somewhere, but did not own a car, hired a taxi or rode public transportation. Today, this same person can use an app to get a ride to almost anywhere within minutes.

Companies like Uber and Lyft offer competitive rates and quality customer service. However, even Uber and Lyft vehicles get in car accidents. Figuring out who is liable if you suffer an injury requires a little more detective work.

Determine Who Is at Fault

Accidents can be caused by the Uber or Lyft driver, or by someone else who slams into your car. Identifying the party at fault matters for purposes of insurance, so try to get a copy of the police report, which should make an initial determination of who is at fault. You should also write down your own memories of what happened. For example, was your driver speeding or driving aggressively? Did another car rear-end you because it was driving too close? A lawyer can use your written recollections to help analyze who was at fault for the accident.

In the event your Uber driver was at fault, then you are unlikely to be covered by their personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. Most PIP plans have a “commercial purpose” exception, which means the coverage is unavailable if the driver was operating the vehicle for profit.

You can also tap your own PIP benefits if you own a car or live with someone who owns a car. However, PIP benefits usually max out at $10,000, or $2,500 if you do not have an emergency medical condition. With the rising cost of medical care, one trip to the hospital could completely exhaust your PIP coverage, so you will probably need to check whether you are covered by the ride-sharing company’s insurance policy.

Of course, if another driver injured you, then that driver might carry bodily injury insurance coverage. This insurance can cover any bodily injury that you suffered. If the driver does not have this coverage, then check whether you have underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage (UMC), which will help pay for anything not covered by your PIP benefits, such as lost wages and medical care.

Check What Insurance Rules Apply

Taxi cabs have historically been treated as common carriers. If you were injured in one, you could bring suit against the taxicab company. However, Uber and Lyft have pushed back, arguing that they are merely a website that helps connect drivers and passengers, and thus are not common carriers. Under their reasoning, Uber and Lyft should not have any legal liability if one of their drivers gets into an accident.

In Florida, Uber and Lyft have won the day—or at least partially. A bill has been signed that stated ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are not common carriers, so they are not held to a higher standard of care. Furthermore, their drivers are considered independent contractors, which means the ride-sharing companies are not on the hook if their drivers negligently caused an accident.

Drivers must have insurance, but the amount will depend on how they use the ride-sharing app:

  • A driver who is not logged into the application does not need to carry any insurance.
  • Drivers who pick up willing riders but do not accept a ride request through the app need to have only $50,000 in coverage.
  • A driver who officially accepts a ride through the application while logged in must have $1,000,000 in insurance coverage. If not, the ride-sharing company should have $1,000,000 in coverage. 
As you can see, everything depends on whether your driver accepted the request officially on the app. If you choose to take a ride with a driver who you did not request—or who did not officially accept your request on the app—then far less insurance is available in the event of an accident.

Document Your Injuries

To increase the likelihood that you receive compensation, you should fully document all economic and non-economic injuries that you suffered in the collision. For example, remember to:

  • Obtain immediate medical treatment. A doctor can document the extent of your injuries in medical records.
  • Follow your doctor’s treatment. You don’t want to be accused of making your condition worse by not following doctor’s orders.
  • Take color photographs of your injuries soon after the accident. By the time you reach a settlement or go to court, most injuries have healed. Bruises have faded, the swelling has subsided, and cuts or lacerations have healed. While everything is still fresh, take vivid color photographs.
  • Hold on to all prescription drug bottles. 
  • Keep a pain journal in which you record daily where you feel pain and its intensity. Also, explain how the pain is impacting you emotionally. Can you sleep? Do you feel depressed? Have you become isolated from your friends and family? A pain journal helps document pain and suffering, which is invisible to most people.
  • Keep detailed receipts for all medical equipment that you purchase and keep copies of all medical bills.

By fully documenting your Uber injuries, you make it harder for an insurer to minimize the suffering you have experienced. At Dolman Law Group, our car accident attorneys can help you properly document everything to maximize your financial compensation.

Speak With a Car Accident Lawyer in St. Petersburg, Florida

After a car accident, you might be unsure of your next steps. The recently-passed Florida law involving ride-share companies has only added to the confusion. To protect your rights, you should contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible.

At Dolman Law Group, we protect our client’s rights by aggressively pursuing compensation from the party responsible for an accident. We can help you navigate the law so that you are inadvertently pursuing compensation from an insurer that is not legally obligated to pay you. Contact us today for a free consultation by calling 727-222-6922 or send us an online message.

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