Thursday, August 30, 2018

Top 5 Most Common Bicycle Accidents

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

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

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

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

1. Drivers and cyclists run red lights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Bicyclists run into hazards on the roadway.

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

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

5. Drivers open their doors into cyclists.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

Why You Still Need a Lawyer

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

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

What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

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

How Does Mediation Work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Does Arbitration Work?

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

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

Let Us Help You

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

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

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

Monday, August 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prior Knowledge of Alcohol Addiction

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

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

Comparison to Georgia Law

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

Serving Alcohol to Underage Persons

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

Social Host Liability

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

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

Outside of Dram Laws

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Medical Malpractice versus Ordinary Negligence Claims in Florida

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

Statute of Limitations

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

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

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

Presuit Procedural Requirements

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

Presuit Investigation Procedures for Medical Malpractice Claims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Driver Assisting Technology and Driver Distraction

Driver Assisting Technology Driver Distraction Car Accident

Driver Assisting Technology can Increase Driver Distraction

Driver distraction has been the scourge of the roads of Florida since the advent of smartphone technology in the late 2000’s. 3,450 people were killed in distraction related motor vehicle crashes in 2016. As we move into the late 2010’s a new technology developed with benevolent intentions could perhaps have some unforeseen side effects once again.
Driver assisting technology has become the cutting edge in driver safety features. With the addition of sensors and remarkably advanced computing, cars can now react on their own and provide all kinds of features to assist drivers on the roads and help prevent accidents. Most of this technology is born from advances in a similar field. Driverless car technology. Therein lies the problem.
It has been big news how driverless car fallibility has lead to deaths of drivers and pedestrians since this technology is still fairly new and will likely require years of more development before it reaches an acceptable level of efficiency and accuracy to work completely independently. The same can be said about autopilot technology which exists halfway between driverless and driver-assisting technology. While it has been proven to work to a degree, it still requires an attentive driver do operate safely.

Driver Assistance Technology Requires Attentive Drivers

Driver assistance technology should also be treated with the same caution and attentiveness when available for use. Unfortunately, the issue of driver distraction can rear its head when these features are relied upon too heavily to pick up the slack.
Every day, thousands of drivers across the country put their lives at risk when they drive distracted; mostly by smartphones. Driver assisting technology may have the potential to decrease the amount of accidents that occur because of this driver distraction. On the other hand, some could say that driver distraction could increase because of these features since they can give drivers a false sense of security leading them to take more risky glimpses at their texts and Facebook feed.

Driver Assistance Technologies

In order to have a better understanding of the possible risks and benefits of driver assisting technology, lets take a look at the most popular forms of this new car feature.

Adaptive Cruise Control

One of the most astonishing new technologies available to cars on the market is adaptive cruise control. Sometimes called active cruise control, autonomous cruise control, intelligent cruise control, or radar cruise control, this innovative driver assistance feature allows the driver to engage their cruise control to keep pace automatically with the car in front of them up to a set maximum speed.
If a car slows or speeds up, the sensors at the front of the car will detect the change in speed and compensate accordingly with brakes and acceleration. The primary targeted use for this feature is deployment during stop and go traffic situations common during rush hour traffic.
While this technology is effective at handling stop and go traffic at certain speeds, it has its limits. Some versions of this tech are only capable of braking at half power and rely on collision warning systems to warn the driver of a car in front that has slammed the brakes to make a complete stop.
Other times if a car using adaptive cruise control is going at high speed and comes up on a stationary car, the sensors will register the car but it will usually be a very close call. That is a best case scenario. It’s important to remember that factors like adverse weather, road hazards, and aggressive drivers can be difficult for a system like this to compensate for and require an undistracted driver to handle.

Auto Emergency Braking

Auto emergency braking is fairly self explanatory. Sensors in front of the vehicle detect an obstacle in danger of being hit and the brakes automatically deploy to avoid an accident. There’s no doubt that these emergency brakes have saved a lot of lives and stopped a lot of accidents. However, they are a failsafe to be deployed automatically as a last resort. Many situations where auto emergency brakes deployed, could have been avoided with maneuvering by a vigilant driver.

Driver Distraction is a Leading Cause of Accidents

This technology is definitely a welcome addition to the host of anti-accident features available today but it is important to remember what they are helping to stop in the first place. Distracted driving is among the top causes of accidents in the country and causes an estimated 25% of all car accidents.
Of all these distracted driving accidents, the majority are teens. Correlation may not equal causation but we can all safely assume that most of those teens were probably distracted by an electronic device. Driver assistance technology may be useful as a failsafe but it may tempt people to look at their phones with a false sense of security.
Distraction is not even limited to electronic devices. Conversations can pull someone’s attention from the road as well as eating, adjusting the seat or mirrors, reaching for something in another seat, and even adjusting the radio or air conditioning. The foremost concern of course is electronics distractions since they account for the majority of distraction caused accidents.
Some of these driver assistance features do require things like driver’s hands on the wheel to trigger sensors so that drivers will not try to rely on the adaptive cruise control while they eat a cheeseburger. If there’s the possibility for drivers to do something stupid; they’ll find a way to make it happen.

Holding Negligent Drivers Responsible for Unsafe Driving Habits

Justice requires holding negligent drivers responsible for all losses and injuries they cause in order to protect others from harm on the road. The Dolman Law Group has spent years protecting the legal rights of accident victims across Florida.
Call our office at (727) 222-6922 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with an experienced St. Petersburg personal injury attorney. We fight to help car accident victims recover the compensation they deserve.
Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Hazard of Drowsy Drivers

Driving drowsy: It’s one of those things that many people don’t even think about. You know that you should be alert behind the wheel, but when you simply have to reach your destination, you may keep driving in spite of increasing difficulty staying awake. Unfortunately, many drivers who choose to continue behind the wheel when they’re drowsy end up experiencing a range of negative impacts—including effects every bit as severe as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

By the Numbers

An estimated one in 25 drivers admit to having fallen asleep behind the wheel in the last 30 days. These distracted drivers, who are more likely to be late shift workers, commercial drivers, drivers who are taking medication that’s more likely to make them sleepy, and drivers who haven’t gotten an adequate amount of sleep the night before, may struggle to pay attention to what’s going on around them. They’re less likely to keep their eyes on the road and more likely to drift off-course, especially if they’re actively falling asleep.

Drowsy driving claims more than 800 lives a year. Since there’s no clear evaluation for drowsy driving—unlike drunk or drugged driving, for which there are tests—it can be difficult to know exactly how many crashes were due to drowsy driving. However, it’s estimated that around 13 percent of crashes in which someone had to be taken to the hospital involved drowsy driving.

How to Stay Safe on the Road

Obviously, the first step in keeping yourself safe is to stay off the road if you’re starting to feel drowsy! Whether you’re out on a road trip or simply coming home from an event, however, there are times when you may not feel that getting off of the road is an option. In that case, try some of these key strategies to keep yourself and everyone else on the road with you safer.

Plan ahead. You can’t always guarantee what’s going to make you sleepier than normal behind the wheel: a tough shift at work; a difficult night; a little one who was up more times than anticipated before you had to be at work the next day. There are, however, several steps you can take to help avoid drowsy driving.

  • Get adequate sleep the night before a road trip. Instead of staying up late packing and planning, go ahead and get in bed!
  • Don’t stay too late at parties and events. If you notice that you’re starting to get drowsy, it’s probably past time to call it a night.
  • Pay attention to how you’re feeling and make decisions accordingly. If that means stopping earlier in your evening drive than intended, it’s worth missing a few hours on the road to avoid an accident.

Take regular breaks.
In general, you shouldn’t drive for more than two hours without taking a break, getting out of your car, and moving around a little. If you’re starting to get tired on a long trip, try getting out more regularly to help keep yourself awake and break up the monotony. In many cases, you’ll discover that simply getting out of the car and getting some fresh air can make a big difference in your ability to keep your eyes on the road. Try not to keep pushing yourself, even if you feel as though you can continue driving. In many cases, getting out of your car will let you know exactly how tired you were.

  • Know the signs of drowsy driving. Become familiar with what it feels like when you’re driving drowsy, then take appropriate steps to avoid it. Common signs include:
  • Blinking more frequently, especially if you’re struggling to pry your eyes back open at the end of a blink.
  • Drifting out of your lane, whether into another lane or into the rumble strip at the side of the road.
  • Blanking out and failing to remember the past several miles driven, especially if you’re beyond that “road haze” that often hits on long trips.
  • Struggling to keep your eyes open or falling into micro-sleeps, which can last 4-5 seconds. Note that at high speeds, you may travel several yards while asleep, which can be extremely dangerous when you’re on the road.

Stop and take care of yourself. If you’re starting to get sleepy behind the wheel, find a safe place to pull over. Check parking restrictions. Then, take a fifteen-minute nap. This simple step is often enough to get you moving again without substantially impacting your schedule. Two cups of coffee can also provide a caffeine boost that will help you reach your destination. As a short-term intervention until you can pull off the road safely, try pinching your inner thigh: the quick jolt of adrenaline will wake you up enough to help keep you out of danger.

Be careful when taking new or different medications. Until you know how a new medication is going to impact you, stay out from behind the wheel of the car—especially if drowsiness is a known side effect. You should also avoid taking medications that cause drowsiness when you know you’re going to be driving. If you must take these medications, make sure that they’ve worn off before you get behind the wheel.

Pay attention to other drivers on the road. Unfortunately, it’s not just you falling asleep that you have to worry about. Pay attention to signs that other drivers are starting to feel sleepy on the road, especially during peak tired hours. Look for drivers who swerve, have trouble holding their lanes, or can’t maintain a constant speed. If possible, avoid these drivers. If you notice dangerous driving behaviors, contact the local highway patrol to intervene.

If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident as a result of someone else driving drowsy, you may be entitled to legal compensation. Don’t wait to get help! Contact us today at (727) 222-6922 to connect with an experienced lawyer for a free consultation. We’ll show you what an attorney can do to maximize your odds of a successful outcome, help you wrestle with insurance companies, and walk you through the entire process.

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Key Reason Even Minor Injuries Require Medical Attention

When you’ve experienced a major trauma, whether in the form of a car crash or another accident, you may catch yourself wondering whether or not it’s really worth it to seek medical attention. Nothing seems to be broken, and you’re not experiencing any odd symptoms at the moment. You can put off that trip to the hospital, right? Unfortunately, putting off medical attention can have serious repercussions. Even if your injury seems to be relatively minor, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent the possibility of serious complications down the road. Not only is qualified medical attention the only way to determine for certain whether or not you have been injured, it can also help ensure that you receive the compensation you’re owed due to the injury.

The Potential for Delayed Arrival of Symptoms

In some cases, the worst symptoms of an injury won’t show up until well after the accident has occurred. Your body often attempts to protect itself by hiding the symptoms until later, when you’re out of the stressful or traumatic scenario. Traumatic brain injury, in particular, may not show up right away; instead, symptoms are delayed until well after the initial event that caused the injury. Later, you may experience:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Struggle to remember things that are normal parts of your routine
  • Personality changes
  • Memory issues
  • Problems with vision or hearing
  • Depression
  • Impaired thinking

If you’ve been involved in an accident that caused trauma to the head, it’s even more critical that you receive immediate medical care to verify whether you’ve suffered any form of neurological injury.

Traumatic brain injury, however, isn’t the only accident symptom that can show up several days after the initial event. You may find that whiplash, which can show up in crashes at as low as 14 miles per hour, goes beyond head, back, and neck pain in the initial days following the accident. Numbness or tingling, difficulty using your limbs, and abdominal pain and swelling can all show up well after the initial accident. For this reason, it’s critical that you receive immediate medical attention, including x-rays and scans that can help evaluate you for more serious injury, and determine how you should proceed with treatment.

Note that many people have been able to walk away from the accident scene without problems, but discover the next morning that they aren’t even able to get out of bed. Symptoms of concussion or other traumatic brain injuries might not appear immediately: patients can even be laughing, joking around, and appear to be perfectly fine despite suffering serious injury, like in the case of actress Natasha Richardson. Injured in a beginner ski lesson, Richardson was initially laughing and joking with her instructors, and appeared not to have suffered any injury. Hours later, she began complaining of head pain; two days after the accident, she was tragically pronounced dead by the county coroner. If you were injured, even if you believe it minor, undergo a full evaluation by a doctor to rule out the potential for serious complications.

Complicating the Injury

You’ve been cut—maybe deeply, or perhaps in a way that’s shallow enough that you don’t feel the need to head to the doctor. You’re pretty sure that you don’t need stitches, so what’s the problem? Perhaps you’re feeling a little achy, but have pain relievers on hand, so there’s no reason to seek medical attention. Unfortunately, failure to seek appropriate medical treatment can complicate your initial injury, leading to a host of other problems. Consider these potential complications:

  • Infection is a serious problem in many wounds. Your skin is designed to protect your body from harmful invaders. Remove it, as in a cut or burn, and you open your body up to a range of infections. With proper treatment, you can keep the wound site clean and avoid the potential for infection—but that includes a quick trip to a medical facility before you know you’re in the clear.
  • Walking on sprains and strains can complicate the healing process, and make it take longer than normal to recover. You may also make broken bones and other injuries worse by failing to care for them properly.
  • Loss of mobility may occur when you don’t properly care for any injury. Over time, you may stiffen up, and begin to lose your ability to use a joint properly. By seeking medical care, you’ll receive a treatment plan that includes physical therapy, which will allow you to properly manage your recovery so that you don’t lose mobility.
  • Extending the area of the injury may occur if you move around too much or experience a severe drop in blood pressure following a spinal cord injury

In most cases, paramedics will immobilize patients suffering from possible spinal cord injuries in order to help prevent the injury from worsening. Failure to seek treatment, however, could result in severe complications.

Obtaining the Compensation You Need

If you’ve been injured through the negligence of someone else, you are entitled to pursue compensation, whether that means payment for your medical care, or receiving compensation for pain and suffering. Unfortunately, delaying medical treatment can seriously impair an injured party’s ability to seek legal compensation after an accident. Most insurance companies require you to seek medical attention within 72 hours of your accident. Wait any longer than that, and you may find that the insurance company turns down your claims. Waiting too long to initiate a personal injury claim can make it difficult for your attorney to collect evidence, testimony, and identify relevant parties and witnesses.

Delaying medical treatment may mean that you are at fault for some of the problem. If you don’t receive medical treatment for your injury as soon as possible, it can be argued that you are at fault for any portion of the injury caused by delayed medical treatment. This may mean that you don’t receive full compensation for your injury. It may also be difficult to get your own insurance company to cover those bills.

Insisting that you’re fine at the scene may lead to legal problems later. It’s important never to insist that you’re “fine,” or that there’s “nothing wrong” at the scene of an accident. Any time there’s the potential for injury, make sure that you’re evaluated by a qualified physician. Refrain from self-diagnosis—defense attorneys can use any statements that you are injury-free against you later, if another party attempts to dispute your claim. A thorough medical evaluation will allow you to see for certain whether or not you were injured in the accident, and ensure you are in the best possible position for both treating your injuries and obtaining compensation.

If you’ve been involved in an accident, even if you believe that your injuries are minor, don’t wait to seek medical care! If you or your provider uncover serious injury, you need a personal injury attorney who can help you seek legal compensation. Contact us today at (727) 222-6922 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys, and learn more about the potential compensation you could receive as a result of your accident.

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