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Fort Myers car accident lawyerRecent changes to Florida’s tort laws have made it a bit tougher to successfully sue for crash-related injuries if you were partly at-fault. That said, you shouldn’t presume it’s pointless until you talk to a Fort Myers car accident lawyer – especially if your injuries were serious enough to require hospitalization or time off work.  While the new comparative fault law certainly creates legal challenges, rarely are matters of personal injury entirely black-and-white.

The vast majority of Florida car accidents are caused by human error. Common causes include inattention, speeding, failure to yield, intoxication, etc. However, there’s a tendency to think of fault in car accident cases as a binary: One person was at-fault, another was hurt because of it. And sometimes that’s true. But it’s also frequently true that more than one person’s actions contributed either to the cause of the crash or the severity of injuries. One driver may have been speeding, but the other wasn’t paying attention. One person ran a red light, but the other wasn’t wearing a seat belt. So then the question for insurers (and possibly the courts) becomes, “To what extent is each person at-fault – for the crash and resulting injuries?”

As a Fort Myers car accident lawyer, I can tell you the answers aren’t always perfectly obvious. In fact, they can often be a bit subjective. Even if you know you made some missteps, an experienced injury attorney will know what evidence is needed to make a compelling case that you are still entitled to compensation. Continue reading

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Fort Myers slip and fall lawyerWitnesses can play a pivotal role in any Florida personal injury case – and that includes Fort Myers slip-and-fall lawsuits (also known as Premises Liability lawsuits). Sometimes with the ubiquitous presence of security and cell phone cameras, it’s easy to forget that the firsthand accounts of other people can be invaluable in helping us reconstruct what happened and who was at-fault.

Even with video evidence, some of the strategic reasons Fort Myers slip-and-fall injury attorneys will present witness testimony of an incident:

  • Corroboration. A witness – particularly one that has no connection to the plaintiff/injured person – can back up the plaintiff’s story. This not only bolsters the plaintiff’s credibility, but also strengthens their case by providing additional evidence of the defendant’s negligence. Judges and jurors are going to be more convinced of the testimony you’re providing if multiple other witnesses are consistently saying the same thing.
  • Observations you may have missed. When a person is seriously injured, their focus in that moment can sometimes narrow to the pain point. This might cause them to miss key bits of information that might prove crucial to the case. Witnesses can help fill in the blanks.
  • Establishing actual or constructive knowledge. Florida slip-and-fall claims aren’t easy to win. F.S. 768.0755, Florida’s slip-and-fall statute, requires evidence that the defendant/property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition on site and failed to take action to remedy it. It should noted that this statute affects only cases when a transitory foreign substance is involved- The witnesses are sometimes even employees of the defendant – sometimes provide this evidence by detailing their actual knowledge of the hazard (ex: “I saw the spill and told my manager, but nothing was done to fix it or warn customers”) or testimony that the condition had existed for some time or occurred with regularity (thereby establishing constructive knowledge).

To be useful in a Fort Myers slip-and-fall case, eyewitness testimony needs to come from a person with firsthand knowledge of relevant events, a good memory, a consistent story and decent credibility. They must also be willing to testify in court. While written statements can be helpful to your lawyer’s investigation, they may be considered inadmissible in court as hearsay without the witness’s willingness to swear to it under oath.

Recent Florida Slip-and-Fall Case Underscores Importance of Witness Testimony

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woman driving a car in Florida auto insurance breakdown from Cape Coral injury lawyersCar insurance is more expensive in Florida than any other state. Insurance Business Magazine reports the average annual auto insurance premium in Florida is $2,560 – which is 52% (or nearly $1,000) higher than the national average. (And that is based on rates for a hypothetical 40-year-old male driver with a good driving record. Rates can get much higher for teens or those with a poor driving record.) Such significant costs have some motorists wondering whether there’s certain coverage they can forego. Here, our Southwest Florida injury lawyers provide a Florida auto insurance breakdown from a civil claims perspective.

Why is Car Insurance So Much Pricier in Florida?

Although one could reasonably argue that insurance companies have never needed a good reason to impose sky-high rates on customers, there are a few factors that result in Florida car insurance being so much higher than the national average.

A couple of these reasons include:

  • Florida is prone to more extreme weather. Hurricanes, tropical storms, flooding, tornadoes, lightning, brush fires, heavy fog – all of these things can increase the risk of vehicles being damaged, either directly or in a related crash.
  • Florida’s high number of uninsured drivers. In Florida, 1 in 5 drivers does not have the required auto insurance. This makes the claims process tough, and lawsuits tend to be more likely. With two insured drivers, a lawsuit may be wholly unnecessary, as Cape Coral Car Accident lawyers can often simply negotiate fair terms directly with insurers. But if the other party had no insurance, you’re usually left with pursuing a claim against that individual personally, filing third-party liability claims, or seeking uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) claims from your own insurer. And if you’re the driver who is not insured, it doesn’t mean you can’t recover damages from the other at-fault party, but you will lose out on the claims for personal injury protection (PIP) as well as UM/UIM.

You might also expect to pay more if you:

  • Have poor credit. Florida does not prohibit use of this factor in premium rates the way some other states do.
  • Are male. Florida does not prohibit the use of this factor in premium rates the way some other states do.
  • Live in an urban area. Cities are packed with tight streets, loads of traffic, and a higher concentration of pedestrians, bicyclists, and large vehicles. The risk of vehicle damage is much higher.
  • Live in an area with high crime rates. The heightened risk of theft and vandalism will hike up rates.
  • Have an expensive or highly desirable car. Vehicles that are more costly to repair or particularly prone to theft will be pricier to insure.

What Coverage is Required for Florida Drivers

As longtime injury lawyers in Southwest Florida, we’ve seen a lot of crash victims put at a significant disadvantage because of lacking car insurance coverage. While it’s true that this is a no-fault state for crash claims, meaning your own insurer will cover damages regardless of fault, you must keep in mind that this coverage (PIP) only goes so far – $10,000, to be exact. And even then, it only covers PART of your losses – 80 percent of medical bills and 60 percent of lost wages.

If you’re seriously hurt and the other driver was at-fault, you’ll need to step outside the no-fault system to pursue a claim against that driver, your Underinsured Motorist Carrier (or other liable third parties).

But let’s start with what is required minimum car insurance coverage for registered vehicles Florida: Continue reading

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Fort Myers personal injury lawyerOne of the first questions a lot of people ask when they’re first considering filing a Fort Myers personal injury lawsuit is, “What is my case worth?”

In legal terms, we would phrase “the amount owed” as “damages.”

To answer this question, your Fort Myers personal injury lawyer would certainly start by examining the type of injury, who was at fault, how much you’ve racked up in medical bills, and the wages you’ve lost while you’ve had to take off work to recover. Determining the full scope of damages can quickly get complicated.

That’s partially because not every loss is tangible. You may be entitled to compensation for your physical pain and suffering or even for the emotional anguish you went through as a result of the incident. Those things aren’t easily measurable in dollars and cents (even if that’s how they’re ultimately paid).

Other factors that must be considered:

The type and severity of injury.

Minor injuries shouldn’t be dismissed, of course. But the reality is that unless your injury landed you in the hospital, resulted in a permanent injury, significant loss of function, permanent scarring, and/or forced time away from work, it’s unlikely to result in a significant settlement without the hiring of a skilled personal injury attorney.

If you are in a car accident in Florida, you actually can’t step outside the no-fault system to pursue damages against the at-fault driver unless the extent of your injuries meets or exceeds the serious injury threshold, as outlined in F.S. 627.737. This requires evidence that your injury consisted of a significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function, significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, or death.

However, this same rule won’t apply to motorcycle injury victims because they do not carry the no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. So again, the type of injury can impact how your case proceeds and how much it’s worth.

It’s also worth pointing out that certain types of cases may be more difficult/complicated to successfully pursue. For instance, a case of medical malpractice or product liability is going to require more resources, expertise, expert witnesses, attorney time, etc. They may also yield higher damage awards as there will likely be more recoverable assets/insurance coverage, but all of this will be weighed in determining the value of a case. Continue reading

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Fort Myers medical malpractice lawyerPregnancy and childbirth can be a time of intense joy and anticipation for families. It can also be a time of great apprehension given the risks. Just because something goes wrong in pregnancy or childbirth doesn’t automatically mean there’s a basis for a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit. However, there are absolutely instances when maternal death and sometimes miscarriage could be grounds for a claim.

It is critical to work with a Southwest Florida medical malpractice attorney who understands the complexity of these claims and has the skills, resources and commitment to seek accountability from negligent medical providers when warranted.

An estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. Most of these occur in the first trimester, and there is often no obvious cause.

Questions of legal accountability can be complicated, but might be raised when there is evidence of a medical provider’s clear error, misstep, or missed diagnosis that caused or significantly contributed to the loss. Possible examples might include:

  • A hospital-acquired infection.
  • Failure to provide prompt and proper treatment in the event of a medical emergency.
  • Missed diagnosis of a serious condition, such as preeclampsia, can lead to miscarriage and/or maternal death.

However, under current Florida law, civil liability for negligence leading solely to the death of a fetus (as opposed to the mother) would not be considered “wrongful death.”

Florida Courts on Civil Liability for Death of a Fetus

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Doctor reviews brain scans of a patient represented by South Florida brain injury lawyerA traumatic brain injury can make it seem as if time is literally standing still. Many of the 2.5 million people diagnosed with a TBI in the U.S. each year describe a sense of “depersonalization” or “derealization” that disrupts their sense of time – along with their memory, balance, sleep cycles, mood patterns, brain function, and more.  Unfortunately, as a Florida brain injury lawyer can explain, that doesn’t always mean you’ll have more time to file a civil negligence claim for damages related to that injury.

Traumatic brain injury or “TBI” is a contributing factor in an estimated one-third of all injury-related deaths in the U.S. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Safety Research revealed the cost to society for care and lost productivity due to brain trauma is enormous: $76 billion annually. Not all TBI sufferers are permanently impacted, but the National Institutes of Health report an estimated 5.2 million people in this country are disabled due to their TBI.

Although we don’t know exactly how many TBI injuries are caused by another’s negligence, we do know a fair number of Florida litigants include TBI claims. A longitudinal study published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology found that approximately 40 percent of TBI victims in one city had filed a personal injury lawsuit related to their claim.

A Florida brain injury lawyer can also tell you that many of the most common types of actionable injury claims involve head trauma: Car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip-and-falls, hotel and resort injuries, golf cart injuries, construction accidents, nursing home falls, medical malpractice claims, criminal assaults on business property, etc. Depending on how serious your injuries were and whether someone else was at-fault for what happened, it may be possible to take legal action against at-fault parties in civil court to recover damages for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

Factors That Impact How Long You Have to File Your Florida Brain Injury Lawsuit

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Fort Myers crash injuries lawyerIn a win for people seeking fair compensation for Florida car crash injuries, the Florida Supreme Court recently ruled against an auto insurer trying to minimize a claimant’s rightful payout.

The case of Ellison v. Willoughby started with a South Florida car accident. A truck driver t-boned another vehicle, causing serious car crash injuries. The plaintiff, a passenger in the car, sued both the truck driver and his wife, who co-owned the truck. (Florida allows vicarious liability lawsuits against vehicle owners under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine.)

The plaintiff also filed a claim with his own auto insurance company for uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. As our Fort Myers car accident lawyers can explain, UM/UIM coverage is paid by your own insurer when the at-fault driver either doesn’t have any insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your losses. Such coverage isn’t mandatory for Florida auto insurance policies, but most offer it standard.

In this case the plaintiff then successfully pursued a claim for bad faith damages against his UM/UIM carrier. We don’t know the exact details of this particular bad faith claim, but most Florida bad faith insurance claims are initiated when insurers try to evade their obligations to policyholders. Examples include failure to properly investigate a claim or settle reasonable claims in a timely manner for a fair sum. Bad faith damages can be incredibly costly for insurers, but that’s intentional. Insurers have the upper hand in negotiations after a car crash as the insurance contract says that the insured gives up their right to negotiate their claim to the insurance carrier. Heavy penalties for acting in bad faith are intended to serve as a powerful incentive to treat injured claimants and policy holders fairly. In this case, the UM/UIM policy limit was a maximum of $10,000. But the bad faith claim ultimately led to a $4 million settlement between the UM/UIM insurer and the plaintiff. This was all before the trial against the truck driver and his wife/co-owner of the truck.

The negligence trial then proceeded, and plaintiff won a $30 million verdict. The defendant then filed to offset that verdict by $4 million, citing the bad faith insurance settlement. The trial court denied the request, as did Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal upon review. In so doing, the Fla. 2nd DCA certified a two-part question to the Florida Supreme Court:

  • Is a settlement made by a UM/UIM insurer to settle a first-party bad-faith insurance claim subject to setoff under F.S. 768.041(2)?
  • Can an insurer claim a setoff of such a settlement under F.S. 768.76 by citing it as a collateral source?

The Florida Supreme Court quashed the first part of the question/answer (it hadn’t been properly preserved for appeal). As to the second question, justices answered: No. Continue reading

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South Florida personal injury lawyerThink you might need to hire a Florida personal injury lawyer but have no idea where to start?

Most Naples personal injury clients are folks with little-to-no experience in civil litigation, and this is a good thing as we all don’t want to hire lawyers unless we have to. Many of our clients are reeling from a horrible crash or devastating loss due to a medical mistake and unsure of their next steps. Very often doctors or insurance companies are not always helpful in encouraging people to seek legal counsel.

The good news is that an experienced Naples Florida personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the whole process from start-to-finish, sometimes without even stepping foot in a courtroom.

How Do I Find a Lawyer?

The internet is usually the first place people start nowadays when looking for a Florida personal injury lawyer.

You can start with a simple search of attorneys in your region who practice the type of law you need. For serious injuries, you may want to dig a little deeper.

Personal injury law falls under the general umbrella of “torts,” but there are actually several different types of personal injury claims. For example, injury due to a doctor’s error is going to fall under “medical malpractice law.” Injuries resulting from a dangerous or defective product or vehicle will be filed as “product liability” claims. If you’re injured as a result of a dangerous condition on someone else’s property, this is called “premises liability.”

You want to check for injury lawyers in the area with experience and success in handling cases just like yours. For this, you can specifically for a section on their website with detailed testimonials and/or case results. (You can also ask for this directly if you decide to meet with the attorney.)

It’s not a bad idea to check the ratings and reviews on Google, social media, and other platforms. These might not give you the whole story, but attorneys and/or law firms with a fair number of positive reviews are probably doing something right.

In Florida, you can also contact your local Bar Association for lawyer referral services. There are offices in Collier, Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota Counties.

What Does a South Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Need From Me?

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Cape Coral car accident settlement FloridaA central part of resolving any Florida car accident case is negotiation with insurers. You may not need to go to trial or even file a lawsuit. But you will almost certainly be negotiating with at least one insurer at some point. Some folks feel comfortable handling this themselves, but for reasons laid out in this blog post, they might want to think twice. If you botch the negotiation by turning down a fair car accident settlement offer from the insurer, you could lose everything – even with a winning case.

For one thing, it’s common for auto insurance companies to lowball claimants. If you accept that initial offer, you will forgo any chance of collecting more in the future, even if you later realize your damages are much greater.

For another thing, Florida statute explicitly incentivizes parties to accept a fair car accident settlement offers. It also penalizes those who don’t. F.S. 768.79 says that in any civil action for damages filed in state court, if one side offers the other a settlement that isn’t accepted and the subsequent final judgment of the court is within 25% of that earlier settlement amount, the side that rejected the settlement has to pay the other’s court costs and attorney’s fees.

For example, let’s say you’re suing for $100,000, and the defendant extends a Florida car accident settlement offer of $80,000. You reject it, take the case to court, and the final judgment is for $90,000. That is within 25% of what you were offered to settle. Even though you won, you now have to pay the defense attorney’s fees (as well as your own) out of your winnings. If costs and attorney’s fees amount to more than the final judgment, the court will enter a judgement in favor of the defendant and you’ll owe them.

The trickiest part of all is that without an experienced car accident lawyer, you won’t have a strong sense of what is truly fair and what isn’t. If you aren’t confident about what your case is really worth, you could end up with far less than you deserve – either by accepting far too little and forgoing your right to ask for more OR refusing a settlement that’s totally fair based on the facts.

By working with a knowledgeable Cape Coral car accident attorney, you get the assurance of knowing when an insurance settlement offer is reasonable and when it isn’t.

Proper Valuation of Florida Crash Cases

Proper valuation of a crash case for purposes of determining a fair car accident settlement isn’t simple math. Some of the factors that weigh into what a case is worth include: Continue reading

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E-bike-Pic-300x201Electric bicycles, aka “e-bikes,” have become incredibly popular here in the Sunshine State. If you’re unfamiliar, these are pedal-operated bicycles equipped with an electric bike motor to assist. U.S. sales of e-bikes topped $1.3 billion in 2022, and Floridians love them, as they’re allowed on most roads, bike paths, and trails where traditional bikes can operate.

That said, a Key West injury lawyer can tell you their introduction hasn’t been a super-smooth ride. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that micromobility device injuries treated at hospital emergency rooms nationwide have increased 23 percent every year since 2017. (This includes not only e-bike injuries, but those involving hoverboards and e-scooters.)

But such increases do make sense for the simple fact that these devices didn’t even exist a few years ago. The risks they pose are worth knowing, but none of it really changes the fact that the bigger safety threats on South Florida roads are:

  • Infrastructure that wasn’t designed to safely accommodate alternative modes of transportation (i.e., wide roads, high speed limits, no sidewalks, etc.).
  • Reckless motor vehicle drivers.

If you’re injured in a Florida e-bike accident, a Key West injury lawyer can explore all avenues of compensation (i.e., defective helmets, rental bike agency liability, product liability claims against the e-bike manufacturer, etc.). But such cases are probably going to closely mirror conventional Florida bicycle accident claims than anything else – and those are most typically against motor vehicle drivers.

E-Bike Injuries Often Resemble Conventional Bike Injuries

Questions have been raised about whether e-bikes are better classified as “motor vehicles” – more aligned with motorcycles than traditional bicycles.

But in one study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, researchers looked at injury patterns involving e-bike operators, bicyclists, and motorcycle operators. They found that the injury patterns of e-bikers resembled that of bicyclists “much more” than that of motorcyclists. Continue reading

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