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Fort Myers injury lawyerOne of the most difficult aspects of recovery from an extended illness or serious injury is the mounting hospital bills. If one’s poor medical condition was the result of another’s carelessness or negligence, these bills might be covered by the at-fault party’s insurer. When it comes to Florida personal injury litigation, medical bill reimbursement is often a key part of any case. It should be understood by plaintiffs, however, that whatever financial recovery you obtain in a settlement for prior medical expenses must usually be repaid to the health care provider, hospital, or insurer that initially covered them. Those entities will often argue that they have a “lien” on your personal injury settlement or verdict. These bills or liens can quickly become complicated matters, resulting in a great hassle – and a potentially much smaller sum of money in your pocket – if you don’t deal with them promptly and properly. As a Fort Myers injury lawyer, I’m familiar with the nebulous tactics used by both insurers and providers in these situations, as well as the ever-shifting policy and precedent. At the time of publishing the Florida Supreme Court has recently invalidated the Lee Memorial Hospital Lien law.

When you bring forth an injury lawsuit, your attorney has an ethical obligation to put forth reasonable effort to resolve any disputes between you (the client) and any third-party lienholders (most commonly hospitals, insurers, and health care providers). Where disputes can’t be resolved, we may recommend depositing the disputed funds into the court registry while the case continues. Sometimes, these situations drag on long enough to prompt litigation over unfair/deceptive billing practices, unfair debt collection practices, overcharging, etc. Such action, however, should be a last resort. Ideally, you’re working with a competent civil injury lawyer who will help you resolve these outstanding claims as soon as possible so you can move on with your life. It’s one of the reasons we strongly urge potential clients to hire injury lawyers with proven experience in this particular field of law, rather than jack-of-all-trade law offices.

Disputing Unreasonable Hospital Bills

The issue of unreasonable medical billing has become an increasingly relevant issue in Florida and across the country. It’s gotten so bad that some individuals and families actively seek care in foreign countries. However, that isn’t a realistic option for most folks.

Hospital charges often have little connection to the actual internal costs of services – or even the amounts they typically negotiate with insurers. In most cases, even when patients are asked to pay the bills in full as charged, it goes unpaid. However, plaintiffs injured in third-party liability situations are among those that may get charged the full amount of the care they receive.

What works in the favor of my Fort Myers injury lawyer clients is the fact that patients are allowed to challenge hospital charges that are unreasonable. Continue reading

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dangerous exercise equipment Naples injury lawyerPhysical fitness hype – as well as exercise equipment purchases – soared the past few years, as Americans sought ways to get in shape while also spending more time at home. While cardio and lifting are undoubtedly good for your health, it’s worth pointing out that dangerous exercise equipment has been known to lead to serious injury, sometimes leading to regulatory interventions and lawsuits.

As our Naples injury lawyers can explain, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has regulated workout equipment since the 1990s, has in the last two decades issued more than 80 recalls of exercise equipment and collected millions in civil penalties. Some of these cases have been fairly recent. Among them:

  • A $7.95 million civil penalty against Cybex International, Inc. for failure to immediately report defects of two of its machines: The Arm Curl and Smith Press machines. The CPSC says each created an unreasonable risk of serious injuries. According to the agency, a weld on the Arm Curl machine can fail, causing the handle to unexpectedly separate and strike the user in the face. The company received 85 consumer reports of broken handles and serious injury – including one person who permanently lost their vision. Yet the manufacturer didn’t inform federal safety regulators, as required by law. Same with the more than two dozen reports the company received involving a weight bar on its press machines. Customers had been paralyzed and suffered spinal fractures when impacted by the bar, but the company didn’t issue a recall or even a notice to the CPSC. Eventually, the arm curl machine was recalled in 2015. The press machines were recalled three years later. Now, in addition to the CPSC’s civil penalties, the company – under new ownership – is enrolled in an enhanced safety compliance monitoring program.
  • A $6.5 million civil penalty against Core Health & Fitness LLC for failure to immediately report a defect creating an unreasonable risk of serious injury involving its Dual Adjustable Pulley Machines and Cable Cross Over Machines. According to federal product safety regulators, the fitness equipment manufacturer knew that the height-adjusting carriages on its machines had the ability to loosen and fall, potentially causing serious injury risk. The company had fielded 55 user injury reports pertaining to this issue – including nearly a dozen that resulted in lacerations to the head, some requiring staples or stitches. Yet the company didn’t turn this information over to safety officials, as required by law.
  • The popular Peloton Tread+ was recalled by the company last spring after the CPSC issued a warning following numerous instances where small children (and one pet) were injured after being trapped, pinned, and pulled under the rear roller of the machine. At the time of that warning, there were at least 39 incidents of it happening – and one child’s death. Consumers using the product in a home with children were urged to immediately stop using the device. Further, all objects – including exercise balls and other equipment – were urged to be kept away from the treadmills.

These are just a few of the recently-reported exercise accident incidents, injuries caused by dangerous or malfunctioning workout equipment are nothing new.

Who is Liable for Dangerous Exercise Equipment Injuries?

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South Florida car accident lawyerAnnual road trips are a summer tradition for many families, with much flocking south to Florida for our world-renowned beaches, boating, sunshine, and theme parks. Last year alone, Florida welcomed approximately 122 million visitors – and that’s not including residents who traveled from one corner of the state to another on a “staycation.” It’s our sincere hope that every tourist and traveler enjoys a safe, fun-filled visit to the Sunshine State. However, for many reasons, summer is inextricably linked to increased odds of involvement in a Florida car accident.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety reports a higher accident risk throughout the country from June through August. Traffic deaths are 30 times more likely in the summer than during other seasons.

Given that summer road trips – and particularly Florida roads in the summertime – have some unique dangers, our Florida car accident attorneys are offering some insight on what those are, and tips for avoiding them.

Road Risks Specific to Summer

When it comes to summertime travel, there are a few risk factors that increase the likelihood of a crash.

Those include:

  • More teen drivers on the road. This isn’t Florida-specific. With more teens out of school for the summer, more are on the roads – driving to their part-time jobs, helping their families run errands, and visiting friends. AAA reports teen drivers 16-17 are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash compared to older drivers, and the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are among the deadliest. Teen drivers are not only inexperienced, they tend to be more easily distracted and risk-prone when it comes to speeding, racing, and other aggressive driving maneuvers. They’re also less likely to buckle up. (Check out our recent blog on the Seat Belt Defense and how it can impact your South Florida car accident case.)
  • Holiday binge drinking. In general, more people are out and about during the summer months. Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Father’s Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day – all of these tend to be associated with backyard cookouts, beach days, boating – and booze. Alcohol can impair judgment and increase risk-taking behaviors. The four deadliest holidays on the road are all during the summer: Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, and Father’s Day.

Road Risks Specific to Florida

In addition to the typical risks of summertime driving, there are a few areas of concern specific to drivers in Florida. Among these: Continue reading

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South Florida construction accident lawyerAs far as workplaces go, construction sites are among the most precarious. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that of the more than 300 workers who died on-the-job in Florida in a single recent year, the private construction industry had the highest number, accounting for 91 percent of those. The risk of a Florida construction accident is heightened when work is done at significant heights, next to a busy roadway, down in trenches, and with toxic materials, hazardous chemicals, and live electricity. The number of workers who survive – albeit with serious injuries – is even higher.

Among recent incidents of construction accident injury in Florida:

As our Fort Myers construction injury lawyers can explain, it is possible for workers injured in Florida construction accidents to sue. However, most cases are typically third-party liability lawsuits as opposed to direct lawsuits against an employer. That’s because Florida workers’ compensation laws – F.S. 440.11, in particular – holds that no-fault workers’ compensation coverage is the exclusive remedy for injury claims an employee may have against an employer. There are, however, some exceptions and (more commonly) situations where third parties are liable.

Legal Options After Florida Construction Accident Injury

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Naples car accident lawyerIf you are considering filing a Naples car accident claim for injury damages, it’s important to understand Florida’s permanent injury threshold.

Essentially, because Florida (for the foreseeable future) is a no-fault state when it comes to car accident injury claims, most registered vehicles must be covered by personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. This pays the insured up to $10,000 for medical bills and lost wages – regardless of who caused the crash. The only way most people injured in a crash can step outside of that no-fault system and successfully sue a negligent driver for non-economic damages like pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience is to establish injury in accordance with Florida’s serious injury threshold.

As our Southwest Florida car accident lawyers can explain, the serious injury threshold is set forth in F.S. 627.737(2) and requires proof that the crash caused:

  • Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
  • Permanent injury (within a reasonable degree of medical probability).
  • Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
  • Death.

These injuries must be directly related to the crash caused by the defendant.

The kinds of injuries that generally meet the criteria will be things like broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, internal organ damage, significant facial fractures and scarring, spinal cord injuries, and death. However, this is not an exhaustive list, and the insurance company does not have the final word on what is “significant” or “permanent.” Their goal is always going to be to minimize your damages and mitigate their own liability. You should always consult with an experienced injury attorney before agreeing to any insurance adjuster payout. Continue reading

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Fort Myers bike injury lawyerMay is National Bike Month, promoted by the League of American Bicyclists to showcase the many health and environmental benefits of biking – and encourage more people to give it a try. Here in Florida, though, bicycling is not without risk. As a Fort Myers bike injury lawyer, I’ve worked with many cyclists (and sometimes their surviving family members) in the pursuit of compensation from careless, at-fault drivers.

Although Florida bicycle law recognizes the right of bicyclists to share the road like any other vehicle, motorists often fail to give them the same courtesy and respect as other road users. They fail to watch out for them, slow down for them, or give them the required three-foot distance when passing. Whereas bicyclists account for about 2 percent of the nation’s traffic deaths, the rate is more than double that in Florida.

Florida consistently ranks as the deadliest state in the country for bicyclists. Nearly 50,000 were injured and more than 780 were killed nationally in a single, recent year. That same year, Florida reported 125 bicycle deaths – 16 percent of the nation’s total. The Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro region has repeatedly ranked No. 1 most dangerous for cyclists.

Although coastal communities like Sanibel-Captiva are extremely popular for cyclists in South Florida, it tends to be areas in Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, and Cape Coral – with lagging bicycle infrastructure – that see the highest bike accident and injury rates.

The most serious bicycle accidents are almost always those that involve motor vehicles. Bicyclists, like pedestrians, are vulnerable road users who face the greatest harm in these collisions – regardless of fault – simply by virtue of the size disparity and lack of protection between the person and the pavement.

Why is Florida So Dangerous for Bicyclists?

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Florida golf cart accident lawsuitIn a somewhat recently-filed South Florida golf cart accident lawsuit, plaintiffs allege an elderly gentleman died because a reckless driver failed to use reasonable care.

As our Florida golf cart accident lawyers can explain, per F.S. 316.212, golf carts incapable of traveling more than 20 mph aren’t typically allowed to be operated on public roads – unless the roadway has a posted speed limit of 30 mph or less and is specifically designated for golf cart use. Golf carts are allowed to cross portions of a county road intersecting with a road approved for golf carts or a road that intersects a golf course or mobile home park. In any case, the roadway should have posted signs clearly indicating golf cart crossings. Operators of golf carts need not be licensed, but if they’re going to operate on a designated public roadway, they must be at least 14-years-old.

The recent case out of Delray Beach involved an 83-year-old grandfather who died in June after his golf cart was reportedly struck by a car at a crossing near a golf course. The decedent was reportedly crossing South Ocean Boulevard at an intersection with golf cart crossing signs. The Florida golf course accident lawsuit alleges the car driver was speeding, disregarded golf cart warning signs, and improperly passed another vehicle on the road before striking the cart.

 

According to Palm Beach Daily News, the decedent and his friend had just finished half of their first round of golf and were on their way to the other side of the course – by way of a designated crossing – when they were struck. The posted speed limit on the road is 35 mph. The police reported the defendant driver was traveling somewhere between 45-70-mph at the time of the collision. He reportedly didn’t see the golf cart before it was too late. The cart spun and then flipped. The passenger was pinned underneath, while the decedent was ejected, struck the passenger side of the car and ultimately landed on the road. He later died at the hospital, and is survived by his wife, adult children, and grandchildren.

While the Florida golf cart accident lawsuit is pending in civil court, a state prosecutor declined to press criminal charges. The assistant state attorney said that while the driver was careless behind the wheel, his actions didn’t rise to the level of a criminal offense. Police had initially sought a warrant in the case for vehicular homicide, but the state attorney has prosecutorial discretion. This, of course, underlines a key point in civil litigation, which is that the goals and proof burdens are very different than in criminal court. It isn’t necessary for someone to be charged or convicted in criminal court to prevail in a civil lawsuit. Instead, what is needed is to establish failure to use reasonable care, which is defined as the degree of caution a reasonable person would use in the same or similar circumstances. Continue reading

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Fort Myers car accident lawyerAnother rainy season is just around the corner here for us in Southwest Florida, where an average of 56 inches of rain falls annually. Just as safely navigating snow and ice are critical skills for drivers up north, careful driving in severe thunderstorms is imperative for motorists in South Florida. As a longtime Fort Myers car accident lawyer, over the years I’ve seen too many preventable crashes caused by drivers who failed to use adequate caution during heavy rain.

Although turbulent weather can be cited as a factor in a collision, it doesn’t negate the fault of drivers who operate their vehicles with less care than they should during a downpour.

If you drive in Florida, you owe certain reasonable duties of care to your passengers, other motorists, pedestrians, construction workers, bicyclists and anyone else sharing the road. Drivers are expected to take any and all precautions to drive safely at all times. Reasonable care is expected with regard to every vehicle or person in the foreseeable zone of danger. That means mostly driving at a speed that is reasonable for the amount of traffic on the road, but it also means adjusting one’s speed and driving behavior in accordance with weather conditions.

For example, a driver caught in a sudden rainstorm may be moving at the speed limit but still deemed to be negligently operating their vehicle because of the significantly reduced visibility and increased potential to skid and slide. Continue reading

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Florida boating safety billA Florida boating safety bill targeting illegal boat charters and questionable rental companies is wading its way through the state legislature.

As our Key West boating accident lawyers can explain, careless boat operations are consistently the No. 1 cause of boat accidents and deaths off Florida shores. The Sunshine State has, by far, the most boating accidents, injuries, and fatalities in the country.

In recent years, the U.S. Coast Guard has amplified its warnings and crackdowns on illegal charters. Such operations are problematic because an unlicensed charter may not have:

  • The proper emergency safety, navigation, and communication gear.
  • Undergone the proper license exams and inspections.
  • Adequate insurance to cover damages if there is a boating accident injury or something goes wrong.

Senate Bill 606, also known as the Boating Safety Act of 2022, takes aim at illegal boat rentals and charter operations. Under the bill, violating rules on boating under the influence, unsafe navigation, expired registration, damaging seagrass, and anchoring in prohibited areas would result in higher non-criminal fines (from $50 to $100). Continue reading

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Florida swimming pool injuryHome swimming pools are nearly as common in Florida as alligators (1.2 million versus 1.3 million). Interestingly swimming pools are actually much more dangerous. Florida swimming pool injuries and deaths over the last 20 years far exceeded those caused by alligator attacks. In fact, drowning is the No. 1 cause of death for children under 4, and Florida consistently reports more swimming pool drowning deaths than anywhere else in the nation.

As our Cape Coral injury lawyers can explain, homeowners’ insurance policies often DO cover damages arising from swimming pool injuries. However, that doesn’t mean claims will be easy or straightforward. At the very least, having a knowledgeable injury attorney review the details of the policy can be helpful. Where serious injuries are involved, you don’t want to take your chances trying to negotiate with an insurance company on your own; as we often tell clients, if insurance companies always did the right thing we would be out of a job. These days insurance companies are much more concerned about making a profit for their shareholders than they are concerned about taking care of their policy holders who face lawsuits after a serious injury on their property.

Examples of swimming pool injuries include:

  • Traumatic brain injury. TBI occurs when there is blunt force trauma to the head. In and around swimming pools, TBI typically is the result of falling. Misjudging a dive, running on wet tile, and horseplay are catalysts for falls that can result in a TBI.
  • Electrocution. Electricity and water is a dangerous combo, but there are often many electrical devices near Florida pools. Many devices manufactured these days are designed to be water-resistant with little chance of water contact resulting in a shock. However, pool lights and other equipment – particularly in older pools – have been associated with electrocution dangers in swimming pools. Faulty wiring or defective lighting equipment can cause electrical currents to surge through the water, posing a very dangerous situation for swimmers.
  • Spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord injuries can occur in and around swimming pools most often in diving accidents. They can also be caused in slip-and-fall incidents.
  • Drowning. Drowning is one of the most common – and serious – accidents that can occur in swimming pools. Young children are most often the victims, though adults aren’t immune either. Drowning can occur when pools are not sufficiently secure to prevent kids young enough to swim from entering. Drowning can also befall a strong swimmer if there are electrical currents in the water.

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