Florida Personal Injury Checklist

You are driving down the road in Broward County, wearing your seatbelt and obeying all traffic signals and laws. The last thing you thought would happen is a car running a red light and striking your vehicle at the intersection. You advise the Officer at the scene of your statement and the other driver is cited at fault for the accident. You are injured so you go to the ER. You are waiting to be seen and so many things are running through your mind…am I going to be OK…what about my car…how am I going to get to work…etc… These are questions our South Florida firm answers everyday when we speak with our prospective clients for the first time. In an effort to help our prospective clients we have compiled a checklist of sorts that can be used by anyone who is injured in an accident in the State of Florida.

1. Be truthful to everyone about any physical limitation you now have. In order for your doctors and attorney to help you with your case we need to know about all of your symptoms.

2. Don’t accept a check or sign a release from an insurance company for your property damage claim unless you are sure you know exactly what it covers. Sometimes insurance companies will attempt to get you to release “any and all claims” – including your personal injury claim when you are only settling your claim for property damage. Please check with your attorney if you’re not sure.

3. Do not hide past accidents or injuries from your lawyer. Insurance companies have access to accident information in a central database, so the other insurance company will more than likely find out about your prior medical history and accident.

4. We find that it is extremely helpful when clients keep a record of how they feel. A diary is an excellent way to organize this information. The diary should contain notes of their doctor and therapy appointments, medications, and inability to work and enjoy any of the activities that were enjoyed and participated in before the accident. In real life there are few “cant’s” after an accident. Most people recover the ability to perform most activities, unless they are bedridden. But generally, if they have limitations, it’s because they can’t do the activity as long, as hard, or as strongly as they used to. A diary which reflects these limitations is important to your injury case because they can really show the adjuster how you have been affected on a daily basis as a result of the accident.

5. Do not try and deal with pain. See a doctor or go to the ER immediately after your accident. Tell your doctor everything: about how the accident occurred, and advise him or her of any past accidents or medical conditions.

6. Video cameras can be hidden anywhere. You may not know you are being videotaped and it could be at anytime or in any place. We have seen this many times. You will lose all credibility if you claim you cannot perform a certain way and then are caught “on tape” doing those exact things or something similar. If you are honest and truthful about your injuries and limitations this invasion of your privacy will only bolster your case. Go on as usual if you see someone following you and let them record for all to see how your injuries have affected your ability to perform your normal everyday functions. This will be your best evidence.

These are just a few of the things we routinely go over with our clients so they can be educated on what they can do to help us to obtain the maximum recovery possible for their individual case. Insurance companies are for profit businesses and in order for us to obtain fair, speedy and just compensation to persons injured through the fault of another (the insurance company’s policyholder) we have to do everything we can do to present a case in the light most favorable to our clients and convince the Insurance Companies that our clients are entitled to be paid a fair, speedy and just settlement as a result of their insured’s negligence. If you want to read more about what not to do after you are in an accident you can read an article in our blog : “Florida Auto Accidents: The Mistakes People Make” dated June 26, 2008.

Florida Auto Safety: Move Over Law Saves Lives

On Monday, June 23, 2008, a statewide campaign was instituted by the Florida Highway Patrol to spread awareness of Florida’s Move Over Law. This law is designed to protect Police Officers, Emergency Workers and Pedestrians at the scene of accidents from being struck by vehicles on Florida roads. The Move Over Law states that a driver must vacate the lane next to where a law enforcement vehicle has stopped on the side of a road with its lights flashing. During the weeklong campaign officers will issue warnings to motorists through Wednesday and on Thursday will begin issuing tickets for violations.

Florida’s Move Over Law was meant to prevent tragedies such as these:

• A case in Miami recently when Rescue crews amputated a man’s leg on a Miami highway after he was crushed between two vehicles. The accident occurred while the man was checking the damage to his car after he was struck from behind by a sport utility vehicle. Another vehicle then crashed into the SUV, pinning the man.

• According to Florida Highway Patrol three people were killed since the Memorial Day weekend while checking their vehicles for damage after a crash in the middle of a road.

• A Road Ranger was critically injured while assisting a motorist on the Palmetto Expressway. The Road Ranger was assisting a vehicle that was disabled when another car struck the Ranger’s truck, which then in turn struck the Road Ranger.

Tragedies such as these can be been avoided if all drivers adhere to the following safety precautions:

1. Drivers should move their cars to the side of the road before checking for damage after minor accidents;
2. Drivers should vacate the lane next to where a law enforcement vehicle has stopped on the side of the road; and 3. Drives should vacate the lane next to the scene of an auto accident.

Florida Auto Accidents: The Mistakes People Make

Quite often during meetings with our clients in our Fort Lauderale and Weston offices, we are frequently asked the question: What do I do when I am injured in a car accident in the State of Florida? The answer to that question in our opinion is better answered by providing our clients with a very short list of things they should never do. These are the mistakes that we are often faced with when clients first come to our office and we find that they have:

1. Failed to report the accident to the Police and to the insurance company;
2. Failed to document their Injuries to the Police, Rescue, and the insurance company;
2. Failed to take photographs of their injuries and property damage;
3. Failed to go to a doctor to document their injuries;
4. Made a signed or recorded statement to their own insurance company without first seeking legal advice; and 5. Made a signed or recorded statement to the party at fault’s insurance company without first seeking legal advice.

These may seem like fairly simple things that need to be done at the time, but at the time of an accident most people are upset, anxious and sometimes injured and as a result may not be thinking clearly. If you take our tips and follow them you will at least have ensured that the necessary information is being documented properly at the outset of your case. This documentation is essential in helping our offices to be better able to resolve your case either through settlement or litigation.

Nursing Home Negligence: South Florida Patients Are Signing Away their Rights to Sue Nursing Homes

South Floridians are placing their loved ones into nursing homes and are increasingly signing away the patient’s rights to sue for nursing home negligence over sub standard care.

How can this happen? Easily, it occurs when nursing homes place arbitration clauses and/or agreements in the documents that patients and their family members sign upon admission to the nursing home. These admission documents are signed at a time when the family members and patients are in distress and not fully aware of the magnitude of the binding contractual terms they are agreeing to and the legal rights that they are forever waiving.

As a result, the patients are unknowingly signing away their legal rights to a trial by jury. This is the reason why a number of lawmakers are pushing legislation to make such agreements unenforceable. The lawmakers in the Senate, consumer advocacy groups and trial lawyers, take the position that families shouldn’t be giving away their ability to hold the nursing homes accountable for poor and substandard care in a court of law.

On Wednesday, June 18, 2008, a Senate committee will hear from the family of William Kurth. He fractured his hip and leg and contracted numerous pressure ulcers in a nursing home before he died. His family attempted to sue the nursing home for negligence, and a judge dismissed the case because Mr. Kurth’s wife signed admission documents which included a binding arbitration clause that required all claims go through an arbitrator. It is important to note that Mrs. Kurth was under extreme duress and on medication when she signed the papers that allowed her husband, a stroke victim, to stay at the nursing home. Kurth family members will appear before Congress and testify to the fact that their father, a World War II veteran, died at age 84 from infections that occurred because excrement and urine were not cleansed from his bedsores for days at a time.

A panel in the U.S.Senate is investigating the increasing use of binding arbitration by nursing homes. Their search of court records revealed that more than 100 lawsuits have been filed in the past five years challenging these types of arbitration agreements.

There are some that argue that arbitration has become a shield for large corporations to hide behind and decrease the quality of care given to their patients. Some companies actually conduct a cost benefit analysis and determine that it is economically more profitable to continue to provide substandard care and address any claims made by the patient and their families at a later date on a case by case basis. In the end, the companies benefit because the cost of arbitrating a negligence claim is minimal compared to an increase in daily costs at the nursing homes for more doctors, staff, supplies…etc.. Binding arbitration minimizes the nursing home’s expenses and forces patients and their families to resolve their disputes without any further redress. The ones who suffer from this “strategy” are the patients who are either seriously injured or die from the negligent care and their families.

This point was very well understood by Mr. Kurth’s children and well stated in written testimony provided to the Associated Press:

“It is economically more profitable to let people like my father suffer than to provide proper care. And now that our family is trying to hold the nursing home corporation accountable for its actions, Kindredcare is trying to bury our case by forcing us into a mandatory, secret, and binding arbitration process that they chose.”

Nursing Homes take the position that the arbitration program was designed to achieve several goals, including prompt resolution of legal disputes and lower costs to both residents and their families.

Binding arbitration does have a place in the American Judicial System and it should not be precluded as an option, but the decision has to be made by both parties after a dispute occurs. “Many incoming residents lack the capacity to make even simple decisions, much less judge the legal significance of an arbitration agreement,” Sen. Herb Kohl, D.-Wis., said. “Most are unaware that they are signing away their right to go to court.”

The AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association support legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., that would make arbitration agreements for nursing home patients unenforceable.

Our firm supports legislation which would make binding arbitration agreements for nursing home patients unenforceable. It is time that these arbitration clauses and /or agreements are removed from all admission documents in Nursing Homes. These binding arbitration agreements are one-sided and strip patients of their legal right to pursue their negligence claims in a court of law against nursing homes for substandard and poor care that results in serious injury and/or death.

Stack$ Survives South Florida Car Accident

Well known Rapper, STACK$ was involved in a serious car crash in Miami, Florida on May 30, 2008. He escaped severe injury despite the substantial property damage to his vehicle.

Stack$, a hip-hop star and nightclub owner, was driving with a friend when he collided with another car, and his Ford Explorer was sent airborne. His SUV crashed into the barriers of an overpass, narrowly avoiding the 40 foot fall from a bridge.

Stack$’s injuries included second degree burns, a broken hand, chiropractic injuries and numerous cuts and bruises. Both Stack$ and his passenger were taken to Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, where they both spent the night before being discharged. He is now resting at his South Beach home and is grateful that he survived the near-fatal accident.

South Florida Hit and Run and Drunk Drivers

Within the past few weeks the police in the Fort Lauderale area have been investigating two instances of pedestrians being injured in vehicular accidents. In the first instance, law enforcement is attempting to locate a car that a surveillance camera caught hitting a pedestrian, Marshall Clinton, 51,and then driving away. The crash happened about 11 p.m. Friday, May 23, 2008 as Mr. Chilton crossed the street. Marshall Chilton, 51, was admitted in the hospital with broken bones and is expected to recover.

In a second incident in Fort Lauderdale, a man is accused of killing a woman, Ms.Kathleen Gosnell, 60, and injuring Mr. Raymond Haruben, 63, after striking them with his vehicle on Thursday, May 22, 2008. Toxicology reports confirmed that he was Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI). Steven Kopson, 53, of Fort Lauderdale, was charged with manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol, among several charges.

Both these incidents raise the question, “If I am a pedestrian in an accident who was struck by a hit and run driver- who will pay for the treatment and pain and suffering I have sustained through no fault of my own?” The answer is that even though you are a pedestrian, your own PIP and UIM insurance will ensure that you are fully protected and covered for your injuries even though you weren’t driving your vehicle at the time.

The importance of PIP coverage and UIM coverage on your automobile policies is especially important when you are a pedestrian and you you are struck by a hit and run driver. It is in that instance that your own insurance coverage is there to protect you. Your PIP Insurance or Personal Injury Protection Insurance will cover the first $10,000.00 of your medical bills and your UIM Insurance will afford you coverage for everything over and above the first $10,000.00 up to the limits you choose.

What if your injuries are serious and you need treatment well over and above $10,000.00 and what about pain and suffering, wrongful death and lost or diminished capacity to earn a living? UIM coverage is the only coverage that will protect you if the party at fault in an accident either is unknown, has no Bodily Injury coverage (which is not required in the State of Florida) or has a minimal amount of Bodily Insurance Coverage. In effect you can seek compensation for your injuries and damages from your own insurance company should any of these circumstances occur, but only if you have UIM Insurance coverage.

If you would like to read further about this issue, we have addressed the Florida UIM and PIP Insurance issue in a previous article on our blog entitled: “Florida No-Fault, Med Pay and UIM Insurance” dated May 12, 2008. It is our hope that all Florida drivers will contact their insurance agents and demand a quote for UIM coverage on their policies. That way, should the unfortunate happen and you are injured in an accident caused by an uninsured driver or underinsured driver, you won’t have to worry about your financial future being decimated by medical bills.

If you have any questions about these issues please feel free to call our offices. We want every Florida driver to be aware and informed about their right to protect themselves through proper and FULL automobile insurance coverage.

Mattel Toy Recall

As remarkable as it may seem, the world’s largest toy maker has announced another recall of its products, which involves 800,000 Barbie accessories, Fisher Price train locomotives and bongo drums. The reason given for Mattel’s third recall was identical to the previous two; the presence of unacceptably high quantities of lead in the paint used to brighten these toys.

In early August, Mattel recalled 1.5 million toys featuring Elmo and other popular characters. Later in the same month, “Sarge” toy cars from the hit Disney movie “Cars” in addition to 9 million other toys containing tiny magnets were recalled. The total number of toys recalled by Mattel is now an incredible 19 million. The latest recall was announced jointly by Mattel and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (C.P.S.C.).

In September, a consumer watchdog web site Consumer Affairs.com published an article about a study done by a national non-profit agency called Kids in Danger, which proved that injuries among children in this country have more than doubled in the last five years compared to the previous ten years.

Despite these recent recalls, child safety experts are concerned that the market could still be flooded with these lead tainted toys. The government agency in charge of inspecting these products, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), has only 15 inspectors for the entire country. You read that correctly. The United States of America, a country of 300 million people, has a total of 15 people in charge of inspecting all toys that are placed into the marketplace.

What’s even more disturbing is the fact that the C.P.S.C. is not legally able to levy fines against companies that withhold information about a recalled product. According to the ConsumerAffairs.com article, Mattel has been accused of doing this on at least two occasions.

So, what can we Parents do to protect our children?
• Sign up for the C.P.S.C.’s recall alerts at www.cpsc.gov. Whenever there is a dangerous toy being recalled, you’ll receive an e-mail alert.
• Go on the site and check for past recalls and make sure you do not have any of these toys in your home. Also, share this information with family and friends.
• If you find any toys in your home that have been recalled due to lead, you should consider taking your children to their pediatrician for a check up, including blood work. Quite often, the symptoms from lead poisoning can lie dormant for years.
• When purchasing new toys for your children, fill out the recall registration card so the manufacturer can contact you directly in the event of recall.

Our children in the South Florida area are in need of our help to keep them safe. When the very things they love may do them serious harm it us up to us as parents to do what we can in our small neighborhoods as well. Speak up at your play groups, send out a message to all the parents in your child’s school, or volunteer to do a safety check in you child’s school or day care to weed out any suspect toys. This may be a national re-call but it has small town implications and touches us all the way down to our own child’s bedroom or playroom. So, let’s get together South Florida and make a difference one child at a time.

Florida No-Fault, Med Pay and UIM Insurance

Since 1972, Florida has been a “no-fault” state with regard to automobile accidents. That simply means irregardless of who causes an automobile accident, each party must submit the first 10,000.00 of their medical bills to their own insurance company for payment. (This is known as P.I.P.) The P.I.P. law (Personal Injury Protection) requires your insurance company to pay 80% of your medical bills up to the $10,000.00 limit.

This vitally important law provides a number of other benefits to Florida citizens who are involved in auto accidents, namely a $5,000.00 death benefit and a lost wage benefit. For those drivers who do not have health insurance, P.I.P. provides the only avenue to have one’s medial bills paid. (Medical debt is one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy in the United States.)

What does this mean for you and what should you do? First, please call your auto insurance agent immediately to discuss the alternatives to P.I.P. Specifically, obtain a quote for “medical payments” coverage, which is separate and apart from P.I.P. Even if you have health insurance, consider the inconvenience associated with obtaining referrals to specialists and other red tape. Medical Payments coverage will allow you to choose any doctor you wish without the need for a referral. This becomes especially important when one requires treatment with a medical specialist.

Another potential problem that you may encounter in Florida is being struck and injured by an uninsured driver. There are far too many drivers on Florida roads without insurance. This creates a danger for all of us who incur medical bills for accident related injuries. However, there is a very simple solution to this problem. It’s called U.M. Insurance. Uninsured Motorists (U.M.) Coverage is perhaps the most important type of auto insurance you can have in Florida. In the event that you are struck and injured by someone without auto insurance, U.M. Insurance allows you to turn to your own insurance carrier and force them to “stand in the shoes” of the uninsured driver.

U.M. Insurance requires your own insurance carrier to compensate you for all of the damages that you would have been entitled to receive from the uninsured driver. Unfortunately, many insurance agents do not explain this essential layer of coverage properly and often advise their clients to reject U.M. insurance in writing.

Finally, it is extremely important to protect yourself and your family should they be injured in an accident. The purchase of “medical payments” coverage and “Uninsured Motorist” coverage will provide that protection.

South Florida Car Accident Injures Two Girls

Two children were struck by cars and seriously injured in separate accidents Sunday, police said. Both are expected to survive despite their serious injuries.

About 4:45 p.m., a car hit a 13 year old girl who was riding her bicycle near Northwest 28th Street and University Drive, said Mike Moser, a spokesman for Coral Springs Fire-Rescue. She was expected to survive, Moser said. The girl was flown to Broward General Medical Center as a precaution.

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About two hours later in Davie, a 7 year old girl was run over when she tried to grab the right rear door handle of a neighbor’s car, Davie police Lt. Bill Coyne said. The accident occurred as the car pulled into a driveway in the 4400 block of southwest 74th Avenue. Paramedics rushed the girl to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood where she was in critical but stable condition.

Orange County, Florida Car Accident, Woman Dies, 2 Injured.

A 40-year-old Orlando woman was killed and two passengers were injured early Sunday after she drove off the road in east Orange County and hit a concrete culvert, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

About 2:30 a.m., Tonya M. Shepherd was driving a 1998 Ford Mustang south on West Christmas Road near Fort Christmas Road when she failed to negotiate a curve, drove onto the east shoulder and hit the culvert.

Shepherd was pronounced dead at the scene. Passenger Jerry Kincaid, 42, of Orlando was ejected from the car and suffered minor injuries. Another passenger, Tiffany Adkins, 21, of Orlando, was critically injured. No one in the car was wearing a seat belt, the FHP said.