As a practicing attorney dealing with car accidents in Miami since 1982 I have found that the most mischaracterized and misunderstood areas of the law is automobile insurance coverage.  Coverage.   often than not the client has been led into buying coverages that the agent suggests.  Just as often the agent will often advise against the purchase of UM coverage, commonly known as uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.  “Uninsured” is just that if you are involved with an uninsured driver or vehicle and you have purchased UM coverage you will be able to recover as if the ‘uninsured’ party was insured.  Underinsured is when the adverse party’s coverage is not adequate to compensate the injured party.   Again, the UM coverage will come into play as if the adverse party had the higher limit policy purchased by the injured party or insured.

The UM coverage is a problem due to the high number of uninsured or underinsured motorists in the south Florida area.  Many agents recommend against this coverage since it is not mandatory.  An agent recommending against this coverage (among others) in south Florida is ignoring the facts that approximately 25% of all vehicles in Florida are uninsured.

An equally egregious problem with agents is their zeal to sell a policy even if it does not meet the client’s needs.  Very often an agent will provide the absolute minimum coverage to make the sale.  Bodily injury liability coverage is not required to drive in Florida.  The real problem arises is when the driver who thought he had purchased full coverage purchased the minimum to legally operate a motor vehicle in Florida.  The agents rarely disclose all the negatives if a driver without bodily injury coverage is involved in an accident where there is bodily injury.  The main negative is liability of the offending driver.  The offending driver may lose their Florida Driver’s License without an agreement with the injured party.

So the entire family is packed excited and ready to go on their first sea cruise.  The excitement is more often than not well-placed.  Accidents happen in life.  Accidents happen in hotels, shopping centers, public places, private homes … the list is endless.  In most cases the cruise is a positive experience.   We need not discuss those here.  Injured cruise passengers are faced with many obstacles not usually encountered in other venues.  For the unlucky few here are some rather important guidelines.

The facts of any maritime accident will be strikingly similar to those in other venues.  But the differences between how maritime claims are processed and resolved might make the hair on potential cruisers stand up.   Most cruise lines are considered common carriers.  A common carrier is an individual or company that transports goods or passengers on regular routes at set rates, which includes cruise ships (and also airplanes, buses, ferries, and trains). A common carrier must use the highest degree of care to safely transport its passengers to their destination. But unlike the legal theory of strict liability, in which fault need not be established, passengers of common carriers must prove negligence or intent on behalf of the carrier (as governed by 47 U.S.C. § 206).

The first difference is “you are not in Kansas anymore”.  For the most parts cruise lines decide on a “reasonable” statute of limitations.  Of course to the cruise ship industry “reasonable” is a term of art.  In most cases the time to file is either 1 or 2 years from the date of accident.    South Florida, specifically the cruise ports of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa handle thousands of passengers daily.  More often than not cruise ship accident attorneys are locally accessible in each of these ports of departure.

Florida has approximately 14 million registered vehicles.  Traffic was tough enough to negotiate when the car was basically a fortress of solitude.  The only distractions (prior to the now ubiquitous mobile phone) that drivers had to navigate through were the errant pedestrian or perhaps the bikini-clad hot dog vendor.

As Miami accident lawyers, we know that distractions have geometrically proliferated since the advent of the Apple iPhone (among many other competitors).  Many of the smartphone features operate as lethal attention misdirection.  One only has to navigate through the already congested roadways of Florida to see the additional and extremely dangerous distractions that the smartphone has burdened Floridian commuters with.

Before the advent of the mobile phone and then its progeny, the smartphone, during the commute to work you would see women drivers putting on make-up, male drivers shaving at the same stop-lights… but at least their cars were stopped.  Smartphones changed the nature, frequency and severity of distraction with predictably lethal and obscene results.  Legislation has been passed or contemplated in almost every jurisdiction.  Studies reveal that a texting driving is as dangerous as an intoxicated motor vehicle operator.   In response to the rapid increase in smartphone distracted motor vehicle accidents Florida, in October, 2013 enacted a limited ban on text messaging while driving. The law poses no limitations on cell phone use, however.

As the title suggests here, we are going to discuss the time limits involved one has as it pertains to certain claims. The term attorneys and lawyers use when referring to time limits in which to file a claim is the statute of limitations. In Florida different types of actions have different statute of limitations. As Miami Car Accident attorneys we are keenly aware of these limitations.

In Florida, Annotated Statute 95.11. Claims for injuries related to car accidents and slip and falls in Fort Lauderdale and throughout Florida fall under the category of Negligence. As it pertains to negligence, the relevant statute states in part: “(3) WITHIN FOUR YEARS.— (a) An action founded on negligence.”  Therefore, an actions for a car accident or slip/trip and fall cannot be had outside of this four year parameter.

However, the statute of limitations deserves more analysis. The reason being, that an injury resulting from negligence should not be treated as if a victim had four years to deal with it. In other words, the statute of limitations for a negligence claim is one thing, and what is a reasonable time in which to treat an injury medically is quite another. Although the statute of limitations in Florida for injuries resulting from negligence is four years, it goes without saying that an injury should be treated and documented within a reasonable time.

As Miami Injury attorneys we often hear from our prospective clients about their lack of understanding regarding their insurance coverage. To truly understand an insurance policy, it is important to understand the basics. As we explained in our previous blog pertaining to post loss conditions, an insurance policy is nothing more than a contract. It is essentially a promise to cover certain losses or events, in exchange for premium. Most insurance policies require an insured to comply with certain conditions. If this conditions are adhered to and no exclusions apply, then coverage of the loss should occur.

With insurance policies it is paramount to look at details. Whether a loss or event is covered will turn on specific language in the policy. Do not assume that certain items or losses will be covered because they were covered in your previous policy. On many occasions, policy language changes from year to year. Therefore, one may assume that certain circumstances are covered when a policy is renewed, but due to policy language changes that may not be the case. In other words, when buying new coverage it is important to know exactly what you’re getting.

So how do you know what is covered under your policy? The declarations page of most policies will relay what and who is covered. For example, with a car policy one can see what types of coverage is available and what cars are covered. Here we note that Florida is one of the only states that does not require Bodily Injury coverage. The only requirements in Florida are PIP property damage coverage. The PIP coverage should cover your own medical expenses up to $10,000.00, and property damage coverage provide at least $10,000 to cover damage to other vehicles. Indeed, if your policy complies with these requirements, then one is most likely complying with the minimum requirements in Florida. However, meeting the minimum requirement may not be the best course of action when it comes to acquiring insurance. The declarations page will relay whether Bodily Injury, Med Pay, Uninsured Motorist, and or Collision coverage is present as well.  Bodily Injury offers coverage to the other parties that may have been insured as a result of a collision. Med Pay offers coverage for medical expenses beyond the PIP coverage. Uninsured Motorist provides coverage if you were insured in an accident and the culpable party has no Bodily Injury or insufficient ability to compensate for the damages. Collision coverage covers damages to your own vehicle.

Most of our notes have been on car accidents in the Miami-Dade area and the ramifications involved in these matters. As Miami auto accident lawyers we enjoy providing useful information related to these matters that could help individuals deal with these difficult matters. It has been a while though, since we touched on Homeowner’s Insurance Claims.

Some of the most common causes of homeowner’s insurance claims are related to storms, plumbing and appliances, rain, and theft. One of the most common concerns after a loss occurs at a dwelling, is what to do next. Well, most policies have what are called post loss requirements or duties after loss. To put it simply, these are conditions that must be adhered to, in order for a contract to be applied or enforced. In other words, these are things you should do in order to comply with your homeowner’s insurance agreement. Once these conditions are met, then the insurer may pay the covered loss. For the most part, these post lost requirements are tools the insurance companies use to investigate a claim.

Insurers may require that:

The title to this note would be simpler if one referred to damages. A victims of a car accidents is entitled to certain compensation for damages, if injuries are present. When it comes to car accident in Florida, in order to recover, a certain threshold must be met. Florida Statute 627.737(2) is a good starting off point to further explore this issue:

In any action of tort brought against the owner, registrant, operator, or occupant of a motor vehicle with respect to which security has been provided as required by ss. 627.730-627.7405, or against any person or organization legally responsible for her or his acts or omissions, a plaintiff may recover damages in tort for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, or use of such motor vehicle only in the event that the injury or disease consists in whole or in part of:

(a) Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.

There are about 1.7 million rear-end collisions each year.  As a Miami accident attorneys, we understand that rear-end collisions are common and can cause significant injury. Our sincere hope is that rear-end collisions decrease significantly in the near future. Our hope is that front-crash prevention systems will become a standard feature in most vehicles, thereby significantly reducing the number of injuries and deaths caused by these impacts.  In fact, in 2015 the NHTSA reported that 10 major manufacturers have committed to making emergency braking a standard feature. It is estimated that emergency braking systems can reduce rear-end accidents by as much as 35%. These systems have resulted in a measurable decrease of property damage claims.

Now that we have discussed rear-end collision claims in general, let us turn to Florida law on the subject. In Florida, there is a rebuttable presumption that the rear-ending vehicle is at fault when such an accident occurs. In other words, the rear-ending vehicle is deemed to be at fault, unless proven otherwise. The Florida Supreme Court addressed this presumption in Maria Cevallos vs. Kerri Ann, (No. SC09-2239, 2012).  There the Supreme Court of Florida clarified this presumption and stated that, “where evidence is produced from which a jury could conclude that the front driver in a rear-end collision was negligent in bringing about the collision—or that the negligence of the rear driver was not the sole proximate cause of the accident—the presumption that the rear driver’s negligence was the sole proximate cause of the collision is rebutted, and all issues of disputed fact regarding comparative fault and causation should be submitted to the jury. ” (Id). Given the courts previous statement, we must then define comparative fault. Luckily, the State of Florida has provided us with a pertinent statute and definition. Florida pertinent statute is 768.81 and states in part the following, “[i]n a negligence action, contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.”  This means that recovery may be limited by the amount of negligence contributed by each party. For example, a victim may be partially liable and be determined to be 20% at fault. This would mean that the victim would recover 80% of his damages. Florida is a pure comparative State, which means that a victim can recover even if he bears most of the fault. Some States bar recovery even when the victim contributes in a very minor way, this is call pure contributory negligence. Only Four States in the union use the pure contributory negligence standard.

There are some 1,900,000 rear collisions in the U.S.A. About 6.6% of these rear end collisions result in fatalities. Stats show that about 31.7% of rear end collisions result in some type of injury. The types of injuries that can result from a rear end collision vary.  The injuries can vary from light injuries to severe injuries. However, we will leave this topic for another blog. The DRG Firm and its Fort Lauderdale accident lawyers are here to assist and to help. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 1.888.413.8353.

 

We receive many inquiries about trip/slip and fall accidents in the Miami area. Being Miami slip and fall attorney we would like to provide information about these types of accidents. First, we would have to differentiate between these types of accident. A trip and fall occurs when a person trips over an object on a premises and injury results. For example, this could involve tripping on an uneven carpet or other type of surface. Tripping could also occur as a result of faulty illumination.

As Miami accident attorneys we have encountered many Slip and Fall cases. These case occurs when an individual slips due to a slippery substance on the floor. Liability on slip and fall matters usually depends on the substance that caused the fall and the amount of time that substance was on the surface. It may be relevant whether the slippery surface occurs due to a recurring event. For example, a leaky faucet or other plumbing issue may result in an area that this continually slippery.

It is important to record the incident when it occurs. This can be done by calling a manager and/or emergency services if needed. This helps document that the incident actually took place. If possible find it wise to look around to find the source of the trip/slip and fall. Take pictures of the area and the causing factor if possible

Last week I wrote about accidents caused by apps with augmented reality features. As a Miami injury attorney I relayed the dangers these apps can cause by distracting drivers from their environment. I also touched on the issue of autonomous vehicles, but did not really expand the issue. There are interesting and concerning liability issues concerning autonomous vehicles.

It should be mentioned that autonomous mechanisms also have a tremendous impact on society, as well. I want to note though, that I am in no way criticizing advance, but rather just making observations. It should be noted that jobs that include driving employ a tremendous amount of the male population in the U.S. and around the world. In fact, some companies have already developed the technology to turn trucks into automated vehicles.

In recent years we hear how immigrants are taking away jobs, but these critics fail to see that most jobs have disappeared due to the advent of automation. The immigrant issue seems to be a well organized distraction. For example, a simple AI (artificial intelligence) can answer thousands of calls a day. These phone center jobs use to be a very import source of employment. It goes without saying that automation also reduced the need for many positions on factory floors and this number is increasing because of the evolution of robotics.