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Cruises are a time for relaxation and fun. However, cruises can often turn into a nightmare when someone is injured onboard the ship. When this occurs, an injured party can bring a Florida premises liability lawsuit against the cruise company alleging that the company is responsible for the dangerous condition that caused their injury. In a recent case, a Florida court was tasked with deciding whether a cruise ship could be held liable for a plaintiff’s injuries on the ship. Ultimately, the court concluded that the cruise ship was responsible because the employees knew about the dangerous condition that led to the plaintiff’s injuries.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was on the fourth day of a Caribbean cruise when she sustained significant injuries to her shoulder. As she returned from the buffet line, the plaintiff was forced to take a step toward the food station where she tripped over a cleaning bucket. She spent the remainder of the cruise bed-ridden and still suffered from constant pain months after the accident. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the cruise line, claiming it did not keep its ship safe for guests. Ultimately, the court decided that the defendant could be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries under a premises liability theory.

Because the plaintiff was injured on property that was not her own, the cruise line had a legal obligation to keep the premises safe. This means that it must protect the guests from any unforeseeable harm. In bringing a premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant knew or should have known that a particular hazard existed. In cases where the defendant is the owner, or is the company itself, the knowledge of a dangerous condition can also be attributed to an employee and their actions. This is because owners assume liability for the actions of their employees while they are on the job.

While car insurance is required for every Florida driver, in reality, a frighteningly large number of Florida drivers are uninsured. This can cause significant problems when they get into accidents. In fact, other drivers’ lack of insurance is one of the reasons that all Florida drivers are encouraged to purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance (UIM).

If a Florida driver is seriously injured in an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, they may be unable to recover fully for their injuries and the resulting medical bills, forcing them to pay out of pocket for an accident they did not cause. UIM protects drivers by providing coverage for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, helping to make sure that a Florida car accident victim does not go bankrupt solely because they were hit by an uninsured motorist.

Despite its importance, UIM benefits can sometimes be difficult to actually obtain, since insurance companies may attempt to find ways to avoid paying the amount that they owe their clients. For example, take a recent Florida case where an injured driver had to take her insurance company, USAA, to court to try and recover UIM damages she believed she was owed. The plaintiff had suffered injuries to her left knee while attending the U.S. Naval Academy, and had even needed knee surgery in the past. She presented evidence to the jury, however, that her left knee was further injured in the car accident she was involved in, which was caused by an uninsured motorist. USAA attempted to escape liability by arguing that the plaintiff’s knee was already injured before the car accident and that she was not entitled to compensation from her insurance.

Recently, a state appellate court issued its opinion in a Florida premises liability lawsuit arising out of fatal injuries a hotel guest suffered after being hit by a car. The record indicates that the injury victim was staying at the hotel when he got into a hotel golf cart and asked a hotel employee to drop him off at a trading post near the hotel. Besides a shuttle service to transport guests across a major highway, the hotel provided guests with a golf cart service for transportation throughout the resort. Hotel protocol provided that golf carts could not be used on public roads, except across a smaller portion of the highway for pick up and drop off on the east side of a major highway. In this case, the hotel employee drove the plaintiff across the smaller highway, and dropped him off at the east entrance to the major highway. As the plaintiff was stepping out of the golf cart, a car struck him.

After filing a negligence lawsuit against the hotel, the plaintiff died, and his case was amended to include a wrongful death claim. The plaintiff’s representative argued that the resort was negligent; however, the defendant claimed that their conduct did not create a foreseeable risk of harm. Further, the defendant argued that they did not breach their duty to the plaintiff, and the danger of stepping out onto a busy highway was open and obvious. The primary issue on appeal was whether the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim.

In Florida, questions concerning whether a defendant owes a duty of care is a question of law. To address this threshold issue, courts will analyze whether the defendant created a “foreseeable zone of risk,” thereby establishing a duty of care to the plaintiff. Generally, Florida negligence law recognizes that in cases where a defendant argues that the danger was within a foreseeable risk zone, they must still establish that they mitigated the risk or took steps to protect others from harm.

When a person is injured on another’s property, it can often be very painful and life-altering. In many of these cases, the property owner knew about the dangerous condition and did nothing to correct it or warn visitors of the hazard. Despite this, injury victims will often assume the accident is their fault and take no further action. However, Florida law allows those injured in these situations to hold the property owner liable by filing a premises liability lawsuit.

In a recent case, a Florida state appellate court was tasked with determining whether a property owner was negligent after the plaintiff was injured on the owner’s elevator. Evidently, the plaintiff injured his back and neck as he left his doctor’s office, stepping into the elevator, and not noticing the floor of the elevator was eighteen to twenty-four inches below the landing. The plaintiff brought a premises liability lawsuit, alleging the property owner was liable for his injuries. Ultimately, the court concluded that the record was insufficient to warrant a dismissal in the case, reversing the decision of the trial judge. Thus, the plaintiff’s case will be able to be heard by a jury.

In Florida, a property owner has a duty to maintain their property, like an elevator, in a safe condition. However, the duty to keep property safe is twofold because an owner must use reasonable care: (1) to learn of the existence of any dangerous conditions on the premises; (2) to protect people from dangerous conditions they have knowledge of. This means that if a property owner fails to take reasonable steps to learn of a dangerous condition, they could still be found negligent. Additionally, in most cases, a property owner’s duty to maintain their property in a safe condition cannot be delegated to others.

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When a witness testifies in a Floria personal injury case, they swear “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” However, if a witness contradicts themselves while on the stand, this can often be grounds for opposing counsel to discredit them and make them seem less believable in the eyes of the jury. A recent case illustrates the importance of maintaining consistency throughout a trial, as well as the boundaries of the attorney-client privilege.

In a recent Florida personal injury case, a plaintiff sued after claiming she had permanent back damage from when the defendant’s vehicle struck her from behind. During the trial, defense counsel argued that while the plaintiff was on the stand she contradicted herself, and used this contradiction to get in evidence that would otherwise have been inadmissible. Specifically, the plaintiff testified that she was referred to a treating chiropractor by the emergency room doctor. However, in reality, it was the plaintiff’s former attorney who referred her to the chiropractor. The defendant used the contradiction to admit evidence that the plaintiff’s former attorney referred her to the chiropractor.

In Florida, the attorney-client privilege protects a party from being required to disclose that her attorney referred her to a physician for treatment. In this case, the plaintiff claimed that defense counsel was not allowed to ask about the referral in front of the jury because it violated attorney-client privilege. However, the court concluded that the defendant’s attorney did not directly ask the plaintiff whether she received the referral from her attorney, but merely drew the inference. While asking the plaintiff about the referral would have been a clear violation of attorney-client privilege, the attorney was allowed to probe into the plaintiff’s contradiction in front of the jury.

When someone is injured in a Florida car accident, determining their insurance coverage and potential recovery amount is essential. However, the process may be more complicated when the at-fault driver does not have insurance. Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage and insurance stacking can come into play and help pay for accident-related expenses when a person is hit by a driver without insurance. While Florida law allows for insurance stacking after an accident, there are limitations depending on the type of insurance issued and the specifics of the accident.

In Florida, insurance stacking is often used to increase a person’s uninsured motorist coverage by combining the limits of each policy on every car insured. For example, if a motorist has stackable UM coverage on a car for $30,000 and stackable UM coverage on a different car for $60,000, they can stack their coverage limits for a combined coverage of up to $90,000 in case of an accident with an uninsured driver. Stacked UM coverage can be helpful to ensure a person’s full expenses are met, as it provides protection whenever or wherever the insured person is injured by an uninsured motorist.

On the other hand, non-stacked UM coverage does not allow the combination of policies, and the UM coverage is solely for the amount listed on each policy. If a person has a non-stacked policy limit for $30,000 for one vehicle, that is the maximum amount the person could collect after an accident. Because of its limited scope, non-stacked UM coverage is often less expensive.

After the death of a loved one, especially after an unexpected Florida car accident, there is a lot to deal with. A family must manage their grief, make funeral arrangements, as well as deal with their loved one’s medical bills. Because of this, the thought of filing a lawsuit is often the last thing on a family’s mind. However, a wrongful death claim may ease a grieving family’s financial burden and reduce many of the unavoidable stresses associated with a tragic loss.

Woman Killed on Florida Turnpike

Recently, a woman was killed, and several more were injured after a three-car crash on the Florida Turnpike. According to a local news report covering the accident, a van did not slow for traffic and hit the rear end of a car. After the vehicle was struck, it collided with a third vehicle. Unfortunately, an 84-year-old woman was killed while five others, including two young girls, suffered severe injuries.

Although the families of Florida car accident victims cannot have their loved ones back, Florida state law allows them to bring a claim against all responsible parties. The Florida Wrongful Death Act, contained in Florida Statutes section 768.16, enables the family of an accident victim to file civil charges against the responsible parties. To prove liability, the family must prove the death was caused by that person’s wrongful act, negligence, or breach of contract. Thus, a wrongful death lawsuit can only be brought if the deceased could have filed a lawsuit for the injuries he sustained, had he survived.

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shutterstock_719930443-300x200Texting and driving – an epidemic responsible for 1 in 4 car accidents – will officially be classified as a primary traffic offense in Florida starting on July 1, 2019. Prior to the passage of this new law, texting and driving was a secondary offense, meaning you could not be pulled over for it. Now, law enforcement has the power to stop and ticket solely for a texting and driving violation. This new law bans as a primary offense all forms of typing on a wireless device while driving, which includes texting, e-mailing and instant messaging. Using your cell phone to read text messages and e-mails while driving is also prohibited.

Officially codified as an amendment to Florida Statute § 316.305, the new law reads that, “A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device…” Florida now joins 44 other states in making texting and driving a primary offense. The law passed through Congress by an overwhelming majority – 108-7 in the House of Representatives and 33-5 in the Senate – before being signed into law by Governor DeSantis.

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shutterstock_604492649-1-300x200With the dawn of the social media age came a burgeoning new field of law. Social media discovery has spawned a rash of appellate decisions covering everything from the discoverability of Facebook posts to the legal significance of emojis. But what happens when a Facebook post could be evidence of a crime?  Does that post get Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination?

The above question was posed to Florida’s Fourth District of Appeal in Wright v. Morsaw, a wrongful death civil case. In Wright, it was alleged that the Defendant was intoxicated when he left a Delray Beach bar. The Defendant was accused of a hit-and-run crash that killed a pedestrian. After the fatal crash, the Defendant allegedly fled to a friend’s home where he posted about the incident on social media.

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shutterstock_668481628-300x200In a brand-new opinion, Ruiz v. Tenet Hialeah Healthsystem, Inc., et al., the Supreme Court of Florida reinforced that the concept of causation in medical malpractice is broad and should be left to a jury. The fact pattern in Ruiz involved a patient who was misdiagnosed with a tumor instead of multiple myeloma. Without ordering a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, the treating neurosurgeon recommended a surgery to remove the “tumor”. During the surgery, the patient, Ms. Espinosa, went into cardiac arrest due to undiagnosed cardiac risk factors and passed away.

Ms. Espinosa’s estate brought a wrongful death medical malpractice case against a host of doctors and the hospital. One of the defendants was an anesthesiologist, Dr. Lorenzo, who had failed to recognize abnormal test results during the pre-operative clearance. The estate contended that had the defendant anesthesiologist pronounced these abnormalities, the surgery would have been cancelled and Ms. Espinosa would not have died.

The defendant doctor sought to have the case dismissed based on a failure to prove causation, e.g., that he was the legal cause of the patient’s death. Causation is a legal concept that bridges the gap between a defendant’s wrongdoing (negligence) and the damages sought by the plaintiff. In every personal injury and medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence was the legal and proximate cause of the injuries and damages that she is claiming.

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