Florida’s Supreme Court Weighs in on Florida’s Personal Injury Protection (No-Fault Law)

It is not every day that the Florida Supreme Court rules on an issue that involves Florida’s Personal Injury Protection insurance laws, which are also known as Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Laws (No-Fault Laws).  These are the laws that govern the payment of medical bills and lost wages for individuals involved in car, truck, motorcycle, and pedestrian traffic accidents.  This week the Supreme Court issued an opinion regarding what discovery is permissible by insurance companies looking to evade payments even before they even sued for non-compliance. The case arose from a conflict between Florida’s PIP statute and opinions issued by Florida’s First and Fourth District Courts of Appeal over what charges were appropriately paid out of a PIP and what discovery would be available by an insurance company even before it was sued for non-compliance under the policy.  The facts of the case involve medical treatment rendered by Shands Jacksonville Medical Center (Shands) to twenty-nine people who carried State Farm PIP Insurance and were injured in motor vehicle accidents. After paying Shands, State Farm requested documentation relating to the “reasonableness of the charges,” pursuant to section 627.736(6)(b) of Florida’s PIP statutes. This section requires healthcare providers to provided PIP insurance companies like State Farm, upon request, specific documents and information relating to the treatment of injured persons and the associated costs. In other words, insurance companies use discovery like this as a basis for refusing to make payments even before a lawsuit is filed. In response, Shands provided State Farm with the medical records documenting the treatments and charges for the services rendered, its most recent Medicare Cost Report,...

Cruise Ship Accidents: How are Cruise Ships Regulated? Part 1

As a lawyer who sues cruises lines–like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, MSC, Disney, and others–I am frequently asked who regulates cruise ships, as well as where and how are these rules enforced. In this multi-part post, we will examine a number of organizations around the world that are responsible for improving the safety and security of cruise ships, as well as assessing the limitations of each organization.   The International Maritime Organization: “Safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans” It seems to me that most cruise lines are operating without governmental oversight, or else with very little. The work of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) work is important because it creates a universal standard in the international maritime industry.1 The IMO was formerly known as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) until 1982.  Since cruise ships are often registered in one country, say the Bahamas, but port in countries all over the world, there should be a universal safety standard that applies to all ships for certain things such as the ratio of passenger capacity to lifeboats, sanitation, and fire protection. Otherwise, cruise lines could simply choose to follow the rules of countries with less stringent safety requirements, or none at all.   The IMO is an agency of the United Nations and is responsible for “measures” designed to improve the safety and security of cruise ships, as well as other vessels involved in international shipping, along with legal matters, including shipping accidents and claims. It was created in Geneva in 1948 and met for the first time in 1959. The IMO currently has 172 Member States...

Slippery Step Causes Cruise Ship Accident

One of the most common types of cruise ship accidents our maritime injury lawyers investigate occurs when people trip or slip on steps on cruise ships. One reason this occurs so frequently is that most cruise ships put a protective nosing–made of a metal wear strip with a rubber strip down the middle of it—on the exterior lip of a step to protect the step from wear and tear.  These nosings often encase lights, which are called tivoli lighting, and when they become loose, or deformed from use, they pose a significant tripping hazard–which can often result in people falling and breaking legs, arms, wrists, and sometime suffering severe head trauma and even brain damage. Yet it seems that every day I read about another injured cruise ship passenger’s lawsuit being dismissed because the injured passenger is unable to prove that the cruise line had “notice” of the dangerous condition that caused the accident.   For example, this week, in a case handled by another cruise ship accident law firm, Myrna Taiariol reportedly slipped on a step aboard MSC’s Divina, while leaving the Pantheon Theatre, causing her to fall and break her ankle. She filed a lawsuit against the cruise line and asserted one count of negligence. In her complaint she asserted that MSC negligently failed to warn of the step’s “dangerous, slippery, and unsafe condition.” According to the court’s records, Ms. Taiariol and her husband had attended several shows at the theatre while aboard the Divina. During one show, Ms. Taiariol sat in the front row of the balcony, which required her to take a step up to...

Dog Bite Cases in Florida

Dog bites can result in devastating injuries, especially those that comes from attack or guard dogs. That is one reason why Florida law imposes strict liability on dog owners when their dogs attack people. The law in dog bite cases is clear: The owner of any dog that bites any person . . . is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident.1§ 767.04, Fla. Stat. (2011). There are two exceptions to this rule: one allows for considering how actions the person bitten may have contributed to the attack; the other pertains when the dog bite occurs on private property and the owner has posted a “Bad Dog” sign.2 § 767.04, Fla. Stat. (2011). In a recent case handled by another Florida dog bite injury law firm, two guard dogs from a Miami K-9 company were supplied to a commercial business to provide overnight security. In the morning, when a K-9 employee returned to feed and tend to the dogs, both dogs had escaped the fenced yard after the business had been burglarized, and they had entered the property of a neighbor, Ms. Arellano. Ms. Arellano mistakenly believed the dogs were the friendly pets of another neighbor, took the dogs in and fed them, and provided shelter for them. She also the neighborhood watch...

Cruise Ship Accident: Toxic Cruise Ships

Can your cruise ship kill you? New concerns have been raised about the potential toxic quality of the air on a cruise ship. Recently, the German environmental association, Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), studied air quality on passenger cruise ships and found that people could be inhaling “60 times higher concentrations of harmful air pollutants” than they would in natural air settings.   This supports the position of the German Lung Association, which has long warned cruise ship passengers against staying on deck or inhaling a cruise ship’s exhaust gas from smokestacks, caused by the combustion of marine diesel fuel and heavy oil, as those fumes may trigger acute irritations for passengers who are already suffering from respiratory diseases such as asthma or COPD.   The French documentary television series Thalassa went undercover and secretly measured the air quality on board a cruise ship just after it had left Marseilles, France.  According to news reports, it tested the air using NABU’s facilities and discovered toxic concentrations of ultrafine particles registering more than 200 times higher than would be found in fresh air and 20 times worse than in congested port cities with heavy traffic.  Although measurements were obtained throughout the ship, the sun deck and jogging lanes were found to have the worst air quality. According to NABU’s website, its CEO Leif Miller has said, “Ship owners expose their passengers to high loads of health damaging pollutants. Actually nobody can call this a fresh sea breeze any longer, facing 200-fold higher particle concentrations on deck of a cruise ship. Despite these shocking data, major parts of the cruise industry are refusing...
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