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,...

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...

Why Florida’s Defibrillator Requirements in Public Schools May Shock You

According to the American Red Cross, sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Over 350,000 people will suffer from sudden cardiac arrest this year, and it can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere, and at any age. An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is the only effective treatment for restoring a regular heart rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest; the device is simple to use by people with no medical background. So wouldn’t you think an AED would be on the campus of every public school? The reality of defibrillator requirements in Florida public school establishments may actually shock you, and here’s why.   The laws on who, how, where, and when AEDs are to be used in Florida are confusing and scattered in across several sections of Florida’s rambling statutes. Like most of the statutes, those involving AEDs are challenging to read and understand, even for an experienced personal injury lawyer. For instance, Florida Statute Section 1006.165 governs the use, cost, placement, and training for AEDs in public schools. Incredibly, the law does not even require all of the state’s public schools to have AEDs–rather, only Florida public schools that are members of the FHSAA (Florida High School Athletic Association) are required have to have AEDs on school grounds.    The FHSAA is a Non-Profit 501c (3) Private Corporation, founded in 1920 by a group of high school principals to “promote, direct, supervise, and regulate interscholastic athletic programs” such as football, basketball, lacrosse and bowling. In 1997, the Florida legislature gave the FHSAA statutory recognition as the official governing body for interscholastic athletics in...

The Cardinal Rule in a Florida Workers’ Compensation Claims

The Cardinal Rule in Florida Workers’ Compensation (formerly known as Workman’s Comp.) claims for the injured employee seeking benefits is the same rule that applies to victims of medical malpractice, parties injured in slip and falls at grocery stores or shopping malls, those involved in car or truck accidents, or people making a claims against a cruise line: Don’t lie regardless of whether one is under oath at the time the statement is made. One who is found to have lied under oath risks losing all rights to claim benefits, having the case dismissed, and possibly facing further sanctions. This is known as the fraud defense. In Florida someone who is injured at work and makes a claim for benefits under the Worker’s Compensation Statute will be asked to make a statement regarding the accident and the alleged injuries. Generally, an employee’s accident claim is deemed compensable under Florida Workers’ Compensation laws as long as it occurred during the course and scope of the injured worker’s employment. In a recent case brought by an employee–Tony Bono against his employer, the City of Hialeah–the City and its Workers’ Compensation carrier, Sedgwick, claimed that Mr. Bono made statements that were false, fraudulent, or misleading and made them for the purpose of securing Workers’ Compensation benefits. If true, this would serve as an affirmative defense for the City of Hialeah to avoid making any payments to Mr. Bono. Unlike a civil personal injury case that is filed in front of a trial judge and jury, Workers’ Compensation cases in Florida are adjudicated by a Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC). In this matter,...

How to Get Punitive Damages in Florida Nursing Home Negligence and Personal Injury Cases

There are many different kinds of personal injury cases in Florida; the most common are car accidents and truck accidents, instances of medical malpractice, slip and fall incidents, and wrongful death claims. Lawsuits are filed every day by injured people and their families against other individuals, insurance companies, corporations, hospitals, and nursing homes. The majority of the claims seek monetary awards called “damages” to reimburse claimants for past medical expenses, lost earnings, and payment for physical and emotional pain and suffering. These kinds of damages are called “compensatory” under the law because they are designed to compensate injured victims. Compensatory damages are difficult to prove and are hotly contested in every case. Even so, they are far easier to obtain than Punitive Damages, which differ from compensatory damages because they are designed not to compensate the victim but to punish the defendant for wrongful conduct. In order to claim Punitive Damages, a plaintiff must show evidence of the defendant’s intentional misconduct or conscious gross negligence. Most corporate defendants, like auto insurance companies and hospitals, are less concerned with the amount of punitive damages they may have to pay than the invasive nature of the discovery of their financial data that would be conducted if Punitive Damages were allowed. For example, in a recent case against an assisted living facility (ALF) called Atria Evergreen Woods, the Personal Representative of Donald Devore, a patient who died in the facility, sought to obtain punitive damages against the ALF for its alleged wrongful conduct. Mr. Devore had been found unresponsive in the ALF’s hot tub during scheduled, supervised, pool activity time. A nurse...

Dangerous and Defective Products: Airplane Crash Litigation

Piper airplanes have been involved in a number of fatal crashes resulting in wrongful death lawsuits across the country. For example, a man died in Washington State after his plane crashed near Felts Field in May 2015. His wife sued Piper, alleging that the airplane (a Piper PA-46 350P) was negligently designed and flawed. Last week on New Year’s Eve, four people from Iowa were killed when another single-engine Piper aircraft crashed in Illinois. The family of four was on its way to Nashville to celebrate the new year. Airplane crashes like these are investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.    The FAA has issued a number of Airworthiness Directives warning Piper Aircraft, Inc. of dangers associated with various unsafe defects on their airplanes. FAA Airworthiness Directives (ADs) are legally enforceable regulations issued to correct unsafe conditions on airplanes. In October, 2015, the FAA warned Piper that cracks found in the right wing posed a hazard and required immediate inspection and repair. There have been dozens more ADs, not just for Piper but also for other manufacturers ranging from Airbus to Boeing. Suing an airplane manufacturer like Piper in a defective products or wrongful death case is a complex process, and often the battle begins with determining not just in what state but even in what county within the state the lawsuit should be filed, and where the trial should be conducted. It seems as though lawyers can and often do argue about everything.  At some level, many lawyers must consider arguing to be their raison d’être. Part of my practice requires me daily to read new cases...
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