- Clint Wallace on “The Proverbial Lawyer” Radio Talk Show
Clint Wallace on The Proverbial Lawyer radio talk show with host James Bruner. Click to play. Transcript available below.
“Rear-Ending” Another Car Creates Rebuttable Presumption of Wrongdoing
Your host has been practicing law for over 30 years and is admitted to practice in four states. Here is “The Proverbial Lawyer” Radio Show host, attorney James Bruner…
Thank you. Welcome to another edition of The Proverbial Lawyer, so pleased to be with you on this Saturday morning. Today a special show with those who helped us out in the personal injury area, we have Scott & Wallace on the line. In fact, we have partner Clint Wallace. We’re used to listening to Clint’s partner Robert Scott wax and wane eloquently on personal injury, but today we have a Clint Wallace on the line. Good morning, Clint. How are you?
Clint Wallace: Good morning. I am doing well. How about you?
I am doing well. Doing well. As we reach out to our listeners in the community, we here at The Proverbial Lawyer like to reach out to wise people to get council. We get counsel from the Word of God, sure, from the law actually read the letter of the law this advices us on our conduct, but sometimes we need to bring wise people together and get consult. And that’s Proverbs 11:14 — Where there is no counsel, the people fail. But in the counsel of the multitude there is safety. And that’s what’s nice about Scott & Wallace. They have a free consultation and you can find out about your case without any kind of obligation. Is that right, Clint?
Clint: That’s right, that’s right. We’re always happy to talk to people and answer questions and see if it’s something that we can help them with.
Excellent. We invite our listeners to participate in The Proverbial Lawyer and they can do so by going to theproverbiallawyer.com filling out a contact form there with their legal questions or you can call us at 855 I GET LAW. For the numerically minded, that’s 855-443-8529. And Clint, if it’s alright with you I’m going to run a question by you. We have Dora from St. Marks writing in to The Proverbial Lawyer — are you ready for this, Clint?
“Dear Proverbial Lawyer: I had a car accident involving me and another car. I was driving and the car in front of me slammed on their brakes. I slammed on my breaks and literally slid into and tapped their bumper with my bumper. I left my vehicle to check on the condition of the other driver of the other car. I am a former EMT. I immediately notice that the other driver was not wearing a seatbelt. I also noticed a workman in front of his vehicle, which is why he had slammed on his brakes. The workman was stopping traffic by simply standing in front of oncoming traffic and raising his hand out with his palms facing the driver. He had no STOP or SLOW sign and no flags. He was wearing a yellow vest. The other driver at first said there was no damage and he was fine and got back into his car. The workman asked that we pull off the road so we did. As we were stood there talking, suddenly he (the other driver) complained of a stiff neck. According to the responding officer’s report, there was no damage to either vehicle. The truth is there was no damage to the other vehicle my new truck had a small crack on the bumper. No one was ticketed for the accident because the responding officer said there was no damage and that he only filled out the report because the other driver complained of neck pain and requested medical assistance and was taken away by an ambulance. The very next morning I got a call from the other driver’s insurance and now not only is he claiming injuries, he’s claiming damage to his car. Thank the Lord, that when they took him away by ambulance, I got pictures of both his vehicle and mine. Am I really at fault for the accident even though I didn’t get a ticket and the workman was not in compliance having a hand sign or flag. Is it automatically my fault because I hit another vehicle from behind? I am grateful no one was seriously hurt and I’m praising God I didn’t hit the other car hard enough to push forward into the workman. I couldn’t even see the workman until he was just outside of my vehicle. I didn’t swerve because, to be honest, I thought I was stopping and time from hitting him and I was just a tad short and tapped him. I’m a strong believer and I want to do what is right, but I don’t want any insurance fraud in any way. What do you think I should do? I love your show. And thank you for anything helpful.”
Thank you, Dora, for writing in. Attorney Clint Wallace of Scott & Wallace, what are some of your initial thoughts on this?
Clint: Sure. First of all, thank you Dora for the question. I’m sorry you’re involved in this accident. The first thing you should do, and it sounds like you’ve already done this, is to notify your insurance company. When you purchase insurance, not only do they indemnify you for any damages you may be liable for, but also, as part of your policy, they will mount a defense and pay for that defense for you. You want to make sure that you call and report this to your insurance company so they can get started defensing you in this. Pursuant of Florida law, there is a rebuttable presumption of negligence in the event that you rear-end somebody. And so the law starts out with the presumption that you have fault here for rear-ending somebody. But that’s not where it stops. Your insurance company is going to put up a defense for you. Okay and there’s defenses here potentially that would absolve you of all liability. Florida is a pure comparative fault state for purposes of determining negligence. What that means is, if the case were tried to a jury, the jury would get a form and they would have to allocate fault to any of the potential parties that may have fault here in this accident. And you’ve identified that there is your vehicle, there’s the car in front of you (that it sounds like stopped suddenly), and there’s the construction company or the flag man that work for them. What your attorneys would do – or the insurance company’s attorney- is talk about other actors that may have some fault as a result of this accident. First, the flag man for the construction company — I don’t know that he was complying with all of the Florida laws and codes required regarding signage and warning and things like that, to notify drivers they’re going to have to stop soon. The details of your question, you know your insurance company will want to get more information about what was out there. Sounds like you took some pictures — always a good thing. Anytime you’re in an accident, best thing to do is to take pictures. Make sure you write down any statements that any party made, because those could become important later. One of your potential offenses may be that the construction company is a fault for this. That they did not properly put signage up to warn motorists, that they weren’t wearing the proper colors or have the proper flag to alert drivers. That may very well be what happened here. Additionally another potential defense may be that the car in front of you that stopped suddenly, that he (or she) wasn’t paying attention and that’s what caused the accident. Your attorneys or your insurance company will want to investigate that. But that’s how comparative fault works.
So we’ve got a rebuttable presumption and comparative fault – some big words. So going back through that, when you rear-end someone, instead of it being conclusively your fault in all cases, what you’re telling us, Clint, is that there is a presumption that it is your fault, but it is rebuttable.
Clint: Correct. What would happen in this scenario if the case were tried, the judge would tell the jury that you’re to assume that Dora is at fault because she ran into the back of the vehicle in front of her; however, you can consider Dora’s arguments that she made to see if she had that rebutted that presumption. Dora’s defense would be some of the arguments that we talked about, that the construction company was at fault or that the car in front of her wasn’t paying attention and stopped suddenly.
All right, and say if that the fault of the other people can be brought forward it is required under for Florida law to be considered and you called the comparative fault, how does that actually work? If you say the total damages to the plaintiff is, say $20,000, how does comparative fault come in to play?
Clint: What would happen is, the attorneys and the judge would ask a jury if the damages are $20,000, the jury would have to assign percentages of fault any of the actors in the case. Here, it sounds like there would likely be three potential actors: Dora. The car in front of her that she hit. And the construction company who employed the flagman. The jury would award, or assign, percentages between 0 and 100% for each of those actors. Let’s say in this scenario that a jury thought that each of the actors was a third at fault. That Dora had a third of the fault, that the construction company had a third and the car in front of her had a third of the fault. Of all the door had a third of the fault. If the total case was worth $20,000, the driver in front of her would collect a third of that from Dora’s insurance company — $6,666 from Dora’s insurance company. Additionally he would collect $6,666 from construction company’s insurance company. And the third one third percent of fault that the driver in front of Dora had he wouldn’t collect because that was his portion of the damages and you can’t collect from yourself for causing your own injury. That’s how that would play out.
Okay. Another question: Where does “PIP” (Personal Injury Protection) come in?
Clint: Personal Injury Protection. This is a good segue into the different portions of the insurance policy that Dora and any other Florida driver is going to have. In Florida you often times hear insurance companies say or use the term “full coverage.” And it’s a misnomer that I don’t like that they use, and what that really means is that you have the minimum coverage required by law, which in Florida every insurance policy sold in Florida has $10,000 PIP or personal injury protection and $10,000 worth or property damage. Start with PIP — Florida is a no-fault state for PIP purposes. Whenever you’re in a car accident, no matter who’s at fault, your own car insurance policy pays 80% of your medical bills up to a $10,000 policy limit. In this case, Dora sounds like she wasn’t hurt and probably will not have any medical bills. But if she did, whether or not she’s at fault, her own car insurance is going to pay 80% of those medical bills. Similarly, the car in front of her, whether or not that person has fault, his or her own car insurance is going to pay 80% of his/her medical bills $10,000 limit. Since Dora is a St. Mark’s residence and has a Florida policy, she will have $10,000 worth of property damage. That’s the minimum every policy has — she may have more than that. So as long as the property damage that the car in front of her sustained isn’t more than $10,000, she will have coverage for that. What Dora ought to do, and everyone should take the time to do, especially before you have an accident, is take a look at your policy, because in addition to the minimum required coverage there’s other coverages that you want to make sure that you have. The first of those is called Bodily Injury coverage. That’s the portion of your policy that protects you in the event that your negligence injures somebody. So, in Dora’s case, if she has bodily injury coverage and the driver in front of her pursues a claim for injuries and is successful, then Dora’s insurance bodily injury portion of her insurance policy will cover the claim so Dora is not personally responsible.
Is bodily injury an add-on to your policy? Like you could be driving out there without having bodily injury coverage in your policy and you’re completely legal, but you may be “half-naked” because if this kind of thing happens and the other driver that you injure, uses up their $10,000 of PIP on their own policy, and they’re going into 11, 12, 13, 15, $30,000 — that overage of the PIP on their policy they’re going to be looking to you personally to pay if you don’t have bodily injury coverage is that fair to say?
Clint: That is fair to say. That’s very accurate. And you definitely want to make sure that you carry bodily injury coverage. It’s not only that they will look to you after they’ve exhausted their $10,000in PIP, remember, PIP only pays 80% of their medical bills. From the beginning, they’re going to have 20% of their medical bills that are either paid by their health insurance or are outstanding for them if they don’t have health insurance. They are going to have out-of-pocket expenses from the beginning. You want to make sure you carry bodily injury coverage and carry enough to cover your net worth. The reason for that is if you seriously injure somebody, and the value of their case against you is a large amount, you want to make sure you have insurance coverage to protect you so your financial future is protected by having insurance. The insurance will be there so that you are not personally liable for an amount that will devastate you financially.
So, go check your policies. Check your bodily injury coverage. Figure out your net worth and see if you have enough coverage.
We’re talking to Clint Wallace of Scott & Wallace, a personal injury law firm here in Tallahassee. When we get back from the break we’re going to talk a little bit more about these insurance coverages and then I’ve got a question for Clint on how do you put a value on pain and suffering?
Back to talking to Clint Wallace of Scott & Wallace, a personal injury law firm right here in Tallahassee, personal injury cases throughout the Big Bend area, and Clint, I understand you even take cases in Georgia?
Clint: That’s correct. We have an office in Thomasville, Georgia and we are licensed in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
If one of our listeners wanted to set up a call or a meeting with you, how do they reach out to you? What’s your number, please?
Clint: In Florida: 850-222-7777. And Georgia: 229-236-3636.
How do you get those good phone numbers? My law office you have to memorize the darn number! Yours is beautiful! How do you get those numbers?
Clint: I hear ya. Livin’ right, I guess.
Good for you. Love your new offices on East Brevard Street. You’ve renovated that building very nicely. Plenty of parking over there. It’s a pleasure to visit your office.
Clint: Thank you, James. We like it over here. I live right behind the office and can walk to work.
That’s great! We were talking about Dora’s question regarding her rear-ending someone, and we found out that there is a rebuttable presumption of negligence on her part. She gets a chance (although I doubt a case of this minor level would get to jury) but it’s illustrative of the rear-end accidents and what one can argue. She can rebut the presumption that she was negligent by looking at the conduct of the other actors involved in in our scenario. We’ve got a flagman and we’ve got the car in front of her, and we’ve been talking about the insurance company and how the insurance company would step in defend her on these things and how various categories of insurance coverage work to protect each of us. We’ve just been talking a about the “PIP” — personal injury protection and property damage, where in Florida it’s only a $10,000 each of those categories that is required by law. A third category, bodily injury insurance coverage, is not required by law, but it’s something that Clint Wallace was telling us we should get to cover any of the overage — so if that other party is hurt more than $10,000 limit (plus the 20% co-pay not covered by PIP) that you have something in your insurance policy (your auto insurance policy) that covers that overage. We call that bodily injury. Clint, can you pick a number out of the out of the sky and say “I want the max” bodily injury, or are the insurance companies going to say, “No, no. We’re only going to give you bodily injury coverage up to what you can prove your net worth to be.” How does that work? Can you just pick a number?
Clint: Generally, you can purchase insurance in any amount as long as you are willing to pay for it. Bodily injury comes in two numbers. For instance, $10,000 / $20,000. That means is if you’re in an accident and you injure any one person, the most the insurance company would pay one person is $10,000. The $20,000 number is the most the insurance company would pay everyone in total that you injured as a result of your negligence. For example, if you hit a vehicle that has four people in it and enjoyed them all in the second number the $20,000 insurance coverage would pay to them collectively if their injuries amounted to that.
This exposes you if the total injuries are in excess of $20,000, aggressive plaintiffs will look to what the driver’s personal financial worth is.
Clint: Absolutely. One of the one of the services that we offer at Scott & Wallace, and it’s free, we’ve had a lot of people take us up on this, if you have an insurance policy and it is difficult for you to understand (most insurance companies don’t go through each thing, what they mean and what coverage you should have) if you have questions about your insurance policy, you are welcome to call us and we can explain what you have and what is likely we think you need.
That’s an awesome service.
Clint: And we’re happy to do that. Just give us a call if you have questions about it. Earlier, we talked a little bit about bodily injury, PIP and property damage. There are a couple of other portions of your policy you want to make sure that you purchase. In Dora’s situation, she would want to see if she had Collision coverage. Collision coverage is the coverage that you carry in the event that her (Dora’s) vehicle is damaged due to Dora’s fault. Maybe she is at fault here. So, her collision coverage would pay to fix her personal vehicle. Generally you carry collision with a deductible ($500 or $1000) — if Dora’s vehicle had $2000 worth of damage and she had a $500 deductible, Dora would pay the first $500 and the insurance company would pay the rest, $1500. That’s using $2000 worth of damage as an example. Collision coverage is another coverage that you want to make sure that you carry.
Clint (continued): Perhaps the most important coverage is uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance coverage. This covers you if you are injured by someone carry bodily injury or doesn’t carry enough of it, you’ve purchased insurance to allow you have a potential recovery that stands in the shoes of the person who didn’t carry bodily injury coverage or enough of it. Studies show that in Florida, 50% of people don’t carry bodily injury coverage. That means half the time that you’re in an accident and you are injured, the person that hit you is not going to have the appropriate amount of coverage or bodily injury insurance coverage. To protect yourself from that, and it’s relatively cheap for what you get, purchase uninsured motorist coverage. You going to want to make sure that you look at your insurance policy — if you don’t have it, you’re going to want to add uninsured motorist coverage to your policy.
Okay. Is there another category? I’ve got some questions about claiming on insurance. But anymore categories of insurance that we want to see in our policies?
Clint: The last thing I want to mention today is if you’re making payments on your vehicle, that you have Gap coverage for the lienholder. What Gap coverage is when you buy a new vehicle and drive it off the lot, that vehicle depreciates and they depreciate a lot early on. For instance, if you buy a car for $20,000, the minute you drop it off the car lot, it’s not worth $20,000 — it’s worth a lot less. Oftentimes you can owe more on a car than the car is worth. Example: if you owe $15,000 on a car that’s only worth $10,000, and you’re in an accident, then you may have to not only if your car is totaled, you lose your car, but you may still have to make payments on a car you don’t have anymore. The way you protect yourself from that is to purchase what’s called Gap Coverage. Many lien holders require Gap Coverage whenever you finance a new vehicle — but not always. Make sure that you carry that. Gap coverage is very cheap for what you get. That way you’re not having to pay for a vehicle that is total that you no longer have and I not have access to that car.
That’s like adding insult to injury.
Let me ask you about stacking. When I sign up for insurance, they say “Do you want it stacked? Or not stacked? And you’ll have to sign this…” What are they talking about? Stacked? Or non-stacked?
Clint: Good question. You buy uninsured motorist and it comes either stacking are non-stacking. Start with non-stacking – what that means is the numbers we talked earlier, $10,000/$20,000 uninsured motorist policy that’s non-stacking. That means if you get into an accident that someone else caused and you are injured, and that person doesn’t have insurance or not enough insurance, then you uninsured motorist non-stacking policy would pay any one person (you or anyone in your car) $10,000, and collectively pay the total of all persons that were injured $20,000. If you change that and make the policy “stacked,” you stack the number of vehicles that you have on your insurance policy to increase those amounts. Let’s say a family has four vehicles and they have that same $10,000/$20,000 uninsured motorist coverage, stacked, rather than non-stacked, under that scenario you multiply those numbers by four. They would have access to $40,000 uninsured motorist coverage for any one person and $80,000 for a collective total for a two or more people that are injured. Always a good idea to have “stacking” rather than “non-stacking.”
Got it. And I think stacking it, if I recall, I think that’s a pretty cheap add-on to your policy.
Clint: Absolutely it is. Insurance companies recognize that and weren’t too keen on having to offer that. And the legislature recognized that and have made insurance companies have you fill out a form that they have advised you have the right to purchase uninsured motorist coverage including stacking uninsured motorist coverage and you have to knowingly reject them and sign the form.
If you don’t sign the form, are you stacked?
Clint: Nope. If you don’t sign the form you are deemed to have the same amount of uninsured motorist coverage stacked that you would have bodily injury coverage. And we see that a lot — about one out of every 20 cases — that we look at their rejection form we see people that didn’t purchase uninsured motorist coverage but the insurance company didn’t offer it correctly, and in that scenario, they are deemed to have uninsured motorist coverage because the insurance company did not comply with what the legislature required. A knowing waiver of uninsured motorist coverage.
That’s why the agent kind of tracks you down to get these things signed. If you’re trying to go bare-naked minimum under the law, if the agent is on their game, they’re going to be tracking you down to get this thing signed so they don’t run afoul of that legislative requirement.
Any other comments for Dora? She had her damage, she doesn’t want to participate in insurance fraud. What about that? I mean is this smelling of fraud where she didn’t see any injuries and then there are claims of neck pain and an ambulance ride — any thoughts on that? Or is this small thing just going to turned over to the insurance company and she won’t have any power over the morality of it all?
Clint: Ultimately it will be a business decision for her insurance company to make. She’s not participating in any type of fraud as long as she tells the insurance company what happened. Provided them with her evidence. The other participants in the accident, that will be for them to get with their respective insurance companies. She can’t control what they say or do. All Dora needs to do is go to her insurance company, obviously tell the truth and provide any evidence she has and the insurance company will take it from there and make a business decision on how they want to handle the situation.
That’s a great answer. You can’t be the world’s policeman and control other people’s conduct. You just have to tell it like it is, what you saw, control your own conduct and leave it up to the insurance companies regarding a potential fraud angle. Let me ask you two questions: We all have a fear of a fender bender or there’s just property damage, we have a fear of putting in claims with our insurance company, cause they will jack up our rates. One story I remember, this one company said something like “I’m sorry your payout on a claim has exceeded your premiums so we are dropping you under such and such…” Should we have a decent fear about making claims?
Clint: No. Making a claim on your insurance policy is not what makes insurance policies go up, generally. What makes insurance policies premiums go up is having at-fault accidents. You caused the accident. Especially the more damage you caused, the insurance company is a higher risk to insure verses someone who has not caused an accident. Being at-fault — that’s what makes your insurance policy go up. Not the fact that you made a claim. Now, as far as worrying that an insurance company is going to drop you, I’m always puzzled little bit by people’s allegiance to their own insurance company. And then they get dropped. Your showing your insurance company allegiance by paying premiums, often times for many years, without making claims, and when you get dropped by that company, it’s natural you want to go back, but they dropped you — and there are hundreds of companies out there. There’s no reason to have an allegiance to one particular insurance company. Shop out your policy every year. Check and see if you can get better coverage for the least amount of money. It’s a good idea.
We hear about pain and suffering. It’s a “damage” – what they call a “noneconomic” damage. How do we put a price on pain?
Clint: That can be difficult. In large part it depends on the degree of pain and suffering to someone has. We see cases from cases like Dora’s talking about luckily it sounds like the injuries are going to be very severe and everyone recovers quickly. We also see cases on the other end of the spectrum where people have lost family members — obviously the pain for something like that is going to be a lot greater. Ultimately it’s a question for a jury in any personal injury case the potential damages you have are: medical bills (past & future), lost wages (past & future), and the pain and suffering. One of the questions the jury would have to determine is: What has going through this situation, how do we value that? In the end you hear the evidence about how it’s impacted their lives. In a smaller case, it’s generally going to be the person who had doctor’s appointments and ultimately the doctor may say that they’re as good as they were before the accident, they’re the same person they were before. In a case like that, you expect pain and suffering to be relatively minor. On the other hand, consider evidence when someone who lost a child in a car accident or lost a family member, spouse; in that case, the pain and suffering there’s going to be a whole different level. There is no easy way to answer your question. It is a jury decision and depends on the specific evidence of how this is impacted somebody and how it has changed them.
We’re tight on time, so maybe we’ll do another interview where we could break this down a little bit more, because some people process pain differently than others. I just wonder if a jury is able to see those nuances, but then what you’re saying is that it is an inexact science.
Clint: It is an inexact science and we could talk about this for a whole segment. What we see generally is that juries get it right. Juries apply the facts to the law and they make good decisions. And our system while not perfect, is the best that there is in the world. And juries generally get it right.
We’ve been talking to Clint Wallace of Scott & Wallace here in Tallahassee. Thank you, Clint.
- Robert Scott: Top Ten Florida Attorneys Under 40
Scott & Wallace is proud to announce that Robert Scott has been selected “Top 10 attorneys in Florida under 40” by the National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys (NAOPIA). Robert was chosen by NAOPIA “to receive [the] organization’s highest honor because of the hard work and dedication [he has] shown in representing [his] personal injury clients.”
According to NAOPIA, the attorneys who make the NAOPIA Top 10 list must be licensed and in good standing in the state, must be in private practice, must have at least 5 years’ experience in Personal Injury, must devote a significant portion of practice to Personal Injury, and must be nominated by a licensed practicing attorney or one of its in-house research staff members. According to NAOPIA, the nominated attorneys are then further scrutinized based upon client reviews, peer reviews, total length of time practicing in personal injury, case outcomes, trial experience and outcomes, published books or scholarly articles, education, formal personal injury training, personal injury teaching experience, and legal awards. According to NAOPIA, “Fifty of the nominated attorneys are chose to advance to the final selection stage by [its] Selection Committee, and then [its] Board of Governors officially selects the Top 10 in each state.”
- 2015 Holiday Turkey Giveaway
This past holiday season, Scott & Wallace LLP gave away over 50 smoked whole turkeys to families in need. These turkeys were purchased through Connie’s Hams, a local restaurant here in Tallahassee. We thank Connie’s Hams for their help in accommodating our order so that we could provide some holiday cheer for local families.
Thanks to our staff and family, the giveaway was a great success!
Some feedback that we received:
“Thank you for everything. Thanks for all you do.”
~ The Marshall Family
“I want to formally thank you so much for your generosity today. I came in the office in Tallahassee to pick up a free turkey for Christmas. My daughter lost her father a couple of years ago and our last time with him was on Christmas, so she does not like to be around anyone during the Christmas holidays. I thought I would do something with just the two of us this year.
As it happened, I received a call from the oral and facial surgeon in Tallahassee telling me that my out of pocket cost for her dental service will be $704 and then $269 to her orthodontist a week after that and this will all be the week right after Christmas. I had nothing for her this year…She understands because she is 16. This is the first year I am unable to do anything for her on Christmas and it was even harder for me since her father is not here and she does not want to be around anyone. Your generosity was very touching to me today so I wanted to express to you how much you touched me. I understand so many people are truly in need and what you all are doing for the community should not go unnoticed. Thank you again.”
~ Ms. Coleman and Family
The lawyers and staff at Scott & Wallace LLP were certainly glad to help!
- Clint Wallace Nominated: Ten Best Attorneys in Florida
Clint Wallace Nominated as One of the Ten Best Attorneys in Florida by the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys
Scott and Wallace is proud to announce the nomination of our very own Clint Wallace for the “10 Best” Attorneys for the State of Florida. Mr. Wallace was thoroughly researched and hand-picked by the Board of Regents of the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys. The nominees of this award have reached a significant level of achievement as each attorney must:
- Be formally nominated by a fellow attorney.
- Have attained the highest degree of professional achievement in his or her field of law.
- Have an impeccable client satisfaction rating.
The American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys is an institute designed to help clients throughout the United States make educated decisions when choosing their attorney. The members are comprised of attorneys who have reached the top of their profession while keeping the client’s satisfaction their number one priority. Congratulations, Clint Wallace, for being nominated for this prestigious award! As always, if you have a personal injury or other legal question for Mr. Wallace, feel free to call our Thomasville, Georgia, Tallahassee, Florida, or Panama City, Florida offices. It won’t cost you anything to see how we help.
- Applications for Scott & Wallace Taylor Moseley Scholarship
While Taylor Moseley’s life was far too short, she left a legacy that continues to endure. With the school year nearing a close, it’s that time of year again to remind all Lincoln High School seniors to submit their applications for the Scott & Wallace Taylor Moseley Scholarship. This scholarship will allow a Lincoln High School senior who embodies the very qualities that made Taylor so special to continue his or her educational pursuits. To submit your application, click on the “Taylor Moseley Scholarship” link on our home page, or click here to go directly to our “Community Involvement” page where you can read more about Taylor and fill out the application form.
- New Technology to Treat Brain Injuries
March is Brain Injury Awareness month. Be on the look out for scheduled fundraisers. Check this site: “Providing a Path to Recovery”, Healthy Communities Magazine and the Brain Injury Association of Florida (BIAF) site for more information.
A recent article published by Penn State News in December of 2013, details how a new technology called “neuron regeneration” may help treat those who have suffered a brain injury. A brain injury can be a very serious injury and may leave many questions about the right treatment. Depending on the severity of the injury, the treatment options may vary. Gong Chen, a biology professor and leader of the research team at Penn State describes a brain injury as “A brain-injury site is like a car-crash site,” Chen explained. “Reactive glial cells are like police vehicles, ambulances and fire trucks immediately rushing in to help — but these rescue vehicles can cause problems if too many of them get stuck at the scene. The problem with reactive glial cells is that they often stay at the injury site, forming a glial scar and preventing neurons from growing back into the injured areas.” The article describes how the treatment works by regenerating functional neurons. When a person has a brain injury the “neurons often die or degenerate.” This can lead to limiting healthy brain cells from growing. It is also noted that this treatment method may also help those who have had spinal cord injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
A brain injury can be a very confusing, stressful, and scary diagnosis. Many times this injury is the cause of someone else’s negligence and the injured person is left to deal with the aftermath. If you or a loved one has had a traumatic brain injury due to someone else’s negligence, contact Scott and Wallace. You may be entitled to receive compensation for your injury.
- Vehicle Defects
When automobile accidents happen, most often drivers are to blame. But sometimes the fault lies with the manufactures of the vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) defines vehicle defects as something that “poses a risk to motor vehicle safety, and may exist in a group of vehicles of the same design or manufacture, or items of equipment of the same type and manufacture.” Vehicle manufactures know that safety sells. We all want a safe, reliable vehicles, and are willing to pay extra for them.
But, due to the amplified demand for advanced safety measures, the production process has become more technical than ever. Unfortunately, these technical production processes can create numerous opportunities for error in the manufacturing process. Vehicle manufacturers are held liable for what they produce. One small defect in a vehicle such as seat belt defects, air bag defects, or brake malfunction could lead to a consumer’s serious injury or death. Remember the O-ring in the Challenger shuttle disaster?
Please be aware of the latest recalls that have been announced by manufacturers by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website listing the latest defects and recalls announced by automobile manufacturers.
If you have been injured in a vehicle accident due to the negligence of the vehicle manufacturer, please contact the offices of Scott and Wallace for a free consultation.
- Cruise Ship Injuries
A cruise can be a relaxing vacation for a family, but if you’re thinking of taking a cruise this summer beware of accidents that can occur while aboard.
Cruise ship tickets usually contain contracts emphasizing the cruise line’s scope of liability in terms of the safety and well-being of its passengers. It is the passenger’s obligation to read and understand these provisions to protect their legal rights in the case they are injured on a cruise. The contract may state that there are several prerequisites that must be met for a lawsuit to be filed. For example, the cruise line may require the passenger to inform the cruise line with a written statement of their plan to file a claim. This window of opportunity is very short and may pass in as little as six months. The contract could also state that the lawsuit be filed within a certain time period, such as one year from the date of the accident. Cruise lines have recently begun to add clauses into contracts and tickets that limit the location in which a claim can be filed, with many requiring that these claims be filed in Florida. These effectively require that every claim be handled by a Florida firm, regardless of the location from which the cruise departed or the victim’s place of residence.
A few common ship injuries could include:
• Slip and fall on wet floors/decks/stairs
• Trip and fall on uneven decks
• Assaults or crimes (such as rape) due to negligent security or crimes by the crew members
• Passengers falling overboard due to being over served alcohol by bars on the ship
If you have been injured on a cruise ship due to the negligence of a cruise ship, please contact Scott and Wallace immediately. (850) 222-7777
- Social Media & Insurance Claims
With our society changing everyday as a result of social media, those with an insurance claim or lawsuit should be aware that the insurance company is watching. The insurance companies are very aware that people with claims use social media to post or reveal personal information that could negatively affect their case.
People “post” or “share” in order to communicate on a larger scale and to stay in contact with people worlds apart. However, limiting this exposure in order to make sure that your social media “statements” are not misconstrued is a vital part of your personal injury case or insurance claim. Regardless of your intent, when posting information on the internet, you should assume will become public. You should understand that the insurance companies will always try to dig up as much “dirt” as possible to avoid paying full value on a personal injury case or insurance claim.
Therefore, if you are involved in an insurance claim or lawsuit for any reason, remember to keep the details of the case private and off of social media sites!
Have a personal injury insurance claim? Contact Scott & Wallace for a free case analysis.
- Motorcycle Accidents & Safety Awareness
Motorcycle accidents that occurred recently in the Florida Panhandle have heightened awareness of motorcycle safety.
According to WCTV news, “Military officials in the Florida Panhandle are pushing for motorcycle safety after the deaths of two active-duty service members earlier this month.” Motorcycle accidents almost always result in injuries, medical bills, and lost wages. Like any other vehicle, there are many causes for motorcycle accidents. A few common causes may include: distracted drivers talking and texting, drivers failing to yield right of way to motorcycles, drivers turning in front of a motorcycle and drivers failing to give use of the entire lane to motorcycle drivers.
According to: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Traffic Safety Marketing, May 2014 is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The campaign urges motorist to remember to share the road. Motorcyclist have the same rights and privileges as any other driver on the road. Please visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for motorcycle crash related data as well as safety tips.
As always, if you’ve been injured in a motorcycle related crash due to someone else’s negligence, contact the offices of Scott and Wallace immediately.
- Avoid an Accident: Run or Walk Facing Traffic
At Scott and Wallace, we are often asked, “Which side of the road should a person be walking or running on to avoid being injured?”
To avoid an accident, the answer lies in the Florida Statutes. You should always use a sidewalk when it’s available. The law requires that you do. When a sidewalk is not available, you should walk/run facing traffic. When you walk/run facing the traffic you are able to see what is coming toward you, in turn making you a lot safer. Again, this is what the law calls for.
Pursuant to Section 316.130, Florida Statutes, “where sidewalks are provided, no pedestrian shall, unless required by the circumstances, walk along and upon the portion of a roadway paved for vehicular traffic.” This statute also states “where sidewalks are not provided, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall, when practicable, walk only on the shoulder on the left side of the roadway in relation to the pedestrian’s direction of travel, facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction.”
In addition to following pedestrian laws, we urge you to leave your music, headphones, etc., at home. It is always best to be fully aware of your surroundings. But, by walking/running against traffic, you greatly reduce your chances of being injured in an accident.
- “Buzzed” Drivers Cause Car Accidents Too!
Everyday someone says to himself or herself, “I’m not drunk, I’ve only had a few so I won’t cause an accident”. According to a new study conducted by the University of California, which was published in British Medical Journal group’s Injury Prevention, this is far from the truth. The study examined 570,731 fatal car accidents from 1994 to 2011. The researchers used the U.S Fatality Analysis Report System (FARS) database for the study. They focused intently on “buzzed drivers” with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01 to 0.07 percent. The researchers found that the drivers with a BAC of 0.01 percent (which is well below the legal limit), were 46 percent more likely to be formally and exclusively blamed by investigating officers than the completely sober drivers that they collide with.
The research team states “We find no safe combination of drinking and driving – no point at which it is harmless to consume alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car.” “Our data support both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s campaign that ‘Buzzed driving is drunk driving’ and the recommendation made by the National Transportation Safety Board, to reduce the legal limit to BAC 0.05 percent. In fact, our data provide support for yet greater reductions in the legal BAC.”
Most drivers are unaware of the injury they can cause and the liability they could face for driving with a “buzz” from alcohol. So from all of us at Scott and Wallace, please drink responsibly and be careful on the roads.
- New Boating Laws
With springtime fast approaching, more and more people will be out and about boating in the waters across Georgia and Florida and their coasts. Scott and Wallace LLP would like to take the time to make boaters aware of the new laws which we hope will help avoid accidents on the open water.
Over the past few years, there have been numerous boating accidents at Lake Lanier in Georgia. The Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, signed into law the “Jake and Griffin BUI Law” last May. The law was named for Jake and Griffin (brothers) who were killed by a drunken boat driver on Lake Lanier in 2012. Five other people were injured in the boating accident. These unfortunate tragedies resulted in the new law which lowers the legal limit for blood alcohol content from .10 to .08, when boating. The law also stiffens penalties for boating under the influence (BUI). A misdemeanor will now be issued for a first or second conviction, a high and aggravated misdemeanor will be issued for a third conviction and a felony will be issued for a fourth or subsequent conviction. Convictions will include a civil fine, imprisonment, community service, clinical evaluation, possible completion of a DUI Program, and a period of probation.
Another new boating law that recently took effect is the Kile Glover Boat Education Law. In July of 2012, eleven year old Kile Glover who was the stepson of R&B singer Usher, was fatally injured by a friend of the family on a jet ski. Another friend who was tubing with Kile was seriously injured and disfigured by the accident. The family friend who was driving the jet ski in the accident was charged with homicide by vessel, reckless operation of a vessel, and other related charges. The new law requires anyone 13 or under to wear a life vest in a moving boat. A portion of the law will mandate boater education classes for people born on or after January 1, 1998.
- Child Safety Seat Restraint Laws Coming Soon???
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), changes to guidelines for using child safety seats are coming in 2014 as early as February. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is revising its guidelines for its Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system, also known as the LATCH system. This has been mandatory in vehicles since 2002. The system requires vehicle manufacturers to install anchor points, one top tether and two lower tethers in car seats to which child safety seats are tethered. Starting on Feb. 27, lower tethers for front-facing car seats will not be used if the combined weight of the child and the seat is 65 pounds or more. Instead, guardians will have to use seat belts to restrain the car seat. Initially, the rule applied only to children who weighed 65 pounds. Officials changed this rule because child safety seats are getting heavier. The main goal is to prevent overloading the anchor points, which could fail in a crash causing serious injury or even death to the restrained child. The new rules will also require child safety seat manufacturers to show the weight of their products on the car seat to avoid confusing parents.
The NHTSA has also recently proposed upgrades to the safety standard for car seats to ensure children are protected in side impact crashes. The proposal would include the first ever side impact test for car seats sold in the U.S. that are made for children who weigh up to 40 pounds. The proposed test for side impact crashes are to make sure they can safely restrain a child by preventing harmful head and chest contact with the car door. NHTSA estimates this proposal, if enforced, could save five lives and prevent 64 injuries per year.
“The agency’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making is being published in the Federal Register and members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal for 90 days. Parents, guardians and care providers can search for current child seat safety recalls and find where they can get help installing child car seats through the free Safercar.gov App available on Apple iOS enabled devices through the Apple App Store.”
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Contact: Nathan Naylor
- Differences Between Georgia & Florida Personal Injury Cases
As you are likely aware, Scott & Wallace LLP has offices in Thomasville, Georgia, Tallahassee, Florida, and Panama City, Florida. Our firm handles cases all across north Florida and south Georgia. As you might expect, there are major differences between the two states that can vastly impact the value of a case. In fact, due to the differences in rules and laws between Florida and Georgia, the exact same case in one state might be worth far more or far less if it had happened in the other state. This article explains two main differences between Florida and Georgia that can impact the value of a personal injury case.
Comparative negligence vs contributory negligence
Florida is a pure comparative fault state. Florida juries assign percentages of fault to all the various entities involved in an accident, from 0%-100%. In Florida, a plaintiff can recover damages from any defendant that a jury places fault on. However, the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by his percentage of fault. For example, if a jury determines that a plaintiff’s damages are worth $4,000,000, but determines that the plaintiff was 75% at fault in causing the accident, then the plaintiff is entitled to recover only $1,000,000.
Georgia’s law is the same as Florida’s as long as the plaintiff is not more than 50% at fault for the accident. If the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault in causing an accident in Georgia, then he is completely barred from recovering. Therefore, in the example above where a jury determines that a plaintiff’s damages are worth $4,000,000 but determines that the plaintiff was 75% at fault in causing the accident, the plaintiff is barred from recovery.
Mandatory bodily injury coverage
Motorists in Florida are required to carry only personal injury protection and property damage on their vehicles. There is no requirement that Florida motorists carry bodily injury coverage, which is the portion of your insurance policy that protects you in the event that your negligence causes injuries. Researchers estimate that almost 50% of Florida drivers fail to carry bodily injury coverage. As you can see, it is of utmost importance that Florida drivers carry uninsured motorist coverage to protect themselves in the event that they are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.
Conversely, motorists in Georgia are required to carry bodily injury coverage. Therefore, a person injured by a Georgia driver is far more likely to have a bodily injury policy under which to recover than a driver injured in Florida. Of course, the minimum bodily injury limits are often not enough to fully compensate a victim of negligence. Therefore, we recommend that Georgia drivers carry uninsured motorist coverage as well.
The two examples above are just a couple of the differences between Georgia and Florida personal injury law. If you are involved in a car accident in south Georgia or north Florida, call an attorney at Scott & Wallace to discuss your options or to make an appointment for a free consultation at our Thomasville, Tallahassee, or Panama City offices.
- How Long Do I Have to Bring a Georgia or Florida Personal Injury Lawsuit?
All potential legal claims are subject to legislatively enacted time limits, called statute of limitations. If a person fails to file a lawsuit within the established time frames, their claims are forever barred. The length of the statute of limitations depends on the type of case and venue, which is the location where the case can be brought.
At Scott & Wallace, we handle cases across Georgia and Florida. Generally, in Georgia, a person has two years from the date of an accident to bring a personal injury lawsuit. Conversely, a person generally has four years from the date of an accident to bring a personal injury lawsuit in Florida. Statutes of limitation are longer for claims on written contracts (such as some claims against insurance companies) in both states. In Georgia a claim on a written contract must be brought within six years. A claim on a written contract in Florida must be brought within five years. Certain subsets of personal injury claims have special statutes of limitation. For example, Florida has special laws that shorten the statute of limitation for medical malpractice claims to only two years.
Of course, how long a person has to bring a claim is case specific. The above statements are general examples that may be different from your particular case. If you have a question about your potential Georgia or Florida case, call an attorney for a free consultation.
- What is a Premises Liability Case?
In Florida, a business or person in control of an area has a duty to keep the area free from dangerous conditions that it knows of or should know of, or in the alternative, to warn of a dangerous condition. For example, if a business owner is aware of a concealed hole that exists on its property, it has a duty to either fix the hole or properly warn patrons of the dangerous hole. Likewise, a business owner has a duty to keep its floors free of dangerous substances that it is aware are on the floor or that the business owner should have been aware are on the floor. The most common scenario for this type of case is where someone slips and falls on liquid in a grocery store. Since any prudent business owner would fix a dangerous condition that he/she is aware of, most premises liability cases hinge on whether the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that the business owner should have realized the dangerous condition was there. For example, if a grocery store failed to inspect its floors and allowed water to stay on the floor for an extended period of time, it would likely be found negligent in the event someone was injured by falling in the liquid.
If you have been involved in a slip and fall or trip and fall case, contact a premises liability lawyer at Scott & Wallace today.
- Do I Have a Whistleblower Case?
Many citizens are aware that there are federal and state laws that prohibit private companies from illegally billing or defrauding the federal or state governments. However, these same citizens may not be aware that they can potentially bring a claim as a whistleblower if they are aware that someone is defrauding the government or that they may be entitled to compensation for doing the right thing and preventing fraud. Additionally many people do not realize that there are protections under the law that can shield the whistleblower from being fired, demoted or harassed for reporting the fraud or that they can potentially remain anonymous during the process if the whistleblower is represented by an attorney.
Whistleblower cases are filed for a variety of fraudulent schemes against the government. The most common type of whistleblower cases are found in the healthcare industry, where Medicare or Medicaid are being defrauded through over-billing or billing for services that have not been provided. Another common type of whistleblower claims found in the healthcare arena involve violations of laws that prevent pharmaceutical companies from offering kickbacks to doctors to prescribe certain drugs or involve pharmaceutical companies that try to arrange for their product to be used for “off-brand” uses which have not been approved by the FDA. Additionally, claims involving contractors fraudulently billing the federal government or state government on construction projects are also common.
Whistleblower laws help provide incentive for people to do the right thing and report fraud on the government. If you are aware of a company that is bilking the United States government or the State of Florida, please contact an attorney at Scott & Wallace today. The attorneys at Scott & Wallace LLP are experienced litigators who will review your case for free.
- What is the difference between Stacked and Non-Stacked UM coverage?
What is the difference between Stacked and Non-Stacked UM (uninsured motorist) coverage?
An insurance policy that is stacked means that the per person limits of insurance on the policy can be multiplied by the number of vehicles on that policy to increase the amount of available coverage. For instance, a person might have an uninsured motorist policy that has limits of $100,000 per person. If that person has a non-stacked policy, then the most that the insurance company will ever have to pay is $100,000. However, if a person has a stacked policy, then the per person per accident limits are multiplied by the number of vehicles that are insured under the policy. For example, if the person with $100,000 limits has a stacked policy with three insured vehicles on the policy, then the insurance policy now has limits of $300,000 instead of the $100,000 that they would have on a non-stacked policy. Of course, one of the first steps we undertake when we are retained by a client is to determine all available insurance in play.
Learn more in this segment of the Verdict© where Robert Scott & Clint Wallace, partners in the law firm of Scott & Wallace LLP in Tallahassee, Florida, discuss Uninsured Motorist Protection (UM).
- Lower Legal Limits on the Horizon for Drunk Driving?
The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that states reduce the allowable blood-alcohol concentration from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent . The 0.08 current legal limit was established over ten years ago. On average, a man that weighs 180 pounds could have four beers in a 90 minute window of time before driving without reaching the 0.08 legal limit. However, the same man would reach the lower 0.05 threshold after three beers in a 90 minute span. Of course, factors such as body fat content, the amount and kind of food recently consumed, and hydration levels are variables that influence the effects of alcohol on a particular person.
Perhaps most interesting are the following facts reported by the National Transportation Safety Board:
A person with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent is 169 percent more likely to get into an accident than a sober person. A person with a 0.05 blood alcohol concentration is only 38 percent more likely to get into an accident than a sober person.
As personal injury attorneys, we see the destruction caused by drunk driving every day. If accurate, the statistical differences in the chances of being involved in a car accident at 0.08 vs. 0.05 and warrant further review. Of course, if you or a loved one have been injured by a drunk driver, please contact a Tallahassee personal injury lawyer at Scott & Wallace to discuss your case.
- Scott & Wallace, Attorney Robert Scott, Top 20 Golden A.C.E. Nominee
The Tallahassee Network of Young Professionals has recently closed taking nominations for their second annual Golden A.C.E. awards. The award recognizes young professionals under the age of 40 who are excelling in one of twenty industry sectors and who exemplify authentic community engagement (A.C.E.)
Scott & Wallace is proud to congratulate attorney Robert Scott on his nomination for Entrepreneurship and all the nominees for their respective industries. The winners will be announced on March, 23, 2013 at 8pm. The event will be held at the Horizon Ballroom at Hotel Duval. If you are interested in attending the event, you can buy tickets at the Tallahassee Network of Young Professionals’ website: www.TallahasseeNYP.com. All proceeds will be donated to the winner’s pre-selected charity.
Source: Tallahassee Network of Young Professionals, Tallahassee Announces Top 20 Young Professional Nominees, WCTV.TV (March 12, 2013)
- Loveable Liabilities: Information on Florida Dog Bite Laws
Commonly known as man’s best friends, dogs are kept as pets in about thirty-nine percent of homes in the United States. Unfortunately, dog behavior can often be unpredictable. According to the Florida Department of Health, about 4.7 million people in the United States suffer from dog bite injuries annually, and half of these victims are children. Whether or not you own a dog, chances are you will end up interacting with them regularly, and it is critical to be aware of the laws concerning dog bite victims. Dog bite cases are unique within the realm of personal injury law because of the automatic liability of the dog’s owner. If a dog bites you, or your child, the dog’s owner is responsible for any damages caused by the dog bite injury. And the accident does not necessarily have to happen at a park or in the street; if you are lawfully in a private home and are bitten by a dog, the owner must still assume full responsibility. According to the law, dog owners are responsible for dog bite damages and injuries “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.” Rabies, tetanus, and bacterial infections are just a few of the health problems that can occur as a result of dog bite injuries, and it is critical to seek medical attention immediately after the accident.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite, contact a Tallahassee dog bite attorney at Scott & Wallace to discuss your case.
Sources: Florida Department of Health Report by Danielle Stanek. Dog Bites. http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/medicine/dog_bite/DogBites.pdf
U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics. The Humane Society of the United States. August 12, 2011. http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/pet_ownership_statistics.html
- Distracted Drivers Awareness Month
In 2012, distracted drivers accounted for 10% of all fatal vehicle crashes.* For the first time ever, the United States Department of Transportation has announced its National Distracted Driving Enforcement and Advertising Campaign. As a part of the effort, there will be T.V., radio, and digital ads using the phrase, “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” to help raise awareness of distracted driving. The ad can be seen at www.Distraction.gov. According to NHTSA, an estimated 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 were injured in distracted driving related accidents in 2012. Data recently released from the distracted driving demonstration programs in California and Delaware demonstrate that effective advertising joined with increased high-visibility police enforcement of distraction laws reduced hand-held phone use over a widespread area.
Distracted driving can be caused by numerous things, but here are a few common reasons:
• Texting/Talking on cell phone
• Talking to passengers
• Adjusting radio, etc.
• Using dashboard systems
• Looking out of the window
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in an accident that you believe was caused by a distracted driver, contact Scott and Wallace immediately for a free consultation.
- Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Safely!
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 10,000 people die every year on the road due to drunk driving. FHP will be out in full force this weekend through St. Patty’s Day looking for impaired drivers, seat belt violation, speeding, and aggressive drivers. The NHTSA are leading the effort to combat drunk driving. The word is “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” Remember, they’ll see you before you see them!
Facts provided by NHTSA that you probably didn’t know:
• In 2012, 3 out of 4 people arrested for DUI were males.
• America has more drunk drivers than most countries have people.
• Nearly 2 out of 3 fatal crashes that happen between midnight and three a.m. involve alcohol.
Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” website to find out how to get involved in the national effort to combat drunk driving.