- 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).
- Scott & Wallace is Hopeful that New Law Will Lessen the Number of Tallahassee Car Accidents
Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 52 into law today, which makes texting while driving illegal in the state of Florida. Pursuant to the new law, Florida drivers are now prohibited from manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other characters into a wireless communications device while driving. This ban includes text messaging, emailing and instant messaging.
Some studies have shown that texting while driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving. If you have following our car accident blog for the past few years, you are aware that we have been calling for Tallahassee lawmakers to pass this law. After several unsuccessful attempts, lawmakers finally got the bill through both houses of the legislature and the governor. Florida becomes the 40th state to ban texting while driving. As Tallahassee personal injury lawyers who have represented hundreds of car accident victims, we are happy that this law was signed and are hopeful it helps lessen the number of Florida car accidents.
The personal injury law firm of Scott & Wallace LLP is hopeful that the new law that bans texting while driving will lessen the number of Tallahassee car accidents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC):
- In 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared with 3,267 in 2010. An additional 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011, compared to 416,000 people injured in 2010.
- In 2010, nearly one in five crashes (18%) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving.
- In June 2011, more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the US, up nearly 50% from June 2009.
- Drive Carefully this Memorial Day!
Despite improvements in automobile safety and accident awareness, the Memorial Day Holiday – the official start of the summer for many – continues to be one of the most dangerous times of the year to drive. The NSC reports that there are 12.2% more traffic fatalities over the Memorial Day holiday than comparable periods. In all, it’s estimated that 406 fatalities and an additional 39,400 injuries from motor vehicle accidents will occur over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Therefore, please be drive carefully this holiday weekend. We at Scott & Wallace truly hope you have a fun and safe holiday weekend.
- 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.
- May is Bike Month in the City of Tallahassee
Mayor John Marks has proclaimed May Bike Month in Tallahassee. The City of Tallahassee has made many recent improvements to infrastructure to promote safer bike use. These improvements include the recent opening of a “bicycle box” off of stadium drive near the FSU campus. These bicycle boxes help protect cyclists from motor vehicles on the road.
As Tallahassee personal injury lawyers, Scott & Wallace applauds the City of Tallahassee and FSU for working to improve bike safety in Tallahassee. Unfortunately, despite these recent improvements, the attorneys at Scott & Wallace still receive many calls from Tallahassee bikers who have been injured after being struck by a car or truck. Please remember to lookout for bikers while driving in Tallahassee. Additionally, if you are biking in Tallahassee, remember to bike defensively.
For additional information regarding bicycle safety and laws see the Florida Bicycle Association website.
- Personal Injury Attorneys Increase Public Safety and Awareness
One of the most important benefits that personal injury attorneys provide is to increase public safety and awareness. For example, if personal injury attorneys did not exist, corporations would not fear any legal action and could choose to select a cheaper method to manufacture a product even though the cheaper method was more dangerous for consumers.
Recently we were hired by a lady who had been attacked by a dog while walking on the beach near Alligator Point. In response to the attack, the Franklin County Animal Control recently posted leash law signs at the Alligator Point beach walkovers. While these signs have been posted on St. George Island for years, no such signs had ever been posted at Alligator Point. Additionally, Franklin County Animal Control is stepping up their enforcement of the leash laws on the Alligator Point Beaches, particularly on weekends.
Unfortunately, we see far too often what happens when dogs attack. While the new signs and increased patrol at Alligator Point cannot change the fact that our client was attacked by an unleashed dog, Scott & Wallace is always happy to see something good come out of a bad situation. Hopefully the signs and increased patrol will help prevent other Franklin County beachgoers from dog attacks. As always, feel free to contact a dog bite attorney at Scott & Wallace if you have any questions about dog bites.
- 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)
- Florida Hit-and-Run Accidents on the Rise
In recent years, the number of hit-and-run accidents in Florida has risen significantly. This has become a major dilemma for law enforcement officials. In an attempt to stifle the frequency of these incidents, the Florida Highway Patrol is partnering with various other organizations including the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Sheriff’s Association. According to a release from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, these organizations hope to combat the number of hit-and-run incidents by “educating drivers on their responsibilities if involved in a crash and the consequences they face if they leave a crash scene.” While the responsibilities of an individual involved in a crash may seem obvious right now, accidents can be both traumatic and confusing, and many people are left wondering what they should do after the fact. The Florida Highway Patrol has outlined the following steps to take if you have been in a crash:
• CALL law enforcement.
• REMAIN calm.
• OBTAIN vehicle, witness and driver information.
• SKETCH the scene, showing vehicle crash locations.
• HELP the injured.
It is also important to note the consequences that may result if you leave the scene of an accident. According to Florida law, leaving the scene of an accident where a death has occurred is a first degree felony, and carries a maximum sentence of 30 years. Likewise, leaving the scene of a crash where injuries have occurred is a third degree felony, punishable with a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Even if there are no injuries, it is crucial that every person involved remain at the scene. Leaving a scene where property damages have occurred can still result in 60 days in jail or a monetary fine of $500.
Please remember to remain cautious and alert while driving. If you have been involved in an accident and you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact an accident attorney at Scott & Wallace.
- FSU Alumni And Celebrated Photographer Barry Mittan Died In Car Crash
After sustaining a serious head injury caused by a car crash, Tallahassee local, FSU Alumni and celebrated photographer Barry Mittan died on Wednesday, January 23. The crash occurred the previous day on Mahan Drive, and there were four vehicles involved. After the crash, Mittan was taken to Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, where he remained until the next day when he was declared brain-dead and taken off life support.
Mittan began what would become a lifelong career as a photographer while attending Florida State University in the 1960s. He was the photographer for several different university organizations, including the newspaper and yearbook. Mittan was also the unofficial photographer for Florida State’s Flying High circus, which he was a member of, for over three decades. Other hobbies of Mittan included golfing and gardening—for the past two years he donated the profits from his homegrown flowers to the Red Cross and the Leon County Humane Society.
All of us at Scott & Wallace would like to remind everyone to stay alert and exercise caution while on the roads. We also wish to extend our condolences to the family and friends of Barry Mittan as they face this tragic loss.
Source: Ensley, Gerald. The Tallahassee Democrat. “Photographer Barry Mittan died after four-car crash.” January 24, 2013. http://www.tallahassee.com/article/20130125/NEWS01/301250017/Photographer-Barry-Mittan-died-after-four-car-crash