- 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 Weekend!
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.
- 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, selected a 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 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), http://www.wctv.tv/home/headlines/Tallahassee-Announces-Top-20-Young-Professional-Nominees-197628791.html
- Florida Hit & Run Car Accidents on the Rise
In recent years, the number of hit-and-run crashes 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.
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 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
- Loveable Liabilities: Important Information About 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
- Tallahassee Car Accident Update: What the Changes to Florida Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Laws Mean for You
Effective January 1, 2013, there are several changes to Florida’s PIP, or Personal Injury Protection, laws. Even the safest drivers find themselves involved in traffic accidents, and with an average of almost 650 accidents occurring daily on Florida roads, it is important for everyone to be aware of the laws surrounding car insurance.
First, it’s important to understand what the PIP laws actually are. Personal Injury Protection regulations are a part of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law. According to the report prepared by the Committee for Banking and Insurance for the Florida Senate in 2005, “The principle underlying no-fault automobile insurance laws is a trade-off of one benefit for another, by assuring payment of medical, disability (wage loss) and death benefits, regardless of fault, in return for a limitation on the right to sue for non-economic damages (pain and suffering).” In theory, the No-Fault Law was enacted to alleviate the inequities of insurance recovery under the previous system, lower automobile insurance premiums, and limit the number of court cases relating to traffic accident lawsuits.
So, what is different about the law, and how will these changes affect you? One of the most crucial changes to the law is concerning the PIP Medical Benefits. For anyone seeking accident-related benefits, initial healthcare services must be received within 14 days after the accident. Previously, there was no time-limit in place. Basically, don’t wait to seek professional healthcare services after your accident. Another new aspect of the bill to keep in mind are the coverage limits, which are based on the medical severity of the individual’s condition as determined by a physician or other healthcare professional. If the individual is determined to have an “emergency medical condition,” and requires immediate medical attention, they are eligible to receive up to $10,000 in medical benefits. Without the diagnosis of an emergency medical condition, an individual is only able to receive up to $2500 in medical benefits.
Other revisions to the law include $5000 in death benefits (now in addition to the $10,000 in medical and disability benefits) and an updated medical fee schedule through Medicare. The bill also includes changes to the Investigation and Payment of Claims portions of the law. An important piece of information to note is that if an individual “unreasonably fails to appear for an independent medical examination (IME), the carrier is no longer responsible for benefits.”
If you have been involved in a car accident, contact a Tallahassee personal injury attorney at Scott & Wallace immediately so that we provide you with the information you need to insure that you maintain the insurance benefits you have paid for.
- Tallahassee Man Dies After Being Struck By Car
According to the Tallahassee Police Department release, pedestrian Edward Dennis was killed after being hit in a traffic accident. The accident occurred on Monroe Street near Allen Road on January 6, 2013. David Northway of the Tallahassee Police Department reported that “police were called to the area and learned a pedestrian was struck by a car.” Dennis was immediately transported to the hospital for treatment, but died the next day due to his injuries from the accident.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Edward Dennis as they deal with this tragic incident. We ask all drivers to be cautious and aware of pedestrians.
Source: Tallahassee Police Department Release— January 6, 2012 – 9pm. TPD Release Update— January 11, 2013. http://www.wctv.tv/news/headlines/Pedestrian-Struck-in-Tallahassee-Traffic-Accident-185821202.html?ref=202
- Florida State University Baseball Player Stephen Spradling Recovering After Sky-diving Accident
According to reports, on December 30, 2012, second-year FSU baseball player Stephen Spradling was hospitalized after a sky-diving accident. In order to avoid another sky-diver that was headed directly toward him in the air, Spradling forced his chute downward and crash-landed. He was taken to Holmes Hospital in Melbourne, Florida immediately after the accident. According to FSU assistant coach Mike Martin Jr., Spradling suffered from “a broken pelvis, broken hips, broken ribs and a broken bone in his back.” While he is expected to walk again, he will most likely have to remain in a wheelchair for two to three months after being released from the hospital. In his past season as a Seminole, Spradling hit .262 in 42 at-bats and ranked No. 2 on the team with 12 hit-by pitches.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Stephen and his family as they work toward his recovery. We hope to see him back out on the diamond soon.
Source: Clark, Corey. “FSU baseball player hospitalized after sky-diving accident.” Tallahassee Democrat January 3, 2013. http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013130103010
- Deadly Crash on Old Bainbridge Road in Tallahassee
On October 27, 2012, the Florida Highway Patrol responded to a vehicle crash on Old Bainbridge Road. According to reports, Stephen Mackewitz was riding his 2008 Harley Motorcycle south on Old Bainbridge when he lost control of his motorcycle while trying to navigate a curve. Mackewitz’s motorcycle slid into the adjacent land and hit a passing tuck head on. Tragically, Leon County EMS pronounced Mackewitz dead on the scene. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Mackewitz’s family.
Source: Mike Springer, Neighbors Concerned About Dangerous Road After Deadly Crash, WCTV.TV (October 28, 2012), http://www.wctv.tv/home/headlines/Leon-County-Roadway-Closed-after-Accident–176117191.html
- Fatal Car Accident in Suwannee County
The Florida Highway Patrol responded to a car accident in Suwannee County on September 27, 2012. According to reports, Steve Wayne Mathis walked into the northbound lane of County Road 137 from his driveway to meet with a tow truck that had arrived to pull his vehicle out of the mud. The tow truck had come to a complete stop in the southbound lane facing south. As Mathis approached the truck an unknown make & model, four door, white car was traveling north in the northbound lane and struck Mathis. Suwannee County Emergency Medical Services pronounced Mathis dead on the scene.
Our thoughts go out to the Mathis Family as they deal with this terrible tragedy.
Source: FHP Release, Fatal Hit and Run in Suwannee County, WCTV.TV (September 28, 2012), http://www.wctv.tv/news/headlines/Hit-and-Run-in-Suwannee-County-171805291.html
- Golf Cart Recall for Fire Risk
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Club Car LLC announced a nationwide recall of the golf carts due to a fire risk posed by a possible fuel leak. It was discovered that a crack can form in the furl tank filler neck which would allow fuel to leak out which is a possible fire hazard. The CPSC advises consumers to contact Club Car for a free replacement fuel tank if you have not already been contacted by Club Car. A full list of recalled golf carts can be viewed at, http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml12/12748.html.
Source: Nicole Howley, CPSC: Club Car Recalls Golf Carts, Utility Vehicles for Fuel Leak and Fire Risk, JusticeNewsFlash.com (September 26, 2012), http://www.justicenewsflash.com/2012/09/28/cpsc-club-car-recalls-golf-carts-utility-vehicles-for-fuel-leak-and-fire-risk_20120928103727.html
- A Cold, Hard Truth about Insurance Companies and Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage
Imagine you contact a major insurance company in order to buy car insurance. During the application and approval process, the insurance company’s representative advises you that you should purchase uninsured motorist/ underinsured motorist (UM) insurance coverage as part of your car insurance policy. That’s great advice. After all, 25% of all drivers in Florida are uninsured.
In reliance on that advice, you purchase UM coverage. You religiously pay your premiums. Month after month. After Month. Years go by. Then one day, the unthinkable happens. You are driving through a busy intersection on a green light when you are violently T-boned. Someone just ran a red light, because he was not paying attention. Perhaps he was even staring down at his cell phone’s text screen when he plowed into you. It doesn’t really matter, because you are the one with the broken femur and broken arm. You are the one that is out of work. You are the one who must endure future surgery and rehabilitation.
So where do you go? You hire an attorney to investigate the accident. Your attorney does so and informs you that the at-fault driver has no insurance. Luckily, you remember that you purchased UM coverage for this very situation. You think to yourself, “I’m glad I won’t have to go to court. My insurance company will look after me.”
Six months after the accident, you are still doing physical therapy. You are making progress, but a surgery is a lot to come back from. The surgical scars are a constant reminder of the severity of the injury. You’ve missed a lot of work. Your health insurance company has paid for your medical bills, but wants to get paid back. You tell your lawyer you want to move towards a resolution of this case with your UM insurance company.
Your lawyer submits a demand for the UM policy limits with your insurance company. After all you have been through, you are just glad that your insurance company is involved so that you can receive an immediate resolution and can move on with your life.
Thirty days after your lawyer demanded the UM policy limits, you receive a call from him. He tells you that your insurance company has refused to tender the policy limits. He tells you that your insurance company has interviewed the at-fault driver and he says that he doesn’t know what color the light was when he slammed into you, but he doesn’t think it was red. Your lawyer files a civil remedy notice and gives the insurance company 60 more days to pay. Sixty days go by. The insurance company does not pay.
You ask your lawyer what your options are. Your lawyer tells you that you can sue your own insurance company. You ask your lawyer what happens if you sue. Your lawyer tells you that your insurance company will pay an insurance defense lawyer to advance the at-fault driver’s “story” in an attempt to pay you less money…or even NO money.
That’s right. The very insurance company that you paid to “stand by your side”, “to be a good neighbor”, or assured you that you were “in good hands” has now aligned itself with the person that has caused the very event that has led to your substantial pain and suffering.
This is reality folks. While you should always purchase and carry UM coverage, please be aware that there is no loyalty in the insurance business. Therefore, when you are injured, hire a lawyer immediately. Your lawyer is the only person that can ensure that you are reasonably compensated for the injuries you suffered – this is true even when you are dealing with your own insurance company.
If you think this could never happen to you, please read: http://money.cnn.com/2012/08/17/technology/progressive-settlement/. The Cohen family never thought it would happen to them either.
- Pedestrian Killed in Semi-Truck Accident on I-10 in Tallahassee
An accident occurred early on the morning of September 17 involving a tractor trailer and a pedestrian. A Frie tractor trailer was parked in the emergency lane of I-10 east. According to reports, the driver of the tractor trailer stepped outside of the vehicle and stood in the emergency lane between his tractor and the outside eastbound lane.
A 2008 Peterbilt tractor was traveling in the eastbound outside lane of I-10 when, for unknown reasons, the tractor veered into the emergency lane. The right side of the Peterbilt hit the left rear side of the Frie tractor. The Peterbilt continued moving forward, jack-knifing, and hitting the pedestrian. The tractor stopped blocking both eastbound lanes and caught on fire. During the impact, the Frie tractor was pushed into the grass on the shoulder of I-10. The pedestrian did not survive the accident. The condition of the Peterbilt driver is unknown at this time. The Tallahassee Police Department assisted the Florida Highway Patrol at the scene of the accident.
Our thoughts go out to all involved in this terrible tragedy, as well as their families.
Source: Tallahassee Police Department Release, Deneige Broom, Semi Kills Pedestrian in Early Morning Accident on I-10, WCTV.TV (September 17, 2012), http://www.wctv.tv/news/headlines/Traffic-Accident-on-I-10-SLIDE-SHOW-170015276.html