Car Accidents: Understanding Florida’s Permanent Injury Threshold

When a person is injured in an auto accident, the attorney they hire can help them recover damages to cover medical bills and lost wages. In more severe cases, the victim may be able to receive damages for pain and suffering. Because this requires proving a permanent injury, many attorneys in Florida often refer to this statute as creating a permanency threshold.

There are several Florida laws that govern car accident cases and bars a plaintiff from receiving damages for pain and suffering. One Florida law, section 627.737 Florida Statutes, states that a plaintiff cannot receive damages for pain and suffering unless they can prove one of the following:

(a) Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
(b) Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
(c) Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
(d) Death.

How Past Medical History May Affect Your Case

In Duclos v. Richardson, 113 So. 3d 1001 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2013), plaintiff Jeanette Richardson sustained neck injuries due to an automobile accident. Ms. Richardson sued Duclos, the defendant, because he was at fault.

Ms. Richardson provided medical testimony from three doctors whom deemed her neck injury as a permanent one. The defendant then provided medical testimony from an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Thron, who testified that Ms. Richardson suffered from arthritis in her neck and that the automobile accident did not cause permanent injury to her neck. Dr. Thron based his testimony on prior medical records belonging to Ms. Richardson.
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Car Accidents: Design Defect and Manufacturing Defect

Design defect and manufacturing defect fall under the category of product liability. A design defect is established when the blue print of a particular product, such as the blue print of a car, is not properly designed. This means that an entire line of a product is defective as opposed to just one product. A manufacturing defect on the other hand is established when one product only in an entire line is defective. For example, the steering wheel of one Toyota Corolla out of a hundred may have not been inputted correctly.

A company’s main objective is to constantly increase the amount of money they receive by selling cars for example. It is the company’s duty to make sure that all their products are safe. When there is a defect in a particular product’s blue print and that product was manufactured and sold to many, any injuries sustained by any of the consumers will be held against that company. If there is only one product from an entire line that injures its consumer, the company will be liable to that consumer.

Recent Design Defects and Manufacturing Defects That Involve Automobiles

Defective Tires: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 8,000 serious or fatal accidents are caused by tire failure every year.
Defective Airbags: Airbags have saved countless lives. Unfortunately, the malfunction of one can result in serious injury or death. If the airbag fails to deploy during an accident, the person in the collision will be much more vulnerable to the impact. If the airbag deploys without an impact, the driver will most likely lose control of the vehicle and can easily get in an accident. Even if the driver were to be able to maintain control, the deployment of the impact itself can cause serious injury.
Defective Seatbelts: The problem with a defective seatbelt can usually be found with the belt latch. During a collision the latch can become unlatched or break. A defective seatbelt can result in serious injury even in a minor car accident.
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Understanding Premises Liability

If you or a loved one is injured on property (premises) owned by another party, that property owner may be liable for damages incurred in the accident or incident. Any instance in which someone suffers injury because a property owner has been negligent – whether by failing to maintain the property, providing insufficient security, or failing to caution visitors regarding known hazards – may be grounds for a premises liability lawsuit.

What Makes a Premises Liability Case?

A personal injury attorney can tell you if your case falls under the purview of premises liability law. To obtain compensation in such a case, you will have to prove that:

  • You were on the premises lawfully (invited by the owner, on public land, in a retail establishment during open hours) and/or with the knowledge of the property owner;
  • The owner of the property knew or should have known about the hazardous condition that caused the injury – and failed to adequately address the issue, including blocking access, repair or removal of hazards, and/or warning of dangers;
  • The hazardous condition and negligence of the property owner was the cause of your injury or a victim’s wrongful death.

According to personal injury law, a premises liability case may deal with injuries caused by a wide range of hazardous situations, including slip and fall accidents, assaults that result from insufficient security on the premises, falling objects, and even car accidents due to insufficient signage or lighting in parking lots.
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Accident Scene Photography Tips

If you are involved in a car Accident, it is vitally important to gather evidence as soon as possible, to protect your interests and legal rights. A critical piece of evidence in any accident lawsuit or insurance claim is a collection of Accident scene photographs.

Today, more than ever before, people have the tools they need to obtain photographic evidence immediately following an accident. With mobile devices, dash cams, and small digital cameras everywhere, an accident victim and/or bystanders can take photos of the automobiles, the damages, the weather conditions, the physical scene, and many other details of the crash site. These photographs can help with insurance claims, and can be a great help to a car accident lawyer retained to pursue a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

Car accident attorneys advise clients to take many, varied, and detailed images of the scene. This photographic evidence, especially pictures and videos taken immediately following the crash – and before cars, obstructions, or signage is moved or changed – can support your version of events, and can also help to restore details to faded or confused memory when you are later asked to recall the event in settlement meetings or in court.

Still photographs and videos can be taken on iPods, tablets, cell phones, and dash cams, as well as everyday cameras. One benefit of today’s gadgets is that you can see exactly what pictures look like as you take them, so if an important image is blurry, is obscured by glare, or is otherwise unhelpful, you can take another. It is important to use a flash for clarity, and to enable the date/time stamp on whatever device you are using, for more precise evidence.

An experienced car accident lawyer will advise you to take as many pictures as possible, to ensure that you capture details that may be important later on, even if you don’t realize their importance at the time of the accident. Some of the most important images you should focus your efforts on are:
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Motorcycle Accidents in Florida

Fatal Motorcycle Accident on Florida Turnpike

On January 5, 2014, the Palm Beach Post reported that 64-year-old Joseph Comparetto died due to a motorcycle collision. Comparetto, a resident of Georgia, and Hagerty, a resident of Davie, Florida, were headed north on Florida’s Turnpike. Comparetto was driving in front of Hagerty when he attempted to slow down due to upcoming traffic. While slowing down, Hagerty collided with Comparetto causing Comparetto to be thrown from his Harley into another lane where he was hit by a car and subsequently killed.

Motorcycle Safety

It is not surprising that Florida’s great beaches and beautiful scenery attract many who are interested in riding motorcycles. Anyone planning to become a motorcycle rider in the state of Florida must complete a program meant to make that future rider aware of the importance of safety. This program, the Florida Rider Training Program (“FRTP”), includes a Basic Rider Course, which is 15 hours long and demonstrates and teaches important skills such as cornering, starting, turning, stopping, etc.

The statistics depicted by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) is the reason why Florida imposes the Basic Rider Course because it is an attempt to lower the amount of fatalities and injuries caused by accidents involving motorcycles. The NHTSA reports that 1 out of 10 motor vehicle accidents that involves the death of one or more persons involves a motorcycle. Additionally, in 2011, the NHTSA reported that over 80,000 motorcycle drivers suffered injuries due to accidents involving motorcycles.

Motorcycle Helmet Law in Florida

Currently, 30 states do not follow a stringent helmet law. Florida happens to be one of those states. Generally, Florida’s motorcycle helmet law requires all riders to wear one. However, riders over the age of 21 with medical insurance of $10,000.00 or more need not wear a helmet. It is however required that all drivers or riders of any age wear eye gear.

Although Florida’s helmet law doesn’t require the use of a helmet under certain circumstances, our firm recommends that all riders and drivers wear one whenever on a bike. After the imposition of this non-strict helmet law, fatalities that occurred due to motorcycle accidents increased by more than 80%. The NHTSA reported that almost 2000 lives were saved during motorcycle accidents because the drivers and/or riders were wearing helmets. About 800 lives could have survived had those drivers and/or riders worn helmets.
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Contribution of Speeding in Car Accidents

Recently, there have been a number of stories in the news regarding traffic fatalities directly related to high-speed driving. Here in South Florida, in fact, two men in their early 20s were just killed in the first week of the New Year, when the Eagle Talon they were in lost control on a curve, flew off the road, and collided with a tree in Coral Springs. Police believe speed was a causative factor in this Broward County car accident.

Speed has also been found to be the primary cause of the deadly November automobile accident of “Fast & Furious” star Paul Walker and his financial advisor Roger Rodas. No debris or damage to the road surface was found, no alcohol or drugs were found in the men’s systems, and no mechanical issues with the car were evident before the accident – but witnesses reported that the Porche Carrera GT that Walker and Rodas were in was likely traveling approximately 100 miles per hour at the time of the accident, along a stretch of road with a 45 mph speed limit.

Speed-related accidents and young drivers

One demographic of drivers most likely to be involved in a speed-related car accident is teen drivers. Speeding is implicated in over 30% of fatal car crashes involving young people in the United States. Even more disturbing is the statistic that over 50% of fatality accidents involving teens with 3+ passengers are at least partially the result of high-speed driving. Many of these accidents occur after dark, and are often single-vehicle crashes, where the driver simply loses control of the vehicle and runs off the road.

Why speed can be deadly

When you increase the speed at which a car is traveling, you increase the distance it continues to travel from the moment the driver notices an obstacle (or curve) until he or she can react. Speed also increases the “crash energy,” meaning that impacts are greater, making devastating injury and death more likely.
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Fatal Accidents on the Florida Turnpike

The Florida Turnpike is the nation’s 3rd most traveled toll road. To some, it is part of their daily commute. For many that live in Broward, Miami-Dade or Palm Beach County; it is the preferred route when visiting Disney, Universal Studios and other popular Orlando destinations. Unfortunately, this popular toll road also has its fair share of car accidents.

Anyone who is familiar with driving on the Turnpike will agree that it is not the most scenic road. Looking at the same picture ahead of you while driving on lanes that seem they have no end, can bore a driver and put them into a mental state where they may pay less attention to the road. When this happens, the driver puts themselves and anyone else they are sharing the road with in danger of being involved in an accident. Unfortunately, accidents on the Florida Turnpike usually occur at high speeds. This increases the chances of the accident being fatal.

Although the number of car accidents that result in fatality has dramatically decreased on the Florida Turnpike in recent years – largely due to the installment of new guardrails along nearly 170 miles of Turnpike median – it is still the scene of an alarming number of deadly crashes each year. The Turnpike, running 312 miles from Florida City to Wildwood, sees an average of 75 – 100 fatal crashes annually. This number is significantly down from the 142 fatalities that occurred in the year before guardrails went in, but the Turnpike is still one of the most dangerous stretches of high-speed roadway in the state.

I-95 is another deadly highway – with an average of 1.7 traffic fatalities per mile throughout the state of Florida. Due to the high speed limits on both the Turnpike and Florida’s highways, people drive more aggressively than on smaller roadways, and regularly exceed 60 mph, making car accidents more likely to result in fatality. One of the most accident-prone sections of I-95 is that which passes through Broward County. Not only does this stretch see high traffic volumes, but drivers along the Miami-Dade/Broward stretch of the highway are often distracted by smart phones, GPS systems, and MP3/Video players provided by in-dash technology. These distractions can cause car accidents on any roadway, but the traffic congestion and high speeds along I-95 make them far more likely to cause devastating accidents, serious injuries, and fatalities.
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Speed Limits and Commercial Truck Accidents

Federal law allows each state to set the maximum speed limit for the state highways within its boundaries. Florida legislature has assigned to the Florida Department of Transportation (“FDOT”) this task of determining appropriate maximum speed limits for its state highways. Pursuant to the FDOT, generally, the maximum speed limit for interstates is 70 mph. However, the maximum speed limit for a highway with four divided lanes and located outside a city is 65 mph. Other state highways have a maximum speed limit of 60 mph.

Research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (“IIHS”) has revealed that speed reduces ones ability to avoid a potential auto accident. Thus, when one is faced with an inevitable auto accident situation coupled with high speed (for example, while driving on a Florida highway) the harm to the parties involved typically turns out to be of great degree or even worse, fatal. This degree of harm and/or fatality increases when one of the objects involved is a commercial truck. Because most truck accidents occur on state highways, at high speeds, it is important to be cognizant of the laws governing these commercial vehicles, and how these laws are used in order to resolve a potential matter.

How Liability Is Imputed In Truck Cases

When it comes to commercial trucks, federal law governs. The regulations imposed by our federal government are meant to make truck driving safer for the whole community of drivers. The significance of these regulations definitely comes into play when one is faced with an accident caused by the negligence of a truck driver.

Commercial truck drivers must be qualified and trained in order to obtain their licenses. When we investigate an auto accident involving a commercial truck or tractor-trailer, we look for potential reasons for the cause of the accident. Pursuant to federal law, there are certain amounts of hours that commercial truck drivers can drive and not exceed. If there happens to be an excess of driving hours, the truck driver may be deemed “fatigued.” If the driver is deemed fatigued, this will only add to his negligence matter. Thus, it is of upmost importance to obtain the documentation book that keeps record of the amounts of hours the at-fault truck driver had driven before the accident occurred.

Another factor we take into consideration is the truck driver’s driving record. A long list of speeding tickets or prior accidents would only supplement his negligence claim.

Truck maintenance is something we additionally take note of. It is not safe for example, for a truck driver to drive his truck while it is overloaded. If an overloaded truck happens to strike another vehicle, the impact it poses is greater than that of what it would have posed if it weren’t overloaded.
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Uninsured Motorist / Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Florida

Insuring Your Vehicle

When you buy a car and insure it, an agent from any given Florida insurance company will mandatorily offer what is called Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist (“UM”) coverage. You, as the insurance seeker, may opt to choose this type of coverage or you may waive it by signing what is called a UM waiver. The purpose of this material is to inform you about the importance of UM coverage, specifically in the state of Florida.

Florida Is a No-Fault State

Florida is a no-fault state with regard to automobile accidents. This means that when an at-fault driver has produced injuries to an innocent party, that at-fault driver need not pay for the medical expenses that will be incurred by the innocent party.

There is however an exception to this no-fault policy. Automobile accidents can result in serious injuries. When severe injuries are obtained, such as a permanent injury, you may need more medical coverage than what your insurance provides. In a situation of severity, and if your policy has already covered all that it can, you may seek the at-fault party’s insurance for help. The problem with reaching out for benefits via the at-fault party’s insurance policy are that said at-fault party might not have any benefits available at all (an uninsured motorist), or the benefits available via his insurance might not be sufficient (an underinsured motorist).

UM Coverage May Protect You from Uninsured and/or Underinsured Motorists

In essence, UM coverage is for self-protection and you should take it into consideration when seeking automobile insurance in Florida. Many people who waive this type of coverage do so because their monthly premiums would be lower without it. Although paying the least amount monthly for your premiums is ideal, it is also very important to imagine the worse case scenario. It is absolutely better to be safe than sorry.


If you encounter yourself in a situation wherein you are rear-ended and sustain severe injuries, it is best to have this UM coverage as opposed to not having it. Your insurance company will take care of some of your medical expenses but what happens when your benefits have exhausted? The next step would be to seek benefits from the at-fault driver’s policy. However, what if this person’s policy has nothing available for you? Having opted for UM coverage when you were seeking for automobile insurance will save you from not having supplemental benefits via the uninsured driver.
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Fatal Fall on Carnival Cruise is Just Another of Many Cruise Ship Accidents

When you go on a cruise ship, you anticipate having the vacation of a lifetime. This is not the case with a 39-year-old male when he boarded the Carnival Magic. He fell from his cabin balcony one evening and landed three decks below – being pronounced dead soon afterwards. Accidents and fatalities may seem to be rare on cruise ships, though this is not actually the case and occur more often than one might think.

Injuries on a Cruise Ship

By law, cruise lines are only required to report accidents to the state where the ship operates. Canadian professor of sociology, Ross a Klein, spent over 300 days on cruise ships over the span of 10 years. He noted that there were major discrepancies between what the cruise ship industry told the general public in comparison to what he observed.

Some common issues found on cruises include loss of power, fires, and people falling overboard. Other issues that have happened include ship abandonment drills, though the ships are rarely abandoned, which means that the staff are not truly prepared. Additionally, from 1972 to 2011, almost 100 cruise ships ran aground and 16 sank.

While you hope to never encounter an accident on a cruise ship, there are some important things to remember if it ever happens. Following these will help to maximize the likelihood of any kind of compensation for your injuries. This includes trying to stay on the ship for as long as possible so that you can return to the United States. Additionally, you want to obtain names and contact information for anyone who witnessed your accident. If you are unable to write them down, have a family member or friend write them down – contact information can include mobile number(s), home number and/or email address. You should also take pictures of where the accident happened. If it was a slip and fall or other type of accident that may have been caused by a tripping hazard, you should make sure to include the hazard in your photos. Additionally, read the terms on your passenger ticket, as they may involve time sensitive requirements. This means that you may have to notify the cruise line of an injury within a specific amount of time.
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