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The Plaintiff’s deposition in a personal injury law suit is the single most important event in a claim. This is usually the defense attorney’s (insurance company) only chance to directly question the Plaintiff. During a deposition the defense attorney is trying to accomplish three main goals: find back ground information in order to find information to destroy your claim, elicit inconsistencies in your testimony in order to destroy your claim, and/or to destroy your credibility in order to destroy your claim. Below is my top ten list of fatal mistakes that a Plaintiff must avoid in their personal injury deposition.
1. On a scale of 1 to 10 how bad is or was your pain?
This is a trick question that is designed to get you to respond with a 9 or 10. Many times it is set up with questions about your injuries and comments like “That really must have hurt” or “I can’t imagine how bad that must have hurt”. Without a definition of what level of pain a 1, 2, 3 ect is, it is impossible to accurately answer this questions. A skilled insurance defense attorney will turn a 9 or 10 pain level answer into the Plaintiff is exaggerating, malingering and trying to “win the personal injury lottery”. In answering this question always start with a 10 being the worst imaginable pain (having gasoline dumped on your and set a fire) and work backwards from there. Then most common injuries from an accident will be in the 5 to 7 range, something that is much more reasonable.
2. Are you in pain 24 hours a day 7 days a week?
No. No. No. No one is ever in pain 24 hours a day seven days a week. While I have had individuals grievously injured who were in some level of pain every waking moment, everyone has to sleep at some point in time. When you are asleep you are not registering that you are in pain. Therefore the answer is always NO. A YES answer to this question is devastating for the Plaintiff’s case, because the defense attorney will again show that the Plaintiff is exaggerating, malingering and trying to “win the personal injury lottery”. A much better response to the 24/7 pain question is, No, but, I do have pain most days when I …, or I have pain every day when I … or some other accurate explanation.
3. Is your pain level always the same?
Of the vast majority of injuries that a person can sustain in their lifetime, few would result in the exact same level of pain every day. Normally pain levels will fluctuate according to activity levels, pain medication, and other variables. Therefore it is important to accurately testify about differing pain levels. Sometimes a person will have no pain at all, until they begin to perform certain activities. It is ok to say there are times when you are not in pain.
4. Is there anything you cannot do as a result of your injuries?
This is a very dangerous question that is intentionally vague in order to elicit a long list of activities that an individual cannot do. Most injured parties would give a long list of daily activities that have been affected by their injuries. However, the question asks for activities that “cannot” be done, not activities that are affected. When a person says “I cannot run anymore” a skilled defense attorney will present it as the Plaintiff claims they cannot, absolutely, positively under any circumstances run anymore. If the plaintiff is caught on tape running just one time, regardless of the circumstances, the distance, the speed or the resulting pain, they are a liar. If a doctor does not confirm that they cannot run under any circumstances they are a liar. A much better answer to this trick question is “of course I could run, but” I cannot run as fast, or as long, or as far or as frequent, ect. In essence the injury has affected my ability to run not preventing me from running.
5. Tell me every injury, accident, doctor you have ever had or seen?
This question literally asks for every injury, accident or doctor. Not just trauma related, or recently related, but everything. If you tell the defense attorney about 15 doctors and forget about 1, then you can argue you simply forgot. If you tell the defense attorney about 5 doctors and forget about 10, you’re a liar, even if you forgot. So it is important to disclose every doctor, including hearing doctors, eye doctors, dentist, obgyn’s, family doctors, ER visits for any reasons ect. It is also important to disclose all these doctors, injuries and accidents when asked. I have seen some defense attorneys ask this question and then change the subject after one or two responses so that it looks like the plaintiff willfully did not disclose “all”. If the defense attorney does this you must say “wait” I have more injuries, accidents or doctors to disclose.
6. Time, distance and speed.
It is impossible for anyone to give accurate statements regarding the speed of their vehicle, the distance between events or the time between observations. No one who is driving down the road has a stop watch, a tape measure or is looking constantly at their speedometer in order to gauge events of an accident that may never happen in their life time. The best someone can do is give an educated guess. However, if you have any two of the variables of time, distance or speed, you can figure out the other variable. Therefore, guesses about time, speed and distance will never match up and will negatively affect your credibility. The best answer is to always be clear that you are giving estimates and then give ranges. I was traveling “about” “35 to 40 miles per hour”, it took “around 3 or 4 seconds to …”, “I traveled roughly 3 to 4 car lengths after …”. These answers will be much more accurate and factor in the uncertainties associated with guesstimates.
7. Avoid absolutes.
When talking about most things in life, absolutes are troublesome. I have “never” said …, I “always” do … When asked a question like have you “ever” had neck pain before this accident, an answer of “never” is very troublesome. Most people will have had neck pain some point in their life from sleeping wrong, working out, having a cold ect. When you say never, it means never. If a single incident is found where you complained of neck pain, you will be portrayed as being a liar. So always avoid absolute terms unless you really, truly, positively mean never or always.
8. Trying to hide bad stuff that you think will never come up.
In today’s computer age, it is not difficult to do exhaustive back ground searches on someone. Therefore, never try to hide bad information by thinking that it is not important, relevant or will be discovered. Many things like why you were fired from McDonald’s when you were 17 are not relevant. They will never be brought up in trial, but they are discoverable. When you lie about an event that is not relevant, you make it relevant because you put your credibility at issue. So always tell the truth.
9. Body movements during an accident.
The movement of a person’s body during an accident is very difficult to judge by the individual, because so many different factors come into play. I cannot begin to tell you the number of clients who have been in a car and rear ended by another vehicle who swear that they went forward immediately after an accident. In general, a person’s body is stationary in space in relationship to their car. When the car is hit, the body does not respond to the impact, it is the car that is being pushed by the impact in relationship to the body. Therefore, when a vehicle is hit from behind, the person’s first movement is backward in the seat as the car is being pushed forward from underneath them. When a vehicle hits another vehicle with is front end, the car abruptly slows causing the person to initially go forward.
10. Trying to out think the defense attorney.
The most common error by any person giving a deposition is trying to out think the attorney asking the questions. This is very difficult to do and commonly just distracts you from truthfully answering questions. When a deposition occurs, an attorney is not only looking for answers to questions, but is gauging your credibility, forthrightness, and your intelligence, all things that a jury will eventually do. If you come across as hesitant, combative or evasive, this will affect your credibility. So always simply tell the truth.
This list of the top ten traps to avoid in a personal injury deposition is designed to help educate victims of automobile, motorcycle or truck accidents. There are many other issues that may come into play depending on the circumstances of your case. Always discuss your case with your attorney in order to properly prepare for your deposition. If you don’t have an attorney, contact the lawyers at Rue & Ziffra, P.A.
With the invention of the automobile followed the inevitable occurrence of auto accidents. As a result, manufacturers and scientists have been developing ways to minimize injuries to people involved in car accidents. New safety features are developed and introduced almost yearly in an attempt to reduce and ultimately eliminate injuries to occupants of automobiles during an accident. Such safety developments include anti-lock brakes, head rests, shatter proof windows, seat belts and airbags.
Airbags are a type a vehicle restraint system that was first introduced in the 1970’s and became a common feature in most vehicles in the early 1990’s. Airbags are designed to rapidly inflate during a car crash to prevent the occupants from striking the interior of the vehicle compartment. More modern luxury vehicles now have multiple airbags, including side impact airbags, knee airbags, rear curtain airbags and even seat belt airbags. No one will dispute that airbags (for the most part) have saved countless lives and minimized injuries to thousands of people who were involved in car accidents, especially those who were not wearing their seat belts. However, with most scientific advances there are always some unintended negative consequences. This is the same with airbags.
It has been estimated that there have been over two million airbag deployments in the last 10 years. Modern airbags fully deploy in approximately 20-30 milliseconds, with an incredible amount of speed and force that is necessary to deploy it quickly enough to have it inflate before the vehicle occupant strikes the steering wheel or dashboard during an automobile accident. However, deploying an object at such an incredible speed and force often comes with a cost. From an orthopedic standpoint, studies have shown there has been an increase in broken sternums, broken ribs, forearm fractures and shoulder injuries as a result of the power of the inflating airbag. However, studies also show that there is another, more unexpected result from this phenomenon: the effect that airbags sometimes have on an occupant’s hearing.
The amount of noise associated with airbag deployment from a car accident varies with the type, size and location of the airbag. Deployment of a driver’s side front airbag will generate mean peak sound pressure levels of approximately 160 dB (decibels). A passenger side front airbag will generate mean peak sound pressure level of 168 dB, while dual airbag deployments create a mean peak sound pressure level of 170 dB. When you compare these with the level of decibels that can cause hearing loss, the problem becomes evident. Studies have shown that the pain threshold from noise is about 140Db and that a single exposure to sound pressure of this level can cause permanent, severe hearing loss. The most recent development of side airbags as optional equipment in some luxury vehicles has only enhanced this problem. The deployment of a side airbag generates a mean peak sound air pressure of 178 dB. That is more than 20% higher than the level necessary to cause permanent severe hearing loss. Add in the fact that the side air bag deploys closer to the ear and the danger becomes escalated.
The following is a post from a chat line on the Hearing Loss Web. It began when a young person said (in part):
“Last week I was involved in what should have been a minor car accident. I wasn’t paying attention and gently hit the car in front of me, which was stopped for a light. “What happened next was terrifying. The inside of the car seemed to explode in a deafening roar. I had unimaginable pain in both ears and considerable bleeding from my ear canals. I also had a very loud ringing and was virtually deaf.”
“I was taken to the hospital where it was quickly determined that my ear drums had ruptured. I was referred to an ENT who said they should heal in two to three weeks, but possibly with some scar tissue that would affect my ability to hear low sounds. As for the ringing, he said that could be permanent. He also said I had suffered inner ear damage that would affect my high frequency hearing, although he said it was hard to tell how much. He concluded by saying I would need to face life “hearing impaired” and may need to look at hearing aids.”
“I just can’t believe this. What has our government done in requiring airbags that leave passengers deafened from minor accidents? I have always protected my hearing and never would have thought about going to loud concerts or auto races without effective ear protection. I am only 22 and I can barely hear a conversation in a quiet room. With background noise, I am almost deaf.”
The results of researcher Richard Price’s studies indicated that 17% of the people exposed to the sound concussion from an air bag deployment in an automobile accident experienced permanent hearing loss. That is almost 1 in every 5 people in a car accident with an air bag deployment. Over the last 10 years (with 2 million air bag deployment car crashes) over 340,000 people would have suffered permanent hearing loss of some degree. The damage consists of ruptured air drums, dislocation of the delicate bones of the middle ear and major inner ear damage. This can result in hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in ears) and vertigo (dizziness).
If someone is involved in an auto accident or truck accident with an air bag deployment, it is imperative to have their ears checked. An Ortholaryngologist is an ear, nose and throat doctor that can perform an audiogram and a otoacoustic emissions test. Keep in mind that these tests should be performed within 72 hours after an accident to determine if hearing loss has occurred. An audiogram tests basic hearing levels and compares them to a norm, while an otoacoustic emission tests the function of the cochlea which is the auditory portion of the inner ear.
If you or someone you love has been involved in a car crash or truck crash that resulted in air bag deployment, it is important to have your hearing checked for any abnormalities. If you have ringing in your ears or experience dizziness, remember to seek immediate medical attention and know that you can always call an attorney for further help. Rue & Ziffra is a Florida personal injury law firm with a team of auto accident attorneys. They have over 30 years of experience handling cases for accident victims and are available to answer any questions you may have during your free consultation. For more information, please visit the Rue & Ziffra website or contact the firm by phone.
Rue & Ziffra proudly serves areas throughout Volusia County and Flagler County, Florida, including, Port Orange, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, DeLand, Deltona, Bunnell, Orange City, Sanford, Orlando and Leesburg.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & ZIffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.
According to the National Highway Safety Administration, Interstate 95 (1-95) was deemed the most dangerous highway in the country, reporting a total of 662 fatal automobile accidents between 2004 and 2008. This equates to one fatal accident for every 1.73 miles along I-95’s 382.15 mile stretch in the state of Florida. Another dangerous Florida highway, Interstate 4 (1-4), ranked third in the country for most fatal motor vehicle accidents. It has seen one fatal accident for every 1.58 miles along its 132.39 mile stretch.
Volusia County, which is home to 496,000 people, is Florida’s eighth largest county by population. It is also the only county in Florida that maintains long stretches of both Interstate 4 and Interstate 95. I-95 stretches 38 miles through Volusia County, running south from the Flagler County border just north of State Road 100 to the Brevard County border near Oak Hill, Florida. The 27 mile stretch of I-4 runs from the Seminole County border at the St. Johns River until it intersects with I-95 in Daytona Beach, Florida.
These two long stretches of roadway, as well as their point of intersection in South Daytona, create the most dangerous stretches of highway in the country for automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents and truck accidents.
Although these stretches of roadway in Volusia County are dangerous all year round, they are generally more hazardous in the summer when more travelers are on the road. According to Road Safe America, the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is traditionally the most dangerous time of the year on America’s highways. For Volusia County, this means that more drivers occupy already congested highways during this time, many of whom are from out of state and unfamiliar with Florida roadways.
This summer driving season, it is important that you take basic steps to protect yourself and your family from being involved in an automobile accident on an already dangerous road. Some simple steps you can take to avoid an accident on two of the country’s most dangerous highways which converge in Volusia County include:
For more information about what to do if you have been involved in an auto accident, motorcycle accident, or truck accident, contact the Volusia County accident lawyers at Rue & Ziffra for a free consultation. All of our clients’ claims are handled by attorneys knowledgeable in the legal processes surrounding automobile accidents and other types of personal injury cases.
Rue & Ziffra proudly serves areas throughout Volusia County and Flagler County, Florida, including, Port Orange, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, DeLand, Deltona, Bunnell, Orange City, Sanford, Orlando and Leesburg.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.
Using a mobile phone while driving has become almost second nature for many drivers, but it is proving to be a dangerous task. Over the last 15 years, the number of cell phone subscribers has increased by 1,262.4%, among who are also drivers on our roads. The use of cell phones while driving has led to an epidemic in auto accidents (called the “distracted while driving” phenomena). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers distracted driving to include engaging in such activities as: conversing with other occupants in the car, using a cell phone and other electronic devices (such as a GPS), eating, drinking, smoking, reaching for an object, adjusting the radio or environmental controls and utilizing computers and DVD players.
In 2011 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report on distracted driving fatalities for 2009. It was reported that 5,474 people were killed in car crashes by distracted drivers. Of these, 995 accident victims were killed by drivers distracted specifically by cell phone usage.
Driving while distracted is estimated to contribute as much as 13% of all traffic crashes in the United States, while other studies put this figure as high as 25%. A 2002 Harvard Center for Risk Analysis calculated that as many 330,000 people are injured every year as a result of drivers using cell phones.
The statistics associated with cell phone usage and auto accidents is nothing short of shocking. In 2008 it was estimated that, at any given moment, over 800,000 Americans were making calls, texting, emailing or using a smart phone application while driving during the day.
A recent US Department of Transportation Consumer Reports study recently showed that:
Based on a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI):
As you can see from these statistics, car crashes have taken the lead as the number one cause of teen deaths. Because of increased cell phone usage by teen drivers, teens are also trending to have three times more fatal accidents as other drivers.
A 2003 study by the University of Utah measured driver response time comparing alcohol intoxicated drivers and drivers using a cell phone. The study found that cell phone users were 20% slower in brake onset time and applied 20% less braking force than drunk drivers. The study concluded that cell phone drivers exhibited greater impairment than intoxicated drivers while operating a motor vehicle. This explains why nearly 80% of all car accidents are caused by driving while distracted while drunk drivers account for 33% of all auto accidents in the United States.
A new Nationwide Insurance Company study reported that four out of 10 Americans say they have been hit or nearly hit by a driver distracted by their cell phone. This has become the driving force for a change in public sentiment showing varying degrees of support for different types of restrictions on cell phone usage while driving.
Below are some statistics regarding distracted driving restrictions:
The age of technology is here to stay. When the automobile was introduced in 1769 (recorded as the first vehicle to move under its own power) the first auto accident was soon to follow. The subsequent injuries to millions of people from car accidents led to a host of new safety inventions and motor vehicle laws. Now the introduction of the cell phone and the increase in “driving while distracted” auto accidents and truck accidents has created the need for safety devices and laws for the motoring public (such as limiting the more dangerous aspects, like texting, of this new technology).
It is important for everyone to set a good example for our children and not use cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. Educating our children regarding the risks of driving while distracted is just as important as educating our children about driving under the influence.
For more information on automobile safety, or if you have been involved in an auto accident or truck accident as a result of a distracted driver, the Florida accident law firm of Rue & Ziffra is here to help. We have a staff of 8 attorneys knowledgeable in various aspects of personal injury law ready to take your free consultation.
Rue & Ziffra proudly serves areas throughout Volusia County and Flagler County, Florida, including, Port Orange, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, DeLand, Deltona, Bunnell, Orange City, Sanford, Orlando and Leesburg. The firm handles many areas of personal injury, including auto accidents, truck accidents and motorcycle accidents.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.
This means that, for the most part, wearing your seatbelt while operating or riding in a motor vehicle is not an option. We all know that the practical reason for obeying this law is because wearing a seatbelt can help prevent a person from sustaining life-threatening injuries in a crash.
But there is also another line found within the Florida Safety Belt Law that may help solidify your reasoning for buckling up. Line 10 of Florida Statute Section 3116.614 states: A violation of the provisions of this section shall not constitute negligence per se, nor shall such violation be used as prima facie evidence of negligence or be considered in mitigation of damages, but such violation may be considered as evidence of comparative negligence, in any civil action. Based on this part of the statute, if you are involved in a motor vehicle crash and are trying to receive benefits based on the other driver’s negligence, you may be considered partly negligent for your injuries if you fail to comply with this seatbelt law. Although the other driver may be completely at-fault for causing the crash, they can successfully plead that your failure to wear your seatbelt was unreasonable and that it helped cause the injuries you sustained in the accident.
If this is so, you may lose out on receiving the full monetary benefits a judge awards you.
So, do your part for you and your passengers by making sure everyone in the vehicle is wearing their seatbelt. Don’t put your life (and potential benefits!) in jeopardy by failing to buckle up.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.
Florida Statutes define “Intersection” as the lateral boundary lines of the roadways of two highways which join one another at, or approximately at, right angles; or the area within which vehicles traveling upon different highways joining at any other angle may come into conflict. F.S. §316.003 (17)(a). The language of this definition notably emphasizes the inherent danger of an intersection, describing an area where vehicles may come into “conflict.” Regardless of the size of an intersection, be it two six-lane roads crossing, or an unpaved road crossing a rural two-lane street, the possibility for such conflict (such as an automobile or motorcycle accident) is always present.
The use of the term “conflict” in this statute is, of course, merely a reference to an automobile accident or motorcycle crash. An automobile crash can occur in any number of ways at an intersection, and victims can often find themselves involved through no fault of their own.
Rear end collisions, for example, are frequent occurrences at intersections. Often these come about because a following driver is distracted and does not realize the lead driver has stopped. Side impact collisions, or “t-bones,” can occur as well. These types of accidents typically involve a driver on one side running a red light, be it intentionally or while trying to make it through an intersection before a yellow light turns red.
Regardless of the type or the cause of an intersection-related automobile accident, using caution when you approach an intersection and being aware of your surroundings can help you avoid a collision. The Traffic Control section of the Florida Statutes contains several subsections that deal specifically with intersections. Knowing these laws can help keep you safe on Florida’s roadways and at intersections.
Limitations on driving to left of center of roadway – Florida Statute §316.087
– No vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway when approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection
Approaching or Entering an Intersection – Florida Statute §316.121
– Drivers approaching an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle which has entered the intersection from a different highway
– When two vehicles enter an intersection from different highways at the same time, the vehicle on the left shall yield right-of-way to the vehicle on the right
Vehicle Turning Left – Florida Statute §316.122
– A driver intending to turn left within an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, or vehicles lawfully passing on the left of the turning vehicle
Vehicle Entering Stop or Yield Intersection – §316.123
– Drivers approaching a stop intersection shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, or before entering the crosswalk if there is not a stop line, or at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic before entering the intersection
– At a four way stop intersection, the driver of the first vehicle to stop at the intersection shall be the first to proceed. If two or more vehicles reach the intersection at the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right of way to the vehicle on the right
Vehicle Approaching Intersection, Traffic Lights are Inoperative – §316.1235
– A driver approaching an intersection in which traffic lights are inoperative shall stop as if approaching a stop intersection
Required Position and Method of Turning at Intersections – §316.151
– When turning right in an intersection, both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be mae as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway
– When turning left in an intersection, the driver shall approach the intersection in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of such vehicle, and, after entering the intersection, the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection in a lane lawfully available to traffic moving in such direction upon the roadway being entered
Being aware of the laws and taking precautions behind the wheel are important and useful steps to take to avoid an automobile accident or motorcycle crash in an intersection. If you unfortunately become the victim of an accident caused by someone else’s carelessness, or if you just have questions about your rights as a driver on Florida’s highways, call the Daytona Beach personal injury attorneys at Rue & Ziffra for a free consultation.
More than half of all child fatalities resulting from a car crash involve children that were not wearing their seat belt at the time of the accident. In relation to this, it is often the case that an unrestrained child in a moving car or bus can be a serious distraction for the driver, substantially increasing the likelihood of an automobile accident. However, lap/shoulder seatbelts have been proven to reduce injuries to children and toddlers in a crash by more than 50% and a staggering 70% to infants.
While all motor vehicles are now equipped with seatbelt restraints (and a majority of parents make sure that their children utilize these seatbelts) almost all school buses are designed to transport children without using seatbelts. Instead, buses use compartmentalization as a safety mechanism. This concept merely describes certain safety features, such as high back seats, as keeping children safe in a compartment-like atmosphere. However, the National Transportation Safety Board found that compartmentalization is “incomplete” and “does not protect passengers during lateral impacts with vehicles of large mass, in rollovers and from ejection.” One can conclude that this feature has done virtually nothing to improve the safety of our children or their survivability in the event of a bus accident.
The risk of death or injury to children is greater in collisions at speeds greater than 30 mph, largely due to the lack of seatbelt restraints. Federal crash tests for school buses have demonstrated that lap/shoulder belt systems would greatly reduce child injuries, especially those to the head and neck. However, many school buses today still do not have this safety feature. While some school buses have employed lap belts alone, these are not as safe as lap/shoulder belts on bus bench seats and do not prevent head and neck injuries.
If your child’s bus does not have safety belts, advise them not to ride in the front row of seats, not to stand in the aisle while the bus is in motion and not to sit with more than two occupants on a bench at a time. These simple steps will help protect your child in case of a motor vehicle accident, especially if they must ride the school bus often. As always, it is imperative to take the best safety precaution available when riding in a vehicle, so make sure they buckle up if a lap/shoulder harness seat belt restraint system is in place!
Being aware of the laws and taking precautions are important and useful steps to take to avoid injuries during a motor vehicle crash. If you unfortunately become the victim of an accident caused by someone else’s carelessness, or if you just have questions about your rights as a driver on Florida’s highways, call the Daytona Beach personal injury attorneys at Rue & Ziffra for a free consultation.
Florida’s current uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist law has its roots from the Florida Supreme Court decision, Mullis v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 252 So.2d 229. In that decision, involving an automobile accident, the Florida Supreme Court took a very liberal position on the intent of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM) in the State of Florida. It was determined that uninsured motorist coverage was statutorily intended to provide the equivalent of automobile liability coverage to an insured that was injured by a driver who didn’t have any bodily injury insurance coverage at the time of the accident. In other words, UM coverage was established to protect a driver when an uninsured motorist negligently hits them, inflicting bodily injury or death on them, on any of his family relatives resident in the household or on any other lawful occupant of the insured’s automobile covered by the insured’s automobile liability policy.
The court determined that in order to achieve this intent and provide coverage during an automobile accident or motorcycle accident, an insurance company could have no policy exclusions that limited coverage to the insured, any of his family relatives or residents in household or any other lawful occupant of the vehicle. It was also established that uninsured motorist coverage had to be afforded in the same amount as the liability insurance purchased by the insured.
This decision had far reaching implications on Florida’s automobile and motorcycle insurance. The effect of the statute allowed one family member of a household to purchase uninsured motorist coverage on one vehicle and have that coverage protect every member of the household and every vehicle in the household whether or not those vehicles had an active uninsured/underinsured motorist policy. In addition, if there were multiple vehicles in the household that had uninsured motorist coverage, a named insured or resident relative could recover or “stack” the uninsured motorist benefits off of each insured vehicle.
Insurance companies were clearly unhappy with the prospect of insuring an unknown number of potential vehicles and an unknown number of potential individuals under an insurance policy providing uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage on one vehicle for one insured. As a result, a new statute, F.S. §627.727 came into existence.
F.S. §627.727(1) states that no motor vehicle liability insurance policy which provides bodily injury liability coverage can be issued in the State of Florida unless uninsured motor vehicle coverage is provided in the same amount as the liability limits. However, this insurance can be waived, a lower limit can be selected or non-stacking uninsured motorist coverage can be selected if a named insured on the policy signs a waiver of uninsured motorist or election of lower limits form approved by the Florida Department of Insurance. However, the statute is clear that if the insurance company cannot provide one of these statutorily approved forms signed by the claimant, UM coverage must be afforded at a limit equal to the bodily injury limits and on a “stacked” basis.
In order to balance the desires of the State of Florida to provide uninsured motorist benefits to protect its citizens from the negligence of uninsured motorists against the insurance company’s desire to receive premiums for the coverage that they provide on the vehicles that they insure, F.S. §627.727(9) was created. F.S. §627.727(9) provides that insurance companies can have certain exclusions to uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage provided that the premium charged for this limited form of uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage be 20% cheaper. This provision was the catalyst for the distinction between “stacking” and “non-stacking” uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage in Florida.
Stacking uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is a more expensive insurance coverage that does not have any exclusions or limitations. If an insured person is injured in a car accident by a negligent driver (who is uninsured or underinsured) they can use their UM to receive coverage or “stack” the uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits from every insured vehicle in their household.
Non-stacking uninsured motorist coverage is 20% cheaper; however, it has several exclusions which limit the applicability of that coverage. The two most important exclusions or limitations are: (1) that you can receive the uninsured motorist benefits off the particular insured vehicle that you are operating at the time of the car accident and not from any other insured vehicles insured in your household that have this limited form of um coverage; and (2) no UM coverage provided by the policy will apply to the named insured or resident relatives who are injured while occupying any vehicle owned by such insured or their resident relatives for which uninsured motorist coverage was not purchased.
Non-stacking uninsured motorist coverage also states that a family cannot insure one motor vehicle for uninsured motorist coverage and have it apply to every vehicle in the household. For many vehicle owners, particularly those who own motorcycles, this may be detrimental if they are involved in a motorcycle crash. Since motorcycle owners in the state of Florida are not required to have mandated coverage like they do for their motor vehicle, they may not be able to receive any help from their insurance company to help pay their medical bills after a crash occurs. If a motorcycle owner has stacking uninsured motorist insurance on their automobile, however, this coverage will apply to them while operating their owned but uninsured motorcycle. However, if the individual has non-stacking insurance on their automobile, then the owned but uninsured exclusion would prohibit that uninsured motorist coverage from being accessed if the individual was injured while operating their non-insured motorcycle.
The injuries that result from an auto accident or motorcycle accident can create significant financial burdens. Purchasing stacked uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage provides significantly broader and more coverage to protect you or a resident relative if they are injured in a car accident, truck accident or motorcycle accident, regardless if that vehicle is insured or owned by you or someone else. Since Florida is only one of a handful of states that does not mandate automobile liability insurance, never reject or limit uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
This information has been brought to you by the Daytona Beach accident attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, All of our clients’ claims are handled directly by practiced attorneys who know the particulars of motorcycle accidents and automobile accidents. If you or a loved one have been involved in a crash caused by someone else’s negligence, remember that you can always seek legal help from a personal injury lawyer. Rue & Ziffra proudly serves areas throughout Volusia County and Flagler County, Florida including, Port Orange, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Flagler, DeLand, Deltona, Bunnell, Orange City, Sanford, Orlando and Leesburg.
Damages (a monetary amount of some sort) awarded in any personal injury matter are designed to make the injured party “whole”. In other words, granting damages to a victim of an automobile accident or other type of personal injury claim is designed to return the injured person to the same condition they were in before the accident occurred.
Monetary damages awarded to a personal injury victim can include compensation for such things as property damage, past and future medical expenses, lost income, loss of earning capacity, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
In some cases, however, punitive damages may be recoverable. Punitive damages are a form of monetary compensation awarded to an injured party that supplies them with an amount in excess of that which is necessary to compensate them for direct injuries and losses.
Punitive damages differ from actual damages where an individual is awarded a sum of money that is believed to cover their actual injuries and losses. When an individual is awarded punitive damages, they receive compensation beyond what their direct injuries cost. When this occurs, the individual may be awarded an amount in addition to compensatory damages like lost wages and medical bills.
Also, when punitive damages are granted, they are often intended to punish and deter a wrongdoer’s offensive behavior if they engaged in gross negligence or intended misconduct.
Punitive damages are usually not recoverable for an automobile accident in the state of Florida. The reason for this is that most people do not intentionally try to get into an automobile accident or operate their car in a willful, wanton or reckless manner. In most cases automobile accidents are simply that – accidents. In automobile accidents the recoverable damages mentioned above are for the negligent operation of a motor vehicle and as a matter of law, negligence alone does not warrant punitive damages.
However, punitive damages may be recovered in the state of Florida in an auto accident case if the defendant’s negligent conduct is especially offensive and reckless.
An automobile accident victim may be awarded punitive damages if the defendant:
Florida courts have consistently held that a person who voluntarily consumes alcoholic beverages to the point of intoxication and then operates a motor vehicle demonstrates such a conscience and deliberate disregard for the safety of others that his conduct may be called willful or wanton, and accordingly, punitive damages may be recoverable in a personal injury action brought against the intoxicated driver. While most insurance policies have exclusions for intentional behavior and punitive damage awards, the existence of the punitive damage claim against the defendant for drinking and driving is a significant aggravating factor which significantly increases the value of a case and deters the intoxicated driver from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and theoretically benefits society as a whole by reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road.
If you or someone you love has been involved in a car crash or other type of motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to receive both compensatory (actual) damages and punitive damages for your injuries. Rue & Ziffra is a Florida personal injury law firm with a team of Daytona Beach auto accident attorneys. They have over 30 years of experience handling cases for accident victims and are available to answer any questions you may have during your free consultation.
Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) rollover accidents are often some of the most serious car accidents, resulting in permanent disability or even death for a victim. And because there has been an increase in popularity of SUV’s means more of these types of vehicles are on the road, and a higher number of related rollover accidents now occur each year.
The gravity center of SUV’s makes them more susceptible to rolling over because of the higher position from the ground it has compared to regular automobiles. Also, The types of vehicles categorized as SUV’s, that are most widely used by drivers, often do not come equipped with the roll bar protection available on their off-road vehicle counterparts, which is a factor that makes SUV accidents potentially more dangerous.
A large number of individuals become injured as a result of SUV rollover accident every year, and many of these vehicle often fail to receive high safety ratings from government and manufacturing officials. As a result, Florida law allows for compensation for accident victims for damages they accrue as a result.
Victims of an automobile crash (and their loved ones) may be entitled to received compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, emotional stress and other damages they received as a result of an automobile accident in a SUV.
For SUV rollover cases, negligence must be proven to determine liability for the accident. Strict liability is often a controlling doctrine that involves defective product allegations. The legal term denotes liability of the manufacturer or vehicle maker involved, regardless of fault, if a defect or unsafe feature is found on an SUV that contributes to the automobile accident. If strict liability is found, responsible parties must pay for all damages incurred.
For those injured as a result of an automobile crash involving an SUV rollover, personal injury attorneys are standing by to assist with getting them due compensation for their claim.
Approximately one-third of traffic deaths in the United States are attributed to intoxication of drivers on the road.
People who drive drunk often repeat the behavior, risking their own lives as well as the lives of others on multiple occasions.
Unfortunately, drivers who are under the influence of alcohol are on the roads more frequently than one might expect. In fact, reports have proposed that someone becomes injured in an alcohol-related automobile accident every other minute, with many of these drunk driving accidents resulting in a fatality. It is also reported that people who drive drunk often repeat the behavior, risking their own lives as well as the lives of others on multiple occasions. Alcohol fueled crashes claim the lives of an estimated one million victims each year.
Driving after one has consumed alcohol is legally referred to as “driving under the influence” or “driving while intoxicated.” This kind of behavior may warrant criminal legal action if a person is found to have engaged in it. If one drives while under the influence of alcohol and becomes involved in an auto. accident, they may be deemed negligent and found responsible for damages in civil actions as well.
A person is deemed negligent under the eyes of the law if they drive drunk and contribute to an auto accident while doing so, and is required to pay for resulting damages to an injured party; however others may be found responsible as well in certain circumstances. Some states hold liquor suppliers such as bars, nightclubs and other entities responsible if they do not exercise proper discretion in serving patrons who may appear to be intoxicated.
If someone has been injured as a result of an automobile accident where a drunk driver was negligent, it may be beneficial to contact a personal injury attorney knowledgeable in areas of automobile accident claims and motorcycle accident claims. This type of attorney can help an injured victim sort out the complexities of establishing liability for all who may be at fault and educate them about their legal options.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra, P.A. and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.
Car accidents can be devastating in more ways than one. Victims often accumulate costly medical expenses and may be left with pain and suffering as well as other burdens that contribute to a significant change in the quality of one’s life. The most severe auto. accidents can result in permanent disability or even death, not to mention place extreme mental, emotional and financial distress on victims and their loved ones. More than three million injuries are said to occur from car wrecks every year, with 400,000 lives lost. Statistics also show automobile accident to be a leading cause of death for individuals under the age of 35 in the United States. Accident victims may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering expenses and other damages. Family members of those fatality injured in an auto accident may also be entitled to damages related to an economic loss or loss of companionship.
Remember that time can become a crucial factor to consider when reporting a car accident claim and/or seeking legal representation from a personal injury attorney. This is because Florida law includes a statute of limitations for filing for recovery in a personal injury claim.
Those injured from, or who’ve suffered a loss as a result of a car accident may have legal recourse for alleviating the financial strain placed on them under Florida law. Automobile accident attorneys are available to assist those injured in an accident while getting the financial compensation they are entitled to. If dealing with the daunting medical and insurance processes becomes too much for an accident victim to handle, it may become necessary for them to consult with an attorney to provide them guidance and ensure that their rights to compensation are fully protected.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra, P.A. and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.
Few injuries can be as devastating as paralysis, the loss of muscle function that occurs when a person’s brain cannot properly transmit messages to one or more parts of the body (as described by the National Institute of Health). Although there are various causations for paralysis,as a personal injury attorney I have seen many cases where individuals become paralyzed most commonly from a car accident, motorcycle accident or other type of traumatic event where they receive injury to their spinal cord.
Published incident rates for traumatic spinal cord injuries in the US range between 28 and 55 injuries per million people, with about 10,000 new cases reported every year. On average there are approximately 200,000 people living in the United States at any given time that have sustained a traumatic spinal cord injury.
The average age of a victim of a traumatic spinal cord injury is 32 years old, with the greatest frequency between 15 and 25 years of age. In addition, males are four times more likely to sustain a traumatic spinal cord injury than females.
The most common cause of injury to the spinal cord comes from the trauma one receives in a motor vehicle accident. According to statistics, approximately 40% of all new spinal cord injuries were reported to have been the result of automobile crashes. Additional causes are violence at 20%, falls at 19% and recreational activities at around 12%.
As a result many victims can become paralyzed, suffering from either complete or partial paralysis. To distinguish this further, an individual can end up with paraplegia, paralysis of the lower half of the body including both of the legs, or quadriplegia, paralysis of the entire body from the neck down.
Spinal cord injuries usually begin with a blow to the individual’s spinal cord that fractures or dislocates his or her vertebrae. They are divided and categorized in a number of different ways, including location of the fracture, type of fracture, stability of the fracture and severity of the fracture.
Anterior column – this is the front part of the vertebra, the part that faces into your body. It is the front half of the vertebral body and supports the intervertebral discs.
Middle column – this is the back half of the vertebral body and supports the intervertebral discs and is the key part for spinal stability. A fracture of the middle column of the vertebral body in conjunction with a fracture through either the anterior or posterior column usually results in nerve damage and spinal instability.
Posterior column – this represents the back side of the vertebral body closest to your skin and includes the pedicles, lamina, facet joints and spinous processes.
Spinal cord injuries can occur in the cervical, thoracic or lumbosacral areas of the spine.
Cervical or neck injuries usually result in full or partial quadriplegia. The specific location and severity of the trauma greatly affects the amount of function that may be retained by the victim.
Victims of traumatic spinal cord injuries above the C7 level cannot handle the normal activities of daily living and cannot function independently. As a result, extensive in home nursing care is necessitated to help with the normal activities of daily living.
Complete injuries at or below the thoracic spinal level result in paraplegia. Functions of the hands, arms, neck and breathing are usually not affected.
The effects to the lumbosacral region of the spinal cord are decreased control of the legs and hips, urinary systems and bowel control.
Compression fracture – this type of fracture results in a compression or collapsing of the vertebral body. A minor compression fracture can heal without surgical intervention or long term medical problems. A compression fracture that is in excess of 50% of the normal vertebral height usually results in significant spinal instability and requires surgical instrumentation to stabilize the spine and prevent additional injury such as paralysis.
Burst fracture – a burst fracture is a severe compression fracture that results in the vertebral body essentially being crushed with fractures in multiple places. Because the vertebra is completely crushed, bone fragments can go into the spinal cord or exiting nerve roots causing severe neurological damage or paralysis. Burst fractures almost always require surgical intervention in order to stabilize the spine and prevent additional injuries.
Flexion distraction fractures – a flexion distraction type fracture usually fractures in the posterior and middle columns. It results from a sudden severe forward movement that places more stress on the spine than the body can tolerate.
Fracture dislocation – any type of vertebral fracture which results in significant movement of the vertebral body is classified as a fracture dislocation. This usually results when you have fractures of all three columns of the vertebral body and your spine becomes very unstable. All fracture dislocation injuries require surgical intervention and a high percentage result in severe neurological damage including paralysis.
Stable fractures usually involve only the anterior column or posterior column of the vertebral body. As long as the middle column stays intact, a victim of a traumatic spinal fracture has a much greater chance of having a stable fracture. With the stable fracture, the spine can usually still carry and distribute your weight and doesn’t cause spinal deformity or neurological problems.
A fracture that involves both the middle column and either anterior or posterior column has a much greater chance to be an unstable fracture, making it difficult for the spine to carry and distribute weight. Unstable fractures can result in vertebral body dislocations which can severe the spinal cord causing paralysis. In addition, unstable fractures can result in the migration of bone chips into the spinal cord which can tear into cord tissue, causing irreparable damage and paralysis.
A minor fracture usually refers to a fracture of a part of the posterior column of the vertebra, the parts that are not as vital to spinal stability. A fracture to a spinous process and the facet joints usually is not too serious. A major fracture usually refers to fractures of the vertebral body, the pedicles, or the lamina. A fracture to the vertebral body is major because it carries and distributes so much weight. If it is broken, you can have serious problems with migration of the spinal fragments or proper spinal alignment. A fracture to a pedicle or lamina is major because it usually results in impingement on the exiting nerve roots and possible severe nerve damage. The American Spinal Injury Association defined an international classification based on neurological responses and are graded from A to E, with A being the worst, and E being normal.
When someone suffers a spinal cord injury in an auto accident, motorcycle accident or other traumatic event, he or she will often need the help of an attorney. This is because a lawyer who is knowledgeable in personal injury can help to properly file the claim and get the support of appropriate experts which will help protect the victim from the enormous expenses that will occur in the future.
Examples of the types of medical expenses and damages that a victim of a traumatic spinal cord injury from an automobile or motorcycle accident can incur include:
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra, P.A. and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.
Whether due to an automobile accident, motorcycle accident or bicycle accident, whenever a victim of another’s careless driving strikes their head, there is a chance they may develop a traumatic brain injury. This is because as the brainstem and skull move in different directions during a violent impact, an accident victim may suffer stretching of the vestibular nerve which can cause permanent injury. While it is very common for emergency departments to order a computerized axial tomography (CT) scan of a trauma patient’s head, vestibular disorders are often completely missed or ignored in the vast majority of traumatic head injury cases.
The vestibular system is so complex and sensitive it can easily be destructed by a traumatic blow to the head. The vestibular nerve is one of two branches of the vestibulocochlear nerve. The vestibular nerves have the primary function of transmitting data to and from the brain that have to do with a person’s sense of balance. Specifically, the vestibular cranial nerve provides the means of communication data to and from the brain that directs the necessary adjustments to maintain a proper balance. When the vestibular nerve is working properly, the data transmitted to and from the brain is in constant transmission as an individual walks, runs and even sits.
Any injury to the vestibular nerve itself, ganglion or its semicircle canals can impact an individual’s ability to remain in an upright position and cause him or her to experience a sense of vertigo that can be extremely severe and disabling.
Vertigo is a type of dizziness where an individual experiences a feeling of motion when he or she is in a stationary position. The person may feel that their surroundings seem to be moving either vertically or horizontally even though they are not moving or lying down. Often there may also be a sense of spinning and the severity of the symptoms can make it hard for a person to keep their balance and carrying out the everyday functions and tasks of life.
Vertigo can last from a few minutes to several days and even for the rest of a victim’s lifetime. Vertigo can result in the following symptoms:
If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, auto accident or bicycle accident and sustained a severe blow to the head resulting in such symptoms as vertigo, you may have sustained a vestibular nerve injury. It is important to seek out the appropriate medical testing in order to properly diagnose and document the injury. With proper diagnosis, medical treatments can be applied to reduce the symptoms and effect on a victim’s life. When this treatment is properly documented in medical records, a lawyer experienced in vestibular nerve injury and traumatic brain damage caused from motor vehicle and bicycle accidents can often maximize a victim’s recovery and make sure he or she is compensated for future medical bills, future lost wages, and loss of earning capacity.
Stories of individuals crashing their vehicles into stores are neither new nor novel. In fact, it seems that incidents involving these types of crashes are becoming commonplace around the country and, specially, around Florida. Why do these incidents occur? Some would point to the age of the drivers. Others would blame driver fatigue or medical episodes. Mechanical defects in the vehicles involved could also account for these events. Regardless of the cause, the results are usually the same: Significant damages to the stores’ property and more importantly, to the customers that are on the receiving end of the vehicles crashing into the stores.
It is natural to point out that these types of accidents cannot be predicted. But no accident can truly be predicted. That does not mean that business and individuals have no duty to take measures to protect themselves or others from them and, in that way, minimize their resulting damages. Stores cannot predict when someone driving a vehicle will lose control and crash into their premises anymore than they can predict when a customer will drop water or other liquid substances on the floor, thus creating a dangerous condition for other unsuspecting shoppers. Yet, virtually all businesses that invite (and hope for) a large amount of consumer traffic to come into their stores not only plan but have procedures in place to minimize and hopefully, prevent slip and fall accidents. From training and instructing their employees to look for and clean potential dangerous conditions on their floors to placing mats in places that are prone for spills, store owners constantly take measures to keep their customers reasonably safe while in their premises. It is important to remember business owners have a duty to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition. Shouldn’t store owners, in carrying out their duty of care towards their customers, take steps to either eliminate or reduce the damages that may result from vehicles crashing into their property? So, the questions is, why not place barriers or pillars between the parking area and the entrance or exit doors of the premises?
Concrete or metal pillars and barriers are being used more and more by store owners to protect their property and customers from out of control vehicles that may crash into their stores. It makes sense. Compared to the overall costs of building or renovating a store and, further, compared to damage that these incidents can cause, erecting these barriers seems to be a nominal expense that can have not only economic but human advantages as well. Simply stated, barriers cannot only save money; they can save lives. Wouldn’t that be money well spent? Those that have been injured by vehicles crashing into stores would most likely agree.
When someone runs into the back of your vehicle, certain parts of the vehicle are designed to deform and be crushed as they absorb the energy from the impact, in order to protect the occupants of the vehicles. Certain parts of the vehicle are specifically designed not to deform and crush, in order to protect the occupants of the vehicle. In a reared accident, the seats are specifically designed not to deform because they are critical to protecting the occupant by restraining them and keeping them from being knocked around the vehicle or ejected in a rollover accident.
Seat back failures are a life threatening defect in Auto Accidents. In 1990, estimates show that there were over 1,100 fatalities and 1,600 serious injuries as a result of seat back failures. While seat backs can fail in a number of different auto accident scenarios, the most common is when an automobile is rear ended. When a vehicle is hit from behind, the force of the impact shoves the vehicle forward. As the vehicle moves forward, the occupant is thrown backwards against the seat. When the seat back works as designed, it keeps the vehicle occupant in an upright position, secured by the seat belt. The seat and seat belt work in combination to keep the occupant from striking the vehicle interior or being ejected. When the seat back fails, the occupant is no long being kept in an upright position by the seat, but instead begins to fall backward with the seat. At this point, the seatbelt is no longer holding the occupant securely in the sea t and the occupant can begin to slide up the back of the seat and out of the seat belt.
When a front seat fails and collapses in a rear end auto accident, many dangerous conditions arise to the driver, rear end passengers and other motorists. When the driver is thrown backward in a rear end car accident, their ability to control their vehicle is impaired. This can cause the vehicle to strike other vehicles, pedestrians or other objects, thereby putting other drivers and pedestrians at risk and risking the occupants of the vehicle to additional injuries. When a front seat fails and collapses in a rear end auto accident, the driver can be partially or completely ejected from the vehicle, or strike the interior of the vehicle causing severe head injuries. In addition, other safety devices like head restraints and side curtain air bags may not work as designed and instead of providing safety, they can become dangerous. In addition, a front seat collapse in a rear end accident can cause severe injuries to rear seat passengers and trap them in the vehicle.
When a seatback fails in a rear end accident, catastrophic head and spine injuries can occur. Front seat passengers can strike their head on the roof of the vehicle, the b-pillar that divides the front and back windows, the rear window or the rear seat passenger causing severe or life threatening head injuries. When a front seat fails in a rear end accident, the seat is no longer keeping the lumber and cervical spine perpendicular and straight. When the seat falls backward, the forces applied to the lumbar and cervical spine can become excessive, thereby causing herniated discs, fractured vertebrae’s or spinal cord injuries that can result in paraplegia or quadriplegia.
When a vehicle is rear ended in the State of Florida, there is a presumption of negligence on behalf of the vehicle that runs into the back of another vehicle. That vehicle owner, driver or their employer if they were on the job, are responsible for the injuries caused to occupants of the vehicle that they rear-end. They are responsible for all injuries, even injuries caused by seat back failures. However, the manufacturer of the seat and the vehicle may also be responsible if the seat back failed due to negligent design, installation, testing or using substandard or faulty parts.
If you or a love one has been injured as a result of a rear end accident, call the auto accident attorneys at Rue & Ziffra. Our attorneys handle car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents and wrongful death claims throughout Florida and the United States. Call1-800-526-4711 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
It’s not difficult to find some of the most dangerous street intersections in Flagler and Volusia counties, just look up. There could be a red-light camera there.
So far, Daytona Beach, Holly Hill and Palm Coast are the only cities in the two counties that have erected red-light cameras, but others are considering it. DeLand will turn them on by late August. But the car crash attorneys at Rue & Ziffra expect to see more.
In Daytona Beach, the cameras are at Bellevue Avenue and Nova Road, International Speedway Boulevard and Nova, Mason Avenue and Nova, ISB and Indigo Drive, ISB and George Engram Boulevard, ISB and Ridgewood Avenue, and ISB and Clyde Morris Boulevard. The city is considering adding more.
In Holly Hill, the cameras are at Nova Road and Flomich Street, and Ridgewood Avenue and Flomich. More cameras are planned at intersections of LPGA Boulevard and Nova Road, LPGA Boulevard and Ridgewood Avenue, and Mason Avenue and Ridgewood Avenue.
In Palm Coast, the cameras are at Cypress Point Parkway and Belle Terre Parkway, Interstate 95 and Palm Coast Parkway, Old Kings Road and Palm Coast Parkway, and Palm Coast Parkway NW and Belle Terre Parkway. In DeLand, the cameras are at International Speedway Boulevard and Woodland Boulevard, International Speedway Boulevard and Amelia Avenue, and Woodland Boulevard and Taylor Road. However, in the past, city police have identified Woodland Boulevard and Orange Camp Road as DeLand’s most dangerous intersection. That could be one of the ones added later as that is what city officials plan to do.
You can also find some of the most dangerous intersections elsewhere in the two counties, according to a report required by the Federal Highway Administration. Volusia County officials identified as dangerous intersections Saxon Boulevard and Enterprise Road in Orange City with 36 crashes; Saxon and the Interstate 4 onramp in Deltona, 34 crashes; Enterprise Road and I-4 onramp in Orange City, 31 crashes; and Howland and Elkcam boulevards in Deltona, 28 crashes.
In that same report, Flagler County officials identified Palm Coast Parkway and Old Kings Road, where there already are red-light cameras, with 47 crashes.
One of the early developments with red-light cameras in Volusia and Flagler counties is that they aren’t generating as much revenue as expected. It could be that people are more aware of the cameras and are more careful going through those intersections. That also could lead to the intended effect of red-light cameras – cutting down on the number of crashes, especially ones that cause injuries and fatalities.
Car crash attorneys at Rue & Ziffra hope you will learn where these intersections are located, but remember all intersections can be dangerous. All it takes is one careless driver to cause major problems for you.
Always remember that the car crash attorneys at Rue & Ziffra are available 24 hours a day to consult with you on your rights if you are in an auto accident.
A bicycle can be a very valuable commodity. For young people, it can provide transportation before being old enough to drive, allowing for quicker trips to a friend’s house or getting to and from school. For others, a bicycle can serve as a fun way to exercise and stay fit while avoiding the high impact stress often received from other activities like running.
Unfortunately, bicycles expose riders to serious risks, since many individuals ride them on busy roadways. Since people driving in cars often do not share the roadway as they should, bicycle accidents are prevalent in cities all over the United States. The slightest drift onto the shoulder or into a bike lane by a passing car can quickly lead to a bicycle rider being hit. A driver turning onto or off of a roadway too quickly can overlook a rider, run into them and cause serious injuries.
In 2009 alone, an estimated 51,000 bicyclists were injured in motor vehicle crashes nationally. Of those, 8,000 or 17%, were age 14 and younger. At least 630 people were killed in these bicycle accidents. Although there is no way to make certain drivers pay attention and watch out for bicycle riders, there are steps riders can take to protect themselves. Knowing the bicycle laws in the State of Florida, as well as following safety tips, can help riders avoid becoming a part of these staggering statistics.
5 simple steps you can take to avoid or lessen a potentially fatal bicycle accident include:
Be alert and follow the laws and these tips to help reduce your risk of becoming injured in a bicycle accident. For more information and statistics, please visit www.floridabicycle .org.
Also, remember that if you or a loved one is involved in a bicycle crash, you can always seek help from a legal professional knowledgeable about bicycle accidents. The Daytona Beach personal injury attorneys at Rue & Ziffra are ready to take your call and fight to protect your rights. For more information, contact Rue & Ziffra, at 1-888-246-8613
During annual motorcycle event weeks, Volusia County welcomes a tremendous number of motorcycle riders. Due to the high influx of visitors and crowded streets, many motorcycle accidents can occur during this event. As a result, it is important to take precautions when riding a motorcycle in every situation! Below are a few tips anyone can take to help the prevention of motorcycle accidents:
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle helmet use has been increasing in the past five years. Usage rose from 48 percent in 2005 to 67 percent in 2009.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a motorcycle crash, you can always seek legal help from a motorcycle attorney. A lawyer who is knowledgeable in the laws governing motorcycle crashes and negligence can help you receive the financial restitution you deserve because of someone else’s negligence.
The Daytona motorcycle attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, have handled numerous motorcycle crash cases and have the knowledge and experience to help victims of motorcycle accidents through tough legal processes.
Each year, thousands of unfortunate bikers are struck by negligent automobile drivers. Unlike the protection a car can provide its driver during an impact, motorcyclists have little to protect them when involved in a crash. It is no secret, then, that motorcycle accidents typically result in more serious injuries for the biker than auto accidents.
According to the National Safety Council, there is a motorcycle accident in the United States causing serious bodily injury every 14 seconds. In addition the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2006 4,798 motorcycle riders died in motorcycle crashes while another 87,000 motorcyclists were injured.
The failure of other drivers to detect and recognize the presence of motorcycles is the predominant cause of motorcycle accidents. Unfortunately, the State of Florida does not mandate bodily injury coverage for automobile drivers and therefore more than one-third of all vehicles on Florida’s roads are uninsured for liability coverage. Considering the serious injuries that motorcyclists often sustain in motorcycle accidents, a whopping two-thirds of all vehicles on Florida’s roads and highways are inadequately insured. If you’re struck by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, there is a high probability that there will not be adequate insurance to compensate you for the injuries and damages that you sustain.
That’s why it is important to purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage on your motorcycle and automobile insurance policies.
The Hurt Report is the most comprehensive study of motorcycle accidents and causes in the United States. This report found that the majority of all motorcycle accidents are caused by the negligence of the operator of an automobile. Most motorcycle accidents occur at intersections when the other vehicle turns into the motorcycle’s lane of travel, violating the motorcyclist’s right-of-way. In most of these cases, the other driver simply did not see the approaching motorcycle.
The second most common cause of motorcycle accidents occurs when a motorcycle is slowing and the driver of an automobile does not notice the motorcycle in time to stop their vehicle safely. Instead, the automobile runs into the back of the motorcycle.
Although Florida requires all registered automobiles to have No-Fault Insurance, the state does not mandate the purchase of liability insurance. In short, bodily injury liability insurance is the coverage that an individual would purchase to protect them in the event that they are negligent and cause injury to another motorist. Various reports indicate that up to 15% of all drivers in the United States do not have any insurance at all and that up to one third of drivers in the State of Florida maintain no liability insurance.
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America estimates that unlicensed and uninsured drivers are involved in more than 20% of all fatal accidents in the United States. This means that if you’re operating a motorcycle and you’re struck by another vehicle in the State of Florida, there is a one in three chance that that negligent motorist will have no liability insurance at all and a two in three chance that they will have inadequate liability insurance to compensate you for your injuries and damages.
The impact of being involved in a motorcycle accident can be devastating and can permanently change your life. If an accident is caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, the financial impact of medical bills, lost wages and loss of earning capacity can leave you financially destitute. If the negligent automobile operator who causes you injury does not have liability insurance, one of your strongest options is to hire an attorney, sue them and attempt to collect any judgment from them personally.
Unfortunately, most people purchase automobile insurance in amounts correlating to potential assets that they have. Therefore, in the vast majority of cases, individuals who are uninsured or underinsured are usually uncollectible. In addition, Florida’s homestead laws protect an individual’s home and all their equity from judgments and negligent drivers can avoid most or all of a judgment by filing bankruptcy.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance is vital if you are going to operate a motorcycle in the State of Florida. By law this coverage must be offered to an individual who purchases liability insurance on a motorcycle, truck, car or other personal land motor vehicle and can only be avoided if the named insured signs a special rejection form that is approved by the Florida Department of Insurance.Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage protects you while operating your motorcycle, anyone else operating your motorcycle or any passenger that you may have on your motorcycle if you are involved in an accident with someone who doesn’t have any bodily injury liability, or who has minimal amount of this insurance.
What is commonly referred to as uninsured motorist coverage in the State of Florida actually has the legal name of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or UM/UIM coverage. Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage protects you, anyone operating your motorcycle, or any passenger on your motorcycle in situations that involve an at fault driver who does not have any liability insurance or does not have enough liability insurance to compensate you for your injuries, medical bills, lost wages or loss of earning capacity.
Uninsured motorist coverage applies in situations where the at-fault driver has no liability insurance at all.
Underinsured motorist coverage applies in the event that your injuries or damages exceed the amount of liability coverage that the at-fault party has purchased. In this situation, your underinsured motorist coverage will apply after the bodily injury coverage that the negligent party purchased has been exhausted (used in full). Your UIM coverage will then compensate you for the balance of your injuries and damages up to the policy limits of the amount of UIM coverage you purchased.
Florida is one of the few states in the country that offers stacking uninsured motorist coverage.
If you are involved in a motorcycle accident and you sustain a fractured femur that requires an open reduction and internal fixation with an intramedullary rod, you may have the following damages:
If the at fault party only maintained $100,000 of liability insurance, then your damages would exceed their available coverage by $120,000. If you had a $100,000 underinsured motorist policy, you could collect the $100,000 from the at fault party’s insurance company and then you would be able to collect the balance of your damages, up to your policy limits, in the amount of $100,000 from your underinsured motorist policy.
If we use the same example above and you have stacking underinsured motorist coverage on your motorcycle and two different cars, the net result to you will be much more beneficial.
In the prior example you would have been able to recover $100,000 from the liability insurance and $100,000 from your (non-stacking) underinsured motorist coverage on your motorcycle, for a total of $200,000. You would still have $20,000 of damages that you are unable to recover from any available insurance source. However, if you have the stacking form of underinsured motorist coverage, you would now have $300,000 in uninsured motorist coverage that you could access and therefore you would have a sufficient amount of insurance coverage to cover all of your damages in the amount of $220,000.
There are steps that you can take to help reduce the chances of being involved in a serious motorcycle accident. You can wear protective clothing, eye protection and a motorcycle helmet. You can avoid following too closely to the vehicle in front of you, avoid blind spots on vehicles that you are traveling next to, and obey the posted speed limit. You can avoid going through intersections with yellow lights and give yourself extra distance before pulling out in front of traffic.
However, regardless of how cautiously and defensively you drive your motorcycle, you cannot control the actions of other motorists who are in a hurry, on the phone, not paying attention, or driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The best way to protect yourself, your family, and any passenger on your motorcycle in the case of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist is to purchase adequate stacking underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage on all of your automobiles and motorcycles.
If you have questions regarding your car or motorcycle insurance coverage, contact your insurance agent today and ask them about uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident, you are always welcome to contact a personal injury attorney for legal help. At Rue & Ziffra, we have 8 attorneys with over 30 years of combined experienced helping individuals receive compensation for motorcycle accidents, car accidents and other types of personal injury claims.
Honda has issued a recall of approximately 126,000 GL1800 Goldwing motorcycles due to a brake defect. The combined braking system’s secondary master cylinder in certain 2001-2010 and 2012 bikes may cause the rear brake to drag, increasing the risk of crash or a brake fire.
The recall is expected to begin on January 4, 2012 and dealers will inspect the bikes and perform the necessary service free of charge. Owners may contact Honda directly at 1-866-784-1870 and reference Safety Recall no. S03. Additional details can also be found by referencing NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 11V567000.
As of 2003 there were 12,794,616 registered boats and personal watercraft machines in the United States. According to Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida occupies over one million of these registered boats, beating even California as the nation’s boating capitol. In addition to this, approximately 450,000 boats registered in other states use Florida waterways in any given year.
With miles of coastline and waterways, Florida is also a natural docking point for commercial shipping boats, commercial fishing boats, cruise ships and recreational watercraft. Florida’s destination as one of the leading world vacation spots means that water sports such as water skiing, swimming, boating, wake boarding, jet skiing and fishing are often sought out by those who live and visit here. Although these types of activities are enjoyable, they can become dangerous when operated by inexperienced or intoxicated individuals.
According to the United States Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety,each year there are more than 8,500 boating accidents resulting in more than 4,500 serious injuries and 850 deaths in the United States. In 2003 there were 5,438 accidents, 3,888 injuries, and 703 fatalities as a result of boating and personal watercraft use. As a result of the 5,438 accidents, there was a total of $40,422,374 in property damage. Because of Florida’s expansive coastline, tropical climate and unbelievable diving and fishing opportunities, it has become one of the most popular boating areas in the world. Unfortunately, due to the high traffic and the number of inexperienced boat operators visiting Florida, it is also one of the most dangerous boating areas in the world and unfortunately the national leader in serious boating accidents.
According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, there were 671 boating accidents in Florida in 2006 with 420 people being injured and 69 fatalities. Property damage from the 671 boating accidents was valued at over $8.6 million. In 2009 Florida led the nation in the total number of boating accidents with 620 with resulting property damage exceeding $10 million.
Typical boating accidents can involve collisions with other boats, boat capsizing from large wakes, slip and falls on cruise ships, collisions with fixed objects, running ashore or faulty design or manufacturing of boats or boat parts.
Accidents involving personal water craft machines can result from collisions with other machines, collisions with boats, flipping the device and running into a stationary object. Often, these types of accidents are caused from such factors as negligent operation, using excessive speed, jumping waves or boat wakes, improper training of minors who are renting Jet skis and improper utilization of safety devices.
Accidents can also involve swimmers, snorkelers or divers being struck by boats or personal watercraft. These incidents can occur if the boat operator fails to keep a proper lookout, drives too close to diving buoys or operates their boat or personal watercraft in designated swimming areas.
According to the US Coast Guard, the primary boat or watercraft accident types that result in death or injury are:
According to the United States Coast Guard, the most reported type of boating accident involved a collision with another vessel. The most common types of boats involved in the reported accidents were open motor boats (representing 42% of boat collisions), personal watercraft (27%) and cabin motor boats (14%). Also, capsizing or falls overboard are the most reported types of fatal accidents according to the US Coast Guard, accounted for over half (57%) of all boating fatalities. Approximately 70% of these fatalities occurred when the victim drowned, and 86% of the victims who drowned were not wearing a personal flotation device or life jacket.
The most common causes of boating accidents are:
On the water the captain of each and every vessel is responsible for his or her actions and the effect of his or her actions has on other boaters. This responsibility is defined throughout various rules and laws that the captain must follow, including the duty to use reasonable care when operating a water craft vessel.
In Florida specifically, each boater is responsible for the effect his or her wake has on other boats and boaters.
A detailed investigation into the causes of a personal water craft accident will naturally look into the operator or rider’s compliance with boating laws and regulations. Certain questions such as was another boater at fault? was anything wrong with the personal water craft itself? need to be addressed to develop a viable theory of liability. If liability is successfully attributed, a lawyer can help a victim of a boating accident to acquire the appropriate compensation for their injuries and losses.
If you or a loved one are injured while operating or riding on a boat or personal watercraft in Florida, you are always welcome to seek legal help from a personal injury lawyer. The Daytona Beach accident attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, have over 30 years combined experience pursuing and obtaining compensation for boating accident victims, including those injured while riding a personal watercraft.
With miles of accessible beaches, beautiful sun and long summer months, there isn’t much question as to why Daytona Beach is known as “The World’s Most Famous Beach”. For those individuals not privy to swimming in the ocean, however, these same factors also make Florida the perfect location for enjoying time in the sun in a swimming pool.
With more than a million swimming pools bought by business and home owners alike, Florida is home to more pools than any other state in the U.S. It is not surprising, then, that many children suffer accidental deaths every year in Florida from drowning in a swimming pool.
According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, there are approximately 1,900 swimming pool-related drowning deaths in the United States each year. Of this number, over 300 children accidentally drown each year in swimming pools, all under the age of five.
Although drowning accidents do occur in public pools that are supervised by lifeguards, most fatalities occur at residential pools. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission:
Below are a few statutes that the Florida legislature passed in response to the high number of child drowning fatalities.
F.S. §515.23 – In order to combat the growing number of drowning deaths for children in the State of Florida, the Florida Legislature passed F.S.§515.23 which states:
The legislature finds that drowning is the leading cause of deaths of young children in this state and is also a significant cause of death from medically frail elderly persons in this state, that constant adult supervision is the key to accomplishing the objective of reducing the number of submersion incidents, and that when lapses in supervision occur, a pool safety feature designed to deny, delay, or detect unsupervised entry to the swimming pool, spa, or hot tub will reduce drowning and near drowning incidents. In addition to the incalculable human cost of these submersion incidents, the health care costs, loss of lifetime productivity, and legal and administrative expenses associated with drowning of young children and medically frail elderly persons in this state each year and the lifetime cost for the care and treatment of young children who have suffered brain disability due to near drowning incidents each year are enormous. Therefore, it is the intent of the legislature that all new residential swimming pools, spas and hot tubs be equipped with at least pool safety feature as specified in this chapter.
F.S. §515.27 – The Florida Legislature went on to pass F.S. §515.27, the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Feature Options; Penalties. This statute states:
This statute is designed to reduce the number of child drowning fatalities by making it more difficult for children to exit a home and gain access to a pool without the supervising adult being aware of it.
Chapter 515.29 – In order to reduce the chances of children gaining access to a pool from a yard, the Florida Legislature passed Chapter 515.29, Residential Swimming Pool Barrier Requirements:
This statute is designed to make access to a pool limited by any child, regardless of whether or not they live at the particular home. It provides for minimum specifications for fences or gates that will prevent access to the pool for young children who are at risk of drowning.
Pool owners are responsible to ensure that their pools are safe for their families, guests and neighborhood children by complying with the requirements of F.S. §515.27 and F.S. §515.29. A property owner may be found liable for damages in the event of a swimming pool drowning or near drowning if they fail to comply with Florida’s pool safety laws.
Most drowning deaths are preventable if pool owners take proactive steps to keep their pool area safe and well guarded from children. The Florida Swimming Pool Association encourages safety for all pool owners. They provide the following acronym for safety to remember some important tips:
When someone drowns or suffers any kind of injury on or around a swimming pool, a complete investigation of the incident starts with the pool owner’s compliance with F.S. §515.27 and §515.29 mentioned previously. Often, tough questions need to be considered in order to find who is liable for a person’s injuries, such as: Did the property owner have a fence around the pool, or gates or doors properly secured? Were access alarms installed and properly functioning? Was the pool covered? Was the water drain on the pool properly protected?
In order to get these questions properly answered and determine whether or not there is legal responsibility on behalf of a pool owner for a drowning or near drowning injury, an individual may want to talk to an attorney knowledgeable in personal injury claims. At Rue & Ziffra, we have a staff of 8 attorneys who handle multiple areas of personal injury, including claims of swimming pool injuries and accidental drowning. We have over 30 years of combined experience helping individuals who have been wronged by someone else’s negligent behavior.
The dog bite statute in the state of Florida is referred to as a “no free bite statute.” (F.S. 767.04) This means that the owner of a dog is liable for any money damages caused when his or her dog bites another individual, regardless of any prior knowledge of the dog biting somebody else or the tendency of the dog to bite someone else. Also, negligence does not have to be proven on behalf of the dog owner in order for a bite victim to receive compensation. However, the owner of the dog is not liable, except to a child under the age of 6, if at the time of the bite a “BAD DOG” sign is prominently displayed.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are at least 800,000 people that suffer injuries from dog bites who require medical attention and possibly legal help from an attorney. The vast majority of these dog bites occur in the dog owner’s home, when family members and personal friends are visiting. Children make up a disproportionately large percentage of dog bite victims, where bites rank as the second largest cause of child injuries only behind playground accidents. Mixed breed dogs along with Rottweiler’s and pit bulls make up the vast majority of dogs who bite.
Dog bite claims are increasingly excluded by homeowner’s insurance companies because they account for about 25% of all homeowner’s claims and over a billion dollars a year in insurance settlements. If you own a dog, you need to make sure that your homeowner’s insurance does not exclude dog bites from your coverage, and if it does, you need to purchase separate dog bite insurance or find an insurance company that does not exclude dog bites.
If you or a family member has been bitten by a dog, there are seven key mistakes that you should avoid:
If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog and received injuries from the attack, please contact the Daytona Beach Personal Injury Attorneys at Rue & Ziffra. All of our clients’ claims are handled directly by practiced attorneys who know the particulars of a dog bite injury case.
Terms that come to mind when thinking about your dog often include “companion,” “security guard” and “man’s best friend.” In addition to these descriptions, if you are not a careful owner, your dog can also be a source of unanticipated liability. This liability can quickly arise if your dog bites another person, as dog bites can cause serious injuries and health risks, and Florida has adopted stringent laws to protect the public.
Florida statutes pertaining to dog bites impose strict liability on a dog owner whose dog bites another person. The statute clarifies thatliability will be imposed on the dog owner regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. Even if the victim of the dog bite was partially at fault for the incident, such as by teasing your dog, you as the dog owner will still find it difficult to completely avoid liability for the actions of your pet.
One step you can take to protect yourself from dog bite liability, as set out in the above-mentioned statute, is to provide a warning to people entering your property. Displaying an easily readable sign that includes the words “Bad Dog” can, in many cases, preclude a dog owner from liability for a dog bite by putting guests on notice of the presence of a dog. While this will not protect you if you are in a public place with your pet, it can easily serve as a first line of protection within your home or on your property.
In addition to displaying a “Bad Dog” sign, another means of protection from being liable for dog bite injuries to another person is to invest in a homeowner’s insurance policy. Homeowner’s insurance can provide liability coverage for accidents or injuries that occur on your property. Be sure you are careful in reviewing your policy, though, because there are several ways you might still be exposed to liability risks.
Often, homeowner’s policies contain a variety of exclusions that result in certain injuries not being covered. One such example is a dog bite exclusion. While the policy may generally cover accidents that occur on your property, as the name implies, a dog bite exclusion would operate to preclude coverage for injuries that come about as a result of a dog bite. A dog bite exclusion can be a general exclusion, such that every injury sustained as a result of a dog bite is excluded, or it can single out a particular breed of dog that the insurance company identifies as more likely to be the source of a dog bite injury. Either way, if your policy contains such an exclusion, you are not as safe as you might think.
But what if you do not own a home? What if you rent a house or an apartment? Landlords are generally not liable for injuries caused by a dog owned by a tenant; Florida law only imposes strict liability on the actual owner of the dog. While a renter or tenant would not ordinarily have a homeowners policy, he or she should consider a renters policy, and again be sure to read the policy thoroughly to know exactly what is and is not covered.
A final note for landlords, however. While Florida law imposes strict liability for a dog bite only on a dog owner, there could still be a common law liability claim made against a landlord. If a dog bite victim is able to show that the landlord knew of a dogs presence on the premises and knew the dog had a propensity to bite people (a factor that is not necessary to find the dog owner liable), a dog bite victim could then have another potential source of recovery.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite, or if you are a dog owner concerned about your level of protection from dog bite liability, you can receive more information from the Rue & Ziffra website or by calling our office for a free consultation. Rue & Ziffra is a personal injury law firm handling various aspects of dog bite injury claims. Remember, if you or a loved one wishes to seek help for a dog bite injury, don’t hesitate to seek legal answers and information helpful to your unique situation.
In Florida, there are statutes imposing strict liability upon dog owners for injuries their dogs cause to others. However, dog owners can protect themselves from such liability, by taking proactive steps such as purchasing homeowners insurance and posting bad dog signs. While these steps are important for any dog owner to take, it might surprise you to learn that non-dog owners should also consider taking similar actions. This is because there can be situations where individuals will need protection from liability even if a dog involved in a biting incident is owned by someone else.
Florida Statutes covering dog bites create a strict liability standard for dog owners only. However, an individual merely caring for someone else’s dog could still be found liable under a theory of negligence if the dog bites someone and causes injury, even though the caretaker is not deemed strictly liable. What this means is that, while a dog owned by someone else is in your house or on your property, you owe a duty to invited guests to protect them from dangerous conditions. A dog bite victim could allege that you failed to meet this duty to protect them and, along with the dog’s owner, you could be found liable.
People who temporarily care for dogs or have guests who bring dogs to their homes can take steps to protect against being subject to claims made by dog bite victims.
If friends or relatives are coming to your house with their dog, make sure you know the dog’s disposition. This way you can let others at your house know about it and put them on guard. You may also choose to tell your friends not to bring the dog to your home if you know beforehand that it may be dangerous. Similarly, if you will be dog sitting, asking questions could alert you to prior dog bite incidents and it might be a good idea to decline the request to dog sit.
If there are dogs that do not belong to you that are regularly on your property, such as if you will be dog sitting for an extended period of time, you can take some of the same steps that the actual owners would take. For example, you can put up bad dog signs on your fence, door, or somewhere on your property where they will be easy for visitors to see. You can also purchase an insurance policy that will protect you against accidents involving dog bites. By taking these type of steps, it can serve as evidence of you attempting to meet your duty to maintain your premises in a safe condition for visitors and put them on notice. If a dog bite victim takes legal action, your proactive steps can help create a defense in case you are alleged to have been negligent in allowing someone else’s dog to bite someone while on your property or under your supervision.
Even if you are only temporarily watching someone else’s dog, you need to be mindful of how you care for it, such as how long you agree to maintain custody of it and the types of things you do for the dog. Under common law, those who own a dog, have an interest in the dog or harbor the dog can be strictly liable for injuries caused by the animal. A person is said to have harbored a dog if he or she undertakes to care for the dog as the owners of such an animal would be accustomed to. This means that, if you demonstrate certain factors that indicate custody, care and control of the dog, like paying for its license or keeping it for a long period of time, you could owe a duty to others to protect them from the actions of the dog that you claim belongs to someone else.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite, or if you are a non-dog owner concerned about your level of protection from dog bite liability, you can receive more information by calling our office for a free consultation. Rue & Ziffra is a personal injury law firm handling various aspects of dog bite injury claims. Remember, if you or a loved one wishes to seek help for a dog bite injury, don’t hesitate to seek legal answers and information helpful to your unique situation.
It goes without saying that dog owners should always take steps to properly care for their pets. They should also take steps to ensure that they are not a potential harm to the public. As we all know, however, accidents can happen. If your dog is involved in an incident where a person is bitten, and the incident is reported, it is possible that your dog will (from that point forward) be deemed a “dangerous dog” under the Florida Statutes. This designation will have several impacts upon both your dog and upon you as the dog owner.
A “dangerous dog,” as defined in §767.11, Florida Statutes, is one that has aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property; has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property; or has been used primarily or in part for the purposes of dog fighting. Further, even an instance of your dog chasing or approaching a person upon the streets, sidewalks or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack without provocation can be enough for your dog to be deemed “dangerous.”
If your dog bites someone, or is accused of one of the other wrongs identified in the above-mentioned statute, an animal control authority will likely investigate the matter and could determine your dog is in fact a dangerous dog. If this happens, the dog could be destroyed, or, in the alternative, you as the owner will have to take certain steps to ensure similar bad acts are not repeated by your “dangerous dog.”
First, the owner must obtain a certificate of registration for the dangerous dog from animal control. To get this registration, the owner will have to provide proof of vaccinations, evidence that the dog will be kept in a proper enclosure displayed with a visible “dangerous dog” sign and evidence that the dog has been tattooed or has an electronic implant for permanent identification.
While on the owner’s property, the dangerous dog must be securely confined indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked pen or structure. This structure must be suitable to prevent the entry of young children and designed to prevent the animal from escaping. The pen or structure must have secure sides as well as a secure top to prevent the dog from escaping over, under or through it.
Take note that this requirement applies to the actual “owners” of a dangerous dog. The statute defines owner as any person possessing, harboring, keeping or having control or custody of the animal, or the parent of such person if he or she is younger than 18 years old. If a friend or relative asks you to care for their dog, make sure you know if it has been deemed as dangerous and if whether or not you are required to keep the dog in a proper enclosure as defined in the statute. Failing to do so could expose you to substantial liability risks if there were another incident involving the dangerous dog.
If a dangerous dog is taken out of its proper enclosure, the dog must generally be muzzled and on a chain or leash at all times.
The owner must notify animal control authorities immediately if the dangerous dog escapes its enclosure, if it bites someone again, if there is a change in ownership of the dog or if it dies.
It is important to be aware that owners who do not comply with the requirements relating to dangerous dogs can face substantial fines and even jail time. Additionally, if someone is injured by a dog known to be dangerous and there is evidence of the owner not taking the steps required by statute, the dog bite victim could make a claim for punitive damages.
If you have been the victim of an attack from a dangerous dog, report the incident to local authorities, seek treatment for your injuries and know that you can always call on an attorney for legal help. The personal injury attorneys at Rue & Ziffra have handled dog bite cases and can help you learn more about your rights.
Did you know women account for nearly half of all heart attack-related deaths? This if often due to the fact that women respond differently to heart attacks and are less likely than men to believe they are having one. As a result, they may delay in seeking medical treatment or avoid treatment altogether.
Although heart disease can result from a number of different causes, there are some risk factors more commonly associated with the condition. Such risk factors include advancing age, obesity, diabetes, smoking, elevated levels of blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides), high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease. Keep in mind, however, that you do not have to have all of these risk factors to fall victim to a heart attack.
The most common form of heart disease is atherosclerosis, or the buildup of fatty deposits known as plaque. When an area of plaque ruptures, it often causes a blood clot to form that suddenly blocks an artery. When this phenomenon occurs in a heart artery, it results in a heart attack. This is known as acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and getting life saving treatment within the first 30 minutes of onset can help prevent heart damage and death.
Often, individuals may not even realize they are having a heart attack. This is due to the varying nature and degrees of the attacks themselves. It is important, however to be able to recognize certain signs and conditions at the onset of an attack in order to receive proper medical care.
Some of the heart attack signs for women include:
If you experience any of these symptoms (even if they seem minor), call 911 immediately. Do not delay calling 911 to take an aspirin, or if your doctor has already prescribed nitroglycerin tablets, take them as directed as you are calling 911. Find a way to get swiftly and safely to your local emergency room. Once at the hospital, be proactive with your treatment and request a complete cardiac workup.
Unfortunately for women, doctors often mistake their heart attack symptoms for those of a panic attack. If this happens they may fail to do a thorough cardiac workup on the patient, resulting in medical negligence.
If you want to be proactive about your medical treatment once in the hospital for a heart attack, you should insist on a complete cardiac workup if you are having any of the symptoms listed above. Remember, a complete cardiac workup doesn’t just consist of an EKG, but also includes blood tests and recording of the heart’s activity. If the doctor fails to order the proper tests to check for signs of a heart attack, they have committed medical malpractice.
Other tests that can be done while in the emergency room include cardiac catheterization, which is done in the cardiac catheterization laboratory. This test includes placing a small catheter in the artery of the groin or arm and feeding it to the heart. Radio opaque dye is then injected into the coronary arteries and the cardiologist can visualize the arteries directly and look for blockages. Blockages may be mild or severe, and depending on the degree of blockage, the cardiologist may have no recommendations or may call for medications, may use a stent to open up the artery or perform coronary artery bypass grafting.
Although heart attacks happen suddenly, it is imperative for any individual to know if they are at risk. If you or a loved one suffers from any of the risk factors mentioned above, you can receive a medical evaluation by meeting with a cardiologist. The cardiologist can do non-invasive tests such as a stress test (exercise treadmill test) or a nuclear stress test if you are unable to perform the exercise treadmill test, to see if there are signs or symptoms of ischemic heart disease or blocked arteries.
Keep in mind, that if you go to your primary doctor or other medical specialist and ask to be referred to a cardiologist, they need to refer you immediately. If he or she fails to do so in a timely manner, this could also be considered medical negligence.
If you have questions concerning issues of medical malpractice, or would like to learn more, please visit the Rue & Ziffra website or contact our office for a free consultation. The Florida medical negligence attorneys at Rue & Ziffra have experience in dealing with various types of malpractice cases and are willing to take your call. We also employ an on-location registered nurse available to answer confusing medical questions.
Did you know colorectal (colon) cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States? Nowadays, many physicians are able to make an early diagnosis of colon cancer, which often leads to a complete cure for a patient. However, if a medical provider does not practice proper care when it comes to diagnosing and treating patients for colon cancer, they may have committed medical malpractice.
For example, if a doctor fails to recommend and order a colonoscopy for a high-risk or suspecting patient, they may have committed malpractice if the patient does develop colon cancer. Also, if a patient has a change in their colon cancer treatment because of a delay in the doctor’s diagnosis; or, if there is metastasis (spread of the cancer from its site of origin), the patient may have a viable medical negligence claim.
Colon cancer occurs in the colon (the part of the digestive system where the waste material is stored) and the rectum (the end of the colon adjacent to the anus). Together, they form a long, muscular tube called the large intestine. There is no single cause for colon cancer, however almost all cases of colon cancers begin as benign tumors called polyps that form inside this area. If benign polyps are not removed, they can become malignant (cancerous) over time. This is why it is very important for a doctor to request regular screenings and other tests to promptly catch any sign of a polyp before it becomes malignant. If customary medical standards are not taken, medical providers can face serious medical malpractice claims against them.
Even though colorectal cancer can be asymptomatic, many patients experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits, tiredness and weakness.
Often, developing colon cancer can be out of a person’s control, no matter how health conscious they are. Therefore, risks for this type of cancer often correlate with such factors as a person’s genetic make-up.
Risk factors for developing colon cancer that are out of a patient’s control can include:
Some factors that raise the risk of colorectal cancer that are within your control include:
Benign polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms. For this reason, doctors recommend regular screening tests to help prevent colon cancer by identifying polyps in their early, benign stages. Screening for colon cancer involves testing the stool for hidden blood, typically be way of performing a colonoscopy. This screening process should be started at age 50, (45 for African Americans), for those persons with an average risk for colon cancer and should be repeated every 10 years. People with a higher risk for colon cancer should be screened more frequently as recommended by their gastroenterologist or primary care physician. Although colon cancer can be life-threatening (especially if a doctor negligently fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses a patient) it can be caught and cured with an early diagnosis. Stage I, II and III cancers are considered potentially curable, but in most cases, stage IV cancer is not curable.
Always be proactive with your medical care, urging your physician to promptly order tests and colon screenings. Even if you do not show any symptoms or are considered low risk for colon cancer, your doctor must order the necessary tests if you have any suspicions of having cancer or make a request for one. Again, failing to promptly diagnose and treat a patient for colon cancer can result in medical malpractice on the part of the medical provider.
If you have questions concerning issues of medical malpractice, or would like to learn more, please visit the Rue & Ziffra website or contact our office for a free consultation. The Florida medical negligence attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, have experience in dealing with various types of malpractice cases and are willing to take your call. We also employ an on-location registered nurse available to answer confusing medical questions.
According to an article printed in the Daytona Beach News Journal, the American Heart Association has articulated an new guideline for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. Instead of the normal procedure where the airways of a victim are opened first, the new technique has been rearranged, putting chest compressions first, unlocking the airway second and administering breaths third.
American Heart Association officials claim that the rearrangement is a result of new scientific findings that show chest compressions as the essential step for keeping oxygen-rich blood circulating through the body.
Because of the change, the association feels that it will now be “much easier for anyone to save a life using CPR.” Instead of having to unlock a victim’s airways and provide them breathes, an individual can now go straight into chest compressions, something that is easier and lest intrusive.
To view and learn the new CPR steps, watch this training video provided by the American Heart Association.
Source: The Daytona Beach News Journal: Compression becomes 1st step in CPR. Anne Geggis, October 19, 2010.
Medical Malpractice occurs when your doctor or hospital causes you injury by failing to provide acceptable care. If your physician or hospital acted in a way that was not consistent with normal standards, you may have been a victim of Medical Malpractice.
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions or are concerned about medical treatment you received, it may be valuable to speak with an attorney knowledgeable with the laws of medical malpractice. Keep in mind that there is a specific Florida time limit, ranging about 2-4 years from the occurrence of malpractice, in which an individual must bring a claim if they want to try and receive benefits.
Have you or a family member ever been in the hospital and developed an infection after having surgery or some other procedure? The development of a hospital-acquired infection (called a nosocomial infection) is more common than many people may realize, and there may be a chance for a victim to pursue a legal case for medical malpractice against the physician or hospital.
As defined by the World Health Organization, a nosocomial infection is“an infection acquired in hospital by a patient who was admitted for a reason other than that infection. This includes infections acquired in the hospital but appearing after discharge, and also occupational infections among staff of the facility.”
Contrary to common perception, a hospital can contain various avenues where a patient can develop unwanted diseases and infections. Some factors that can contribute to infection among hospitalized patients can include:
The four most common types of hospital-acquired infections are urinary infections, surgical site infection, nosocomial pneumonia, and nosocomial bacteraemia.
Urinary Infections – Statistically shown as the most common type of infection a patient can receive while hospitalized. It is often caused by the insertion and use of a catheter.
Surgical Site Infection – A frequent infection characterized by discharge around or emanating from the surgical site.
Nosocomial Pneumonia – A common respiratory infection that can cause significant health deterioration or death in a patient.
Nosocomial Bacteraemia – A small portion of hospital-acquired infections, but also one with the highest mortality rates. It occurs when a patient develops bacteria along the path of a catheter or at other entry sites.
Codes of conduct for medical practices and standards of care are clearly communicated within the health industry. However, patients often develop infections while in the hospital, putting them at the mercy of their doctor to take correct, remedial action. If a physician or nurse does not properly treat these infections, however, claims for medical malpractice and hospital negligence are often made.
A few negligent actions that can put a physician or other provider at risk for medical malpractice include:
Keep in mind that, since infection is a known complication of any invasive procedure, just the development of an infection in the hospital is not considered grounds enough to pursue a medical negligence claim. If, however, a procedure causes significant destruction of tissue (leaving you with a permanent injury or deformity), then there may be reason to call a medical malpractice attorney to investigate the infection case and its work up and treatment.
If you have questions concerning issues of medical malpractice, or would like to learn more, please visit the Rue & Ziffra, website or contact our office for a free consultation. The Florida medical negligence attorneys
Individuals place their relatives and loved ones in nursing homes believing they will receive the proper standard of care. Unfortunately, nursing home injuries caused by abuse or neglect are not uncommon in many of these types of residential care facilities. In fact, the rates of reported mistreatment of elderly patients in nursing homes has recently been cause for serious alarm among lawmakers, as well as the general public.
Common types of nursing home abuse or neglect include:
Some residents are even stripped of their financial assets by workers, caretakers, relatives and others.
There are laws in Florida to protect elderly individuals from abuse, neglect or other forms of maltreatment in nursing homes or by those in charge of their care. The individuals that courts deem liable in these matters include owners of nursing homes, administrators or other workers. If patients decide to take legal action to receive compensation for injuries resulting from maltreatment, they must prove two things: that someone was negligent in providing care and that this negligence led to the victim’s injuries or means of unacceptable care. In more complex cases, one may also have to prove that a breach of duty occurred which resulted in injury. For example, if a nursing home patient dies as a result of negligence, no proof that they would have lived past the time of injury if not for the negligence or abuse is required.
Victims of nursing home abuse or their loved ones always have the option of consulting with a medical malpractice attorney. Although this type of case is traumatic and can put hardship on any family, seeking guidance from an attorney immediately when the nursing home abuse is discovered can act to successfully hold offenders legally responsible for their actions.
The Daytona Beach medical malpractice attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, have over 30 years of experience in representing the victims of nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, hospital negligence and other personal injury areas of practice.
Within the health care profession, it is not uncommon to see established doctor-patient relationships. This is due to the nature of the field itself, where many patients schedule appointments with the same physician for years on end. Doctors in this type of relationship with their patients are held to a high standard, and must respond in a timely manner when called to handle one of their patient’s needs. If, however, the doctor does not respond when called by the nursing staff of the hospital, he or she can be considered negligent and medical malpractice ensues if their patient suffers a devastating injury as a result of this absence.
Cases where a doctor may assume malpractice for failure to respond is often found within obstetrics and gynecology situations. For example, if a woman is laboring and the fetus is demonstrating signs of distress, her personal doctor (or the doctor on-call) is expected to respond if called upon by the nursing staff or other physicians. In the same situation, the nurse who examined the expectant mother may be held liable as well if he or she does not recognize the signs of fetal distress (therefore delaying to seek prompt attention from the physician.)
Another instance where a doctor can be deemed negligent of failure to respond often occurs in the emergency room setting. For example, the physician on duty in the emergency room may examine a patient and recognize the need for immediate, specialty consultation. As a result he or she will place a call to the on-call specialist, a doctor who has knowledge in a specific field of medicine. If the specialist fails to respond to the ER doctor’s request, then he or she has committed medical malpractice. Although there is no physician-patient relationship established between the specialist and the patient, there is a responsibility to respond if the specialist is on-call and agrees with the ER physician that the condition cannot wait to be treated.
Determining whether or not a doctor has committed medical malpractice by failing to respond to a call can often be difficult for a patient (or their family) to prove. However, a seasoned malpractice attorney will often have the knowledge and resources to determine whether or not the lines of communication between hospital staff members were complete and that there was documented evidence for the need of the on-call specialist.
To prove negligence on behalf of a doctor’s failure to respond, a medical malpractice attorney may have to prove some of the following key issues:
If you or a loved one believe to have been the victim of a doctor’s failure to respond or any other type of medical malpractice claim, remember that you always have the option of seeking legal help from a malpractice attorney. The Daytona Beach medical malpractice attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, have over 30 years of experience in representing the victims of nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, hospital negligence and other personal injury areas of practice.
When individuals suffer from an ailment or injury (often as a result of a car crash or other type of personal injury), they tend to seek medical help from their personal physician or a specialist. When attention is sought out from a medical provider, the doctor who responds can suggest an array of treatment methods they feel are appropriate for the individual’s condition.
However, some doctors are quick to suggest that a patient undergo a surgical procedure instead of trying alternative methods first.Sometimes this “rush decision” to send an individual to surgery can become a cause for action in a medical malpractice claim, especially if it results in a worsened condition or outcome for the patient
.We often see this type of medical malpractice stemming from patients who seek help for an orthopedic injury or ailment. This involves the musculoskeletal system of the body, including bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves.
Although sending a patient to surgery is often the best alternative a doctor can recommend, it is important that certain avenues of care are explored before going to surgery, especially if the individual has a joint injury or soft tissue strain. For example, conditions such as tennis elbow may be better handled (to begin with) through non-operative methods. This is a condition were an individual’s tendon fibers, which connect muscle to bone, become frayed or torn. The initial treatment is to have the patient eliminate the offending activity, apply ice to the injured area and take over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Courses of physical therapy may be requested and it has been shown that approximately 85% of this type of injury improves with rehabilitation exercises.
All of these interventions need to be conducted over time before considering immobilization or surgery, with the course of conservative non operative care lasting at least a year. If a patient endures surgery as a first alternative, he or she runs the risk of receiving infection, nerve and blood vessel damage, possible prolonged rehabilitation, loss of strength, loss of flexibility, and the need for further surgery.
If your physician “rushed” you into surgery, before giving conservative rehabilitation a try, you may have a case for medical negligence. If this happens, you always have the option of seeking legal help from a medical malpractice attorney. The Daytona Beach personal injury attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, have over 30 years of experience in representing the victims of nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, hospital negligence and other areas of practice.
When negligent medical care is provided to a patient in the emergency room, there are stringent standards one must prove to initiate a medical malpractice claim against the hospital, ER physician or ER nurse. In most cases, victims of malpractice may have to prove that the “reckless disregard” standard was met.
The reckless disregard standard is a part of established medical malpractice statutes that claim, in emergency situations, the plaintiff must prove that the caregiver demonstrated wanton and willful reckless disregard in the care and outcome of a patient.
One situation where a medical care provider can demonstrate reckless disregard is during the triage phase of a patient’s emergency room visit. The hospital ER staff is supposed to evaluate each patient when they arrive to determine the degree of urgency needed to attend to each person. If this is not done correctly or in a timely manner and the patient is injured a result of these failures, there may be a viable malpractice claim.
Another demonstration of reckless disregard can often occur when a medical care protocol is abandoned before completion and for no apparent reason. For example, an emergency room doctor may commit malpractice if he or she starts working up a cardiac issue for a patient complaining of chest pains but begins to seek out other causes before completely ruling the cardiac issue out. If the patient then goes on to develop another condition, such as a heart attack, there may likely be a case for medical malpractice. Opposite of this situation is when an emergency room doctor does not initiate an indicated treatment protocol. This can happen when a patient complains of severe abdominal pain (with guarding, tenderness and rebound phenomenon) and the proper surgeon is neither notified nor consulted.
If you or a loved one believes to have been the victim of a doctor’s demonstration of reckless disregard or any other type of medical malpractice claim, remember that you always have the option of seeking legal help from a malpractice attorney. The Daytona Beach personal injury attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, have over 30 years of experience in representing the victims of nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, hospital negligence and other areas of practice.
In 2000 the Journal of the American Medical Association published the number of yearly fatalities resulting from unnecessary surgery, hospital-acquired infections and other instances of harmful medical care. This estimate reached a total of 250,000 lives lost in just one year due to medical negligence. By that figure, it is said that an encounter with the United States health care system was the third leading cause of death in America. This figure falls behind only to all episodes of heart disease and cancer.
After this publication was released, the severity of the statistics it claimed led to an investigation by Congress into the health care system. As a result, many plans were enacted to improve the quality of care given by hospitals and nursing homes including the development of hospital performance improvement teams across the country. Still, after establishing all the plans and protocols in order to prevent (or even reduce) medical injuries, American medicine is said to be even more dangerous today.
In November, 2010 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a study that covered the 15% of the U.S. population enrolled in Medicare. It found that each month, one out of seven Medicare hospital patients are injured – and an estimated 15,000 are killed – by harmful medical practice.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that almost 100,000 Americans now die from hospital-acquired infectionsalone, and that most of these cases are later found to be preventable. Due to the costs of treating these infections, Medicare is requiring hospitals to identify by coding whether or not the conditions were present upon admission.
After reading this, it may seem shocking that so many individuals are subject to life-threatening situations as a result of the health care they receive. Although you may feel like there is not much you can do to guard against medical malpractice, there are some small and easy steps you can take to help keep yourself safe. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, there are some proactive ways you can try to keep yourself apart from these staggering statistics:
If you or a loved one believes to have been the victim of a doctor’s negligence or have other questions about medical malpractice, remember that you always have the option of seeking legal help from a medical malpractice attorney. The Deltona medical malpractice attorney at Rue & Ziffra, P.A. has experience in representing the victims of nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, hospital negligence and other areas of practice.
When an individual suffers an injury as a result of medical malpractice, he or she has the right to file a claim for compensation of damages. As with many types of personal injury cases, a person claiming malpractice must be able to prove that the negligence did indeed occur and that the injuries sustained directly resulted from it.
In many hospital malpractice cases, the person whose negligence caused the injuries (a doctor, nurse or hospital in general) typically pays for the victim’s medical bills and other damages. In the State of Florida, however, the injured person may assume comparative negligence in their own medical malpractice case.
In some cases, more than one person may have contributed to the medical malpractice received by the injured person. Also, the injured person themselves may have contributed in some way to their injuries. Since these types of cases can have multiple negligent parties, the statutes of comparative negligence were created.
In a comparative negligence system, a jury or judge determines and assigns a proportion of fault to each responsible party and then apportions the damage award accordingly. This means that each party will be assigned a proportion of the fault, and then will have to pay that proportion in damages to the injured party.
Using this system, an injured person may recover some of his damages even if he was partially to blame for causing the accident. For example, even if the victim is found to be 99% at fault in causing his injury, he will still be able to receive the 1% in damages caused by the other negligent party. As you can see, the victim’s financial recovery will just be reduced, depending how his own actions caused or contributed to the injury.
Remember that many exceptions to the standard negligence systems are present in several states. Additionally, some states limit the types of cases to which these negligence systems may apply.
If you have received an injury from some sort of medical malpractice and choose to file a claim, the doctor or other medical care provider under scrutiny will often try to build their own defense. As a result, the doctor may review your medical records and look for certain information such as:
All of these pieces of information could be used as evidence against your claim if the doctor presents these instances to the jury. If the jury feels you are in part responsible for your damages or injury, your award will be lessened by the percent of comparative negligence they ultimately determine.
If you or a loved one believes to have been the victim of a doctor’s negligence, remember that you always have the option of seeking legal help from a malpractice attorney. The Deltona medical malpractice attorney at Rue & Ziffra, P.A. has experience in representing the victims of nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, hospital negligence and other areas of practice.
Facebook. MySpace. Twitter. YouTube. If you haven’t noticed already, these types of social interaction websites, commonly known as “social media”, are everywhere. Why have these sites and services become so popular? First of all, they are easy to access, whether from our computers at home or from our smart phones wherever we may be when we get the urge to “tweet”. They are also increasingly easy to use, allowing us to quickly share information about ourselves with our friends and family. While this ease of use is one of the factors making social media more attractive to us, if you have been injured in an automobile crash or from an accident at work, using social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter can do serious harm to your credibility and case if you decide to seek legal help from an attorney.
In a personal injury lawsuit, a case’s value depends largely upon the verifiability of injuries an accident victim suffers. Medical records, doctor diagnoses and treatments are a few types of evidence a plaintiff’s attorney will use to support financial demands made during settlement negotiations and in trials. Defense attorneys, in contrast, will use any evidence they can to argue that the person is not injured as badly as they claim. If they are not careful, accident victims who actively use Facebook or Twitter can unintentionally help the defense, by providing the very pictures, videos and text that can derail their case.
In some situations, the process of gaining information from a social media website is a simple one. Contrary to what you may think, defense attorneys are no strangers to these websites and resources. Instead of hiring a private investigator to conduct surveillance over weeks or months, the investigation can be concluded in seconds. Equipped with your personal information, such as your name and where you live, they can easily find your profile. From there, they can browse any pictures you publicly share and find out what you have been doing or what you have been talking to your friends about doing. Although what you post may seem “harmless” at the time, it is easy to see how damaging this information can be to a case if, for example, you claim an accident has left you miserable and bed ridden but you turn up smiling in pictures from a recent ski trip. Even if your information is only shared with friends, or is private, there is still a chance the defense could get their hands on it. When a case progresses to litigation and courts become involved, judges have the power to make a person share otherwise private details. In recent decisions, courts in Pennsylvania and New York have faced this very issue.
In Pennsylvania, a county court judge granted a defense motion to compel a plaintiff to turn over user names and passwords for their Facebook and MySpace page. The Judge reasoned that it would be unrealistic for a person to expect the things they disclose in such forums to be confidential. The decision in New York came from a New York Supreme Court Judge, also on a defense motion to compel. There, the judge ordered the plaintiff to provide access to private areas of her Facebook and MySpace profiles, pointing out that if a person puts their physical condition at issue, they should not be allowed to block the defense from access to the material necessary in proving the true nature of that physical condition.
In our social media crazed world, it is becoming easier and easier for others to find out about you. If you have been injured in a personal injury accident of some sort, it is important to keep this in mind and take steps to protect yourself and your rights. Easy things you can do include:
Only share information with people you know
Avoid accepting requests from people who want to see your information if you do not know the person asking; it could be someone seeking evidence to use against you
While many people know not to talk to insurance companies on the phone following an accident, a good idea is to adopt the same approach toward social media. This means, refrain from referring to your accident in status updates, tweets or other posts
Incriminating pictures of you could be uploaded on someone else’s account, like a sibling or a spouse, so make sure they are following the same guidelines of being selective with whom they share information
If you have questions about your rights after an automobile accident or injury at work, speak with an attorney instead of tweeting it with internet friends. Although you sometimes cannot avoid accidents and crashes from happening, you can prevent having your own online activities being used against you!
For more information related to automobile accidents or how to seek legal help from an attorney after an accident, please contact the New Smyrna Beach personal injury attorneys at Rue & Ziffra.
Do I have a case? Do I need an attorney? Which law firm should I choose? Questions and concerns like these may come to mind in the hours following an automobile accident or other type of personal injury claim. As an injury lawyer working in a busy Plaintiff’s law firm, I often find myself responding to these questions several times in a given day. The answers I frequently give in response, however, may surprise you.
Take the question, “Do I need an attorney?” No lawyer in his or her right mind would respond to this by telling a potential client “No,” would they? Believe it or not, on several occasions, particularly when speaking with potential worker’s compensation claimants, I have said exactly that. I do, however, go on to explain my answer a bit further, usually something along these lines:
In a perfect world, when a person is injured on the job they can report the accident to a supervisor, be sent off for treatment, have that treatment paid for by the employer’s worker’s compensation insurance and be reimbursed lost wages for time they are forced to miss from work because of their injury. As long as all of these actions happen as they are supposed to, there is little reason for an attorney to be involved in the process. Unfortunately, there often comes a time during a worker’s compensation claim where benefits are slow to come or stop all together. Medical treatments ordered by the injured person’s doctor may not be approved for weeks, paychecks could stop coming. This is where the answer to the “Do I need a lawyer?” question changes. When benefits are denied, the answer quickly becomes a “Yes,” you need a lawyer, one who will work to ensure you are getting the benefits to which you are rightfully entitled. While you may not truly need an attorney at the outset of a case or claim, taking that affirmative step early could mean you are prepared for those unforeseen difficulties that can crop up without warning.
After an accident victim decides that they want to hire an attorney, they often wonder which law firm is the best choice for them. Occasionally, when potential clients seek out the services of the law firm I work for, they ask why they should opt for hiring my firm to represent them. For me, this is one of the most difficult questions to answer. Sure, I could easily tell them how many clients we represent and how many cases we have settled, but I feel it is better to paint a picture of our firm as being competent and dedicated, rather than coming off as arrogant and quick to brag about our success.
To do this, I often point out that our firm has been in existence, helping people with personal injury issues, for over 30 years. I feel that this is a testament to our experience and knowledge about the variety of legal issues that may arise as a case progresses. It also speaks to our reputation in the eyes of defense attorneys and insurance adjusters, many of whom we have dealt with long enough for them to know the claims we bring are well founded and the clients we represent are genuinely injured and deserve compensation.
In addition to experience, there are other factors you should consider when choosing an attorney to represent your interests. When you meet with a potential lawyer prior to hiring them, make sure to confirm which practice areas their firm handles. If you have recently been involved in a car crash where your car is totaled and you have a sore neck and splitting headache, an attorney who spends most of his days drafting wills might not be the best person to turn to for questions about insurance and how to find a doctor.
Above all, you should find an attorney or law firm that will work hard for you, one that realizes that while they may have hundreds of open files, you only have one case and deserve their complete attention. Answering your phone calls, keeping you updated and informed about where your case stands is not too much to ask.
A good way to learn of a firm’s reputation for these characteristics is to speak with other people. Advertising rules limit how attorneys may use satisfied clients to give testimonials on their behalf, so do your own homework. Ask a friend who has been in an accident or who has hired an attorney to fill you in on the firm they turned to when they needed help. We cannot ask them to speak up on our behalf, but if they have had a good experience with an attorney or firm, they are often willing to share what they know.
This article was submitted by Personal Injury Attorney, Robert Wohn, III from Rue & Ziffra. Rue & Ziffra is a Florida injury law firm located in Daytona Beach, serving those who are injured in various types of injury claims, from automobile accidents to Social Security Disability claims.
If you have been involved in an automobile or motorcycle crash in Florida, your insurance company may contact you shortly thereafter and request you to give an Examination Under Oath (EUO). An EUO is where you give a recorded statement, under oath, describing your account of the accident to your insurance company (and possibly to the defendant’s insurance company). You may also be asked to answer questions about your insurance coverage and medical treatment.
If it is requested that you give an EUO, you must respond to it and attend the meeting. Failure to comply may result in your insurance claim for benefits being denied or questioned.
Although you must give an EUO if your insurance company requests one, you don’t have to go to it alone. Many victims of personal injury accidents find it beneficial to hire an attorney and have them attend the examination with them. This is because a personal injury attorney can help you go over the specifics of your case and make you feel more prepared to answer questions completely and competently.
Remember: insurance companies can and use the information they obtain in an Examination Under Oath, and you may not be able to correct or expand upon what you said in the recording at a later date. If you have been injured in an accident and have been requested to give an EUO, contact a personal injury attorney who can help.
Some of the most devastating injuries sustained by victims of motorcycle accidents, auto accidents or truck accidents include severe burns, typically caused from a ruptured gas line, gas tank or radiator. These injuries have devastating effects on the victim’s life (as well as the lives of their family) because the recuperation and rehabilitation process is extensive and the physical and psychological scars are often deep and long lasting.
A victim of a motor vehicle crash can sustain serious burns in a variety of ways. Some of the most common burns include:
The seriousness of a burn injury depends on how deep the injury is and how much of the body has been burned. It is common for a motorcycle accident or automobile accident victim with a large burn to have burns of different depth. The seriousness of burn injuries are usually classified in degrees:
1st degree or superficial burns: the skin is red and unbroken and there is minimal danger of infection as the damage is limited to the outer layer of skin called the epidermis.
2nd degree or partial thickness burns: the damage extends through the top layer of skin. With a second degree burn, the skin can regrow and heal unless it becomes infected and turns into a third degree burn.
3rd degree or full thickness burns: a third degree burn destroys all three layers of skin. It also destroys hair follicles, sweat glands and the region where new skin cells are formed. A third degree burn cannot heal by itself and skin grafting is necessary.
4th degree burns: a fourth degree burn extends through the skin and into the underlying tissues, such as ligaments and muscles. These burns are often life threatening.
Third and fourth degree burns can have a devastating impact on a victim’s life. Medical bills will be extensive, hospital stays will be long, rehabilitation will be grueling and the effects on the person’s long term physical and psychological wellbeing will be serious.
When an individual has been severely burned as a result of the negligence of another or by a defective product, it is important for the victim and/or their attorney to preserve evidence and document the victim’s injuries and recovery process in order to maximize the victim’s recovery.
The following is a list of steps that an attorney (or other representative) must take in order to properly represent the victim of an auto accident, motorcycle accident or other type of accident that results in severe burns:
Burn injuries from auto crashes, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents or defective products can devastate a person’s life. Hiring a personal injury attorney that has experience with serious burn injuries is often recommended for a burn victim to receive competent representation.
The Daytona Beach accident attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, have over 30 years of experience in representing the victims of serious automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents and product liability claims who often suffer from burns.
For many people, knowing how their insurance works can be a tricky task, and being involved in an automobile accident can only worsen the confusion. To help gain some insurance clarity before possibly being involved in an accident, here is some information regarding the basic automobile insurance policies and how they work:
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage is a type of automobile insurance that is required by Florida law for all vehicle owners (at least $10,000 coverage). If you are involved in an automobile accident, your PIP insurance will cover 80% of your medical bills and 60% of any lost wages you acquire up to the amount stated in your policy limits.
For example, if you purchase a policy with a $10,000.00 limit, 80% of your medical bills will be paid until PIP pays out a total of $10,000.00. After the payout exceeds $10,000.00, your PIP insurance is said to be exhausted. When this happens, your remaining bills will have to be covered through another source such as your health insurance or through making a claim on the at fault party’s bodily injury coverage or through your own uninsured motorist coverage.
This insurance is also required by Florida law (at least $10,000 coverage) to obtain a tag for a vehicle. It covers any property that was damaged as a result of an automobile accident, such as damage to vehicles, mailboxes and houses.
If you are involved in an accident where someone else hit you (and was at-fault) the amount of benefits you would receive from this coverage depends on how much the at-fault party purchased in their policy.
This type of liability insurance is not required by Florida law to obtain a vehicle tag. However, it can be a crucial element in providing extra benefits to the injured party as a result of an automobile accident. If you are involved in an automobile accident where someone else hit you (and was at-fault) the amount of benefits you would receive from this coverage depends again on how much the at-fault party purchased in their policy.
This is a type of insurance coverage that each vehicle owner can purchase separately for their policy. This insurance comes into play if you are involved in an automobile accident where another person hit you and does not have bodily injury liability insurance.
If this is the case, you would first be covered under your PIP insurance, any health insurance you maintain and then your personal Uninsured Motorist coverage will cover any remaining medical costs you may have as a result of the accident.
If the victim of the accident has anyone in their household that is a RESIDENT relative, they may be able to use that resident relative’s UM coverage.
This insurance coverage is also a separately purchased policy that comes into play if you are involved in an automobile accident where another person hit you and does not have enough bodily injury liability insurance to cover all of your medical bills.
If this is the case, your personal Underinsured Motorist coverage will help provide you more payment of medical costs if the at-fault party’s liability insurance is not enough to cover them after your PIP has already paid out the full limits you purchased.
If the victim of the accident has anyone in their household that is a RESIDENT relative, they may be able to use that resident relative’s UM coverage.
Some individuals purchase an uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance policy that is “stacking”. This simply means that the coverage they purchase will apply to however many vehicles they include on their policy. For example, if you purchase $10,000/20,000 UM that is stacking and have 2 cars listed on your policy, you will have $20,000/40,000 in total UM coverage.
The information given above does not reflect professional legal and/or insurance advice. If you have specific questions regarding your insurance policy, please contact your insurance agent.
We’ve all seen the law-themed television shows and movies. You know, the ones with the calculating attorney, slyly baiting the defensive witness; pushing little by little until the witness breaks down and blurts out some crucial bit of information, turning the trial upside down. Picture Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in their famous court room shouting match.
It may seem obvious, but if you are a plaintiff (the party suffering an injustice from another party’s negligence) in a personal injury trial or a claimant in a worker’s compensation or social security disability proceeding, the testimony you provide can have a big impact the outcome of your case. The bottom line: You do not want to follow Nicholson’s example. Trying to “outsmart” the attorney asking you questions or losing your cool can seriously cost you. While the purpose of this trial tip article is not to scare you or make you nervous about testifying, the importance of your firsthand account of your personal injury claim cannot be understated and it is something you should take very seriously.
What you say and how you say it can either portray you as a credible, injured victim, or a dishonest liar. Staying in control of your emotions and being courteous are easy ways to let the questioning attorney know that you are prepared for what they may ask you. Below are a few basic rules and potential “trap tactics” where attorneys can turn your own words against you. If you are knowledgeable about these areas, you will be on your way to a successful time on the witness stand.
Rule number one is to tell the truth. Nothing can be more damaging to your case than failing to be completely honest when you are testifying under oath. Any “white lie” or half truth gives the opposing attorney an opportunity to contradict you, either with something you may have previously said or with other evidence or records they have in their possession. If the judge or the jurors think you have lied about even the tiniest bit of information (even if it is completely unrelated to your personal injury claim) the rest of your testimony will be called into question. Giving jurors a reason to think you are not being truthful is a quick way to find yourself walking out of a courtroom with a losing verdict.
“Of course I’m going to answer their questions,” you might be thinking. What you don’t realize, though, is that the task is not so much about answering the questions, but distinguishing between answering a question and specifically answering only what is asked.
Ordinary conversation flows smoothly because we often change the subject and give whomever we are talking to new ideas about what to talk about. This is not something you want to do when you are testifying. Volunteering information that is outside the scope of the question that is asked gives the attorney new areas to question you about and could open the door to areas they may not have even known to question you about. If the attorney asks a yes or no question, your answer should be a yes or a no, not a five minute explanation of why that is the answer. The more concisely and directly you can answer a question, the better.
Keep in mind, this rule does not change the first rule about telling the truth. You can answer truthfully while being careful to only include information that has specifically been asked for.
If you do not know the answer to a question, do not be afraid to say so. If rule number one is to tell the truth, and the truth is that you are not 100% sure about an answer, do not guess about what you think the answer probably is or might be. Whether you are asked a question about something you do not remember or one about something you never knew about in the first place, guessing about things can cause problems. This is because, if your guess “flip-flops” between one idea and another, or if your guess turns out to not be the same as what you claimed before, it could make you appear as less than truthful.
When it comes to questions about things you could not possibly be expected to know for certain, don’t try to guess at these answers either. There will most likely be other witnesses and experts available to testify about those things. For example, if you do not known the proper terminology used to diagnose your injury, let the doctor testify about it. If you do not know about the distance your automobile traveled beyond the point of impact in an accident, let the accident reconstructionist answer that question. Just because you are asked a question, does not mean you are expected to know the answer.
Tell the truth. Answer only the question that is asked. Do not guess if you do not know or remember. These simple rules can be critical remember when testifying on your own behalf. Although you may never have to set foot inside of a courtroom to settle your personal injury claim, it can become important to follow these rules (and other tips given to you by your attorney) to help you avoid unintentionally damaging your own case if asked to testify.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of an automobile accident, worker’s compensation claim or other type of personal injury claim, we offer a free consultation for you to speak with an attorney and tell them your side of the story.
On the last day of the 2012 legislative session, Florida lawmakers reached a deal to revamp Florida’s no-fault auto insurance.
After the bill is signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, as he has vowed to do, the changes to Florida’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) program will become effective July 1, 2012 – except for a few provisions that will take effect later.
By October 1, insurance carriers that issue auto policies in Florida must either cut their rates by 10% or explain why not to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulations.
Insurers must make another rate filing by January 1, 2014, and must ask for at least a 25% reduction or explain why.
Rate reductions are not actually required by the law, and Florida consumers may not see real savings for some time.
The law may also face challenges from groups affected by it, such as chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and operators of pain clinics and accident referral services.
Florida lawmakers have been working for several weeks on ways to fix the PIP system, which pays the first $10,000 in medical bills in auto accidents, regardless of who is at fault for the personal injuries suffered.
The PIP system became law in 1972, and was intended to assure that anyone who suffered a personal injury in an auto accident could seek timely medical treatment.
The new law limits the treatments that patients can receive and also tries to eliminate the fraud that insurance companies blame for their high rates.
PIP insurance rates have doubled or more as claims increased from $1.45 billion in 2008 to $2.45 billion in 2010. An average family with two cars in Miami now pays $1,861 for for PIP coverage. The comparable rates are $1,409 in Tampa, $1,102 in Palm Beach, and $797 in Orlando. The national average rate is $1,500.
Under the new law, in order to be reimbursed by PIP, a personal injury victim must be treated by a physician, osteopath, dentist, chiropractor, physician’s assistant, or advanced registered nurse practitioner, or the medical services must be provided in a hospital or a facility wholly owned by a hospital. Initial care must be provided within 14 days of the accident. A $5,000 death benefit is included. Massage and acupuncture treatment are not reimbursable.
The bill allows for a 90-day limit on investigation of claims where there is a reasonable suspicion of fraud, and an insurer’s lawyers may ask the insured to answer questions under oath.
If you or a family member have suffered a personal injury in Florida, you can learn more about your rights by contacting an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer at the firm of Rue & Ziffra.
To begin the application process for a Social Security Disability claim, you must first schedule an interview with the Social Security Administration. This can be done by calling 1-800-772-1213 and setting up a telephone or in-person interview.
When applying for Social Security Disability benefits, you must be prepared to provide the Social Security Administration with various pieces of information. The information you will need to provide includes:
Many individuals feel that they can be approved for Social Security Disability benefits by simply stating to the Social Security Administration their physical ailments and why they cannot work anymore. This is often not enough to guarantee disability benefits, however, and many truly disabled people find themselves denied of benefits.
To help combat this, individuals filing for Social Security Disability should make sure to emphasize two issues to the Social Security Administration:
It is important to show that you are receiving medical care for your disability, and that the care is consistent. This means you should not “jump around” from doctor to doctor or receive treatment a couple of times. Instead, seek medical attention from a professional doctor and clinic, and go to every appointment.
The Social Security Administration often judges an individual as being truly disabled by the limitations they have as a result of their disability. Instead of emphasizing the general medical diagnosis given to you by your doctor, focus on communicating to the Administration how your disability limits you to do certain things, and how these limitations affect your ability to continue working.
If you or someone you know has a disability that is keeping them from being able to work, it may be wise to contact an attorney knowledgeable in Social Security Disability. For a free consultation, please contact the New Smyrna Beach Personal Injury Attorneys at Rue & Ziffra
Submitting a Social Security Disability application and going through the claims process can be a challenging task for anyone, let alone someone who is ill and disabled. This is because the Social Security Administration has set policies and procedures in place that strictly guide how a claim is processed and evaluated.
Contrary to what you may think, many disabled individuals try to fight for Social Security benefits alone, without legal representation from an attorney. What’s worse, is that they often “go into battle” unprepared, not knowing what to say or how to prove that they are indeed disabled. This is a truly unfortunate circumstance, especially when justly disabled people get denied for benefits when maybe they could have said or done a few things differently.
Although there is no particular tip that can guarantee an individual approval for Social Security Disability benefits, there are some ways to help make your case stronger, whether you seek out legal representation from a lawyer or choose to do it alone:
It is crucial that your physician supports your claim for Social Security Disability benefits. They are the one that has been treating you directly for your disabling condition and they can give credit to your physical expectations and limitations. Lack of a medical diagnosis backing up your disability can often be the reason you get denied.
One advantage to hiring a Social Security Disability attorney to represent your claim is that they can order your doctor to complete a Residual Functional Capacity Assessment form. This is a form that can be filled out by your treating physician that states, point by point, the details and limitations of your disability. For example, this form will include questions such as how much you can lift and for how long can you stand or sit during a given period. Having your doctor fill out this form can help you develop the medical evidence necessary to win your case.
It is important to realize that, although getting supportive medical treatment can make your case for disability stronger, receiving consistent, supportive medical care is even better. This simply means tostick with one or two physicians and don’t skip out on any appointments!
The Social Security Administration often judges an individual as being truly disabled by the limitations they have as a result of their disability. Instead of emphasizing the general medical diagnosis given to you by your doctor, focus on communicating to the administration how your disability limits you to do certain things, and how these limitations affect your ability to continue working.
There are three main types of limitations that can result from a disability:
From the time you first apply for Social Security Disability benefits to when you are talking to a judge in a hearing, always give complete information regarding your disability. Make sure that the Social Security Administration is aware of all the medical providers treating you and how to contact them. Also, inform the administration (and your doctors) of any and all medical ailments you have. This includes both physical and mental conditions. The administration is required to consider all of your medical conditions, individually and in combination, to determine whether you are disabled.
Although hiring an attorney can greatly help an individual successfully receive disability benefits, it is important for everyone filing a Social Security Disability claim to know and understand how the process works. Knowing what’s expected of you right from the beginning can help to increase your chances of receiving benefits, not to mention save you time and frustration if “issues” occur.
Along with understanding the process of filing for Social Security Disability benefits, it also proves important to know and understand the administration’s language. The government has adopted and continues to reinvent a system filled with acronyms and numbers. In order to communicate effectively with them, you must learn what they are (and will be) saying!
Filing for Social Security Disability benefits doesn’t have to be intimidating, and it sure doesn’t have to be straining on someone who is already suffering from a disability. If you or someone you love would like more information on Social Security Disability, please contact the Flagler County personal injury attorneys at Rue & Ziffra for your free consultation.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & ZIffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.
There is no doubt that the most important aspect of a claimant’s Social Security Disability/Supplemental Security Income claim (SSD/SSI) lies in the content of his/her medical records. In fact, the Social Security Administration (SSA) defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can result in death or which has lasted or can last for a continuous period not less than 1 year.
The only way that one can prove a medically determinable impairment is by way of medical records. Of course, treating physicians and other medical providers are in charge of drafting these records. So, plainly stated, doctors hold the most important key in their patients’ SSD/SSI claims. However, it is not simply medical records what wins a disability claim but the content of those records.
Different from what many people think, in order to determine whether someone is disabled, the SSA does not focus on medical conditions and diagnoses as much as they look for limitations caused by those conditions. It is in this respect that treating physicians can be their patients’ best allies.
When treating doctors not only describe a patient’s medical condition or diagnosis but also their specific physical or mental restrictions, they can give their patients powerful evidence of disability. This is essential in light of the fact that SSA often hires their own physicians and medical examiners that will comment on a claimant’s condition. For the most part, these doctors will only review records or examine a claimant once, and then render opinions (that in the overwhelming majority of the time) will be unfavorable to claimants.
Another reason why a treating physician’s opinion is such a powerful tool for a claimant in a disability case is found in the SSA’s own rules. Generally, the SSA will give more credence to the opinion of medical providers who have examined claimants than to the opinion of someone who has not. Further, the SSA will also give more weight to opinions from the claimant’s treating doctors since they have the best picture of his/her overall medical impairments and how they affect them (after all, they have been the ones monitoring the claimant’s medical state for a longer period of time). This means that if an individual’s doctor(s), based on the medical treatment he/she has provided them, finds that the claimant has limitations that are consistent with their medical history, tests and treatment, the doctor’s opinion will most likely have controlling weight. That’s why an established relationship with a doctor is of such high importance.
However, beware! Just going to a doctor a few times and getting a favorable opinion from him/her will probably not be given a lot of credit by the SSA. Also, if a doctor gives an opinion that their patient is disabled, but such opinion lacks specific limitations or medical support to back that opinion, it will likewise be given little or no weight. As a result, it is important for disability claimants to talk to their doctors about their limitations and make sure that any limitations or favorable opinions given by their doctors make it to the medical records.
In light of all this, remember that medical records, followed by a medical provider’s opinion stating that a claimant has limitations causing their disability, can win an SSD/SSI case regardless of what SSA’s hired “doctors” say or write. It is up to a patient-claimant to make sure that the records of his/her physician address those areas to improve their chances of success (confirming they have mental/physical limitations). In the end, no one will have more of an impact on an SSD/SSI claim than a claimant’s doctor.
If you would like more information about the Social Security Disability claims process, you can view the website of Rue & Ziffra or call for a free consultation. We employ Social Security attorneys that are knowledgeable in many aspects of disability claims and other types of personal injury cases.
There is a popular saying that goes, “Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease”. Speaking as a Social Security attorney, there is a lot of truth to that old adage and it is certainly applicable to many Social Security Disability claims. This is because, when an individual claims that he/she is disabled, Social Security regulations state that those adjudicating the claim have to consider the claimant’s ability to perform work-like activities given his or her physical and/or mental limitations. This is known as a disability claimant’s “residual functional capacity”. As a result of the regulations, the Social Security Administration will examine one’s limitations and more specifically, their cause. It is in this evaluation where medication side effects come into play.
Medical conditions can cause a wide variety of symptoms, many of which may not be significant to cause functional limitations (a condition that causes a disability claimant to be limited in the work they can perform). Other conditions, however, may cause symptoms strong enough that only equally strong medication(s) can be used to control them. Unfortunately, many medications carry with them undesirable, yet common side effects. The question, then, is what happens if a person’s symptoms are controlled with medications (and the limitations caused by those symptoms are no longer a major problem) but the side effects result in limitations as strong as the ones caused by the original symptoms? The answer is clear: Social Security will have to consider those side effects and the limitations they cause because, just as the original symptoms, they have an impact on a person’s residual functional capacity. Let’s look at back pain as an example. Back pain may result in a person’s inability to sit, walk, stand and carry objects for a reasonable period of time. In order to control the pain, doctors may prescribe a strong, narcotic medication. What often happens is that, although the medication will bring down or eliminate the level of pain, its side effects may significantly compromise the person’s ability to work. For instance, if the medication causes severe drowsiness, the individual may have trouble paying attention, concentrating, keeping up with their workflow or following instructions properly. In more serious cases, like ones involving cancer, the side effects associated with chemotherapy can have a devastating effect on a person’s ability to function. As a result,Social Security will have to evaluate those side effects and weigh them accordingly to determine whether or not they limit their ability to work.
In light of all this, it is important to remember one thing: If one of your prescribed drugs makes you tired, overly drowsy or sleepy, too emotional or even irrational, unable to drive, unable to concentrate or think clearly, or unable to remember things, this can have an impact on your claim for Social Security Disability benefits! Medication side effects that prevent you from working are as important as the symptoms that trigger the need for the medication(s) in the first place.
If you would like more information about Social Security Disability benefits, you can view the website of Rue & Ziffra or call for a free consultation. We employ Social Security attorneys that are knowledgeable in many aspects of disability claims and other types of personal injury cases.
When it comes to Social Security Disability (and possibly all legal claims in general), there is nothing that places individuals on edge more than the word “trial”. A trial, which can be defined as the process where parties to a dispute come together to present evidence in a tribunal with the authority to adjudicate those disputes, is a serious and important event in the life of any claim. Both plaintiffs and defendants understand this importance. As a result, very few trials take place without attorneys present to represent the interests of their clients. Yet, when it comes to Social Security Disability cases, it is surprising to know that many individuals don’t seek representation from a lawyer when going to their disability hearing.
Social Security Disability hearings are intended to be informal events designed to allow the claimant to tell the judge the reasons why he or she can no longer work. However, many individuals (mistakenly) overlook a hearing because they do not relate it to being a “trial”. Unlike a trial, a hearing doesn’t follow the rules of civil procedure or evidence, is supposed to be non-adversarial and lasts only about 30 minutes to an hour. On the other hand, trials are much more formal, where procedure is strictly followed, and can potentially take months to resolve. Also, parties are typically subjected to examination from attorneys on both sides.
Although a hearing and a trial may seem obviously different, the reality is that when it comes to someone’s Social Security Disability claim, their hearing is really their trial.
Claimants filing for disability benefits often claim that they want their day in “court.” What they don’t realize, though, is that they will get it, albeit in a different way. If you look deeper at the hearing process, you will begin to see how it relates to a court trial:
So, with all of that said, the question is simple: being that Social Security Disability hearings are basically “light” versions of bench trials, why would anyone go to a hearing unrepresented? Considering that the disability process is so long and daunting, it makes sense to be as prepared as possible. A Social Security Disability attorney will make sure that his or her client’s interests are well protected. After all, lawyers representing disabled individuals only get compensated if they secure benefits for their clients.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to go through a hearing alone. Remember the old saying that goes “He who represents himself has a fool for a client”? Well, that is certainly true in Social Security Disability law. Going through the process alone is a risk that you should not bear. You have too much to lose.
If you or a loved one would like to receive more information about Social Security Disability representation, please contact the Volusia County personal injury attorneys at Rue & Ziffra for your free consultation today.
Social Security defines the term disability as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” To put this more simply, an individual is not considered disabled as long as he or she has the mental and physical ability to perform any job that exists in sufficient numbers in the national economy of the United States. And when the Social Security Administration says “any job” you better believe that they mean exactly that.
So, the question is, assuming that you can no longer do any of the work that you did in the past but you can perform a different job (that often times may not require you to exert yourself as much) are you not considered disabled? For the most part, the answer will be no, you are not…unless you meet certain disability criteria found in the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, also known as “the Grid”.
In order to determine whether you are disabled, Social Security examines the status of your residual functional capacity, (the state of your physical and mental ability to work after taking into account your medical impairments) your age, your education and your previous work experience. Social Security will often compare these categories against a set of guidelines, called the Medical-Vocational guidelines, to determine an individual’s disability. Although they will examine each state of your medical condition and past work experience, they will look primarily at your physical ability to do work. To make this process easier, the categories and guidelines have been arranged in the form of a grid, which you can review here: http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/cfr20/404/404-ap11.htm.
Individuals who are 50 years old or more and who have had past relevant work involving duties with heavy exertion can often find an advantage with using the Grid to claim their disability. So, for example, if a 50 year old person with a high school education whose past relevant work involved heavy lifting or exertion is now limited to a sit down job where the skills he has acquired during his working history are not usable, he or she could still be found disabled. Imagine that; a person has the capacity to do a job but is still awarded disability benefits, courtesy of Social Security’s own rules!
Keep in mind that the grid does not apply in all cases. The Social Security Administration is often very particular about awarding disability based on the grid’s guidelines. However, it does give an almost automatic advantage to Social Security Disability claimants that are at least 50 years old and have done past work that required more exertion than jobs requiring sitting for most of the day.
As always, it is important for you to work with your doctors in establishing your physical limitations (as opposed to just verifying your medical conditions) in order to prove that you cannot do your past relevant work. Once you prove that, the grid can be your way to being approved for disability benefits.
The Social Security Disability (SSD) claim process is both complicated and difficult. Trying to understand the multitude of Social Security regulations, standards and procedures can be a daunting task for any potential claimant. Although attorneys and representatives handling disability claims often give advice as to ways to maximize the chances of getting a claim approved, many times disabled individuals with solid claims are denied because of things that they should not have done, or things that they should have done but failed to do.
Below are the 5 most common mistakes that I see individuals filing for Social Security Disability make which hurt or eliminate their chances of being awarded disability benefits.
The quicker you apply for disability after recognizing that you will not be able to remain in the workforce, the quicker your period of eligibility for disability benefits is protected. Waiting too long to apply for benefits can result in the loss of your disability insured status; meaning that even if you are physically or mentally disabled, you will not qualify for benefits because you will not have enough credits to be insured. Although you may still qualify for disability under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, strict financial requirements have to be met for eligibility under SSI.
Also, upon approval, claimants that apply for SSD are only entitled to receive back benefits not exceeding 1 year before their application date regardless of the date they are found to be disabled. (Those that qualify for SSI are only entitled to receive benefits from the date of their application) Therefore, promptly applying for disability benefits may result in receiving a larger back benefit award.
Frequently, I see disability denials where the information used by Social Security to evaluate the claim is incomplete. First of all, make sure you disclose all of your medical providers and their contact information in your initial application. Social Security is not going to “hunt down” this information from you if it is not provided to them in the beginning.
Secondly, disclose all of your medical conditions to the Social Security Administration. Too often I see claimants that focus only on a specific condition that they believe is causing them the most problems. However, the Social Security Administration is required to consider all of your medical conditions, individually and in combination, to determine whether you are disabled. Be sure to be specific as to the symptoms you are experiencing for each condition.
Finally, when it comes to your past relevant work, be detailed in the description of your physical and mental activities.
The magic word in the world of real estate is location. The magic word in Social Security Disability law is limitations. You have to be specific as to the physical or mental limitations that you have as a result of your disabling medical conditions.
Quite frequently I see claimants who tell me that the reason why they believe they cannot work is because of their bad back, heart, depression, etc. These medical conditions are not limitations. Limitations are the individual physical and/or mental restrictions caused by the symptoms flowing from your medical conditions. In other words, in what ways are you limited in doing certain activities as a result of your medical conditions?
Why are limitations so important? Because depending on the degree of your limitations the most important factor in performing and keeping employment will be eliminated: Reliability. If you are not reliable to perform a job as it is normally performed, you will not be able to keep competitive employment. So, remember to focus on your physical or mental limitations.
You have to prepare your case according to what Social Security is looking for and not what you believe makes sense. Believe me, common sense is not necessarily required in the pursuit of Social Security Disability benefits.
The following “common sense” issues are irrelevant (i.e., do not count) in the disability review process:
All of these factors do not come into play when Social Security is evaluating your case. Instead, concentrate in proving why you cannot be expected to complete a work week without physical and/or mental interruptions.
It is true that it can take a long time from your initial application to the adjudication of your claim. However, you should do your best to use the amount of time it takes to process a disability claim to your advantage. Time gives you the opportunity to develop your claim. If your claim is weak on specific limitations, use the time to strengthen that aspect of the case. A rather weak claim at the time of the initial application can be made into a strong claim by the time your case is ready to go be heard by a judge.
Always remember that if your Social Security claim is approved you will be entitled to receive back benefits. That means that the government has to compensate you for the time you spent going through the process to receive your approval.
So you have received your second Social Security Disability denial. The denial letter says that another person took a look at your claim and still determined that you are not considered disabled. Your only option now is to file a request for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Yet, you find out that the Social Security Administration is taking over a year to schedule hearings. On the other hand, you know you are disabled. Your doctor (or doctors) claims you are disabled. What should you do now? Well, now is the time when you can seek out an experienced Social Security Disability Attorney to put his/her skills at work to try and get you approved for benefits.
After your request for hearing is filed, your claim will be transferred to the Office of Disability Adjudications and Review, better known as ODAR. Once the files reach ODAR, they are assigned to an administrative law judge and scheduled for a hearing. However, the reality is that many judges sometimes receive such an overwhelming amount of caseloads that it is almost impossible for them to quickly review all files that come to their respective ODAR’s. This can be made into an even more complicated situation if the evidence on the record proves that the claimant filing for a hearing is indeed disabled. Instead of holding a hearing where evidence of disability is obvious, judges will often suggest that an “on the record request” be submitted.
An on the record request is a written petition sent to the ODAR that seeks a favorable decision (i.e. approval for an individual’s Social Security Disability claim) without the necessity of a hearing. By the time a case is being set for hearing, the bulk of a claimant’s medical treatment is already completed and/or available in the form of written records. If this is the case, you (or preferably your Social Security Disability attorney) should be able to present the specific medical conditions and limitations that bring about your disability as well as each individual piece of documentation that supports these limitations.
If your medical records show that your medical condition meets or equals one of the Social Security impairment listings, an on the record request can be a quick and easy way to prove your disability claim to a judge without waiting for a hearing.
Not every Social Security Disability claim is fit for an on the record request, however. If the record is devoid of specific medical limitations, does not clearly support the limitations you claim as a result of your disability or presents a conflicting issue as to whether you could still perform a job even with the limitations you are claiming, the on the record request will most likely be denied. If this happens, do not think that you will not prevail in your claim. It simply means that you will have to request and appear at a hearing.
If you are filing or have filed for Social Security Disability benefits, do not be disappointed if you initially get denied. Remember to work with your medical provider to have them establish your medical limitations or develop your medical evidence. You need their support and claim that your condition is indeed disabling and that you qualify under a Social Security impairment listing. The moment these limitations are established (or you have maintained sufficient medical support to prove you meet the requirements for disability) either submit or have your Social Security Disability attorney submit an on the record request. You have really nothing to lose by doing this, and the upside could be receiving an approval of Social Security benefits without months of waiting for a hearing!
The Social Security Disability (SSD) process is not only difficult and long but quite frustrating. When you add a severe medial condition or conditions as well as financial strains to the mix, the process then turns into a seemly hopeless and even pointless exercise. There is not one single day that either one of my clients or individuals seeking my services ask me or my staff the ultimate question: What do I have to do to get Social Security Disability benefits?
Although it is impossible for me, or any attorney for that matter, to give a “shortcut” that can bypass all of the disability review process and get straight to an award of benefits, years of practicing Social Security Disability law have revealed ways to improve both adjudication time and results for my clients. This is what I have found.
One word: Immediately! The moment you feel your condition will not allow you to work at all for a significant period of time, specifically, for at least one year (or permanently), that’s when you should apply. Remember, in order to be disabled by social security regulations you have to prove that you cannot do any of your past relevant work, which is defined as work that you have done in the past 15 years, as well as any other jobs that exist in sufficient numbers in the national economy of the United States.
That means that, for example, if you can no longer do your job, which you have done for 15 years and is paying you $1,000 an hour, but you can do a job that will pay you $8.00 an hour, you are not disabled by Social Security law. It is a tough standard. That’s why you have to prepare your case according to what Social Security is looking for and not what you believe makes sense. Believe me, common sense is not necessarily required in the pursuit of Social Security Disability benefits. In fact, the following “common sense” issues are irrelevant(i.e., do not count) in the disability review process:
Both your age and your educational background can (and probably will) come into play in order to determine disability. I’ll elaborate on that later. Now, many people that think about applying for disability wait to file their application simply because they misunderstand the definition of disability itself. Disability for purposes of Social Security is the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months”. See 42 U.S.C. Sec. 423 (d)(1)(A). For some reason a considerable amount of people that suffer from significant medical conditions read the definition of disability to state that they have to be out of work for one year before they are allowed to apply. This is incorrect! As long as your condition is expected to keep you out of work for at least a year, you can, and should, apply. Further, at this time you should at least talk to an attorney experienced in social security law to receive some basic orientation as to how to prepare your claim.
The initial application stage is the first line that social security claimants have to cross in the disability process. The application seeks information about the claimant’s biographical history, work history, daily living functions, medical conditions and symptoms as well as limitations caused by those conditions.
The following are some tips to remember when filing your initial application:
Do NOT waste time trying to convince Social Security of the things that you can no longer do. Social security adjudicators are not interested in the things that you cannot do but rather in the things that you can. If the activities that you are able do are not sufficient to allow you to properly and regularly function in a normal work setting (employment for 5 days-40 hours a week or its equivalent), you are disabled.
If you receive an initial denial, you have 60 days to file a request for reconsideration. First of all, do not be discouraged by the denial.Most initial applicants are denied. Why? Well, like a former adjudicator stated in a social security disability conference, it doesn’t cost any money when a case is denied by mistake. It always costs money when a claim is approved. So, what to do? Upon reconsideration, adjudicators want to see if your condition (medical and/or financial) has changed. The WORST mistake you can do after an initial denial is to stop your medical treatment. Lack of medical treatment is the number one killer of social security cases. Without medical treatment you cannot prove that your medical condition is causing you symptoms that are bringing about limitations which preclude you from working. No medical treatment, no disability benefits. It is really that simple. Second, if you go back to work after your initial denial, even if you are working under the financial limits imposed by social security, you may put your claim in jeopardy depending on the amount of time you are working. Now, after you have been deemed disabled, the administration has in place programs that allow you to work while you are receiving disability benefits. However, current work, unless done at truly insignificant levels, could reduce your chances of winning your claim even if you are technically eligible to apply for benefits.
Make sure that you are clear in documenting any changes in your condition. For example, if you were under pain management treatment during the time you filed your initial application but later your physician(s) referred you for surgery, make sure to disclose that. If your pain has become more intense or your depression more severe, make sure to document such. If your medical condition has unfortunately turned into a terminal condition, you should immediately provide proof of it. Further, if your financial situation turns into a sudden emergency, (i.e., you’re going to be evicted or the bank is going to be foreclosing on your home), immediately give notice of it.
So, you have been denied again. DON’T GIVE UP! Many people are also denied in the reconsideration level. You have 60 days to file a request for hearing. At this time your file will be transferred to the Office of Disability Adjudications and Review (ODAR). This is the opportunity you have to finally face someone from social security and explain your case. That someone is an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). In some cases, this is a positive development. In others, it may not be. By this time, however, you should have obtained the services of an attorney experienced in Social Security Disability claims.
The claim transfer from the local disability office to the ODAR allows for an opportunity to significantly shorten the waiting period and receive an approval on your claim. This is when you truly need a social security attorney to put his/her skills at work for you. Many judges do not like to hold hearings in cases where the evidence on the record proves the claimant is disabled. At this point, “on the record requests” can be made.
An OTR is a written petition sent to the ODAR that seeks a favorable decision without the necessity of a hearing. We have been quite successful in getting OTR approvals. By the time a case is being set for hearing, the bulk of the medical treatment is already available and you (or preferably your attorney) should be able to present the specific limitations that bring about your disability as well as each individual piece of documentation that supports the limitations you are claiming. Not every claim is fit for an OTR. If the record is devoid of specific limitations or does not clearly support the limitations claimed, or if there is an issue as to whether you could still perform a job even with the limitations you are claiming, the OTR request will most likely be denied. This does not mean that you will not prevail in your claim. It simply means that you will have to appear at the hearing. Remember, work on establishing your limitations with your medical provider! The moment your limitations are established, or you have sufficient medical support to prove you meet the requirements for disability, either submit or have your attorney submit an OTR. You have nothing to lose and the upside could be an approval without months of waiting.
The disability hearing is basically your “day in court”. It affords you an opportunity to tell an administrative law judge the reasons why you can no longer work. When you reach the hearing site, you will have an opportunity to review your exhibits (i.e., the documents that will be considered to adjudicate your case). If you discover that any of the exhibits are incomplete or incorrect, it is essential that you tell the administrative law judge. Failure to object to the exhibits that make up your file may result in a waiver of that issue later on.
At the hearing, you will find that the judge will have an assistant and, most likely, a vocational expert. First, the administrative law judge will place you under oath and will ask you questions that will include your background, your education, your past relevant work and the reasons why you can no longer work. After the judge is done with your questioning, he or she will ask the vocational expert hypothetical questions. Assuming that you have physical or mental limitations, the vocational expert will be asked whether there are jobs that you can perform with those limitations.
After the judge is done questioning the vocational expert, you will have the opportunity to ask questions of the expert also. Finally, the judge may ask you for a closing statement where you can make an argument summarizing the reasons why your claim should be paid. To be successful at a social security hearing, you may want to seek professional, legal help from an attorney knowledgeable in social security. This is because for all practical purposes, the hearing is basically a trial.
What happens if you do not win your disability hearing? After the hearing takes place, the administrative law judge that heard your case is going to be issuing you a decision. That decision can be either favorable or unfavorable. If the decision is unfavorable, you have the option to appeal it. You have 60 days to appeal to the appeals council, explaining the reasons why you believe the judge is incorrect in his or her decision.
You can appeal by filing an appellate form provided by social security or, in the alternative, provide the form with a written brief. If you are going to be submitting a brief with your form, it may be advisable to hire an attorney to help you write it. The appeals council will decide the case based on the judge’s decision and the information provided in your appellate form. Assuming that they affirm, or agree with, the administrative law judge’s decision, you will have 60 days to file a complaint in federal district court against the commissioner of social security. If you decide to go this route, you definitely need an attorney.
Basically, there are three ways in which the social security administration will consider you to be disabled; 1) Application of the listings of impairments, 2) Application of the “Grid”, 3) Erosion (elimination) of the sedentary work basis.
The first is by proving that your condition meets or equals at least one of the Social Security listings of impairments. You can find the listings here:http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/AdultListings.htm. As the term implies, the Social Security administration has created a list of medical impairments that cover multiple medical conditions which affect both physical and mental abilities. If your condition meets or equals all of the requirements of a specific listing, you will be considered disabled as a matter of law. That’s the good news. The bad news, however, is that most claimants do not meet or equal the listings. As you can see by reviewing the above link, not only do you have to suffer from a condition described in the listings, you also have to meet every single specification contained under the listing upon which your medical condition falls. If you do not meet or equal every single requirement, you do not meet the listing at all. What to do? Talk to your physician(s) about the listings’ requirements. Show him or her the specifications of each listing that you believe cover your condition(s). If you are close to meeting one of the listings, discuss the steps you should take to meet its requirements.
The second way in which you can be considered disabled is by way of the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, also known as “the Grid”. In order to determine whether you are disabled, Social Security considers your residual functional capacity, i.e., your physical and mental ability to work taking into account your medical impairments, in addition to your age, your education and your previous work experience. For purposes of the Medical-Vocational guidelines, social security will look at your physical ability to do work. How do they use these guidelines? As the moniker states, Social Security has arraigned these categories in the form of a grid. You can review the Grid here:http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/cfr20/404/404-ap11.htm.
It is in the Grid where individuals of a more advanced age (generally 50 years-old or more) and past relevant work involving heavier types of jobs can find an advantage. So, for example, a 50 year old person with a high school education whose past relevant work involved doing some heavy work but that as a result of his conditions is limited to do a sit down job where the skills he has acquired during his working history are not usable, could still be found disabled. Look at rule 201.14. Now, in order to take advantage of the Grid, one has to prove that the skills acquired (if any) while doing past relevant work are not transferable to physically lighter work. This is when the Grid can become your enemy. Notice that the end column of the Grid has a category titled “Decision”. Depending on the case, that decision column indicates a “Not Disabled” result. Unfortunately, many claims are denied by way of the Grid. Younger individuals that cannot do any of their past relevant work but still can perform a physically lighter job will most likely be denied under the Grid. However, it is important to remember that if your claim is based mainly on mental/psychological impairments, the Grid is not applicable. Further, if your condition is significantly limiting your ability to even do a sit down job, the Grid will also not apply.
The third way to prove disability is by showing that your ability to a sit-down job (or one where sitting is or can be done the majority of the work day) has been significantly eroded (eliminated). How do you prove that? Well, limitations, limitations, limitations. The lightest physical category recognized by Social Security is the sedentary work category. What is sedentary work? Social Security defines it as work where “the claimant must have the ability to lift no more than 10 pounds at a time and occasionally to lift or carry articles like docket files, ledgers, and small tools. Although a sedentary job is defined as one that involves sitting, a certain amount of walking and standing is often necessary in carrying out job duties. Jobs are sedentary if walking and standing are required occasionally and other sedentary criteria are met. “Occasionally” means occurring from very little up to one- third of the time, and would generally total no more than about 2 hours of an 8-hour workday. Sitting would generally total about 6 hours of an 8-hour workday. Unskilled sedentary work also involves other activities, classified as “nonexertional,” such as capacities for seeing, manipulation, and understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple instructions”. See Social Security Ruling 96-9P. So, what happens if, for example, your medical condition causes you pain severe enough that you can sit at the most for 5 hours, with multiple breaks along that time, and stand and walk no more than 2 hours in an 8 hour day? Well, most likely your ability to work has been eliminated. Significant limitations in the use of the hands and eye-sight could also eliminate sedentary job positions. The same is true with significant mental restrictions that cause a substantial loss in the ability to meet any one of several basic work-related activities on a sustained basis. It will all depend on the severity of your limitations.
Why are limitations so important? Because depending on the degree of your limitations the most important factor in performing and keeping employment will be eliminated: Reliability. If you are not reliable to perform your job as it is normally performed, you will not be able to keep competitive employment. That means that when you are seeking social security disability benefits your goal is to prove that you are not reliable any longer to do work and you will prove your unreliability by showing limitations that significantly curtail your physical and/or mental abilities. Again, working with your medical providers to develop and prove your limitations is essential. Further, an attorney experienced in Social Security Disability claims will be able to contact your physicians to obtain the necessary information to help your claim. Remember, when it comes to the Social Security process, the manner in which the medical documentation is presented is many times as important as the content of the documentation itself. Claimants with severe medical conditions that are able to show limitations resulting from those conditions will have a much better chance of prevailing in their claim than individuals with the same medical conditions that do not show the limitations they are claiming as a result of their impairments. On the other hand, claimants that document specific limitations will have a better chance than individuals who present general limitations, i.e., medical records stating that the claimant should be lifting no more than 10 pounds vs. records stating that the claimant should avoid heavy lifting. The former is certainly more persuasive than the latter.
Finally, I would like to remind you, just as I remind my clients, of two things regarding the significant amount of time involved in the resolution of a Social Security Disability claim. You should do your best to use the amount of time it takes to process a disability claim to your advantage. Don’t just sit back and wait. Time gives you the opportunity to develop your claim. If you are close to meet a listing but you are missing some medical/diagnostic testing or treatment, use the time to obtain that testing. If your claim is weak on specific limitations, use the time to strengthen that aspect of the case. A rather weak claim at the time of the initial application can be made into a strong claim by the time your case is ready to go to hearing. It is true that it can take a long time from your initial application to the adjudication of your claim. There is no doubt that the wait is frustrating and stressful. Still, use that time wisely and you will significantly improve your chances of prevailing. Second, remember that if your claim is approved you will be entitled to receive back benefits. That means that the government has to compensate you for the time you spent going through the process to receive your approval. The point is that you should be using the time it takes for the claim to be adjudicated to improve and develop your case because in the end that time could, and most probably will, mean compensation to you.
Going through any legal process without the representation of an attorney may be a risky endeavor. Remember the old saying that goes “He who represents himself has a fool for a client”? Well, that is certainly true in Social Security disability law. Going through the process alone is a risk that you should not bear. Here at Rue & Ziffra, we have a department devoted solely to Social Ssecurity disability claims. If you have questions about the process or are thinking about applying, do not hesitate to call us.
*Luis R. Gracia is a partner in the Law Firm of Rue & Ziffra located in Port Orange, Florida. Mr. Gracia devotes a significant part of his practice to SSDI and SSI claims and has handled thousands of cases all throughout Florida. He is a sustaining member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR).
Construction workers are subjected to one of the most dangerous working conditions of any industry on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this factor makes injuries on construction sites a common occurrence. Some worker injuries are very mild; however they can also range from moderate to severe, while some are even fatal.
Regulations exist for ensuring the safety and protection of workers and others who enter construction sites; however these are not fool proof for the prevention of serious injuries. Construction accident injuries may result from falls, falling objects, equipment malfunctions and other issues. Workers may also become injured by inhaling or coming into contact with dangerous chemicals or toxins, as well as incurring muscle strain from lifting objects or making repetitive movements.
When someone becomes injured at a construction site, several people or entities may be responsible for damages sustained by the victim. Liable parties may include the owner of the site, equipment manufacturers, suppliers of building materials, contractors and others with a stake in or connections to the construction site or project.
The parties found to be negligent in a construction accident case may be liable for medical bills, pain and suffering expenses and loss of income. In some cases, those liable may be forced to pay punitive damages, if malice or gross negligence is shown to have occurred.
If someone has been injured at a construction site or at a work setting in general, it may be beneficial to contact a personal injury attorney knowledgeable in areas of accident claims and worker’s compensation laws. This type of attorney can help an injured victim sort out the complexities of filing a claim and establishing liability for all who may be at fault.
The Daytona Beach accident attorneys at Rue & Ziffra have over 30 years of experience in representing the victims of serious work accidents, worker’s compensation claims and other personal injury areas of practice.
Coping with the loss of a loved one can be devastating and the effects can last a lifetime. The emotional impact can be further exacerbated when a loved one’s passing was caused by the wrongdoing of a third-party. “Wrongful death” is simply defined as a death that is caused by the misconduct of another individual or entity. Such misconduct can vary anywhere from the intentional infliction of physical harm to basic negligence. The experienced wrongful death and personal injury attorneys at Rue and Ziffra have found that individuals are sometimes unsure as to what remedies are available to the survivors when a loved one is lost due to a wrongful death.
Initially, the purpose of the Florida wrongful death law is to provide for the recoupment of damages sustained as to each survivor of the deceased. Pursuant to Florida law, each survivor may recover the value of lost support and services from the date of the decedent’s injury to her or his death, including interest, along with the present value of the future loss of support and services from the date of death. In determining the value of the loss of support and services, the following factors are given consideration: (1) the survivor’s relationship to the decedent; (2) the amount of the decedent’s probable net income available for distribution to the particular survivor; and (3) the replacement value of the decedent’s services to the survivor. In computing the duration of future losses, the joint life expectancies of the survivor and the decedent and the period of minority (in the case of minor children) are considered. Not to mention, the surviving spouse may also recover for the loss of the decedent’s companionship, protection and mental pain and suffering. Minor children of the decedent, and all children of the decedent if there is no surviving spouse, may also recover for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering. Each parent of a deceased minor child may similarly recover for mental pain and suffering. Moreover, each parent of a deceased adult child may likewise receive mental pain and suffering damages so long as there are no other survivors. Further, a survivor who has paid for the deceased’s medical and funeral expenses may recover these costs.
Additionally, the decedent’s personal representative may recover for the decedent’s estate the loss of earnings of the deceased from the date of injury to the date of death along with interest. Loss of the reasonable prospective net accumulations of the estate may also be recovered in their present money value if the decedent’s survivors include a surviving spouse or lineal descendants. To the extent that medical and funeral expenses are not otherwise recovered by a particular paying survivor, the estate may recover medical and funeral expenses that have become a charge against the estate or that were paid by or on behalf of the decedent.
If you believe your loved one has died as a result of another party’s misconduct, contact the knowledgeable wrongful death attorneys at Rue & Ziffra today to discuss your right to recovery. The Daytona Beach accident attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, have over 30 years of experience in representing the victims of serious automobile accidents, wrongful death claims, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents and other personal injury claims. To learn more about their firm, visit rueziffra.com
Though the family members of a wrongfully deceased victim are understandably consumed with medical expenses, funeral arrangements, and many other personal, familial and probate matters, it is imperative to consult a wrongful death attorney at the earliest possible time in the wake of a possible wrongful death. Specifically, crucial pieces of evidence frequently become increasingly difficult to obtain and the recollection of key witnesses fades with the passage of time. Not to mention, unlike most other personal injury claims for which the statute of limitations provides up to four years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit, Florida wrongful death cases are subject to a shortened two year limitations period. The attorneys at Rue & Ziffra have decades of experience in successfully resolving wrongful death cases.
What many people do not know, however, is that the Florida Wrongful Death Act requires the personal representative of the wrongfully deceased’s estate to file the wrongful death action. In other words, the only party who can commence an action for wrongful death is the personal representative of the estate. This requirement means a probate must be opened prior to the filing of the wrongful death claim such that the personal representative may sue in the name of the estate. Though surviving family members are entitled to damages in connection with the wrongful death, only the personal representative can sue or make a claim on the survivors’ behalf in this context.
This is just one of a number of examples why it is so critically important to consult an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after the wrongful death of a loved one.The team of dedicated attorneys at Rue & Ziffra will inform you of the intricacies of bringing and maintaining an action for the wrongful death of your loved one and will carefully guide you through the entirety of the process. The last thing you and your family members need in the aftermath of a tragedy is to add dealing with the insurance industry to the long list of personal and familial matters that must be addressed.
The Daytona Beach accident attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, have over 30 years of experience in representing the victims of serious automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents and other personal injury claims. To learn more about their firm, visitrueziffra.com
If you or a family member have suffered a personal injury in Florida, you can learn more about your rights by contacting an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer at the firm of Rue & Ziffra
Florida’s wrongful death law provides for the recovery of damages to the family members of a deceased that sustained a wrongful death. The Volusia County personal injury attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, P.A., have found that grieving victims are occasionally unclear as to their entitlement to bring a claim for wrongful death in the aftermath of a tragic accident. Referred to generally in this context as “survivors,” there are a number of family members that may potentially recover under Florida law when a loved one is lost due to the negligence, carelessness or recklessness of another individual or entity.
As defined in Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, “survivors” means the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, and, when partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services, any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters. Survivors also includes children born out of wedlock of a mother but does not include children born out of wedlock of the father unless the father has recognized a responsibility for the child’s support. Further, “minor children” for the purposes of being entitled to damages for the wrongful death of a loved one means children under twenty-five (25) years of age.
Specifically, the surviving spouse may recover for the future loss of support and services, the loss of protection and companionship, and for mental pain and suffering. Minor children are likewise entitled to receive the value of the loss of future support and services along with the value of lost parental companionship, instruction, guidance, and mental pain and suffering. If the decedent does not have a surviving spouse, the Florida Wrongful Death Act does not then limit the children of the decedent that may participate in the recovery to minors only.
Parents of a deceased minor child are entitled to recovery under Florida’s wrongful death laws. In particular, each parent of a deceased minor child is entitled to recover for the loss of support and services and mental pain and suffering. The same holds true for the parents of deceased adult children so long as there are no other survivors. Any survivor who has paid for the medical and funeral expenses of the deceased may recover these costs. Contact the wrongful death and personal injury attorneys at Rue & Ziffra today to thoroughly discuss your right to full and fair compensation for the wrongful loss of a loved one.
Finally, the decedent’s estate is lawfully permitted to participate in the wrongful death recovery as well. Specifically, the decedent’s personal representative may recover on behalf of the decedent’s estate loss of earnings, loss of the estate’s prospective net accumulations, and the medical and funeral expenses that were paid by or on the behalf of the decedent.
Albeit with few exceptions, typical tort claims in Florida are subject to a four-year statute of limitations, meaning that the victim has four years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. Though it is critical to consult an experienced personal injury attorney such as the attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, P.A., as soon as possible in the wake of an injury-related accident, there are occasions where timeliness is even more essential to a successful claim.
For example, Florida adheres to a shortened two-year limitations period for wrongful death claims, which are claims brought to recover damages for the death of a loved one at the hands of another person or entity’s intentional or negligent misconduct. Therefore, if you believe you and your family may have a claim for wrongful death, it is vital to speak with a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible such that the potential claim can be evaluated and the appropriate action taken within the time period provided by Florida law.
However, as previously noted, Florida tort victims generally are given four years to file a lawsuit for damages sustained as a result of another party’s wrongdoing. Such claims include automobile and motorcycle negligence, pedestrian and bicycle accidents, dog bites and premises liability claims. In the case of automobile accident cases, however, it is important to know that claims based on provisions of an insured’s underinsured or uninsured auto policy are governed by a longer five-year limitations period. The rationale for this extended period is because UM claims, as they are commonly known and referred to, are likened to contract based claims which are subject to a five-year limitation from the time of the contractual breach. An individual may have a viable UM claim and is therefore entitled to a recovery when that individual’s own insurance company fails or refuses to fairly compensate its insured when that insured is the victim of the negligence of a driver that either did not have insurance or did not have an adequate amount of coverage. Underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage applies to additional scenarios as well. Call (386) 788-7700 to speak with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can help guide you through the provisions of your automobile policy.
While it is most important to know how long you have to bring a claim for injuries in Florida, it is perhaps more important to consult and hire an advocate who knows the intricacies of injury claims and the ever-changing laws that govern Florida tort claims. At the Volusia County based personal injury law firm of Rue & Ziffra, the talented attorneys and committed staff members have been assisting injury victims for over twenty-five years. Contact Rue & Ziffra today to receive the professional representation and dedicated advocacy that may be missing from your case.
Typically, Florida wrongful death actions involve some losses that are not easily measured. For that reason, it is critical that an attorney works in conjunction with a tenured, knowledgeable expert economist that can testify in support of economic damages claims. Specifically, the economist plays a vital role in valuing and understanding all that has been lost in a wrongful death case. For example, an economist can testify to the value of future earnings and homemaking services of the deceased. These valuations are difficult because no two people are exactly alike. Therefore, the damages that are recoverable in a wrongful death case vary from one to the next. It is likewise imperative to have an economist work on the wrongful death case because these cases typically require present-day valuations. Present day valuations are adjustments made to monies awarded for future losses due to things such as inflation, interest and other factors. Though reducing these awards to present value is not always complex, it can be complicated depending on what it is that is being valued, the level of difficulty in determining the appropriate interest rate(s), the methodology employed, and the duration of the economic loss. Naturally, a talented and experienced expert economist is important when there is opportunity for others in the field to offer a much different valuation based on alternative methodology. The wrongful death and personal injury attorneys at the Port Orange based law firm of Rue & Ziffra, P.A., work alongside expert economists that have the style and skill to effectively and persuasively explain damages to a jury. The Rue & Ziffra attorneys know when and who to hire and thereafter engage in thorough joint case preparation to maximize compensation for their clients in their time of need.
At the basic level, the expert economist is retained to develop a theory of damages, conduct a “but-for” analysis, generate models and spreadsheets based on appropriate data and information, and make the necessary adjustments. The “but-for” analysis essentially asks what would be the results if the event had not taken place. In order to generate models and spreadsheets, the economist examines the individual in terms of his or her prior occupation, industry, past and future outcomes, and market and economic conditions. When making the requisite adjustments, the economist considers things such as inflation, taxes, anticipated duration of loss, life expectancy, time value of money, and productivity.
In litigation, the economist can serve a variety of functions depending on the complexity of the case and the appropriate fee considerations. For example, during the discovery phase, the economist often prepares an expert report regarding economic losses, assists with data and document collection, review and production, evaluates the opposing party’s expert report, and helps the attorney develop a line of questioning for the opposition.
Thereafter, the economist frequently works with the attorney to present various economic damage claims and likewise evaluates any settlement offers that are submitted. During the trial phase, the expert economist naturally presents testimony based on the damages reports and exhibits and opines as to cross-examination techniques for the attorney to employ as to the opposing party’s expert.
Visit rueziffra.com to learn more about Rue &Ziffra’s practice areas, attorneys and impressive results. The attorneys at Rue & Ziffra have been handling wrongful death and personal injury cases for over thirty years. Rue & Ziffra attorneys work cooperatively with various expert witnesses to promote the best interests of their clients and to maximize recovery against the responsible party or parties.
Wrongful death claims result from the loss of a human life, oftentimes under the most traumatic and unexpected circumstances. The magnitude of such a loss inevitably alters nearly every dimension of the lives of the deceased’s survivors. Though it is generally difficult for individuals to empathize with the prolonged and intense emotional pain that is a part of the grieving process, communicating that loss to a jury is an even greater challenge for trial attorneys litigating wrongful death cases. The attorneys at the Volusia County based law firm of Rue & Ziffra, P.A., know how to prove that wrongful death cases typically involve damages that go beyond funeral expenses, medical bills, lost wages and ordinary pain and suffering.
The Rue and Ziffra trial lawyers work together with mental health care professionals to assist survivors through the wrongful death litigation process. Specifically, a grief counselor can help focus on the damages aspect of the lawsuit. The grievance counselor oftentimes plays a critical role in not only helping the family through their time of need but also functions to explain and articulate the unique loss suffered by each family member. In the wake of a wrongful death, each surviving family member suffers his or her distinct loss. A grief counselor’s testimony is designed to concentrate the jury’s attention on the survivor’s emotional suffering and anguish and the factors associated with this most significant loss.
At trial, the grief counselor can best explain to the jury the intricacies of the grief and emotional trauma suffered by each family member. Likewise, the grief counselor will describe how the grief and bereavement will likely affect each family member in the future. Ultimately, putting together powerful lay witness testimony and the supporting testimony of a grief counselor will most effectively focus the jury’s attention on the survivor’s damages. Not to mention, this trial approach gives the supportive jurors the leverage they may need to persuade less favorable jurors to include sufficient emotional damages in the verdict. This testimony is invaluable in presenting the extent and significance of these unique emotional damages to a jury. The presence of a grievance counselor allows the trial attorney to avoid the potential pitfall of alienating the jury when questioning the bereaved. In other words, the grievance counselor can explain and support the emotional damages to the jury in lieu of the attorney having to solicit the inevitably painful and difficult testimony from the survivor. This technique allows the survivor’s testimony to instead focus on the grieving and coping process, leaving the survivor looking like a fighter. The counselor’s testimony also serves to alleviate some of the survivor’s burden to give extensive testimony as to the emotional impact of the loss. Grief counselor testimony can similarly work to overcome what is sometimes seen as juror bias or misconception in Florida wrongful death cases.
Grief counselors help the victims to identify their feelings, work through the intense pain and suffering, and adapt to a new way of life and get accustomed to a different familial role. Likewise, open communication is sometimes difficult after a family member has suffered such an enormous loss. Grief counselors serve to assist the attorney in establishing and maintaining meaningful communication with the survivors. Also important is the fact that the counselor can assist in identifying areas of damages testimony the attorney may otherwise overlook. Though professional counselors are available to help, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, specially trained nurses, pastoral counselors and even clinical social workers can serve the function as grief counselor.
Contact the wrongful death and personal injury attorneys at Rue and Ziffra if you believe another party is responsible for the loss of a loved one. Though you cannot foresee the sudden, unexpected, and traumatic passing of a family member, you can prepare for the inevitable changes in your family’s future. Call today to speak with one of Rue and Ziffra’s experienced attorneys. Our team of legal professionals takes immense pride in assisting families dealing with the loss of a loved one.
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