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Using Social Media can Seriously Harm Your Case

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.

How Can They Find My Information?

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.

What can I do to Protect Myself?

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:

Go private

Only share information with people you know

Choose your friends carefully

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

Keep quiet about your accident

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

Be aware of other family member’s or friend’s activity

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.

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.

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Questions to Consider When Choosing an Attorney

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.

Do I need an attorney?

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.

Which law firm should I choose?

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.

Talk to Your Friends!

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.

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.

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Your Personal Injury Claim: What is an Examination Under Oath?

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.

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.

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Legal Representation for a Burn Victim

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:

  1. Contact burn – a type of burn that results when the skin comes in contact with a hot object. This can typically occur when a motorcyclist is in a motorcycle crash and is subsequently trapped under the engine or exhaust pipes of the motorcycle, which can be extremely hot;
  2. Flammable liquid burn – a type of burn which is caused by coming in contact with a burning liquid such as gasoline which has a flash point of below 100 degrees;
  3. Combustible liquid burn – a type of burn which is caused by coming in contact with a burning liquid such as diesel fuel which has a flash point of above 100 degress;
  4. Respiratory burn – a type of burn which is caused from inhaling hot gas or burning particles;
  5. Scalding – the most common type of burn that can result from an auto accident. It typically comes about when the radiator of the motor vehicle is ruptured, causing hot liquids or steam to escape into the driver’s compartment.

Degrees of burn injuries

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.

How an attorney can help represent a burn victim

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:

  1. Investigating the fire scene. In many severe burn injury claims, there may be multiple parties other than a careless driver who could be responsible for the victim’s injuries. Negligently designed gas tanks, fuel valves, or safety devices could be the cause of the fire and subsequent burn. If this is the case, a claim for product liability may be presented. Preservation of negligent products and other evidence is vital for not only the investigator to determine the cause of the fire, but is also vital in proving a negligent design or negligently constructed vehicle.
  2. Calling on the assistance of expert witnesses. A severe burn injury case usually requires the assistance of numerous expert witnesses on both the liability and damages side of the claim. A fire cause and origin expert, an accident reconstruction expert, a mechanical engineer, or a metallurgist are just a few examples of the types of expert witnesses that may be necessary to prove how and why a fire occurred. In addition, medical experts, rehabilitation experts, life care plan experts, and economists are just a few of the expert witnesses that may be necessary in order to document and evaluate the damages sustained by a burn injury victim.
  3. Recommending a psychological evaluation. All serious burn victims carry significant and often disabling physical scars. However, It is also important to diagnose a burn victim’s psychological scars and disabilities. Fear, shame, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are just a few of the psychological injuries that a burn victim can suffer. A psychological evaluation of a burn victim by a qualified expert will document the victim’s psychological injuries and provide a basis for other experts to give opinions regarding future medical care, lost wages, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
  4. Documenting the victim’s rehabilitation. Serious burn victims may need rehabilitation on many levels. This could include not only physical therapy and psychological therapy, but may include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and other types of therapies. Rehabilitation is often lengthy and very painful. Documentation of this type of therapy by an accident attorney is the single best way to demonstrate to an insurance company or a jury what a burn victim has undergone.
  5. Creating a “Day in the Life” Video. Often times, capturing the burn victim’s life after they undergo methods of recuperation and rehabilitation is vital for their case. Serious third and fourth degree burns are so devastating to the victim of an automobile accident, motorcycle accident or truck accident that it forever changes their life. The physical and psychological disability that comes along with losing fingers, toes, lips, ears or other portions of their body will forever change the way that they live. Documentation of the victim’s life by video will establish the client’s story. It is hard to imagine how painful a physical therapy session is for burn contractures without seeing it on video. Likewise, daily morning processes of lubricating, stretching, grooming and dressing speaks volumes about the impact when shown through a video.

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.

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.

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HOW DOES MY INSURANCE COVERAGE WORK?

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

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.

Property Damage Liability

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.

Bodily Injury Liability

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.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

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.

Underinsured Motorist 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.

Stacking Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist 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.

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