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Your Clearwater and St. Petersburg Personal Injury Law Firm

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This is our legal blog. If you were seriously injured in an accident, you need to read here and learn about your Clearwater Florida Legal Rights!

I was run off the road by a truck that did not stop. Can I recover compensation for the auto accident?

You’re driving along, minding your own business, when out of nowhere the truck to your left crosses into your lane and nearly clips the front end of your car. To avoid hitting him, you swerve onto the shoulder and hit the railing. You come to a stop, cursing the other driver and breathing hard, but relieved that you’re breathing at all. You look ahead, expecting to see the truck’s driver coming to check on you and make sure you’re okay. And all you see is his taillights in the distance. That driver is long gone. So now what?

ran off roadRun-off-road crashes account for over 64% of all single-vehicle crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The majority of these crashes are attributed to driver errors, such as overcompensation, distractions, impairment, or driving too fast for road or weather conditions. Even though you know that your accident was caused by another driver’s negligence, proving it won’t be easy. It’s possible that the other driver isn’t even aware that his driving caused you to have an accident. Insurance companies are sometimes dubious of “phantom vehicle” claims which are often made for fraudulent reasons.

The same alertness that kept you from hitting the truck in the first place may help you remember important details. Try to think back to the moments before the accident, as you first became aware of the truck in your peripheral vision. As soon as possible, write down whatever you can remember about it: color, make, model, identifying bumper stickers, even a brief description of the driver or a fragment of the license plate number. Hopefully another driver witnessed the accident and will stop to help you. If so, be sure to find out exactly what they saw, and whether they can give you any details about the truck that caused you to veer off the road.

A passenger in another car may even have been taking pictures or filming at the time of the accident and have valuable evidence of the accident. A statement from an uninvolved third party witness to the accident can provide important corroborating evidence. Report the incident immediately to law enforcement and medical personnel at the scene, giving them as many details as you can, including the names of witnesses, and be sure to tell them that you believe the accident was caused by a truck driver who left the scene. The incident should also be reported in detail to your insurance company.

Pursuing compensation for your damages and injuries caused by this type of accident is a complicated legal process. Be sure to consult with an attorney who is experienced in investigating vehicle accidents.

The Dolman Law Group routinely represents Tampa Bay and Clearwater collision victims, and we understand the complexities of insurance law. We also have the ability to retain highly regarded medical and accident reconstruction experts to obtain maximum compensation for you, and will take your case to trial if an insurance company is not willing to offer a reasonable settlement. Please call the Dolman Law Group at 727-451-6900 to arrange for a free case evaluation.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

http://www.dolmanlaw.com/practice-area/truck-accident/

 
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Anchors Away : What to Know About Cruising

cruise shipAs spring season kicks in and gives way to summer, thousands of Floridians will likely take a cruise as their chosen vacation. Lately the news has been abound with cruise ship news ranging from norovirus outbreaks, engine failure, personal injury onboard and ashore, and disasters such as the sinking of the Costa Concordia in 2012. Unfortunately, incidents at sea happen and the legal recourse is often complicated, even for experienced lawyers. This is not intended as a thorough resource for all possible incidents, but rather a general overview of basic information every passenger should know.

Forum Selection and Claim Limitations

Any legal action you wish to bring against your cruise line will likely have to be brought within a short amount of time; commonly six (6) months and litigated in a specific state. All cruise contracts contain a “forum selection clause” that directs where all lawsuits must be filed against the cruise line; typically Miami. How does the passenger know this? It’s buried within the pages of the often over-looked boarding contract. The United States Supreme Court upheld these clauses in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc., v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991) reasoning that a cruise line serves passengers all over the world and subjecting to litigation in every possible court would be burdensome, versus the burden on the passenger who chose to take the cruise and signed the contract agreeing. Rule to remember - Review your contract and be warned that you will not likely be able to litigation in a court closet to you.

Most important are the time limitations to file a claim. The majority of mainstream cruise lines set a window of six (6) months to bring a claim for injuries against the cruise line. These limits vary from cruise line to cruise line and are contained within the contract. If you file outside of the time limit, your claim will be barred. Rule to remember - Consult an attorney as soon as you return to port who can determine if you have a viable claim.

Know Your Ports of Call and Excursions

Personal injuries and crimes occurring on foreign soil, whether or not part of a sanctioned cruise tour present complex problems for obvious reasons; foreign law, cruise line involvement, tour promoter, and foreign officials.

First, visit www.travel.state.gov for the latest travel advisories on the destinations you are going. The Bahamas are a popular stop for cruises but crime in Nassau and New Providence Island is soaring. If you are a victim of crime on foreign soil, immediately notify the U.S. Embassy, work with local authorities as best you can, and report the incident to your cruise ship.

Second, travel with a sanctioned tour booked through the cruise. If you are traveling to a foreign country, are unsure of your surroundings, unfamiliar with the language and customs, it is best to travel with an excursion you selected through the cruise line. Unfortunately, injuries do occur during shore excursions and your legal remedies are extraordinarily limited if you were on an independent tour. Essentially, you’re left to your own devices in finding a local lawyer and navigating a foreign legal system. For injuries occurring on cruise-sanctioned excursions, most cruise lines waiver themselves out of liability for such incidents, however injured persons will have access to whom all the tour operators were, whom to sue, and as a matter of course the cruise line is usually sued anyway. Rule to remember - Excursion injuries resulting from negligence are already complex, limit the headaches by working with cruise sanctioned companies.

Injuries Occurring Onboard

Shore-based negligence law applies onboard cruise ships, regardless of their presence in international waters, foreign ports, or even if the cruise flies under a foreign flag. Cruises leaving from U.S. ports are extended the protection of federal maritime law. In short, cruise lines owe a duty of care to passengers; however it is nuanced. The duty is reasonable care under the circumstances; meaning what is reasonable care is often the same as onshore but to the extent to which the circumstances surrounding maritime travel are different from those encountered in daily life onshore. For example, a wet deck left unattended is an often an inherent part of maritime travel and the ship owner may not be found to have breached any duty. Rule to remember - Be aware of your surroundings and remember you’re on a seagoing vessel subject to various hazards.

An important note about the onboard doctor. The doctor is NOT an employee of the cruise line! Medical malpractice actions cannot be brought against the cruise line because the physician is an independent contractor. The Florida Supreme Court affirmatively set out in Carnival Corp. v. Carlisle, 953 So. 2d 461 (Fla. 2007) that a cruise line is not vicariously liable for the medical malpractice of a shipboard doctor committed on a passenger. Any alleged malpractice would thus have to brought against the doctor in a personal capacity under the laws of the jurisdiction who licensed the physician; usually foreign.

While there is much more that can be discussed, these are a few of the main highlights to keep in mind before cruising. Should you suffer one of these outlined pitfalls while aboard a cruiseline, please contact Dolman Law Group when you return ashore.  Dolman Law Group can advise you of your rights if you are the misfortunate victim of negligence. Call 727-451-6900

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

http://www.dolmanlaw.com/practice-area/maritime-law/

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How to Avoid a Car Collision while Riding a Bicycle

Remember the good old Golden Rule? Following that adage, bicyclists who treat motorists with respect should expect the same in return from motorists, right?  With the price of gas hovering near $4 per gallon, we are seeing more bicycles on the roads in Florida. Pleasure cyclists abound on the weekends, but particularly when the weather is pleasant, you may notice an increase in weekday bicyclists. Many business people and students are swapping their gas-guzzling cars for the more efficient bicycle. If you’re one of the thousands who have decided to use your bicycle for transportation, you probably know that Florida’s driving laws apply to motorists and bicyclists alike – but many motorists fail to extend basic courtesies to bicyclists.

It is possible to avoid a collision with a car while riding a bicycle, but it requires diligence and patience on the bicyclist’s part. Thousands of miles of paved bicycle paths throughout Florida allow bicyclists to ride freely without encountering motorists, but many bicycle commuters share the roadways with cars, trucks, and motorcycles on a daily basis. You may be able to plan your route to work using lighter traveled roadways, but sometimes riding in traffic is unavoidable. If you must, one of the best things you can do to avoid an accident with a car is to assume that motorists will not see you.

bicyclist in cityMake yourself conspicuous to drivers and increase the likelihood that they will see you. There’s a reason for those neon jerseys that are popular with cyclists – they may not be the most flattering colors on some people, but they certainly are noticeable! If you are commuting to or from work at times when light is dim, lights and reflectors also will make your bicycle more visible to motorists.

Most of the time, bicyclists are required to keep to the right, but only as far as possible to ride safely. Riding in the gutter you may encounter debris or rough pavement that could cause you to swerve into traffic. Otherwise, bicyclists are expected to pass other vehicles and make lane changes and turns just as any other motorist, using right- and left-designated turn lanes when available. When making turns, be sure to use hand signals to alert motorists to your intention. If you intend to go straight through an intersection, ride farther out from the right to make sure motorists see you and keep you out of their blind spot in case they are making a turn themselves. As you approach a car at an intersection, don’t assume that they are using their blinkers properly – make sure that they are (or aren’t) turning, making eye contact with drivers whenever possible.

The other situation which requires a bicyclist to ride away from the right-hand side of the road is when parked cars are present. Pass parked cars in a straight line to their left, and be especially alert for cars pulling out from their space or an opening car door that might hit you or cause you to swerve into traffic. A good rule of thumb is to allow three feet between you and other vehicles at all times.

Contact Dolman Law Group

At the Dolman Law Group, we understand that bicyclists sometimes attempt to negotiate with insurance companies on their own and may end up undercompensated. But our experienced personal injury attorneys represent bicyclists, not insurance companies. We know how to negotiate on behalf of the injured cyclist or their family and will take the case to trial if a just resolution cannot be found otherwise. If you or someone you know has been injured in a bicycle-motor vehicle accident, please contact the Dolman Law Group at 727-451-6900 for a free consultation and case evaluation.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

http://www.dolmanlaw.com/practice-area/bicycle-accidents/

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Suffering an Injury on Another’s Property: Florida Law & Guidelines to Protecting Your Rights

slip and fallWhen you are a customer shopping in a store, or you are renting an apartment from a landlord, you expect that the store or your apartment and the areas around the place where you live to be kept in a safe condition that will prevent you from being injured.

In fact, Florida law requires that business owners and landlords use ordinary care in keeping their premise in a reasonably safe condition. See generally La Villarena, Inc. v. Acosta, 597 So. 2d 336 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992). What this means is that a property owner must correct dangerous conditions which the owner knows or reasonably should know about, as well as give you timely notice of any latent or concealed defects that are known to the owner.

Florida law also requires the landowner to undertake reasonable steps to repair any dangers that the owner should know about in order to prevent injury. A dangerous condition could be a stairwell without a railing, a defective ramp, or a number of other conditions that present an unreasonable risk of harm to those on the property. If the owner of the property has actual knowledge of the dangerous condition which could foreseeably lead to injury to someone on the property, then the owner has an affirmative duty to correct the condition. Mazyck v. Caribbean Lawn, Inc., 587 So. 2d 573 (Fla 3d DCA 1991). The law also requires a landowner to take reasonable steps to learn of any dangerous conditions by inspecting the property at reasonable intervals of time. Essentially, the law does not allow property owners to bury their heads in the sand in order to avoid learning about hazards on their property that may injury others.

When You Suffer From a Slip & Fall on a Liquid or “Transitory Substance” in a Business Establishment

Florida law distinguishes between an injury you sustain from a dangerous or defective condition on someone’s property and when you fall on a liquid or other “transitory substance.” Unfortunately, the law has undergone quite a transformation in the past ten years and it has not been in the favor of those who are injured in these types of cases. In fact, under Section 768.0755, Florida Statutes, it is you as the injured plaintiff who has the burden of showing that the business establishment—whether it be a super market, a mall, or a retail store—had either actual knowledge or “constructive knowledge” of the substance that you fell on. Showing that the owner had “constructive knowledge” of what you slipped on can be done by offering evidence that the owner should have known about the substance because the substance was on the floor for an extended length of time or because it was normal for substances to be spilled in that area, i.e., it happened with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.

With a solid understanding of what you are required to show in order to succeed on a slip and fall claim, it is also imperative that you know what to do if you are ever the victim of a slip and fall.

The following guidelines can help protect your rights:

Be careful trying to get up. Often times in the heat of the moment following a slip and fall one feels embarrassed or panicked and tries to quickly stand up. This could result in further injury.

Gather information about any potential witnesses to your fall. If you are traveling with a companion, have he or she take the names and contact information of anyone who saw you fall. This information becomes imperative in litigating your claim and corroborating your story.

Call a store manager or other store employee to give a statement and fill out an incident report. The significance of this step cannot be overstated. Remember, if you do not let the store owner know you’ve fallen and are injured, they will attempt to argue your fall never occurred. Filling out an incident report also triggers a business owner’s obligation to preserve any video surveillance that may have captured your fall. Without filling out an incident report, this often powerful evidence might never be preserved and provided to you during litigation.

Record your own statement of your fall. Unfortunately, many who are injured in a slip and fall think that if they give their statement and version of events to store personnel in an incident report form they will be able to obtain a copy of the report later on. This is untrue. Florida courts have found that these types of reports are “prepared for in anticipation of litigation,” and therefore “privileged” under Florida’s “work product doctrine.” What this means to you is that the store owner, as a defendant in a lawsuit, does not have to turn that incident report over to you or your attorney during your case. Accordingly, it is imperative that you create your own report or what happened and of what exactly you say to the store personnel. A lawsuit can take time to pursue and memory often fades. Keeping a diary of events and a record of your injuries will aid you down the road.

Take photos. Just like asking to fill out an incident report form, having photos taken of the substance you fell on and of your clothing and any visible injuries are key. If you do not have a cell phone with a camera, ask to borrow one from an eyewitness. Do not think that just because store personnel are taking photos that you don’t need to—based on certain rules of evidence in Florida, the store will not have to turn those photos over to you.

Do not accept a gift card or something similar in exchange for signing a release on the spot. I often hear of store owners offering a gift card to someone who has fallen in hopes that the victim will sign a release and therefore forfeit their right to bring a claim later. Do not fall victim to this. Some injuries do not present themselves until days later, so your future might be uncertain. What is certain, however, is that if you sign a release on the spot, you will give up your right to recover for your injuries against the store later on.

Contact Dolman Law Group

Talk to an attorney. Knowing your rights and understanding what to do if you find yourself involved in a slip in fall or suffering an injury on someone’s property, is crucial to protecting yourself and your loved ones. The attorneys at Dolman Law Group have the knowledge, time, and resources to litigate these claims. For more information call 727-451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

http://www.dolmanlaw.com/practice-area/clearwater-trip-fall-attorney/
http://www.dolmanlaw.com/practice-area/premises-liability/

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Texting Isn’t the Only Distraction that Contributes to Car Crashes

Beginning in October 2013, the State of Florida made it illegal to send and read text messages while driving, and while AAA called this law’s adoption “a good step” , the possible effectiveness of the law has been questioned by others. The reality is that the law is a step in the right direction with regard to Driver safety. But as the law can currently only be enforced as a Secondary Violation, meaning the Driver must be pulled over for another violation, like speeding, not wearing a seat belt, running a red light, or DUI to be ticketed, it is destined to lack the effectiveness that many of its proponents wished for it. However, what is not being discussed by many Floridians, and has not managed to make it into the Public Relations discussions of the law, is that the law does not only cover text-messaging.

F.S. 316.305 (3)(a) States That:

“A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging.”

The thing is our phones do so much more these days. We can send and receive emails, we can update our Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Foursquare pages. We can surf the internet, watch YouTube videos or even streaming television, we can do the majority of our banking, and we can play games. Cell Phones are a lifeline to the entire world for many, especially in the younger generation. The new law prohibits all of these activities, but I fear that so much attention has been paid to the ban on texting that many have failed to comprehend that not only can they no longer text while driving, but they cannot Tweet, Facebook, Email, play Candy Crush, take “Selfies,” bank, or check out the newest LOLCat YouTube video.

tweetingTexting while driving is one of the most dangerous things a person can do. But, in this author’s opinion, the danger created by reading a simple text message pales in comparison to the danger created by a driver that reads an entire news article or scrolls through their Facebook Newsfeed while driving. Just as Texting while driving is now reaching the national discussion, Tweeting while driving is beginning to become a national story as well. Texting while driving can take a driver’s eyes off of the road for as much as 75% of the time that they are driving. And while that number sounds daunting, the amount of immersion required to read a 160 character text message is dwarfed by the amount required of a driver that is reading an article on their favorite news outlet or blog.

While texting and driving is dangerous, our Florida drivers should be aware that any activity that requires their attention to be on their cell phone and not on the road is equally if not more dangerous (and also illegal) and should be absolutely avoided.  If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver you have rights under Florida Law.  Contact a licensed Florida Personal Injury Attorney for advice.  Dolman Law Group is able to provide zealous representation of injured parites that have been affected by the negligence of a distracted driver.  Contact us for a free consultation and case evaluation by calling 727-451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

http://www.dolmanlaw.com/practice-area/distracted-drivers/

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