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December 18, 2014

Holiday Shopping Falls a Growing Concern Among Merchants

We have yet to encounter a business intent on harming customers who are there to patronize. The problem, however, especially around the holidays, is safety protocol is either not properly developed or overlooked. The result is people get hurt.
In bustling stores packed with eager shoppers and harried workers, this most often manifests in the form of falls - either slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall. It's not just malls, either. Even a trip to the grocery store can be treacherous during this busiest of seasons.

There is a growing awareness among merchants they need to do more to protect visitors who come to their property to shop - known in legal terms as a "business invitee." For example, in Ohio recently, the state's Council of Retail Merchants formed a partnership with the state's Department of Aging to help older customers avoid injuries and falls in crowded malls and stores. In that state - as in Florida - falls are the No. 1 cause of injuries leading to emergency visits, hospitals stays and death of those over the age of 65.

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December 14, 2014

Fatal Daytona Truck Crash Blamed on Faulty Tires

A woman and her newborn baby were killed several months ago when a Volusia County dump truck crashed into a sport utility vehicle they were occupying.
Now it seems faulty tires are to blame, which could prove sufficient grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit, as there are indications the county knew or should have known about issues with the tires and failed to timely address them.

Proper vehicle maintenance is the responsibility of all vehicle owners. This is especially true when it's a commercial or public vehicle that is not only large (having the ability to do a great deal of potential damage) but also gets a lot of use.

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December 7, 2014

Holiday Travel Season in Florida Heightens Crash Risk

December is one of the busiest travel times of the year, particularly in Florida, with the Florida Retail Federation predicting some 20 million tourists will visit the state at some point this month. Authorities anticipate a 4.2 percent increase in visitors from last year, which had the highest holiday tourism count since 2007. christmastable.jpg

Travel experts say falling gas prices and a rise in employment rates and disposable income are key factors contributing to the increase.

Historically, Thanksgiving weekend is noted as one of the most dangerous for those on the road. Thanksgiving weekend 2014 was the busiest in seven years, with some 2.3 million Floridians driving somewhere within the state. The vast majority of holiday travelers choose to get to their destination by motor vehicles, which means a higher-than-average number of crashes in the last part of the year.

Florida highway travelers should continue to operate with increased caution throughout December, as there will continue to be greater traffic volumes. Plus, December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, with Mothers Against Drunk Driving seizing the opportunity to warn of the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

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November 26, 2014

Report: Florida No. 1 for Drownings Following Crashes

Driving a car is treacherous no matter where in the country you live. While Florida may be fortunate in the sense our motorists don't generally have to grapple with a daily grind of snow and ice like our northern neighbors, there are plenty of roadway risks.
One of those is vehicle drowning following a traffic accident.

According to a recent report by the Orlando Sentinel, where reporters culled federal crash data yielded over a five year period, Florida is No. 1 for vehicle drownings in the nation - and by a fairly significant margin.

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November 24, 2014

Poor Care Doesn't Deter Nursing Homes From Federal Loan Perks

Nursing homes that violate the rights and basic care standards of patients should always be held accountable. One way government regulators seek to do this is by issuing poor ratings to nursing homes that fail the grade. Fines are levied in some cases, but the other benefit is potential residents and family members can easily access the information and decide whether to patronize such a facility.
Now, a recently-released report by the non-profit journalism Center for Public Integrity indicates many of these poorly-rated nursing homes are receiving huge taxpayer-backed benefits in the form of low-interest loans offered under an antiquated system that existed before Medicaid.

The center found 240 facilities with a one-star rating had collectively received some $2 billion in federally-backed mortgages and other loans in recent years. It's part of the National Housing Act of 1959. This was six years before Medicaid offered a steady, guaranteed stream of income for facilities providing a valuable service by caring for infirm, elderly adults. Prior to that, the nursing home industry was seen as risky business, which meant many facilities had trouble securing loans for acquisition, construction, refinancing and improvements.

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November 22, 2014

Wrong-Way DUI Crash in Volusia Devastates Families

An Orange City woman sat in a courtroom recently, holding back tears as she apologized. Repeatedly. She struggled for months to find the right words that might bring healing. But when the crime involves the loss of two sisters due to the reckless actions of a drunk driver, words are bound to fail.

The surviving family of the two Daytona Beach sisters, ages 57 and 59, questioned her sincerity, wondering whether her grief had more to do with the loss of the next 20 years of her own life. Ultimately, a judge sentenced the 31-year-old to 20 years in prison after she accepted a plea deal. That sentence will be followed by 10 years probation. Had she been convicted at trial, she faced up to 30 years for two counts of DUI causing death, a second-degree felony.

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November 20, 2014

Florida Guardrail Safety Questioned Amid Litigation

In the wake of a $175 million verdict against highway guardrail producer Trinity Industries Inc., some 30 states banned new installation of the devices by that manufacturer. Florida was not among them.
According to the federal False Claims Act lawsuit, the company altered the designs of highway guardrail end pieces to save money, but did not have those changes approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The new end pieces, rather than serve as an impact absorbent, cause the devices to act more like a spear, impaling vehicles and causing serious injury and death to occupants.

If the verdict is upheld, the company could be made to pay treble (triple) damages under federal law, for a total of $525 million in damages.

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November 8, 2014

Disabled Students Choke to Death at School Lunch Period

Parents of students with severe autism or other disabling conditions work with doctors and school administrators to develop meticulous care plans to help ensure their health and safety while at school.
Too often, however, teachers or aides fail to adhere to those plans. These children are in an extremely vulnerable position, as they can't alert their parents to oversights or mistakes.

In several recent cases, disabled students have choked to death in school cafeterias when meal care plans were not followed. At least one lawsuit has been filed, and it's likely more will follow.

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November 5, 2014

Wrong-Way Crashes Take Deadly Toll in Central Florida

After he failed to appear in court on numerous charges, police attempted to serve a felony warrant on a Daytona Beach man recently. But rather than accept the consequences when officers tried to pull him over in Holly Hill, the man reportedly sped recklessly down a one-way street. He slammed head-on into a pickup truck.
When it was over, the suspect's passenger was dead and two others were injured. New felony charges against him are pending.

The circumstances under which wrong-way crashes occur in Central Florida run the gamut. Earlier this year, a 91-year-old was apparently confused when he turned the wrong-way on I-75 in Hamilton County. He collided head-on with a dental surgeon, killing both drivers. His vehicle then spun into the path of Greyhound bus and another car full of children. In all, 14 suffered serious injuries. In Seminole County in August, a Sanford emergency room doctor was killed on his way home from work after he was struck by a wrong-way drunk driver on S.R. 417. In Miami, a young woman posted on social media she was "2 drunk 2 care" just prior to a head-on collision on the Sawgrass Expressway last year, killing another young woman and her best friend.

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October 30, 2014

Injury Lawsuit Options for Florida Bicycle Accident Victims, Families

The state attorney's office recently decided an Orlando Police officer accused of an on-duty hit-and-run should not face charges, finding there was not enough evidence to prove she knew a crash occurred - a key element in proving a felony criminal case against a driver for leaving the scene of a crash.
According to news reports, the Central Florida incident occurred in April, when the bicyclist, a 36-year-old dentist, proceeded into an intersection, only to have the officer suddenly make a right turn in front of him. Witnesses who saw the crash reported watching the cyclist attempt to turn right with the officer, in order to avoid a collision, but the back of the cruiser still clipped the bicycle. The officer did not stop as the cyclist was splayed out on the ground with a broken shoulder and many bruises.

Prosecutors were quoted as saying they lacked proof of actual or constructive knowledge that the officer knew or should have known a crash occurred. In particular, there was not enough evidence to overcome the defense assertion that noise from communication devices and radios inside the cruiser drowned out the sound of the impact. Many cars are equipped standard with sound-proofing technology, and this may have also contributed to the officer's lack of knowledge.

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October 25, 2014

Florida Airport Premises Liability Case Filed in Elevator Death

The family of a Pennsylvania man has filed a premises liability lawsuit against an airport in Florida after he died last year in an elevator shaft. Plaintiffs assert a malfunctioning elevator resulted in the man's death.
The federal lawsuit names the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which oversees the airport, as well as the elevator maintenance company. Defendants insist the elevators are safe, and have insinuated the 31-year-old decedent may have been at-fault, as he was found with Xanax in his system and his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the limit.

But even if the victim shared some degree of blame for what happened (called comparative fault in legal terms), his claim is not barred under Florida law.

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October 20, 2014

Florida Student Athlete Injuries, Deaths, Spotlighted in Recent Lawsuit

A Florida high school football player showed up for practice one afternoon - and has never been the same since.
That's because, according to a lawsuit filed recently by his family, the junior athlete suffered a head injury on the field, one they say his coaches failed to address promptly. He ended up leaving the field, driving himself home and later being rushed to the hospital, where he spent 10 days in a medically-induced coma while doctors attempted to reduce the swelling on his brain.Today, he suffers permanent effects from his traumatic brain injury - something the family said could have been prevented.

As the football season is in full swing, students, parents and coaches must take the potential for athlete injury seriously, as incidents like this are not an uncommon occurrence. In Fort Myers recently, a high school junior has been permanently blinded in one eye following a football accident, an injury that has stripped him of his dream of becoming a police officer. In New York, a 16-year-old died after suffering brain injury due to an on-field collision with another player. In Alabama, a 17-year-old was pronounced dead days after collapsing shortly following a tackle. And in North Carolina, a 17-year-old collapsed during warm-ups prior to a game and died shortly thereafter.

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October 16, 2014

Plaintiff Holds Duty to Mitigate Following Florida Crash

A person injured in a crash through no fault of his own still has a responsibility to take reasonable measures to minimize the effects and loss suffered. This is referred to in personal injury cases as the plaintiff's "duty to mitigate," and it's employed sometimes by defense lawyers as a means to argue for a significant reduction in damages.
This responsibility holds true even when the other driver was 100 percent at-fault in the case.

Generally, the common law legal principle holds a plaintiff should not be allowed to recover damages that could have been avoided had he or she acted reasonably. The flip side of it is that plaintiffs are entitled to recover damages for expenses they occurred in reasonable attempts to mitigate their loss, even if those attempts are not successful.

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October 14, 2014

Dangerous Trucks Targeted by FMCSA, But Some Lawmakers Call for Change

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has pulled from service a fleet of dangerous trucks and drivers, after the carrier had five recordable crashes, as well as 29 drivers cited for speeding and other traffic violations. According to the release, the company also failed to properly screen driving records of its workers, didn't follow proper procedure when workers and prospective employees tested positive for drugs and alcohol, disregarded federal hours-of-service regulations for truckers and failed to maintain rigs in safe condition, resulting in at least two of the three crashes.
While federal regulators gear focus to this kind of action, advocacy groups and politicians have been pulling for change on several fronts. For one, a labor union and two safety advocacy groups have filed a request with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asking that it compel the FMCSA to issue new minimum standards for entry-level training of commercial vehicle drivers. Meanwhile, a Republican representative from Pennsylvania has introduced the "Safer Trucks and Buses Act," which calls for a recalculation of the scoring system used since 2010 under the FMCSA's Compliance Safety Accountability Program.

While there are certainly competing interests among these organizations, the bottom line is trucking remains a hazardous industry, and fleet owners who fail to adhere to safe practices risk putting us all in harm's way. This is an issue that should be receiving constant evaluation.

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October 5, 2014

Drunk Daytona BIker Gets 4 Years in Biketoberfest Crash

When a Volusia County man climbed onto his motorcycle that evening in October 2012 during Daytona's Biketoberfest motorcycle rally, authorities say his blood-alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit.
He'd already been convicted of three prior DUIs. Yet, according to prosecutors, he climbed on a bike, intoxicated, around 9 p.m. and crashed into two Ohio tourists attending the event on S. Atlantic Avenue in Daytona Beach Shores. The couple was waiting with other pedestrians to cross the street when the biker suddenly veered toward the crowd. The couple, in their mid-50s, suffered severe injuries and had to undergo numerous surgeries in order to survive.

They told the court their lives are forever changed. Now, the biker's will be too, as a judge has sentenced him to 4 years behind bars. He faced a maximum of 5 years for the crimes of which he was charged.

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