Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What Qualifies as an Emergency Medical Condition for PIP Purposes?



On January 1, 2013, the Florida legislature1 passed changes to the laws regarding Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage. These changes limited the maximum amount of settlement an injured motorist could receive unless that motorist suffered an “emergency medical condition” in the accident. The limits for PIP payouts are now as follows:

·        $2,500 maximum if no emergency medical condition was suffered
·        $10,000 maximum if a victim suffered an emergency medical condition

This new distinction naturally led many people to wonder: what qualifies as an emergency medical condition under the new laws2 and how will I know if I am eligible for a higher payout?

Requirement for emergency medical conditions
The definition of emergency medical condition under Florida law is not completely clear. The injury must have acute and severe symptoms, which may include substantial pain or inability to move around. Additionally, an emergency medical condition can result in one of the following if you fail to seek immediate medical assistance:

·        Serious deficiency or dysfunction of an important organ or body part
·        Serious impairment to important bodily functions
·        Other serious negative implications to a victim's health

Again, these requirements are not clear-cut. While serious and paralyzing spinal cord injury would almost always be considered an emergency medical condition, an equally disabling brain injury may not qualify if it does not present immediate and noticeable symptoms.

If you believe you have suffered an emergency medical condition for the purposes of PIP yet are being denied proper benefits by an insurance company, you have the right to bring a legal claim. It will then be up to a jury of your peers to determine whether your particular injuries were serious enough to be considered an emergency medical condition.

Furthermore, the PIP laws require that a certified medical professional must agree that your injury was serious enough to warrant immediate medical treatment. Such documentation must come from one of the following:

·        Licensed medical doctor
·        Advanced registered nurse practitioner
·        Osteopathic physician
·        Physician's assistant
·        Dentist

Other types of medical treatments, including acupuncture, chiropractic, or massage therapy, are not acceptable forms of treatment to satisfy the emergency medical condition requirement.

Always seek a medical evaluation in a timely manner
An additional important requirement to receive a payout for an emergency medical condition under PIP laws is that a victim  must seek out medical treatment for the injury or condition within fourteen days of the accident and injury. If you wait longer than two weeks to seek medical treatment, you will likely not be eligible for any payout under PIP insurance. For this reason, it is always important that you undergo a full medical evaluation as soon as possible following an accident in order to identify and document any potential serious injuries. Even if you do not believe that your symptoms are severe, you should visit a doctor as symptoms of many different injuries have the ability to gradually develop and/or worsen over time without the necessary treatment.

Even if you do seek medical attention within fourteen days, there is still a chance that the insurance company will attempt to limit your payout to only $2,500 by claiming that your injury was not severe enough to qualify as an emergency medical condition.

If you have only been offered a settlement that is inadequate to cover your personal injury losses, an experienced Clearwater, Florida PIP attorney at the Dolman Law Group in Florida can help you. We know how to negotiate with insurance companies and represent your best interests in court if necessary. Please do not hesitate to call an experienced personal injury lawyer at 727-451-6900 for a free consultation today.


Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
(727) 451-6900


Monday, December 29, 2014

What Are The Main Causes of Boat Injuries?

One of the factors that make Florida such an enjoyable state to live and visit is the miles and miles of coastline and the mild climate. For these reasons, many people regularly visit the coast to swim and participate in various water-related activities whenever possible. One of the most popular water-based activities is boating or riding smaller watercraft. While boating can provide a day of fun for the whole family, anyone on a boat or swimming around boats is also at risk of serious injury. While many boating accidents may be simply that—an accident—others occur due to negligent acts or omissions on the part of other parties. In these situations, victims that suffer injury have the legal right to recover by filing a personal injury claim.

Negligence that leads to boating accidents
Following an injury in a boat accident, your first step should always be whether to determine if negligence played a role in causing the accident. Negligence has certain legal elements that must be demonstrated in court, and an experienced personal injury lawyer can assist you in identifying any negligent acts and negligent parties who may be held liable in your boat accident.

Some common acts of negligence that may cause boating accidents and injuries include:

·         Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs (BUI)1
·         Distracted driving
·         Failure to inspect and/or maintain a boat
·         Not adjusting boating speed for water or weather conditions
·         Not having proper safety equipment
·         Not properly yielding for other boats
·         Not following the rules of the water
·         Defects in the manufacture of the boat
·         Defects in boating equipment
·         Not watching for swimmers
·         Unsafe behaviors in water sports
·         Failing to observe “no wake” zones

At times, determining the exact cause of a boating accident may be challenging. For example, if another boat driver is distracted and causes a collision, chances that the driver will admit to his negligence and responsibility are slim. Therefore, investigation into the circumstances surrounding the boat accident is often required. In many instances, accident reconstruction by experts may be necessary to identify negligence.

Boat drivers are not the only ones who may be responsible for a boat accident. For instance, a boat manufacturer may be held liable for selling a boat with defects that led to an accident. Additionally, a government entity or private marina may be liable for not properly posting signs for shallow waters or other potential hazards.

What damages are available in a Florida boat accident case?
The monetary award that injured victims can receive from negligent parties is called “damages.2 Damages may cover many different types of losses, including measurable financial losses as well as intangible losses. The type of damages available in your case will depend on many different factors, including the type and severity of injuries you suffered and how those injuries affected your life. Generally speaking, damages available in personal injury cases include the following:

·         Expenses for all medical treatments, including emergency care, hospital stays, surgery, medication, medical equipment, doctor and specialist visits, rehabilitative therapy, home health care, and more.
·         Lost wages and benefits for time missed from work.
·         Physical pain and suffering.
·         Emotional trauma.
·         Permanent disability or disfigurement.
·         Loss of enjoyment or quality of life.

Whether you suffered minor or severe injuries in your boating accident, you deserve full compensation for all of your injury-related losses from any negligent parties. At the Dolman Law Group, our personal injury attorneys are highly experienced in cases involving boat accidents and other types of common accidents in Florida. We offer free consultations, so please do not hesitate to call our Clearwater office today at 727-451-6900 for help today.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
(727) 451-6900


https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/maritime-law-attorneys/boating-accident/

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pedestrian Auto Accident Causes & Personal Injuries

Pedestrian Accidents can Ruin Lives

With Florida's relatively warm climate, one can see pedestrians on any given city street at any time of year. Walking from place to place has proven health benefits, is cost-efficient, and can be a great way to spend time away from the incessant bustle of modern life. Even for those of us who rarely walk as a primary means of transportation, almost all of us are pedestrians at one point or another, even if is just during a walk from your car to the front door of your destination.

The unfortunate reality is that whenever pedestrians and motor vehicles are in close proximity with one another, those on foot are at a risk of sustaining serious bodily injury. When motor vehicles hit pedestrians, the results can be devastating, potentially leaving them with serious medical conditions from which they may never fully recover. As a result, it is imperative that any pedestrian who has been involved in a traffic accident consult with an experienced Clearwater Florida personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that their legal rights are protected.

What causes pedestrian accidents?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)1, approximately 76,000 pedestrian accidents during 2012. These accidents can occur for a number of reasons but, in order for victims to successfully recover, they must be able to establish that their accident was caused by someone else's negligence. There are many types of driver negligence that can potentially lead to traffic accidents. Some of the most common include the following:

·         Speeding
·         Failure to yield the right of way
·         Distracted driving
·         Failure to properly maintain a vehicle
·         Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
·         Failure to observe traffic signals or stop signs
·         Driving while excessively fatigued
·         Not signaling turns
·         Drag racing
·         Driving without a valid license

Of course, there are many other ways that drivers can be negligent, and an experienced personal injury lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation of your accident in order to determine whether any evidence of negligence exists.

What kinds of injuries can result from pedestrian accidents?
Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable people on the road. Not only is the human body no match for a 3,500 pound sedan, it is also much smaller than motorized vehicles and can be extremely difficult to see. As a result, some pedestrian accidents occur when a vehicle is traveling at full speed, potentially causing extremely serious injury. Additionally, pedestrians who are struck by vehicles can also be thrown a significant distance, causing secondary impacts potentially resulting in additional injury. Among the injuries commonly sustained by pedestrians in pedestrian accidents are:

·         Broken bones
·         Traumatic brain injuries
·         Bruises
·         Spinal cord injuries
·         Crush injuries
·         Lacerations
·         Amputations
·         Concussions
·         Soft tissue injuries
·         Neurological injuries

These and the other injuries that people can sustain in pedestrian accidents can leave victims with medical expenses easily rising into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additionally, victims may be unable to work for a significant amount of time, if ever again. Furthermore, the emotional and physical suffering experienced by people involved in pedestrian accidents may be extremely severe and significantly affect their quality of life.

While a settlement or award as a result of a pedestrian accident cannot make it as if the accident never occurred, it can certainly help ensure victims' and their families' financial futures. In addition, it can provide a sense of justice to victims who are understandably confused and angry about the fact that their lives were impacted by someone else's negligent conduct3.

Contact a Clearwater personal injury lawyer today to schedule a free consultation
Anyone who has been injured in a pedestrian accident should retain legal counsel as soon as possible. Call the Dolman Law Group today at 727-451-6900 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
(727) 451-6900

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dangerous Holiday Gifts & Products For Children

Holiday Shopping: Dangerous Gifts for Your Children

It’s the season of giving and time is running out to find the perfect gifts for your family and loved ones. Popular with those parents who’d like to add some physical activity in their children’s lifestyles is sporting goods. This is everything from the classic ball ‘n’ hoop to a fresh new pair of rollerblades.

By law in the state of Florida, a bicycle travelling 10MPH must be able to stop completely within 25ft of the initial point of brake application. Is there a chance that some company out there is manufacturing bikes that don’t meet up to this legal standard? What if the brakes—which are sub-par due to a company’s negligence—are a direct cause of the accident that seriously injured your child?

The list ranges further than sporting goods, too. For Christmas this year, Santa could be gifting your children anything ranging from food, to video games, and everything in between. While it’s not recommended to examine and evaluate every product for consumer safety (there are already agencies responsible for doing that), it is important to educate yourself on the less obvious or rarely mentioned dangers. 

Recognizing the Dangers

Parents may fail to notice just how dangerous chips, crackers, popcorn, and other dry, sharp, and crunchy food can be to young children; a serious, yet often overlooked choking hazard. While it sounds like a relatively uncommon gift, I’ve seen packages of said snacks attached to gifted teddy bears and more commonly during Easter, where pre-made Easter baskets are sold in the masses at stores and contain serving-sized packages of various snacks and candies.

The look on your child’s face when he or she un-wraps the gift that they were begging for all year is undoubtedly priceless. The overwhelming amount of joy in the air could blind your keen eye and affect your ability to determine a safe gift from a hazardous one. While companies become better at defending themselves in product liability lawsuits, they fail to better the overall quality of their product on a constant basis. Instead of improving design to ensure maximum product safety, they often slap a warning sticker on the side to cover themselves in a court of law, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of luck.


Has the company…:
·        …adequately warned or informed the consumer of all “non-obvious” risks that could have been pretended if a warning was provided? If not, a claim regarding “failure to warn” may be in the works.
·        …given the consumer false information or an incorrect idea (through advertisements, marketing, etc.) pertaining to a product’s stability, durability, intended use, or other area of interaction that could lead to injury? If yes, a marketing defect is a valid reason to speak with an attorney.
·        …provided the consumer with a product that is dangerous by design? A good example is the once popular neodymium magnet toys known as “Buckyballs”. Production of these wildly fun toys was officially cancelled on December 27th, 2012, when the company decided that they had received too many complaints to handle alone. Children were using the magnetic balls to emulate tongue piercings and proceeding to choke on them.
·        …provided the consumer with a product that is dangerous due to a manufacturing defect?

This differs from a design defect for two reasons.

1.)         The general design for the product is sufficient; when manufactured in the masses, the product is normally safe. The specific product that you received, however, has become defective during the manufacturing process; whether by the negligent actions of a human, or the incorrect operations of a faulty robot.
2.)         It is a much rarer scenario to come across, making your case more unique and yielding a potentially greater amount of financial compensation.


CONTACT OUR CLEARWATER & TAMPA BAY AREA PRODUCT LIABILITY ATTORNEYS

Remember this holiday season while gift shopping for your children and/or the children of others that—while many are—not every product that makes it to the shelves of your favorite local department store deserves to be there. With the help of nearly-perfect robotic manufacturing, products have become safer than ever over the years, but a quick glance at one of our weekly product recall alerts can show you what danger still lurks.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a product that was being used as intended, you may be eligible for significant financial compensation. For a free consultation and case evaluation from an experienced Clearwater product liability attorney, contact Dolman Law Group today 727-451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
(727) 451-6900

Practice Area: 
Product Liability

Update: BP Oil Spill Claims & Compensation

The BP Oil Spill Petition Rejected; Company Forced to Compensate Victims



On April 20th, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, the BP-owned oil drilling rig known as the Deepwater Horizon exploded. This lead to one of the largest accidental oil spills in the world.

The spill, which unleashed a “gusher of oil that lasted for months and coated beaches all along the Gulf Coast,” took lives. Eleven workers on the rig never returned home; it has killed an immeasurable amount of wildlife; yet 4 ½ years later, court decisions are still being made on how to deal with the situation.

In 2012, BP signed a 1033-paged settlement agreement as defendants in a case against Bon Secour Fisheries. Secour, being a Gulf-based commercial fishing company in Alabama, suffered serious losses from the spill. The settlement agreement would make it easier for BP to pay compensation to those who truly needed it, but a misinterpretation stirred up some commotion.

The court-appointed financial middleman for the two parties—Patrick Juneau—was allegedly paying off too many victims who did not suffer injuries directly related to the spill. He had apparently awarded the owner of a hotel in Mississippi $450,000 to compensation for damages, but the hotel had previously been closed for many months for repair due to an unrelated fire.

BP’s only option was to change the specific terms of the settlement agreement that was allowing Juneau to make these undeserved and costly payments to plaintiffs. They filed the original petition to make these changes on August 1st, 2014—it called for an answer by September 4th, 2014, but many requested delays and rescheduling, it hadn’t a chance to be approved until December 8th, 2014. However, the Supreme Court made an icebreaking decision by denying the petition without hesitation, giving no reason or response.

With the petition denied, BP’s last hopes of reducing the financial effects of the spill have been lost. Geoff Morrell, Senior Vice President and Head of US Communications & External Affairs at BP plc, has attempted to pacify any stockholders in the company by stating that the company will “continue to advocate for the investigation of suspicious or implausible claims and to fight fraud where it is uncovered,"

This denial, however, is great news for victims who have experienced losses related to the oil spill. If the petition had passed, a large amount of genuine claims are likely to have been nullified, possibly destroying any chances that a truly injured victim had for compensation. Because of the court’s decision to deny the petition, securing compensation for losses related to the BP oil spill—even loss in business for captains—is looking brighter than ever.

On top of the financial stress associated with the personal injury and loss claims pertaining to the oil spill, BP has also been faced with outstanding criminal charges. With a total of $1.3 billion in criminal fines, the company finds itself on the top 10 list of highest criminal penalties placed by the U.S. against a company. BP pleaded guilty to “11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect of a ship’s officers”. An obstruction charge was also placed against former BP Vice President David Rainey for understating to Congress the flow rate of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.  The company stepped forward and took responsibility, paying his $525 million fine.

Still pending is a criminal charge under the Clean Water Act that could cost the company a whopping $21 billion. Efforts to have around 80% of those penalties redirected to the reparation of the Gulf are being made by the Mississippi River Delta under the RESTORE Act.

CONTACT OUR CLEARWATER & TAMPA BAY AREA BP OIL SPILL LOSS ATTORNEYS

The effects of the BP oil spill were felt to great extent in the Tampa Bay area. Many shore-hugging companies were damaged; tons of fishing companies and restaurants were forced to halt business for a time, and a saddening amount of wildlife was lost due to this tragic event. Let’s not forget about the 11 lives that were taken by the explosion, or those who were left with traumatic memories or injuries.

If you or a loved one believes that the BP oil spill has lead to a physical, emotional, mental, or monetary loss or injury, contact the experienced BP oil spill attorneys at Dolman Law Group. We’ve been operating in Clearwater since 2009 and witnessed firsthand the events following the BP oil spill. Call us today for a free consultation and case evaluation at 727-451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
(727) 451-6900

Practice Area: 
BP Oil Spill Loss

Friday, December 5, 2014

Whistleblower Awards Reduced Further

A whistleblower is anyone that brings awareness to or exposes an organization for any dishonest or illegal practices within said organization. It’s very common for whistleblowers to be involved with these organizations directly; normally having done work for them or having partnered with them at some point in time, the allegations that they’ll use to expose the organization is normally gathered from personal interactions.

Many whistleblowers will be employed by the organizations they are exposing, and will maintain employment throughout the process—often times choosing to stay with the organization (assuming the organization does not fall apart after criminal accusations) for a long period of time after exposure.

Why blow the whistle if you could lose your job?

It’s a personal decision to expose an organization for misconduct. You’ve got to be prepared for the worst, but there’s no harm in hoping for the best. There’s no telling how extensive the charges (if any) placed upon the organization will be. However, part of your decision to expose the organization also includes how you expose them. 

Should you wish to remain anonymous, you can choose to do just that—your employer would be unaware of your involvement in the legal proceedings and, even if said employer discovered that you were the whistleblower, would have a difficult time firing you without breaking multiple federal whistleblower protection laws. Some whistleblowers may even choose to personally terminate their employment—refusing to work for an organization that takes part in illegal practices—and exposing the organization publically, sometimes getting massive media coverage and widespread attention.

The Depreciation of Whistleblowers

The United States has many debts to pay off and has enacted countless programs, bills, laws, and reforms to assist in doing so. Unnecessarily large income deductions claiming to be used towards Social Security (which is predicted to yield greatly reduced benefits for the millions of adults paying towards it today by around 2037) is one example of the U.S.’s strenuous efforts to preserve the economy.

Furthermore, the government has recently proved once again that their methods of economical rehabilitation are all but well thought-out. A budget sequestration enacted in 2013 has continued to reduce the award given to whistleblowers that aid the government in recovering lost finances due to an organization’s fraudulent activities.

In a fictional scenario, a whistleblower exposes his employer for tax evasion. The government investigates and finds tangible proof that the allegations are in fact true. They take action and impose criminal punishments against any and all wrongdoers and recover a certain sum of lost money. This whistleblower played a key role in the recovery of said monetary assets and is therefore entitled (by law) to a certain percentage of same.

The budget sequestration mentioned above is aimed towards reducing that percentage that whistleblowers are entitled to. To be more specific, in FY2014 (the fiscal year that ended on September 30th, 2014), the award reduction was 7.2%. Now, as of October 1st, 2014, in FY2015, that reduction percentage has been raised to 7.3%, further lowering the awards for brave whistleblowers that step up to expose fraud against the government.

Is this a counterproductive sequestration?

In the government’s eyes, this is most likely not a problem. A stranger steps up, exposes a wrongdoer, and assists the government in recovering funds. The government wants to keep as much of those recovered assets as possible, and although .1% more is a decimal amount; every cent counts towards economic stability. However, they may have forgotten that some whistleblowers are hesitant to act, and minimizing their incentive to do so is a poor move.

If anything will entice a whistleblower to step up and report an organization, it’s a good heart, and a financial award. Taking away or reducing the award that these whistleblowers have earned and deserve will in turn reduce the amount of whistleblowers that step up and blow the whistle. The IRS does not seem interested in ending this sequestration, so it’s up to Congress to pass a law and stop it for good.   

CONTACT OUR CLEARWATER & TAMPA BAY AREA QUI TAM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS

For more information on whistleblowers, or for more articles on related topics, visit our website at www.dolmanlaw.com. Curious about what steps you can take to become a whistleblower and expose an organization for fraudulent activity? Contact our experienced qui tam lawyers today for a free consultation and case evaluation. We will strive to ensure your anonymity and will see that you’re awarded plentifully should your inside information lead to monetary recovery.


Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
(727) 451-6900

Practice Area: 
Qui Tam Litigation