Thursday, September 29, 2016

Civil Law versus Criminal Law

What are they and what is the difference?

In the United States, our court system handles both civil and criminal cases. The litigation procedure for the two vary quite differently from each other. These two terms are often tossed around, by advertisers, the print and television media, and by those giving others advice when they need the services of the court.  
Therefore, understanding the difference between the two can be helpful, while making both terms clear and defined.
Civil Law
The rules of civil litigation, or civil procedure, only apply if civil laws are involved. Civil laws deal with private disputes between private individuals or parties. Likewise, it is helpful to understand that the term individual in the legal arena, does not necessarily mean the same thing as when it is used in every day conversation. By statute (law), the term individual can include firms, labor organizations, partnerships, associations, corporations, legal representatives, and trustees. If two disputing private parties cannot agree upon something, than litigation begins and a lawsuit is filed.
Examples of civil litigation include: contracts, real estate, commercial and business transactions, divorce and family disputes, estate disputes, and something called torts. Tort law is probably the reason you are visiting this blog. Tort law includes civil injuries or wrong doings that one party is seeking compensation for from the other. The most common example of tort law is cases of negligence. Of all civil law, tort cases are by far the most common and numerous.
A good example of civil tort law is this: Jerrick is shopping at a local grocery store when he slips and falls from a puddle of water, created by a leaking freezer case. When he hits the ground, he is seriously injured. The store knew about the leaking freezer for a few weeks, but has done nothing to fix it or warn their guests about the hazard. Jerrick requests that the grocery store pay for his medical bills and lost wages for the time he had to take off work. They refuse. With no other option, Jerrick files a lawsuit against the grocery store so that the court can decide whether or not they are required to pay him compensation. In this lawsuit, Jerrick can ask for financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages (both past and future), for pain and suffering, and for other damages. This case is possible because of negligence tort laws that exist in this country.
Criminal Law
Criminal law, in contrast with civil law, deals with offenses and wrong doings that are against society as a whole, rather than a private individual. Criminal law includes areas like murder, rape, burglary, drunk driving, assault, and theft. When a criminal case is brought before a court, it is always between some government and the person. This is most often recognized in the form of, “the State of Florida vs. John Doe.” In this situation, the state is taking legal action against a person on behalf of its citizens. This is governed by the laws of criminal procedure.
It is not often thought about, but the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights plays a major role in the way criminal law cases take place. Individuals have rights when it comes to criminal cases, like the right to not testify against oneself (self-incrimination), the right to a speedy trial (due process), and the right to be represented by an attorney.

The reason that the Bill of Rights is mentioned here is because all these laws only apply to criminal—and not civil—law.
Where They Intersect
As you might imagine, it is possible for the same act to result both in criminal action and a civil dispute. For example, if someone crashes into another person while driving drunk, they may find both a criminal and civil action against them. This is because the act of driving while intoxicated is illegal, and thus, a criminal action. The fact that their actions were intentional, meaning they chose to drink and drive, and injured someone means that a civil lawsuit can be brought against them.
In this situation, the case of the injured versus the drunk driver would be handled according to civil procedure. The case of the state versus the drunk driver would be handled according to criminal procedure. When this type of thing happens—someone is tried both civilly and criminally—the two cases are always kept separate. This is because the burden of proof is different for both cases, being that the burden of proof in a criminal case is much higher than it is in a civil case.
In addition to the actions taken and the burden of proof, the two types of law are also handled very different by the courts. There are some things that are similar, like terms used (plaintiff and defendant), but there are also very different documents, proceedings, and remedies for the two types. For example, there is no need for a demand letter in a criminal case (there is nothing to demand from the accused). Likewise, in a civil case, there is no need for a bail hearing, since no one is going to jail for the incident.
Dolman Law Group
At Dolman Law Group in Clearwater, Florida, we want you to be as informed as possible when going through a tough time, like an accident or injury. The last thing you need is someone trying to conceal information or talk over your head. This is why at Dolman Law, we have staff members solely dedicated to providing our clients with free, continuous information. Every day we put out articles on our blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to keep our clients and potential clients as informed as possible. If you have any legal questions, check out our FAQ section, our Legal Glossary, or the thousands of blog posts at your disposal.
And of course, if you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence, give us a call. We are happy to help. Our attorneys are qualified, experienced, and dedicated to providing the Tampa Bay-Clearwater area with the best representation possible. Do not go at it alone. Put a reputable, experienced law firm like Dolman Law Group to work for you today. Contact us at (727) 451-6900 to speak with an actual attorney. Feel free to look around our page and the internet to get to know us. We look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What is Premises Liability?

Premises liability is the legal concept that an owner of land can be held liable for injuries that occur to third parties on his or her land.
A common scenario in which premises liability becomes an issue is when someone is injured due to something defective or dangerous on the property of another. An example of this would be a roller coaster coming off the tracks and injuring people at an amusement park. In other scenarios, someone may be injured solely due to the owner’s carelessness. An example of this would be someone falling in a pool of water at a supermarket that had been there for some time. In both scenarios, the status of the injured party at the time of their entry on to the property determines the legal duty owed by the property owner.
Duties of a Property Owner to Third Parties on Their Land
Under Florida law,1 the property owner owes two distinct duties to third parties:
Duty to Repair or Warn -- The first duty is to repair or provide reasonable warning of any dangers that the owner knows or should know of which the visitor cannot or should not be able to discover on their own using reasonable care. The best way for a property owner to guard against this is to simply make sure that the property is properly maintained and kept in good repair. Any dangers that have not been fixed need to have proper warnings for those that may encounter them. This duty is owed to public invitees, business invitees, and licensees by invitation as follows:
A public invitee is one who is invited to enter or remain on land as a member of the public for a purpose for which the land is open to the public. This would include, for example, anyone who is visiting a public area during normal operating hours and is using the property for its intended use. An example of this would be going to a public park or swimming pool during the hours they are open. Going to the same swimming pool after hours, however, would not afford the third party the same duty owed by the owner.
A business invitee, on the other hand, is a person who is invited on the land for a specific purpose. Essentially, this means anyone who is visiting a business during normal operating hours and is using the property for its intended use. Going to a grocery store and shopping for food would be an example of where the business invitee is owed this duty. Breaking in after hours and getting injured or attempting to climb shelves for fun would be examples where the duty is no longer owed.
A licensee by invitation is essentially a social guest. They are someone invited onto property for the purposes of spending time with them in a social setting. The scope of the protections owed to these types of guests expires when they are no longer invited or welcome to stay on the owner’s property.
Duty to Protect From Willful Conduct -- The second duty that a property owner owes to third parties is to protect against injury from willful or wanton conduct. This protection means that the owner cannot leave “traps” to catch people or do other similarly dangerous things. This protection is owed to uninvited licensees and trespassers.
A trespasser is one who enters the land of another without any such right to do so. An example would be a criminal breaking into a building.

An uninvited licensee is someone who chooses to enter property solely for their own convenience and not at the request or invitation of the land owner. This could be a next door neighbor who crosses through their neighbor’s yard on their way to the bus stop. There is no real intent to enter the land, but rather the third party just meanders briefly onto their neighbor’s land.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation!
If you have been injured while on someone else’s property, contact a Clearwater personal injury attorney right away. Florida tort law allows victims to recover compensation for injuries and other losses that they may experience as a result of a preventable accident. A lawyer familiar with litigating Florida personal injury cases can often help victims recover substantially more compensation than they would be able to retain on their own, so it is highly advisable for anyone injured in an accident to discuss their options with an experienced lawyer.
Since 2009, the Dolman Law Group has been representing the legal rights of people injured in preventable accidents. Unlike many other personal injury law firms, we provide individualized representation to each client we take and are prepared to take each case to trial if the best interests of our clients demands it. To schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers, call our office today at 727-451-6900 or send us an email through our online contact form.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Trucking Accidents in Florida: What To Do?

Commercial trucking is an important business throughout the United States and Florida. With so many commercial trucks on the road each day, it is inevitable that truck accidents will occur with personal vehicles. Due of their incredible size,1 these tractor trailer trucks pose a much bigger threat to everyday drivers than a standard size automobile.
Unfortunately, the nature of the trucking industry is that semi-truck drivers often drive great distances at a time and need to make their destination in a speedy time-frame. This can lead to drivers speeding, becoming sleepy, or simply zoning out from driving so many miles at once. Of course, this threat is amplified due to the size of these trucks and their cargo. All too often, this combination of factors results in an accident and drivers of personal vehicles suffer potentially severe consequences.
Most accidents involving a commercial truck involve serious property damage and injuries and often involve numerous vehicles. Because trucking accidents are often more complex and have multiple parties involved, navigating the aftermath of a trucking accident can be difficult without the help of an experienced trucking accident personal injury attorney at your side.
Damage in Trucking Accidents
Even in minor collisions with commercial trucks there can still be a substantial amount of property damage and injuries to the driver, even if the damage or injury isn’t readily apparent. Most trucking accidents go beyond a minor collision and have the potential to cause severe damage, not only in the initial impact, but in subsequent collisions or accidents resulting from drivers swerving to avoid collision. No matter how serious your accident, a personal injury attorney can ensure that you receive full compensation for the damage you have suffered.
Tips for Dealing with Trucking Crash Aftermath
Seek Medical Evaluation: Get immediate medical treatment if injured. If you’re not in need of emergency treatment right at the time of the crash, it is still a good idea to go get checked out soon after the accident. Not all injuries are immediately apparent and can manifest days or even weeks after the collision and you may be unaware of the extent of the injury you have suffered. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Treat: Treat your injuries and follow doctor’s orders. Following instructions will not only improve the possibility of recovering all you are entitled to in a potential lawsuit, but it will more importantly aid in your recovery.
Note Important Information: Make a list of any potential witnesses. You may need people to testify at trial on your behalf if the trucking company attempts to claim you were at fault or mitigate their fault by blaming something out of their control. It is also advisable to write down anything else you remember about the accident. While there will likely be an accident report made by the responding police, recording everything you can remember at the time will help make sure all relevant information is used to aid you in recovering against the at fault truck.
Don’t Talk!: Do not speak with the trucking company’s representatives. The trucking company has many high-priced lawyers working on their behalf who will do their best to immediately try to poke holes or damage any potential suit you may bring

by trying to get you to say something against your own interest. Do not talk to them.
Contact an Attorney: Speak with an experienced trucking accident attorney. They will be able to deal with the trucking company’s lawyers and insurance company on your behalf. In addition, they will be able to guide you through the process, so that you will only have to worry about treating your injuries. Your lawyer will be able to seek the compensation that you deserve, ensuring that you are reimbursed for your medical bills and your pain and suffering.
Trucking companies often have big law firms and powerful insurance companies on their side. Do not attempt to fight them alone. Only a trucking accident attorney can level the playing field and ensure that you get a fair fight and the compensation that you deserve.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation!
If you have been in an accident involving a commercial truck, contact a Clearwater personal injury attorney right away. Accidents involving commercial vehicles can be much more complicated than an accident between to individual drivers. The trucking company will have attorneys on its side that specialize in handling exactly this type of accident, so you should have a specialized attorney representing you as well.
To schedule a free consultation with the Dolman Law Group, call our office today at 727-451-6900 or send us an email through our online contact form.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

Causes of Trucking Accidents – Unsecured Cargo

Unfortunately, large commercial truck accidents are all too common. Florida has the third highest rate of fatal crashes involving large trucks in the United States,1 outnumbered only by California and Texas.
Not all accidents related to commercial trucks actually involve the truck itself. Trucks haul all types of cargo across the country on a daily basis. If this cargo is loose or improperly secured, it can fall into the roadway and create a hazard for the drivers behind the transporting truck. Loose cargo can hit nearby cars, causing direct damage, or can cause other cars to swerve to avoid the flying debris and cause accidents and further indirect damage.
The Dangers of Unsecured Cargo
In order to be safely driven, trucks carrying large cargo must be loaded carefully. The weight of the cargo must be evenly distributed and then secured so that the cargo does not shift or become loose during transport. If the weight is not properly balanced, the truck may become difficult to control while driving. Loose cargo shifting within a truck can cause the vehicle to swerve in and out of its lane and can severely limit the driver’s ability to drive in predictable ways. Loose or improperly balanced cargo also increases the likelihood that the truck could tip over. Finally, it is possible that cargo could become loose and fall into the roadway, striking other drivers or causing them to swerve into traffic.
If unsecured cargo causes the truck to sway or tip over, or falls into the roadway itself, it is likely that nearby drivers will be unable to react in time. Accidents involving commercial trucks, especially on highways or other high speed roads usually results in a multi vehicle accident and can cause serious injury or even death. In short, failure to secure cargo properly is an extreme safety hazard and has the potential to cause deadly accidents.
Florida Law
The State of Florida has enacted laws designed to prevent accidents related to unsecured or improperly secured cargo. Florida Statute §316.5202 states:
A vehicle may not be driven or moved on any highway unless the vehicle is so constructed or loaded as to prevent any of its load from dropping, shifting, leaking, blowing, or otherwise escaping therefrom, except that sand may be dropped only for the purpose of securing traction or water or other substance may be sprinkled on a roadway in cleaning or maintaining the roadway.

The driver is required to make sure that all cargo is properly loaded and secured before taking off. This includes ensuring that all doors or miscellaneous loose items (other than cargo) are secured. The driver is also responsible for checking on the cargo at intervals during the trip, to ensure nothing is coming loose or has shifted in a dangerous way.

Liability for Accidents Caused by Unsecured or Loose Cargo

As noted above, Florida law specifically forbids driving a vehicle with improperly secured cargo on any Florida roads. But if someone does drive such a vehicle and an accident occurs, who is liable?

The same section cited above places blame with both the owner of the vehicle and the driver. If failure to properly secure cargo results in “serious bodily injury or death”, then the owner and the driver of the vehicle may be charged with a criminal traffic offense and a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment not to exceed 60 days.

If this section is violated, but no accident occurs, it is only a noncriminal traffic infraction and is punishable the same as other non-moving traffic violations.

Contact a Clearwater, FL Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation!
If you have been in an accident involving a semi-truck, contact a Clearwater personal injury attorney right away. Accidents involving commercial vehicles can be much more complicated than an accident between to individual drivers. The trucking company will have attorneys on its side that specialize in handling exactly this type of accident, so you should have a specialized attorney representing you as well.
To schedule a free consultation with a lawyer at the Dolman Law Group, call our office today at 727-451-6900 or send us an email through our online contact form.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765