Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dram Shop Laws in Florida

The first question that comes to mind when you hear the term “dram shop” is probably, “What in the world is a dram shop?”
Dram shop is an old term used to describe an establishment, such as a bar or restaurant, that serves alcoholic beverages to its patrons (but generally does not include liquor stores). In some states, the term also encompasses “social hosts” who serve alcohol to their guests, such as at dinner parties. The term prevails today because of dram shop laws, which about thirty states have passed. In accordance with these laws, patrons may hold business establishments liable for injuries caused by off-premises actions as a result of intoxication.
History of Dram Shop Laws
Traditional English law regulated the purchase and intake of alcohol since before the United States was established. It was after the Twenty-first Amendment repealed Prohibition in 1933, however, that it fell to the states to pass their own dram shop laws to help protect and compensate the public for injuries caused by intoxication. In one form or another, dram shop laws came into effect in many states, including Florida, but the majority of these laws only imposed liability on a business establishment in limited circumstances.
Despite the age and history of dram shop laws, they are still relevant. For example, a few years ago, a terrible car crash occurred in North Carolina in which a young couple was severely injured and their unborn child killed because of a driver who crashed into them with an alleged blood alcohol level of three times the legal limit. The driver had just left a bar that had served him at least 10 drinks during a two-hour, 10-minute period, according to USA Today. In this case, victims held the establishment negligent because bar employees knew or should have known that the patron was intoxicated and should have stopped serving him.
Florida’s Dram Shop Law
Florida’s dram shop law declares serving alcoholic beverages to underage patrons or habitual drunks negligence, and allows victims to hold establishments liable for damages that result from the intoxication of those people. Businesses, however, are not liable for injuries caused by the intoxication of people older than the lawful drinking age (unless they are “habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages“).
It is often easy to determine whether someone served an underage patron or guest. That someone is a habitual drunk whom the business establishment’s personnel knew they should not have served is more difficult to prove.
If intoxication caused an accident, a blood alcohol level of less than the legal limit generally does not absolve a business of liability. Victims of alcohol-related accidents may ask whether an establishment is liable for “over serving” alcohol to a clearly intoxicated patron. For example, a bartender who witnesses the following signs of intoxication should generally cease to serve the patron alcohol, especially if the patron clearly plans to drive:
  • Slurred speech
  • Loud or obnoxious behavior
  • Lack of motor skills
  • Strong smell of alcohol on the breath
  • Illness

In this case, a business establishment may face liability for negligence for increasing the danger that a drunken patron will cause a DUI-related accident.
Types of Injuries With Alcohol-Related Causes
A car accident is one of the most dangerous types of alcohol-related accidents because the drunk driver is probably operating a two-ton vehicle at high speeds, which can cause severe injuries or death. Horrible DUI-related crash injuries include traumatic brain and spinal damage, and miscarriages such as in the North Carolina case. Assault and battery-related injuries, such as broken bones, can result if the patron gets into a fight inside or outside the establishment or into a domestic dispute.
Seeking Compensation for Your Injuries
If a drunken individual injured you, whether in a car or truck accident, or as the result of an assault, the law may entitle you to compensation directly from the individual, from that person’s insurance company, or from the “dram shop” or social host who served the alcohol. Speak with your personal injury attorney about seeking compensation for:
  • Medical bills
  • Property damage
  • Mental health bills
  • Medical equipment
  • Prescription medications
  • Pain and suffering

In cases of especially severe negligence by the individual or the dram shop, such as when a bar has served an intoxicated driver more than a dozen drinks, speak with your attorney about the potential for punitive damages. These additional damages compensate you for injuries and pain and suffering, and punish the offender’s extremely negligent behavior.
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident or were assaulted by an intoxicated person in the greater Tampa Bay area, consider whether someone who served the alcohol should bear liability. It can take time to trace the facts of your case to determine whether someone indirectly contributed to the accident and should help compensate you for your injuries. Take advantage of your no-risk, free consultation with the Dolman Law Group. They are here to fight for your right to compensation, and they can advise you as to whether you have a claim for negligence against a dram shop or social host under Florida law. Contact them online today or at (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Five Serious Accidents That Result in Burn Injuries

Burns are some of the worst injuries people can suffer, especially when faces are burned. Burn injury victims often undergo years of rehabilitation and surgeries to deal with the consequences of bad burns, sometimes with little success. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, reach out to a qualified Clearwater, Florida, personal injury attorney today. Meanwhile, here are five common causes of serious burns:
#1: Faulty Wiring in Buildings
We spend a lot of time in buildings, so many burns, unsurprisingly, occur inside. Fires can break out in a home or office building, which can quickly engulf the premises. People can get burned trying to escape or after they pass out from smoke inhalation.
If you rent, you might sue the landlord for premises liability, especially if the building doesn’t conform to the building code or the landlord didn’t provide smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, or emergency exits. Essentially, victims must show that landlords were sufficiently careless (or negligent) to hold them legally responsible for burn injuries.
Even homeowners might sue electricians or contractors for faulty wiring, depending on the circumstances. A qualified Clearwater, Florida, personal injury lawyer can assess the situation and identify the correct person to sue.
#2: Automobile Accidents
The gas in an automobile’s tank is highly explosive. An accident can cause fire to tear through a vehicle, often trapping people inside. Occupants who can’t quickly escape will either die or suffer severe burns.
Someone burned in an automobile accident might hold several different people legally responsible for burn injuries. For example, you can sue the person who caused the accident for negligence. If someone slammed into you without looking, or if was going too fast to control or stop the vehicle, then you have a strong case to bring suit.
You might also sue the automobile manufacturer for design or manufacturing defects. These complicated lawsuits require expert testimony as to how the manufacturer should have designed the automobile. You’ll need an experienced personal injury lawyer by your side to fight for you.
#3: Excessively Hot Food or Beverages
Restaurants and fast food joints often sell food and beverages at high temperatures so that they stay warm as people drive to work. Unfortunately, these too-hot foods can burn people, particularly when spilled or dropped on the skin.
One of the most famous lawsuits in U.S. history was Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants. An elderly woman accidentally spilled hot coffee in her lap and suffered third-degree burns as the coffee soaked into her sweatpants. Many people scoff at this case, believing that the victim shouldn’t have been able to sue. McDonald’s, however, was well aware that the coffee was hot enough to seriously burn customers—but McDonald’s went ahead and sold it that way anyway. The plaintiff was ultimately awarded more than $600,000 in compensation for her burn injuries.
#4: Chemical Burns From Defective Consumer Products
Many chemicals have strong acidic contents that can burn skin on contact. Popular consumer goods, such as batteries, computers, and smartphones, may contain these chemicals, which can leak out as the product ages. Recently, MixBin recalled its Glitter iPhone case because of a risk that liquid in the case would leak.
If victims inhale the chemical or get it in their eyes or mouths, they can suffer poisoning injuries in addition to burns.
If your workplace uses hot materials or chemicals, you might suffer an injury on the job. For example, hot fryer oil can burn fast food workers or the chemicals in wet cement can burn construction workers. You can hold employers who don’t take worker safety seriously enough legally responsible for your injuries.
Burn Injuries
Burn injuries range from the irritating to life-threatening, but take all burns seriously, even minor ones. Doctors classify burn injuries as first-, second-, and third-degree burns:
  • First-degree burns only damage the outer layer of skin, called the epidermal layer. First-degree burns usually heal without scars.
  • Second-degree burns damage the epidermis and the underlying layer of skin, the dermis. Typically, you’ll receive blisters. You must receive medical treatment for second-degree burns so that you don’t contract any infections. Some second-degree burns require skin grafts.
  • Third-degree burns are the most serious. They damage both the epidermis and dermis, and can also injure muscles, tendons, nerves, and possibly bones. You typically need skin grafts to treat third-degree burns.

With a skin graft, a surgeon will take skin from another area of your body and attempt to graft the skin onto the wounded area. It can take as long as a month to recover, depending on your graft, and you will usually bear permanent scars. A facial burn may require additional plastic surgeries, such as nose reconstruction.
Compensation Available
Anyone who causes your burn injury should compensate you. You can recover money for:
  • Medical and rehabilitation expenses
  • Any psychological counseling you need as a result of the burns
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

If a loved one died because of horrific burns, you might bring a wrongful death suit. Parents, spouses, and children can recover monetary compensation from the person or entity responsible.
Burn victims shouldn’t suffer in silence, and they shouldn’t immediately agree to an insurance company’s settlement offer. Reach out to an experienced Clearwater, Florida, personal injury attorney who will keep your best interests at heart. At Dolman Law Group, we’ve helped countless burn victims get the compensation they deserve to rebuild their lives. Call us today at (727) 451-6900 or fill out our online contact form.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Evidence Is Everything: Building Your Slip and Fall Case in Florida

After an accident, get immediate medical attention, because your health is your most important consideration. As soon as doctors stabilize you, however, think about building your legal case, particularly if you know someone else was at fault for your slip and fall.
As the person bringing a personal injury lawsuit, you carry the burden of proving that the person you sue is at fault for your injuries. This means that you need evidence—and a lot of it.
The Importance of Evidence
You might know that the burden of proof in criminal trials is proof of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Fortunately, you have a lower burden of proof in a civil case, such as your personal injury lawsuit. Instead, your burden is only “a preponderance of the evidence.” Essentially, this means that the defendant, more likely than not, caused your injuries.
However, this lowered burden doesn’t mean you don’t need high-quality evidence. The last thing you want is a “he said/she said” situation where the jury must decide which person is telling the truth—in those cases, juries may let defendants get away without paying anything. Fortunately, a skilled personal injury lawyer can help you gather the evidence you need to build a strong case.
Eyewitness Testimony
Lawsuits involve “who did what.” In the slip and fall context, you probably fell because a building owner created a hazard or failed to warn you of an existing one. You can fall in the following situations:
  • A store owner mopped a floor but didn’t put up any cones or other notifications.
  • A store owner didn’t warn you about slippery sidewalks or parking lots.
  • The floorboards in a building are loose or uneven and the building owner didn’t fix them.
  • Stairs are so rickety or loose that you fell.
In each of these situations, you need to present evidence that you fell because of an existing hazard. Identify anyone at the scene when you fell and try to get their names and contact information (such as their phone numbers or email addresses). If you’re in a lot of pain, you obviously can’t get this information yourself, so ask a bystander or friend to get this information for you.
You can also get a copy of the police report (if police came to the scene). Police reports often contain the names of witnesses, and your personal injury lawyer can use this information to reach out to them and get their stories.
Accident Scene Photographs
A picture is worth a thousand words, and is usually better evidence than eyewitness testimony. As soon as possible after you take a tumble, ask someone to return to the scene and take pictures. The landlord might have corrected the hazard—for example, by quickly putting up signs or fixing loose floorboards—but sometimes the hazard is visible for days after the accident.
If possible, take pictures during the same time of day as when you fell. If you fell at night, for example, darkness make the hazard that caused your fall harder to see. Jury members probably won’t visit the scene of an accident, so you’ll need photographic evidence to give them a sense of the scene when you tripped.
Photographs of Your Injuries
You might need to wait a year or more from the date of the accident before you go to trial. During that time, bruises will disappear and scars will heal. You’ll present a much more compelling case to the jury if you take vivid, color photographs of fresh injuries.
As soon as you feel up to it, ask a friend or family member to take pictures. Take pictures from many different angles and in different lighting conditions. Your lawyer can then look at all of the pictures and choose to show the ones that a jury will find most memorable.
A word about taking pictures of your face: We’ve been trained since childhood to smile in photographs. However, you absolutely don’t want to smile in pictures of your injuries. A jury will think you aren’t really injured, so remember to press your lips together and look without emotion at the camera.
Document Your Injuries
You can receive compensation for many injuries suffered in a slip and fall. The economic injuries are easy to calculate, such as:
  • Medical expenses and rehabilitative services
  • Mental health counseling if your fall caused fear, depression, or anger
  • Lost income while you recover
  • Lost future income if your injury is so severe you can’t work the same job in the future

Not all injuries are easy to calculate in dollars and cents. For example, you are probably in a great deal of pain after your fall—physical as well as mental anguish—and Florida allows you to receive compensation for this pain and suffering.
Because pain and suffering are difficult to prove, keep a daily pain journal in which you document the location and intensity of any physical pain (for example, “stabbing pain in my shoulder”). You should also talk about how your injury has worsened your mood. In particular, explain how your injury has changed your life for the worse—for example, you can no longer play with your grandchildren or enjoy your favorite hobbies. Your personal injury lawyer should know how to complete a detailed pain journal, which makes for great evidence.
The sooner you work with a personal injury attorney, the faster you can begin building the strongest slip and fall case possible. At Dolman Law Group, we’ve helped many slip and fall victims obtain the compensation they need to begin to heal. Call us today at (727) 451-6900 for your free and confidential consultation, or complete our online contact form.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Ten Things Truck Drivers Can Do to Cause Accidents

People injured in catastrophic trucking accidents may never again live as they once did. A return to work make take years, if ever. Furthermore, a victim’s injuries can cause physical or mental anguish that severely reduces quality of life. To receive compensation, however, a victim generally must show that the truck driver (or another party) did something wrong that caused the injury. If a trucking accident injured you or a loved one, contact a Clearwater, Florida, personal injury attorney for a free case evaluation.
Truck Driver Negligence
Truckers owe other drivers a duty to exercise reasonable care when operating their trucks. Careless truckers can cause painful injuries to innocent victims who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fortunately, Florida law allows victims to receive compensation for their injuries when a truck driver’s carelessness qualifies as negligence.
Truck drivers must always use reasonable care when loading and operating their vehicles. One mistake can spell disaster for other people on the road. Here are 10 ways truckers can cause accidents:
  • Speeding
  • Driving while fatigued
  • Alcohol or illegal drug impairment
  • Prescription drug impairment
  • Improperly loaded cargo
  • Taking a curve too fast
  • Failing to watch out for blind spots
  • Depowering the front brakes, which can cause a jackknife
  • Insufficient experience with driving a big rig
  • Inattention caused by sending or receiving text messages

Driving while fatigued, in particular, is such a serious problem that the federal government has stepped in to regulate it. These regulations, called “hours of service rules,” limit drivers to 14 hours of work a day, which includes a maximum of 11 hours of driving time. Before starting their next shifts, drivers must have 10 consecutive hours off. Furthermore, federal law limits the amount of time a driver can be on the road to 60 hours in seven consecutive days (or 70 hours in eight straight days).
Gathering Evidence
To win a lawsuit, you need evidence. Your personal injury lawyer can help you gather what you’ll need to make a compelling case, but before you even meet with a lawyer you can begin collecting proof of the trucker’s negligence.
Find witnesses and write down your own memories as soon as possible. You can’t get inside a truck driver’s head, but you can tell your personal injury lawyer what you observed. Explain what happened and where. What were you doing? What movements did the driver make? Did you honk your horn? No detail is too small, and your narrative will give your personal injury lawyer some sense of what happened. Much of the evidence gathering will happen after you hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit.
For example, most lawsuits have a fact-finding phase called “discovery,” which allows your personal injury lawyer to request documents from the trucking company. As part of discovery, your lawyer will request the driver’s logs and the results of any drug tests the driver has taken to see if they contain relevant information. Sometimes, a driver’s log is so obviously forged that it serves as proof that the driver was not following federal guidelines.
Victim Compensation
Victims of trucking accidents often face sky-high medical bills and months of rehabilitation or bed rest to recover from their injuries. These accidents are financially, physically, and emotionally costly and can harm your relationships with your friends and family. To make you whole, the law allows you to obtain compensation called “damages.” In Florida, accident victims can receive the following damages:
  • Reimbursement for medical expenses (hospital, doctor, and therapist bills)
  • Reimbursement for the costs of physical therapy
  • Replacement of lost wages, including future wages if the accident disabled you
  • Compensation for your pain and suffering

Not every accident victim will qualify for each form of damages, and the amount each victim recovers will differ depending on the circumstances. To get a sense of what damages you might receive, schedule a free consultation with a Clearwater, Florida, personal injury attorney today.
Your Lawyer’s Role
Soon after you go to the hospital with injuries, the trucking company’s insurer might quickly contact you and offer a fast settlement. Undoubtedly, the settlement amount is too low and doesn’t adequately compensate you for your injuries. However, victims often feel pressured to sign the settlement as medical bills mount and they spend more time away from their jobs.
Instead, accident victims need to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer who can stand between the insurer and the victim, acting as the victim’s advocate. With our clients, Dolman Law Group provides the following services:
  • We investigate the accident thoroughly to identify the negligent party.
  • We help document the full extent of your injuries so that you receive fair compensation.
  • We handle all communications with trucking companies and insurers so that you can focus on the most important thing: getting well.
  • We negotiate aggressively on your behalf and call out trucking companies and their insurers when they make lowball settlement offers.
  • We file lawsuits in court to show trucking companies we are serious about getting our clients compensation for injuries caused by their drivers.
  • We keep you updated about your case so that you will always know what is going on and can make informed decisions.

The sooner you reach out to a personal injury lawyer, the stronger your case, and the sooner you and your family can get on with your life.
Going up against a powerful trucking company is never easy, and lawsuits often confuse the average person. You need an experienced Clearwater, Florida, personal injury lawyer by your side to guide you through the process. At Dolman Law Group, we’ve helped countless accident victims obtain the compensation they deserve. Call us today at (727) 451-6900 or complete our online contact form. Consultations are free and confidential.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

You Can Be Injured at a Hospital

Typically, hospitals are the place you go when you have an illness or injury, not where you would expect to suffer one. You can, of course, suffer an injury almost anywhere, but there is a difference between slipping on spilled juice in the hospital cafeteria and being the victim of negligence or medical malpractice by doctors. Due to the number of medical personnel at hospitals necessary to deal with a large capacity of patients, Florida’s hospitals are often subject to medical malpractice claims. It can be traumatizing, knowing that where you went for healing caused you more harm, which is why the Florida Supreme Court ruled in June 2017 that it is unconstitutional to cap the non-economic damages of a medical malpractice victim.
Recent Changes to Florida Law
Noneconomic damages are intangible damages, such as pain and suffering caused by the injury and loss of enjoyment of life, such as if you suffered a hand injury at a hospital and are no longer able to play the piano. Before the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in June of 2017, Florida law limited the “noneconomic” damages a patient could recover against doctors in medical malpractice cases to either $500,000 or $1,000,000 depending on the severity of the injuries.
In the Florida Supreme Court cited above, a Florida woman was admitted to a Florida hospital to undergo surgery on her wrist to alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome. This is not typically a dangerous or advanced procedure. However, during surgery, an anesthesia tube punctured her esophagus, causing her severe back and chest pain. Despite complaining about this before leaving the hospital, she was sent home where a neighbor later found her unconscious, and she had to undergo lifesaving surgery. She went into a coma and had to undergo additional surgeries just to learn how to eat again. Overall, this experience caused her severe pain and mental trauma for which she was awarded millions of dollars in medical malpractice damages for her pain and suffering.
As you can imagine, no one expects to go into the hospital for simple wrist surgery and come out nearly paralyzed. For this reason, the Florida Supreme Court removed caps on what victims of medical malpractice can recover for their pain or suffering after terrible hospital injuries.
Florida Medical Malpractice Law Generally
If you or a loved one was injured or fell ill, or if medical professionals worsened an injury or illness at a Florida hospital, whether the hospital was publicly or privately owned actually makes a difference in what you can recover. Traditionally, state government and government-owned entities are immune from litigation, so you can only recover up to $100,000 from a government-run hospital. There is no cap, however, on what you can recover from private practice physicians with attending privileges at that hospital or from a privately owned medical facility.
Under Florida’s medical malpractice laws, an injured person can recover damages for wrongful death or personal injuries suffered as the result of the negligence of a healthcare provider, including a hospital. Your Florida medical malpractice attorney, however, must prove that the hospital, through the actions of its staff or physicians, breached the prevailing professional standard of care in that particular field of practice. This standard is defined as the “level of care, skill, or treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.” In the example set forth above, it would have been necessary to gather information regarding what the standard of care is for anesthesiologists who are intubating patients. Your family practice physician would not be able to assist you in assessing this standard of care—it must come from other similarly situated anesthesiologists in the field.
Most Common Florida Hospital Injuries
The most common medical malpractice claims in Florida are:
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Pregnancy and childbirth negligence
  • Prescription medication errors
  • Surgical and post-surgical mistakes

To prove your medical malpractice claims, your Florida personal injury and medical malpractice attorney almost always must involve a physician who practices in the same field as the allegedly negligent doctor. Under Florida law, “a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify about it in the form of an opinion,” but this standard is more stringent for medical experts. This means that medical expert witnesses with the same or similar qualifications as the negligent doctor can testify that, in their opinions, another doctor fell below the accepted medical standard of care—and you would not have suffered your injuries if another doctor had treated you or your loved one.
If you believe you suffered injuries, an illness, or a worsening of your condition as the result of a medical error at a Tampa Bay area hospital, contact a Florida medical malpractice attorney immediately. In medical malpractice and negligence cases, somebody must gather medical evidence early after your injury occurs to avoid claims that your injury or illness was not linked to your hospital stay. A Clearwater personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer can help connect you with the right expert witness to testify on your behalf to prove your claims. The Dolman Law Group has the medical malpractice experience you need to get the compensation you deserve after a devastating hospital error. Contact them today at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation about your injuries.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765