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Two years ago, a 25-year-old recent University of Florida graduate was fishing on a bridge in Brevard County when he was struck by a vehicle, thrown into the water and drowned.brokencar

The driver who struck him had glanced down to check a text message.

His mother, speaking at a recent “Staying Alive on Florida’s Roadways” event lamented, “His life was not meant to be over.”

And neither are the thousands of others who die every year due to distracted driving accidents. The U.S. government estimates 3,155 people were killed in 2013 as a result of distracted drivers. Every single day, 1,155 people are injured in traffic accidents caused by drivers who aren’t paying attention. Many of those are hospitalized with severe injuries from which they may never fully recover.

Given the severe price paid for simply checking a text message or rerouting GPS, officials with the Florida Department of Transportation have announced a partnership with a large auto insurance company to tackle the issue of distracted driving on Florida roads with a new awareness campaign. It involves the installation of so-called “Safe Phone Zones” at 64 rest stops, a number of turnpike service plazas, and various welcome centers throughout the state.

The “Safe Phone Zone” signs encourage drivers to pull over in order to have a safe, convenient location to check text messages, make phone calls or access mobile applications on their smart phones.

The signs were sponsored by GEICO. They have been installed along highways leading up to each of the various facilities.

Officials note that of course, drivers were free to access these areas for this same purpose before this campaign. But the action serves as a reminder that motorists do have a safe place along stretches of highway to catch up, stay connected and get directions.

So far, more than 70 of these signs have been installed throughout the state, and more are expected in coming months.

Officials say the message is both critical and timely. FDOT reports distracted driving accidents throughout Florida have spiked by 25 percent in just the last three years. There is so much that competes for our attention, and the problem has been exacerbated in recent years by the prevalence and accessibility of SmartPhones.

Florida was one of the last states to enact distracted driving legislation, and compared to other states, it’s relatively weak.

F.S. 316.305 bans all motorists (not just novice drivers or commercial vehicle operators) from texting while driving. However, the law expressly exempts certain other uses of mobile devices, such as GPS navigation, accessing music or talking on the phone. It’s also a secondary offense, meaning a police officer can’t stop a driver solely for a texting offense. The driver has to have committed some other moving offense or crime. Plus, police aren’t allowed to access a person’s cellular device for proof of a violation unless they are involved in a crash that results in injury or death. For this reason, many police agencies have reported issuing few citations. Even those they do issue only cost a $100 fine and add no points to one’s driver’s license.

When state lawmakers fail to take such an issue seriously, drivers don’t seem apt to do so either.

These signs may not solve the problem, but they are certainly a step in the right direction.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

FDOT and GEICO Unveil “Safe Phone Zone” Signs on Florida Highways, June 1, 2015, By Tori Walker, The Ledger

More Blog Entries:

State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co. v. Earl – Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit, July 3, 2015, Fort Myers Distracted Driving Accident Attorney Blog

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When large trucks and bicycles collide, the potential for serious injury is very high. One of the reasons is because an individual who is on a bicycle or on foot can get thrown underneath the truck and be run over by the back wheels.bicyclist8

With an increasing number of truck vs. bicyclist and truck vs. pedestrian injuries occurring, particularly in urban areas, both municipalities and private trucking companies are taking a simple action that could help reduce the severity of these incidents. They are installing side guards on large trucks.

These metal panels run between the two sets of wheels on larger trucks, and prevent a person who is hit by a truck from falling underneath the vehicle and into the path of the rear wheels. It may not reduce the number of accidents, but it helps to decrease the chances the bicyclist or pedestrian will be killed or suffer catastrophic injury.

Side guards have already proven to be a major benefit to bicyclists and pedestrians in several European countries, where they have been mandated by the government for a number of years now.

For example, in the United Kingdom, side guards have been required on all large trucks since the 1980s. Since that time, the number of deadly, side-impact collisions between bicyclists and trucks fell by more than 60 percent. Additionally, fatal side-impact crashes between pedestrians and large trucks dropped by 20 percent.

Other places where side guards are required:

  • Japan
  • China
  • Brazil
  • All countries within the European Union

Among the countries where these devices are not required:

  • The United States

The National Highway Transportation Safety Board has twice recommended the federal government enact a measure that would require side guards on large trucks, but so far, no action has been taken.

Still, recognizing the potential benefits, a growing number of cities are putting side guards on all publicly-owned large trucks. For example in Boston, the city is beginning to install the panels on garbage trucks, dump trucks and other large vehicles owned by the city. It’s expected the side guards – at about $1,200 to $1,800 a piece – will be installed on about 230 city-owned vehicles by the end of the year.

The measure was solidified when, during a pilot program last summer, a bicyclist was struck by a city-contracted garbage truck that had been outfitted with side guards. He was still seriously injured, but he did not fall underneath the truck, which likely saved his life. City council approved the new ordinance mandating the guards a few months later.

New York City is taking the same action, though it’s plan to retrofit city vehicles is stretched out over the course of the next eight years. Included in the provision are privately-owned garbage trucks that are used in connection with city contracts.

The guards are also required in Washington, D.C. and Portland, Ore.

Still, most privately-owned trucks are exempt to these ordinances.

But some private companies are taking action anyway. They recognize that paying $1,200 to prevent an injurious or fatal bicycle accident not only saves lives, it spares them the hefty cost of injury litigation and compensation they would likely pay in the event of a crash.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Collision Course: With Wary Eye on Big Trucks, Bike Riders Seek Safe Space on City Streets, June 30, 2015, By Bridget Huber, FairWarning.org

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There are few figures historically who were trusted more by families than Catholic priests. That may remain true for many. However, over the last three decades, a flood of allegations of sexual abuse and sexual assault by priests began to emerge, with growing evidence that various dioceses and eparchies were more interested in protecting the church than preventing abuse. priestholdingchalice

The Vatican reports that between 2011 and 2012, it defrocked almost 400 priests connected to sex abuse scandals. Some of the bishops who oversaw those priests have resigned, but many more still remain in their former positions.

In the U.S., at least 17,000 people have come forward to allege sexual abuse as children by priests between 1950 and 2012. These are only those allegations deemed “credible” by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Lawsuits against the church continue to net substantial compensation for victims. However, because many of these cases are decades-old, they require involvement by a team of experienced sex abuse attorneys. While lawsuits can target the individual priest, the cases made against the church typically involve negligent retention and supervision.

A plaintiff recently prevailed in one such case, Doe v. Hartford Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp., which was heard by the Connecticut Supreme Court. The court affirmed a $1 million verdict against the diocese, finding there was sufficient evidence for the jury’s verdict, trial court committed no prejudicial error in evidentiary rulings, and retroactive application to certain statutes of limitations provisions that revived plaintiff’s otherwise time-barred case did not violate defense due process rights.

According to court records, jurors at trial found the dioceses had acted with recklessness and negligence in assigning a certain priest to serve as director of an elementary school from 1979 through 1983. The priest was known to be an alcoholic, and had previously admitted to acts of child molestation linked to his drinking. Plaintiff alleged the priest molested him from 1981 to 1983 while he was a student at the school.

Plaintiff sought compensation and punitive damages, both of which were awarded. Punitive damages were granted in the form of covering attorneys’ fees and costs.

The priest in question had admitted previous molestation of two other boys when confronted about it. He asked for help with his drinking problem. Church officials would later describe the priest as “totally contrite,” and they agreed to place him in a four-to-six month treatment program and request the reporting individual to “tell no one.” The priest insisted he was not in immediate danger of touching others.

Records and witness statements reveal church leaders referred to the woman who reported the molestation as “a pest” and of their desire to “save the embarrassment” of the accusations becoming public.

Plaintiff was a child whose mother had recently died and whom the priest “took under his wing.” These attentions turned to affections and later to frequent sleepovers and molestations.

The allegations did not surface for another 20 years. He went on to marry, become a fire marshal and investigator and have two sons. However, when another man contacted him as a potential witness in his pending lawsuit against the church amid allegations of molestation by this same priest, plaintiff was able to start counseling to address his anxiety and depression over that time in his life.

Plaintiff then filed his own lawsuit against the church, alleging the assignment and supervision of the priest was reckless and negligent and resulted in serious and debilitating emotional injuries.

Jurors agreed, and awarded him $1 million.

Upon appeal, the verdict was affirmed by both the appellate court and the state supreme court.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Doe v. Hartford Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp., July 7, 2015, Connecticut Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Minden v. Atain Specialty Ins. Co. – Bar Fight Liability Lawsuit, June 27, 2015, Cape Coral Sexual Abuse Lawyer Blog

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Owners and managers of swimming pools – whether public or private – owe a duty of care to those using the facilities. swimmingpool

They are obligated to keep the premises reasonably safe for guests and, in some cases, even anticipated trespassers. Pools are considered “attractive nuisances,” meaning it’s known children will be drawn to them, and thus access has to be adequately restricted.

It also means property owners need to make sure the pool structure, gates, barriers, drains and other elements meet state safety requirements. Residential swimming pool safety laws are spelled out in F.S. 515, while public swimming pool standards are found in F.S. 514.

In addition to private homeowners, some common pool sites in Florida include hotels, splash parks and resorts, apartment and housing complexes and local governments.

When pool owners and property managers do not meet safety criteria and injury or drowning occurs as a result, there may be grounds for a civil lawsuit, depending on the circumstances.

Our Fort Myers injury lawyers are committed to holding property owners accountable when dangerous on-site conditions cause harm to others, especially children.

In the case of Sanon v. City of Pella, before the Iowa Supreme Court, the issue was whether there was sufficient evidence of criminal wrongdoing by city employees related to a double-drowning that would be enough to overcome an assertion of sovereign immunity. It’s important to point out that as an out-of-state case, different laws apply. However, Florida too recognizes sovereign immunity protections for local governments and employees, which means the circumstances under which an injured person can sue are limited.

In Iowa, governments are protected from legal action for claims arising from certain acts or omissions by local government officers – unless their actions amount to criminal wrongdoing. Plaintiffs here asserted the actions of two recreational department leaders were criminal and amounted to the crime of involuntary manslaughter.

Two lower courts disagreed, granting and then affirming summary judgment for the city. However, the state supreme court reversed.

According to court records, two city leaders, sometime before the incident in question, noticed rust had formed along the rim of the underwater pool lights in the new aquatic center. Although the lights still worked, the two officials decided to keep the lights off – without first consulting with any of the electricians or risk management leaders.

State laws require public pools to have sufficient underground lighting. But these lights remained off – even during nighttime events – and no additional lifeguards or overhead lighting was supplied to make up for the dimmer conditions. The pool was rented out for a private camp one evening for an hour. All total, 175 campers were present. Several of those were non-swimmers – something camp leaders knew via parent waivers, but which was not relayed to the lifeguards on duty.

Two teen boys went on a slide in the deep end. They could not swim. They did not surface. The water was murky. And the underwater lights were out. No one realized they were missing until it was time to leave. It was only then their bodies were discovered at the bottom of the deep end.

When the parents sued the city for negligence, the city asserted it couldn’t be held liable due to sovereign immunity. The parents argued the city officials’ actions amounted to involuntary manslaughter. The state supreme court found there was sufficient evidence to support this theory, and remanded the case to the lower court for trial.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Sanon v. City of Pella, June 26, 2015, Iowa Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Minden v. Atain Sepciality Ins. Co. – Bar Fight Liability Lawsuit, June 27, 2015, Fort Myers Accident Lawyer

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An injured bicyclist will receive the $3.7 million a jury awarded him following a trial, although his damages were reduced by $46,000 based on an appeals court ruling that a portion of his damages wasn’t supported by the evidence. carandbike

According to California Appeals Court records in Bermudez v. Ciolek, two vehicles crashed at an intersection in January 2012. At the time, the traffic light was transitioning from green to yellow to red. One of those drivers (V1) was turning left while the other driver (V2), traveling the opposite direction, was trying to go straight.

After impact, V2 veered into a corner of the intersection and struck a bicyclist on the sidewalk.

At the time of the crash, the cyclist had no medical insurance.

In a special verdict, a jury found that while both defendants were negligent, only one – V1 – was a substantial factor in causing harm. Thus, she was found to be 100 percent responsible for the $3,752,000 in damages.

Defendant driver/V1 appealed, arguing the verdict in the bicycle accident lawsuit was not consistent. However, the Fourth Appellate District disagreed, finding V1 was not entitled to a new trial, either on liability or damages.

Justices reviewed the trial court record, in which V1, V2, the bicyclist, several other witnesses and three accident reconstruction experts testified.

Factors that were cited by a number of witnesses involved the color of the light when V1 began her left turn, as well as how attentive she was being to the traffic conditions ahead of her, her reaction when she saw V2 approach, the speed at which she was traveling and the position of her vehicle at impact.

Jurors determined V1 began her left turn  after the light turned red, she wasn’t fully paying attention to the traffic ahead of her and she braked when she saw V2 approaching, therefore blocking both lanes of the intersection.

When V1 appealed the verdict, she did not contest sufficiency of this evidence.

Instead, defendant focused on the fact the jury found V2 also negligent, but refused to find his negligence a substantial factor in the cyclist’s injuries. She asserted evidence was presented V2 was speeding, was not paying attention and failed to take timely action upon realizing a crash might occur (i.e., swerving and braking).

V2 defendant admitted he was speeding. The limit on that road was 45 mph, but he admitted he was traveling 55 mph. However, when he saw the vehicle making a left turn in front of him, despite the green light, he applied the brake and his speed upon impact was approximately 45 mph.

Expert witnesses largely backed this assertion, though V1 defendant insisted V2 was driving at approximately 60 mph.

V1 insisted V2 defendant sped into the intersection and V1 did nothing wrong.

Jurors disagreed. But even in finding V2 was negligent, they did not find him liable because he wasn’t a substantial factor in the cyclist’s injuries.

The appeals court ruled this was not inconsistent. Although V2 had breached his duty of care, he was not the cause of injury to the cyclist. That is one of the key factors of proving liability in these cases. Not only that a duty of care existed and that duty was breached, but that this breach proximately caused injury to plaintiff.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Bermudez v. Ciolek,June 22, 2015, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three

More Blog Entries:

Fatal Florida Boating Accident Under Investigation, June 23, 2015, Fort Myers Injury Attorney Blog

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Lee County had a record number of traffic deaths in 2007. It was the height of the housing bubble burst, and the county’s population had ballooned rapidly. There were a host of construction vehicles, trucks and an influx of new residents. There were 106 people who died on our roads that year. highway5

But then the recession hit, the price of gasoline spiked and fewer people were driving. There was also an exodus of residents and commercial vehicles weren’t seen as frequently.

Now, we’re back on the upswing financially. But that’s apparently not all good news, as The News-Press recently reported. As of June 30, county officials tallied 52 roadway deaths. The year is only half-over, which means at this rate, we are going to either meet or surpass the number of traffic accident deaths that occurred here in 2007.

Although there are a host of factors that can help explain why there is an increase, the simplest answer, safety advocates say, is preventable negligence.

Jay Anderson, who is the executive director of Stay Alive… Just Drive! in Fort Myers notes that of the four deaths that occurred over the course of a single weekend recently:

  • Two decedents were not wearing seat belt
  • One driver ran a stop signs
  • Two motorcyclists died in separate crashes while reportedly operating their bikes too fast for conditions

Anderson said that while these cases are still under investigation and weather conditions do play a role, most of it comes down to poor choices. He said drivers in inclement weather have to adjust their speed and driving patterns to conditions. that could mean pulling over until the hazardous conditions subside.

A number of drivers continue to drive distracted and speed and don’t buckle up and don’t properly buckle up their children.

“Every single one of these fatalities is preventable” Anderson said.

In addition to those who died, several were injured, at least one of those critically.

In one of those crashes, two back seat passengers in a Volkswagon, ages 60 and 66, were killed when they were struck by a 39-year-old pickup truck driver in Lehigh Acres, who authorities say failed to yield the right-of-way. The driver of the Volkswagon was in critical condition and the 19-year-old front seat passenger in serious condition.

Then a 29-year-old motorcyclist was killed in Fort Myers on I-75 after speeding around a sharp curve. He lost control of his bike and crashed into a guardrail.

Less than an hour later, a 20-year-old motorcyclist died after she crashed her Suzuki on Imperial Parkway. Authorities say she was traveling at speeds between 100- and 120-mph when she slid off the shoulder and into a concrete wall.

Then, there was an out-of-town crash that killed a man from Fort Myers. According to officials in Columbia, S.C., the 78-year-old Fort Myers resident was involved in a traffic crash along I-77. He reportedly got out of his vehicle to assist those in the other vehicle, and instead walked directly into the path of an oncoming semi tractor-trailer. He died as a result of his injuries.

When a person is killed in a traffic accident as a result of negligence by another person or company, it’s imperative for those left behind to contact an experienced injury lawyer.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Lee County fatalities frustrate traffic authorities, June 29, 2015, By Michael Braun, The News-Press

More Blog Entries:

Ex parte Quality Carriers, Inc. – Two Dead After Truck Collides With Stalled Vehicle, July 1, 2015, Fort Myers Car Accident Attorney Blog

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A number of car manufacturers are working on technology they hope will reduce distraction while driving. However, these efforts work within a model that essentially says, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” iphone

Automakers don’t believe they’ll be able to quell drivers’ desire to stay in touch at all times. So they are working on ways to make doing so safer. But some traffic safety advocates wonder if these well-meaning efforts will backfire by making it easier for drivers to be distracted.

A recent article in The New York Times weighs both sides of the debate.

It opens by describing an ad that’s been posted on YouTube by start-up company Navdy, which project data and driving information onto a screen within a motorist’s field of view.

The video shows a man driving around L.A. when his phone rings. A screen is mounted on the dashboard, and an image of the man’s mother appears – as if floating just above the front edge of the car. They exchange “I Love You’s.”

This kind of technology is one of many that’s hitting the market in coming months.

Some auto manufacturers are working on “smart vehicles” that allow drivers to answer or drop a call, respond to a text message or even listen to one read aloud by simply waving their hands or using voice commands.

Other features include navigation maps, speed alerts, caller identification and even social media notifications. Some larger companies like Google (Android Auto)_ and Apple (CarPlay) have jumped into the game by allowing smartphones to be plugged into the vehicle’s USB port to stream phone data onto a dashboard monitor. Industry analysts say these features are soon going to come standard even in low-end models.

The technology is mostly brand new, and hasn’t been widely used or tested. In fact, Navdy’s product won’t even be for sale until late this year.

Still, these companies drive home the point that this technology is “safe.” It doesn’t require users to take their hands off the wheel or their eyes from the road. But is that really true?

Those developing the technology reason drivers are going to try to multitask anyway, no matter what kinds of features try to discourage them. So why not make it as safe as possible?

But safety advocates say these features wrongly trick a driver into believing these activities are “safe” to do while driving, when in fact the opposite is true. Anytime your attention is divided – regardless of whether you are looking in the direction of the road or are actually using your fingers to text – there is a heightened risk of a crash.

One of those weighing in is a University of Kansas psychologist who studies distraction behind the wheel. He called these so-called “infotainment” systems a “horrible idea.” He said the idea behind it is based on the erroneous presumption that if your head is turned toward the road, you’re somehow safer.

Some companies tout these features – particularly the hologram floating images – as the same used by airplane pilots. However, that is not exactly true. The features pilots use are only critical to the process of flying; i.e., the horizon line. Pilots aren’t updating their Facebook status mid-flight.

Drivers shouldn’t be doing so either – even if it’s floating in front of their faces.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Windshield Devices Bring Distracted Driving Debate to Eye Level, May 29, 2015, By Matt Richtel, The New York Times

More Blog Entries:

Insurers Sued by Auto Repair Shops Alleging Practices Put Motorists at Risk, May 16, 2015, Fort Myers Auto Injury Lawyer Blog

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The latest Lee County traffic statistics reveal troubling news. The News-Press reports that during the first six months of this year, there was a 32 percent increase in the number of traffic deaths as compared to the first six months of 2014. adriver

As we head into the summer driving season, there have been 43 people killed in Lee County traffic crashes so far this year. If we continue that pace, the county will see more than 100 traffic deaths for the first time in eight years. The county tallied 106 traffic fatalities back in 2007, which was a record.

Victims ranged in age from 10-years-old to 85-years-old. Some were operating souped up pickup trucks and others were simply moving along in typical sedans. Among the most recent incidents:

  • A teen pedestrian was fatally struck by a vehicle in Lehigh Acres;
  • A Naples motorcyclist was killed in a Fort Myers crash;
  • A bicyclist was killed in a hit-and-run crash in Fort Myers on a recent Monday morning.

These all happened within the span of just a couple days, and the deaths continue. Eighteen of the 43 crashes counted in the last several months happened in Fort Myers. Six happened on I-75.

Perhaps the worst part is Lee County isn’t unique in this rise of fatal traffic accidents. Officials with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles report the number of statewide traffic deaths so far this year is up 12 percent.

However, Lee County fared worse than many other locations. In fact, we are in one of just four counties statewide where the number of crashes this year compared to last had increased by more than 10.

In Collier County, meanwhile, 13 people have been killed in traffic collisions so far this year, compared to 11 this time last year.

So why are we seeing so many more fatalities? Traffic safety experts say there is no single culprit, but rather a number of overlapping reasons.

First, we have an increasing population here in Lee County. That was true during the housing boom prior to 2007, but it slid during the economic recession. Now, people are once again flocking to make Southwest Florida their home. Along with the increasing number of residents are a greater number of vacationers. More people have disposable income and more people than in recent years are using that money to take a trip. South Florida is a prime vacation destination.

But that’s not the whole story, according to the local Florida Highway Patrol spokesman. He noted that in 39 of the deadly crashes so far this year, more than 60 percent involved at least one of the following risk factors:

  • High speed
  • Riding a motorcycle helmetless
  • Failure to wear a seat belt
  • Impaired driving

Those are only the cases for which traffic accident investigations have been completed. Several cases are still pending.

The biggest problem? Complacency, officials say. People get comfortable behind the wheel. They follow too closely. They drive too fast. They don’t come to complete stops at stop signs. They don’t use turn signals. They glance at their phones. They fail to consider that each of these split-second actions can have a devastating, life-long impact on themselves and those with whom they share the road.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Lee County traffic fatalities on the rise, May 24, 2015, By Dan Deluca, The News-Press

More Blog Entries:

Social Media Analyzed in Fort Myers Injury Lawsuits, May 18, 2015, Fort Myers Car Accident Attorney Blog

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Negligent construction and/or maintenance of state and local roads can be grounds for civil litigation if it results in serious injury or death to those in motor vehicles. floodedstreet

A recent example was seen in the Utah Supreme Court case Barneck v. Utah Dep’t of Transp., which dealt with the collapse of a road caused by pooled water in a culvert. The collapse killed a 15-year-old and injured two people.

Anytime a plaintiff seeks compensation from a public entity, there are a host of potential roadblocks that must be overcome. Each state varies in its requirements for overcoming sovereign immunity, and it’s important for victims to be represented by an injury lawyer with extensive experience in this realm of law in order to succeed.

In the Barneck case, defendant state department of transportation in Utah argued it was shielded from litigation under the state’s governmental immunity act. Not so, held the state high court, which reversed district court’s granting of summary judgment on the matter.

According to court records, the underlying accident was caused when a short but severe rainstorm caused a culvert to become obstructed. In fact, 15 feet of water backed up on one side of the road. Workers with the state DOT responded and removed some debris from the street. They tried using a backhoe to unblock the culvert, but couldn’t successfully clear it and left the scene.

An hour later, a worker came back to check the roadway, but determined there was no real change.

The standing water remained for hours. Eventually, the weight of that water proved too much for the road, and it collapsed. This happened as a result of  “hydraulic piping,” where water seeps in and displaces the base of the road. This resulted in a significant chasm in the roadway – an expanse that was 30 feet wide and 20 feet deep.

Several hours later, plaintiffs – a father and his two teenage children – drove their vehicle into that hole, falling nose-first. The result was the teenage daughter was killed, while the father and teen son were seriously injured.

Plaintiffs sued the state department of transportation for negligence and wrongful death.

District court granted the state’s motion for summary judgment after it was asserted the agency was protected by the Governmental Immunity Act.

Immunity for government is not a new concept, and neither is it unique to Utah. The general principle holds that the government can’t be held liable for negligence unless it agrees in advance to such action. These agreements are called “waivers.” In Florida, the statute governing a waiver of sovereign immunity is codified in F.S. 768.28.

In Utah, the government issues a series of waivers and then also exceptions to those waivers. The one relevant to this case details injury resulting from unsafe, defective or dangerous highways or culverts. The noteworthy exception is any injury that arises out of management of flood waters.

Defendants alleged in this case, plaintiff’s claim arose out of management of flood waters, which is exempt from liability under the act. Plaintiffs, however, assert their claim is born out of defective, unsafe or dangerous conditions of a highway, and therefore the waiver applies.

District court sided with defense, but state supreme court reversed. The court found merit in plaintiff’s assertion that the claim arose form a dangerous condition – specifically, a property defect that birthed substantial injury risk when the property was used in a way that was reasonably foreseeable.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Barneck v. Utah Dep’t of Transp., June 12, 2015, Utah Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Civilian Construction Injury Results in Complex Litigation, May 14, 2015, Fort Myers Traffic Accident Attorney Blog

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Every year in the U.S., an estimated 200,000 children under the age of 14 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for playground-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Many of these injuries are preventable, caused by either defective playground equipment or inadequate supervision.playground

Three-fourths of these incidents occur at schools or daycare centers. Almost half are considered “severe” injuries: Concussions and traumatic brain injuries, dislocations, fractures and even amputations.

Several recent cases in litigation highlight the danger.

In Oregon, a family is seeking $121,000 in compensation for a child injured on playground equipment at his elementary school. The first-grader was reportedly trying to play on a newly-installed piece of equipment located outdoors and he was thrown from it while spinning. As a result, he suffered a fracture to his femur with fragment displacement.

At no time prior to the incident did the school warn or caution the children on proper use of the equipment, no supervision was given by any teacher or aide in the minutes prior to the accident, and the district never provided training to teachers or aides on the use of this equipment. That’s according to plaintiff’s complaint.

On the heels of that lawsuit came a report from New York City’s comptroller indicating the city had paid $21 million to compensate victims of playground injuries between 2005 and 2014. Further, such claims rose 53 percent during that time frame.

In another incident, Tennessee family of an elementary school child is suing the local school district for $10,000 following an injury that occurred last summer when the child was playing on a swing set that had been recalled five years earlier. The swing set reportedly collapsed while the girl was swinging, causing injuries. Journalists later uncovered the fact the district – and several others in the region – do not keep track of the playground equipment on site to know whether potential problems or defects were present.

Although the swing set had been recalled in 2009, it was still in use in August 2014, when this incident occurred. The school said it never received notice from the manufacturer.

Depending on circumstances of a playground injury in Florida, there may be a number of claims victims could file to receive compensation for medical bills, rehabilitation therapies and pain and suffering.

First, we would analyze whether the equipment was defective. In the case of recalled equipment, it’s important to note that a recall is not an absolution from liability. Companies that designed, manufactured, sold or distributed the equipment may still be liable in spite of a recall. In fact, the case of the product’s defectiveness may be strengthened.

Nearly 70 percent of all playground injuries occur because the playground equipment was broken, faulty or defective. In the Tennessee case, given the delay between the recall and the accident, it’s possible the school district could be held liable for failing to use reasonable care to ensure its premises were safe.

Where playground equipment is broken, property owners have a duty to timely fix such issues and maintain the equipment in order to keep the property reasonably safe – or else warn children/caregivers of the danger. There is also a possibility playground equipment may not have been properly installed according to manufacturer specifications. In that case also, property owners may be held liable.

In daycare and school settings, playground injuries may be the result of inadequate supervision, which is a form of negligence – particularly where young children are involved.

If your child has been seriously injured in a playground accident, contact us today to learn more about your rights.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

CDC: Playground Injuries: Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More Blog Entries:

High School Football Player Compensated for Head Injury, May 25, 2015, Fort Myers Playground Injury Lawyer