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If you are a 17-year-old driver in Florida, you are restricted via the state’s Graduated Drivers Licensing law to operation of that vehicle between the hours of 5 a.m. and 1 a.m., and at all other times must be accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 21-years-old in the passenger seat or be traveling to and from work.trucksontheroad1

Novice drivers aren’t eligible for a full license before they reach 18. But now, if a bill moving its way through the U.S. Senate is successful, newly-licensed 18-year-olds will be considered qualified for a job on a big rig.

Federal law currently prohibits drivers under 21 from operating semi-trucks and tractor-trailers across state borders. Some states do allow 18-year-olds to operate these vehicles, but they can’t haul from state-to-state, which doesn’t make them good candidates for most long-haul trucking positions. Continue reading →

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Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal has denied an appeal by a mother, on behalf of herself and paralyzed toddler, seeking a new trial for numerous trial errors that resulted in a finding of zero liability against named defendants in a horrific Florida truck accident.accident2

In the case of Aquila v. Brisk Transportation, the appeals court did not deny there were numerous errors made by trial court. Unfortunately, those issues were not properly preserved by plaintiff’s attorney during trial, so she had no grounds on which to successfully appeal.

This, of course, is why it is so imperative to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to handle your case – especially one of this magnitude, where the injuries are severe, disabling and long-lasting.

In the Aquila case, the underlying incident resulted in catastrophic injuries. According to court records, plaintiff/mother was driving northbound on the Florida Turnpike. She was in a 2000 Chevrolet Camaro, owned by the father of her roommate. Plaintiff’s sister, a nurse, had planned to visit plaintiff and her daughter, but the sister’s car broke down, so plaintiff was driving to Orlando to pick her up and drive her back to the residence she shared with her daughter and roommate in Deerfield Beach.

Toddler was buckled securely in the back seat, and left home around 10 a.m. Halfway to the destination, it began to rain. Mother stopped at a rest stop, changed the child’s diaper, called her sister and then called her roommate. She then got back on the highway while the road was still wet.

Suddenly, without warning, plaintiff’s vehicle started to hydroplane and spin out of control. She wasn’t driving fast. She wasn’t running off the road. She wasn’t over-correcting her steering. the vehicle wasn’t on cruise control and she wasn’t taking any action that would have caused her to hydroplane. Plaintiff would later say it could have been a steering or tire issue, but for whatever reason, it happened. She veered into the center median, began to spin, struck a guardrail, continued spinning, re-entered the highway and then stalled in one of the northbound lanes.

Mother quickly got out, grabbed her toddler and, holding her tightly, ran to a grassy area of the median. Oncoming vehicles included a truck owned by defendant company and driven by defendant driver. There was also a pickup truck, driven by another defendant, whose parents were passengers.

Rain was steady and the road was wet. Visibility conditions were bad. Pickup truck driver testified he was behind the tractor-trailer, saw the brake lights, saw erratic movement by the truck and then saw it strike the stalled vehicle. Pickup truck driver swerved into the median. He struck the mother and her toddler. The mother was seriously injured. The toddler was thrown from mother’s arms. Later located, the child was permanently paralyzed.

Mother sued the pickup truck driver and insurance company, the tractor-trailer company and tractor-trailer driver. She alleged negligence by both. Specific with regard to tractor-trailer driver, she asserted notations in the commercial driver’s license handbook and traffic statutes indicating commercial drivers must look far enough ahead to determine vehicle lane changes and stoppages. This driver didn’t, and neither driver was traveling at safe speeds given the condition. She noted a student truck driver who approached seconds later managed to safely stop without hitting anything.

Plaintiff later settled out-of-court with the pickup truck driver and his insurer.

However, the case against the truck company and driver went to trial.

There were numerous problems throughout, starting with jury selection. The judge refused to allow back striking after one juror who was selected told the court of a prepaid vacation he would be on during trial. There were also problems with defense attorneys bringing up the settlement agreement plaintiff struck with the pickup truck driver.

Jurors found defendants were not liable for injuries caused by the crash.

On review, the appellate court noted that despite “multiple claims of error, these were not preserved for appellate review.” In other words, the plaintiff trial attorney failed to properly raise them at trial, which is critical if there is to be a successful appeal of prejudicial errors at trial.

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

Additional Resources:

Aquila v. Brisk Transportation, July 29, 2015, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal

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Injury to Sports Fan Prompts Lawsuit Seeking Better Stadium Protections, Aug. 2, 2015, Fort Myers Injury Lawyer Blog

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A high school freshman who went on a school summer foreign enrichment program to China returned forever changed after suffering a tick bite through which she contracted encephalitis. She became gravely ill while on the trip, had to be transferred to a hospital in Beijing and was ultimately flown back to New York, where medical doctors properly diagnosed her. greatwall

The effects have been devastating. She lost her ability to speak. Her face is partially paralyzed. She also lost some cognitive function, though she was able to eventually graduate from high school and attend college classes.

She and her parents sued the Connecticut private school where she attended and that had organized the trip, and ultimately won a $41.5 million judgment against the school, of which $31.5 were non-economic damages.

But now, in Munn v. Hotchkiss Sch., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has asked the Connecticut Supreme Court to consider two questions regarding the case, with implications for many future cases:

  • Does state policy impose a duty on a school to warn or protect against the risk of serious diseases caused by insects when traveling abroad?
  • If it does, is the award of $41.5 million excessive and should their be a remittitur (reduction)?

The federal appeals court agreed with plaintiff there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find the illness was foreseeable. However, the court was unable to determine whether public policy provisions in Connecticut impose a legal duty on the school.

The ruling will likely have an impact on other cases involving student who take trips abroad, which is becoming a frequent occurrence, particularly at many private schools.

In this case, the immersion program was to last one month, and it involved regular Chinese language classes, as well as several trips to cultural sites on the weekends.

Parents were given some information about the health risks, although the school conceded it had accidentally gave parents a link to a CDC website on health concerns for traveling to Central America instead of China. There was also a notation under “miscellaneous” that students should bring bug spray, but no special warning about ticks. This is in spite of the fact that U.S. officials recommend receiving a vaccine to prevent this particular disease when traveling to rural China.

While on the trip, students were supervised by the school’s Chinese language director. On one weekend trip, the group went to the Great Wall, and then later to a forested mountain. After making it near the top, some students opted to take a cable car back down, while others – including plaintiff – expressed a desire to hike it. At no point did their teacher recommend bug spray. She told them she would meet them at the bottom.

But the students got lost. They did eventually find their way back, but they were covered in welts and bug bites.

Ten days later, plaintiff grew very ill, and was soon rushed to a local hospital as her condition deteriorated.

When her parents filed a personal injury lawsuit, they initially alleged five points of negligence, but later went to trial on two points: The school was negligent for failing to warn student about the risks of this viral condition and also for failing to provide proper protective clothing, insect repellant or vaccinations.

Jurors sided with plaintiffs and awarded $41.5 million in damages.

But on appeal, defense argues it had no duty to warn or protect.

Ultimately, it will be up to the Connecticut Supreme Court to decide whether the verdict will stand.

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

Additional Resources:

Munn v. Hotchkiss Sch., Aug. 3, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Doe v. Hartford Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp. – $1M Sex Abuse Verdict Affirmed, July 24, 2015, Fort Myers Child Injury Lawyer Blog

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Drunk driving is deadly. That’s no news flash. Operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol increases the risk of a crash four-fold (or 12-fold if the driver has a blood-alcohol level of higher than 0.15). These drivers are responsible for at least a third of all fatal crashes in the U.S., killing more than 10,000 people every year.beergarden

But apparently, that doesn’t convince enough people to stop doing it.

In a recent analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of self-reported data from 2012, more than 4.2 million adults admitted to driving at least once while under the influence of alcohol in the last 30 days.

If we take that figure as a monthly average, that means nationally, there are 121 million trips made by impaired drivers across the country every single month. We’re talking about a national rate of 505 episodes per 1,000 population each year. Continue reading →

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Insurance companies have a broad duty to defend policyholders in actions where they are accused of liability. One example would be an auto accident. truckforward

While this may seem of little consequence to the plaintiff, it matters because plaintiffs are ultimately looking to hold the insurance companies liable. That’s because the insured individual likely has far fewer personal resources to pay actual damages. Insurance companies, meanwhile, exist for the purpose of protecting against risk and paying damage claims.

This is why often times if an insurer is wrongly denying a claim and/or duty to defend, plaintiff may settle with the defendant for the right to stand in defendant’s place and sue his or her insurance company for breach of contract and/or bad faith. Continue reading →

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A 1-year-old girl was injured in Fort Myers in a back over accident at a family gathering. childbicycle

According to a news report by NBC-2, the family was gathered for an outdoor cookout on a recent Friday afternoon.

The girl’s mother told authorities a relative was pulling his truck out of the driveway when the toddler suddenly ran behind the vehicle. She then fell over, and the truck ran over her arm. Continue reading →

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Airbnb is an online service that allows those with residences to rent them on a short-term basis. Often those who use the service are traveling, and it offers an authentic local experience that is often a cheaper alternative to pricey hotels. hotel2

But there is a lot that can go wrong. Horror stories abound, including one recently chronicled in The New York Times.

A 19-year-old from Massachusetts traveled to Madrid in mid-July. He had arranged to stay at a private residence through Airbnb. When he arrived, however, his host locked the door, removed the key and began rattling knives in the kitchen as he pressed the teen to submit to sexual contact, according to the traveler’s account. Continue reading →

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It’s well known that sending and reading text messages while driving is a danger. So too is talking on the phone, even with a hands-free model. textingdriving

But now, a new study by researchers at Florida State University reveals there is another equally distracting aspect of our smart phones: The alerts.

That simple “ding!” or song ringtone or even a quite vibration can impair a person’s ability to focus on a specific task – like driving.

The study is entitled, “The Attentional Cost of Receiving a Cell Notification,” and was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. It’s purported to be the first study analyzing the effect of cell phone notifications on performance.

Results of the research are interesting for the fact these alerts are typically very short in duration – a few seconds at most. However, the effect is the initiation of thoughts that are irrelevant to the task at hand. That kind of wandering of the mind, researchers say, has the potential to result in reduced performance. In fact, even when the participants of the study did not interact directly with their smart phone, just the notification of their phone was enough to distract them.

The reason has to do with the myth of the multitask. The reality is, people’s capacity for splitting tasks is limited. When a person is driving and there is suddenly another demand on their attention, it can be problematic for the driver.

Government statistics indicates 154 billion text messages are sent in the U.S. every month. In 2013, at least 3,155 people were killed and another 424,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved distracted drivers. Those are low estimates considering distraction isn’t as easily traceable following an accident as, say, alcohol impairment.

Even drivers who were distracted may not admit to it.

This study closely examined the performance of numerous subjects who were engaged in computer-related tasks. One group of subjects had their phones nearby, and were alerted to a number of calls and text messages on their phones. A control group did not have their phones nearby.

Those who were alerted three times or more to a message or call were three times more likely to make an error than those who weren’t, study authors found. Simply receiving a notification and not responding was found to be just as distracting as actually sending or reading the text message.

One flaw of the study is that it did not involve actual driving, but it’s not a stretch to translate what these results mean to people behind the wheel.

While many distracted driving campaigns focus on encouraging people to pull over to respond to calls or text messages, this study indicates the absolute best thing to do is to turn the phone off entirely and put it of sight while driving. That’s because even waiting to read or respond to a text or call can in and of itself be a distraction if the driver’s mind is not focused on the road ahead. The task of waiting to respond requires the brain to remember to perform an action in the future, and this has been found in other studies to cause performance disruption in the course of completing another task at the same time.

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

Additional Resources:

Cell phone alerts may be driving you to distraction, July 9, 2015, Press Release, Florida State University

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Bermudez v. Ciolek – Bicyclist $3.7M Injury Verdict Affirmed, With Modification, July 20, 2015, Cape Coral Vehicle Accident Attorney Blog

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When it comes to baseball and other spectator sports, courts have generally held that stadium owners have only a limited duty to protect vulnerable sections of fans from flying balls, bats, pucks or other game-related objects. For the most part, it has been found fans assume the risk of injury when they are hit by a foul ball or a hockey puck. baseballgame1

The idea is that if a fan chooses to sit in those closer seats, he or she assumes the risk of being struck by a flying object, and therefore has a duty to pay close attention to what’s happening so as to react quickly and prevent injury to themselves.

But a series of serious injuries suffered to sports fans in recent years has prompted a class action lawsuit that seeks to expand stadium owner duties of care and improve safety for those who patronize professional sports.

The federal lawsuit alleges an increase risk of personal injury to Major League Baseball fans when seated in unprotected areas, namely behind first and third bases, where no netting is provided. There are pitchers who are throwing harder than ever before. The design of bats causes them to more easily splinter. What’s more, there are numerous distractions, such as huge video monitors and Wi-Fi that create a host of distractions that result in fans having significantly less time to react if a foul ball comes flying their way. On top of all that, the league is undergoing an effort to speed up the pace of games to keep fans more interested so they will stay longer (and in turn, purchase more concessions).

Plaintiff alleges even when fans are paying attention, they may have little to no time to appropriately react, given the speed at which objects may fly in their direction.

Just recently, a woman sitting behind the dugout at a professional ballgame in Milwaukee was struck by a line drive and had to be transported via ambulance to a nearby hospital. In another incident at Fenway Park, a woman sitting behind third base was rushed for emergency treatment after being struck by a foul ball. Also at Fenway Park, a woman suffered life-threatening injuries after being struck in the head with a splintered bat. Although she survived, she is continuing to recover at a rehabilitation center and the extent of her permanent injuries is not yet clear.

Lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit (which has not yet been certified by a judge) was not personally struck by an object. However, she was seated next to someone who was. At an Oakland A’s game, she was in a section of the stadium with no netting protection, and the woman next to her was injured by a foul ball.

Attorneys in the complaint cite a study conducted in 2014 by Bloomberg News, which indicated 1,750 Major League Baseball fans are hurt every single year at games. There are some who have alleged that league owners “have their head in the sand” about the serious risks.

These kinds of injuries – and even fatalities – are part of the reason the National Hockey League installed netting around each of its rinks. That was back in 2002.

For baseball organizations not to take simple, obvious steps to prevent injury and death is egregious. Our legal team will be closely following the developments of this case, as it could bolster the standard of care required by sports teams and stadium owners to their fans.

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

Additional Resources:

Lawsuit Seeks Better Protection for Fans From Foul Balls and Broken Bats, July 13, 2015, By Richard Sandomir, The New York Times

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Growing Number of Fort Myers Traffic Accidents Frustrates Safety Advocates, July 18, 2015, Fort Myers Injury Lawyer Blog

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When a crash occurs on government roads, it is the duty of government authorities to close the roadway in a timely manner until debris has been cleared and the site is safe for traffic. Once the roadway has been cleared for resumed traffic by authorities, the government could be liable for remaining debris left in the road, should it be the cause of a traffic accident resulting in injury.roadway4

This was the situation in Kimminau v. City of Hastings, recently weighed by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

A messy spill of food material on the road occurred as a result of a truck accident. Government employees and volunteer firefighters were called to clear the debris from the road. They did so and the road was cleared for traffic. But when an accident the following day was attributed to remaining debris from that earlier crash, the question was who was responsible.

Plaintiff sought to hold accountable the driver of the truck, the driver’s employer and local city government. The courts wrestled with the issue.

First, they looked at the specific facts of the case.

A state trooper closed a road after a crash resulted in corn mash being spilled. Both the paid and volunteer fire departments responded, and with shovels, brooms and fire hoses, moved the spilled material off the road, onto an unpaved shoulder and into a ditch.

On the police dash camera recording, these events were taped and some of the corn mash is still visibly present on the unpaved shoulder.

The truck driver was ticketed and the road was cleared for traffic.

One of the volunteer fire captains drove back to the site later that night to make sure the road was still clear.

The following day, plaintiff was driving along that road. As she passed the spot where the spill had taken place, she drifted just slightly off the road, with one of her tires briefly dipping onto the unpaved shoulder. As it did so, it came in contact with the corn mash. This caused the driver to lose control, wreck into a utility pole and suffer personal injuries.

Plaintiff was not aware of the corn mash until she came in contact with it.

In her subsequent lawsuit, she named the truck driver, truck driver employer and the city as defendants. She alleged the city had actual knowledge of the corn mash spill and negligently failed to take adequate corrective action or warn motorists of the danger. She alleged the trucker was negligent in causing the spill and failing to clean it up, and that the employer was negligent in hiring the driver, failing to adequately supervise him, and failing to take reasonable steps to remove the spill or warn motorists.

The district court entered summary judgment in favor of all defendants. It found political subdivisions were immune from litigation on this issue per sovereign immunity and the driver and his employer were cleared from liability once local officials had declared the road safe to drive.

Appeals court affirmed, but the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed only in part, choosing to reverse in part as well.

While the state high court did find the truck driver and his employer were free from liability once local officials gave the all-clear for through-traffic, it found the government could be liable because sovereign immunity was not applicable in this case, as was waived by state statute.

Plaintiff may now continue to pursue her injury lawsuit against the local government.

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

Additional Resources:

Kimminau v. City of Hastings, June 19, 2015, Nebraska Supreme Court

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Bicyclist vs. Truck Accident Injuries Could be Curbed With Side Guards, July 26, 2015, Fort Myers Car Accident Attorney Blog