August 30, 2017
When you are injured in an automobile accident you first look to your $10,000 of no-fault Personal Injury Protection Coverage under your auto insurance policy for payment of your medical bills and lost wages. This coverage can be exhausted quickly with an emergency room visit, subsequent treatment, or lost wages.
Next, you look to the at-fault party’s insurance to see if they have a coverage called bodily injury liability. Florida does not require drivers to purchase bodily injury liability coverage. If the at-fault party does not have that coverage or does not have enough of that coverage, you check your policy to see if you purchased uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, often called “UM coverage.”
Uninsured motorist coverage pays bodily injury expenses for you and any passengers in your vehicle up to the policy limits you selected if you are struck by a driver who does not have insurance or if you are struck in a hit-and-run accident. Underinsured motorist coverage pays bodily injury expenses for you and any passengers in your vehicle up to the policy limits you selected if you are involved in an accident caused by a driver who has an insufficient amount of insurance.
Purchasing UM coverage is the best way to protect yourself in the event that you or your passengers are injured in an accident caused by a driver who has no bodily injury liability coverage.
July 19, 2017
If you are injured in a slip and fall accident involving a substance, you have the burden of proving that the business owner had knowledge that the substance was there. In 2010, the Florida legislature enacted a statute that made it more difficult for the injured party to recover damages. Under Florida Statute §768.0755: (1) If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it. Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that: (a) The dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition; or (b) The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.
Proving that a business owner had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition can be very difficult. Injured parties are not in the best position to know how long a substance has been on the floor as they have not been at the business all day. Prior to Florida Statute §768.0755, evidence of an unsafe condition created the presumption that the property owner failed to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Now, that presumption does not exist, and injured parties must offer evidence that the business owner was aware or should have been aware of the substance creating the dangerous condition.
At Tuttle Larsen, P.A., we understand the complex laws surrounding this topic and will guide you through the process of pursuing your claim. Call our office today at [nap_phone id=”LOCAL-CT-NUMBER-1″] to schedule your free consultation.
June 23, 2017
Tuttle Larsen, P.A. is proud to announce that Michelle Servos was elected President of Literacy Services of Indian River County in January 2017. Michelle joined the board of the organization in 2015 and has served in several different capacities. Michelle is very involved in our community and has contributed her time, experience, and resources to numerous non-profit organizations in Indian River County.
Literacy Services of Indian River County is committed to providing quality literacy tutoring to local adults so that they and their family can become contributing members of the community through improved literacy skills. Their vision is to end generational illiteracy throughout Indian River County. They formed in 1971, and are a non-profit (501(c)(3) organization and a proud United Way agency partner. Their volunteer tutors provide free, confidential, and one-to-one tutoring to individuals aged 16 and older or within group settings at the request of local employers.
Michelle has dedicated herself to the community and to procuring compensation for clients who have suffered injury through the negligence of others for more than ten years. Michelle is an integral member of our firm and is able to utilize her knowledge and experience as a registered nurse to zealously advocate for our clients.
June 15, 2017
Florida law protects people who were injured in motor vehicle accidents due to someone else’s negligence. Sometimes, fender-benders don’t involve much more than minor damage to the vehicles themselves. In those cases, the drivers may be able to settle the matter quickly and directly with the negligent driver’s insurance company. However, if the accident caused injuries, scheduling a consultation with an experienced Florida car accident lawyer can help you protect your rights to the financial compensation the law says you are entitled to receive.
How an Auto Accident Lawyer Can Help
When victims of car crashes try to settle their claims on their own, without engaging a car crash lawyer, they may make any of the following mistakes:
- Settling too quickly – Often, after a car accident, the full extent of the victim’s injuries are not known. Accidents can leave victims with medical conditions that require ongoing doctor’s office visits and treatments. Making the mistake of trying to close the claim before you know what your financial responsibility is can be a costly mistake. Your personal injury attorney can help you gather all of the documentation to help support your claim, making sure that all relevant information is factored into your claim against the negligent driver.
- Settling just to settle – Another common mistake is for a victim to assume that they will receive whatever compensation they are entitled to, regardless of whether or not they have an attorney representing them. In reality, when you don’t have an attorney helping calculate the relief you need and helping put your best case forward, you may be short-changing yourself. The insurance company’s primary goal is to settle accident claims for as little money as possible, as quickly as possible. Personal injury attorneys can work to help you get a fair settlement, which may be much higher than what the insurance company initially offers.
- Failing to fight for their rights – It can be tough to advocate for yourself, especially if you were in a vehicle accident and are dealing with the lingering pain and emotional trauma an accident can bring. When you have an experienced attorney representing you, you will have a powerful advocate on your side. You will not need to go head-to-head with the other driver, or with his or her insurance company, because you have a lawyer who can do that for you – one who is skilled at negotiating and standing up for their clients’ rights.
If You Were Injured in a Car Accident, Turn to Tuttle Larsen, P.A.
If you or someone close to you was injured in an auto accident in Florida, an experienced car accident lawyer may be able to help you recover damages that can help you get back on your feet again.
At Tuttle Larsen, P.A., our skilled lawyers have helped victims with all types of auto accidents. To learn more and to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation, contact us in Vero Beach today. Simply call (772) 563-0032, or fill out our simple online contact form.
May 19, 2017
Ransomware is a type of software that prevents or limits users from accessing their own system by encrypting the system files, locking the system files, or locking the system screen. The hackers that create this software will only release your system back to you if you pay them a ransom. You can encounter this threat through a variety of means. Ransomware can be downloaded onto computer systems when users visit a compromised website, download an attachment from a spam email, or click on an affected advertisement.
The ransom amount a user must pay to release their information varies, and paying the ransom does not guarantee that users will get a decryption key or be able to unlock their system or files. Hackers also require that you pay the ransom with a currency called Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is a digital currency that is created and held electronically. Bitcoins aren’t printed, and no single institution controls them. Unlike bank accounts and most other payment systems, Bitcoin addresses are not tied to the identity of users, and anyone can create a new and completely random Bitcoin address. Transactions are also not tied to the identity of users, so anyone can transfer Bitcoin from any address, with no need to reveal personal information. These transactions are transmitted and forwarded randomly on a very large network. Because of the aforementioned details, Bitcoin is an attractive option for hackers.
Ransomware is affecting individuals, government offices, accounting firms, law firms, and even hospitals. In 2016, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California paid a $17,000 ransom in Bitcoin to a hacker who seized control of the hospital’s computer systems and would give back access only when the money was paid. In January of this year, the Cockrell Hill Police Department in Texas lost video evidence and a store of digital documents after hackers invaded the department’s computer system. The attackers wanted roughly $4,000 in Bitcoin to unlock the files. After consulting the FBI and taking into account the possibility that the files might not be unlocked even if the $4,000 in Bitcoin was paid, the decision was made to wipe the server and delete all of its contents.
There is not a complete solution when it comes to stopping Ransomware, but technology experts suggest a multi-layered approach. Investing in an antivirus program and other applications that are specifically designed to thwart advanced attacks such as Ransomware are recommended. You should also find ways to securely back up your information on an external hard drive or cloud.
April 20, 2017
Florida House Bill 1063, and corresponding Senate Bill 1766, seek to eliminate the $10,000 of required personal injury protection coverage (PIP, also known as no-fault) in 2018 while mandating motorists get at least $25,000 in liability coverage for bodily injury or death and $50,000 for bodily injury or death of two or more people. The majority of states in this country require drivers to purchase bodily injury liability coverage, but Florida does not. Unfortunately, we often tell car accident victims that the person who caused their accident does not have insurance to compensate them for their injuries.
Vehicles can cause serious damage when an accident occurs, and Florida residents should be required to carry coverage that compensates others when they are at fault. Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives Erin Grall, driving the proposed bill in the house said, “the goal of the bill is to put meaningful insurance in place and bring accountability to the system — and put responsibility where it lies, and that’s with the at-fault driver.”
Erin Grall also emphasized that nearly 95 percent of drivers who have adequate auto insurance will save money on premiums. A study conducted in September 2016 for the Office of Insurance Regulation suggested that repeal of the required PIP coverage could save $81 per car. Ms. Grall noted that the population that cuts corners by not paying for bodily injury liability coverage would be facing any insurance rate increases.
The current system also requires victims to demonstrate that they have sustained a permanent injury to recover compensation for pain and suffering. That threshold can be difficult for victims to overcome when they have suffered painful, lingering injuries but do not have enough objective evidence of their permanent injury. Repealing PIP would eliminate the overly burdensome and unjust permanency threshold.
The House and Senate bills face opposition from medical doctors, hospitals, and chiropractors. If the state eliminates the $10,000 of mandatory PIP, healthcare providers may have a more difficult time collecting money for treatment rendered. Under the current system providers bill the patient’s auto insurance and are reimbursed by the insurance carrier within a few months. Without PIP, providers could bill the patient’s health insurance (if available) or wait until the bodily injury liability claim settles, which could take many months.
On April 19, 2017, House Bill 1063 passed with 89 yeas and 29 nays.
February 28, 2017
Self-driving cars are outfitted with lasers, cameras, and GPS technology to navigate and sense the environment without human input. The idea being that these cars, equipped with amplified awareness, can make better decisions on how to travel the roadways than humans can.
Goolge, Tesla, and Uber have all reported that human error plays a role in 94% of car crashes. The three companies are in a heated race to develop self-driving technology and “make our roads safer.” But is eliminating the human factor our solution? Maybe not. The first recorded death in a Tesla vehicle that was using self-driving mode was due to an error in the operating system’s calculations. On May 7, 2016, Joshua Brown’s Tesla Model S drove under the trailer of an 18-wheel truck on a highway while in self-driving mode. Tesla acknowledged that the sensors on the vehicle failed to distinguish the white trailer against a bright sky, resulting in the death of the 40-year-old Floridian.
In contrast, some of the lowest rates of fatalities per distance driven are registered with middle-aged drivers who benefit from their experience behind the wheel and from their predictive knowledge about the likely intentions of other road users.
More worrisome than an operating system error is the fact that many cars are now controlled by software that can be hacked and overtaken. In 2015, two hackers showed a reporter at WIRED, a technology publication, that they could remotely hijack and crash a Jeep Cherokee. The two hackers created software that allowed them to send commands through the Jeep’s entertainment system to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission, all from their laptop.
New technology presents a different defendant to the legal community. Plaintiffs will be looking toward the companies creating the software and hardware powering these vehicles, as well as the manufacturers. Some companies are stepping up to the plate though. In 2015, the Volvo President, Håkan Samuelsson, said that Volvo would accept full responsibility when its cars are in self-driving mode.
It is clear that each advance in car technology will impact several major industries. The U.S. Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, recently said: “There’s a lot at stake in getting this technology right.” For many reasons, we couldn’t agree more.
November 1, 2016
State Farm v. Gold
January 27, 2016
Impermissible UM Statements
A recent decision from the 4th DCA is a setback for all car accident victims. The decision was rendered in State Farm v. Gold, 41 Fla. Law Weekly D257 (Fla. 4TH DCA January 27, 2016), a case out of the 19th Judicial Circuit. This case centered around a rear-end auto accident in which the Plaintiff was pursuing his uninsured motorist coverage from State Farm. At the closing of the trial, Plaintiff’s counsel displayed a PowerPoint slide to the jury that read, “Michael Gold has been carrying a lot of debt State Farm promised to pay stacks of medical bills. Paying the price for someone else’s mistake State Farm refuses to take responsibility for debt it owes to Mr. Gold, forcing us to bring them to trial.”
While this slide was displayed, Plaintiff’s counsel told the jury that the plaintiff had purchased UM coverage “so this wouldn’t happen.” He argued that State Farm had denied Mr. Gold’s claim, forcing him to face down a stack of medical bills and that he had been carrying the burden with him, while State Farm never took responsibility for the damages or the injuries. Counsel argued that State Farm would never take responsibility until the jury forced it to with its verdict.
The statements that were written and spoken in this closing argument were powerful and persuasive, and the defense immediately objected to them. Their objection was sustained, and at the close of the trial, they made a motion for a new trial which was denied. The 4th DCA wrote, in their opinion, that a motion for new trial should be granted when a party’s closing argument is so highly prejudicial and inflammatory that it denies the opposing party its right to a fair trial. Counsel’s comments suggesting State Farm refused to own up to its responsibility were improper and focused the jury’s attention on State Farm’s “liability,” rather than on the issue of damages.
Sometimes the truth can be brutal. In this case, the court found that the brutal truth of the matter was too much for the jury to handle. At Tuttle Larsen, P.A. we find ways to present the whole truth at trial, but with this new ruling in mind, we also understand how we can be limited.
January 6, 2016
Maniglia v. Carpenter
November 4, 2015
Improper Evidence Exclusion
The 3rd DCA recently held that a trial court wrongly excluded evidence of a Plaintiff’s drunken golf cart ride and subsequent police brawl. In September 2009, a vehicle driven by Maniglia and a vehicle driven by Carpenter collided on I-95. Carpenter alleged that upon changing lanes, Maniglia swerved into him and sideswiped his vehicle, while Maniglia maintained that it was just a bump.
Carpenter saw a chiropractor the day after the accident. Several weeks later Carpenter played in a golf tournament and drove a golf cart out onto the road, ran a red light, and collided with another car. The police showed up to the scene, and Carpenter got into a brawl with the officers that included kicking and wrestling.
There was evidence that Carpenter was intoxicated; that he did not have permission to use the golf cart; that he yelled profanity at the police and kicked both feet against the rear passenger window of the police car; and that he was arrested on the scene for battery on a law enforcement officer. Carpenter failed to report this incident to his chiropractor, and evidence submitted by Maniglia showed that Carpenter’s surgery recommendation was only made after the golf cart accident.
The trial court only allowed certain portions of this golf cart incident to come into evidence. The 3rd DCA stated that the golf cart incident included facts that addressed both Carpenter’s credibility and his proof of causation, and Carpenter’s failure to mention the recent golf cart incident to his chiropractor may have affected the jury’s evaluation of Carpenter’s credibility. The court also held that the particulars of his fall and struggle with police would have been an adequate basis for jury instructions on intervening causes and subsequent injuries.
The court reversed and remanded for a new trial. It is important to remember that a judge is the gatekeeper of evidence. If the judge deems the evidence will be useful to a jury in rendering their decision, that evidence will come in. At Tuttle Larsen, P.A. we understand the importance of these evidentiary decisions, and we prepare arguments for multiple scenarios.