South Florida Injury Attorney Blog
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Could it be that a false sense of security is worse than no security at all? Two siblings who moved into a “gated community” surrounded by water, walls, and fences in 2004 assumed that they were safe from murderers and thieves. After all, the apartment complex claimed to provide reasonable lighting, locks, and peepholes, and the apartments had alarm systems. Unfortunately, the siblings were far from safe.

According to the personal representative’s appellate brief in the case of Sanders v. ERP Operating Limited Partnership, the siblings were murdered in 2005 while living at the Gatehouse on the Greens apartment complex located in Plantation, Florida. The complex consisted of over 300 apartments located in a dozen buildings. In all, it was home to approximately 1,000 residents.

Proceedings in the Trial Court

The lawsuit filed against the owner of the complex by the siblings’ personal representative alleged that the siblings’ death was caused by the complex’s negligent failure to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Specifically, the personal representative claimed that the complex did not maintain the front gate, failed to have adequate security, did not prevent dangerous persons from gaining access to the premises, and failed to protect and warn residents of dangerous conditions and criminal acts.

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palm trees2As we discussed in a recent post, an injured person does not usually have the right to sue the insurance company of the person or business that caused the injury. There is a small exception to this rule, however. In situations when an injured person (or, in the case of death, his or her family) has filed a lawsuit against the negligent person or business and obtained a judgment, but the insurance company refuses to pay the injured person the money to which he or she is entitled under the judgment, the injured person may be able to sue the insurer directly.

In the case of Morales v. Zenith Insurance Company, the family of a man who was killed on the job filed suit against the man’s employer.  According to the family’s complaint, the man was killed by a falling palm tree while working for a landscaping firm. The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in state court in 1999, alleging that the landscaping firm’s negligence had caused the man’s death. A default judgment was entered against the firm. Later, a jury trial was held to assess damages, with the family ultimately being awarded $9.525 million.

The Workers’ Compensation Settlement

Meanwhile, the family accepted workers’ compensation benefits from the landscaping firm’s insurance company, which insured the firm for both workers’ compensation (“Part I”) and employer liability insurance (“Part II”). The employer liability insurance provision contained an exclusion to the effect that there would be no coverage for any obligation under workers’ compensation law. In 2003, the insurance company made a “final lump sum payment” to the family in exchange for a settlement agreement that purported to constitute an election of remedies by the man’s estate with respect to both the employer and the carrier. Including the lump sum, the family received a total of $100,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.

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boat2If you or a loved one has been injured due to another party’s negligence, you may be surprised to know that, in most cases arising under Florida law, you do not have a legal right to sue the responsible party’s insurance company directly. This is true even if you were contacted soon after the accident by a representative of the insurance company and have never even spoken directly with the person or business that caused your injury.

The rationale for the “nonjoinder statute,” as it is called by the courts, is that a jury should not be told whether a defendant has liability insurance because an award of damages would be more likely if the jury knows that an insurance company (rather than the negligent party) would actually be writing the check at the end of the day. In the recent case of Starr Indemnity & Liability Co. v. Morris, the plaintiff attempted to find a way around this general rule by asserting a breach of contract claim, rather than a negligence action, against the insurance company under a medical payment provision.
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Waiting the brideIf you are asked to sign a release before engaging in a particular activity, you need to ask yourself whether you are truly willing to waive, in advance, any claims you may have against the party asking you to sign the release. Unfortunately, many people sign such documents without giving a second thought to their actual significance under the law. This can be a huge mistake. The case of Sanislo v. Give Kids the World, Inc. illustrates the point.

The defendant was a non-profit organization that provided seriously ill children and their families with vacations at a resort village. The plaintiffs were parents who applied for a vacation for their child. During the request process, the parents signed a form that purported to release the defendant from “any liability for any potential cause of action.” The defendant approved the parents’ request. When the family arrived at the resort (located in Kissimmee, Florida), the plaintiffs again signed a liability release form. Neither release specifically said that the plaintiffs were waiving any negligence claims that might arise.

During their time at the defendant’s village, the family participated in a wagon ride. The wagon had a lift in the back for the benefit of persons confined to wheelchairs. While on a ride in the wagon, the family stepped onto the lift to pose for a picture. The lift collapsed, and the mother injured her hip and back. The plaintiffs filed suit in the Circuit Court for Osceola County, asserting a negligence claim against the organization. In response, the organization asserted that it was entitled to an affirmative defense due to the release signed by the plaintiffs. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment on the issue of the release. The trial court granted the plaintiffs’ motion, and the matter proceeded to trial. The jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded them damages. Continue reading →

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Changing Tire

Florida FirefighterFirefighters are brave members of society that often endanger their lives to help protect others. Not many people can claim this level of selflessness in their lives, but Lt. Kevin Johns was one of them. Tragically, Johns died not while on duty, but while simply changing a tire on the side of the road.

Road safety is a serious concept that many overlook; stopped on the side of the road, we check our cars without worrying too much about those speeding by. But in an instant, collisions can easily occur.

Driver at Fault

Florida Firefighter Killed By Car While Changing TireLorenza Simmons was the driver who hit Lt. Johns. Johns got a flat tire on the way to work and stopped alongside the road to fix it. While he was doing so, Simmons plowed into him in an effort to avoid the car in front of her. It is not yet conclusive if she was determined at fault, but it was confirmed that she does have numerous traffic violations on her record.

Simmons frantically called immediately for help from 911, but to no avail. Lt. Johns was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital. Distracted driving is currently the possible cause of the accident although this has not yet officially been determined.

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Honor Paid at Fort Lauderdale Fire Expo

Lt. Johns worked with the Fort Lauderdale Fire and Rescue team for twenty-nine years with the intent of retiring in April 2015. Johns is survived by his wife and three children, and a host of friends and coworkers who considered him not only a great firefighter, but also a friend.

The honors paid regarding the life of Lt. Johns were not limited to a roadside event. The Fort Lauderdale Fire Expo paid their respects to the fallen hero as well, with the family of Lt. Johns seated in the first row at the expo. A video played during the event showing images of Lt. Johns with his family and fellow firefighters. A chaplain recited a prayer focusing on protection from line-of-duty firefighters everywhere, as well as peace for Johns’ family.

This year’s expo’s events were dedicated to Johns, particularly due to his dedication to meticulously planning the expo each year. Training was his main focus.

Contact the Law Offices of Cohn & Smith Now

The tragic loss of Lt. Johns was particularly devastating to his community in Florida because he did so much to help so many over nearly three decades. Unfortunately, traffic accidents that produce fatalities are all too common. The grieving process is vital, and justice can be a formidable component of that process.

To receive the justice your loved one deserves, as well as restitution for lost wages, pain, suffering and other trauma, please call the law offices of Cohn & Smith today at 954-320-6328 for a free consultation.

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car crash report

Lily QuintusA car careening through a daycare center is likely the definition of a worst nightmare for any parent or guardian. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened at the Kindercare Learning Center located outside of Orlando, Florida. The life of 4-year-old Lily Quintus was tragically stolen and the lives of fourteen others were impacted.

The crash report indicated that the driver was first rear-ended just outside the daycare center, after which he, instead of braking, accelerated at a high rate of speed into the daycare center. One moment, children were happily enjoying snack time, and the next they were embroiled in chaos. Lives significantly changed in only 4.2 seconds.

The Florida Highway Patrol does consider someone at fault, but not the driver who slammed through the daycare center and into tables of children, inevitably the guilty party in their eyes is the man who hit them: Robert Corchado.

For fleeing the scene, Corchado is a hit-and-run suspect, and for possession of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana in his Dodge Durango, he faces a litany of drug charges. All of this criminal activity adds up to a rather high bond of $301,000. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, if Corchado had not hit the car of 61-year-old Arthur Campbell, the chain of events that led to the tragic accident would have never occurred.

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Charges For the Suspect

Car CrashesCharges against Corchado include possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of cannabis, possession of cocaine with intent to sell, and heroin trafficking. Due to the amounts of drugs on hand, as well as the possession of $5,000 cash, Corchado incurred selling charges. According to the judge, if Corchado posts bond, then he must prove the money is not sourced from illegal activities.

Furthermore, this case also appears to be linked to another case, which is still pending. In December 2013, an investigator found $6,000 in cash and the same drugs in question stuffed in a backpack in the car of Corchado in Seminole County.

Jailhouse Video

A jailhouse video was released depicting the suspect, Mr. Corchado, discussing his current situation with his mother. In the video, Corchado called the incident a “nightmare”. His mother explained how she believed he was innocent and in particular that everyone was seeing the alleged crime in the wrong light, including her son’s legal representation, the media, and local law enforcement. She also detailed how she disliked discussing the incident because it upset her son. She was also bothered that the Dodge Durango Corchado was driving belonged to her and she wanted it returned from evidence currently possessed by the police.

Contact the Law Offices of Cohn & Smith Now

The guilt in the case above will likely be easy for a jury to determine, but nevertheless a strong defense is essential for any defendant. Likewise, the victims of hit-and-runs, fatal or otherwise, need a skilled and highly trained lawyer in order to seek justice and restitution. Call the law offices of Cohn & Smith today at 954-320-6328 for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help you.

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Crash Injures

The Raiders, the women’s basketball team of Northwest Florida State, is dealing with the shock of its coach’s injuries sustained in a violent car accident on SR 75. The head-on crash affected all lanes of northbound traffic in Okaloosa County on State Road 85. Three people were injured, including the drivers of both cars. Patrick Harrington, the coach of the Raiders, was taken via helicopter to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola in critical condition. His legs were badly injured. Immediate surgery was performed in effort to repair them.

Crash InjuresThe accident occurred when Patrick Harrington and his wife, Lori were traveling down SR 85. Arthur Clyburn veered across a median and three southbound lanes before striking the couple head-on. Head-on crashes multiply the speeds of each traveling vehicle. Eyewitness accounts describe the crash as truly horrific both drivers were extracted from their vehicles via the Jaws of Life. Patrick Harrington was driving a Ford Fusion and Clyburn was driving a Nissan Versa—each was essentially totaled with over $20k in damage. While Mr. Harrington was listed as in critical condition, his wife, Lori was listed as in serious condition at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, to which she was transported via ambulance with cracked vertebrae and ribs. After several hours she was released to join her husband.

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Team Stands Behind Coach

The Raiders team was shocked to learn about the horrific crash and injuries suffered by their beloved coach. Several members of the team turned to social media to offer get-well messages. Harrington is a popular coach with the Raiders, having led them to two consecutive quarterfinal appearances in the NJCAA Division, as well as a record of 100-25. According to Raiders team members, Mr. Harrington’s focus on treating the team like family was evident through their success on the court.

Contact the Law Offices of Cohn & Smith Now

For some, full recovery is not attainable and life is forever altered; for many, injuries, such as those to the neck and back, continue to cause physical pain and mobility issues throughout their lives. If a friend, loved one or family member has experienced trauma as a result of a car accident, it is vital they seek representation to help them receive restitution for pain, suffering, and financial costs. The goal, when battling the challenges that come with surviving a serious accident, is to mitigate those challenges as much as possible. Call the law offices of Cohn & Smith today at 954-320-6328 for a free consultation.

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Avoid Distractions on the Road

Distractions While DrivingDriving on the road is a privilege for anyone who chooses to acquire a driver’s license and use the roads. Therefore, it is important to follow all road rules at all times.

Unfortunately, many common distractions that can cause accidents are not illegal activities, so it is up to each individual driver to be responsible, make good decisions while riding and driving a vehicle, and ensure safe driving. While many are aware that texting or driving under the influence are some of the top causes of many accidents, there are other distractions that should also be avoided.

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Common Distractions that Can Cause Accidents

The Radio. Whether you’re a young teen or an adult, the radio can be a huge distraction while driving. Many people can be distracted from fidgeting with the radio, trying to find a station they like, or trying to change or find certain songs on an iPod.

A radio that is too loud can also be a distraction. The radio should remain at a volume that is tolerable and does not drone out other emergency noises such as sirens, ambulances or even other cars honking to get your attention.

Pick a CD or playlist you enjoy for the duration you are in a vehicle to avoid taking your hands off the wheel. If you have a passenger, ask him or her to change the station or find something you both enjoy and keep the radio at a level that allows you to hear all outside noises.

The Passengers. You may have all of your attention on the road but if your passengers are distracting, then this may causeyou to take your eyes off the road long enough to cause an accident.If any passengers, such as children are causing distractions, then it is the responsibility of the driver to pull over. Remind children to bring a handheld device or toy into the car prior to leaving home or school in order to ensure they stay entertained for the car ride and to avoid distractions.

Know Your Route. Technology has allowed drivers to use Smartphones and a GPSto help them find routes and maps. While these tools have proven to be incredibly useful and helpful, they can also be equally as distracting as looking at a paper map.

Be sure to enter the address of a destination into the phone or GPS system before leaving. Turn the product’s volume up loud enough to ensure all of the directions are heard to avoid looking at the device every several seconds. If a wrong turn is made, then the driver should pull over to find the correct route. Drivers should avoid fidgeting with a device while driving at all costs.

Other Helpful Tips. Other distractions that can be avoided while on the road include:

  • Avoiding all cell phone use; use a hands-free device such as Bluetooth
  • Fidgeting or playing with hair or make-up while driving
  • Eating; stop to eat or eat before or after the trip

Involved in a Car Accident? Contact Cohn & Smith

If you’ve been involved in a car accident and where you felt distracted or where the other driver was distracted, contact Cohn & Smith today at (954)-431-8100 for a free consultation. We will take the time to see that you receive the justice and proper settlement you deserve for any injuries, pain or suffering. We stand firmly behind the belief that all drivers should have one priority: focusing on the road.

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Vehicle Technology Reduce Car Accidents in Florida

Someday your car will be so much more intelligent, thanks to connected vehicle technology promoted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, otherwise known as Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications Technology. In a recent press release, the NHTSA made its intentions clear: it will propose rule making for extensive research on V2V communication technology.

Preliminary Estimates

Will Connected Vehicle Technology Reduce Car Accidents in FloridaThe motivation behind the research into connected vehicle tech is safety, plain and simple. Of course the main question that comes to everyone’s mind when it comes to connected vehicle technology is whether or not it will reduce accidents. There are simply too many injuries, fatalities, and occurrences of property damage each day.

Fortunately, estimates state that 1,083 lives and 592,000 crashes could be prevented annually. Advance warning is a huge potential way to save people from half of the types of crashes that occur. This would be accomplished through warnings for conditions like turning in front of another vehicle and entering an intersection at an unsafe time. Eventually drivers will be warned about all types of imminent danger.

Connected Vehicle Technology Explained

Connected vehicle technology connects vehicles to each other while driving. The benefits of this innovation are not difficult to understand. That said, this technology is not just about drivers receiving traffic information and warnings about impending danger; they can also simply communicate with one another, as well as personal devices and traffic infrastructure.

Below is a list of the different ways this technology can be applied to the everyday life of the American driver:

Information: Real-time data on traffic congestion.

Mobile: Every vehicle using a traffic system will be connected to other vehicles.

Safety: Drivers have limited visibility, but technology can improve that visibility to ensure that no detail is out of sight, and create warnings when danger approaches.

Community Testing

Communities are already planning how to connect cars to achieve the myriad of benefits possible with V2V technology. In fact, IBM recently conducted an extensive test in Eindhoven, a Netherlands city. This test put into practice the sharing of information between cars, including location, acceleration, and braking data. This data will be used in the future for analysis by a central traffic authority, leading to the faster resolution of issues on the road.

Emissions Reduction

The reduction of emissions is a new benefit of connected car technology being explored by the U.S. government. The Intelligent Transportation Society of America recently released a report that stated a 2-4% reduction in the consumption of oil was possible. The timeline for this percentage was approximately a decade. Also, the study does not simply refer to the connected vehicle technology being currently pursued by the NHTSA, but all types of emerging transportation technology.

Contact Cohn & Smith Today for Help

Have you or a loved one been involved in an accident? The Law Offices of Cohn & Smith will evaluate your case and present you with options for justice. Negligence on the road is never acceptable, and our legal team is always available to fight for you. Call us now at 954-740-8331.

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New Florida Law Bans Texting While Driving

Texting While Driving Accident Lawyer AventuraFlorida Governor Rick Scott signed SB 52 on May 28, 2014, which bans the use of driving while using wireless communication devices. The bill does not refer to phoning another person on a wireless communication device, but rather instant messaging, emailing, and text messaging. The excessive amount of typing when communicating in these ways is seen as more prohibitive to safe driving than simply dialing a phone call, which requires fewer characters and keystrokes.

The governor cites his own personal concerns for his children and grandchildren while driving and operating wireless devices as part of his motivation for signing the bill into law. The timing was also intentional as the 100 days leading up to Labor Day from Memorial Day have resulted in the most teenage fatalities.

Dangers of Texting & Driving

The roads are much more dangerous with texting and driving. Hands-free and handheld devices both pose threats. Although hands-free devices are being touted for their increased safety, this is not necessarily true. Mobile devices are now manufactured into cars by both Apple and Google. They claim that keeping eyes on the road due to hands-free operation prevents accidents, but data collected from Bluetooth studies indicate otherwise. It is not so much the physical action of typing, which is targeted by SB 52, but rather the cognitive act of engaging in a conversation that causes increased accidents.

Critics of the Law

Some criticize the new law as being too lenient, given the dangers posed by texting and driving. Drivers are allowed too much freedom, and thereby the law does not go far enough, some say. The evidence for this point of criticism is the lack of penalty for using wireless communication devices while not moving, including traffic jams, stop lights, and when a vehicle is in park. Also, the punishment when breaking this law is seen as lenient. Texting while driving is a secondary offense in Florida, which requires you to commit another offense and be stopped for it before you can be ticketed for texting. The first offense costs $30.00 and the second costs $60.00. In fact, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2007-2010 study indicated that complete bans of texting resulted in the best reductions in related automobile accidents.

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Supporters of the Law

Lawmakers, police officers, medical professionals, and countless parents and guardians throughout the state of Florida stand behind SB 52. In fact, most Floridians support the ban, according to consistent results from polls. Establishing the law has taken five years, failing each time due a lack of Republican support from the House. However, Will Weatherford, the House Speaker, finally supported the measure and it passed. $1 million was spent on a marketing campaign to explain to the public the ban on texting and driving with the slogan, “texting and driving … it can wait”.

Contact an Aventura Car Accident Lawyer Now

Texting and driving causes too many accidents, resulting in property damage, injury, and, unfortunately, fatalities in the state of Florida every year. If you have been the victim of an accident, whether or not it is related to texting and driving, please call The Law Offices of Cohn & Smith now at 954-740-8331.

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