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Family Sues Drawbridge Operators Over Elderly Pedestrian’s Fatal Fall

As a Coconut Creek pedestrian accident attorney, I was interested to read about a lawsuit in an unusual pedestrian accident. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Dec. 7 that the widow and daughters of an 80-year-old Hollywood man have sued the operators of the drawbridge from which he fell. Desmond Nolan was walking home from the beach on Sheridan Street when the drawbridge opened over the Intracoastal Waterway. As the bridge rose, he clung to the edge, but eventually couldn’t hold on and fell 60 feet to a concrete bridge below. He died later the same day at a hospital.

The drawbridge has flashing lights and arms that warn travelers not to cross when it’s about to open. However, a video posted on the Sun-Sentinel’s Web site shows that the arm on Nolan’s side of the road did not go down until he was well past it and onto the bridge:

The Nolan family alleges negligence by the drawbridge’s operator, Michael O’Rourke; his employer, ISS Facility Services; and two other drawbridge contractors, C&S Building Maintenance and Transfield Services North America. All three companies are contractors to the Florida Department of Transportation. The Nolan family’s attorney said they also intend to sue the Department itself, but must wait six months because of a legally required notification period for suing state agencies. The claim says O’Rourke should have checked for people on the bridge before he opened it, and that he failed to respond to motorists who were honking and screaming to get his attention.

I applaud this family for taking quick action on its legal claim. Some observers may believe it’s callous for the family to file a lawsuit so quickly, but as a Boca Raton pedestrian accident attorney, I know that suing a government agency requires victims to start their claims as soon as possible. As the article notes, people who wish to sue an arm of the Florida state government must notify the agency in writing six months before filing their claims. It’s only after the agency has a chance to reject or accept the claim that victims can file a real lawsuit. Meanwhile the statute of limitations for wrongful death in Florida is just two years. That means that if the family of a wrongfully killed person delays action for a year or more, they may no longer be able to sue at all — no matter how strong their claim might be.

Cohn, Smith & Cohn has more than 25 years of experience practicing personal injury law in Florida. That experience means we understand how to handle claims against government agencies, which are generally more complicated and sensitive than ordinary lawsuits. Our Miramar pedestrian accident lawyers stand by our clients throughout the sometimes lengthy process, from the free initial consultation to the day we write them a settlement check. Pedestrian accidents are frequently very serious accidents, because pedestrians travel without the protections of seat belts, airbags, helmets or other protective gear. The injuries they cause can be physically and emotionally devastating — and thanks to the high cost of medical care, sometimes also financially devastating. We work hard to ensure that our clients get all of the compensation they need to pay medical bills, support themselves and be fully compensated for a crash that was no fault of their own.

If you or someone in your family suffered a serious pedestrian accident in Florida, don’t hesitate to call Cohn, Smith & Cohn for help. We offer free, confidential consultations to all potential clients, so there’s no risk and no further obligation to telling us about your case. To set up a meeting, you can call our main office in Broward County at (954) 431-8100 or contact us through the Internet.

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