Thursday, January 29, 2015

Back and Neck Injuries in Automobile Accidents

The most common injuries I come across in my practice as a Clearwater Personal Injury attorney are back and neck injuries. This holds true regardless of the type of impact (head-on, rear-end, side, etc.) my client’s vehicle endures. The severity of these injuries obviously can range from mild sprain and strain to vertebral fractures and/or severe damage to the spinal cord.

Despite the growing number of safety features and the dramatic increase in safety technology in vehicles today, there is no way to ever eliminate the risk of injury from riding in or operating a motor vehicle. The human body is too fragile, and the forces exerted by cars and trucks in motor vehicle crashes are too great, to ever be able to eliminate injuries entirely.

It is unfortunate that back injuries are so common in car accidents. The human back is a made up of a complex network of tendons, muscles, and ligaments that are intertwined around the vertebrae, the discs, and the spinal cord. Because the spine is incredibly important to human anatomy and the complexity of not only the spine and the spinal column but of the network of nerves and muscles intertwined with it, people that suffer back injuries are often debilitated, and their injuries affect every aspect of their life.

Disc Injuries

The spine (also referred to as the spinal column or the backbone) is made up of thirty-three vertebrae, the upper twenty-four of which are articulating and separated from each other by intervertebral discs. There are 23 discs located in the vertebra between the 24 vertebrae. Trauma to the spine can cause these discs to bulge or even create a disc herniation. A disc herniation occurs when a disc breaks or tears open and part of the inner cartilage protrudes outward. Disc bulging happens when the damage pushes or squeezes a disk out of its natural position between the vertebrae. While either injury can cause pain, disc herniations are the more serious injury of the two.

Diagnostic Studies

X-rays

When initially seeking treatment, many of my clients that have suffered a back injury will undergo x-rays. X-rays are used to identify bone fractures and spine misalignment in back injuries. While x-rays doctors an idea of what is going on in the patient’s spine, they cannot be used to diagnose disc bulges or herniations.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan (MRI)

MRI is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body made up of tissues. MRIs allow doctors to see structures in the body which cannot be seen by x-rays, CT scans, or ultrasound. They are the best means by which to determine if a patient has a disc injury.

Computer Axial Tomography Scans (CT, or CAT scan)

Computer Axial Tomography Scans (CT) take pictures of structures within the human body by taking data from multiple x-ray images. CT scans can reveal some soft-tissue and other structures that cannot be seen by conventional x-rays.  

Call a Clearwater Personal Injury Law Firm Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

Anyone who has sustained a spinal cord injury in a preventable accident should discuss their situation with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Among the kinds of losses that may be compensable in a spinal injury lawsuit are past and future medical expenses, lost income, loss of quality of life, and physical and emotional pain and suffering. In cases where a spinal cord injury victim is unable to work, the recovery obtained through a settlement or award is often the only source of financial security available to victims and their families. As a result, it is extremely important for victims to make sure they get the full value of their claim.

The Dolman Law Group is a Clearwater, Florida personal injury law firm that is committed to helping people injured be the negligence of others recover for their losses. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at (727) 451-6900 or send us an email through our online contact form available here.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
727-451-6900


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Social Media & Your Personal Injury Case: Current Case Law & What You Need to Know

Most of us these days use social media—whether it is Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Instagram or the like—to share parts of our lives with friends and family members. We post photographs of our day, our vacations, even our meals. We share updates on where we are and what we are doing, our thoughts on current events and politics. Some of us “overshare” and in those situations, a mere glimpse into someone’s social media account can reveal nearly every facet of his life. Generally speaking, sharing the details of your life on social media causes no harm. However, that can change when you are involved in a claim for personal injury. In that case, sharing your life on social media can be detrimental to your case.

The Defense’s Ability to Discover Your Social Media Account

During our initial meeting with clients, we stress the importance of refraining from posting on their social media account during the pendency of their case. We do this because more and more Florida courts are allowing defense attorneys access into a plaintiff’s social media account. Such access can be devastating to a plaintiff’s claim if there are inconsistencies between a plaintiff’s deposition testimony and that which is contained through photographs and other postings on his/her social media profile.

Current Case Law

Recently, the Fourth District Court of Appeal denied a plaintiff’s petition for certiorari relief to quash a trial judge’s order permitting the defense counsel from obtaining photographs from a plaintiff’s Facebook account. See Nucci v. Target Corp., American Cleaning Contracting, and First Choice Building Maintenance, Inc., (No. 4D14-138 Jan. 7, 2015 4th DCA). In that case, the plaintiff, Maria Nucci, brought a claim for personal injuries against Target after she slipped and fell on a foreign substance that was on the floor. As is typical in a claim for personal injuries, Nucci claimed, in part, that she suffered bodily injury, experienced pain from the injury, suffered emotional pain and suffering, and lost or suffered a diminution of ability to enjoy her life.

Before Nucci underwent her deposition, Target’s attorney investigated Nucci’s Facebook profile and saw that it contained around 1,200 photographs. During the deposition, Nucci’s attorney objected to producing the photographs and Target subsequently moved for the trial court to order Nucci to produce the photographs and allow Target to inspect her Facebook profile.

The Arguments for and against Disclosure

Nucci argued that her Facebook page contained “privacy” settings that prevented the general public from having access to her account and that she therefore had a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding her Facebook information and that Target’s access would invade that right to privacy.
Target, conversely, argued that it was entitled to view the profile and access the photographs because Nucci’s lawsuit put her physical and mental condition at issue. Target focused on the fact that surveillance videos showed Nucci carrying heavy bags, jugs of water, and doing other types of physical activities, “suggesting that her claim of serious personal injury is suspect.” Target argued that the photographs and other material found on the plaintiff’s Facebook page were relevant to the plaintiff’s claim for personal injury because it allowed a comparison of the plaintiff’s current physical condition and limitations to her physical condition and quality of life before the date of the fall. Target further contended that content of social media sites are not privileged or protected by any privacy rights because Facebook’s terms and conditions explain that the material that is placed on the site can be disseminated by Facebook at its discretion.

The Court’s Ruling

After hearing arguments from both parties, the trial court agreed with Target and compelled the production of the photographs from the plaintiff’s Facebook account. Specifically, the trial court compelled Nucci to identify all social media networking websites that she was currently registered with as well copies or screenshots of all photographs associated with that account during the two (2) years prior to the date of loss as well as all photographs associated with Plaintiff’s Facebook account from the date of loss to present. Target also requested and was given access to similar information located on the Plaintiff’s cell phone.

Although the plaintiff asked the appellate court to intervene and quash the trial court’s order, the Fourth District Court of Appeal denied the plaintiff’s petition.

The Appellate Court’s Rationale

The Appellate court reasoned that in a personal injury case where a plaintiff is seeking intangible (pain and suffering) damages, the factfinder (usually a jury) is required to examine the quality of the plaintiff’s life before and after the accident to determine the extent of loss. The court recognized that “a picture is worth 1,000 words” and that it can be difficult for the jury to grasp what the plaintiff’s life was like prior to the accident by listening to the plaintiff’s testimony alone. The court further found that the plaintiff’s Facebook photographs would be equivalent to a “day in the life” slide show produced by the plaintiff “before the existence of any motivate to manipulate.” Lastly, because the defendant had surveillance video of Nucci carrying heavy items, the court was even more inclined to allow the discovery of the Facebook photographs because the surveillance tapes suggested that Nucci’s claim was “suspect” and that she may not have been an accurate reporter of her pre-accident life or the quality of her life since then.

What Current Case Law Means to your Personal Injury Case

The Fourth District Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Nucci illustrates the importance of being aware of what is on your Facebook profile and how it may affect your personal injury case. Oftentimes photographs on your account depicting your activities before the accident can be valuable in illustrating a “day in life” slideshow. The harm, however, comes when there are photographs showing your ability to participate in certain activities that you testify that you can no longer do based on your injuries. Moreover, if you claim the incident has detrimentally affected your quality of life, then photographs of your tropical vacation or frequent nights out will undoubtedly call unnecessary scrutiny to those claims. In short, do not post photographs or other information on your social media account under the false assumption that you have an expectation of privacy in those materials. Thinking before you post and knowing that the trend of courts in Florida is to allow the defense access to your online social media accounts will ensure that you are not inadvertently damaging your own case. For more information, call Dolman Law Group 727-451-6900.  

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
727-451-6900



Monday, January 19, 2015

FDOT Combating the Seeming Wrong-Way Driver Epidemic?


It seems like once a month, when I read the news, there is a new story about a wrong-way driver causing catastrophic damage and injuries (sometimes even death to other drivers on the roadways): 

While accidents involving wrong-way drivers are actually relatively rare and only account for approximately 3% of accidents on high-speed divided highways (according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)), the seeming influx of such accidents in the Tampa Bay area has been alarming. Wrong-way drivers killed at least 12 people in the Tampa Bay area in 2014. In fact, experts met at a Safety Summit in Tampa Bay in an effort to end the ongoing epidemic of wrong-way drivers.

The Florida Department of Transportation’s plan of attack is based on the utilization of improving technology. FDOT’s best answer, thus far, to the question of how to stop the ongoing problem of wrong-way drivers is a new system (which is currently being tested on the Florida Turnpike) which can detect when a driver is proceeding in the wrong direction on an on-ramp.

"Based on the wrong-way movement, there will be detection before the driver reaches the point of the device itself, in which case, the LED will flash all over the sign. But once the vehicle goes past the sign, there will be another detection on the back side to send a message to the traffic center." - FDOT Engineer Raj Ponnaluri.

SAFETY MEASURES COULD INCREASE PREVENTION OF WRONG-WAY DRIVING

Officials have discussed other possible plans of action including laying down spikes, and putting up trigger-able nets which would slow and stop vehicles proceeding in the wrong direction on the on-ramp. However, both ideas appear to be in their infancies and to have major flaws. Regardless, FDOT claims that there will be a plan in place to combat this problem by the end of May.

The toll left by wrong-way driving in 2014 in the Tampa Bay area alone has been jarring and unprecedented. Beside the twelve deaths, several other people have sustained serious injuries. Most of these incidents have involved drivers that were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Additionally, wrong-way driving accidents most often (unsurprisingly) are of the head-on variety. Head-on collisions are, in this author’s opinion, the most dangerous and catastrophic type of automobile collision. When a car crash occurs, typically an object that is moving at speed strikes an object that is still and the resulting negative acceleration (more often thought of as “deceleration”) exerts unnatural forces on the human body and its inner tissues. These tissues are typically damaged by this trauma. However, in a head-on collision, these forces are doubled, as not only are the people involved being negatively accelerated by their own vehicle going from whatever speed at which they were traveling to zero, they are also feeling the resultant force from the opposing vehicle that was traveling toward them negatively accelerating in the opposite direction. It is of the utmost importance that a victim of a head-on collision seeks immediate medical care.

CONTACT CAR ACCIDENT INJURY ATTORNEYS DOLMAN LAW GROUP

The injuries typically associated with these types of crashes are severe and catastrophic. If you, or someone you know, are were injured in a crash involving a wrong-way driver, call the Dolman Law Group at (727) 451-6900. We understand the special nuances of vehicle accidents and have the resources, willingness, and ability to take your case to trial if necessary. The insurance company begins their investigation as soon as they know about an accident.  Allow a qualified Clearwater Car Crash Attorney to begin investigating your most unfortunate accident if you find yourself in need.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
727-451-6900

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What Do I Need to Know after a Motorcycle Crash?

Being involved in a car crash can undoubtedly leave an individual with significant life-changing injuries. When two cars collide on our roadways, the consequences can be devastating. What can be even more traumatic, however, is when a collision between a motor vehicle and a motorcycle occurs. Crashes involving motorcycles often result in debilitating injuries based on the nature of the impact alone. A two wheel motorcycle simply cannot compete and isn't designed to protect the driver as is the case with a 4 wheel motor vehicle.

Being compensated for the injuries you sustain as the result of either a motor vehicle or motorcycle collision require having a personal injury attorney who understands the differences and nuances between the two. Most are familiar with Florida’s requirement that when you registers a vehicle in our state, you must obtain PIP (personal injury coverage). Your PIP coverage under your own insurance policy will pay up to 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your lost wages after a motor vehicle collision up to $10,000.00, regardless of whether you were at-fault for the collision. 

Significantly, the requirement to obtain PIP coverage and the protection it provides only applies to a “motor vehicle” as it is defined under Florida law—a 4 wheeled vehicle. While your PIP coverage affords you certain protections, the statute makes it expressly difficult to be compensated for non-economic or what are often referred to as “pain and suffering” damages. I’ve recently written a blog explaining what types of damages you may be entitled to after you’ve been involved in a car crash.
Specifically, Florida law, states that if you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, in order to be entitled to pain and suffering damages you must show that you’ve suffered what is considered a “permanent injury.” Under the statute, a “permanent injury” is defined as:

(a) Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
(b) Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
(c) Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
(d) Death.

In a typical car crash, injuries to your cervical and lumbar spine are quite common. You may have suffered from a herniated disc or another type of spinal injury. The insurance company will undoubtedly argue that these types of injuries are not “permanent” under Florida law in attempts to limit your recovery of pain and suffering damages. To counter these attacks, we often retain expert radiologists who will be able to opine that based on your MRI findings, you’ve suffered an alteration of the discs in your spine which is permanent in nature.

Car Crash vs. Motorcycle Collision: Differences in Recovering Pain and Suffering Damages

Just like a car crash, those injured riding a motorcycle can recover economic damages such past lost wages, past medical expenses, future medical expenses and loss of earning capacity.
Unlike with a car crash, however, there is no permanent injury threshold to recover for pain and suffering damages when you are involved in a motorcycle collision. This is because a motorcycle is not defined as a “motor vehicle” under the PIP statute and as a result, the PIP permanent injury threshold does not apply to injured motorcyclists. See Scherzer v. Beron, 455 So. 2d 44 (Fla. 5th DCA 1984).

In addition, Florida courts have recognized that one should be able to recover damages for the “loss of use” of a motorcycle after it has been damaged in a crash. A motorcycle can be considered a “pleasure vehicle” and therefore the time it takes to repair it is a properly element of damages. Meakin v. Dreier, 209 So. 2d 252 (Fla. 2d DCA 1968).

Whether you are the victim of an automobile collision or a motorcycle crash, speaking with an attorney who can ensure that you are receiving the damages you are entitled to under Florida law is critical. While there are many similarities between the two, it is understanding the nuances that can make the difference in maximizing your recovery. For more information, call the attorneys at Dolman Law Group.

800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765





Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Christopher Webber, a Minnesota man, was recently sentenced to one year in prison as part of his plea bargain related to the death of 33-year-old Andrea Boeve of Steen, Minnesota. In June 2014, Ms. Boeve was on a bicycle ride, towing her two children, when Mr. Webber struck them.
When questioned by police, Mr. Webber said that he was “mobile banking” on his cellular telephone at the time of the accident.

The Dolman Law Group and I have written about the dangers of distracted driving on numerous occasions in the past. The issue I often find myself confronted with, however, is the many forms in which distracted driving can come. Recently, Florida Law was changed to make illegal the act of reading text messages while operating a motor vehicle. However, that does not even begin to address the depth and broad spectrum of possible problems created by our cellular phones.

Cellular Phones and All They Do

Cell phones are capable of a spectrum of assorted tasks now. Fifteen years ago, my cell phone could make calls, play snake, and (because I had an enterprising friend who showed me how) send text messages. While text messaging had not yet become widely accepted, it still existed. Today, our phones put us but a fingertip away from our work and personal email accounts (for good and for bad), from our social media accounts (things that also did not exist a decade and a half ago), and from the never-ending fountain of knowledge contained by the internet. Our phones are capable of streaming high-definition video from YouTube and streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, as well as various cable providers that provide such a service. As with Mr. Webber, many perform most of their online banking on their mobile devices.

Today our phones aren't just a means by which to contact other people, but instead a conduit of constant information and, even more constant, distraction. Florida law has been amended in order to prohibit people from using their cell phones during the operation of a motor vehicle because the statistics on distracted driving are harrowing. The new law prohibits all of the above-referenced activities, but many are so concentrated on the ban on texting that they might have failed to understand, that all of those activities put a driver in violation of the statute. Florida drivers must learn that they cannot Tweet, check their Facebook, read and send Email, play Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, Game of War (or any other currently popular game that is for mobile devices), take “Selfies,” check their bank accounts, or watch the newest Vines or funny YouTube video while operating a motor vehicle.

Contact the Dolman Law Group

While texting and driving is dangerous, Florida drivers need to be aware that any activity that draws attention to their cellular telephone and away from the road, its conditions, and other drivers is just as dangerous (and also illegal) and should be avoided at all costs. If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver you have rights under Florida Law. Contact a licensed Florida Personal Injury Attorney for advice.  Dolman Law Group is able to provide zealous representation of injured parties that have been affected by the negligence of a distracted driver. Contact us for a free consultation and case evaluation by calling 727-451-6900.


Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
727-451-6900

https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/distracted-driver-attorneys/

Thursday, January 8, 2015

What Types of Damages Am I Entitled To Under Florida Law After I've Suffered a Personal Injury?


As Plaintiffs’ attorneys, our sole purpose when we walk into the courtroom is to obtain money damages for our client’s injuries. In our system of justice, one that is no longer “eye for an eye,” money damages are the only means by which our system allows a plaintiff to be compensated for his or her injuries. With that being said, it is critical that a plaintiff’s lawyer has a thorough understanding of the damages that are available in each case and how to pursue them. Below are three main categories of damages in Florida:

Economic Damages

The easiest type of damages to understand, calculate and ultimately prevail on are what are known as “economic damages.” These damages include claims for past loss wages, past medical bills, future medical bills and loss of earning capacity. Losses that you’ve incurred in the past as a result of the collision can easily be calculated within a degree of certainty. Damages for future medical expenses and loss of earning capacity can be established using expert testimony as to the cost of treatment and need for future care.

Non-Economic Damages

“Non-economic” damages are the damages given to a plaintiff for the pain and suffering he or she has been through as a result of the collision or incident giving rise to the claim for personal injuries. These types of damages are your “loss of enjoyment of life” damages. They are intangible in nature, however, as we’ve discussed in previous articles, there are many ways to go about illustrating your client’s intangible losses to the jury.

Punitive Damages

"Punitive damages," as the name implies, are damages that the jury awards in essence to “punish” the defendant when the defendant engages in “intentional misconduct” or “gross negligence.” Punitive damages are also awarded in order to deter both the defendant and others moving forward from engaging in the same conduct. Because these types of damages are meant to punish the defendant, a plaintiff can only make a claim for them in certain circumstances under Florida law. Florida statute Section 768.72 specifically outlines how a plaintiff can bring a claim for punitive damages and when a defendant may be held liable for same. It’s important to understand when and under what circumstances one may bring a claim for punitive damages.
Under Florida law,

“ ‘intentional misconduct’  means that the defendant had actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that injury or damage to the claimant would result and, despite that knowledge, intentionally pursued that course of conduct, resulting in injury or damage and
‘gross negligence’ means that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.”
The statutory definitions make clear that a plaintiff will only be allowed to claim punitive damages against a defendant when the defendant’s conduct is more than merely negligent. In order to succeed on a claim for punitive damages, the plaintiff must come forward before a judge prior to trial with evidence that the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent or that the defendant engaged in intentional misconduct under the statute. If the judge determines that the plaintiff has made a sufficient showing, then evidence of the defendant’s misconduct or gross negligence can be presented to the jury at trial for consideration. Significantly, the burden of proof that the plaintiff must carry to succeed on a claim for punitive damages is greater than general damages. While the burden of proof in a civil personal injury claim is generally a “preponderance of the evidence” or “greater weight of the evidence” standard, meaning that in order for the plaintiff to prevail on his claim he only needs the scale to tip ever so slightly in his favor (51% will be sufficient), the burden of proof for claiming punitive damages is higher. Rather than a “preponderance” or “greater weight of the evidence” standard, in a claim for punitive damages a plaintiff must meet the “clear and convincing evidence” standard. While not as high as the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard necessary to maintain a guilty conviction in a criminal case, the “clear and convincing” standard nonetheless places a heavy burden on a plaintiff seeking punitive damages than he would have to meet otherwise.

Contact Dolman Law Group

Damages play a critical role in a plaintiff’s personal injury claim. Knowing which damages you may be entitled to and how to best maximize your damages in order to obtain the best recovery possible is key. The attorneys at Dolman Law Group are well versed in pursuing all avenues available in order to ensure that an injury victim is compensated to the fullest extent possible. For more information, call Dolman Law Group 727-451-6900.