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Like most other states, Florida law requires all drivers to purchase a minimum amount of auto insurance. However, the statutory minimum—$10,000 of personal injury protection and $10,000 of property damage protection—are far lower than most other states. However, unlike many other states, Florida law does not require drivers to purchase underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage – also called UIM coverage – for car or truck accidents involving those with inadequate insurance. Understanding the importance of UIM coverage can help Florida drivers make informed choices when purchasing insurance, since insurance disputes are one of the most significant barriers for victims injured in Florida car accidents.

UIM coverage protects individuals when they are hit by a driver who has no car insurance or who does not have enough insurance to pay for the resulting injuries. For example, if Driver A is driving carefully and following the rules of the road but Driver B, driving recklessly, runs a stop sign and crashes into Driver A’s vehicle, Driver B is at fault and may be liable to Driver A for damages. Let’s say that the medical bills Driver A had to pay due this particular crash totaled $30,000, making Driver B liable for $30,000. If Driver B does not have insurance, or only has enough insurance to cover $10,000, Driver A may be stuck with no legal recourse and substantial debt.

This is where UIM insurance is helpful; in this situation, Driver’s A UIM insurance coverage could kick in and cover the rest of the costs, protecting Driver A from going into debt for an accident they did not cause. This example is not just hypothetical; a Georgia appellate court considered almost the exact same situation in a recent opinion. The situation often occurs in Florida as well. In fact, Florida has the second-highest rate of uninsured or underinsured drivers in the country, according to the Insurance Research Council, as well as one of the highest accident rates. Because of this, Florida drivers are strongly encouraged to purchase UIM insurance, even though the state does not require it. Not only can the insurance cover a driver if a tragic, costly accident does occur, but purchasing the insurance can grant peace of mind to drivers unsure how they would pay for the resulting damages if an uninsured or underinsured driver hit them.

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Florida federal and state laws govern nursing home health and safety guidelines and regulations. A majority of the rules are designed to ensure that vulnerable individuals living at these long-term care facilities (LTCF) receive the appropriate and critical care that they deserve. As these facilities become more popular, so do their indiscretions and failure to abide by essential health and safety rules. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that an estimated 1 to 3 million life-threatening illnesses occur yearly at LTCFs. Many of these illnesses are a result of fast-spreading infections that overcome the residents at these institutions.

Most recently, the spread of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, has shed light on how quickly a seemingly common respiratory infection can take over and become deadly. These outbreaks can decimate resident populations in LTCFs. A recent report indicates that LTCFs are the prime place for outbreaks for infectious diseases. Most LTCF residents have chronic conditions and impairments that make them more inclined to develop infections. Many of the residents at these facilities share air, food, water, and medical treatment, which accelerates the introduction and transmission of infectious agents. This, combined with the residents’ length of stay, delayed diagnosis, and inefficient infection control, allow the propagation of these deadly infections. Although, nursing homes rarely supply authorities with the exact rates of disease transmission, the CDC warns that once these pathogens are introduced into an enclosed environment, such as a nursing home, the results can be deadly.

Infectious diseases in these environments are frequent and severe, and as such, the CDC provides facilities with regulations to limit the spread of disease. All medical providers and staff at these facilities must receive proper and ongoing safety and hygiene training. This training provides individuals with crucial skills that are necessary for preventing the spread of disease. It includes, proper handwashing techniques, guidelines for hygiene in-between residents, and how to appropriately wear personal protective equipment. Medical personnel and LTCF staff that fail to abide by these rules may be liable for injuries that their residents suffer.

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The state’s high court recently issued an opinion in a case that arose out of a fatal Florida motorcycle accident. In this case, the motorcycle driver’s estate filed a claim with his uninsured motorist (UM) benefits under his home insurance company policy issued on a collector vehicle. The insurance company denied coverage, arguing that the policy contained a provision that limited the UM benefits to accidents involving the collector vehicle. The family appealed the ruling to Florida’s Supreme Court, arguing that the insurance policy did not comply with section 627.727, Florida Statutes, which prohibits insurance companies from placing limitations on UM coverage, such as the one at issue.

The insurance company argued that the Florida statute does not apply to specialty insurance policies. However, the plaintiffs contended that the statute provides that insurers may offer non-stacking coverage if the insurer notifies the policyholder of the limitations and executes an approved form expressly electing non-stacking coverage. Further, although the statute provides certain exceptions to the statutory limit, the law states explicitly that, “no motor vehicle liability insurance policy shall be delivered in this state unless UM vehicle coverage is provided.” Moreover, the statute allows for limited UM coverage if the policyholder did not purchase it.

Here, the court found that nothing in the statute excludes collector or antique vehicles, the limiting language in the collector vehicle policy violates the law, and the plaintiff did not reject the UM coverage, and he instead selected stacking UM coverage. Ultimately, because the insurance policy did not comply with Florida’s statutory requirements regarding UM limitations, the court found in favor of the plaintiff.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court released an opinion in a Florida truck accident case, discussing several issues that commonly arise in cases filed against trucking companies. The appeal arose after a plaintiff suffered injuries when a tire from a trailer became detached and hit the car in which she was a passenger. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against various parties, including the trucking company and the automotive company that installed the tire. The victim dropped all parties from the claim except the trucking company, alleging that the trucking company owed her a “non-delegable” duty to ensure that their trailer was safe. She argued that this duty included inspecting, maintaining, and repairing the trailer. The woman appealed after the lower court found in favor of the trucking company, holding that the trucking company was not liable for the mechanic’s faulty work.

Under Florida law, parties who hire independent contractors to do work for them may still be liable for injuries when a non-delegable duty is at issue. Challenges frequently arise in these cases because there is no specific definition or criteria for when a duty is delegable. Typically, Florida courts have found that a property owner’s duty of care toward invitees is non-delegable. In contrast, Florida courts have held that a hospital owed no non-delegable duty to a patient after a negligent independent contractor physician caused the patient injuries in the hospital’s emergency room.

In this case, the woman argued that the trucking company should have inspected the mechanic’s work. The trucking company countered that they regularly utilize the mechanic and that it is unrealistic to ask their drivers to engage in lengthy and intensive inspections that they are not trained to do. The woman relied on various Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which state that motor carriers must inspect all motor vehicles subject to their control. However, the court found that the trucking company did engage in appropriate inspections, and additional checks of the trailer were not necessary. The court, in this case, refrained from imposing blanket liability on trucking companies based on faulty repairs.

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The judge plays several roles in a Florida personal injury trial. Among a judge’s most important job is to determine which evidence the jury is permitted to consider in coming to its decision. When preparing for trial, parties gather all the evidence they hope to use to support their case. However, not all evidence is admissible for every purpose. Some evidence is categorically prohibited, and other evidence is admissible for limited purposes. The judge decides what evidence the jury will be able to consider, and for what purposes. In making these decisions, judges must follow the Florida Rules of Evidence.

In a recent Florida slip and fall case, the court had occasion to discuss what is called the “best evidence rule.” Under Florida Statutes section 90.954, “except as otherwise provided by statute, an original writing, recording, or photograph is required in order to prove the contents of the writing, recording, or photograph.” Thus, under the rule, if the evidence is a writing, recording, or photograph, only the original source of that evidence can be submitted. In the case mentioned above, the evidence at issue was video surveillance tape from the grocery store where the plaintiff slipped and fell.

Under the best evidence rule, the original source of the evidence is required unless:

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Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) updated its consumer accessible nursing home rating tool. The new system was designed to provide consumers and their loved ones with readily available and comprehensive information regarding nursing home quality and care. As the rate of Florida nursing home abuse cases continues to rise, the Nursing Home Compare website is a necessary and crucial tool for consumers. The site provides each nursing home with a rating score between 1 and 5, and additional ratings in regards to the nursing home’s inspections, staff qualifications, and quality measures. This tool helps people understand how Florida nursing homes perform on health and fire inspections, how well they care for their residents, and whether they have any history of abuse towards patients.

This tool is especially important because nursing home abuse statistics indicate that close to 5 million older adults suffer abuse each year and that almost 25% of nursing home residents reported experiencing at least one instance of abuse. This does not account for the many older people that cannot articulate or recall details surrounding their abuse.

Nursing home abuse generally occurs when the caregiver intentionally harms a resident. This type of abuse often includes physical and sexual assaults. Whereas nursing home neglect usually occurs when the resident receives inferior or substandard care. This includes failing to address or prevent a resident’s medical concerns, to provide an adequate amount of food or hygiene products, or verbally abusing a resident. Many residents are unable to adequately report their abuse due to cognitive difficulties, speech impairments, or because they do not have anyone to whom they can report the abuse. However, family members and loved ones should be aware of certain changes that may indicate that abuse is occurring. For example, malnutrition, bedsores, and behavioral changes may point to abuse or neglect.

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Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion addressing the presumption of negligence in a Florida rear-end accident. At issue was whether a defendant appropriately rebutted the presumption of negligence when he rear-ended the plaintiff’s car. The accident occurred when a driver in front of the plaintiff suddenly braked their vehicle at a green light. The plaintiff and defendant both applied their brakes. The plaintiff avoided colliding with the car in front of her, but the defendant did not stop in time and subsequently rear-ended the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant based on the damages she suffered as a result of the rear-ending. A jury ruled in the defendant’s favor finding that he was not negligent. The plaintiff appealed the court’s denial of her motion for a directed verdict.

Parties in a civil personal injury lawsuit can make a motion for a directed verdict after the close of evidence before a jury renders their ruling. This occurs when one party believes that the opposing party did not prove their case as a matter of law. Under Florida law, rear-end accidents create a rebuttable presumption that the at-fault driver was negligent.

To rebut the presumption of negligence, the rear-end driver must present evidence or explanation that refutes a fact in the case. Typically, in Florida rear-end accident cases, a defendant can rebut a presumption under four circumstances. These situations include, if the rear-end driver’s car had a mechanical failure; if the in-front driver suddenly stopped; if the in-front driver suddenly changed lanes; and if the in-front driver illegally or improperly stopped. However, presumptions based on sudden stops require additional factors because drivers have a duty to remain alert. If the defendant does not appropriately rebut the presumption, a plaintiff is entitled to a directed verdict in their favor.

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Over the past few years, and ever since the popularity of bike shares has taken off, scooter shares have begun to crop up across the country. A Florida scooter share is a system by which users can rent electric scooters on a short-term basis. Most of the scooters are electric and dockless, meaning that they can be left anywhere. Thus, the scooters can be tracked by GPS, and users looking for a nearby scooter can use an app to search for a nearby scooter. For some, electric scooters are a great way to get around and enjoy the city; however, Florida scooter accidents have dramatically increased since scooter shares have come into existence.

As of earlier this year, there were scooter shares in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa. However, the companies that operate scooter-share are constantly looking for new opportunities. Many cities are reluctant to allow scooter shares, for fear of an increase in the number of serious scooter accidents. Most of the concerns surrounding scooter shares relate to the fact that inexperienced riders are able to take motorized vehicles out on the road with no training or supervision. Some have also raised the concern that the lightweight scooters could get picked up in the heavy winds of a hurricane, turning them into “flying menaces.”

Recently, cities across Florida have started to implement scooter-share bans. In fact, in a recent state appellate court decision, Panama City, Florida passed a law prohibiting the use of overnight scooter rentals. Because the dockless nature of the scooters allowed them to be left essentially anywhere in the city, this had the effect of preventing a scooter-share from opening. The company intending on opening up the scooter-share filed an appeal, and the city’s law was upheld. The court noted that the city had the right to pass the law “when the undisputed facts demonstrate that the restriction is for the safety of the city’s citizens and visitors.”

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In many Florida personal injury cases, more than one party is to blame. Even a plaintiff may share the blame in causing an accident. In these cases, Florida law applies the doctrine of comparative negligence. Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, liability is apportioned depending on the percentage that each party is at fault, as determined by the fact finder (a judge or a jury). That means that if a jury finds that a party is 60 percent at fault and another is 40 percent at fault, each party will be liable for the plaintiff’s damages according to their respective percentage of fault.

This is true also for the plaintiff. Under the doctrine of pure comparative of negligence, and under Florida Statute 768.81(2), even if a plaintiff is found to be mostly at fault, the plaintiff can still recover compensation from other at-fault parties. That is, if a plaintiff is found partially at fault, a plaintiff’s recovery will not be barred entirely, but the compensation owed to the plaintiff will be reduced according to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault.

A defendant may also try to blame an accident on a non-party—a person or an entity that is not a party to the lawsuit. In that case, to allocate fault to a non-party, a defendant may plead the fault of the non-party, and must identify the non-party or describe the non-party as precisely as possible. A defendant must generally identify a non-party at fault by motion or in the initial responsive pleading in the lawsuit when the defendant asserts its defenses. At trial, the defendant must then prove that the non-party was at fault in causing the plaintiff’s injuries by a preponderance of the evidence. A fact finder must then apportion the negligence of the defendant and the negligence of the plaintiff and any other non-parties, ultimately calculating the defendant’s liability. Importantly, when a defendant can shift fault to a non-party, a plaintiff will not typically be able to file another complaint against that party. Thus, it is critical to investigate all potentially liable parties and name them from the outset.

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Distracted driving has become an increasing concern with the widespread use of cell phones for everything from talking to navigation to texting. There are about one thousand Florida car accidents each week caused by distracted driving. Florida is seeking to change that, in part through the state’s Wireless Communications While Driving Law, which took effect earlier this year. Under section 316.306 of Florida Statutes, drivers cannot drive while “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device” or while sending or reading information “for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication,” such as texting or emailing. Section 316.306 took effect on October 1st of this year. Under that section, drivers cannot drive while “using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner” in school zones or work zones. Drivers will be given a warning for violations under section 316.306 until the end of the year, but can be cited for violations starting on January 1, 2020.

The law was enacted in order to improve safety on Florida roads, to prevent crashes, to reduce injuries and associated costs, and to allow law enforcement officers to issue citations to drivers who are texting while driving. There are some exceptions under the law, such as when reporting an emergency and when receiving messages that are related to navigating the motor vehicle.

Florida is trying to reduce incidents of distracted driving through its campaign entitled “Put It Down: Focus on Driving.” Distracted driving can be anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road (visual), hands off the wheel (manual), or mind off driving (cognitive). However, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles notes that texting is particularly dangerous, because it requires all three types of distraction (visual, manual, and cognitive). The Department’s 2018 statistics showed there were more than 52,000 distracted driving crashes in Florida that year, which amounts to over 1,000 per week. Florida drivers have to drive carefully and prudently, and drivers who fail to do so and cause personal injuries or property damage can be held liable.

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