Many individuals in Florida have purchased some sort of insurance policy, whether it be car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, or another form of insurance. Insurance can protect an individual when accidents occur, but, unfortunately, sometimes insurance companies can be difficult to work with, or may refuse to cover a claim even when they are supposed to. Insurance disputes are common because insurance companies pour significant resources into legal teams to limit their liability. One form of insurance dispute occurs when the parties disagree on the amount of loss suffered by the insured. Depending on the policy, there are different ways to solve this type of dispute; one common way is through an appraisal.

For example, take a recent Florida appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff had a homeowner’s insurance policy from State Farm, the defendant. The policy stated that when the two parties could not agree on the amount of loss suffered by the plaintiff, both parties would choose a qualified, disinterested appraiser who would then set the amount. In September of 2017, the plaintiff submitted a claim under the policy, and State Farm issued her a payment for her loss. However, the plaintiff disputed the amount of the loss, and notified State Farm that she was going to use a public adjuster as her appraiser. State Farm objected to this, because the plaintiff and the adjuster had an agreement that the adjuster would assist her and then receive a ten percent contingency fee. Because the adjuster received a portion of the final amount, State Farm argued that he could not be truly disinterested as the terms of the policy stated he must be.

The court ultimately agreed with State Farm. Under Florida law, when interpreting the terms of a contract, courts interpret plain and unambiguous language in accordance with its plain meaning. If a term has an ordinary meaning that it is usually assigned, then the court will give it that meaning in a contract, unless the parties specifically define it otherwise. The court found that the term disinterested could not apply to an adjuster who had a direct financial interest in the outcome; the higher the appraised value, the higher his commission. As such, the plaintiff was unable to retain the adjuster as her appraiser, and instead had to find an independent, disinterested appraiser who did not have a financial stake in the final outcome.

Asbestos is a series of naturally occurring heat-resistant, fibrous minerals that are often used in fabrics, tiles, shingles, and other industrial or building materials. These materials become harmful when it suffers a disturbance, such as a break or crack. Long-term exposure to asbestos can lead to severe and permanent injuries or death. Asbestos exposure in Florida has been a serious threat to residents, especially those that work in the construction industry or military. Although many countries have implemented total bans on asbestos products, the United States continues to allow the material, in limited quantities. Individuals who believe they developed an illness because of asbestos exposure should contact a Florida asbestos exposure attorney.

Asbestos poses dangers because the microscopic fibers can easily become airborne and attach to a person’s respiratory system and lung tissue. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even minimal amounts of exposure can post great dangers. Most individual’s immune systems cannot fight off, break, or remove the fibers. Exposure to asbestos can cause many health risks, such as scarring, inflammation, tumors, cancer, and chronic respiratory illnesses. The deadliest conditions are Mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

There are many different ways that Florida residents can suffer asbestos exposure; however, there are some occupations that face an elevated risk of exposure. The most common at-risk professions are construction workers, industrial workers, farmers, hairdressers, refinery workers, and military personnel. Additionally, the families of these individuals may also suffer through secondary exposure because workers can easily and unknowingly transfer fibers through their clothes or equipment. Asbestos is also used in cement, construction materials, hairdryers, and talcum powders.

When someone is injured while on the job, Florida law sometimes allows a person to file a civil negligence suit against their employer for negligently putting them in a hazardous situation or otherwise causing their injuries from an accident. These suits, if successful, can result in significant monetary compensation to the employee, covering their injuries, lost wages, past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, and more. However, they can also be very difficult to win, especially when the defendant is a large company and has invested significant resources into their legal team. Because this is a complicated area of law, potential plaintiffs should consider working with a personal injury attorney to maximize their chances for success.

Recently, a federal appellate court considered a case which highlights the difficulties of bringing a suit after a workplace injury. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff worked for a construction company that was hired by an electric company to install, replace, and repair high voltage transmission lines. While working, the plaintiff climbed a pole to change out a wire and suffered an electric shock. As a result, he suffered serious burns to his hands, arms, and right leg, as well as brain damage. He ultimately had to have his left hand amputated and is now dealing with chronic pain and permanent disfigurement.

The plaintiff filed suit against the electric company, and the defendant company then filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed. The court found that the defendant electric company could not be held liable because they employed the construction company as an independent contractor. Generally, those employing independent contractors cannot be held responsible for injuries that happen in their work unless they had sufficient control over the independent contractors. Because the electric company left control to the construction company and only was concerned with the final product, not how the project was completed, the court found they could not be held liable.

Recently, an appellate court issued a written opinion addressing when and to what extent joint and several liabilities apply in Florida premises liability lawsuits. The case stems from an incident that occurred when a woman was attending a party at her friends’ condominium beach club. At the time of the party, the Beach Club’s boat dock was undergoing maintenance and repairs, however, work on the portion right behind the woman’s friends’ condos was halted because of a contract dispute between the Beach Club and the construction company. While walking on the unfinished portion of the boat dock, the woman fell into a hole and suffered serious injuries.

The woman filed a negligence lawsuit against the Beach Club, the construction company, and her friends. The plaintiff claimed the Beach Club breached its non-delegable duty to maintain the dock, the construction company failed to repair and replace the dock reasonably, and her friends violated their responsibility to keep their common areas safe and warn her of any hazardous conditions.

At trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and apportioned damages amongst the parties, finding that Beach Club was 15% responsible, the construction company was 25%, the friends were 50%, and the plaintiff was 10%. Post-trial, the plaintiff asked the court to find that Beach Club and the construction company were jointly and severally liable for 90% of the damages. One of the main issues on appeal was whether Beach Club could be responsible for more than its proportionate share of the damages. On appeal, Beach Club argued that under Florida law, they could not be liable for more than their share of damages because the woman’s friends failed to warn the plaintiff.

Late last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida premises liability case involving a woman who slipped and fell while at her local grocery store. The case required the court to determine if an affidavit of the plaintiff’s sister was properly excluded from consideration by the trial court before it granted the store’s motion for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court concluded that the sister’s affidavit should have been considered, and thus, summary judgment was inappropriate.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her sister were shopping at the defendant grocery store when the plaintiff slipped and fell after stepping in a puddle of water. The plaintiff filed a Florida slip and fall lawsuit against the store, and presented an affidavit from her sister in support of her claim. In the affidavit, the sister explained that the puddle was right next to a large cooler, was oblong in shape, and looked to have been stepped in by other people.

The grocery store asked the court not to consider the sister’s affidavit because it “baldly repudiated” the testimony that she gave at a prior deposition. At the deposition, however, the sister was only asked two questions, including the origin of the puddle and whether it consisted of a transparent liquid. Neither counsel asked the sister about the shape of the puddle.

Despite the fact that many were skeptical of the risks associated with the newly discovered Coronavirus, it is beyond dispute that the virus poses a serious threat to the majority of the population. The extent of that threat remains to be seen, but with over 1,400 cases in the United States alone, and more than 30 deaths attributed to the disease, the situations is becoming dire.

Recently, it was discovered that several crew members on a Princess cruise ship tested positive for Coronavirus. According to a recent news report, the ship left San Francisco and while the ship was mid-voyage, several crew members began to exhibit symptoms. Not long after, passengers began to show signs of the virus as well. The ship was scheduled to dock in San Francisco but officials refused the ship entry. Instead, the ship was directed to a port in Oakland, California. Several days later, the occupants were able to finally exit the contaminated ship. In all, at least 21 passengers were diagnosed with Coronavirus.

According to a recent news report, the San Francisco Princess cruise ship was not the only one with cases of Coronavirus. Last month, 44 people were diagnosed with Coronavirus after exiting a Japanese cruise ship. This was well before Coronavirus was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and back when there were only a few thousand cases across the world.

Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida pedestrian accident case involving a pick-up truck that struck a woman who was standing on the side of the road waiting for a bus. Specifically, the court was asked to determine whether the owner of the pick-up truck had a duty to install brakes on the trailer that was being towed. Ultimately, the court concluded that such a duty may exist, depending on the surrounding circumstances, but remanded the case to the lower court to make the determination.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was standing on the side of the road, waiting for a bus with her grandchildren when she was struck by a pick-up truck towing a trailer. The driver of the pick-up truck was the daughter of the truck’s owner, who had loaded the truck in preparation for the trip. However, before leaving, the owner of the truck did not feel well and asked his daughter to make the trip. The trailer was overloaded and did not have brakes installed.

As the owner’s daughter was driving, the traffic in front of her suddenly stopped. She applied the brakes in an attempt to safely come to a stop. However, as the owner’s daughter approached the traffic ahead of her, she realized she wasn’t going to stop in time. She swerved onto the shoulder to avoid stopped traffic, but struck the plaintiff.

Florida accidents involving commercial tractor-trailers and semi-trucks often result in serious and potentially life-threatening injuries. The risk of serious injuries increases because of the size differential between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles. Even if evidence suggests that a Florida truck driver was responsible for an accident, there are often additional parties who may be liable for the damages.

Determining fault and apportioning liability in Florida trucking accidents often present injury victims with various challenges. Courts and insurance companies will engage in lengthy and comprehensive investigations before deciding who is at fault. Despite the size of commercial trucks, there may be evidence that suggests that the passenger vehicle was partially at fault. Injury victims must understand potential limitations to recovery and defenses that the other party may assert.

In some cases, truck drivers engage in blatantly negligent or reckless behavior that results in an accident. Some common examples of this are speeding, operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, falling asleep behind the wheel, or driving while distracted. Other situations may open the door to additional liable parties. For example, equipment failure, misloaded freight, and overloaded trailers may result in the truck fishtailing or swerving into other vehicles. In these cases, the truck driver, in addition to their employer or truck part manufacturer, may be liable as well.

When a guest is injured while on another’s property, they may pursue a claim against the property owner. To succeed in a Florida slip and fall lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to show, among other things, that the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition.

A property owner’s knowledge of a hazard can be proven through actual knowledge or constructive knowledge. Of course, proving actual knowledge can be difficult. Thus, many cases rely on proving a landowner’s constructive knowledge of a hazard. Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida premises liability case discussing constructive knowledge.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was shopping at the defendant grocery store when she slipped and fell. The plaintiff testified that she did not see anything on the floor before she fell. However, when she stood up, she saw a “clear, dirty liquid” that was later identified as a smashed grape. Two witnesses were nearby, and neither saw the fall, but both saw the substance on the floor. Neither saw footprints or cart track marks through the substance.

Florida motorists must purchase automobile insurance that provides at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) and $10,000 in property damage. PIP coverage is a no-fault coverage that provides compensation to motorists and qualified family members for certain accident-related medical expenses. Florida is a no-fault state, and insurance companies cover their policyholders in an accident. However, the law does not require motorists to purchase insurance to protect themselves when they are negligent. When someone is involved in an accident with a driver that does not have adequate protection, the victim may face significant challenges recovering for their losses.

To avoid potential significant financial burdens, motorists should purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) protection. Unlike several other states, Florida automobile insurance laws do not require motorists to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) protection; however, this coverage provides drivers, their passengers, and household family members, with additional financial security.

UIM protection is useful in cases where motorists are involved in an accident with an at-fault driver with inadequate insurance coverage. Further, this coverage protects policyholders in hit-and-run accidents, unknown vehicle collisions, or if the policyholder or their family members suffer injuries as a pedestrian or cyclist.

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