As offices begin a return-to-work plan, Florida is set to experience an influx of daily commuters. Although traveling to work is a necessary part of many people’s lives, daily travel can pose risks to commuters. Those who commute the same way to work every day often feel a sense of security and may ignore their surroundings. However, commuters may merely be victims of another reckless or negligent party in some cases.

Workers’ Compensation

In Florida, employers conducting work in the state must provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees. The specific coverage requirements vary depending on the industry or organization and the number of employees. Some business owners may opt-out of the insurance coverage if they meet the exemption requirements.

The law applies to all accidental injuries and occupational conditions arising out of and in the course and scope of employment. However, the law does not cover certain mental or nervous injuries related to stress or fright. Further, pain and suffering damages are not compensable in Florida.

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An appeals court recently addressed an arbitration agreement contained in a residency agreement on behalf of a Florida assisted living resident. The assisted living facility (“ALF) appealed a trial court’s order denying their motions to dismiss and to compel arbitration under an arbitration agreement.

The case arose when the resident’s estate (“Estate”) filed a complaint against the ALF for injuries the resident sustained while residing at the facility. The Estate’s complaint included causes of action for negligence, wrongful death, breach of fiduciary duty, civil conspiracy and violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. In response, the ALF filed motions to compel arbitration according to the arbitration agreement contained in the residency agreement, which was signed by the resident’s attorney-in-fact. The trial court denied the motions finding that the agreement was unconscionable and unenforceable.

The appeals court explained that in Florida, arbitration is mandated when:

Florida maintains statutes that limit the amount of time claimants have to file their civil lawsuits in court. The statute of limitations for personal injury cases is generally four years from the date of the incident. If a claimant fails to file their claim within this time, the court will most likely dismiss the lawsuit. However, depending on the case’s unique circumstances, the statute of limitations may be shorter or longer.

For instance, a Florida appeals court recently heard a plaintiff’s appeal seeking a review of a final judgment dismissing her complaint against the defendant. The plaintiff, a resident of an assisted living facility, filed a complaint alleging that the facility was negligent in allowing a dangerous condition to exist and failing to train employees. The case arose following an incident where an employee placed a food tray in front of a resident’s door. The cup on the tray spilled and created a puddle that the plaintiff slipped on, causing her to experience serious injuries.

The defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the Assisted Living Facilities Act (“ALFA”) governs the claim, and the plaintiff failed to comply with ALFA’s presuit requirements. The plaintiff claimed that her suit was not brought under ALFA because ALFA only covers abuse, neglect, or deficient care claims. She contended that her claim arose from common-law negligence.

Florida medical malpractice claims require claimants to demonstrate that their medical provider made an error that fell below the “prevailing professional standard of care.” This standard of care varies depending on the provider’s specific care, skill, surrounding circumstances and incident. Thus, courts view the prevailing standard of care in light of the unique circumstances of the particular situation. Further, medical malpractice claims require claimants to establish causation. Even if a provider’s standard of care fell below the prevailing standard, claimants must still prove that the mistake was not inconsequential.

Medical malpractice can stem from a variety of situations. Under Florida law, misdiagnosis, surgical errors, failure to treat, anesthesia errors, medication errors, and specialist malpractice can precipitate a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, successfully recovering damages requires strict adherence to Florida’s various medical malpractice procedural and evidentiary laws.

The Supreme Court of Florida recently considered the statutory presuit notice requirement under section 766.106. In this case, the plaintiff mailed the notice before the expiration of the limitations period; however, the defendant did not receive the notice until after the period would have expired, absent tolling. At issue is whether the statute of limitations is tolled upon the claimant’s mailing of the presuit notice of intent to begin litigation.

Recently, the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion addressing a Florida car accident involving a loaner vehicle. The defendant owns a car dealership that operates a service department. Under the car dealership’s protocol, the dealership provides customers with loaner vehicles while their cars are undergoing service. The current incident arose following a situation when the defendant’s customer caused an accident while using a loaner vehicle from the dealership. The accident victim filed a lawsuit against the dealership for vicarious liability under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine.

At issue on appeal was (1) whether the defendant rented or leased the vehicle and (2) whether summary judgment was improper because the defendant used conflicting labels for the vehicle. In reviewing the case, the court analyzed the Graves amendment. Under the Graves Amendment, generally, a motor vehicle owner who rents or leases the vehicle to a person shall not be liable under the law for harm that results from the use, operation, or possession of the vehicle during the rental period if the owner is engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles; and (2) there is no negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the owner.

The plaintiff argued that summary judgment in favor of the defendant was improper because the agreement referred to the vehicle as both a “rental” and a “loaner .”Further, the plaintiff argued that the agreement did not contain consideration because there was no payment of money to the loaner. The court first held that the consideration in the agreement was that the driver agreed to bring their car and pay for repairs in exchange for the use of a loaner vehicle. Second, the court further held that whatever label the defendant happened to assign to the car, be it a “loaner” or “rental,” did not control. Instead, the substance of the transaction, not the labels, controls the transaction. Thus, the court held that the defendant enjoyed the protection of the Graves Amendment.

Florida insurance companies review thousands of property damages claims a year. In an effort to expedite claims, companies require claimants to abide by various requirements. Many companies enforce a requirement to provide “sworn proof of loss.” Insurance companies claim that requirement allows them to assess claims quickly and fairly. Issues often arise when a claimant suffers a loss but fails to abide by the proof of loss requirement.

Several Florida cases address lawsuits involving a claimant’s failure to provide a sworn proof of loss. Together the cases hold that if a claimant files a lawsuit against an insurance company before submitting a required sworn proof of loss, the company is relieved of its duties under the policy, thus barring the lawsuit. However, if the claimant submits the proof of loss untimely, but before filing a lawsuit, courts will permit the lawsuits and determine whether the delay prejudiced the company.

Recently, a Florida appeals court issued an opinion addressing a case involving an untimely sworn proof of loss. The homeowner purchased an insurance policy from the company in 2017. A condition of the policy was that the insurance company had “no duty to provide coverage under this policy if the failure to comply with the following duties is prejudicial to us.” The homeowner appealed the lower court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of her home insurance company. At issue is a policy that requires the claimant to send a sworn proof of loss to the company within sixty days of the company’s request.

Florida pedestrian accidents are a serious public safety concern for all road users. These accidents can result in fatalities and severe injuries that require lifelong care. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) studied pedestrian accidents to address these safety concerns and minimize serious injuries. The study defines a pedestrian as any “person on foot, walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting, or lying down .”Key findings of the study revealed that Florida was in the top three states with the highest number of pedestrian fatalities. These harrowing statistics highlight the importance of pedestrian and driver safety.

The study also found that pedestrian deaths account for about 17 percent of all traffic fatalities and 3 percent of all people who suffer injuries in traffic crashes. Further, alcohol involvement for the driver or pedestrian was reported in nearly 50 percent of fatal pedestrian crashes. Finally, hit-and-run accidents account for one of every five pedestrian fatalities.

Recently, authorities reported on a fatal Florida pedestrian accident. According to the crash report, a driver was traveling east when he hit a man crossing the road at an unmarked point. Generally, pedestrians have the right-of-way when moving along a marked or unmarked crosswalk in Florida. However, if a traffic signal alerts the pedestrian to wait to cross, they do not have the right-of-way until the sign indicates.

Under Florida law, those who bring a bad-faith claim against an insurance company for failing to settle a lawsuit must prove various elements. One element involves establishing that the insurance company’s conduct caused the insured’s loss. There are different ways to demonstrate this requisite caution element. One such method is by providing evidence that the insured experienced an “excess judgment” because of the company’s actions.

Typically, excess judgments must exist for the court to have jurisdiction to hear a Florida bad faith insurance claim. Excess judgments refer to instances when a judgment in a case is for a higher amount than the insured party has under their insurance policy limit. Excess judgments leave the at-fault party personally liable to the victim for their losses in these situations. Further, it fails to fully compensate the injury victim for damages because individual parties often lack the funds to pay a claim.

Bad faith arises when the insurance company owes the insured a duty, and the company breaches the duty, and because of the breach, an injury occurs. While Florida law requires insurance companies to settle a case where a reasonably prudent person would do so, mere negligence does not amount to bad faith.

Preexisting injury and conditions refer to a person’s medical state before an accident they are making a claim about. In the context of a Florida accident, victims may face challenges recovering compensation after they suffer aggravation to an existing injury. At-fault parties may refute liability and responsibility for damages by arguing that the victim’s injuries were unrelated to the accident.

Accident victims with preexisting conditions should consult with an attorney to ensure that they recover the compensation they deserve. An attorney can collect relevant evidence and present a compelling case for damages. The failure to gather relevant evidence such as medical records, expert witness testimony, and employment records may limit the amount a person can recover.

For example, a Florida district court recently issued a decision in an appeal involving a Florida uninsured motorist claim. According to the record, the injury victim suffered injuries in a collision between her car and another vehicle. She contended that the accident and her injuries were caused by an uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM”). The insurance company appealed the trial court’s order that allowed the victim to argue and present evidence for aggravation of preexisting injuries.

Florida is an international hub for some of the world’s most well-known amusement parks. While various governmental entities issue guidance and regulations regarding amusement park safety, many rides pose inherent risks. Although most amusement park-goers sign release of liability waivers in the event of an accident or injury, these waivers are not iron-clad. In some instances, injury victims may still pursue claims against a negligent amusement park.

Recently, a 14-year-old boy fell to his death at Florida’s ICON Park. The teenager fell from a FreeFall drop tower ride, which transports riders up and then drops them about 400 feet at speeds exceeding 75 mph. According to authorities, the 14-year-old weighed more than 300 pounds and stood nearly 6-feet, 5-inches tall. The ride’s operations manual states that the maximum passenger weight is about 287 pounds. The manual further states that ride operators should use care when seating large guests. Operators should confirm that the passenger fits within the contours of the seat and brackets. In this case, the employee operating the ride at the time of the incident completed training at the end of February.

Moreover, safety officials visually inspected the ride in a “non-destructive test.” Reports indicate the ride met Florida’s qualifications. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is working with the sheriff’s office to investigate the incident and make changes to protect amusement park patrons.

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