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When most people visit a hotel, their main goal is to relax and unwind. They do not expect to be injured simply by walking about in their room. But unfortunately, hotels are one of the most common locations of Florida slip-and-fall accidents.

Of course, when hotels are sued, they come to court armed with a large corporate legal team. This reality can turn slip-and-fall cases into an uphill climb for injured guests. Working with a law firm with a proven track record in slip-and-fall cases can help increase the odds of winning your case.

A recent court decision demonstrated just how difficult it can be to win these cases in Florida.

Personal Watercrafts (PWC) such as Jet Skis, WaveRunners, and Sea-Doos, are popular on Florida’s vast coastline. However, according to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), Florida PWC riders and passengers have a higher collision rate than almost any other type of watercraft. PWC accidents occur for various reasons, including operator inexperience, excessive risk-taking, and noncompliance with water safety rules.

Inexperienced operators and passengers are one of the leading causes of PWC accidents in Florida. According to the USCG, the majority of accidents involve operators between the ages of 11 to 20. Only approximately 18% of the accident claims involved owners, meaning that most injury victims do not involve an owner but instead friends or family members. Although some newer PWC models have special settings for new riders that limit the power output, many models do not have this safety function. Moreover, the USCG and National Transportation Safety Board report that over 80% of PWC accidents occur less than an hour into a ride. Nearly half of PWC injury victims reported never operating a device before the accident. As such, the majority of PWC accidents involve young, inexperienced, non-owner operators.

In addition, to rider inexperience, accident claims reveal that over 70% of PWC collisions involve another vessel, usually other PWCs. Inexperienced riders are often unfamiliar with how to control their speed and judge appropriate stopping distances. Even those who are familiar with boats and motorcycles have trouble handling PWCs. For instance, PWC’s do not have traditional brakes and can take over 300 feet to stop when the device is going around 60 mph.

A lot of legal jargon sounds as foreign as it is. In the case of “forum non-conveniens,” however, the meaning is much like it sounds. A tactical strategy to avoid litigation, the concept of forum non-conveniens allows defendants to argue that the case against them should be dismissed because the court—or “forum”—where the suit was brought is inconvenient for them.

In the past, big companies defending suits against accident victims have gotten cases dismissed on the ground of forum non-conveniens. The results can be alarming and unfair. Lacking the same resources as the typical corporation, the average accident victim—perhaps still recovering from her injuries—is often unable to bring the case in the court the company says is convenient for them. For example, for obvious reasons, a Florida resident taking on a chain retailer probably would not want to bring her case in Alaska.

In a decision earlier this month, a Florida appellate court denied a large health care company’s attempt to squash a lawsuit through forum non-conveniens. A man had sued the company several years earlier, claiming that the company’s allegedly defective medical device had injured him.

Vicarious liability, or liability imputed to another party based on its relationship to the wrongful actor, can provide another avenue for a Florida injury victim to seek compensation. A recent decision from a federal appeals court illustrated an important difference between claims based on direct liability versus vicarious liability.

In the decision, issued by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in an appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the court described the facts giving rise to the case, which took place on a cruise ship. During a ten-day cruise, a passenger fell during a dance competition on the cruise ship. The passenger claimed that her partner in the dance competition, who was a cruise ship employee, released her hands as she leaned away while doing a dance move. She claimed that as a result, she fell backward and hit her head on the deck. She was later diagnosed with traumatic brain injury because of the fall. The passenger sued the ship’s owner for negligence, alleging in part that the employee failed to act in a way that would keep the passenger safe. A federal district court originally found that the shipowner was not liable to the passenger because it did not show that the owner had notice of the employee’s allegedly negligent dancing before her injury.

However, the appeals court held that under maritime negligence law, in a claim of negligence based on vicarious liability (as opposed to direct liability), the shipowner is liable for an employee’s negligence even if the owner is not directly liable for anything that it did or did not do. The court explained that when a shipowner is alleged to be directly liable for a passenger’s injuries, such as negligently failing to properly maintain its premises, the shipowner had to have notice of the risk-creating condition. In contrast, in a negligence claim based on vicarious liability, the plaintiff does not need to prove the shipowner had notice.

While walking is an excellent way for people to get around while improving their health, it also poses many dangers, especially in South Florida. According to a recent report by a pedestrian-safety organization, Florida ranks as the most dangerous state in the nation for pedestrians. South Florida, in particular, ranks as the 13th most dangerous region. The agency uses its Pedestrian Death Index (PDI) to rank states and metro areas. The PDI utilizes risk by calculating the number of people hit and killed by motorists while walking. Even when pedestrian accidents don’t result in fatal injuries, pedestrians tend to face the most serious of injuries after an accident. The most severe injuries include brain trauma, spinal injuries, fractures, lacerations, paralysis, and loss of limbs.

During the last data collecting period, South Florida experienced 1,675 pedestrian deaths, about 2.8 deaths per 100,000 Florida residents. The report revealed that older adults, people of color, and those residing in lower-income neighborhoods had the highest risk of fatal pedestrian accidents. Black residents suffered fatal injuries at a rate over 80% more than White and non-Hispanic residents. Low-income individuals are more likely to suffer fatalities because their neighbors often lack sidewalks and marked crosswalks. Further, older adults may experience serious injuries and fatalities because they often face challenges in sight, hearing, and movement.

Pedestrian accidents in Florida tend to occur more frequently at night and in cities. For instance, recent Jacksonville news reports described a tragic pedestrian accident. The pedestrian was struck by a vehicle around 2:40 a.m. while she was walking northbound on 1-95. A pickup truck hit the woman, and she died at the scene of the accident.

After experiencing an injury because of another’s negligence, an accident victim may be able to collect damages for their losses. Under Florida’s negligence laws, the plaintiff must establish that the at-fault party was responsible for the incident and ensuing injuries. While this may seem straightforward, the law has many nuances that make recovery challenging for many Florida accident victims. Injury plaintiffs must meet the four primary prongs of a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages successfully. In addition, they must be able to overcome any defenses the at-fault party poses.

Broadly speaking, a defendant may be liable for negligence if they failed to use reasonable care. Reasonable care is that which a similarly situated person would use under the same circumstances. Negligence may include the failure to do something that a reasonable person would do or doing something that a reasonable person would not do. The four elements of a Florida negligence lawsuit include establishing that the defendant owed the victim a duty, they breached that duty, that breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s harm, and the plaintiff suffered compensable losses. Defendants can refute any part of a plaintiff’s claim, and if they are successful, the claim will fail. As such, it is vital that claimants contact an attorney to ensure that all elements of their claim are met.

The most critical inquiry in these cases is whether the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. In Florida, the duty of care is the other party’s legal responsibility to the injury victim. A person’s duty of care depends on many factors, including their age and relationship status to the victim. For instance, there are different duties of care for private citizens and their actions towards one another instead of the professional duty of care a medical provider has towards their patient. While a private citizen maintains a duty to drive safely and obey traffic rules, a nurse or doctor has a stricter duty of care to those they are treating than the average person. Similarly, the duty changes when the at-fault party is a business owner.

With more than 500 motor vehicle accidents occurring each day in Florida, these accidents make up the largest source of personal injury claims in the state. Last month, a tragic two-car accident killed a 13-year-old girl and one adult. Four others were injured in the fiery crash.

According to reports, the accident occurred when the driver of a pickup truck traveling eastbound in Volusia County failed to slow down while approaching an SUV traveling in front of him. The truck struck the SUV, which then flipped and exited the roadway before hitting a tree, where it caught fire.

The driver of the pickup truck and a 13-year-old passenger in the SUV were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, with four others in the SUV incurring minor injuries.

Public buses provide the public with a necessary form of convenient transportation throughout many cities in Florida. While buses must undergo safety inspections and drivers must complete safety training, these vehicles are often involved in serious accidents. Filing a lawsuit against a city bus in Florida can present challenges to injury victims and their families. The state maintains specific laws that apply to lawsuits against public and governmental entities. An experienced Florida personal injury attorney can help accident survivors and their family members understand their rights to financial recovery.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) compiles statistics regarding the rate of bus accidents in the state. According to their most recent reports, every year, nearly 63,000 accidents involve buses. Approximately 13% of fatal bus accidents involve intercity buses, 40% involve school buses, and 35% involve transit buses. For instance, local news sources reported that a Volusia County, Florida County employee suffered fatal injuries in an accident between a Voltran bus and a County pickup truck. Officials explained that the victim was driving a county vehicle when he hit the bus. The Highway Patrol stated that a preliminary investigation revealed that the bus was preparing to let passengers off the bus moments before the collision. In addition to the County driver, 14 of the 15 passengers aboard the bus were taken to local hospitals for injuries.

FMSCA reports that the leading causes of bus accidents involve:

When someone brings a wrongful death action in Florida, they will usually ask for both pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. Pecuniary damages are damages that can be specific and represent a quantifiable monetary amount. For example, pecuniary damages may be awarded in the amount of a deceased’s medical bills, or to cover the specific funeral and burial costs in a wrongful death lawsuit. Non-pecuniary damages, on the other hand, are damages that cannot be measured precisely. For example, money to compensate for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium may be estimated and awarded as non-pecuniary damages.

Recently, the Eleventh Circuit released an opinion discussing pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages—and related choice of law concerns—in a wrongful death case. According to the court’s written opinion, the case arose when a Wisconsin citizen and his wife took a cruise aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. While the ship was docked in Juneau, Alaska, he began experiencing shortness of breath and went to the ship’s infirmary. The ship’s physician examined him and gave him prescription medication. He then returned to his quarters, where he collapsed. He was taken to the hospital in Alaska but unfortunately died of a heart attack several days later.

The daughter of the deceased, also the personal representative of his estate, sued Royal Caribbean for negligence in medical care and treatment. She brought suit in the Southern District of Florida as required by the forum selection clause on the cruise ticket. After trial, a jury found Royal Caribbean liable and awarded the plaintiff $3,384,073.22 in damages, $3,360,000 of which represented non-pecuniary damages. Royal Caribbean appealed.

After an accident, individuals may experience a sense of shock and fear, and these emotions can elicit statements and conduct that may not accurately reflect what the person is feeling. For instance, many people apologize after an accident, despite not being at fault for the series of events that led to the collision. Although it is a natural human emotion to apologize, it is vital that individuals limit what they say after an accident. While expressing remorse or saying sorry does not necessarily destroy a claim to damages, an at-fault party’s apology does not automatically impute liability on that person either.

Under Florida’s evidentiary laws, most out-of-court statements cannot be used as evidence during a trial. Evidence is permissible so long as it is relevant, yet some statements made outside of the courtroom are inadmissible as “hearsay.” However, some statements that an opposing party makes may be used against them during court proceedings. The permissibility of the statements depends on what the other party stated. For instance, if the at-fault driver gets out of their vehicle after an accident and states, “I am sorry this was all my fault,” that statement may be used against them. In contrast, a statement merely expressing remorse may not overcome the hearsay rules.

Apologizing may be an instinctual reaction and does not automatically amount to an admission of guilt. These critical distinctions have presented plaintiffs with evidentiary challenges during Florida car accident claims. Florida’s “apology statute” addresses when a statement may be used as evidence. Under the statute, “benevolent gestures” where one expresses sympathy regarding pain, suffering or death cannot be used as evidence in court. However, a gesture in combination with an admission of fault may be used as evidence. Courts will engage in inquiries to determine whether a statement is admissible.

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