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Richard Ansara Attorney at Law

Tort reform advocates have long pushed for ways to make it harder for Florida personal injury claimants to be compensated for losses caused by negligence. While these tort reform proponents rail about frivolous lawsuits and out-of-control damage awards and greedy plaintiff lawyers and rising insurance costs, the reality is they work for the insurance industry and they’re selling snake oil. It’s been proven time and again that rules barring litigation and enforcing caps on personal injury damages do nothing to curb insurance costs or bolster industry. Our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm noted as much when the Florida Supreme Court said as much in 2017 when in North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan it struck down a law capping non-economic damages or medical malpractice, rebuking legislators for predicating the law on false/misleading industry statistics.Fort Lauderdale injury lawyer

Now, emboldened by a business-friendly legislature, governor and state supreme court, Florida lawmakers are proposing a series of new tort reform measures that would once again make it more difficult for injured plaintiffs to recover sufficient damages inflicted by negligence. The first is HB 17 Tort Reform and the second is SB 1320 Damages Recoverable for Health Care Costs in Florida personal injury and wrongful death claims.

Florida Tort Reform Bill Would Protect Insurance Companies Continue reading

Florida wrongful death lawsuits stemming from suspected medical malpractice by way of excessive medication doses are more common than we’d like to believe. Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorneys know that medical errors like these can result from ineffective charting procedures, inadequate oversight, poor staff training or staffers simply making an error and not following protocol.wrongful death lawyer

A study by Johns Hopkins University found that more a quarter of a million people in the U.S. die every year as a result of medical errors, and medical researchers said the actual figure could be as high as 440,000. Even the low estimate puts it at No. 3 for leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer. Medication overdose is what killed a two-year-old child in 2006 after an area pharmacist accidentally gave the child 20 times the recommended dose of sodium chloride. It was the girl’s last chemotherapy visit. She died three days later in Cleveland, Ohio. The pharmacist later served six months in jail for involuntary manslaughter.

Now in that same state, different hospital system, an intensive care doctor has been fired and nearly two dozen other employees have been placed on leave, including pharmacists and nurses. The Associated Press reports it all stemmed from the doctor who ordered dozens of patients be given potentially lethal doses of pain medication over the course of several years. Doses for another half a dozen patients were reportedly larger than necessary to simply provide comfort for the patients, but probably isn’t what caused their deaths. Continue reading

In what is believed to be one of the largest Florida wrongful death awards in the state’s history, three of the men convicted in connection with the shooting death of a 19-year-old former classmate have been ordered to pay $500 million. Of course, as our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorneys can explain, it’s highly unlikely her family will receive anything close to that, as the claims were based on an intentional tort, for which insurers will not pay. What it does, as her family’s wrongful death attorney explained, is hold the men personally liable financially.Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorneys

Most Florida wrongful death or injury claims stemming from an assault or battery are filed against third parties for torts of negligence such as inadequate security. Liability insurers often will provide coverage (at least theoretically) for negligent acts that made plaintiff/decedent vulnerable to a criminal attack. Direct claims can be filed against a person for offenses like assault, false imprisonment, battery and homicide, meaning their personal assets and earnings will be subject to collection to fulfill the judgment. It is different than restitution, which is ordered by criminal courts.

In some cases, wrongful death attorneys will advise against pursuing an intentional tort claim against the attacker/wrongdoer unless he or she is independently wealthy. The reason is there may be no real gain even if the jury awards you a substantial sum. Plus, personal injury and wrongful death debts can sometimes be discharged in a subsequent bankruptcy proceeding. However, crime victims may have power in that scenario as a “creditor” in an adversary proceeding, asking the bankruptcy court to declare an ordinarily dischargeable debt instead nondischargeable. Injury or wrongful death verdicts resulting from the bankruptcy petitioner’s willful or malicious acts can be grounds for the court to deny discharge of this debt. Continue reading

Our Fort Lauderderdale probate lawyers are occasionally asked by individuals whether they are too late to contest a will or take action if an estate was mistakenly or fraudulently administered. The answer will depend on the exact circumstances of the situation, but know that the time window for asserting a challenge is typically very short.conversation-300x300

In many cases, to contest a will in Florida, you will have just three months (90 days) from the time you receive a document called a “Notice of Administration.” This document is most often served on surviving spouses, beneficiaries trustees (if there is a trust) or those who may be entitled to exempt property under state law. This is outlined in F.S. 733.212(3). Failure to file an objection within that three month window means those claims will thereafter be forever barred. This usually applies to cases pertaining to will contests challenging the validity on the basis of lacking mental capacity or undue influence.

Further, all objections to a will’s validity – for any reason – must be filed no later than one year of the entry of an order of final discharge of the personal representative or one year after service of notice of administration. The only circumstances under which this timeline can be extended is if you assert misconduct, fraud or misrepresentation.  Continue reading

Fort Lauderdale pedestrian accident attorneys know electric scooters and pedestrians don’t make for the safest mix on our sidewalks. Fort Lauderdale commissioners acknowledged as much in a recent two-hour meeting. However, as the mayor noted, officials don’t have any interest at this point in banning the e-scooters. One commissioner even tested a model before the meeting, concluding it wouldn’t be in the city’s best interest to eliminate e-scooters as a transportation option, particularly one that gives the city a “cool vibe.” Fort Lauderdale pedestrian accident attorney

Officials did say they eventually want to enact a measure that would require the e-scooters to reduce their speed (currently at 15 mph, which is too fast to mingle with pedestrians) and also be relegated to bike lanes. The latter is within the purview of the state legislature, which is in the early phases of passing such a measure. For now, scooter riders must stick to the sidewalks.

Our city is the first in Florida to allow e-scooters, even as the metro area was named in a recent Dangerous by Design 2019 report as being among the worst in the country for deadly pedestrian accidents. Although city officials reason that e-scooters could help us carve out a tourism market advantage over other surrounding communities, being the first means we’re facing a host of regulatory and safety issues for the first time. Continue reading

Not every estate of every decedent in Florida is going to wind up in probate court. As Fort Lauderdale probate attorneys can explain, it’s only when an estate gets somehow “stuck” in the process that administration through probate becomes necessary. One of the most common reasons an estate ends up in probate? The decedent never paid bothered to designate a beneficiary on basic banking and retirement accounts. If a person dies and no beneficiary is named or the form wasn’t updated to reflect new beneficiaries, that estate will likely need to go through probate if the contents are going to be appropriately released to heirs. Fort Lauderdale probate lawyers

Most people assume that any kind of estate planning solely involves the creation of wills and trusts and that probate litigation involves parties warring over who-gets-what. However, a fair amount of cases that wind up in probate involve some type of bank account or retirement account that didn’t list any designated beneficiary. Determining who has access to those accounts can be dicey.

A designated beneficiary on one of these forms is critical because not a will or even a court order will trump it. The accounts will be distributed according to the decedent’s designated beneficiary form.  Continue reading

A new report indicates walking may be hazardous for your health – in Florida, anyway. pedestrian accident attorney

Florida has long ranked among the most perilous places for people to move in non-motorized vehicles, and pedestrian accidents in Fort Lauderdale have been a major problem for residents and tourists alike. Now, the newest Dangerous by Design report by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition found 8 of the 10 deadliest metro areas for pedestrians were right here in the Sunshine State. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro area ranked No. 14. The other Florida locations where hazards were even higher were:

  • No. 1. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford
  • No. 2. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach
  • No. 3. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville
  • No. 4. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton
  • No. 5. Lakeland-Winter Haven
  • No. 6. Jacksonville
  • No. 8. Cape Coral-Fort Myers
  • No. 8. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater

Bakersfield, CA and Jackson, MS rounded out the top 10.

Between 2008 and 2017, U.S. pedestrian deaths spiked by nearly 36 percent. Nearly 50,000 people lost their lives in pedestrian accidents during that decade, which works out to more than 13-a-day, noted The Miami Herald. Put a different way: That’s the equivalent of a large jet going down once a month. If we had 5,000 people dying every single year in plane crashes, air travel would come to an immediate halt and we’d be looking into swift and decisive policy changes. Yet the problem is getting worse.  Continue reading

“Electronic wills are coming, whether lawyers like it or not,” blared a recent Forbes Magazine headline. The tone implies this is a definite “don’t like” for Florida estate lawyers. There is truth to this, but not for the reasons one might presume. Fort Lauderdale estate attorney

Electronic wills, or e-wills, are boilerplate legal documents purchased online, electronically signed and for a fraction of the cost of visiting an estate planning attorney. (These documents also exist for things like Florida power of attorney, health care power of attorney and even prenuptial agreements, but each is a separate discussion).

The presumption is estate attorneys may have their feathers ruffled that potential business is going to a bot. However, the real reason so many Florida estate attorneys are concerned about the prospect of widespread e-wills is their potential for serious error, abuse and fraud.

The worry is that this could lead to a substantial uptick in otherwise preventable Florida will contests (where the validity of a will is challenged on grounds like undue influence, fraud, lack of capacity or lack of formalities). Objectively by comparison, estate planning services are generally less expensive-time consuming.  Continue reading

A Florida teacher sexually assaulted by an 18-year-old student is trying to collect on a $3 million settlement from her former employer, the Miami-Dade School District, accused of endangering her and breaking the law, opening the door to a violent attack and serious injuries. Although sovereign immunity laws cap liability for government agencies (like school district) at $200,000 per individual, more can be awarded through the passage of a state lawmaker claims bill, for which the district lobbied and a legislator from Broward has already sponsored. Miami teacher injury lawyer

As Miami school injury lawyers, we are struck by a few different unique elements in this case. Firstly, most school assault injury lawsuits in Florida involve students who are either injured by other students or teachers. Schools unquestionably owe a duty of care to students over whom they have control and can be held liable in some circumstances for criminal assaults that occur on school property or are the perpetuated by school employees or contractors. It’s less common that claims are filed by teachers suffering injury by student. Not that it’s unheard of. An article published last year in Education Week revealed an estimated 6 percent of the nation’s nearly 4 million teachers were attacked by a student during the 2015-2016 school year. Another 10 percent were threatened with violence by a student. The article also highlighted a 2017 study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence indicating female teachers were more likely to be attacked than male teachers, with new teachers especially vulnerable to threats and violence.

This case hit all those marks. However, teacher injuries sustained in the course and scope of employment – whether a slip-and-fall or an attack by a student – are typically covered by no-fault workers’ compensation. For most work accidents and work injuries, this will be the exclusive remedy (only legal recourse) a teacher or school employee has against an employer district. Work injury exclusive remedy in Florida is spelled out in F.S. 440.11. The only exception is when the actions of an employer, as proven by clear and convincing evidence, reveal the employer deliberately intended to hurt the employee OR engaged in conduct employer knew (based on prior similar accidents or explicit warnings specifically identifying a known danger) was virtually certain to result in an employee injury or death AND that risk of danger wasn’t apparent to employee AND employer deliberately misrepresented or concealed the danger to prevent the employee from making an informed judgment about whether to perform the work.

Since changes were made to this state law in 2003, zero Florida work injury cases have met this exception to exclusive remedy threshold. Arguably, there is a good chance this teacher injury case might have met the proof burden, which is likely why the district chose to settle the case pre-trial for an amount in significant excess of statutory damage caps.  Continue reading

Lifeguards posted at beaches throughout Fort Lauderdale are supposed to save lives and reduce the risk of serious injury. However, for one sunbathing tourist, the actions of an on-duty lifeguard nearly ended in tragedy. Local media reported the North Carolina woman was soaking up the sun on Fort Lauderdale Beach in 2012 when a patrol vehicle ran over her. After deliberating for about three hours, jurors awarded her $250,000.

However, our Fort Lauderdale tourist injury lawyers know it’s likely that the damage caps applicable to Florida state and local government agencies in injury lawsuits, as imposed by F.S. 768.28, will reduce that award to $200,000 (the maximum any one person can receive in such a case; It’s possible more could be secured with a successful claims bill passed by state lawmakers, though that could take years). The problem with such caps, of course, is they are not only arbitrary but sometimes serve as a lawsuit deterrent, preventing all the most severe catastrophic injury claims. Further, they can make government agencies less likely to address dangerous conditions that threaten the taxpayers footing the bill.Fort Lauderdale tourist injury lawyer

In this case, plaintiff testified she’d been lying in the sand with her shorts draped over her face when a lifeguard operating a patrol vehicle drove over her. But it didn’t end there. The now-49-year-old says she was trapped under the vehicle. City officials dispute the claim the truck tires came in contact with plaintiff, instead arguing the bulk of her injuries, defense asserted, was the undercarriage of the truck. Still, the city accepted liability in the case.

The issue jurors were left to decide was whether plaintiff was entitled to recover monetary damages for her injuries and if so, how much. A doctor testifying for the defense argued the woman still had full range of motion in each of her limbs and neck and had suffered no permanent scarring form the incident. While the woman’s attorneys sought $1 million in damages, the city’s lawyers initially offered her just $40,000. That offer was increased the week before trial to $100,000. Jurors awarded her 150 percent more than the city’s most recent settlement offer. It appears they gave greater credence to the expert witness testimony of plaintiff’s physician, who testified about the ongoing health effects of the incident, as well as plaintiff’s own testimony, in which she showed the jury visible scars on her body she insisted were the result of the city-owned truck running over her. According to her account (supported by her doctor) the woman suffers permanent neurological damage and chronic pain, for which she routinely receives painful cortisone injections.  Continue reading

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