Florida religious institutions and leaders enjoy broad legal protections under both the state and U.S. Constitutions. And while there is nothing in law that expressly protects clergy, churches, temples, mosques, or religious schools from civil sexual abuse lawsuits, some have argued – with mixed success – that the First Amendment protects them from liability when the failures analyzed are decisions rooted in religious doctrine.suing church for sexual abuse in Florida

As a South Florida sexual abuse lawyer can explain, sexual assault and molestation are not protected under the umbrella of free religious practice or free speech. However, churches have argued that they cannot be held accountable by the government/courts for negligence in carrying out certain functions – such as hiring and retention – because those functions stem directly from church doctrine – and are therefore protected by the First Amendment.

That was the argument before the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Malicki v. Doe. At the time, the Florida Supreme Court rejected this argument from a church accused of protecting an alleged abuser – though the ruling was split and somewhat controversial in the legal community. Churches will still try to cite the First Amendment in their efforts to sidestep responsibility for failure to protect vulnerable congregants from predatory leaders and members. That makes it all the more important to hire a civil trial lawyer who knows what to expect and how to counter such assertions.

Challenges to Florida Sexual Assault Claims Against Churches

But even with a growing chorus of successful cases, one should not assume that suing a church for sexual abuse in Florida will be easy. Some of the most significant hurdles in church sexual abuse lawsuits are:

  • Statute of limitations. Florida has a 2-year statute of limitations for most all tort claims rooted in negligence, per F.S. 95.11. (It used to be 4 years, but the law recently changed to shorten that window.) That includes potential causes of action in a sex abuse case against an institution. That said, if the abuse was ongoing, the statute of limitations clock wouldn’t start until the last instance of abuse. However, there may be some exceptions, particularly if you suffered sexual molestation or abuse years ago, but you were a child. Intentional tort claims – filed directly against the abuser – in cases involving child sexual abuse can be filed at any point.
  • Comparative fault. This is less an issue when the victim is a child, but in cases involving adult or even older teen victims, church defendants may argue there was “consent” between the parties, and thus the accuser was comparatively at-fault for the relationship. They may even bring up the sexual history of the plaintiff. It holds less water when we outline the power imbalance between both parties, but it’s a potential obstacle nonetheless.
  • Lack of evidence. There are often few if any witnesses to what happened beyond the people involved. Even if it can be proven the abuse occurred, establishing that the church or its leaders were negligent can be difficult. It’s imperative that such claims only be handled by experienced civil sexual assault attorneys.

Holding Abusers – and Their Protectors – Accountable

As staunch advocates for sexual abuse survivors, we are committed to giving prospective clients all the information they need to decide if and how they want to go forward. Continue reading

Doctors who have a poor history of patient care – particularly with prior accusations of medical malpractice – may pose a risk to their patient’s safety. Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyer

In a study published last year in the JAMA Health Forum, researchers conducted a case-control study of nearly 900,000 licensed physicians in the U.S. with at least 1 paid claim for medical malpractice. What they found was that those doctors, regardless of specialty, were almost 4 times more likely to have at least one more paid claim for medical malpractice within 5 years, compared to doctors who had no previous paid claims. The likelihood of future claims rose with the number of previous claims – regardless of whether those paid claims were publicly disclosed or not.

Florida Medical Malpractice Claims Aren’t Random Events

Researchers noted (and our Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyers would concur) that this demonstrates that paid medical malpractice claims aren’t just random events. This is a common refrain we hear from doctor liability insurers and tort reform advocates. It’s simply not true.

The American Medical Association reports roughly 1 in 3 doctors “has been sued at some point in their careers.” But that analysis did not include paid claims. Researchers also admittedly used the terms “claims” and “lawsuits” interchangeably in a self-reported survey given to 14,000 doctors. Problem is, “claims” are unequivocally not the same as “lawsuits.”

As a Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyer can explain, Florida (and most other states) have significant pre-suit hurdles that must be cleared to even make it to the early stages of a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit. So the assertion that “1 in 3 doctors is sued” is a clear misrepresentation.

Actually, medical malpractice is fairly underreported. One of the many studies to support that claim was published in 2015 in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine. This was a cross-sectional study conducted over a few months at a handful of hospitals. Researchers found more than 50% of subjects (doctors, nurses, midwives, residents, interns, lab staff, etc.), had committed medical errors, but did not report them.

Another analysis published in the Scientific World Journal reviewed some 30 studies on medical practice, noting medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. More than 200,000 patients in the U.S. die every year due to medical errors. Barriers to reporting medical mistakes included:

  • Fear of consequence
  • Lack of feedback
  • Poor work climate/culture

And while there are insurance lobbyists who would argue that its coverage of medical malpractice liability coverage that drives up health care costs, research shows that medical errors – even those unreported – actually cost the healthcare system some $17 billion annually. (And that was in 2008 and only included “measurable medical errors,” such as pressure ulcers, postoperative infections, and missed diagnoses. The cost today is likely a whole lot higher.)

Evidence of Prior Claims May Not Be Admissible in Florida Medical Malpractice Cases

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Most Palm Beach car accident injury claims do not go to trial. Palm Beach car accident lawyer

Of course, every case is different. If your Palm Beach car accident lawyer has taken the step of filing a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf, there’s always a chance it will wind up before a jury. But even then, it’s unlikely.

Most Florida car accident cases are actually resolved without the need for litigation (filing a lawsuit) at all. Hiring a South Florida personal injury lawyer doesn’t make the prospect of a lawsuit or trial any more likely. Actually, we may be able to minimize the chance of a courtroom confrontation because we’re adept at negotiating effectively with insurance companies to fight for fair outcomes for our clients. Often the sooner we are brought onto a car accident case, the better the odds we can resolve it without going to court.

Still, we approach every case as if that’s a possibility. From the very outset, we’re meticulous in our investigation, evidence-gathering, researching, interviewing eyewitnesses and consulting with expert witnesses. We’re never bluffing to insurers about our preparedness to escalate to the next level if necessary. But trial is not a common – or even preferable – outcome for most parties involved, usually. If we can settle car accident claims fairly without filing a lawsuit – and especially without going to trial – that’s typically our aim.

Why Palm Beach Car Accident Cases So Rarely Make it to Trial

Some of the reasons why your Palm Beach car accident case is unlikely to go before a judge and jury: Continue reading

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in Florida, and the Sunshine State has an unintentional injury rate that’s 13% higher than the national average according to the Florida Department of Health. Top causes include car accidents, falls (particularly among older folks), pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, and violence. Palm Beach personal injury lawyer

But as far as whether such injuries are grounds to take legal action, such as filing a Palm Beach personal injury claim, there’s a lot of factors that must be considered. In our experience as longtime Palm Beach injury attorneys, there are major misconceptions about when someone can file a lawsuit, how easy it’s going to be, how much they’re going to win (if they win), how fast it will happen, and what sort of stakes personal injury lawyers have in all of it.

So here, we’re busting the top Palm Beach personal injury claim myths we hear most frequently as plaintiff attorneys in South Florida civil tort cases.

Myth No. 1 – I was seriously hurt, so I can sue.

Just because you were hurt does not mean you automatically have grounds for a personal injury claim. First, we have to establish that someone else was at fault in causing that injury, and second that they owed you a duty to use greater care or do things differently. A person injured in a car accident can only sue if the other person was negligent in causing that crash or exacerbating their injuries. And thanks to recent updates to Florida statutes, an injured plaintiff can only collect financially if they can prove they weren’t more than half responsible for their own injuries. T

They also need to make sure there’s actually money to collect. If there’s no insurance coverage and the at-fault person doesn’t personally have substantial assets, you may not have a viable claim.

Another point worth making here is that not every case requires a lawsuit. It is very possible (common, even) to successfully collect fair financial damages without ever setting foot in a courtroom. The key to ensuring what you collect is fair is consulting with a skilled personal injury lawyer. Continue reading

Every year, there are more than 33,000 violent crimes reported in Florida. (The actual number is probably higher, as some violent crimes – particularly sexual assaults – go unreported.) Only a fraction of these cases will be prosecuted in a criminal court. But that may not be the only avenue for survivors to seek justice. Some crime victims may have grounds to sue the property owner where the attack occurred. Palm Beach injury lawyer premises liability dangerous property breakin

At first blush, that notion might seem a bit nonsensical. After all, the only person who is “guilty” is the one who actually carried out the attack, right?

Yes and no.

As our Palm Beach injury lawyers can explain, it’s true that the only person(s) who will be held criminally responsible (i.e., “guilty”) for a criminal act are those who were directly involved. However, civil claim liability can extend beyond that individual. In fact, most civil claims that stem from a criminal attack are filed against third parties – very often the property owner where the incident occurred.

Liability in these cases stems not from the act itself, but from the failure to protect lawful guests from risks that were reasonably foreseeable by the property owner. This is particularly true if those lawful guests are invited onsite by the property owner for the purpose of financial benefit to the property owner. (Ex: A paying hotel guest would be a “public invitee” who would be owed the highest duty of care and protection by that hotel/property manager.) Continue reading

A recent sexual civil assault filed by a Florida woman centered on her alleged rape and resulting pregnancy involving a rideshare driver 5 years ago.Florida sexual assault lawsuit

Sexual assault civil tort claims in Florida are typically time-barred after 2 years, thanks to Florida’s statute of limitations, F.S. 95.11 (with some exceptions if the victim was a minor at the time or within the dependency of an abuser). However, this was filed as a federal claim in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, where the rideshare company is based. That state has a 10-year statute of limitations for civil sexual assault claims, which may be tolled beyond that if the individual didn’t immediately realize they’d been assaulted.

As West Palm Beach sexual abuse lawyers, we work with survivors of sexual assault and abuse to scour all possible means of recovery available through the civil claims process. Sometimes, that can involve claims directly against the attacker/abuser. More often though, just like in this case, claims are against a third-party, such as a property owner that failed to secure the site, an organization that failed to protect vulnerable populations, or an employer who was careless in hiring and/or employing dangerous individuals.

Florida civil sexual abuse lawsuits are entirely separate from criminal cases. It is not necessary to secure a criminal conviction to pursue a civil claim, and the proof burden is lower for civil cases than criminal matters.

Here, the defendant was the former employer of the driver accused in the attack. According to the complaint, the plaintiff is alleging the company is vicariously liable for the acts of its driver, but also directly negligent for failure to warn, breach of contract, product liability failure to warn (i.e., alleging the app was unreasonably dangerous for users), and negligent hiring, retention, and supervision. In addition to financial damages, she wants the rideshare platform to expand its safety features to include better background checks and driver monitoring. Continue reading

The parents of a young woman who died of septic shock recently won a $30 million judgment in a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctors they alleged were negligent in treating an ulcer. West Palm Beach Florida medical malpractice lawsuit

While such sizable damage awards are the exception in the Florida medical malpractice lawsuit landscape, part of what this case came down to was the fact that this young woman’s condition went untreated for so long – despite being known.

We understand as West Palm Beach medical malpractice attorneys that nothing is going to bring back a loved one who’s been lost as a result of medical negligence. But we are committed to fighting tirelessly for accountability on behalf of our clients – even if it takes nearly a decade, as this case did.

According to court records and media reports, this young woman was admitted to a hospital in Tampa with severe pain, stemming from an ulcer in her small intestine. She was discharged to a long-term care facility shortly thereafter, with orders that she was to undergo an endoscopy for that ulcer within a couple weeks. But the doctors at the long-term acute care facility never followed through with those orders. The patient continued to be treated for pain, constipation, nausea, and vomiting — symptoms that were at least partially caused by a drug she was prescribed, according to plaintiffs. The source of that pain, however, went untreated. Eventually, after two months, the ulcer perforated the wall of the small intestine, resulting in sepsis, a blood infection. At one point, she was sent to a nearby hospital for a brain scan, but that imaging result turned up no results – because the issue was the intestine perforation and sepsis. After days enduring what her parents described as agonizing pain, she died of septic shock. She was just 23-years-old.

It’s worth noting that had this woman been just 2 years older, Florida’s so-called “free kill” law would have barred her parents from any legal action at all. As it stands, if a patient is over the age of 25, unmarried, and without minor children under the age of 25, there is no survivor qualified to sue if they die as a result of medical malpractice. There have been efforts to repeal this law as recently as this year, but so far, they’ve been unsuccessful.

No parent should have to bury a child. A sudden death is made all the more painful when you know it didn’t have to happen this way.

As a West Palm Beach medical malpractice attorney can explain, the question in these cases is not simply whether a patient suffered a poor outcome. Instead, we must examine whether the health care professional and their team fell short of the “standard of care.” Continue reading

Trying to figure out how much your Florida personal injury lawsuit may be worth? It’s typically one of the first questions West Palm Beach injury lawyers are asked. Many factors are weighed in the answers we give, and one of those is the possibility of damage caps. West Palm Beach personal injury lawyer

“Damages” is legalese for the amount of money paid to someone who has been wronged by another. A damage “cap” is a cutoff, the maximum amount a person can receive for certain types of damages. There are two main types of damages in Florida personal injury cases: Compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are paid to compensate an individual for their losses. (Within compensatory damages, there are economic damages, which are actual financial losses like medical bills, lost wages, etc., and then there are non-economic damages, which are for non-tangible impacts like pain and suffering and mental anguish.) Punitive damages are paid to punish the wrongdoer for especially egregious conduct.

Generally speaking, Florida doesn’t impose damage caps on economic damages, but does for punitive damages and some types of non-economic damages. However, this assertion comes with a few caveats. Certain types of claims against certain defendants may be subject to caps on economic damages as well. With some claims, non-economic damages aren’t even considered — and punitive damages are usually a long-shot.

Working with an experienced West Palm Beach injury lawyer can help ensure you receive the maximum among of fair compensation allowable under Florida law.

Non-Economic Damages in Car Accident PIP Claims

When it comes to auto insurance, Florida is a no-fault state. That doesn’t mean you can’t sue a driver who caused a crash that resulted in serious injuries. You can – often collecting both economic and non-economic damages (though rarely punitive damages, unless it was a DUI case). But it does mean most injured drivers/passengers are first going to have to file a claim with their own personal injury protection (PIP) insurer.

Per F.S. 627.736, PIP provides coverage for a portion of your economic damages – namely medical bills and lost wages – up to $10,000. It also offers up to $5,000 in death benefits. However, it does not cover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. (Injured motorcyclists won’t have access to PIP coverage at all.)

Damage Caps on Tort Claims Against Government Defendants

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One might presume (or at least hope) that negligent doctors with a track record of paying large sums to settle multiple Florida medical malpractice lawsuits would have a tough time continuing to work in the health care industry. That person would be wrong.West Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyer

Not only is it rare for a doctor to lose their state-issued license to practice medicine in Florida, a new report by ProPublica revealed that several physicians repeatedly found negligent in providing patient care now earn healthy sums working for health insurers — approving or denying coverage for patient insureds.

The first example involved a surgeon who practiced for years in Brevard County, Florida — during which time he settled five Florida medical malpractice lawsuits for a collective $3 million. Among the patient allegations against him:

  • He negligently cut the aorta of a patient who underwent surgery for her gallbladder. She died just before her 40th birthday, leaving behind a husband and two teen daughters.
  • He negligently stapled and stitched a patient’s rectum to her vagina.

The surgeon denied these and three other claims against him, but ended up paying sizable settlements to each of those claimants for medical malpractice.

Those harmed might take comfort in the fact that he hasn’t worked as a practicing surgeon for a dozen years. However, he was hired to work as a medical director for a health insurance company, where he is a critical gatekeeper deciding which patient procedures will be covered by the insurer and which won’t. Not only that, he oversees more than a dozen other medical directors.

Although medical directors like him never see patients in person, they can overrule the doctors who do when they recommend medicines, tests, treatments, or procedures.

ProPublica reported that on average, a single medical director reviews 10,000+ patient claims for coverage a year. In a few cases, doctors astonishingly ruled on more than 10,000 claims in a single month. That breaks down to a single person ruling on more than 333 cases a day – and that assumes the doctor actually worked 30 days straight, which is unlikely.

Rubber-Stamping Health Insurance Coverage Denial

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A national sports league has been accused in a Florida sexual abuse lawsuit of trying to intimidate potential witnesses into silence – an action the judge warned could be interpreted by a jury as gross negligence. Such a finding would be noteworthy because in Florida civil sexual abuse cases, evidence of gross negligence opens the door to punitive damages. That could possibly triple the amount of damages the defendant would have to pay.

Gross negligence is defined in F.S. 768.72 as conduct so reckless or wanting in care that it constitutes a disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to it.Florida sexual abuse lawsuit by former tennis player

The United States Tennis Association, which is being sued by a young player (K.M.) alleging she was sexually assaulted by a coach while training at the USTA’s Orlando headquarters, is trying to suppress damaging testimony of another player.

In her sexual abuse lawsuit against USTA, plaintiff K.M. says the tennis organization negligently failed to protect her from an allegedly predatory coach (age 34) while she was training with him away from home as a vulnerable 19-year-old. She’d been with the organization since she was 12. She tried to quit several years in, in part citing harsh treatment from prior coaches. But the USTA reportedly convinced her to stay and specifically paired her with the coach in question.

The player whose testimony the USTA is now trying to shut down is Pam Shriver, a well-known 21-time Grand Slam doubles champ and popular sports commentator. She’s also survivor of sexual abuse who has been vocal about her experiences being preyed upon by adults in the sport as a minor.

Tennis League Lawyer Accused of Trying to Intimidate Witness

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