As longtime South Florida medical malpractice attorneys, one of the most heartbreaking things over the years has been telling parents of adult patients – and adult children of unmarried patients – that they have no legal recourse after their loved one has died due to medical negligence. That’s because the Florida’s medical malpractice and wrongful death laws protect negligent doctors and insurers at the expense of trusting patients and bereaved families. State law specifies that if an adult over the age of 25 dies as a result of medical practice and they did not have a surviving spouse or minor children (under the age of 25), no other family member can recover damages for pain and suffering. West Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyer

Put another way: If an adult over the age of 25 dies of medical malpractice in Florida, the only people allowed to pursue a legal claim would be a surviving spouse and/or minor children (under 25).

Unfortunately, most people don’t learn about this until after their loved one has died. Some scenarios that have resulted:

  • The mother and longtime girlfriend of a 51-year-old man who died following mistakes during an open heart operation could not find an attorney to take their case.
  • The three adult children of a 59-year-old divorced woman who died following a botched bowel surgery learned they had no legal claim.
  • The parents of a 34-year-old unmarried woman with no children had no recourse when doctors failed to diagnose breast cancer until it had advanced to the final stages, leading to her early death.

Florida is the only state in the country with such a law. Not only that, but we have a sizable population of widowed seniors, unmarried college students, and middle-aged single and divorce people whose kids are over 25 or who don’t have any kids at all. If they died in a car accident or because of a dangerous condition on someone else’s property, their loved ones could pursue damages for pain and suffering. But if they die as a result of medical malpractice, their loved ones are left with no means to hold accountable negligent doctors, surgeons, nurses, and hospitals.

“No one should be valued less just because they are unmarried, over the age of 25, or have grown children,” said West Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyer David Halberg. Continue reading

Following a serious injury in South Florida, you may recognize the value of talking to a personal injury lawyer about a potential case. But how will a West Palm Beach injury lawyer evaluate your claim? More often than not, folks have no idea what to expect.

Here, we offer a bit of insight into how injury lawyers will review your case, what points will be most relevant, and what information/documentation you can have on hand to get the most out of your first meeting. West Palm Beach injury lawyer

What is an Initial Consultation?

First thing’s first: Explaining the initial consult. This can happen in-office. In some cases, we come to you. More typically, we begin our discussions over the phone or in a video conference, for everyone’s convenience.

Most personal injury lawyers offer free initial consultations. It’s a risk-free opportunity for you to ask questions, get a sense of whether you have a case (and what it might be worth), and obtain an outline of possible challenges you may encounter. It’s also a chance for the attorney to determine whether they have the skills and the resources to take on your case. In a sense, you’re both interviewing each other.

Personal injury cases in Florida are accepted by lawyers on a contingency fee basis. That means you do not pay attorney’s fees unless and until you win. If you win (usually in settlement negotiations, but sometimes at trial), the attorney will be paid a pre-agreed-upon percentage of what you won (somewhere between 25-40 percent, depending on case complexity, attorney experience, etc.). If you do not win, the attorney does not collect payment. For this reason, injury lawyers must be careful about which cases they accept.

The good news for prospective clients is that your lack of upfront payment will not deter you from pursuing a strong claim. You also get the benefit of a straightforward answer about the viability and value of your claim from the beginning.

Examining Fault

One of the most fundamental elements of any tort claim rooted in negligence is that of fault. When we get the rundown of events, we’re looking for evidence of which parties may be at fault, and to what extent.

That might sound fairly simple. But looking at your case through the lens of a personal injury lawyer means we’re considering how it looks to the insurers, as well as a potential judge/jury.

For example, if you were hit by a vehicle whose driver was drunk, you’re going to presume the driver is at-fault. And that could be. However, an injury lawyer will want to know more. Was the driver underage or known to be an alcoholic? If so, the bar that served him/her could be held legally liable under the state’s dram shop laws. If the driver was operating a vehicle that was owned by someone else, the vehicle owner could be held vicariously liable because Florida considers motor vehicles to be dangerous instrumentalities, per a 1920’s-era Florida Supreme Court case.

If you’re pursuing a medical malpractice claim, you might think clearly the doctor is at-fault. But we’ll be looking at who actually employed the doctor (and it isn’t always the hospital), as they may be vicariously liable under the legal doctrine respondeat superior, which is Latin for, “let the master answer.” Traveling nurse agencies may have some degree of liability. And facilities may have some responsibility if their processes and protocols fell short of the applicable standard of care.

It’s important to properly determine fault at the outset so that we can identify those responsible in the claim. Continue reading

Jurors awarded nearly $300,000 to a woman who suffered a broken leg and shoulder in a South Florida slip-and-fall injury that occurred on a cruise ship seven years ago. As our Palm Beach premises liability lawyers can explain, proving legal responsibility in such cases is rarely a cakewalk, particularly in a higher-value claim. Slip-and-fall cases especially have a high proof burden, as outlined in F.S. 768.0755.Cruise ship injury lawyer Florida

In this case, according to Daily Business Review, the 64-year-old passenger was reportedly walking across an exterior passageway of the ship when she fell. The ship, which departed from Tampa, was in the Caribbean Sea at the time of her fall. As a result of the fall, she sustained serious injuries to both her leg and shoulder (a fractured left femur and a displacement fracture of her right shoulder).

The day after the accident, she disembarked the ship and was treated in Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Hospital Medical Center, where she had a rod placed in her leg and plates and screws placed in her shoulder. She endured nearly two weeks in the hospital, followed by nearly a month of inpatient rehabilitation therapy. There were also numerous follow-up orthopedic evaluations, with treatment concluding about five months after the trip. Ongoing health issues stemming from the fall include residual pain and certain limitations. She cannot easily raise her right arm anymore, and long periods of walking leave her in great pain. Despite reaching maximum medical improvement, these problems persist and may never go away.

In her subsequent South Florida slip-and-fall injury lawsuit (filed in federal court), she alleged the owner/operator of the ship was negligent in creating a dangerous condition that resulted in her fall. Specifically, she said her leg caught on a lounge chair, one of many chairs aligned in a row on a narrow, curved passageway next to a restaurant. The woman was walking behind her husband at the time because the walkway wasn’t wide enough for them to walk side-by-side. Her husband walking in front of her, she said, obscured her view of the chair. At trial, a cruise ship safety expert for the plaintiff testified that the chairs presented a walking hazard in that they substantially reduced the amount of space pedestrians had while traversing the walkway. Continue reading

Recently, a 29-year-old car accident victim was awarded $16 million+ following a protracted Florida legal battle against her own auto insurance company. Although multi-million dollar verdicts are not the norm for most Florida crash cases, our Palm Beach car accident attorneys are sometimes asked about what type of damages one can expect in a typical crash case.Palm Beach car accident lawyer

It’s important to note that every auto accident case is different. Still, factors that can play into the amount a person expects to receive can include:

  • The severity of injuries involved.
  • Who was at-fault (and to what extent – if at all – the plaintiff/injured person shares fault).
  • Whether the at-fault parties are adequately insured.
  • How many victims there were (the more victims, typically the less money available per victim).
  • Whether the injured parties are covered by uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Now let’s look at the facts of the recent $16 million car accident verdict, as detailed by The Florida Times-Union. Continue reading

Massage parlors are places with dark rooms, closed doors, and skin-to-skin contact with virtual strangers. Industry ethics codes and state laws are supposed to protect both clients and employees from predatory behavior, but allegations of Florida sexual abuse during massages or at massage parlors have been prevalent in recent years. In addition to busts for human trafficking and prostitution at some operations, there have been numerous civil lawsuits filed against spa owners.West Palm Beach sexual assault

A few years ago, Buzzfeed reported there were dozens of complaints in Florida, California, and other states stemming from alleged sexual assaults at the Massage Envy chain, which has more than 1,200 locations across the country. As our West Palm Beach sexual abuse lawyers can explain, journalists uncovered more than 180 individuals who had filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and/or state board complaints against Massage Envy spas, their employees, and the national company. Many of those claims were allegedly mishandled by the chain. In some cases, managers reportedly dismissed claims for lack of merit based on alleged victims’ refusals to return to the site of the alleged assaults to provide a statement.

In 2018, nearly a dozen female customers in Palm Beach County accused Massage Envy of sexual assault at nine separate Florida locations. Most of those cases involved allegations that massage therapists had touched women in their private areas without consent. Plaintiffs alleged that the company failed to protect clients in a vulnerable setting by systematically and intentionally concealing a “rampant problem” of massage therapists accused of sexually assaulting customers. The company allegedly had an internal policy of urging staff to avoid calling police in cases of reported sexual assault – a practice that purportedly protected both the brand and profit of the company, not the safety and well-being of customers who had no reason to suspect they may be in danger. The women alleged they sought treatment for conditions like painful spinal injuries, and instead were sexually assaulted and exploited.

The company denied liability, but said it was partnering with an outside agency to review policies, improve training, and ensure sexual assault allegations were properly reported to local law enforcement. Continue reading

Good Samaritan laws have been enacted throughout the country with the initial intention of protecting medical personnel from legal liability for rendering aid to someone in a medical emergency outside a traditional hospital setting. Here in Florida, F.S. 768.13 protects not only health care providers and those licensed to practice medicine but any person from liability when they gratuitously and in good faith rendered emergency medical care or treatment either in direct response to an emergency situation or arising out of a declared public health emergency. West Palm Beach injury lawyers

While a health care professional’s code of ethics might compel them to offer medical assistance in an emergency situation, the state’s Good Samaritan law does not require anyone to help others in an emergency situation. However if they choose to do so, they must exercise reasonable care. The law will impose liability when someone’s failure to exercise reasonable care exacerbates the risk of injury to another person. It doesn’t apply in cases where the victim rejects help or when the volunteer is somehow compensated for their help.

But what happens when the Good Samaritan is the one injured?

As South Florida car accident lawyers, we’ve come across this scenario more than once. Recently in Riverview, Florida, a Good Samaritan in his 20s was killed while assisting others just after a multiple vehicle crash on I-75 just before 3 a.m. Local news outlets reported a 19-year-old in a Toyota swerved out of his lane, striking the back of a semi-truck before overturning in the outside lane of the highway. The semi truck driver, who was not hurt, stopped and pulled over on the shoulder to assist. The driver of a third vehicle then slowed down to pull over onto the shoulder when a fourth vehicle failed to slow down and rear-ended the third vehicle. Then the Good Samaritan approached and pulled over to help the other motorists. Just then, a semi truck carrying plywood approached, struck the first vehicle that was turned over on its side, then the back of the next car which was shoved into the next car. The Good Samaritan was struck by that third vehicle. The semi truck pulling the plywood crashed into a guardrail, where the load separated and fell into a ravine. The Good Samaritan was the only one killed. Continue reading

Florida personal injury lawsuits are efforts to compel a negligent party (defendant) to pay monetary compensation for causing some preventable harm to the person who was hurt (plaintiff). There are, however, a number of legal defenses that can be raised to either prevent the defendant from being found legally responsible (liable) or reduce the amount of money they have to pay. One example is called the “alcohol defense.” It was recently raised in the case of Mainstreet Entertainment Inc. v. Guardianship of Jacquelyn Faircloth before Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal. The court tossed a $28 million+ verdict against two bars because the lower court improperly prohibited one of them from asserting the alcohol defense.Florida injury lawsuits

As West Palm Beach injury lawyers can explain, the alcohol defense is outlined in F.S. 768.36. It states that in civil actions, a plaintiff can’t recover for any damages for loss or injury if the court finds that at the time the plaintiff was injured:

  • They were under the influence of any alcohol or drug to the extent their normal faculties were impaired OR their blood alcohol level was 0.08 percent or higher AND
  • As a result of that intoxication, the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at-fault for their own injuries.

This is especially noteworthy in Florida because our courts otherwise abide by a system of pure comparative fault, per F.S. 768.81. What that means is a plaintiff’s financial damages will be reduced by whatever percentage of the fault they shared – up to 99 percent. So if you’re 75 percent liable, you can still collect damages for the other 25 percent that is someone else’s fault. Many other states won’t let a person recover any damages at all if they are more than 49-51 percent liable for their own injuries. A few states won’t let you recover anything at all if you are even 1 percent at-fault. In Florida, you can theoretically be 99 percent at-fault and still recover on that 1 percent of damages (though that scenario isn’t ideal).

The alcohol defense, however, can eliminate your right to compensation entirely if you 51 percent or more at-fault for what happened because of alcohol or drug intoxication.

So that brings us to the Mainstreet Entertainment case. This was a drunk driving tragedy involving two young people – one a pedestrian and one behind the wheel – both allegedly intoxicated. The question was apportionment of liability. Continue reading

Sexual abuse in Florida schools can be the basis for both criminal charges and civil claims. A recent example involves a Naples elementary school teacher convicted last month of more than 20 counts of child molestation (sexual assault of a child under 12). He’s now serving a 25-year prison term.South Florida sexual abuse lawyer

Based on the number of survivors (20), this was the second-largest case of sexual abuse by an educator in Florida since 2014. Last year, parents filed lawsuits accusing the Collier County School District of mishandling the sexual abuse allegations and failing to protect their children from years of molestation despite blaring red flags – including a specific allegation from a student to half a dozen employees three months before the offender was removed from school.

The district told The Naples Daily News that as soon as it learned of the allegations, the teacher was expelled from campus and later fired by the school board upon his arrest. The police say the teacher sexually abused young students from the day he started work until the day he was removed from the school – in the classroom, on school grounds, in the soccer field, in his car, and in the homes of children he tutored.

Sworn statements made to law enforcement indicate that six school employees – including teachers, administrators, and a school recess monitor – were informed of allegations made by a girl three months prior to the teacher’s removal from the school. The girl told the recess monitor that the teacher had sexually abused her friend. That information was then passed on to the five other employees. Yet it appears nothing was done, the NDN reported. In that three-month window, the police say, the teacher continued to abuse students – and even started molesting three more. Yet in response to a lawsuit filed by one of the survivor’s parents, the school insists it could not have known about the teacher’s “propensities” prior to the date of his arrest. Continue reading

As experienced Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyers, we’re closely familiar with the 2004 Florida law passed overwhelmingly by voters with the intention of preventing dangerous doctors from practicing medicine. It’s a “three strikes” rule for medical malpractice that seems fairly straightforward: A doctor with three “strikes” of medical malpractice will lose their license to practice. Unfortunately, we know all-too-well how ineffective it is, thanks to follow-up efforts by the state legislature, which made it nearly impossible for the state board to actually levy a strike. Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyer

The “Three Strikes Rule” was passed as an amendment to Chapters 458 and 459 of Florida Statutes. The law holds that if a physician has three or more incidents of medical malpractice (as established by a standard of clear and convincing evidence), they will be forbidden from the continued practice of medicine in Florida. A “strike” can be derived from a finding of medical malpractice by one of the following:

  • A final order by an administrative agency following a hearing.
  • A final order by a judge/jury in a civil case.
  • A binding arbitration decision.

It should be noted that medical malpractice isn’t as easy to prove as the typical negligence case. It’s not enough to show the absence of ordinary care. Rather, one must prove – via expert witness testimony from a similarly-situated professional – that the physician failed to abide the applicable standard of care, which depends on that doctor’s education, skill, specialty, and resources. But even with this higher standard and even with the three strikes law, doctors with checkered professional histories continue to practice.

Numerous journalistic deep-dives and scholarly studies in recent years – from NBC-5 in West Palm Beach to The Palm Beach Post – have highlighted this legal loophole. Yet as our medical malpractice lawyers can attest, the problem persists, with Florida doctors who’ve paid out 3+ medical malpractice claims continuing to practice, often with patients none-the-wiser. News outlets have reported there are hundreds of still-practicing doctors who have collectively paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in Florida medical malpractice lawsuits stemming from the deaths of more than 1,000 patients over 10 years. Continue reading

Can a Florida restaurant be liable for the dangerous condition of an adjacent sidewalk, even if the portion of pavement in question is technically owned by the city? In a pending South Florida trip-and-fall lawsuit, the answer is: Maybe. As our Palm Beach injury lawyers can explain, more than one entity can be liable for a dangerous walkway condition. Here, the final ruling is likely to come down to the level of control the restaurant had over the sidewalk. Palm Beach restaurant injury lawyer

Gass v. Chops City Grill, Inc., is a case out of Naples recently weighed by Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeals. Both the original plaintiff – a woman who was injured after tripping on a section of sidewalk – and the City of Naples, a co-defendant in the case, appealed the lower court’s summary judgment in favor of a local restaurant. The restaurant had successfully argued it had no duty of care to the woman or responsibility to maintain the sidewalk, which it didn’t own. But the appellate court reversed, finding the restaurant hadn’t met its proof burden. The case will now proceed against both defendants.

According to court records, plaintiff was with her then-boyfriend in 2015, on their way to meet another couple at a Naples restaurant. Her boyfriend dropped her off in front of a different restaurant (defendant’s) before driving away to find a parking spot. After plaintiff got out of the car, she stepped off the street and onto the sidewalk. Within a couple of steps, she fell to the ground and was hurt. She wasn’t sure the exact spot where she fell, but it was an area with pavers in front of the defendant’s restaurant. At the time she fell, she said she wasn’t paying close attention to the ground, as she was looking around at which direction she needed to go.

In her subsequent premises liability lawsuit, she initially named only the city. Later, she added the restaurant as a co-defendant. She alleged that as a business invitee to the City of Naples, the city owed her a duty of care to maintain the premises/sidewalk in a way that ensured the walkway was safe. Instead, it was defective/dangerous. The city’s failure, she asserted, amounted to negligence and was the proximate cause of her injury.

She lodged a similar complaint against the restaurant, which she said had negligently or incorrectly installed the pavers, making them unsafe, defective, and dangerous, resulting in a public tripping hazard. She further alleged the restaurant knew about this dangerous condition and failed to remedy it. Continue reading

Contact Information