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STRESSED IN SARASOTA – INVOLVED IN A LAWSUIT?

No matter which side you are on, a lawsuit is stressful. Lawsuits are so stressful that the Multi-axial Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders includes litigation as a stressor. Studies have shown that litigation stress will cause both physical and emotional responses. Physical responses include, but are not limited to, trouble sleeping, headaches, chest pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, and exacerbations of pre-existing conditions or illness. Emotional reactions include anger, anxiety, depression, guilt, and paranoia. Marital and family conflicts are also widespread consequences of litigation stress.

So what can be done to alleviate some of this stress? First, you need to get to the source of the problem. Why does litigation cause such anxiety? Often people feel disconnected from the process. Their concern arises from the unpredictable and alien nature of civil suits. Therefore, receiving information from someone acquainted with the process, rules, and terminology will go a long way to helping you deal with stress. That person should be a Board Certified Attorney who practices exclusively in the area of law that is the subject matter of your lawsuit. They should also be someone that you have met with, preferably in person; someone with whom you feel comfortable; someone who freely answers your questions; someone you feel confident in keeping you informed and protecting your interests.

Do not allow the physical and emotional issues you are experiencing to fester. Seek help from medical and mental health providers. Consider meditation or other relaxing modalities such as massage, mindfulness, adult coloring, and reading. Take a time-out from thinking about your lawsuit and spend time with family and friends. Keep perspective; do not allow the lawsuit to consume or define you. Remember a lawsuit is just one relatively small period in an otherwise long life.

There is no way to completely eliminate stress from a lawsuit but retaining a qualified attorney as soon as possible goes a long way towards reducing your anxiety.

Road Rage In Sarasota Florida

Road rage is a universal issue that exists even within our lovely community of Sarasota, Florida. In April of 2018, an extreme incident of road rage occurred when an altercation erupted between a driver and motorcyclist. The driver rammed his car into the motorcyclist pushing him off the road. The whole incident was caught on tape and police identified the vehicle and driver.

The suspect was arrested, and thankfully, the motorcyclist did not suffer any severe injuries. This extreme case of road rage is irregular; however, road rage involved accidents happen daily.

The number of accidents caused by road rage is steadily increasing at a rate of 7% each year. Data gathered by Safemotorist.com indicates that 66% of recent traffic fatalities can be linked to aggressive driving. Every year about thirty (30) murders are linked to road rage.

So, what can be done; it starts with each driver choosing to moderate their response to what they perceive as bad driving on the part of other drivers. If someone cuts you off chances are it was probably a mistake and even if it wasn’t it is not worth getting into a rage. Responses such as blaring the horn, flashing your lights, shouting or reacting with aggressive driving will escalate the situation. Instead, shake it off and try to avoid the driver.

Law enforcement can help by pulling drivers over for aggressive driving. Consistent tailgating and weaving in and out of traffic certainly call for police intervention. In addition, public service announcements on TV and radio along with street signs cautioning people against road rage bring awareness to this increasing danger. Together we can all help in cutting down episodes of road rage and resulting accidents and deaths.

If you or a loved one are involved in an accident involving road rage, you should immediately contact a Board-Certified Civil Trial Attorney who specializes in accident cases.

Are Bars in Sarasota Liable for Serving Drinks to Someone Who then Gets Into a Car Accident?

The answer is ‘maybe.’ Under Florida Law a bar is only liable for injury or damage that results from intoxication if it furnished alcoholic beverages to a person who is under the legal drinking age or someone who is known to them as a person habitually addicted to alcohol. These laws are called Dram Shop laws and currently forty-two states and Washington D.C. have these laws that impose liability on sellers of alcoholic beverages for the negligent acts of their intoxicated customers. These laws allow for injured victims of a drunk-driving accident to potentially recover from a third party, such as a bar.

These laws could even allow the drunk driver or his family to recover against the bar. Just ask Tiger Woods who is being sued by the family of a twenty-four year old man who worked as a bartender at an establishment he owned. The allegations are that this bartender was known to be an alcoholic by the other employees. Despite this knowledge, the young man was served by another bartender for three hours after his shift had ended. It is alleged that this person could barely walk. He then got behind the wheel of his Corvette and began to drive when he apparently lost control, crashed, and was killed. The mother of this young man has filed a wrongful death case against Tiger Woods’ establishment. They hope that this will put his bar and others on notice of their potential liability for serving alcohol to someone to the point that they are impaired, cannot drive safely, and therefore create a situation where they are a danger to themselves and others. This establishment, where the alcohol was served, could ultimately be held accountable.

If you or a loved one are injured as a result of an accident involving an intoxicated driver you should immediately contact a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer who specializes in injury cases so that your rights can be fully protected.

Florida #2 In Country For Pedestrian Fatalaties

Pedestrian deaths are at the highest numbers nationwide in the last three decades. Florida has risen to the second highest number of pedestrian fatalities in the country. Meanwhile, fatalities in auto accidents have actually gone down.

What is causing this alarming increase in pedestrian fatalities and why in particular is Florida so high? One theory is distracted walking; more people are walking while on their cell phones and therefore not focused on the road and traffic. Another theory is that rising populations with more concentrated urban populations and higher tourism create more scenarios in which pedestrians and automobiles are having deadly encounters. This may explain why Florida and California are the top two in pedestrian deaths as they are also two of the top states for tourism. Another factor is walking under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Ironically, as drunk driving is going down due to more stringent law enforcement efforts, drunk walking is going up. Pedestrians, like drivers, need to be alert and aware of their surroundings and not distracted in order to avoid being involved in an accident. Both drivers and pedestrians need to be familiar with and obey traffic rules and respect that roads belong to cars, motorcycles, bicyclists and pedestrians and that everyone has a duty to look out for each other.

Municipalities also need to do their part by having clear and visible warning signs advising drivers to yield to pedestrians, or better yet, directing drivers to stop for pedestrians in areas with high volume pedestrian traffic. There needs to be sufficient crosswalks to deter pedestrians from crossing elsewhere and street lights directing pedestrian traffic. Of course, there needs to be enforcement of traffic rules for both cars and pedestrians.
In Florida and nationwide we need to make pedestrian safety a priority, and with a common sense approach we can reverse this disturbing course of increased pedestrian fatalities and the trend of having the highest death rates in thirty years.

If you or a loved one is involved in a pedestrian accident you should immediately consult with a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer who specializes in accident cases.

Florida’s Accident Report Privilege

In Florida there are two types of privileges; those that are long standing and set out in the Florida Evidence Code and those that are simply statutory privileges, i.e. created by statute.

Accident Report Privilege is the latter and falls under Fla. Stat. 316.066(7). The purpose behind statutory privileges are similar to the ones delineated in the evidence code in that they exist to allow people to speak freely by not allowing their statements to be used against them in subsequent litigation.

When law enforcement comes to the scene of an accident, they have a duty to interview the persons involved and prepare an accident report. The accident report privilege helps to ensure that the investigating officer will get complete and truthful information from the persons involved in the accident so an accurate accident report is generated. If the statements could be used in subsequent litigation then the parties would not be inclined to cooperate with law enforcement and law enforcement would be unable to prepare an accurate accident report. Having accurate accident reports serves a public interest and that public interest is more important to society than an individual’s desire to use those statements in subsequent litigation.

Accident scenes are typically not conducive to confidential communication. Thankfully, the communication does not have to be confidential in order to fall under the accident report privilege. Should that communication to law enforcement be overheard by another party such as a witness, that communication is still protected and cannot be used in subsequent litigation.

Like all privileges, there are exceptions to the accident report privilege. Identity of the driver is an exception. In addition, an excited utterance or spontaneous statement which is not in response to a question by law enforcement does not fall under the privilege. Statements made by witnesses who are not involved in the accident do not fall under the privilege. The privilege only applies to the driver, owner, occupants and those directly involved in the accident that have a statutory duty to speak to law enforcement regarding the accident.

In addition, like all privileges the privilege can be waived by failing to object to use of privileged communications at trial. Where this privilege appears different than those delineated in the evidence code such as attorney client privilege is that recent case law allows for there to be inquiry into those privileged communications at deposition. In a deposition, if a party is asked to divulge any communication between the attorney and client, the attorney would immediately object and instruct the witness not to answer that question and the court would uphold that objection. Suppose instead the party is asked to divulge what they told the investigating officer at an accident scene, the attorney would still voice an objection as to the admissibility but could not get away with instructing the client not to answer that question. Answering the question does not waive the privilege and that information will still not be admissible at trial; however, that information may be used to discover admissible evidence that can be used at trial. One could argue a more accurate name for this privilege would be the accident report inadmissibility rule.
In light of the complexities of the accident report privilege, you should always consult a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney who specializes in accident cases if you are involved in an automobile accident.

The Confusing Maze of Accidents and Insurance Coverage

You have been involved in an auto accident and as a result of that accident your car is badly damaged and you are injured. Who pays to fix your car and how do you get your medical bills paid?

Seems like the answer should be easy. If the accident was your fault then your insurance pays for everything, and if it was the other driver’s fault then their insurance pays for everything; right?

Actually, it is not that simple. In every accident regardless of who is at fault the first layer of insurance coverage for your medical bills comes from your own insurance company under Personal Injury Protection (PIP), also known as no-fault insurance. In the State of Florida, everyone must carry at least $10,000.00 in PIP coverage. You can also choose to have additional coverage called Medical Payments or Medpay which is also no- fault insurance and can cover your medical bills regardless of who is at fault for the accident.

PIP insurance can also reimburse an insured for a percentage of lost wages and mileage to and from your medical providers while Medpay only pays for medical bills.

Now you might be thinking, ok I get it, my PIP will pay my medical bills and lost wages regardless of whether I am at fault. Again, not that easy. PIP pays 80% of your medical bills that are reasonable, related and necessary. In other words, PIP does not pay 100% of your medical bills and can reject part or all of the medical bills that do not fit their criteria. Your insurance company can also cut off your PIP coverage by sending you to a doctor who says that current or future treatment is not reasonable, related or necessary. To muddy the waters even more the law regarding PIP benefits was revised January 1, 2013, requiring an injured party to get medical treatment within 14 days from the date of the accident which must qualify as an emergency medical condition (EMC). If you do not meet the EMC qualification then your PIP coverage will go from Ten Thousand ($10,000.00) dollars in coverage to only Two Thousand Five Hundred ($2,500.00) in coverage.

Assuming you meet all of the PIP criteria and you get the full $10,000.00 in PIP coverage, what happens after that coverage has been exhausted? What if you still need more medical treatment? Who is going to pay those bills? Hopefully you have a health insurance policy that can start paying for any medical bills once your PIP has been exhausted. If your health insurance does pay for any medical treatment and you later recover from the other driver, your health insurance will have a right to get reimbursed for what they paid. This is called a right of subrogation which entitles the health provider to assert a lien against any recovery.

What if you do not have any health insurance, then what happens? There are a few options. You can pay the bills yourself with the hope of recovering the money back when you resolve your case against the other driver, assuming they are at fault. Another option is that you can ask the provider to wait for payment until the case has been resolved against the other driver, again assuming they are at fault. In that case the provider will usually require you to sign a “Letter of Protection” (LOP) which is a contract that ensures that they will get paid out of any recovery/settlement you get.

Can the other driver’s insurance company pay for your medical bills once your PIP has been exhausted? Typically, the other insurance company will not directly pay any medical bills and instead they will offer a settlement that they feel adequately covers all of your damages, and from that settlement your medical providers will be paid for outstanding medical bills and your health insurance company will be reimbursed for any bills they paid.
Will the other driver’s insurance, assuming that driver was at fault for the accident, automatically cover all of the outstanding bills and health insurance liens?

Again, unfortunately it is not that easy. The insurance company will only offer settlement funds for damages that they believe are related, reasonable and necessary. They will only pay up to their insured’s policy coverage. In the State of Florida there is no legal requirement to have Bodily Injury (BI) insurance which is the coverage that pays for damages related to an accident in which you are at fault. So what happens if the at-fault driver does not have any BI coverage or they only have a very small policy that is not sufficient to cover your damages? Hopefully, you have what is called UM/UIM coverage which stands for Uninsured or Underinsured coverage. If you do have that coverage then that will be the next level of insurance to which you can look to cover your damages. Keep in mind that unlike your PIP insurance, in the case of UM or UIM, you must prove that the other driver was at fault and that they do not have any or a sufficient amount of bodily injury insurance coverage to fully compensate you for your damages.

Who pays for the damage to your car? If the other driver was at fault then their insurance company will pay for any damage to your car related to the accident up to their insured’s policy, which under Florida law must be at least $10,000.00. This insurance is called Property Damage (PD). Other insurance that can pay for the damage to your car is on your own policy and is called Collision insurance. Not everyone has Collision on their insurance policy and Collision insurance typically has a $500.00 deductible that you have to pay. Under both of these coverages you will be limited to the policy limits. The insurer can also choose to total-out the vehicle rather than having it fixed, if repairing the vehicle will cost more than totaling it. In a total-loss the insurance company will pay what it deems to be the current market value of your vehicle which is not the same as the replacement cost for the vehicle.
Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) is an optional coverage you can purchase when buying a vehicle that will pay the difference between the actual cash value of the vehicle and the balance still owed to financing. Keep in mind, the second you drive the vehicle off the lot following the purchase, the value of the vehicle drops substantially, so GAP protection is always recommended.

As you can see, this blogpost was appropriately titled. Insurance and auto accidents are complicated, which is why if you are involved in an accident with injury you should always consult a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer who specializes in personal injury cases. A good attorney will know all the hoops that have to be jumped through to ensure that any and all insurance coverage is available to you. In addition, your attorney will make sure that all of your legal rights are protected and that you have all the information you need to make informed decisions regarding your case. A good attorney will always put their clients’ interest first and will be someone to whom you will be comfortable referring your family and friends.

A few words about client contact

I like to read articles in legal journals about trends in law firm practice. A fashionable topic is the way in which lawyers have contact with clients. Typically this issue is cast in the light of new forms of technology. You hear about how certain clients (typically younger ones) are not interested in the old school manner of telephone conferences and in-office meetings. On the other hand, I have had clients (or the parents of clients) who require a more personal touch and want to look their attorney in the eye when discussing their case. Simply put, this is not an issue for our firm. We have made a commitment to being a client-centered law firm that will directly meet the needs of each and every client. That requires flexibility and nimbleness. This is one of the advantages of being a smaller firm. Some of my clients require extra hand holding and need to be kept up to date on a frequent basis. Done. Others prefer to put the case in my hands and only hear from me at critical junctures. Also fine. The practice of law is a profession, but it is also a service industry. The needs of our clients must be first and foremost. As these needs vary from client to client, we as attorneys must be willing and able to meet the individual needs of each client. At Zimmerman and Zimmerman we commit to providing you the type and amount of contact that you desire. The matters in which we represent you are often the most difficult and stressful events of your life. Being there for you when and how you need us is the least we can do for you.

Selling Alcohol to Minors in Sarasota

 

Fifteen convenience store clerks were cited for selling alcohol to minors in a crackdown by the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office.   All of the citations took place from June 30 to July 1, 2014.  The charges all stemmed from undercover activities targeting gas stations in Sarasota, Nokomis and Osprey.  These are criminal citations punishable by jail time.  The criminal justice system can be a complex place and should not be navigated alone.  A qualified criminal defense attorney is necessary to ensure that your rights are not violated.  In cases like these where the police are using undercover sting operations there is a real risk that the person charged was the victim of police entrapment.  This occurs when the police create a crime where otherwise one would not have been committed.  The question in these circumstances is whether the undercover agent encouraged the charged individual to commit the offense when they otherwise would not have committed the offense.  In order to protect your rights and make certain that you are treated fairly by the justice system you can contact Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer Mark Zimmerman.    

Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?

 

With high gas prices, motorcycles seem like a very attractive alternative to traditional vehicles.  Unfortunately, as traffic in general continues to increase, so do motorcycle accidents.  Unlike a car that is encased in steel, motorcycles offer no protection in an accident.  As a result, approximately 80-90,000 motorcyclists are injured and approximately 4,500-5,000 are killed in accidents each year. 

What can a motorcyclist do to protect themself?

  1.  Before ever getting on a busy road or highway make sure that you have adequate hours of driving and experience on a motorcycle.  Many accidents are due to inexperience.
  2. Wear a DOT approved helmet!  Statistics show that wearing a helmet will make you almost 40 percent less likely to suffer a fatal head injury.  Ironically, despite these statistics many states including Florida do not require that motorcyclists wear helmets.  As a result, motorcyclists cannot get PIP (personal injury protection) insurance in the State of Florida.  So you better have a good health insurance plan!
  3. Wear protective and bright clothing.  Wearing long sleeves and pants can go a long way in preventing serious road rash.  In addition, bright clothing will aid other drivers in seeing you.
  4. Keep a safe distance from other vehicles.
  5. Never drink alcohol or take narcotics before you ride.  You need to have complete control of all of your senses when riding a motorcycle.
  6. Ride defensively.  Be on the constant lookout for threats from other vehicles.  It does not matter if you are in the right and they are not; if you get into a collision with a car you are going to be the one who suffers potentially life threatening injuries or death!
  7. Avoid riding in bad weather conditions.  The threat that bad weather conditions presents to drivers of cars is nothing compared to the threat it presents when you are riding a motorcycle.If you are in a motorcycle accident, get medical attention right away.  Even if you think that you do not have serious injuries you should get checked out.  Get stamp dated photographs of the accident scene, damage to your motorcycle, other involved vehicles and the injuries to you, as soon as possible.

     

    Do not talk to anyone, other than medical providers, until you have spoken to a board certified civil trial lawyer who handles motorcycle accident cases as part of their practice.  In addition, do not post comments or photos on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

VOP (Violation Of Probation) in Sarasota, Bradenton or Venice

VOP’s are one of the most common charges for which people are incarcerated.  VOP’s differ from typical criminal charges because you will not be able to have your case heard by a jury, and the amount of evidence needed by the government to prove the charge is significantly less.  This makes the need for professional legal help that works directly for you very critical.  Properly resolving your VOP in Sarasota, Bradenton or Venice requires the work of an experienced attorney that has extensive experience working with the local judges, prosecutors and probation officers.  VOP’s can be very different from each other, depending on the nature of the violation.  A “new law violation”  requires the prosecutor to prove the new charge in order to prove that you have violated your probation.  A “technical violation” merely requires the prosecutor to prove that technicality.  These can include matters as simple as missing your monthly appointment with your probation  and more complicated matters such as positive drug tests.  Attorney Mark Zimmerman is a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer.  He is rated AV, the highest possible rating, by Martindale-Hubbell.  He is rated 10 out of 10, superb, by Avvo.  He has been designated a Super Lawyer.  Mark Zimmerman has vast experience handling violations of probation in Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice.  Give him a call at 941-364-8503 for a free consultation regarding your VOP.

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