Fighting for Clients

When we are engaged to represent a client and take on their case we become their advocate and we fight for them because they cannot. We give a voice to the voiceless. We fight for the injured. We champion their cause and their case with every resource and every ounce of talent and energy we have. We do this because, not only is it the right thing to do, but also because each client and each relationship we have with our clients is personal. We truly believe that our clients remain clients for life long after the case is resolved and long after we have achieved a financial recovery for them.

Set0001 - DSC_6054.JPGJust recently we resolved the case of a motorcycle accident victim who lost a leg as a result of a county employee running a stop sign. The inattentive driver rolled his truck up to the stop sign clueless to crossing traffic and our client's oncoming motorcycle and blew right through the intersection without thinking twice. Our client had no choice but to lay down his bike to avoid a head on crash with the side of the truck and certain death. Unfortunately, the back wheels rolled over his leg resulting in a traumatic amputation at the knee. We undertook representation knowing full well that any real recovery was highly unlikely given that the negligent party was a county employee protected by the state sovereign immunity cap of just $200,000. With past hospital bills alone of over $400,000 we rejected the county's settlement offer of $200,000. After two years of litigation, multiple lawsuits and incredibly creative and aggressive representation, we secured a multi-million dollar settlement for our client.

Today we handed him his first of several settlement checks. A very humble man, our client started to thank us but we stopped him from any such praise. The true thanks goes out to him and his resolve and for believing in us and giving us the honor of fighting for him. When we met, he was just coming out of surgery where he lost his leg. We were up front and honest with him about the financial obstacles that his case faced with sovereign immunity. We saw him crying and hopeless and full of anxiety about the future. With that we went to work and devoted two years to fight for him and obtain justice for our client. Through the case, we saw him fight through depression and readjusting to life as an amputee. It was his resolve that pushed us every day and knowing that he was fighting to regain his life, we would fight for him no matter what it took.

Our clients become our causes. It becomes a personal mission to obtain the justice that a deserving client needs. In the last 15 years, our firm represented a number of clients' whose cases, at first glance, seem impossible to obtain a recovery. Through hard work and creative lawyering, whether in Miami, in Key West or anywhere else throughout the state of Florida, we will do our absolute best to uncover a theory of liability with a path to a recovery. That is how not long ago our firm recovered a $10,500,000 settlement on a $50,000 insurance policy.

Most of our clients have suffered catastrophic injuries that have altered their life forever. While our main purpose and focus is to win the legal battles that will ensue, many clients will seek our advice and guidance as well. With our years of experience handling life-changing events in the lives of our clients, we also pride ourselves on having many of the answers our clients look for. Hence why more often than not, our staff and our clients remain in touch long after their case is resolved.

Florida Drivers Must Purchase Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Just because you have purchased an insurance policy with ample bodily injury coverage for your vehicles does not mean that you are adequately protected in the event that you become involved in a car accident. This is because bodily injury coverage pays out only if you cause an accident and injure somebody else.

If, however, you are struck and injured by another driver, you would at that point be at the mercy of the at-fault driver's insurance policy for purposes of paying for your medical bills and lost wages, if need be. And that's if the at-fault driver even has insurance to begin with. In fact, Florida ranks among the top states in terms of the number of uninsured or under-insured motorists on our roads. Therefore, it is all the more important that drivers purchase uninsured motorist coverage to protect you and your family in the event that you are injured in a car accident.

A 2014 study by the Insurance Research Council found the appalling truth: In Florida, 1 out of 4 people (23.8%) involved in a vehicle accident does not have insurance. Only Oklahoma ranks higher with 25.9%. In raw numbers, this means there are 3.2 million vehicles in Florida without insurance. Practically speaking, if you are involved in an accident, there is a 1 out of 4 chance that you will have to rely solely on your own insurance policy in order to repair your car, but most importantly, to treat for your physical injuries - and that does not even begin to address your claim for personal injury, which includes past and future pain and suffering.

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Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) will pay for damages when you are injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by another person who does not have insurance or who does not have sufficient liability insurance. Things like medical expenses, future medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering will be covered by your uninsured motorist coverage. In addition, this coverage also travels with you, meaning it becomes available even if you are injured while traveling in a vehicle other than your own.

Far too often we come across situations in our law firm where individuals are badly injured in car accidents caused by others with insufficient or, worse, no insurance coverage at all. The $10,000 available to all insured drivers via their own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits is almost always insufficient when dealing with costly medical expenses and lost wages. It is therefore imperative that all Florida drivers carry sufficient uninsured motorist coverage to make sure that they are fully protected in the unfortunate event of car accident.

It can happen to anyone. Make sure you are fully protected.

Creative Lawyering Yields Another Great Result for Injured Child

The vast majority of personal injury victims contact a lawyer intending to make claims against a specific entity for a specific wrongdoing. The victims often evaluate their case and form their own theories of liability before they are ever guided by an experienced trial lawyer. Unfortunately, many lawyers then evaluate cases based on their clients' impressions without broadening their imagination and looking at the entire picture.

Our firm was recently contacted by a mother in reference to a potential medical malpractice case for her 12-year-old son. Our client's concern was that her son underwent surgery to repair his fractured femur (thigh bone) with metal rods, and the metal rods ultimately broke free from the bone, requiring a painful second surgery. Our client thought this complication occurred because the first surgery was done negligently. Our firm investigated and concluded that the complication was likely an inherent risk of surgery rather than negligence.

Untitled-2.jpgFor many lawyers, the evaluation would have ended there. However, our firm inquired further and asked how the boy's leg was fractured. Our client believed that was a dead end. She explained that the injury occurred when a 13-year-old girl accidentally fell on him at the girl's house. As we learned more, it was discovered that the girl, who was much larger than the boy, had been physically harassing him for several days with unwanted horseplay. The girl's father, who was supposed to be supervising them, knew of this abuse and failed to prevent it or separate the children. Our firm made a claim against the father's homeowner's insurance policy under a Negligent Supervision theory. Within just days of receiving our lawsuit, the insurance carrier offered their full policy limits of $300,000, to compensate our client's son.

Our client had spoken to several lawyers prior to contacting our firm. Not one of them explored how the original injury occurred. By the time she called our firm, she was certain her son would not be compensated. He will now have financial security as he begins high school and continues to recover from his injury. With so much at stake following a serious injury, it is crucial to hire trial lawyers who have the experience and creativity to "think outside the box" and exhaust all options for compensation.

If you were involved in an incident and left with serious injuries, contact our firm at 1-800-836-6400 to speak with one of our experienced trial attorneys.

Boating Safety Tips

As we approach the summer months in South Florida, we once again see the start of another boating season. Thousands of boaters in personal water craft will soon set out across our beautiful bays, sandbars, and offshore islands to take in all that our tropical paradise has to offer. As fun as a day spent out on a boat with friends and family can be, it is important to remember that boating can also be an extremely dangerous activity. Safety should always be the number one concern when planning for a day out on the ocean.

In 2014, Miami-Dade County ranked first in the state in boating accidents with 79. There were ten deaths due to boating accidents in the county alone, including four young adults who lost their lives in an extremely tragic collision near Dinner Key Marina on the 4th of July. In the Florida Keys, five people perished due to boating accidents in 2014.

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Our law firm has represented many individuals who were permanently injured in boating accidents. We have also represented the families of individuals who tragically lost their lives while boating. Regrettably, we have often seen that many of these accidents could have been prevented if simple boating safety provisions were obeyed.

To enjoy a fun AND safe outing on the water, follow these important tips brought to you by the Mayor of Miami-Dade County and Broward Sherriff's Office:

1. Wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times, especially children;
2. Have a Fire Extinguisher Onboard - inspect it regularly during boating season;
3. Use your Boat Lights when necessary;
4. Do not drink and boat!;
5. Watch the Weather! Do not leave the port without having checked weather warnings and forecasts;
6. Do not go out on a boat without telling anyone;
7. Bring plenty of water with you;
8. Have and familiarize yourself with a marine radio;
9. Keep a flashlight with fresh batteries on boar, along with flares, a first aid kit, and sunscreen

Enjoy boating season, but always remember -- safety first!

Insurance policy limits are not the limits of recovery

insurance-policy.jpgIf you or a loved one has been involved in an automobile accident or any other type of accident and sustained serious injuries you will want to know what compensation you can recover. Most attorneys will tell you that it depends on the liability, causation, degree of damages and the amount of available insurance. All of this is true, except that the amount of available insurance should not always be seen as the maximum amount you can recover.

Most lawyers will never look beyond the insurance policy and accept defeat that the insurance limits are the limits of available recovery. That is not always true. Over the past 15 years our office has recovered more than $26,000,000 more than the available insurance directly from the insurance companies when they engaged in bad faith handling of the underlying claims.

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This amount does not include the millions more we have recovered from defendants personally above the insurance policy limits when there were no allegations of bad faith claims handling from the insurance carrier. When a defendant has traceable and collectible assets, your attorney should pursue those in order to maximize your recovery. We have done this by securing personal payments above policy limits and having personal property deeded to our clients including non-homestead properties. We recently were able to settle a claim for the policy limits of insurance, for additional cash money from the insured, and for multiple properties. In an inadequate security case, our firm secured a settlement for the policy limits and for an entire apartment building.

Not every defendant will have the assets to recover from beyond the insurance policy, but it is an investigative work that your attorney must do undertake if the available insurance is insufficient to compensate for your injuries, past and future. So, if you have a significant injury claim, make sure you hire an attorney that will investigate all available sources of recovery beyond and above the insurance policy limits.

If you sustained serious injuries caused by the negligence of another person, contact our firm at 800-836-6400 and we will investigate the insurance coverage available to compensate for your injuries, as well as determine whether you can also recover from the the defendant(s)' personal assets.

Don't Forget to Read the Owner's Manual, Trial Lawyers!

We all know that consumer products can be dangerous if used improperly. Everything from vacuum cleaners to jet skis have large, orange warning decals posted on them instructing users, "READ THE OWNER'S MANUAL PRIOR TO USE." In the owner's manual, users will find an extensive composition of warnings, diagrams, and instructions for the safe use of the product.

Owner's manuals are often the focal point in product liability cases where it is alleged that a product is dangerous or the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings. In such cases, trial lawyers will introduce owner's manuals to point out the adequacy or inadequacy of warnings and instructions.

Surprisingly, owner's manuals are largely ignored by trial lawyers in personal injury cases involving presumptively safe consumer products. Our firm has handled many cases in which hotels, attractions, and tour operators have severely injured our clients by misusing OM.gifconsumer products. Parasailing ropes break, picture frame supports fail, beach umbrellas fly into guests, bungee cords snap, and the list goes on.

In these cases, trial lawyers often rely on expert testimony and common sense to prove negligence without ever looking at the owner's manual to confirm that the tortfeasor ignored manufacturers' express warnings.

Our firm recently handled a case where we were able to prove negligence simply by using an owner's manual. Our client participated in the "Flyboard" attraction in the ocean while on vacation in Key West. The Flyboard is essentially a water-powered jet pack that is strapped to the participant's feet. The jet nozzles on the bottom of the Flyboard lift the participant out of the ocean and into the air.

flyboard.jpgThe Flyboard throttle is controlled exclusively by the tour operator. During the attraction, the tour operator applied the throttle while our client was completely submerged underwater, which propelled him face-first into the ocean floor and caused severe facial lacerations. We searched for the Flyboard owner's manual, which stated in bold letters, "WHEN THE FLYBOARD USER IS UNDERWATER IMMEDIATELY RELEASE THE GAS." Clearly, this incident could not have occurred had the tour operator heeded this crucial warning. After bringing this to the tour operator's attention, they immediately offered a substantial sum to settle this case. Our client was compensated quickly and without the need for litigation or expert testimony.

Trial lawyers must always remember to request and review the owner's manual for any product that contributed to their clients' injuries. It just may be the most persuasive and cost-effective way to prove their case.

Pharmacy Malpractice, Medication Error - Trust, but verify

As consumers of so many goods and services in our day-to-day lives, it is only natural that we have become accustomed to accepting - without thinking twice - whatever goods and services are provided to us. We trust that those who provide us with what we consume are acting responsibly, have exercised due diligence, and are in fact providing us with whatever it is we have specifically requested and expect to receive. Throughout our day, we constantly ingest products without hesitation, rarely stopping to think whether we may be placing harmful products into our bodies.

Prescription Medication.pngThe level of trust that we have in others as consumers may be even higher when dealing with and receiving goods from trained professionals. One example: Pharmacists. Naturally, when we pick up prescription medications at our local pharmacies, we fully expect that these professionals will always give us exactly what has been prescribed to us by our doctors. Of course, this is normally the case.

However, our law firm has dealt with several unfortunate occasions where pharmacies - including the largest, most nationally-recognized stores - have provided our clients with the wrong prescriptions. In these instances, these folks have gone on to consume whatever medication was wrongfully given to them, never imagining that a mistake of this magnitude could possibly occur. They have suffered permanent injuries as a result, either caused by the wrongful medication itself, or from not treating the medical condition for which they were prescribed medication in the first place.

ABC News reported on this issue not long ago, and their study revealed that pharmacists committed a 19% medication error rate. Even more alarming was the fact that 74% of the victims of medication error sustained an injury, and for 43% of them, the injury was permanent and irreversible. These statistics only include "Medication Errors", which is defined as either giving the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of the right medication. This differs from "Adverse Drug Event" which is a harmful or adverse reaction to the correct medication, but impacts the patient negatively, such as an allergic reaction or an overdose.

In order to avoid this possibility, as a rule of thumb, always double-check your prescription medications upon receipt. Make sure that the medication you are given is intended for you, and that the medication itself is what it is supposed to be. Trust, but verify.

The importance of photographs in premises liability cases

They say "a picture is worth a thousand words." As we have seen in many of our premises liability cases, pictures can be worth far more. When our clients are severely injured as a result of dangerous or defective premises, their health is understandably their primary focus. Pain and shock take over. An ambulance is often called to rush the victims away from the scene for medical evaluation. slipping-154577_960_720.png The last thing on their mind is preserving evidence by taking photographs of the dangerous condition. Who can blame them?

Our firm recently handled a case that demonstrated just how important it is to photograph the scene after an injury. Our client was leaving a fast food restaurant when she slipped while walking down an outdoor staircase. She fell down several stairs to the ground and suffered severe injuries, requiring multiple surgeries. When her husband met her in the emergency room shortly after the incident, she explained that her foot slipped off a stair that felt "slimy" and "oily." Her husband drove to the scene of the incident shortly thereafter and noticed that the stairs were covered in thick layers of mold and mildew, which are known to be extremely slippery on walking surfaces. He also noticed the restaurant employees preparing to scrub the staircase with soap and industrial brushes in response to his wife's fall. He immediately took out his cell phone and snapped several photographs of the filthy staircase before it was scrubbed.

Months later, the general manager of the restaurant was shown these photographs at her deposition. She had no choice but to admit that the staircase was unacceptable and unsafe for guests. This allowed our firm to secure a settlement that covered 100% of her medical expenses and lost wages, and a substantial additional sum for her pain and suffering. Had her husband not taken those photographs, it would have been far more difficult to prove the extent of this hazard, or that the hazard existed at all.

Phone_photography.jpgIn another recent case, our client fell in a narrow staircase. Her husband returned to the scene of the incident an hour later and took several photos of the stairs. Upon looking at the photos, our firm and our premises liability expert were able to quickly determine that the stairs were in violation of several building code requirements which caused our client's injuries. Here again, the photos taken by our client's husband were crucial in not only helping us evaluate the case, but also crucial in preserving the condition of the stairs through photographic evidence. Without them, the defendant could have repaired or altered the stairs after the incident and the defective conditions that existed at the time would have been lost on the jury.

In today's digital age, with quality cameras on virtually every cell phone manufactured, it is easier than ever for friends and family of injury victims to take photographs or even videos that will greatly assist their trial attorneys. Their future and financial security may depend on it.

Resort Torts - Spring Break

Florida beaches and warm weather resorts throughout the Caribbean are packed with Spring breakers. We just returned from our annual Key West seminar navigating mopeds, bicycles, Hoverboards, skateboards, parasailers, jet skiers and the whole gamut of fun resort stuff. This week in Miami is the Ultra Music Festival, and Florida beaches, from the Panhandle to the Atlantic and Gulf Coast down to the Florida Keys are just mobbed.

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Tragically, we have already received a number of calls from students and the families of spring breakers on vacation reporting hazardous and dangerous conditions on the roads, in the water and at resort properties.

Having just completed a series of cases involving bicycling, moped and pedestrian injuries, we implore you to share the following information with your loved ones:

1. Drinking and driving is still the number one culprit.

2. Distracted cell phone drivers, and now pedestrians are getting a lot of public attention for the dangers related to inattention.

3. Seatbelt use, in spite of heavy public awareness, is still an essential in the arsenal of safe driving.

4. Patience on the road is a must. The Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys, as well as other popular resorts are jammed with traffic.

5. Fun water sports can also be risky when there is drinking and reckless behavior.

6. Jet ski, boat and parasailing cases have already been reported in the first week of Spring break, along with bicycle and moped injuries.

7. Crimes and sexual assaults related to resorts and hotel are a consistent problem. Please alert your loved ones to be on the look out for dangerous situations.

8. This is a huge time of the year for holiday cruises, including family cruises. When you disembark your ship, please be sure you are in safe areas and that the excursion you have booked follows safety procedures.

Leesfield Scolaro is a national and international leader in resort tort and travel and tourism injuries. Our campaigns "Share the Road" and "Don't Text and Drive" have received high acclaim. Our push for water safety, including scuba, parasailing and snorkeling activities has now been highlighted by several recent cases brought to our firm's attention.

Hotel and lodging security, which now include VRBO and AIRBNB, as well as all resorts and theme parks, should be front and center for your family safety and awareness.

Spring break is a fun ritual and activity. South Beach, the Florida Keys and related locations are overrun with fun activities. A word of caution to your loved ones certainly goes a long way.

Broward bicyclist struck and killed by truck

According to Broward Sheriff's Office, a bicyclist was killed today after he was hit by a cement truck near Davie Boulevard. The authorities have not revealed the circumstances of this latest fatal bicyclist accident, but one can reasonably suspect that the truck driver did not see the bicyclist, or did not see the bicyclist with enough time to avoid fatally striking the victim.

Last year, Leesfield Scolaro began its "Share the Road" campaign, by promoting the same message on its U.S.1 signage as illustrated below. This campaign was born out of the necessary collective realization that Florida is the most lethal state in the nation for bicyclists. South Florida alone has reported over 2500 bicyclist accidents in 2014. A trend that is continually increasing by all measures. Florida leads the nation in fatalities with 119 in 2014, which rounds up the number of bicyclists killed on the road to over 550 between 2010 and 2014.

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This epidemic has not been curbed by community leaders, politics, policies, or fines and criminal penalties. If a change does come in the future, it will have to be triggered by a collective behavior modification of drivers throughout the entire state of Florida. The tragedy that occurred today is even more personal to Leesfield Scolaro because it is eerily similar to a recent case where friends of members of our lawfirm were involved in a bicycle accident with a truck. In that case, the incident was caused by a distracted truck driver who decided to take his eyes off the road to adjust his GPS and failed to avoid two bicyclists whom he struck with incredible force and violence that it permanently changed two innocent lives.

Last year, Leesfield Scolaro represented the family of a former football player who was killed by a distracted driver. To add insult to injury, that driver fled the scene of the accident. In this case and the case mentioned above, the families were able to obtain financial reparation by filing a lawsuit (including a $5,350,000 settlement for one of the families). Lawsuits are always available to families of victims, but Floridians have yet to come together and adequately protect the most vulnerable people who share the road with motorists: bicyclists.

This most recent fatal accident today in Broward County should all but reinforce our campaign that drivers are not the only ones on the road. That at any moment, a bicyclist could appear, or a pedestrian, and that if a driver allows himself to become distracted by a text or GPS, the potential injuries to a bicyclist are far more life-threatening than those to the occupant of a car.

FLORIDIAN DRIVERS MUST LEARN TO LOOK UP AND SHARE THE ROAD.

Wrongful death of construction worker at a downtown Miami construction site

According to reports, a worker was killed while working on a Miami high-rise condominium building construction site yesterday. The details of the incident are unknown, but the Miami Herald reported today that, the 29 year-old construction worker was hit by a piece of heavy machinery being hoisted by a crane. According to Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll., the employee was working on the 37th floor of the condominium at the time, and the heavy piece of machinery that fell on him weighed more than 2,000 pounds.

For the past 15 years, the downtown area of Miami has seen an explosion of condominiums and office buildings, and endless construction sites. Sadly, every year construction workers are gravely injured, some fatally, due to the failure of heavy equipment or a varying degree of negligence of co-workers.

The latest incident reported by the Miami Herald today is very similar to a complex case Leesfield Scolaro resolved recently. In that case, a crane operator lowered the crane down for the night. To do so, he had to follow a certain procedure in order to properly and safely lower the crane: First the operator had to lower the luffing boom, make sure it was not extended, and then lower the main boom. Unfortunately for our client, the crane operator lowered the main boom first, while the luffing boom was still extended. A split second later, the crane began to tip forward. The workers present on the site ran for cover, but our client was unlucky. While running away, the crane boom struck him on his hard hat, knocking him to the ground. Then the boom bounced off the end of a beam, ricocheted to the ground demolishing and crushing his right leg. A lawsuit was filed immediately and after a successful litigation process, the injured construction worker was able to settle his lawsuit with all of the at-fault parties.

Thomas Scolaro and Ira Leesfield filed a lawsuit in this case and were successful in reaching a settlement with all parties despite the tough worker's compensation laws in Florida.

Construction Accident cases can be very complex and extremely difficult to maneuver. It is not infrequent that injured workers, or their family, are not able to obtain the proper recovery they should be entitled to. It is therefore crucial for affected victims to consult with firms and attorneys who have experienced similar complex fact patterns.

Explosion in Sunny Isles Beach caused by Gas Leak in Boiler Room

An explosion took place this afternoon in Sunny Isles Beach. Early reports mention a gas leak in the boiler room of a high rise condo was responsible for the damages. As many as 6 people have been reported injured on site, and off site, including a person who was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

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Boiler rooms require extensive and appropriate maintenance in order to avoid potential devastating consequences to members of the public and residents. Natural gas is one of the most widely used fuels for heating commercial and industrial properties. The dangers of gas leaks is they can go undetected for a significant period of time, and they present a clear and present explosive risk leading to structural damage, or worse, the loss of life.

A proper and adequate maintenance plan must be in effect to prevent against leaks and any other types of dangers that boiler rooms present. An automatic gas detection system will provide early warning of a gas release during unmanned periods.

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It is unknown at this time whether the gas leak coming from the boiler room at Chateau Beach Residences, located at 17475 Collins Avenue, was the result of an undetected gas leak or whether a maintenance crew was working in the boiler room at the time and some sore of mishap occurred. More often than not, if a leak is detected by firefighters who first responded on the scene of an explosion, it is highly likely that the cause for the incident is negligent maintenance. A thorough investigation will have to be performed in order to confirm or rule out all the other possible explanations.

Over the past 40 years, Leesfield Scolaro has confronted several boiler room / gas leaks / explosion cases. Most recently Leesfield Scolaro was retained to investigate and obtain recovery in connection with an explosion/fire case which took the lives of several residents who were sleeping in the house.

In gas leak / explosion cases, it is imperative that the survivors monitor any symptoms they may experience within 24 hours of the incident taking place. Being on the look out for potential signs of carbon monoxide poisoning is crucial, especially when a gas leak is confirmed so rapidly by the responding authorities. The symptoms for carbon monoxide exposure include:

  • Dull headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness

Visit Leesfield.com to obtain more information about carbon monoxide poisoning.

GoFundMe Campaign for two sisters who died in head-on collision on I-95 - Dram Shop Case

This past weekend, Alexis Musumeci (24) and her sister Brittany Musumeci (23) were killed when the vehicle they were in was crashed head-on by a vehicle driven by Admerson Cleber Eugenio Vicente (23).

sisters.jpgThere is no sense in explaining away why this incident occurred. It should never have happened. Last March, Vicente had his driver's license revoked for 5 years for multiple traffic violations which included operating a motor vehicle on a suspended license and without insurance. Vicente's license had been suspended after he was arrested and convicted for driving under the influence (twice over the legal limit)

Obviously, despite his serious run-ins with the criminal justice system, Vicente was again behind the wheel of a vehicle last Saturday, inexplicably driving on the wrong side of I-95, when he collided head-on with Alexis and Brittany's vehicle.

In cases such as this one, as a legal recourse, the family must first look into the Vicente's potential car insurance to obtain a recovery for their loss. Given the known history of Vicente, it is likely that he did not have any car insurance at the time of the crash. The family must then look at whether Vicente was operating someone else's vehicle (2006 Jeep Matrix.) If the car is registered to a different person, the family must inquire and find out whether they have any insurance on the vehicle.

The next layer of insurance would come from the insurance policy on the vehicle Brittany and Alexis were operating / traveling in. Obtaining "Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist" coverage is crucial in Florida due to the extremely high number of Florida motorists who do not have car insurance, or who are woefully underinsured.

Finally, the family must wait for the criminal investigation and the State Attorney's Office, who will undoubtedly seek to bring exemplary criminal charges against Vicente, to share with the them whether Vicente was, again, driving under the influence when the incident occurred. If Vicente was drunk and over the legal limit in Florida, an investigation must be conducted into Vicente's life for the 5 to 10 hours prior to getting into his car and causing this crash.

It is paramount that the family look into a potential lawsuit against a commercial defendant who furnished alcohol to Vicente, a habitual traffic offender who may or may not also be a known alcoholic.

According to reports, the two sisters were driving to Pompano Beach, FL to visit with their mother. Since the tragic incident occurred, Martha Musumeci (mother) with the help of friends, has set up a GoFundMe page. The GoFundMe campaign was first created to help Martha with Brittany & Alexis Musumeci's memorial fund" as well as the funerals of the two young women.

Recently, an update on the GoFundMe page was posted which reads: "As we exceed our initial fundraising goal, please know that once funeral expenses are covered, all additional funds will go towards charitable gifts in the names of both girls."

If you wish to donate to help the Musumeci family, find the GoFundMe page here: https://www.gofundme.com/musumeci

This summer, our firm's blogged about the many benefits of plaintiffs to look at GoFundMe as a way to unburden families who have to not only grief the loss of loved ones, but also face the financial responsibilities that are born out of wrongful death incidents. You may read our entry here: GoFundMe as an alternative to predatory Lawsuit Loans

To read more about dram shop litigation, visit Leesfield Scolaro's website.

Social Media's Impact on Personal Injury Cases by Daniel L. Diaz-Balart

Find this article written for and published in the Daily Business Review.

Lawyers who fail to utilize social media's increased role in the legal profession, or who fail to properly anticipate how it may come up in litigation, do so at their own detriment. Specifically with regard to personal injury litigation, social media is playing an ever-expanding role, and its impact on the practice is certain to continue growing.

Historically, when an insurance company wanted to investigate somebody who made a claim, it was necessary to hire a private investigator to discreetly follow the claimant around town. If they were lucky, maybe the investigator could manage to get a photo of an unsuspecting claimant bending down without issue to put air in a tire, or carrying heavy groceries from the store. That photo would then be used to defend against the personal injury claim, perhaps countering allegations of the severity of the back injury that the person is claiming to have sustained.

photo__2358378_daniel_diaz-balart.jpgNowadays, through the advent of social media, the hypothetical claimant mentioned above might, by their own doing, investigate and incriminate themselves and their injury to the detriment of their own claim. That's because a recent Florida appellate court decision has determined that, in the context of personal injury litigation, photos posted on social media can, in some instances, be discoverable.

Naturally, people post photos of themselves on their social media accounts (some more than others, like that friend who won't stop posting selfies). Individuals are often "tagged" in other people's photos and videos, taking part in all kinds of activities. Users can "check in" to places they visit using mobile apps on their smart phones, leaving behind a virtual trail of the places they've visited.

Accordingly, defense attorneys often seek production of a personal injury plaintiff's social media accounts and their contents, which can then become the topic of litigation. Despite the growing presence of social media in the legal realm, the number of Florida appellate court decisions that have dealt with social media discovery is actually quite small, and therefore permits for creative lawyering.

The Second District Court of Appeal took up the issue of Facebook discovery in the February 2014 case of Root v. Balfour Beatty Construction. In that case, a minor child was injured when he was struck by a vehicle near a construction site. The mother of the child brought suit against the defendants on behalf of her son, and the defendants in return sought production of a wide range of content from the mother's Facebook page. The trial court allowed this expansive discovery request, which included things like counseling, psychological and mental health care obtained by the mother, any and all postings, statuses, photos, likes or videos related to her relationships with her children, other family members and boyfriends, and any posts related to alcohol use or other lawsuits filed by the mother.

The Second DCA proceeded to quash the trial court's discovery order, determining that this expansive request was the type of carte blanche fishing expedition of irrelevant materials which was prohibited by Florida Supreme Court precedent. The requests were directed toward the injured child's mother, who was not per se the injured party, and the defendants could not point to anything claimed by her to support their contention that the requested information was relevant.

The defendants in Nucci v. Target Corp., a January 2015 opinion from the Fourth District Court of Appeal, took a more focused and targeted approach with their social media discovery requests, and, as a result, fared better than their counterparts in Root. In this slip-and-fall case, the defense served narrowly tailored discovery requests limited to photos dating back two years from the date of incident, and all photos subsequent to the incident of the plaintiff herself. Notably, the requests did not seek any other Facebook content.

The Fourth DCA held that the photographs sought were "powerfully relevant to the damage issues in the lawsuit." The court further noted that the relevance of the photos was enhanced due to post-accident surveillance video of the plaintiff which already suggested her injury was suspect. The court distinguished this case from Root, finding the requests at issue to be narrower in scope and far more calculated to lead to admissible evidence. As such, discovery of these photos from Facebook was allowed.

It should be noted that the Nucci court propounded that, generally, photos posted on a social networking site are neither privileged nor protected by any right of privacy, regardless of any privacy settings that the user may have established. In other words, individuals involved in personal injury litigation should post at their own risk.

Clearly, social media is here to stay, and all lawyers should be prepared to take full advantage of all it has to offer, whether we #like it or not.

Continue reading "Social Media's Impact on Personal Injury Cases by Daniel L. Diaz-Balart" »

GoFundMe as an alternative to predatory Lawsuit Loans

ebook-graphic-2.pngWith the development over the past few years of online crowd funding, websites like GoFundMe have gained in popularity at an exponential rate. Since its inception, GoFundMe claims to have raised over $1.2 billion through its website. Quite remarkable.

As a personal injury firm established in South Florida for over 38 years, Leesfield Scolaro has seen first hand how a catastrophic event can transform an otherwise financially sound family into needing quick cash to pay next month's mortgage or pay last month's car payment that is over due.

7643873724_59cc54c54c_o.pngIn Florida, the Florida bar prohibits attorneys to loan money or advance cash to their clients. The only option to clients in the most dire situations was to contact a financial firm specialized in short-term loans based on lawsuits, more commonly called lawsuit loans. These loans are essentially an exchange of money for a promise of repayment + interest. While the idea of helping out people in temporary need until their case settles is a very noble one, abuse quickly became the norm. Today, these lawsuit loans are mainly operated by small entities who charge an exorbitant interest rate.

Let's say a father is involved in a catastrophic incident that leaves him incapacitated. He remains at the hospital for several weeks, followed by months of physical therapy. During the entire time of recovery, he is unable to work and provide for his family, his wife and two children. Because of their situation, the family is able to pay their bills for the first two months, such as the mortgage, school, car payments, and food. When the second and third months come around, the family can no longer pay their bills for lack of income. Despite having hired a personal injury attorney to work on their case, it will be months, maybe a couple of years before they could recover any money for the incident. What are they to do?

Up until five years ago or so, a lawsuit loan was the answer. Because of their time of need, the family agrees to a large loan with an outrageous interest rate, and by the time their case settles, they will have to repay the lender three, four, sometimes five times over, the value of the initial loan. In many situations, the lawsuit loan will make it even more difficult for clients to keep their head above water because the settlement money they counted on is now almost entirely swallowed up by the company who loaned them money early on. For example, out of a settlement amounting to $100,000, a client with a $25,000 loan is likely to end up with less than $10,000 to his name after fees, costs, medical bills/liens, and lender are all paid back.

wordle.pngIt has always been our firm's policy to advise every single client of Leesfield Scolaro against lawsuit loans. The risks of owing so much money to a lender are too great, especially when their case is difficult from a legal standpoint, or because of limited insurance coverage available to them in the first place.

Today however, there is an alternative to money hungry lawsuit loans: Online crowd funding. While people must do their own research and read all the terms and fine prints of the many websites who offer such online crowd funding solutions, GoFundMe's business model seems to be the perfect solution for people whose life was turned upside down due to the negligence of another person.

In just a few easy steps, users can create their own website to describe why they need to raise money. They can link the website to their existing social media pages, like facebook where they can share the progress of their fundraising campaign with their friends. Unlike lawsuit loans that accumulate interest over the life of the loan, GoFundMe generates revenue by automatically deducting an 8% fee from each donation users receive. Not only does online crowd funding, such as GoFundMe, allows people in need to survive, but their net recovery from their personal injury lawsuit will not be swallowed up by the website. In that sense, online crowd funding truly acts as a supplemental resource when people need it the most.

If you have been involved in a terribly life-changing event, look into online crowdfunding as an alternative to short term lawsuit loans. It has been our firm's experience that in the face of tragedy, a community of people, even sometimes strangers, will unite and help others who need a helping hand while they get back on their feet.