There are times when personal injury law and bankruptcy law intersect. The recent case of Morton v. Scholtzhauer, before the Maryland Court of Appeals (the highest court in that state) was one of those.piggybankonmoney

In a personal, Chapter 7 bankruptcy, an individual is able to discharge most personal debts that they are unable to pay. His or her assets may be divvied up to satisfy existing creditors to whatever extent possible. In the event that individual is the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit, those debts may be included (though generally not if they arise from one’s intoxicated operation of a motor vehicle). In the event the individual is a personal injury lawsuit plaintiff, courts typically allow that individual to retain their standing in the litigation (as opposed to being forced to turn it over to the bankruptcy trustee) and keep whatever compensation they receive from that proceeding. However, injury victims generally have to ask the bankruptcy court expressly for permission in this. Failure to do so could result in a situation like what happened in Morton.

The court noted part of the price debtors must pay to have their debts more or less discharged and make a fresh start is to detail all their property interests so the bankruptcy trustee can dole out portions of it to creditors. Among these property interests that must be listed are personal injury claims of the person in debt.  Continue reading

Increasingly, anyone who engages in an activity with the slightest risk is being asked to sign a waiver of liability. Many people barely read the language and hardly understand what rights they are signing away. The fact is, they are forgoing the right to take legal action against the owner/organizer/manufacturer – even in the event that negligence on the part of those entities resulted in a personal injury. splash

But even with the presence of a valid waiver (and not all of them are valid, for a myriad of reasons), not even the most careful language in such a contract can sign away rights to legal action for gross negligence. This is a step above and beyond simple negligence, which is merely the absence of reasonable care. Gross negligence is the voluntary and conscious disregard for the need to use reasonable care.

A recent case out of New Jersey, Steinberg v. Sahara Sam’s, illustrates how evidence of gross negligence can help injured victims fight for compensation, despite the presence of a waiver. The case was recently considered by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Continue reading

In Florida, dog owners are liable for the injury or damages their animals cause, regardless of whether they the dog was formerly declared vicious or whether the owner knew about such viciousness. Per F.S. 767.04, negligence on the part of the person who is bitten or injured that contributed to the injury will play a role in reducing the dog owner’s liability, but it won’t eliminate it. dog5

Dog bite and dog injury cases make up a substantial part of homeowner insurance claims and payouts. According to the American Pet Products Association, some 78 million dogs are owned in the U.S. Last year, there were approximately 4.5 million people bitten by dogs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and of those, about 885,000 required medical care. Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted last year for a third of all homeowner insurance liability claim dollars paid out, totaling some $570 million. On average, dog bite and dog injury claims are given about $37,200, which is a slight uptick from years’ past.

The recent case of Am. Family Mut. Ins. v. Williams did not involve a bite, but did allege a dog-related injury for which plaintiff sought coverage from the dog owner’s homeowner insurance policy.  Continue reading

When it comes to auto insurance coverage following a motor vehicle accident, it’s important to understand that crashes involving semi-trucks are totally different from those involving passenger-style vehicles such as cars, pickup trucks or motorcycles. That’s because if you are struck by a pickup truck, it’s more likely that than not that there will be more than one commercial policy for the defendant and the trucking company. trucking

Trucking carriers are required to carry insurance by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and they don’t follow the same rules as those required for passenger vehicles. In general, policies that cover semi trucks are much larger than those that cover passenger vehicles, primarily because it’s well-established that these vehicles tend to cause far more damage when involved in an accident. Typically, you don’t want to settle a truck accident claim too quickly because it’s important to have a good idea to have a better handle on the type and scope of injuries, the necessary treatments involved and the impact it will have on one’s work and home life.

Because it’s not uncommon in these cases for victims to be dealing with more than one commercial insurance company, it’s imperative to seek the assistance of an experienced truck accident lawyer. Continue reading

Road debris can take many forms. A ripped tire. A wooden plank. Tree branches. A garbage can. highwayrescue1

Each can be deadly if encountered on a roadway by a vehicle. Now, the latest report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that not only is road debris a serious and deadly problem, it’s one that is increasing in prevalence.

Previous research by the organization indicated there were approximately 25,000 crashes every year attributable to debris in the road, with most of those situations involving debris that fell off or was thrown from other vehicles. These incidents resulted in approximately 90 deaths annually. That was in 2001. Today, researchers say that figure has doubled, with more than 50,000 police-reported crashes every year involving road debris, resulting in more than 9,800 injuries and approximately 125 deaths. These latest figures were based on data collected between 2011 and 2014, during which time there were a total of 200,000 crashes resulting in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.  Continue reading

Auto insurance companies that provide underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage to more than one vehicle in a family don’t want those limits stacked so that it might have to pay three times the limit. Similarly, separate policies that cover the same individuals may have anti-stacking provisions in their plans. penniesstacked

This is totally legal and will be enforced by the courts – so long as the language contained therein is clear and unambiguous. However, if there is any ambiguity in these anti-stacking provisions, the courts will generally decline to apply them. This is important because it can mean doubling or sometimes even tripling the amount to which you are entitled.

Let’s look at one example of this, recently weighed by the Idaho Supreme Court. In Gearhart v. Mutual of Enumclaw Ins. Co., which involved two separate underinsured motorist policies that covered the same young man. The policies written by the same insurance company, but they were separate, one belonging to his mother and another to his father. The couple had previously divorced.  Continue reading

Our Fort Lauderdale car accidents have come to expect that most auto insurance companies facing down a claim for damages will take whatever action they can to avoid paying that claim – or at least minimize liability. driving6

One such tactic occurs even long before the crash: It is to draft policies that contain a myriad of exceptions and loopholes and contingencies so as to deny coverage on different grounds. However, as the recent case of State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Jakubowicz shows, this tactic can backfire when the language of the policy is ambiguous.

Courts across the country have held that when there is more than one meaning to the language in an auto insurance policy, the meaning that best favors the insured is the one that will be followed. That’s because courts have recognized that insurance companies, as the entities that draft the language of the policy, have the upper hand. It’s their responsibility to make sure the policy is clear.  Continue reading

A double wrongful death lawsuit in Florida has been filed by the representative of the estates of a mother-son duo who were shot and killed in a murder-suicide by another man who allegedly was trying to rob the son. securityguard

The homicides occurred in Stuart at the exclusive Yacht and Country Club, where the gunman apparently gained status as a resident, despite not owning a property there and having an extensive criminal background.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of:

  • The construction company;
  • The property owners’ association/ security company;
  • The actual homeowner.

As described in The Daily Business Review, this was, “the perfect storm of failures” by these three defendants. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges negligent security. That is, defendants owed a duty to protect the victims from a foreseeable harm by adhering to existing security procedures.  Continue reading

A Florida product liability lawsuit alleging faulty airbags leading to a fatal car accident slated for trial in the fall when attorneys announced a surprise confidential settlement agreement. airbagdeployed

The case centers on allegedly defective Takata airbags, which are reported to have played a role in at least 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries when they improperly inflate and spew metal debris into the faces and necks of front seat occupants.

Vehicles made by 14 different automakers were recalled in what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has called the biggest and most complex recalls to date. Most of the bags were installed in vehicles from 2002 through 2015.  Continue reading

Criminal assault may not be something businesses desire, but it is something they can anticipate and take reasonable steps to prevent. nightclub1

In cases where businesses do not take reasonable steps to prevent injury, businesses may be liable for damages to victims.

One such case was recently seen in California, where an appellate court affirmed a $5.42 million damage award to a woman who was sexually assaulted in a dance club unisex bathroom.  Continue reading