Answering Common Questions About Negligence and Injuries Sustained in Florida
Come get your personal injury and accident questions answered on topics including motorcycle accidents, automobile accidents, disability insurance, and workers’ compensation matters. We handle cases throughout Florida concentrating on the greater Central and North Florida area, and we have the in-depth answers you need.
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What if a defective seat belt made my crash injuries worse?
Many people are injured every year because the features of their vehicles failed to perform effectively. If you suffered significant injuries because of a defective auto part, you may be able to hold the carmaker liable.
The Widespread Problem of Defective Seat Belts
Seat belts are incredibly effective in minimizing bodily harm in a crash. When these devices fail, injuries are much worse and may prove fatal, even at low speeds. Drivers and passengers can suffer whiplash, internal injuries, chest trauma, or even be ejected from the vehicle if the seat belt doesn't restrain them properly.
Many vehicle manufacturers have come under fire for defective seat belts that have caused a number of problems, including:
- Defective latches. Poorly-made seat belts may unbuckle suddenly with light pressure, upon impact, or when the strap is pulled.
- Inadequate straps. Cheaply-constructed belts are more likely to develop rips and tears in the straps, causing a lack of tension that can result in injuries.
- Design problems. Some seat belts aren't designed in a way that will adequately protect a user. Belts that create gaps due to buckle placement or don't restrain the torso may suffer from defective design.
- Inadequate passive restraints. Passive restraints are devices that automatically slide down over the rider’s shoulder when the door is closed. These are meant to work in conjunction with lap belts, but they can still cause significant upper body trauma when they fail in an accident.
- Tension failure. Seat belts automatically tighten with hard braking or when the vehicle strikes an object. The belt should contract long enough to restrain the user during impact with another vehicle as well as the secondary impact of striking objects within the car. Faulty devices may not place enough tension in the belt, release tension too early, or constrict so tightly they impair breathing or prevent escape from a damaged vehicle.
If your injuries were made worse by a defective seatbelt, you may be able file a lawsuit against the manufacturer or automaker, even if your insurance already covered some costs of the crash. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation with one of our car accident attorneys.
Can I get compensation if I was forced to lay down my motorcycle?
Some crashes occur for reasons other than one driver striking another. Many injuries happen due to “near miss” situations, such as a motorcyclist taking evasive action to avoid a crash. In these kinds of no-contact crashes, bikers may have trouble collecting compensation from an at fault driver.
Injury Liability After “Laying Down” a Bike
"Laying down" a motorcycle is a desperate maneuver used only as a last resort. It may allow the rider to avoid impact with an object, but it almost always results in injury to him or her. And since the rider wasn't actually struck by another driver, it can affect liability in his injury case.
In order to get compensation, a rider who lays down a bike has to prove that:
- An accident was unavoidable. Bikers usually only lay down a bike if there's no other option. A recreation of the scene of the crash can be used to show that the biker was paced in an impossible position, such as either being struck by an oncoming car or steering the bike off of the road.
- The other party was negligent. Just because a biker is injured doesn't necessarily mean a driver is to blame. The rider must show that he or she was acting responsibly and was forced to lay down the bike because of another party’s actions. A driver who was texting and drifted into the motorcyclist’s path or a municipality that allowed bushes to obstruct the view on a steep curve could be held liable for negligence.
- The other party was primarily at fault. A motorcyclist can be found partially at fault for an accident and still recover compensation. However, the other party must have a larger portion of blame than the biker, and the biker’s recovery will be reduced in proportion to the amount of fault he or she shares for the crash.
These kinds of accidents typically involve long and frustrating recoveries, significant medical expenses, and an inability to earn a living. If someone else’s negligence resulted in your suffering, we can help you collect the compensation you deserve. Simply fill out the form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation with one of our experienced injury attorneys.
How often is epilepsy misdiagnosed for other conditions?
Unfortunately, epilepsy is often confused for other conditions, and may not be correctly diagnosed for months or years after the first seizure.
The problem with misdiagnosis can affect patients in one of two ways:
- They may be incorrectly diagnosed with epilepsy
- They may be diagnosed with another condition, preventing them from effectively treating their epilepsy
Conditions That May Be Misdiagnosed as Epilepsy
An estimated 1 in 3 patients who are diagnosed with epilepsy are suffering from a different kind of medical condition. A variety of ailments can mimic the symptoms of epilepsy, including:
- Other seizure disorders. A patient who is suffering from diabetes or a high fever may suffer seizures as a result, but these conditions are not considered epilepsy.
- Migraines. Patients who suffer chronic, severe headaches have many symptoms in common with epileptics, including dizziness, vomiting, distraction, and seeing an “aura” before an episode.
- Brain inflammation. Two common forms of swelling that can result in seizures are encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord).
- Sleep disorders. People who suffer from sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, sleepwalking, or chronic muscle spasms while asleep may exhibit lack of attention or loss of consciousness during the day, common in epileptic patients.
- Movement disorders. Some patients who suffer from motor problems or involuntary muscle contractions are incorrectly diagnosed as suffering from seizures.
- Eclampsia. Pregnant women diagnosed with preeclampsia have high blood pressure problems. This condition is often a precursor to a far more serious concern, eclampsia, when the mother suffers seizures. If treated correctly, women experiencing eclampsia won't have any future episodes after the baby is delivered.
- Brain and psychological trauma. Isolated seizures may occur in patients with head injuries, while behavioral changes are common in those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If you're accurately diagnosed with epilepsy and unable to work due to complications from the disease, our attorneys can help you get the Social Security benefits you deserve. Call us today or fill out the form on this page to set up your consultation with a Social Security attorney.
What are the most common symptoms and causes of epilepsy?
Epilepsy is more than just suffering seizures. While many people may experience an isolated seizure episode, epileptics suffer from recurrent seizures that can happen at any time, often without warning.
This chronic condition causes a sudden flurry of electrical activity in the brain, resulting in behavioral, sensory, or perception changes.
The problems caused by epilepsy, as well as its unpredictable nature, often make it difficult for patients to earn a sustainable living.
Common Causes of Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders
The symptoms of epilepsy often vary from patient to patient. Some patients can experience minor seizures without realizing it, and may simply think that they “zoned out” for a few moments. In major seizures, patients may perform repetitive movements, lose consciousness, or suffer muscle spasms. Afterward, patients often report having no memory of the episode, and may report changes in smells, sight, hearing, and taste for hours afterward.
There are many different causes of epilepsy and seizure disorders, including:
- Genetics. People who haven't suffered any external conditions that may result in seizures may have a hereditary form of epilepsy caused by the development or interaction of their genes.
- Infections. An infection in the spinal cord or in the brain itself may result in epilepsy. A person who suffers a high fever or a condition that leaves scarring on the brain is at risk of experiencing seizures in the future.
- Head injuries. Severe head injuries may cause epilepsy, such as shaken baby syndrome or trauma from a car accident or fall.
- Brain damage. Strokes, tumors, hypoxia, drug use, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions that damage the structures or blood supply in the brain are likely to result in seizures.
While there's currently no cure for epilepsy, patients may be successfully treated with anticonvulsant medications. If seizures are the result of a tumor, hemorrhaging in the brain, or some other abnormality, a patient may need surgery to treat the underlying cause of epilepsy.
In many cases, patients will be severely limited in their employment options due to the effects of their conditions. If you're unable to work due to epilepsy complications, our attorneys can help you get the Social Security benefits you deserve. Call us today, or fill out the form on this page to set up your consultation with a Social Security attorney.
Can I get workers' comp if I suffered a fall on the job?
A slip and fall accident can cause minor bumps and bruises, or it can mean the loss of months of work as a victim recovers. As these are some of the most common accidents that happen in the workplace, it makes sense that slip and fall injuries are covered by workers compensation.
Unfortunately, some employees may file for benefits only to be denied based on exceptions in the workers’ compensation law.
When Will Workers' Compensation Cover a Slip or Fall Injury?
In most cases, any injury sustained by an employee while he or she was doing a work-related task will qualify for workers’ compensation. In addition, any conditions that arise from a work-related injury, such as depression, will be covered under workers’ compensation.
However, an employer is allowed to deny benefits for an injury sustained during:
- Horseplay. Workers’ comp is a form of no-fault insurance, so employees can still get benefits if they're partly at fault. However, any injury involving horseplay—such as having a race around a warehouse—is not automatically covered by workers’ compensation.
- Intoxication. If you're under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of your injury, your employer may not be liable for covering the costs of the accident.
- Commuting. Most injuries incurred while going to or coming from work aren't covered by workers' compensation, but there are a few exceptions. For example, injuries that occur on a business trip or during a work-related errand may be covered, as are slip-and-falls that occur in the company parking lot as you leave or arrive for work.
- Breaks. In most cases, injuries that occur on lunch breaks aren't covered. But if you slipped in the company cafeteria or were picking up lunch for several other people, you may be able to collect benefits.
You'll likely be able to collect compensation if you can prove that your injury occurred as a result of a work-related activity. The attorneys at Johnson & Gilbert, P.A. can listen to the details of your case and investigate the connection between your injury and your employment.
Contact us today by filling out the quick contact form on this page, or order your free copy of our book, It’s Not Rocket Science, It’s Workers’ Comp, to learn more about your employee rights.
How are Social Security disability benefits paid?
If you're one of thousands of people waiting for your Social Security (SS) disability benefits to be approved, you may be wondering how quickly you'll be paid after your application is accepted. While there's typically a wait time between approval and the first payment, claimants can get their benefits a little faster now that the United States Treasury Department pays federal benefits through electronic deposit.
Claimants Are Required to Receive Social Security Disability Benefits Electronically
In the past, beneficiaries received paper benefit checks in the mail or picked them up at the nearest SS office. As of 2013, federal law requires anyone who receives government benefits, including SS disability benefits, to accept payments electronically through direct deposit to a financial institution.
The implementation of direct deposit is faster, safer, and more convenient for claimants, as claimants’ payments go directly to a bank account,
credit union account, or a prepaid credit card each month.
While direct deposit is required in most circumstances, there are some instances where beneficiaries may be able to receive paper checks. These exceptions are rarely granted, and must be requested by completing an official waiver from the Social Security Administration.
You may be able to receive paper checks for your benefits if you:
- Live in a remote area where banking institutions don't offer adequate direct deposit payment options.
- Have a mental impairment that prohibits or complicates the switch from a current paper check method to direct deposit.
- Were born before May 1, 1921.
In making a request for paper checks, you'll need to provide information as to why you're requesting the waiver and an explanation of why receiving benefits through direct deposit would cause undue hardship. However, if you don't meet the qualifications above, it's unlikely the waiver will be granted.
The Social Security Disability program is often overrun with applications, and it can often take a year or more for benefit requests to be approved. If you're having trouble getting your rightful benefits, our experienced lawyers can intervene and take over the fight on your behalf. Call us today or fill out the form on this page to set up your consultation with a Social Security attorney.
Can I be fired while receiving workers' compensation benefits in Florida?
Many employees discover their services are no longer needed shortly after they file for workers’ compensation. Many claimants are simply not able to work after an on-the-job injury, and employers may not have the resources to keep the worker on as an employee.
While it's not illegal for someone who collects workers’ compensation to be fired or laid off, it's illegal if the termination is a direct result from the claim itself, since this would be considered retaliation.
Florida Workers' Compensation Laws Protect Employees from Retaliation
Workers who are injured on the job rely on workers’ compensation benefits for their short-term injury costs, but most are hoping to return to work as soon as they are able. Unfortunately, employers may consider an employee’s recovery period as a convenient time to terminate the worker, since the employee is often too busy with the injury to fight the decision.
If you were terminated while out on workers’ comp, you may be wondering:
- Do I get to keep my job? Florida's Workers' Compensation Laws don't require an employer to “hold” a worker’s job while he or she recovers from a workplace injury. However, these laws do prohibit an employer from terminating an injured worker if the action is retaliation for filing the workers' compensation claim.
- Do I get to keep my benefits after termination? In most cases, an employer’s insurer is still responsible for paying temporary partial disability or temporary total disability benefits to an injured employee even if the employee is terminated.
- If I caused the accident, can my benefits be terminated? Employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits even if their own actions were partly or solely to blame for their injuries.
If you believe you were terminated because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Johnson & Gilbert, P.A. can investigate the connection between your filing a claim and your termination, allowing you to get the fair treatment you deserve.
Contact us today by filling out the quick contact form on this page, or order your free copy of our book, It’s Not Rocket Science, It’s Workers’ Comp, to learn more about your employee rights.
Can I sue if I was injured in an ATV accident in Florida?
Accidents involving recreational vehicles differ from car accidents, even when they involve other cars. The victim may have more severe injuries due to the lack of protection in an ATV accident, and the victim may be found liable if he or she was riding in an area where that type of vehicle is restricted.
If the rider wasn't following Florida road rules pertaining to ATV operation, he or she can be found negligent, and may not be eligible for injury compensation.
With that in mind, it's important to know where and when operators of off-road vehicles may ride.
Florida Laws on the Use of ATVs and Other Off-Road Vehicles
Just as there are Florida laws regarding different types of motorcycles, the state also has regulations on operation of the many types of off-road vehicles, including:
- All-terrain vehicle (ATV). Florida classifies an ATV as any motorized off-highway vehicle that travels on three or more tires and is designed for use by a single operator or a single operator and one passenger. In Florida, an ATV may be operated on a public roadway only during the day, if the roadway is unpaved, and the posted speed limit is less than 35 mph.
- Recreational off-highway vehicle (ROV). Florida law considers an ROV to be a motorized recreational off-highway vehicle under 60 inches in width that travels on four or more non-highway tires, and has non-straddle seating and a steering wheel, such as a motorized go-kart. Like ATVs, these vehicles are forbidden to ride on public streets or highway unless it's during the day on an unpaved road with a speed limit less than 35 mph.
- Off-highway motorcycle (OHM). An OHM similarly can only be ridden on public roads on an unpaved road with a speed limit less than 35 mph during daylight hours. These vehicles are motorized bikes with a seat or saddle for the rider and travel with not more than two wheels in contact with the ground. It's also illegal to carry a passenger on am OHM unless the vehicle has been specifically designed by the manufacturer to carry both an operator and a single passenger.
- Low-speed vehicles. Florida laws are more generous regarding the use of low-speed vehicles, which include four-wheeled electric vehicles with top speeds between 20–to– 25 mph. Low-speed vehicles may be operated only on roads where the posted speed limit is 35 mph or less. Operators of low-speed vehicles are required to carry a valid driver’s license and to register and insure their vehicles.
- Golf carts. Sporting or recreational golf carts may only be operated on public roads with a posted speed limit under 35 mph; roads that are specifically designated for golf cart use; or roads that are part of the State Park Road System (and only if the operator is over 14 years old).
We can help you determine who was at fault, whether defects in the ATV manufacturing or design led to the crash, and how much you could be owed for your injury. Contact the injury attorneys at Johnson & Gilbert, P.A. by filling out the quick contact form on this page and scheduling your free case evaluation.
How long must I wait for my Social Security disability hearing?
It can be extremely frustrating to wait for the approval of disability benefits that you desperately need. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates that there are over a million people in the U.S. currently doing just that—and claimants in the state of Florida may be waiting between one-to-two years for a disability hearing date.
Why Does It Take So Long to Get a Disability Hearing?
Not only does it take many months to get a hearing, it may also take even longer to get a decision on a benefits case. Over half of all applications received by the SSA are initially denied, making the wait times even longer as applicants appeal the decision.
Some of the reasons claimants wait years for benefits include:
- Backlogs. The number of claims waiting for hearings varies from city to city, and may be higher in more densely-populated areas. For example, the average processing time in the Orlando office—which takes applications from field offices in Kissimmee, Lake Mary, Leesburg, and Ocala—is 16 months, compared to an average of 11 months in the Fort Myers office.
- Administration cutbacks. The SSA’s operating budget has decreased 10 percent since 2010, causing staffing problems that have added an average of 20 days of wait time per claim.
- Economic congestion. More people apply for disability in times of economic hardship. The SSA must determine which benefits applicants are not only disabled, but also are completely unable to work.
- Changes in the process. In 2017, SSA implemented new rules intended to streamline the claims process, including removing the special consideration given to a claimant’s treating physician. Relying solely on the opinion of a medical consultant who may only have reviewed a patient’s file can lead to more denials, which increases the backlog if the denials are appealed.
There are many things you can do while waiting for your court date, including preparing for your disability hearing for the best chance of success.
If you are having trouble getting your rightful Social Security benefits, our attorneys can intervene and take over the fight on your behalf. Call us today or fill out the form on this page to set up your consultation with a Social Security attorney.
What if injuries suffered on the job prevent me from returning to work?
Many workers injured on the job face a difficult choice: live on meager benefits or reenter to the workforce with a debilitating injury. A recent study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute found that as many as 18 percent of workers’ compensation claimants have not experienced a substantial return to work within one year of their accident—and many will never able to return to work in the same capacity as before their injuries.
Workers Are Under Pressure to Return to Work
Injured workers are often forced to return to work before their injuries are fully healed or before they're able to meet the demands of their jobs. These pressures can come from many sources, including:
- Your employer. Workers often return to work too early or even continue to work after an on-the-job injury because they fear retaliation from an employer. There are many laws that prohibit this practice, so if this is happening to you, you should speak to a workers' compensation attorney as quickly as possible.
- Company doctors. An employer’s doctor has considerable conflict of interest when treating someone who is injured at work. The doctor may be under pressure to clear an injured person for duty before the patient has fully recovered. If you're cleared by a company doctor but aren't ready to return to work, your best option is to seek a second opinion from another doctor who specializes in your specific injury.
- Your doctor. If your doctor says that you are fit for light duty, you're required to accept the position as long as it works with your limitations. If you refuse light-duty work, your workers' compensation benefits may be discontinued.
What Else Can I Do If I'm Unable to Work?
If you have been out of work or will be unable to earn a living for a year or more, you may qualify for Social Security disability or other benefit programs. Contact Johnson & Gilbert, P.A. today by filling out the quick contact form on this page to tell us more about your situation.