School House Blue Background.001In Florida, millions of children attend public school.  On most days, the worst thing that happens to a student is in the form of test or homework.  School is school.  However, when a child suffers an injury at school, there are many challenges in dealing with the aftermath of the injuries in the form of medical care, medical bills, pain, suffering, and the stress that is otherwise associated with the personal injuries.  There is a concept in Florida and other states called Sovereign Immunity.   From the literal reading of this term, one may assume that a government entity is immune from being sued or held responsible for the negligent acts of school employees.  The truth is that public schools can and do get sued for negligence when a child suffers personal injuries while under the care and supposed supervision of the school. While Florida Sovereign Immunity laws limit the amount of financial recovery and proscribe the manner, notice, and method for a government entity being sued, there is no immunity per se for negligent acts of school employees in the State of Florida.
The Supreme Court of Florida summarized the general law on point for school negligence cases and claims as follows:
A public school, at least through the high school level, undoubtedly owes a general duty of supervision to the students within its care.  Case law is replete with instances of schools, principals and teachers being required to reasonably fulfill their duty to supervise students.

Boat Silhouette.001Florida is well known for its waterways, oceans, lakes, canals, rivers, coasts, and other aquatic areas. With a flurry of boating activity year round and more so over the summer, Florida is also the location or site for boating accidents causing personal injuries to children, teens, adults, and seniors. Florida has laws in place that cover the use and operation of a boat or vessel. Just because a boat owner / operator is out on the water, there is no freedom per se to act negligently, carelessly, or recklessly just because you are off the land and seem to be away from civilization.   Section 327.33, Florida Statutes provides as follows:
It is unlawful to operate a vessel in a reckless manner. A person is guilty of reckless operation of a vessel who operates any vessel, or manipulates any water skis, aqua plane, or similar decide, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property at a speed or in a manner as to endanger, or likely to endanger, life or limb, or damage the property of, or injury any person.
Florida law under Section 327.33, Florida Statutes further provides that:

 No Swimming.001During the past week, I have lectured and written on the issue of negligence, child injuries, and the unfortunate and tragic incident that took place at the Walt Disney World Resort – Orlando where a 2 year old child was attacked and ultimately drowned by an alligator.  It has been reported that there were “No Swimming” signs posted in or near the area.  Some people, who I have spoken to, believe that this fact should then be a bar to recovery if there is a claim or case pursued by the parents of the child who died.  Florida is a state that has adopted a Comparative Fault system for the pursuit and trial of personal injury cases.  In other words, even if an injury victim is comparatively or partially at fault, there can still be a case pursued on behalf of the injury victim and / or the injury victim’s family.   It should also be noted that there are some special laws in place in Florida when a child is injured.  For instance, in the State of Florida, a child under the age of 6 years old cannot be held liable, responsible, or partially at fault as a matter of law.  As such, a 2 year old cannot be comparatively at fault as a matter of law even though there were “No Swimming” signs that were posted.  However, a parent, as a third party of sorts, can be held liable, responsible, or partially at fault if the parent’s actions or inactions contributed in whole or part to the situation or incident taking place.
As for the Disney alligator attack, it has been reported that there were “No Swimming” signs posted.  The family of the 2 year old were from Nebraska and may not have been aware of the presence of alligators throughout the State of Florida in its rivers, lakes, canals, ponds, and lagoons.  Furthermore, the sign read “No Swimming”.   The reason for the posting of the sign could have included any of the following:
*There was no regular lifeguard in the area.

Alligator Warning.001
By David Wolf, Child Injury Lawyer
The State of Florida is a tourist destination for millions of visitors every year. In Florida, we have beaches, resorts, theme parks, water parks, lakes, rivers, ponds, lagoons, and a number of alligators.  Certainly, personal injuries caused by an automobile accident are far more common than personal injuries caused by an alligator attack.  As such, there are literally thousands of appellate cases and rulings associated with personal injuries and automobile accidents.  On the other hand, the laws and appellate cases associated with alligator attacks are quite sparse.  A recent incident at Walt Disney World Orlando made national headline news.  Unfortunately, it focused media attention in the State of Florida and Orlando for a tragedy rather than any kind of celebration.  More importantly and more tragically, a Nebraska family, who innocently was just trying to enjoy the “Magic” of Walt Disney World Orlando, will be heading home with one less family member who was attacked and dragged away by an alligator at the Seven Seas Lagoon.
In Palumbo v. State Game & Fresh Water Fish Commission, 487 So.2d 352 (Fla. 1st D.C.A. 1986), a personal injury victim (Christopher Palumbo) sought the review of a trial court order granting summary judgment for the defendant – the State of Florida. In other words, the trial court threw out the personal injury victim’s case.  The trial court ruled that the evidence, when considered in the light most favorable to the injury victim, was insufficient to support a claim or case for negligence against the State of Florida.  Mr. Palumbo was injured at the University of Florida – Lake Wauberg Recreational Park. He noticed that a boat had capsized.  Mr Palumbo decided to swim out to the boat to help the boaters with a repair.  As he was swimming towards the boat, Mr. Palumbo was attacked by an alligator and he was injured.   Mr. Palumbo later filed a lawsuit against the State of Florida Game and Fresh Water Commission.  The trial court threw out the case and determined that the State of Florida was not required to fence and was not required to otherwise keep alligators out of the area.  The trial court further noted that Mr. Palumbo disregarded warning signs that were posted at the recreational park / facility.  The First District Court of Appeal affirmed the rulings of the trial court.  The First District Court of Appeal noted that the State of Florida did not have a duty to guard the visitor against harm from an alligator unless the alligator was reduced to the possession of the State of Florida or the alligator was not indigenous to the locality.  The First District Court of Appeal further noted that Mr. Palumbo ignored clear warning signs at the facility which, in turn, was the sole proximate cause of his personal injuries.  In addition to “No Swimming” signs posted at the recreational park, there were a variety of signs warning of and referencing the presence of alligators in the area including one sign that read “Unlawful to Feed Alligators” and another sign that read “Don’t Feed or Molest . . . “ with a large graphic of an alligator on it.  In the Palumbo case, there were clear warning signs of alligators in the area which appeared to be an important part of the rulings of the trial court and the appellate court.

orlando-vector-doodle_GJ7pbFLO_LWalt Disney World Orlando advertises itself as one of the “Happiest Places on Earth”.  For millions of visitors every year, it is quite a happy and joyful place filled with rides, cartoon characters, and adventures; however, for many children and their families, Walt Disney World Orlando happens to be a placed filled with horrific memories, significant personal injuries, tragedy, and even the untimely and wrongful death of a visitor from children to teens to adults. Certainly, Walt Disney World Orlando welcomes children and families to its many theme parks, attractions, resorts, and hotels.  As such, it is important that Walt Disney World Orlando provide a safe and well maintained environment with the full knowledge that every day families and young children will be on the premises.   This duty extends to all areas of the park and resorts including but not limited to the attractions, rides, restaurants, hotels, lobby areas, swimming pool areas, recreation areas, and yes, the other aquatic areas whether man-made or natural in the form of lakes, ponds, canals, lagoons, and other areas.   It is incumbent upon Walt Disney World Orlando to patrol the areas, maintain the areas, clean up the areas, and post prominent signage about potential dangers that may include those related to electrical and wildlife.  If an area has the potential for significant injury or death, this particular area should either be closed off, modified, and / or posted with prominent signage.

A recent incident at Walt Disney World Orlando left a family and community in shock when an alligator from the Seven Seas Lagoon lunged out of the water and grabbed a 2 year old who was standing in or near the water with his father.  The boy, who was vacationing with his family from Nebraska, was attacked by the alligator.  While the father tried to do his best to stop the attack and save his son, he was unable to do so.  It was reported that there were signs in the area that advised visitors about the designation of a “No Swimming” area.  There may not have been any warnings or signage about the presence of dangerous wildlife including but not limited to alligators.  Certainly, this incident was and is a complete and utter nightmare for the family visiting the “Magic Kingdom” from Nebraska.  The incident was immediately reported to Walt Disney World Orlando officials, resort staff and management, local law enforcement, and Florida Wildlife Law Enforcement officers.  You can read more about this tragedy at KETV Omaha, Nebraska – Alligator Attacks and Drags 2 Year Old Nebraska Boy at Walt Disney World Orland Resort – Seven Seas Lagoon. 

The injury and / or wrongful of a child is a harrowing experience.  Certainly, as parents, we work day and night to provide for our children’s safety, health, and welfare.  When a child is injured or when a child dies as a result of the negligence of another person, business entity, or government entity, a parent is faced with a number of life, medical, and legal challenges. Certainly, it is important that these trying times to be supported by family members, friends, community, medical professionals, clergy, community, and, yes, when necessary an experienced and caring Florida Child Injury Lawyer.  Big businesses are supported day / night by in-house and retained legal counsel essentially on a 24 / 7 basis. There are risk management and insurance risk management adjuster in place to advise and protect the companies.  As such, injury victims and their families also deserve legal representation to make that legal rights are protected, enforced, and preserved as needed especially in the aftermath of significant personal injuries and /or wrongful death.

Bicycle Injury Rider.001In the State of Florida and other states, bicyclists are put at risk for personal injuries.  From the simple bicycle ride of a child to a more rigorous bicycle ride by an experienced cyclist, an injury, accident, or crash could take place at any place and time.  Some bicycle injuries are quite minor in the form of a scared knee or elbow that heal quickly; however, other bicycle accident related injuries can be quite significant and change the life of the injured cyclist.  Tragically, far too many cyclists from toddlers to elementary school age children to teens to adults to seniors die every year due to the negligent driving of an operator of passenger vehicle or commercial vehicle.  Any time that a driver gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, the driver should keep in mind that on any given trip there will be pedestrians, cyclists (bicycles), and bikers (motorcycles) on the roadway.  There is a common expression or theme out there – Look Twice for Motorcycles.  This simple but powerful advice applies the same and even more to pedestrians and cyclists especially those who are children.
When a cyclist is injured or a cyclist dies as a result of the fault of a driver, the cyclist and the family of the cyclist can seek compensation for the damages (personal and property) caused by the bicycle accident  Most states have adopted a comparative fault form of liability for bicycle accidents.  In other words, even if the cyclist was partially at fault, an injury claim or case can still be pursued on behalf of the injured cyclist and / or the family of the injured cyclist.  It should be pointed out that each claim or case involving a bicycle accident or injury should be evaluated on its own merits, facts, and circumstances. It is important that the injured cyclist and family retain the services of an experienced Personal Injury Attorney to review the facts, circumstances, insurance coverages, medical bills, and medical records to determine the recommended practical and legal courses of action.
A police report detailing the details of the bicycle accident can be helpful as part of the investigation; however, it should be noted that a case or claim can be pursued on behalf of an injured bicyclist even without a bicycle accident report and even without a favorable bicycle accident report. In other words, if the police officer places some or all of the fault for a bicycle accident on the injured cyclist, a civil claim or case can still be pursued on behalf of the injured cyclist. In most instances, the police officer, deputy sheriff, and / or highway patrol trooper arrive on the scene after the bicycle accident has already taken place.  As such, the police officer is merely assessing the information as he or she processed it at the time of the crash.  In most jurisdiction, for purposes of a bicycle accident, the police officer is not given the role of insurance adjuster, judge, or jury.  In other words, the conclusions and evaluations of the police officer are not completely dispositive of a claim or case on behalf of an injured cyclist.

Interstate 95In the State of Florida, just one crash can change the lives of many people and families.  This is especially true when there are multiple deaths or multiple claimants involved with a traffic crash. There are many issues and challenges to a case involving one injured person or party.  The issues are compounded when there are multiple victims, injuries, and claims.
For most personal injury claims or cases, the amount and type of automobile insurance often come into play and require a close evaluation and study.   It is important for a personal injury victim and / or the family of the personal injury victim to retain the services of an experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney to determine the rights of the victim, the rights of the family, and the recommended courses of action.  It should be noted that there is a big difference between the legal rights of the victim and the practical options or practical resolution of a case.  For instance, let’s assume that a person suffers a fractured leg requiring surgery and an extended hospitalization.  Let’s further assume that the reasonable value for such a case is $450,000.  The at-fault driver had an automobile insurance policy with a bodily injury policy limit of $50,000.  As such, the total amount of liability insurance in place for this particular claim was $50,000.  Under these facts and circumstances, the fair value of the case is $450,000; however the practical resolution of the case may end up being the $50,000 policy limits.  Again, there is a difference between the legal rights of the personal injury victim and the practical resolution of the case.
On Interstate 95 near Titusville, Florida, there was a recent fatal crash that was reported by news and media outlets.  The crash ended the lives of three young girls who were ejected from the vehicle.  It was reported that there were 11 people occupying the vehicle that was manufactured with a maximum capacity of 8 passengers / occupants.  A tire problem caused the Dodge Durrango SUV to go off off the road and then the SUV flipped several times.  Certainly, this tragic crash will have a ripple effect through the family, neighborhood, and community.   

Bicycle Injury Rider.001In every community, there are cyclists and bicyclists of all types and ages.  It is important for drivers to slow down any time a cyclist is on or near the roadway.  Let’s face it.  A bicyclist, even an experienced one, is no match for a vehicle that crashes into or cuts off the bicyclist.  The result of such an incident or crash can be devastating and tragically ends of the life of far too many bicyclist.  Many bicycle accidents are preventable with safer and more attention driving.   Drivers should slow down and be respectful of bicyclists and cyclists.  Many injured cyclists are children who lack the safety awareness and motor skills to avoid impact with a vehicle that is heading straight for the bicyclist or cuts off the bicyclist.
This leads to a question that is common in bicycle accident cases.  What the value of a bicycle accident case?  While this may seem like a simple question, there is no simple answer to such an question. There are a variety of factors that are considered when properly evaluating a bicycle accident case.  For instance, the value of a case depends in part of the seriousness of the injuries.  An abrasion to the shin that heals in a weeks is evaluated much differently that a fractured leg that requires surgery.  Another factor to consider involves the amount and type of automobile insurance coverage in place.  Let’s say that a cyclist is hit by a vehicle through no fault of the cyclist.  The cyclist was wearing a bicycle helmet but still suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that required 1 year of treatment and the bicyclist now has ongoing headaches, memory problems, and cognitive problems.  One would think that this case has a significant value.  Let’s assume that the at-fault driver had $1,000,000 (One Million Dollars) in insurance coverage.  Then, yes, the case would have significant value and there is a good amount of insurance to cover the injuries.  One could even argue that the injuries exceed $1,000,000 (One Million Dollars).  For most injured bicyclists, the amount of automobile insurance coverage is much less than $1,000,000.  Let’s say that there is $25,000 in coverage.  Let’s further say that the case has a value from an injury standpoint of $750,000.  Even though the injuries are quite significant from a medical and value standpoint, the case may utimately be resolved (for practical reasons) for the Inusrance policy limits of $25,000.
Before making any decisions as to the settlement or a resolution of a case, the injured cyclist and his or her family should have an experienced Florida Personal Injury to evaluate the case and to provide advice, guidance, and legal representation.

Swimming Pool - Drowning and Personal Injuries
In Florida, swimming, boating, and aquatic activities are essentially year round activities.  This is especially true during the spring and summer seasons.   According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people die every day from drowning related incidents. Children under the age of 14 account for 2 out of the 10 deaths.  It is reported that drowning is the 5th leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States.

Despite these risks and disturbing statistics, drowning incidents continue and unfortunately will continue through the rest of the 2016 year including the summer season.  Can a case or claim be pursued on behalf of an injured child OR on behalf of the parents of a child who dies as a result of a drowning incident?  Like many legal questions, it depends on the facts and circumstances.  It also depends on the practicalities associated with liability insurance coverage and other matters.
Like other personal injury cases in the State of Florida, there are four essential elements associated with a drowning case:

Beach Personal Injury.001In the State of Florida, there are beaches on both coast from Key West to Jacksonville to Tampa and across the state to Pensacola.  For most beach goers, the days are filled with wonderful scenes, the surf, and family fun.  Unfortunately for some pedestrians and beach goers, the beach is the scene of a personal injury caused by the negligence with of a driver.  Many beaches have both pedestrian traffic and vehicular traffic.  It is important for all drivers to proceed with due caution when driving on a beach because there are pedestrians, sun bathers, and, yes, teens and children in the area.  Many such incidents or accidents could be avoided with safer driving and / or more restrictions on beach driving.
During Mother’s Day Weekend – May 2016, two teens were hit by a Park Ranger with Atlantic Beach, Florida on Atlantic Beach.  The two girls were laying on the sand when they were hit by the vehicle.  With beach goers laying down, it is difficult to see them but this is all the more reason to drive extremely slow and careful when operating a motor vehicle on the beach.  First Coast News and other media outlets reported that the Park Ranger was at fault and will be issued a citation.
If a pedestrian or beach goer is struck by a vehicle while on the beach, the injured pedestrian or beach goer has legal rights to pursue compensation for medical bills, medical treatment, pain and suffering, mental anguish and the loss of the enjoyment of life.  Compensation is not necessarily automatic or guaranteed.  Each potential case should be evaluated on its own facts and merits.  It should be noted that cases or claims against government entities and its employees are handled differently by both practice and procedure.  There are formal notices that are required.  Furthermore, there are limitations of recovery on personal injury cases against government entities.  There are essentially four elements of a personal injury case:  1. Duty; 2. Breach of Duty; 3. Causation; and 4. Damages.  It should be noted that the results on ones case do not necessarily control the results on a similar case.  For instance, let’s say that a person is speeding through a school zone and hits a 6 year old waiting for the school bus.  The 6 year old suffered some minor abrasions but was otherwise fine.  This case certainly has some merit or value. Let’s change the facts a bit and say that the child suffered a broken leg, broken arm, and a serious traumatic brain injury.  While the circumstances surrounding the pedestrian accident were similar, the injuries and value are quite different.