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Hazing-Fraternity-Sorority-150x150In the State of Florida, it is a crime for a person to haze another person.  It is not a defense to the action if the hazing, abuse, or pressure is connected to admission, entry, or membership into an organization, club, fraternity, or sorority.  It should be noted that the crime of hazing is different from a prior and element standpoint than a civil case on behalf of a victim subjected to hazing acts like physical abuse or drinking games that lead to serious injury or even death of the victim, pledge, or applicant.  With respect to a civi case involving negligence or abusive conduct, there are four elements to establish:

Duty;

Breach of Duty;

Scales-of-Justice-Yellow-and-Blue-150x150In the State of Florida, a property owner or landowner whether a private person, business, or government entity has a duty to maintain the premises under the property owner’s control in a reasonably safe manner. The is especially important for areas in which children are present.  It is well known that children, especially toddlers, are curious and will often wander into areas that are not built for the play or presence of children. For instance, it is important for property owners and landowners to fence off hazardous areas including those related to waterways, electrical equipment, steep areas, and any other areas in which a child may get stuck, trapped, or otherwise injured.
Septic or lift stations for restroom sewage can be commonly be seen in many Florida communities.  It is vital that the lids to septic or lift stations are safely secured and in place.  If there is any risk that a young child can remove the lid or slip through the lid into the hole into the ground or the septic area, a child can be at significant risk for drowning.  There are a number of causes for covers to be damages, unsecured, and out of place.  When this happens, it is important for a property owner to take swift action to seal off the area, and repair or replace the lid.
Attractive Nuisance is a legal concept in which applies to situation in which a child is lawfully on property or even trespassing on the premises. If the child is injured by an area or object that is likely to attract children, a property owner or landowner can be held liable if it can be shown that the property owner or landowner knew or should have known about the attractive nuisance but failed to take action to fix the problem, secure the dangerous area, or remove the danger area / problem from the premises.

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.   

Red Bicycle.001In Florida, there is a common risk or danger in most communities. Children ride bicycles in most communities.  This is the common risk and danger.  It is well known or should be well known that children lack good safety awareness.  Furthermore, the motor skills of small children are still developing when the children especially when the children are in pre-school and elementary school.  Because of the risks of bicycle riding, it is important for all motorist to slow down any time that a driver is near a child riding a bicycle.  Children enjoy riding bicycles in neighborhoods, parking lots, driveways and elsewhere.
When a child is hit by a vehicle while riding a bicycle, the personal injuries can range from minor ones to significant personal injuries including the wrongful death of a child.  A child and bicycle are no match for the steel and weight of the typical motor vehicle.  When you combine the size differential with any amount of speed, the situation can easily escalate to one with horrific and catastrophic personal injuries.  
It should be noted that Florida is a comparative fault state.  As such, for a particular accident or incident, there can be a percentage distribution of fault attributed to the bicycle rider and driver.  It should also be noted that children under a certain age cannot be held comparatively at fault as a matter of law.  In the State of Florida, a child under the age of 6 years old cannot be held comparatively at fault; however, a parent or supervisor of the child may be help proportionally at fault for the lack of supervision of the child. 

Boat Wheel - Personal InjuryIn States like Florida, California, Georgia, Hawaii, and Texas among others, boating is a year round activity.  The warm weather and abundance of waterways and surrounding lakes, rivers, ponds, canals, and oceans provide a welcoming enviornment for those seeking to boat, fish, swim, water ski, and otherwise enjoy the day.   While boating can be great fun, it can also be dangerous for teens and children especially those who are not properly supervised and / or do not understand or follow basic safety measures.   There are just too many risks associated with boating to hand over the full responsibility to a teen or child.  Adult supervision is key to preventing injuries including those related to drowning or near drowning incidents.  This is especially true when there is bad weather, rough waters, or other conditions that lead to a capsizing incident.   It takes a certainly maturity, strength, and experience to properly react when there is an emergency.  Because of this, it makes it even more important to have adult supervision during any boating activity.  A teen or child may be a champion boater or swimmer.  Even for these talented and strong individuals, a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket should be worn at all times during boating related activities.  It may not be cool or comfortable to wear a life jacket but this one basic safety precaution can and does save lives.
Even with adult supervision, education is key to prevent injuries and drowning incidents for teens and children.  The captain / owner of the boat should carefully explain the rules and safety precautions to be followed while on the boat.   If a child is going to regularly be a guest on a boat, it may make sense for the child to attend a boating course. Of course, being able to swim is important as well.  If a child or teen is going out on a boat, it is better if the child or teen can swim.  If not, extra care should be taken to the extent possible to watch over and supervise the child while engaged in boating related activities.
If a child or teen is injured or drowns during boating related activities, is the boat owner liable for such injuries or the death of the child?  Well, like most legal issues, it will depend on the particular facts and circumstances of the incident.  Let’s take an example.   Let’s say a 12 year old friend of the boat owner’s son goes out on the boat for a day of fishing.   The boat owner allows his son to take out the boat.  There is no adult supervision in place.   The boat owner does not contact the parents of the 12 year old for permission to have the child out on the boat.  The boat is not equipped with life jackets.  The two boys go out for a leisurely day of fishing.   Rough weather ended up capsizing the small boat and the 12 year old drowned.   The boat owner’s son was later rescued by the Coast Guard.  Had the 12 year old been wearing a life jacket, the drowning would most likely have been avoided.  Under these facts, there can be a claim or case on behalf of the estate of the deceased child due to the negligence of the boat owner. It should be noted that each case or incident should be evaluated on its own facts and merits.  Let’s take another example.  A 17 year old boy is invited as a guest on a neighbor’s boat with the permission of his parents.   While on the boat, the 17 year old got drunk with alcohol he brought with him from his own house.  While horsing around on the boat, the 17 year old slips off the boat.  Just prior to falling off the boat, he was wearing a life jacket but decided it would be cooler to go without the life jacket.  The boat owner was on the boat at the time and otherwise providing reasonable supervision of the 17 year old and the other teens on the boat.  Under this fact pattern, it may be difficult to pursue a case on the theory that the boat owner was negligent in some manner.  The 17 year old hid the alcohol by pouring it into a soda bottle.  Furthermore, the 17 year old disobeyed clear instructions to keep his life jacket on and to otherwise behalf while on the boat.  Of course, more facts will need to be determined to better analyze the potential liability (if any) of a case or claim of this nature. It should be noted that in the State of Florida – a child under the age of 6 years old cannot be held to be comparatively at fault in any manner.  As such, any child 6 years of age or older can be held comparatively at fault.  Seeing that the actions of a 17 year old are being considered, it is quite possible that 100 % or nearly 100 % of fault may be assessed against the 17 year old.

soccer ball on the field

Summer Camp Injuries

Summer is typically a great time for a child. School is out and the focus is on fun, sports, and activities.   Unfortunately for some children, summer marks a point in time in which a child suffers a serious personal injury in the form of heat exposure, fractures, and other injuries.  If a child is injured a a summer camp, there are many issues and challenges to pursue a case or claim against the summer camp.  It should be noted that a summer camp is not liable or responsible for every since incident or injury.

With any form of physcial activity even arts and crafts, there is a risk of injury.   The question is whether the summer camp acted reasonable and timely.   It is important that the facility, equipment and supplies are regularly inspected; otherwise, more injuries take place at summer camps and, yes, a case can be pursued if it can be shown that the injuries resulted from negligence, carelessnesss, improper supervision, or dangerous conditions.

WhistleEvery summer in Florida and other States, children gladly say goodbye to school and hello to summer camp.   For most children, summer time is filled with adventure, sports, friendship, and learning.  For some, however, summer unfortunately marks the time in which a child suffers a serious personal injury. Some children even die while at summer camp.   Certainly, any time a child is engaged in outdoor activities – there are some inherent risks.  Some injuries happen despite the presence of adult supervision and the implementation of reasonable and necessary safety measures.  However, other injuries result from the negligence of the summer camp, the lack of supervision, and / or the lack of safet measures.  When a child suffers a personal injury at a summer camp, a parent is oftten faced with the stress of dealing with the aftermath of the injury.   This can be especially troublesome when the child is at an overnight camp and is hundreds of miles away from the injured child.  Is a Sumer Camp liable for every single injury that takes place?  The simple answer to this is “No”.
A Summer Camp is not an absolute insurer for the safety and well-being of the child.  For instance, let’s say a child is playing basketball at summer camp.  He goes up for a lay up and comes down hard on his ankle.  After a medical examination and x-ray, it is determined that the ankle is fractured.  Under this basic fact pattern, a Summer Camp would not be liable for the injuries because it does not appear that the Summer Camp or its staff did anything wrong.
Here is a different fact patterrn to consider.  A group of 7 year olds are playing softball at camp. The counselor is about 100 yards from the playing field and is on her mobile phone texting a friend.  One of the children is swinging a bat around near the bench and whacks another player in the head.   The player on the bench suffers a serious head injury and is rushed to the local hospital where she is diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.   Is the Summer Camp liablel for this injury?  The simple answer to this question would be “Yes”.  With proper and attentive supervision, there would not be a child swinging a bat near the players on the bench.  This incident was wholly preventable and foreseeable for that matter.

State of Florida Map YellowA recent tragedy that took place in Jacksonville, Florida on the Buckman Bridge brings out the ripple effect of crashes of this nature.   It has been reported that the family was in Jacksonville, Florida visiting from Pine Bluff Arkansas.  There really are no suitable words to describe the loss of four family members in one automobile accident. Unfortunately, the castastrophe of a deadly automobile – trucking accident happens far too often on Florida roads, highways, and expressways.  The Buckman Bridge, which is a large bridge connecting Jacksonville to Orange Park, has seen its share of accidents including those that involve the wrongful death of adults and children.

Visitors and tourists flock to the State of Florida by the millions every year. We have great weather, attractions, and wonderful residents.  Whether it is a trip to a relative’s house or one to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, there are millions of visitions from outside the State of Florida.   Many of which travel from Southern States including the State of Arkansas.  Case in point, the recent tragic accident on the Buckman Bridge involved four family members (2 adult and 2 children) from Arkansas.  You can read more about the Arkansas family and the “shock” and despair surrounding the aftermath of the crash at Arkansas Family Killed in Florida Vehicle Accident. 

Are the legal rights of the resident of Arkansas any different from the legal rights of Florida residents when there is an automobile accident in the State of Florida?  The simple answer to this question is, “No, not really.”   The answer is qualified a bit because resident of the State of Florida have different insurance requirements for vehicles than residents of other States; however, the legal rights of the victim and / or the victim’s family are the same whether a Florida resident or a non-Florida resident is injured in an automobile accident.


IFire Rescue Graphic Blue in Squaren Jacksonville and North Florida, there are a number of bridges (large and small) that connect commuters to various areas over and beyond major waterways like the St. Johns River and the Intercoastal.   Once such bridge is the Buckman Bridge.  Construction began on the Buckman Bridge in 1964 and the Buckman Bridge was completed in 1970.  The bridge spans over 16,000 square feet and connects the areas of Mandarin – San Jose (Duval County) to Orange Park (Clay County).

While driving upon any large bridge, there are many safety issues and problems that can arise.  Traffic, congestion, and visibility can be factors that lead to crashes. Another problem inherent in bridge traffic is the inability to pull off the roadway to safety when there is a vehicle approaching that is about to cause a rear end accident.   Tragically, there are crashes upon North Florida bridges that lead to serious personal injuries and even death.  One such crash that took place on March 2, 2015 had the effect of shutting down a major part of Jacksonville / Orange Park traffic because the Buckman Bridge was closed to manage and investigate the crash scene.

Action News and other media outlets reported that a semi-tractor trailer crashed into a SUV just before 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon.  It was reported that the driver of the large commercial tractor trailer noticed that traffic was slowing but was unable to bring his truck to a stop.   This, in turn, led to a rear end type of crash.  Thereafer, the SUV caught on fire and 4 occupants of this SUV died at the crash scene.  It was reported that the 4 crash victims included 2 adults and 2 children. A second SUV was also involved in this Florida Automobile Accident.  The 3 occupants of this vehicle were later treated at a local hospital for non life threatening personal injuries.  You can read more about this Buckman Bridge crash at 4 Dead and 3 Injured in Buckman Bridge Fiery Crash.