Miami Injury Lawyer Blog

You are walking to your car from the shopping mall in your neighborhood. You are attacked by an individual, despite the presence of security cameras surrounding the mall and the presence of a security officer supposedly patrolling the mall’s exterior. Is the mall or security company liable for your injuries? Answer: possibly yes. If you or a loved one was injured in an area that claims to be monitored by security cameras and security guards, you should speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer in Miami to discuss your legal options.

Negligent Security

Negligent security can occur in various places and in various forms. Some of the settings where negligent security occurs include shopping malls, night clubs, apartment complexes, hospitals, gyms, stadiums, amusement parks, swimming pools, airports, and even schools. The incidents resulting in injuries may include robbery, assault and battery, firearm injuries, or even rape.

A negligent security claim can be predicated on the following:

  • Inadequate surveillance
  • Absence of a dedicated security workforce
  • Ill-prepared or poorly screened guards
  • Worn out lights in foyers, passageways, and parking garages
  • Broken fencing
  • Broken entryway or door locks
  • Non-functional recording devices

What Must Be Proven to Prevail in a Negligent Security Claim

To succeed in recovering damages for a negligent security injury claim, the following elements must be established:

  • You were lawfully present on the property
  • The property owner breached its obligation to offer reasonable security
  • You were harmed due to an outsider’s activities that were reasonably foreseeable to the property owner
  • You would not have been harmed but for the property owner’s negligence and breach of duty of care
  • You suffered actual damages

The issue of reasonable foresight is an extremely crucial one in negligent security cases. In many states, including Florida, courts analyze the factor of foreseeableness based on whether there were previous comparable unlawful acts in the same area that the property owner knew about or ought to have known about. For example, if there have been previous instances of sexual assault in a particular parking lot or shopping center, it is likely that the last assault would be viewed as foreseeable. Nevertheless, if the earlier case at hand was simply that of a pickpocket, a case of sexual assault may not be considered foreseeable. The court might likewise consider how frequently law enforcement officers have been called to a particular property, whether the earlier criminal acts were violent revengeful crimes against specific persons or petty cases of theft and mugging, and the gap of time between the previous occurrence(s) with the current one at hand.

For a personal injury case to stand on negligent security, it is important that your Miami trial lawyer checks the following:

  • Security arrangements and measures, if any, that were set up
  • Capability and experience of the security firm and/or staff present
  • The proprietor’s level of contribution in investing in an exhaustive security program
  • Nature of the equipments used therein
  • Whether security contracts were in place and properly outlined
  • Whether the arrangement was overseen ably and adequately

Speak to a Lawyer Today

The Miami Inadequate Security lawyers of Gerson and Schwartz, PA have been representing clients in all areas of negligent security claims for over 40 years. If you or a loved one was the victim of a crime or if you have been seriously injured, contact one of our attorneys to talk confidentially about your case.

 

When someone gets involved in an auto accident and suffers an injury, whether in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, or any other area of Florida, they usually want the driver that hit them to be held responsible and cover their medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. However, you need to be aware of a legal doctrine known as comparative negligence. As Miami personal injury attorneys, we deal with this doctrine on a daily basis.

Understanding Comparative Negligence

If you partially contributed to the cause of the accident that resulted in your harm, a judge or jury can take that into consideration and compare the negligence of both parties. This comparison can result in a reduction in the amount of damages the other party has to pay, based on a determination of comparative negligence. For example, let’s say you are a pedestrian hit by a driver, but the evidence indicates that you were walking across the street in an area not designated for pedestrians. A judge or jury, applying comparative negligence, could determine that both you and the driver were negligent and apportion damages accordingly. They could, for example, determine that the driver was 75 percent negligent and you were 25 percent negligent and reduce any monetary damages award by 25 percent.

Different Types of Comparative Negligence

There are, generally, two types of comparative negligence:

  • Pure Comparative Negligence – By this method, the plaintiff’s damages are added up, then reduced to mirror their negligence. Let’s say the amount awarded to the plaintiff was initially calculated as $100,000 and a judge or jury determined that the plaintiff was 40% at fault for the accident. As mentioned above, they will only be allowed to recover the remaining percentage (in this scenario, 60%) of the damages and the final amount awarded would be $60,000.
  • Modified or Partial Comparative Negligence – States that have this form of comparative negligence can actually bar a plaintiff from being awarded damages if it is determined that they are 50% or more at fault for the resulting accident.

Since 1973, Florida has been working under the pure comparative negligence standard in order to limit the compensation amounts of the claiming parties by exact mathematical logic. Pursuant to §768.81 of the Florida Statutes, in a negligence action, contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery. The court enters judgment against each party liable on the basis of such party’s percentage of fault and not on the basis of the doctrine of joint and several liability.

If you or any member of your family happens to be the victim of a Miami auto accident case, waste no time in contacting an experienced Miami personal injury lawyer to help guide you through this process. Gerson and Schwartz, PA handles all personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis. That means there are no attorney’s fees unless we win your case. There are also no upfront costs. We strive to respond to all new case calls and email inquiries within 24 hours or less.

motorcycle_02The Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) and University of South Florida report that motorcycle accident injuries have increased by 50 percent and motorcycle fatalities have increased by almost 90 percent during the past decade. During the same period, traffic fatalities have reduced by 20 percent and traffic injuries have reduced by 10 percent. Why such a disparity? Well, the fact is that when a motorcyclist is involved in a serious accident, he or she usually takes the brunt of the damage and suffers potentially life-threatening injuries. A seriously injured motor bike rider should strongly consider hiring a Miami motorcycle accident injury lawyer to possibly pursue a claim on his or her behalf.

Studies conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that motorcycle riders have a have a higher fatality rate per unit of distance travelled as compared to four-wheeler automobiles, often as high as 35 times more than a passenger car. Yes, you read that correctly. If you or a loved one is operating a motorcycle, you are 35 times more likely to lose your life in an accident. This is mainly due to the fact that the operator of a motorcycle is largely exposed apart from his helmet-covered head, and naturally is at a much greater risk of severe injury upon collision with a larger vehicle, which is more than hundred times heavier than his own mass. Moreover, in maximum cases the car collides with the motorcycle in a head-on collision while taking a turn or cutting through an intersection, and results in immediate death.

If you or a loved one is the victim of a motorcycle crash caused by the carelessness of another driver, consider speaking to a Miami personal injury attorney with experience handling motorcycle accident cases.

Why Speak to a Motorcycle Accident Injury Attorney?

First and foremost, it costs you nothing to speak to a Miami motor bike accident lawyer. An initial consultation is completely free, so you will have the opportunity to learn whether you have  a viable claim to possibly pursue compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering related to the accident.

Second, you need an advocate on your side. Many auto insurance companies have a team of adjusters and lawyers focused on trying to minimize your injury claim. They will drag their feet in responding to your calls, make up reasons why they can’t pay full restitution, and even tell you that you have no chance of getting a sizable recovery from a jury. An experienced Miami personal injury lawyer knows these tricks and insurance strategies.

Third, a motorcycle accident attorney works on a contingency fee basis. This means you don’t have to pay the lawyer anything unless and until they resolve your case, either through settlement or jury verdict.

Contact our Personal Injury Law Firm Today

The South Florida personal injury lawyers of Gerson and Schwartz P.A. represent motorcycle accident victims and their families throughout Miami Dade, Miami Beach, the Florida Keys, Fort Lauderdale, Broward, and West Palm Beach. Our law offices are conveniently located near downtown Miami. However, as needed, our attorneys and investigators can visit you at home or in the hospital. We also answer questions from anywhere in the world. Call us toll free at 1-877-475-2905 or contact us online to schedule your free case consultation.

Florida ranks consistently as one of the worst states in terms of pedestrian safety. According to 2012 data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrian fatalities were highest in California (612), followed by Texas (478) and Florida (476). If you or a loved one was hit by a vehicle while in a crosswalk, you should consider speaking to an experienced Miami personal injury attorney to determine whether you have the legal grounds to pursue a civil claim.

file000769955952Understanding Crosswalk Laws in Florida

Crosswalk laws in Florida are codified in the Florida Statutes Section 316.130 and discuss in detail the rights of a pedestrian while walking on a crosswalk. Pedestrian is defined as “anyone on foot,” provided there is some kind of movement associated with them. Persons on wheelchairs or roller-skates can also be considered pedestrians. However, cyclists are NOT considered pedestrians since they are operating a mode of transportation.

Right of way is mutual in Florida and both pedestrians and automobile drivers are expected to respect each other’s space and not disturb their right to movement. The relevant part of the Florida Statute 316.130(15) specifically mentions that “notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or any person propelling a human-powered vehicle and give warning when necessary and exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person.” Other highlights of the law state that pedestrians must not walk on the road if sidewalks are provided. If sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are expected to walk on the left side shoulder of the road. Walking or crossing a road in a place other than a marked side-walk is prohibited. Walking on a limited access facility (highway or freeway) is prohibited for pedestrians unless they happen to be a government or maintenance personnel. Crossing of roads should always be done after checking that the pedestrian has the right of way and the light is green, and by moving upon the right half of crosswalks. Soliciting rides, employment, or business from the occupant of any vehicle is prohibited.

How Pedestrian Accidents Occur

Unfortunately, many Florida drivers do not appreciate the fact that they must exercise caution when they see a pedestrian on the road or in a crosswalk. Many drivers are overly aggressive and do not allow sufficient time for a pedestrian to get through the crosswalk resulting in serious collisions.

Hit and run incidents are, unfortunately, a frequent occurrence in Florida and are governed by the Florida Statute 316.027. All drivers are required by law to stop immediately and stay at the scene of an accident. If they flee the scene, it is a criminal violation – a felony of the third degree. A pedestrian injured in a hit and run accident has the right to sue the negligent driver for restitution of medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, if the pedestrian is proved to be equally at fault by violating the motorist’s right to way, comparative negligence can decrease the damages award by a considerable percentage.

Contact an Experienced Miami Crosswalk Accident Attorney Today

The South Florida personal injury lawyers at Gerson and Schwartz P.A. are ready to listen to your story and fight for your rights. We offer free consultations and can evaluate your case, your legal rights, and how much your crosswalk injury claim may be worth based on your individual circumstances. We work on a contingency basis, which means that you do not pay us unless and until we recover damages for you. We proudly represent clients in communities all over South Florida including Miami-Dade, Coral Gables, Broward, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. For more information on how we can help you, contact us online or call us toll free at 1-877-475-2905 today.

file000980994442You are driving down Coral Way in Miami and another vehicle t-bones your car. You smack your head against the driver’s side window and the airbags deploy. You have suffered serious injuries and will likely need significant treatment. When should you hire a Miami personal injury lawyer?

Answer: sooner rather than later. Why? Because of the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations is a finite period of time which has been fixed by law. It is the window of time that a plaintiff (i.e. the injured party) must file a claim in order to be heard in a court of law. In other words, if a suit is filed after the statute of limitations expires, the case is likely to be dismissed irrespective of the seriousness of the injury or the amount of compensation claimed. Statute of limitations apply to virtually all civil cases, including personal injury cases.

A summary of the limitation periods for civil cases in the State of Florida, as codified in the Florida Statutes § 95.11 looks something like this –

Type of case Period of limitation Applicable section of the law
Injury to Person 4 years § 95.11(3)(o)
Injury to Personal Property 4 years § 95.11(3)(h)
Fraud 4 years § 95.11(3)(j)
Trespass 4 years § 95.11(3)(g)
Libel/Slander 2 years § 95.11(4)(g)
Professional Malpractice 2 years § 95.11(4)(a)
Medical Malpractice 2-4 years § 95.11(4)(b)
Written Contracts 5 years § 95.11(2)(b)
Oral Contracts 4 years § 95.11(3)(k)
Specific performance 1 year § 95.11(5)
Domestic Judgments 20 years § 95.11(1)
Foreign Judgments 5 years §  95.11(2)(a)

As you can seen, a plaintiff is required to file for a personal injury claim within four years of the date of accident. However, what most people are unaware of is that the limitation period in a personal injury case can differ according to the type of incident and injury at issue.

Personal injury can be of numerous types including car accidents, bicycle accidents, product liability, wrongful death, traumatic brain injury, burns, spinal injury, dog bites, medical malpractice, etc. If you were hurt by the carelessness of a doctor, you may not have four years to take legal action. Your limitations period may be much shorter.

What to Do

The best course of action to avoid any issue with the statute of limitations is to contact an experienced Miami personal injury attorney sooner rather than later. An attorney can assess the merits of your case and initiate legal proceedings in a timely fashion so that valuable time is not lost.

The South Florida personal injury lawyers of Gerson and Schwartz P.A. are experienced advocates who represent victims and their families throughout Miami Dade, Miami Beach, the Florida Keys, Fort Lauderdale, Broward, and West Palm Beach. Call us toll free at 1-877-475-2905 or contact us online to schedule your free case consultation.

The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) defines a Traumatic Brain Injury (a.k.a TBI) as “an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force.” Anyone can fall victim to a traumatic brain injury at any time. Our team of Miami personal injury attorneys have heard of people suffering TBIs in car accidents, motorcycle wrecks, truck accidents, and many other preventable accidents. The consequences can be devastating and life altering.

file000894312228Living with a Traumatic Brain Injury

Adequately funding the treatment for a traumatic brain injury victim can be extremely difficult because of increased need of medication, rehabilitation, post-injury checkups, and potentially dedicated at-home care.

A major potential side-effect of a traumatic brain injury is the rapid decline in basic cognitive abilities. The trauma to the brain can result in the victim reacting much more slowly  to requests and actions and they may be more forgetful with everyday routine tasks.

Potential Inability to Return to Work

Returning to a previous workplace is usually delayed as a result of a traumatic brain injury. The victim may never be able to return to work, leading to additional financial strain on other family members.

The loss of independence and a sense of guilt at the forced dependence often engulf the victim in a severe depression that in turn has a dramatic effect on his or her family and social surroundings.

Legal Issues Arising from a TBI

There are a number of legal issues that are also involved with a person suffering from traumatic brain injury.

  • Whether anyone can be legally entrusted with taking important medical and financial decisions on behalf of the injured person
  • Whether the injury took place due to some unlawful reason
  • What were the circumstances under which the injury was suffered
  • Whether this was an on-job accident
  • What is the extent of employer liability in case it happened in course of employment
  • Whether the effects of the injury involve long-term care
  • What are the types of medical insurance available to the injured person
  • Whether the person has any medical directive or last will

A few long term legal issues remain must also be addressed.

Life-care planning – It involves long term evaluation of the TBI victim and his or her surroundings in order to provide the best possible lifestyle care, keeping in mind the goals, needs, and interests of the TBI victim.

Vocational rehabilitation – It involves the consultation with a professional counselor who can guide the patient to overcome barriers and access, maintain, or return to a suitable place of employment.

Estate planning – It involves the suitable protection and maintenance of an injured person’s property and other valuables as he no longer has the capacity to do that by himself.

As you can see, suffering a TBI can have long-term ramifications. If you or a loved one suffered a TBI as the result of a preventable accident caused by another party’s carelessness, contact the South Florida brain injury attorneys at Gerson and Schwartz, PA. Contact our law offices toll free at 1-877-475-2905 or you can contact us online. We represent brain injury victims throughout the state of Florida including Miami-Dade County, Broward County, Palm Beach County and Monroe County. We also make house calls if necessary to Coral Gables, Miramar, Miami Beach, North Miami Beach, Aventura, Key West, Key Largo, Marathon, Plantation, Weston, Pembroke Pines, Coral Springs, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Jupiter. Our firm also handles traumatic brain injury cases statewide, from Orange County and the Tampa Bay Area.

As Miami personal injury lawyers with decades of experience handling serious car accident cases, we found the news of a tragic wreck that occurred in Sarasota, Florida truly heartbreaking. A 2007 BMW 750 Li was reportedly traveling northbound on U.S. 301 “at a high rate of speed” at around 2:40 a.m. when the driver failed to slow down while turning right onto University Parkway. The vehicle wound up cutting through the grass along the shoulder of the Parkway and crashed into an embankment. The high rate of speed caused the vehicle to become airborne ultimately coming in contact with a railroad support pole located on nearby railroad tracks. The vehicle then became engulfed in flames.

An innocent passenger’s life was extinguished in the accident. The victim was a Sarasota resident only 40 years young, according to a news report on Patch.com written by Ethan Levine.

Our deepest condolences go out to the victim’s family and friends. Losing someone you love is never easy, especially when the loss is sudden and completely unexpected.

The police investigation into the collision indicates that a friend of the victim was operating the vehicle and there are suspicions that the driver may have been under the influence of alcohol, according to the Patch.com article.

If it turns out that this horrific accident was caused by the carelessness of an intoxicated driver, a wrongful death claim may be pursued by the family of the passenger.

DSC05235-BConsider Filing a Florida Wrongful Death Claim

A wrongful death claim is governed by the Florida Wrongful Death Statute, codified in Sections 768.71-768.81 of the Florida Code. A lawsuit can be filed against the responsible person when any death is caused by any “wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty.”  This includes negligent acts (such as operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or operating the vehicle in a reckless manner).

According to the wrongful death statute, survivors of the deceased may pursue compensatory damages for the lost support and/or services after the death of a loved one. Survivors of the deceased include:

  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Any relative dependent on the deceased for financial or emotional support

A judge or jury, depending on the type of trial selected, will consider various factors when determining the amount of damages to be awarded to the survivors of the accident victim. These factors include:

  • The relationship between the survivor and the deceased (e.g., husband and wife, parent and child, etc.)
  • The “replacement value” of the deceased’s services (e.g., the income lost by the victim’s death)
  • Funeral expenses

Your Miami wrongful death lawyer can also request “punitive damages.” These damages may be available when a death is caused by the reckless or grossly negligent behavior of the defendant. In the tragic accident described above, punitive damages could potentially be recoverable.

Speak to a Miami Wrongful Death Attorney

The South Florida wrongful death lawyers of Gerson & Schwartz P.A. have decades of experience representing accident victims and their families throughout Sarasota, Miami Dade, Miami Beach, the Florida Keys, Fort Lauderdale, Broward, and West Palm Beach. Contact our firm to set up a time for a free, confidential case analysis.

You are driving along a major road in Broward County, Miami Beach, Coral Cables, or any other locality in Florida when you get t-boned by another vehicle. The damage to your vehicle is extensive and you suffer serious physical injuries in the collision. Should you hire a Miami personal injury lawyer? This is an important question many Floridians struggle with. You may have heard some erroneous information about lawyers and needing to pay a big retainer fee to even speak to a lawyer for a few minutes. Do not hesitate. Below are three important reasons why it makes sense for you to speak to a Miami, FL injury lawyer.

car-crash-insuranceInsurance Companies Treat People Differently if They Don’t Have a Lawyer

Make no mistake about it. When an insurance adjuster gets a call or letter from an unrepresented claimant, they routinely treat that claimant differently. In fact, many insurance adjusters will try to reach out to you shortly after the accident and offer a quick settlement before you even think about contacting an experienced Miami personal injury attorney. There have even been instances where an insurance adjuster will mislead a claimant and say, “You don’t need a lawyer. They’ll just take a big chunk of your settlement and leave you with a pittance.”

Do not fall for these lies. Hire a lawyer.

Delegate the Hassle of Dealing with the Insurance Company to Your Miami Car Accident Attorney

After a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, or any other accident, you are probably dealing with some serious injuries. You may have been forced to miss a significant amount of time from work. If this is the case, you should spend your time focusing on getting your life back in order. That means devoting the necessary time for physical therapy and catching up with missed work. It does not mean you should have to spend your free time haggling with an insurance adjuster.

When you hire a Miami personal injury lawyer, you get the benefit of letting the lawyer take care of all the necessary paperwork and the task of negotiating with the insurance adjuster. Typically, your lawyer will prepare a demand package and send it to the adjuster assigned to your claim. The adjuster will then relay a settlement offer to your lawyer and your lawyer will then relay that offer to you. The time you spend on your claim should be focused on helping your lawyer get a number that you are comfortable with in terms of settlement.

Delegating the task of dealing with the insurance adjuster will save you time and relieve some unnecessary stress.

Low Risk, High Reward

Arguably the biggest reason to speak to and hire a Miami injury attorney is the fact that it is a low risk, high reward proposition. You can speak to one of the experienced personal injury lawyers at Gerson & Schwartz for absolutely free. That’s right, no big retainer fee or hourly charge. You can have your potential case reviewed by an experienced trial attorney for free. Additionally, our Miami, Florida personal injury law firm operates on a “contingency fee” basis. That is a fancy term meaning that we only get paid when and if you are paid through a settlement or verdict.

Contact our Miami Personal Injury Law Firm Today

Whether you or a loved one was seriously hurt in car accident, truck wreck, or any other type of accident, our firm is here to help. Contact Gerson & Schwartz for a free consultation. All case calls are completely confidential. You can call or email one of our Florida accident lawyers directly at1-877-475-2905 or info@gslawusa.com. By hiring a qualified attorney you will be taking an important step to ensure your legal rights are protected.

It may seem like a personal injury trial that involves an automobile accident, especially one with clear liability, would not need an abundance of experts to make a case to a jury. In fact, to many people, in cases where negligence is clear, the case may seem “easy.” But in fact, even a straightforward auto injury case, can end up involving a multitude of experts.

file000823108534Who is an Expert?

An expert is needed to testify about matters that require more than what a layperson would know in a given field. In fact, it may even require testimony beyond what someone who is just working in a given field would ordinarily know.

For example, a mechanic who has been working on cars for five years may know a lot about cars but not be qualified as an expert witness. However, someone who has owned three body shops over the last 15 years and has six auto repair certifications may qualify.

Experts in Auto Injury Cases

In an auto accident where liability is disputed, there are many experts that may be needed. But even in one where liability is clear—for example, a rear-end accident—many experts are often still needed.

This is because even with clear liability, the issues of damages and causation still must be resolved. In other words, how badly are you injured and did the crash actually cause your injuries are questions that still remain, even if liability is established.

To answer those questions, a number of experts may be needed. Some may include:

  • Your doctors – The doctors that treated you would have evidence as to your injuries, how severe they were, and what the expected prognosis is.
  • Biomechanical experts – Biomechanical experts are a mix between engineers and doctors. They testify as to how a given impact with a given force affects the organs of the human body. They can testify as to the force human tissues can sustain, and what happens when that force is exceeded. They can testify that certain motion or movement can cause certain injury. Often, doctors are not qualified to give this kind of testimony.
  • Mechanics – Often, insurance companies will try to say that a certain amount or type of damage to your car will indicate how severe an accident is. But visual evidence of damage is not always indicative of how bad the accident was. Mechanic experts will often be used to testify as to “hidden” or internal damage to vehicles, or that a given vehicle is built to absorb shock, thus minimizing visual damage, but that the visible damage doesn’t correlate with the impact on the car.

The bottom line is that there is no “simple” case, and as long as defendants continue to try to avoid paying for their negligence, there will always be a need for lawyers that know how to use experts to negate their defenses.

If you are in a car accident, don’t assume just any attorneys can take your case. Find attorneys that understand how to use experts to prove your case. Talk to the Miami personal injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation about your injuries.

Suing the government, whether it is the city or state or an arm or branch of government, seems like a given right. But in many countries, citizens have no right to sue the government because of a doctrine called sovereign immunity. Like many states in the U.S., Florida has enacted laws that specifically allow citizens to sue the government, thus waiving sovereign immunity.

Still, the government can’t be sued the same way private companies or people can. Sovereign immunity has many advantages to the government and its agencies, including a limitation on how much can be recovered in damages by an injured victim.

Who Gets Sovereign Immunity?

In many cases, it is clear who a government agency is. The city, the police department, a school, or a state executive agency, may all easily be classified as government entities.

But in many cases, there is an issue as to whether a defendant is entitled to sovereign immunity. That’s because the doctrine also applies to defendants that may not be government entities, but that perform duties closely associated with or which are controlled by a government agency. In many cases, the doctrine can apply when you least expect it to.

_DSC2552Case Applies Immunity to Athletic Association

In a recent case, a football player at UCF was injured at football practice and sued the school—an obvious government entity, as a state school—and also sued the UCF Athletics Association, Inc. (UCFAA), the statutorily authorized organization that administered UCF’s athletics department. The UCFAA said that it, like UCF, was entitled to sovereign immunity.

The trial court said that it was not, and a jury awarded the victims $10mil from the UCFAA. An appellate court reversed the ruling, and said immunity did apply, and the case made its way to the Florida Supreme Court.

If UCF had sufficient day to day control over the UCFAA, and if the UCFAA was just an instrumentality of UCF, the sovereign immunity that UCF had would extend to the UCFAA. The Supreme Court looked at other cases, involving hospitals, prison programs, and transit management systems to determine whether they were sufficiently controlled by the state to be entitled to sovereign immunity.

Here, the court felt that UCF both exercised enough control and had the right to do so, such that the UCFAA should be entitled to sovereign immunity. UCF officials were on UCFAA’s board of directors, UCF’s athletic director managed UCFAA’s organization, and UCF had to approve any changes in bylaws, and could even decertify the UCFAA as an organization. The court looked at Florida laws that govern such organizations, finding instances where they could not take certain actions without the school or state’s permission.

Because sovereign immunity applied, the victim’s verdict was reduced to the statutorily capped $200,000. The case is a harsh reminder that often the state has control in places that aren’t so obvious, and that a suit that even remotely involves a government agency needs to be evaluated carefully for immunity issues.

Part of winning a Personal Injury case is understanding who the correct defendants are, and what limitations you may have on obtaining a judgment. If you have been a victim of injury due to another’s negligence, talk to the Miami personal injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation about your injury case.

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