May 2009 Archives

May 26, 2009

Three Florida Children Dead After Boat Accident

In a tragic accident, three children died this weekend after a boating accident in which their vessel capsized on Lake George in Ocala, Florida.  According to reports, the boat overturned on Sunday evening after a thunderstorm created three to four foot waves that broke over the boat and flooded the 20-foot Sea Ray. 

According to a report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida leads the nation in the number of registered vessels with over one million. Unfortunately, Florida also leads the nation in number of boating accidents, injuries, and deaths.  According to the report, there were 657 boat accidents which resulted in 54 deaths in 2008.  The leading cause of death in boating accidents is drowning after falling overboard.  Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and Palm Beach County all rank in the top five of Florida counties with the highest boat accident incident rates.

The FWC also reports that 72% of all boat operators involved in a boat accident in Florida have no formal boater education.  This fact, coupled with statistics that most boat accidents occur because of a collision with another vessel and operator inattention, means that far too many preventable deaths and injuries are occurring because of the negligence of other boaters.  To combat this problem, the FWC provides a number of online and on-site boater safety and operational education courses.

 

 

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May 19, 2009

HP Laptop Batteries Pose Danger of Serious Burn Injuries

Hewlett-Packard Co. (better known as HP) has announced that approximately 70,000 computer batteries found in various models of HP and Compaq laptop computers pose a risk of serious burn injuries and property damage.  The company, in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), announced a recall of the lithium-ion battery packs because the batteries can overheat and explode causing damage to property and burn injuries. 

Although no injuries have been reported thus far, HP acknowledges two reports of their batteries overheating and rupturing resulting in fire damage.  The Chinese-manufactured battery packs were included with various HP and Compaq laptop models and sold separately from August 2007 through March 2008.  According to the CPSC, HP and Compaq laptop users should immediately remove the battery packs from their laptops and contact HP to determine if their batteries are included in the potential hazard recall.

This defective laptop battery recall is the latest in a long line of recalls due to defective battery packs with the potential to cause fire damage and burn injuries.  In 2008, approximately 100,000 laptop battery packs manufactured by Sony Energy Devices Corp. and included with HP, Toshiba and Dell computers worldwide were recalled because of their potential fire hazard.  In 2006, some 526,000 defective laptop batteries found in Lenovo and IBM ThinkPad notebook computers worldwide were recalled because of their potential to overheat and cause burn injuries and other fire hazards.
 

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May 15, 2009

Drinking, Speeding, Early Hours And Sleep Deprivation Bad Combo

Broward County: A Coral Springs, Florida man who police said may have been speeding was killed early this morning when his car struck a tree in a one car collision. Whether sleep deprivation, drunk driving, or simply excessive speed contributed to another of a rash of deaths in Coral Springs this year has yet to be determined.

Florida was third in the country in 2006 in drunk driving deaths with 1,111. Nationwide, the number of deaths in 2007 was 15,387. Alcohol is a contributing factor in about 37% of traffic crashes occurring nationwide.

Falling asleep or drowsy driving is most common in age 16 to 29 age group. Although actual statistics are not kept, sleep deprivation and drowsy driving is the number three cause of crash deaths in the United States today. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that fatigue is a very common factor in car accident crash and death cases today.

The moral of the story: Be wary driving after midnight. They say: "Drive defensively"--this applies even more so after midnight. The number of people on the road being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or sleep deprived, or speeders, or a combination of the foregoing, increases immensely. Try to keep yourself and your children off the road between the hours of midnight and six a.m., the time when the likelihood of the incidents occurring, increases immensely. If you must drive, be ultra cautious.

If you or a family member are a victim, contact a lawyer for information. Various different areas to look for compensation for injuries include drivers and their family's insurance coverage, your own family's uninsured motorist coverage, and in rare occasions involving alcohol, whom the alcohol was purchased from and whether that involved underage drinking or serving someone who is known to be an alcoholic.

Additionally, any serious vehicle crash involving death or serious bodily injury should also be investigated from the prospective of whether something about the vehicle (perhaps a vehicle defect) contributed to the death or worsened the injury.

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May 12, 2009

Oakland Park, Florida Car Accident Kills Passenger

Aracely Mendoza of Miami was killed in an auto accident on I-95 in Broward County on March 27, 2009 after her car was struck by Davydson Soares of Pompano Beach, Florida in what ultimately constituted  a hit-and-run car crash.  Three other occupants of the vehicle Mendoza was traveling in were hospitalized and treated for their car accident related injuries.  Soares is now wanted for manslaughter while driving under the influence.  Police said that Soares's blood alcohol content was 0.16, twice the legal limit, approximately an hour and a half after the accident.  Unfortunately, Soares, who was not arrested at the scene because troopers needed to gather more evidence, is now nowhere to be found.

This case and other recent cases of hit and run accidents underscores the necessity of purchasing uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance.  Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance policies provide coverage to individuals that are injured in a car accident caused by another driver that either has no insurance at all or does not have enough insurance coverage to pay for the damage caused by the accident.  In Florida, hit-and-run drivers that are not identified are considered uninsured motorists.  Although in the above-mentioned car accident the driver has been identified and fled only after the accident investigation, there is still the possibility that he may be uninsured or underinsured.  In fact, our personal experiences demonstrate that a person who is driving under the influence is substantially more likely to be an uninsured or underinsured motorist than a driver who is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In fact, many of these impaired drivers do not even have a valid driver's license.

An uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance policy allows Florida drivers to protect against accident injuries that exceed the protection provided by personal injury protection (PIP) and irrespective of other drivers' insurance decisions to drive uninsured or with minimum coverage.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) estimated that 23% of Florida motorists were uninsured in 2007.  Their estimates place Florida fifth highest in the nation for uninsured motorists.  However, our recent experiences with motor vehicle accidents reflects a much higher total of uninsured motorists, especially as the recession deepened and more and more people cut out many things except for what they considered to be absolute essentials of life.  Based upon our experiences, we would estimate that perhaps as many as 50% of Dade County and 1/3 of Broward County drivers are uninsured.  Many more are what would be termed underinsured, that is, they are driving around with the minimum $10,000.00 in insurance coverage that is usually inadequate to protect the average person injured in a car accident.

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May 8, 2009

Potential Medical Malpractice for Prescriping Drugs That Increase Suicidal Thoughts

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that antiepileptic (or anti-seizure) drugs such as Topamax, Lamictal, and Lyrica can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.  Because these drugs are so widely used throughout the United States, the warnings pose an intriguing question as to who is responsible to warn and monitor the patients that take these potentially deadly medications and when a failure to either warn or monitor becomes medical malpractice.

Generally, when speaking of prescriptions drugs, the manufacturer's duty to warn of potential risks and side-effects is limited to adequately advising the prescribing doctor of any risk that may result from the patient's use of the drug.  This is because the prescribing doctor acts as a "learned intermediary" and considers both his understanding of the patient's condition and the potential risks of a drug when making a decision to either prescribe the drug or not.  However, the knowledge the doctor has available to him is not static and changes when new tests and studies become available as seen in the case of antiepileptic medications.  Failing to inform patients already prescribed a certain medication of newly discovered risks associated with that drug may result in medical malpractice.

Doctors have a duty to disclose the risks associated with medications or courses of treatment.  This duty can include explaining to the patient what is at stake when taking the medication, any alternatives, what goals the doctor is attempting to achieve, and the risk of the treatment and the risk of no treatment at all.  Florida law requires doctors to explain the serious risks and the possibility of serious harm taking the drug entails so that an intelligent choice can be made by the patient by balancing the possible risks and the possible benefits.  Therefore, when new risks are made known to the doctor by the manufacturer or other source, the argument can be made that it is medical malpractice not to inform the patient of the new risk so that they may make an informed and intelligent decision based on the new information.

Doctors also have a duty to monitor their patients during their course of treatment.  Obviously, a failure to monitor a patient prescribed a drug that increases suicidal thoughts and behaviors could be deemed malpractice.  It is important for the prescribing medical professional to closely monitor a patient taking antiepileptic medications to ensure the risks of suicidal behavior do not begin to outweigh the benefits of the drug.  Failure to properly monitor a patient could have devastating effects including death or serious injury.
  

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May 6, 2009

Dangerous Diet Pill Hydroxycut Causes Injury And Death

Florida residents should immediately stop using the potentially defective dietary supplement, Hydroxycut, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which recently warned of serious injuries associated with the product across the U.S.  The FDA has tracked 23 cases of people reporting health complications after taking Hydroxycut including jaundice, liver damage, seizures, cardiovascular disorders, and rhabdomyolysis.  One death linked to the dietary supplement has also been reported to the FDA.

Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA until after they have reached the market.  Unlike prescription drug manufacturers, dietary supplement makers are self-regulated and responsible for ensuring their products are safe and effective and contain the proper warnings prior to coming on the market.  Once on the market, the manufacturers are responsible for reporting known health hazards caused by their product, and the FDA takes action against products found to be harmful or adulterated.  Hydroxycut is the latest in a long line of dietary supplements tracked by the FDA found to either cause serious health issues or contain undeclared, active pharmaceutical ingredients.

If you have the associated symptoms or develop new symptoms after taking Hydroxycut, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

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May 5, 2009

Florida Insurance Companies Rated for Payouts on Car Accident Injury Claims

Periodically, we rate insurance companies doing business in Florida for fairness in paying out to claimants sums for injuries sustained in auto accidents. Since our practice is primarily dealing with crashes in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, we emphasize that our ratings are based upon the reasonableness of the payouts to vehicle accident claimants and pedestrians, including bicyclists or motorcycle accident victims, in South Florida.

Most insurance companies are similar in what they pay out for property damage, with some, of course, being better than the others. However, our emphasis is on what these insurance companies are paying out for pain and suffering type damages, that is, intangible damages, and what the total payout is for bodily injuries.

As of this date, here are our ratings. We use an A through F scale, with, of course, A being the best, F being the worst. When purchasing insurance coverage (whether homeowners or auto), of course, price is an issue, but ultimately, whether you are unnecessarily dragged into a lawsuit if your insurance company acts in bad faith may depend upon these ratings:

 
Chubb A

Crum & Forster A

Travelers B+

Zurich B+

American International (their subsidiaries) B

Amica B

Safeco B

Liberty Mutual B-

First Floridian C+

Nationwide C+

Hartford C+

State Farm Insurance Companies C to C+

Metropolitan C

GMAC Insurance C

USAA D+

Federated National Insurance (American Vehicle) D

Allstate Insurance Company D

Mercury D

Ocean Harbor D

Progressive Insurance Companies D

US Security Insurance D

United Automobile Insurance Company F

Geico F

 
At this time, GEICO is the worst paying MAJOR auto insurer in the State of Florida for bodily injury claims, followed by Progressive, and then Allstate.

Good luck when purchasing insurance or making claims for injuries, if you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident.

I hope that this information helps you in your insurance choices and selections.

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May 1, 2009

Florida Bicycle Accident Deaths Highest in Nation

Florida bike riders suffered the most bicycle accident deaths in 2007 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Approximately 119 to 121 deaths resulted from 4,847 bike crashes in Florida in 2007.  Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach County ranked amongst the highest death totals, with 6, 12, and 10 bicycle accident deaths, respectively.  Nationally, Florida had more bike deaths than California and New York.

There are many suspected contributing factors behind Florida's dubious ranking.  One such factor is the year-round biking season which provides more opportunity for potential bike accident deaths and injuries.  Other such factors, however, include the multitude of Florida automobiles, a lack of necessary bike lanes, and a lack of safety education on the part of both auto drivers and bicyclists.

Bicycle safety is key for both the bike rider and the automobile driver when traveling on South Florida roads.   All too often, drivers fail to keep a proper lookout for bicyclists either sharing the roadway or traveling in designated bike lanes.  The NHTSA suggests that drivers give three feet of clearance when passing bicyclists, yield to cyclists at intersections, and to be mindful of cyclists' presence when turning, opening doors, and pulling out of parking spaces.  Likewise, bicyclists should wear proper safety equipment, obey the rules of the road, and increase their visibility by wearing bright colors and equipping their bikes with reflectors and lights.

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