Texting While Driving In Florida…

Texting While Driving in Florida: Dangerous and Against the Law!

The Florida ban on texting while driving law is found at Florida Statute §316.305.  Incredibly, although everyone knows it’s a careless and dangerous practice, it is still only a secondary offense (F.S. 316.305(1)(d)).  This means to be cited (receive a ticket) for texting while driving (TWD), a motor-vehicle operator must be detained (pulled over or stopped) for another type of violation (i.e., speeding, running a red light, taillight out, etc.)  (F.S. 316.305(5)).

Evidence of texting will be admissible in criminal and civil proceedings where the driver that was texting while driving cased a crash involving death or personal injury.  In those cases, cell phone bills or other written evidence of TWD will be admissible in Court.  (F.S. 316.305(7)(c)).

TWD is distracted driving.  The U.S. Department of Transportation has recognized that such a major problem exists with distracted driving that they have funded an education campaign known as www.Distraction.gov.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has instituted an extensive education effort aimed at young drivers using powerful YouTube videos that graphically depict the danger of texting behind the wheel.  The statistics are overwhelming.  The National Safety Counsel reports that 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by TWD.  The list goes on and on.  More incredible is the fact that TWD makes you 23 times more likely to crash – the same as driving after 4 beers!  Despite this indisputable evidence, 800,000 drivers are doing it at any given time across the country.

Certainly, no one can argue that TWD is negligent.  Florida courts are starting to hold that it may even rise to the level of recklessness (an intentional act like driving while intoxicated).  This clear and obvious danger of TWD has led to Plaintiffs (people bringing lawsuits) to seek punitive damages under Florida Statutes §768.72 (1) and (2).  To make a claim for punitive damages against a driver that has caused personal injury or death due to a crash while texting, an injured party needs to prove gross negligence that indicates a wanton disregard for the rights of others.  (As early as 2011, Florida courts began allowing punitive damage claims against a Defendant whose conduct (TWD) caused a car crash resulting in death (Margaret S. Caskey, et. al. v. Astellas Pharma US, Inc., et. al., Collier County Case No. 112010 CA 0005820001XX (Fla. Collier Cir. Ct. 2011).  It should be noted that regular insurance policies do not provide coverage for these damages.  Since 2011, discovery of electronic records and data has become increasingly more sophisticated in criminal and civil cases and text message histories are readily obtainable.  This evidentiary proof will continue to become more accessible and verifiable in injury and death cases.  Phone records, billing records, and screen shots are the proverbial “smoking gun” in modern distracted driving cases.

Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A. is a Florida injury law firm that has more than 30 years’ experience in representing victims of personal injury and wrongful death.  We handle cases throughout Florida involving texting while driving and distracted driving claims.  Please contact us for a free case evaluation.

Miami Car Accident Lawyer Secretary of the American Board of Trial Advocates

Jeffrey R. Davis is a Miami car accident lawyer who has served his community defending victims rights for three decades. Recently, after years of being a member, Mr. Davis became Secretary of the Miami Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA).

What is ABOTA?

ABOTA’s mission is to preserve the institution and integrity of the civil jury trial. At times in the history of the American justice system, it has come under vicious attack. Its members believe in the critical importance of the civil jury trial as a way for American citizens to receive justice. ABOTA members believe in the sanctity of the right to trial by a jury of your fellow peers, which is the Seventh Amendment of the United States Constitution.

As a Miami Car Accident Lawyer, Mr. Davis has seen many instances when victims of personal injuries are well served by a trial by jury. It is through the jury system that they may find justice after someone has injured them. This can happen when they receive compensation and when the guilty person is subject to punitive damages that a jury determines.

Who are the members of ABOTA?

ABOTA strives to encourage attorneys to join our organization who fit the following criteria:

  • Have integrity, civility, and great skills as attorneys
  • Have a desire to mentor younger attorneys in a quest to better their trial advocacy skills
  • Have an interest in educating the American public about the importance of the Seventh Amendment.

How does ABOTA achieve its mission?

The Trustees of the Foundation are committed to achieving the following:

  1. Stress the value of the right to a trial by a jury and its history by offering civics education classes and materials.
  2. Encourage integrity, courtesy, and honor among all legal professionals.
  3. Support the Foundation’s work however possible by example.

As a Miami Car Accident Lawyer Jeffrey R. Davis is committed to preserving and protecting the American peoples’ right to a trial by jury.

Wheelchair Accident

WORKER/WORKPLACE NEGLIGENCE

Negligent Assembly or Installation

Plaintiff: Bolts on wheelchair armrest weren’t tightened

 

Verdict (P)        $807,600

Case Eduardo Trujillo, III and Lizeth Trujillo, his wife, v. T.D. Medical, Inc., and Miguel Nunez, No. 13-23500-CA

Court   Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, 11th

Judge    Jose Rodriguez

Date     8/12/2014

 

Plaintiff Attorney(s)

Jeffrey S. Altman, Jeffrey S. Altman, P.A., Miami, FL (Eduardo Trujillo, Lizeth Trujillo)

Jeffrey R. Davis, Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A., Miami, FL (Eduardo Trujillo, Lizeth Trujillo)

 

Defense Attorney(s)

Gerry A. Giurato, Murphy & Anderson, P.A., Jacksonville, FL (Miguel Nunez, T.D. Medical Inc.)

Christen E. Luikart, Murphy & Anderson, P.A., Jacksonville, FL (Miguel Nunez, T.D. Medical Inc.)

 

Facts & Allegations

On Aug. 13, 2012, plaintiff Eduardo Trujillo III, 40, a musician who has spinal muscular atrophy, received a new wheelchair from T.D. Medical Inc. that was delivered to him at his Miami home by its employee Miguel Nunez. Trujillo claimed that after Nunez delivered the wheelchair, adjusted the armrests, and left his home, the left side wheelchair armrest collapsed, causing him to fall to the ground. Trujillo fractured his right femur.

Trujillo sued T.D. Medical, which supplied the wheelchair, and Nunez for alleged negligent assembly and delivery of the wheelchair.

Trujillo had ordered the wheelchair custom-made. His counsel claimed that T.D. Medical failed to fit it properly for him. They claimed that Nunez, a technician employed by T.D. Medical to provide adjustments to Trujillo’s chair upon delivery, failed to tighten the bolts that controlled the pivoting of the armrest. They also claimed that had Nunez tightened the bolts, the armrest would not have fallen and caused Trujillo to lose his balance and fall.

Defense counsel denied that the armrest was negligently adjusted. They also claimed that if the armrest fell, the wheelchair manufacturer was responsible. Nunez claimed he tightened everything perfectly.

 

Injuries/Damages

fracture, femur; decreased range of motion; loss of consortium

Trujillo sustained a fracture to his right femur and underwent immobilization of the leg. He did not have surgery and the fracture healed on its own. He claimed he suffered a decreased range of motion of his leg.

Trujillo sought to recover damages for past medical costs, past lost earnings, and past and future pain and suffering. His wife, Lizeth, who initially joined the action on a consortium claim, dropped the claim prior to trial.

The defense’s orthopedic expert testified that Trujillo did not suffer a permanent injury. He also noted that Trujillo was already 100 percent disabled and confined to a wheelchair before the accident due to his underlying spinal muscular atrophy. He also pointed out that Trujillo was unable to walk before the accident due to his spinal condition.

 

Result

The jury found the defendants 100 percent negligent. It determined that Trujillo’s damages totaled $807,600.

 

Plaintiff(s)

Eduardo Trujillo

$7,100 past medical cost

$500 past lost earnings

$360,000 past pain and suffering

$440,000 future pain and suffering

$807,600 plaintiff’s total award

 

Insurer(s)

Benchmark Insurance for T.D. Medical Inc. and Miguel Nunez

 

Trial Detail(s)

Trial Length: 3 Days

Jury Composition: 3 male, 3 female

 

Plaintiff Expert(s)

David A. Peterson, M.D., orthopedics, Winter Park, FL (Jeffrey S. Altman, Jeffrey R. Davis) (treating)

 

Defense Expert(s)

Michael Ziede, M.D., orthopedic surgery, West Palm Beach, FL (Gerry A. Giurato)

Editor’s Note

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs’ and defense counsel.

 

Written By –Gary Raynaldo

Edited By -Miguel Fernandez

 

 

Personal Injury Attorneys Find GM Flaw

On April 5, 2014 Michael Smerconish of CNN, during his television show Smerconish, clearly explained the importance and validity of the civil justice system during the segment “one last thing.” As many of us have been following, GM is currently in the hot seat with Congress for failing to warn its customers, for over ten (10) years about faulty ignition switches which disabled airbags in Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion vehicles. It has been discovered that the repair would have only cost GM approximately $.90 per vehicle to remedy the product defect.

Interestingly enough, personal injury attorneys started the investigation that led to the discovery of the faulty ignition switch. Smerconish interviewed the Meltons who lost their daughter, Brook, a 29 year old nurse, in 2010 when her Chevrolet Cobalt shut off while she was driving due to this ignition flaw and she lost power steering, lost control of her car, hit another car and ended up in a creek. As a result of the car accident, Brook’s parents pursued a wrongful death action against GM. Accordingly, their attorneys investigated and hired experts who found that the ignition was faulty – the key switched over from the on position to the accessory position just before the car accident – essentially turning the car off.

Because the Meltons filed their suit, looking for the truth and seeking justice for their daughter, many more lives were saved. Because of their suit GM is now being held accountable by Congress.

This is a great example of how the Civil Justice System continues to work.  It remains a check on businesses and the free enterprise system to continue to produce products that are safe for consumers. Obviously, in this case, the Civil Justice System was more effective that NHTSA (the government agency that regulates car manufacturers) which failed to do much about GM cars’ failures and flaws.

The attorneys at Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A., a Miami Personal Injury law firm, specialize in personal injury cases. We pride ourselves in communicating with our clients and putting our clients first. Jeffrey R. Davis has been practicing personal injury law for over 25 years. We have the insight into what the insurance companies strategies are in defending personal injury cases.

If you or a loved on have been injured as a result of the negligence of another, contact us for a free consultation or call us at 305-577-3777. We will be more than happy to discuss with you the merits of your potential claim.

The Civil Justice System Works

Unlike the opinions of Lisa A. Rickard, president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, Washington, D.C. and Mark Wilson, president and CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida in their Miami Herald opinion letter, the attorneys at Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A. believe that our civil justice system works. In fact the response to this article from Armando F. Paz, Jr. hit the nail on the head. The current civil justice system has many mechanisms in place, not only to stop frivolous lawsuits from going forward, but also to stop frivolous defenses raised by defendants in an effort to avoid responsibility for their wrongs.

Such current mechanisms in place include: 1) dismissing a case; 2) sanctioning the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s attorney for bringing a meritless claim; and 3) reporting misconduct of an attorney to the Florida Bar. Remember like any other field, i.e. medicine, there are regulations in place to ensure that “improper, meritless or frivolous” issues are dealt with accordingly.

In addition, the Chamber of Commerce opinion does not address the months to years of efforts of Plaintiffs trying to resolve claims in the pre-suit stage. It is only after the insurance and/or defendant refuses to resolve these issues, that a Plaintiff will file a lawsuit in Court.  The lawsuit is the last remedy – when all other attempts to resolve the claims without litigation fails. The vast majority of cases that are alluded to in the editorials involve contingency fee arrangements between the plaintiff and the attorney. This means the attorney only gets paid if a recovery is achieved. It also means that the lawyer will usually fund the litigation expenses through out the pendency of the case. It is highly unlikely that a competent attorney would knowingly take a frivolous or unreasonable case, agree to bankroll the same and understand they will not be paid a fee unless they win. The expression “throwing good money after bad” comes to mind. Like anything, there are exceptions and cases that should not be filed.

Our civil justice system has evolved over hundreds of years. It may not be perfect, but it is central to the three branches of government that exist in our country. It is the only mechanism that allows a citizen to seek redress for perceived harm. It is the vehicle in which to enforce the law, contracts, agreements, and to right wrongs. It is an essential mechanism to the rule of law and a key to the integrity of our nation’s financial system.

The attorneys at Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A., a Miami Personal Injury law firm, specialize in personal injury cases. We pride ourselves in communicating with our clients and putting our clients first. Jeffrey R. Davis has been practicing personal injury law for over 25 years. We have the insight into what the insurance companies strategies are in defending personal injury cases.

If you or a loved on have been injured as a result of the negligence of another, contact us for a free consultation or call us at 305-577-3777. We will be more than happy to discuss with you the merits of your potential claim.

Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A. Educates the Legal Community on Personal Injury Damages

Understanding what damages you can receive from a personal injury case is very important. That is why on December 13, 2013, Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A. took part in a Damages in Personal Injury seminar at the Hyatt Regency Miami. Jeffrey R. Davis was one of many speakers and the seminar. The seminar focused on educating others in the legal community and the public on how to negotiate and quantify potential damages in a personal injury case. The seminar provided a comprehensive view and explanation of damages in personal injury which benefited other attorneys, corporate counsel’s, claims representatives, and paralegals. It is important to understand one’s personal injury case in order to effectively quantify and negotiate damages, and learn to analyze and quantify the effect of an injury on the plaintiff’s current and future life to maximize or contest the recovery.

Mr. Davis focused on the plaintiff’s tactics in negotiating and litigating the damages in a personal injury case. Such tactics are:

  • Direct negotiations with insurance claims representatives
  • Law witnesses
  • Using expert reports and testimony
  • Use of demonstrative evidence
  • Key pleadings and motions
  • Hearsay
  • Wrongful death actions

Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A. evaluates every case individually. Because each case has different injuries, different damages, different circumstances, and different people, each case is given the attention that it deserves.  If you would like to meet with an a personal injury attorney and receive a free consultation regarding your Florida personal injury case, contact us at Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A., North Miami based attorneys, Jeff Davis and Olga Porven will work hard to try and obtain a fair value for your case.

Wooden Deck at Shuckers Waterfront Grill Collapses, Plunging Heat Fans and Patrons into Biscayne Bay

At least two-dozen people were injured when a wooden deck collapsed into Biscayne Bay at Shuckers Waterfront Grill last night in North Bay Village, FL. Apparently, as the overflow crowd cheered their local Miami Heat team during the NBA Finals, the wooden patio deck abruptly collapsed, pitching as many as 100 patrons into Biscayne Bay and injuring dozens. As a result of the collapse, the lighting at the rear of the waterfront restaurant failed, resulting in darkness and chaos. The patrons that were suddenly plunged into the water struggled to safety amid the ruins of the wooden deck, tables, chairs, umbrellas, and other debris. Shortly after the incident it began to rain, creating even more difficult conditions for first responders and rescuers.

Premises Liability – The Landowner and Business Operator’s Duty to Patrons

A landowner or business operator owes a duty of care to its invitees to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. It is essential that property owners, especially commercial operators, maintain strict adherence to state and local building codes, fire safety codes, including occupancy limitations, and perform routine and regular maintenance and inspection of the property to insure it is safe and free from defects and hazards.

Questions remain about exact cause of premise deck failure and full extent of Shuckers Waterfront Grill’s liability

At this early stage, it is uncertain what caused the collapse of the patio deck at Shuckers. It will be necessary to conduct detailed inspections with engineers and other professionals in the fields of construction and building maintenance in order to determine the root cause of the deck failure. Also important will be an analysis of the occupancy of the restaurant at the time of the occurrence.

Have you sustained injuries as a result of a premise failure? Contact the law firm of Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A.

At Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A., we handle cases involving premises liability that result in injuries to guests, patrons, and invitees. If you have been injured while at a business, such as a restaurant, please contact the law firm of Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A. to determine what your rights are with regard to compensation for your injuries and damages. Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A. is a plantiff’s injury law firm that has represented thousands of people in South Florida since 1997. Please contact us for a free case analysis.

Knowing Too Much Can Be Bad For Your Health – Patient Knowledge in Medical Malpractice Cases

“You have terminal cancer”

Words that would make any patient develop instant and profound perspective into how important they consider their lives to be. When a patient is faced with a diagnosis such as this, they often go through what is considered the Five Stages of Death – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. As a coping mechanism, many patients in the Bargaining stage attempt to look for an answer to their problems. Some turn to religious support while others turn to uncovering everything humanly possible about their disease and “bargaining” ways in which they can defeat it.

For some, it might seem unimaginable that trying to understand and attempting to learn everything about your disease could end up hurting you. Yet, the dark truth is that what you know CAN be used against you. In fact, it’s occurring right now inside Florida courtrooms. Courts have started to hold patients more accountable for their medical care. Some people feel that educated patients have been penalized for their knowledge, with medical malpractice cases arguing that these patients failed to adequately care for themselves throughout the treatment process. The rationale behind this is that technology and the advancement of education has made the public more savvy to medical issues, thus the public bears a share of the responsibility for their treatments. Countless medical malpractice suits have resulted in reduced liability for practitioners and increased expectations for educated patients.

In a medical malpractice suit, patients sue medical practitioners, such as doctors, for any medical malpractice that the doctor committed – malpractice such as failing to take adequate care of the patient or failing to prescribe the patient the necessary medications. However, courts have recently held that since patients are now more knowledge about their condition or diagnosis, they should be charged with more responsibility and less should be placed on the medical professional. Therefore, in a medical malpractice action where a doctor did something wrong in the medical procedure, the patient may not have sufficient remedy if the doctor can prove that the patient did or did not do something he knew he should or should not have done, but something the doctor might have neglected to explain thoroughly.

So is Florida medical malpractice law sufficiently protecting patients now? Has precedent tipped the scales in favor of doctors too much now and neglected unaware patients?

The “Traditional” Relationship of Trust

Traditionally, courts assumed that in doctor-patient relationships, the physician had superior knowledge while the patient had little experience and information in regards to any health issues. As such, patients placed great trust in a physician’s decision-making ability and authority. Because of this, physicians were held to a higher standard of care. The traditional physician-patient relationship was based on the patient’s “blind faith” and the physician’s expert and superior guidance.

The New Relationship in the Age of the Internet

The traditional physician patient relationship was based on faith and trust. Unfortunately, the increasing number of medical malpractice cases coupled with the dawning societal realization that doctors can be wrong has led patients to find, explore, and educate themselves with all of the relevant and expert information available via the internet. Patients have started to arm themselves with knowledge about their illness and the steps they must take to better themselves. With the growth of easily accessible scientific knowledge and higher levels of education among the public, many physicians have difficulty maintaining credible claims of special status and judgment. Patients have removed the blindfolds of trust they placed on themselves for their doctors and have instead started to complement doctor information with information they acquire from medical journals, condition-specific books, and the vast, knowledge-rich world of the Internet.

The Ugly Result of Patient Education

In the past, courts were less likely to hold patients responsible for their own care in a medical malpractice action because practitioners had vastly superior knowledge. Physicians had a difficult burden in demonstrating that a patient was negligent with his own care. Now, with the evolution of the doctor-patient relationships, courts have begun to hold that patients are no longer presumed oblivious and unaware of health care needs. Thus, patient negligence that occurs after physician negligence can, in some cases, be used against the patient.

The Medical Malpractice Action

For a patient to effectively assert a medical malpractice action, the patient must show that the physician had a duty, the physician breached that duty, the physician was the cause of the harm, and that an actual harm occurred. The burden to prove this falls on the patient as the party seeking relief.  The duty must be based on a physician-patient relationship, and sometimes a recognized standard of care in the medical community is used to determine whether the doctor had a duty or not. To prove that the doctor breached the duty, the doctor must have failed to comply with that standard in the care of the patient. Lastly, the cause of the harm must result from a casual connection between the breach of duty and the injury sustained by the patient. To succeed the patient must prove all of these elements.

However, in Miami, Broward, West Palm, and other Florida courts, physicians are more often asserting the affirmative defense of comparative negligence – a defense that allows physicians to show that the patient’s negligence, rather than or in addition to the physician’s negligence, was the cause of the patient’s injury. Traditionally, a defense of comparative negligence in a medical malpractice action was often unsuccessful due to the unique characteristics of the physician-patient relationship – the physician’s superior knowledge, the patient’s inexperience, and the high standard of care demanded of the physician. All that has changed.

Comparative Negligence – Did the Patient Breach His Own Duty of Care?

When a physician is sued for medical malpractice, a physician can assert comparative negligence – a defense that reduces the patient’s recovery in the medical malpractice action. The defense ascribes negligence of the patient as a contributing cause to the damages that are being claimed.

To establish the defense of comparative negligence in a medical malpractice action, a physician must prove each of the following elements of negligence:

  1. The patient owes himself or herself a duty of care
  2. The patient breaches that duty; and
  3. The breach of the duty is proximately connected to the damages the patient sustains.

A doctor would have to prove that the patient was well-informed regarding the severity of their condition and the significance of the treatment of the condition. In addition, to establish that the patient had a duty of care for themselves, there is a requirement that a patient exercise the degree of care expected of a reasonable person under similar circumstances. This standard of care can be modified depending on the pain, disability, medication, the effects a disease has on the patient, and the difference in levels of knowledge between the doctor and patient.

Proximate cause in comparative negligence in a malpractice law suit occurs where the patient’s action was the natural, direct, and continuous sequence between the negligent act of the patient and the injury that it caused. Common instance of where courts have held that comparative negligence occurs is where a patient fails, disobeys, or delays to follow a physician’s advice. The result is that since patients have become more knowledgeable about medical issues, a patient’s refusal or inability to exercise due care to protect his own health needs is more likely found to be the proximate cause of the harm to the patient. Therefore, no longer is it just the doctor who is the target for the negligence in a medical malpractice action – the patient is now partially at risk.

What is the Modern Patient Left To Do?

No one expects patients to stop informing themselves about their diseases, diagnosis, or general health issues, especially when so much information is so readily available. Therefore, as an informed modern patient, it is necessary to understand that a patient’s role in understanding the nature of their care has increased. Consequently, patients have much greater responsibility in the eyes of the courts than in the past.

To have a viable claim for medical malpractice and to make sure that doctors do not transfer responsibility to patients, it is important that patients:

  • Follow the directions and prescription instructions provided by their doctors. Patients must follow doctor directives as best as possible in order to minimize the likelihood of a comparative negligence defense undermining the ability of the patient to seek full damages
  • Ask their doctors additional questions if they feel that the directions or prescriptions are not accurate due to their prior information on a health issue. If a patient is still uneasy, get in writing the reasons why a specific instruction or prescription has been given.

Are the courts fairly holding patients more accountable for their own standard of care? Are patients partially negligent in instances they fail or disobey instructions by a medical practitioner? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

 

GOING POSTAL – What if the most dangerous place on earth is where you work?

Pleasant were the days where the most an employee worried about was dealing with pesky bosses, overbearing co-workers, grueling morning traffic, and totally unreasonable deadlines. But news stories covering people like the disgruntled New York City employee who fatally shot his co-worker and entered into a Hollywood-style gunfight with police are changing that. As a national debate rages over proposed gun control legislation, employees have been given entirely new and considerably more serious worries for their personal safety and the safety of their workplace.

November 2009 – Tragedy Strikes a Workplace

On November 5, 2009, this country witnessed one of the greatest and most jarring tragedies to occur at a workplace. You would think that one of the safest places on the planet would be a United States military base WITHIN the United States. Yet on that dark day in November, a United States Army Medical Corp officer opened fire at Fort Hood, killing 13 people and injuring more than 30 others. Many Americans began to wonder just how safe their workplace was.

“Going Postal”

Workplace violence has always been a common but hidden reality of the work environment. Yet, throughout the years, the definition of workplace violence has changed and expanded. Originally, violence in the workplace referred only to getting hurt on the job – such as when health care workers were assaulted by patients, late night convenience store employees were robbed, or taxi cab drivers were mugged by riders.It was not until 1986 when United States Postal Service worker Patrick Sherrill massacred 14 people in Edmonds, Oklahoma, shooting and killing managers, fellow workers, and members of the police, that the general public adopted a term for these killings. In ominous memory of those killed in Oklahoma, the term became “going postal.”

Occupational Hazard – Shootings at the Office

Workplace violence can range from harassment and intimidation to violence and homicide. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2007 to 2012, there were more than 10,000 occupational homicides nationwide. Specifically in 2008, shootings accounted for 80 percent of all homicides in 2008.

From a legal perspective, some may argue that simply banning guns on any work premise would go a long way towards reducing workplace violence. However, Florida employers are limited in their abilities to do so by the law – employers cannot implement a ban on having weapons on “company premises” within their workplace policies. The Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008 prohibits both public and private employers from restricting customers or employees from possessing any legally owned firearm when such firearm is lawfully possessed and locked inside a motor vehicle in a parking lot. Employers are also prohibited from asking employees and customers whether they have firearms in their cars and from searching their vehicles for weapons. However, an employer can require that guns remain locked in a vehicle and ban them from anywhere other than the parking lot.

Employer Safeguards – How Companies Minimize the Likelihood of Workplace Violence

Thus, knowing whether an employer has the proper safeguards in place is essential to understanding the safety of a work environment. No work environment will ever be guaranteed freedom from workplace violence but there are ways in which an employer can substantially reduce incidences.

An employer can effective reduce workplace violence by:

  1. Performing reference and background checks during the hiring process.
  2. Executing the best practice of establishing a zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence against or by their employees
  3. Creating a written policy that defines workplace violence and includes specific examples of prohibited conduct. Furthermore it should also have explanations or repercussions for violations and specific reporting procedures
  4. Ensuring that all employees are educated on the policy and understand that any complaints about potential violence will be investigated and remedied promptly.
  5. Establishing a workplace violence prevent program, and incorporating it into the existing employee handbook or manual of standard operating procedures.
  6. Providing training to supervisors that helps them spot and deal with potentially violent employees.
  7. Creating a crisis plan so employees are prepared if the company experiences a threat of violence
  8. Hiring security personnel, using video surveillance and alarm systems, and limiting workplace access by the public and unauthorized individuals.

The Zero Tolerance Policy – Protecting the Employer and Employees

One of the most prominent workplace policies that have become instrumental in employment litigation with regards to workplace violence has been the implementation of the “zero-tolerance” policy. Under such a policy, individuals that engage in any type of workplace violence can be automatically terminated from the company. Under such dismissal, an employee may not be able to sue their employer for the fact that there were fired for engaging in workplace violence.

However, this policy assumes that the employees who are engaging in workplace violence are two individuals that have issues with one another. The policy does not adequately cover single employees that act aggressively to passive co-workers. Nevertheless, in situations where a single individual acts aggressively towards one or many co-workers, arbitrators have awarded leeway to the “innocent” employee or employees in cases where the act of aggression was met by an act of self defense by the victim or victims.

Case in Point – How Policies Protect Companies AND Victims

In a specific case, an employer discharged two employees that engaged in a fistfight over which employee had been assigned to perform a particular job. In doing so, the employer relied upon a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy and discharged both employees. Within the case, the union that represented Employee A argued that the employer’s decision to discharge Employee A should not stand because Employee A’s participation in the fight was merely in self-defense. They claimed that Employee B had provoked Employee A and then escalated the physical confrontation. Although Employee A had played a role in escalating the conflict and should be held culpable for his role in the violent episode, the arbitrator in that case determined that the employer did not have just cause to discharge Employee A. The arbitrator held that Employee A’s violent behavior should be excused at least to the point of allowing him to return to his job because Employee B had been the instigator of the fight.

Legal Protections for Victims – Is It Enough?

The current legal framework does not provide employees many opportunities to bring up claims in court against their employers for not stopping or preventing workplace violence. There are some type of harassments that are outlawed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but Title VII’s reach is narrow and only prohibits employment discrimination based on an individual’s race, sex, color, religion, or national origin. Since the legal options that allow for an action to be brought against the employer are limited, it is important for employees to understand the importance of the workplace safety policies that are enacted in their work environment. If history is any indication, it could save your life.

Do you think that the current legal framework goes far enough to protect employees from workplace violence? What legislation would you create to reduce the amount of workplace violence in the US? Comment below and share your perspective.

Beware of Facebook, Twitter and Other Social Media

When bringing a personal injury claim, it is important to consider that many private aspects of your life will not remain private. Many insurance defense firms, private investigators, and defendants search and comb through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. During the discovery phase of any litigation, most courts will allow the Defense to go through your Instagram, Facebook, and other social network accounts. Just one photograph or video may be taken out of context and destroy or lower the amount of monies awarded.

Recently, a woman who brought a personal injury case in Gwinnett County, Georgia tweeted about her travels and partying during the course of her case. As a result the jury lowered their damages award. The woman, a victim of a car accident, claimed that the injuries she sustained to her arm as a result of the car accident and she was unable to perform her job duties as a hairstylist. However, the Defense attorney provided tweets and pictures of the Plaintiff having fun in New Orleans with her friends and enjoying spring break on the beach. The Plaintiff asked for $1.1 million for her injuries and received $142,000.

What is the insurance and defense attorney looking for in Social Networks?:

  • Pictures of you having fun, showing that you have not been injured, and that you have returned to your normal routine;
  • Videos of you performing acts that you now claim you have difficulty with or cannot do;
  • Statements regarding the incident or accident;
  • Potential friends to interview and depose;
  • To catch you in a lie to damage

If you are involved in any type of legal matter, including a personal injury case here are a list of tips when using social networks:

  • If you can live without Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. CLOSE DOWN YOUR ACCOUNT. This will be the safest way that you will ensure that you will not damage your case;
  • Set your settings as private as possible;
  • Ask your friends and family to not tag you in any posts or photographs;
  • Do not discuss any aspects of your case on these social networking site;
  • Do not “check-in” anywhere.

In fact, many insurers are not trying to challenge liability as must as causation and whether the victim has a permanent injury.

The Miami based attorneys at Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A. are experienced personal injury attorneys who understand the techniques used by defense attorneys and insurances. The use of social media is just one of the ways that the other side will try to lower the damages awarded to a victim of another’s negligence. If you or a loved have been injured because of the negligence of another, contact us for a free consultation to discuss your potential case.