Is there Governmental Liability for Car Accidents?

Auto accidents happen every single day. In a typical situation a driver of a vehicle collides into another vehicle and this causes a collision. Following the collision, the negligent driver’s insurance will most likely handle the damages and injuries caused by the crash. However, what happens in a situation where the collision occurs with a federal, state, or local government vehicle? The handling of damages and injuries may be quite different in this case. In the majority of jurisdictions, a legal concept known as “sovereign” or “governmental immunity” will be recognized. Many drivers are completely unaware of this legal concept and it is important to be educated on the subject.

Governmental immunity means that the government is immune from claims against it, even if the claim is based on the negligent acts of a government employee. Even in situations where the government would be liable if it were a private individual, immunity typically applies. The immunity exists in order to prevent people for suing the government for some loss that would be paid with taxpayers dollars. Nevertheless, the government may choose to give a person who was injured by a government employee the right to sue by waiving said immunity.

Many jurisdictions have passed the Tort Claims Acts, which gives people injured in certain ways advance permission to sue the government for their losses. Due to the fact that auto accidents occur so frequently, a common provision of many Tort Claims Acts is a condition which allows people hurt in a crash to sue. However, even if the lawsuit is permitted, it works differently than a typical collision case because Tort Claims Acts frequently have strict and specific notice requirements that must be met., particularly if the vehicle belongs to the federal government.

There is also a differentiation between a “regular” collision that involves a vehicle owned by the government versus a collision that involves an emergency vehicle like a fire truck or police car. The Tort Claims Acts makes it difficult to sue for injuries suffered in a crash with an emergency vehicle because they want to make sure that this act does not prevent people responding to an emergency from doing so. Finally, the Tort Claims Acts sometimes allows drivers to sue for injuries that are caused by dangerous road conditions. Regardless of the particular situation, it is imperative for an experienced attorney to handle any negligence claim involving someone working for the government.

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The Importance of Documenting Accident Injuries

Being involved in an auto accident is something that no one wants to deal with. Unfortunately, accidents happen all of the time and if there are any injuries involved in the crash it is absolutely vital that those who are hurt take the time to document their injuries. Case history has proven that those who are able to document their accident injuries properly will have a much stronger claim than those who do not or do so inadequately. First and foremost, if you have been injured in a car crash you must seek medical attention immediately. Doing so is obviously important for your health, but beyond that, it is important for the doctor to see your injuries right after the crash in order to properly and accurately document what has happened to you.

Once you have seen the doctor, it is important to create a file where all of your medical records and medical bills received can be kept together. In addition, it is helpful to document your injuries with picture if possible. Explaining a scratch or bruise with words is far less effective than being able to show the injuries with a photo. The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is very relevant here. Make sure to take pictures to accurately show your injuries as soon after the crash as possible. Another important, yet often overlooked, aspect of documenting accident injuries is in regard to the effects on the accident victim’s daily life.

Keep a diary or some type of log to state what changes you’ve had to make due to your injuries. For example, did the accident injuries leave you unable to walk for a certain amount of time? Were you unable to play sports for a long period of time after the collision? Was your work life hindered in any way? These are important elements to document thoroughly. These types of accounts dictating how daily life is altered will play a great role in highlighting just how terrible the injuries were in a larger scope. Using this diary or log in your claim will prove to be very valuable in showing how severely you were injured in the crash.

Achieving adequate and fair compensation after an auto accident isn’t always so easy. The more evidence that is gathered regarding the injuries sustained in the collision the better. These pieces of evidence will be used to increase the likelihood that the settlement received or the judgment made will appropriately compensate you, the accident victim, for your losses. Far too many accident victims are left with costly medical bills, not to mention an inability to perform at work, and no justice. Be sure to document your injuries after a crash thoroughly and as quickly as possible following the auto accident.

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Hospital Safety Information Hidden by Government

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is a federal agency which serves as an oversight for hospitals and nursing homes. Since 2005, the CMS has posted quality ratings on their website which allows patients to make important decisions regarding where they should seek treatment. The goals of the CMS are to provide its audiences with adequate and thorough information so that the correct decision is made regarding a hospital stay or other type of medical treatment location. In 2011, the CMS took to their website to post regarding eight different “hospital acquired conditions”, commonly known as HACs. HACs are injuries to patients that are most likely caused by the care in which they received.

Some of the most common types of HACs seen in the nation’s hospitals today include:

  • Being given the wrong kind of blood
  • Injuries from falls
  • Objects left in the body after a surgery
  • Air embolism
  • Surgical site infection

Up until recently, this information was readily available to all and incredibly helpful in making important medical decisions. However, the CMS chose to remove HACs information from their website following complaints from hospitals that the information was unreliable. These complaints were made despite the fact that the government used the site to issue fines to hospital and otherwise punish hospitals who were guilty of providing substandard care. According the CMS, they were directed to create new standards that would measure the incidence of the most common HACs. They claim that the HACs are no longer available to the public concern of the rare events that should not ever occur in hospitals.

Patients have a right to access information regarding injuries caused by substandard medical care. As such, consumer advocate groups have made a big fuss in regard to their ability to make informed medical and healthcare decisions. These groups feel that the decision made by the CMS to no longer provide this information is dangerous to the general public. What is your opinion on the CMS no longer show HAC information on their website? Share your opinions in the comment box.

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The Difference between Debit, Credit, and Prepaid Cards

The average consumer today typically reaches for a card when they make a purchase. Whether they are at the grocery store, the mall, or even the gas station, paying with a card has become the norm in our society. Paying with a card leaves the buyer with options. Debit cards, credit cards, and prepaid cards are the choices that these buyers have, but does everyone really understand the differences between them? Transactions happen quicker than ever before. With the swipe of one of these cards, you can walk away with your purchase without thinking twice. As these options continue to become the norm, it is important for you to have a solid knowledge of the difference between credit, debit, and prepaid cards.

The most prominent difference of these payment options is the source of the money. A credit card, for instance, is actually a loan. The user of the card is borrowing the amount of the charge from the credit card company and is then paying interest if the amount is not repaid by the end of the month. With prepaid and debit cards, however, the user is spending their own money. Prepaid cards are drawn from the amount of money the user puts on the card when it was purchased. Debit cards withdraw directly from the user’s bank account. Does all of this seem like a no-brainer to you? Maybe so, but this is excellent information to refresh your brain on and, more importantly, excellent information to share with your teens.

Liability for fraudulent charges is another key factor when considering the differences between debit, credit, and prepaid cards. According to federal law, liability for fraudulent charges for debit or credit cards is $50, however, the debit card users must notify the bank within two days of learning that the card is lost or stolen. For prepaid cards, liability is a bit less clear, as these are somewhat new cards. For now, prepaid cards are treated as debit cards under federal law, although regulations are being considered. The issuers of debit, credit, and prepaid cards often have their own programs in order to limit liability.

The final component when considering the differences in cards is fees. Almost all credit cards charge a fee. Some fees include late payments, interest on unpaid balances, and exceeding credit limit. With debit cards, users must look out for overdraft fees is they attempt to spend more than is in their bank account, somewhat like a bounced check. Prepaid cards often have the worst of fees, as the user is typically charged for adding money to the card, spending money on the card, or even a fee simply for owning the card. Since so many card issuers have different fees, it is essential to shop around in order to find the best deal on your debit, credit, or prepaid card.

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Defective Products Hidden From the Public

Products liability lawsuits happen all too often, and probably more often than many would imagine. Manufacturers and designers are tasked with a hefty responsibility to release products to the public that are safe for all to use. Unfortunately, hundreds of products are recalled each year due to some kind of defect or danger. While this is expected to happen on some level, the real issue lies in the company’s ability to be transparent. All companies who produce products for public consumption are held to a high standard by government bodies in the United States. These standards outline that products produced and released to the general public must be safe for use.

There are a number of examples where a large, well-known organization makes an effort to keep a faulty product under wraps. For instance, GM recently recalled millions of their cars in order to fix a faulty ignition switch that ended up causing a significant number of accidents. Evidence proves that GM had known about this issue for years but kept it hidden in order to avoid the inevitable recall. Another example of defective products hidden from the public is in the case of Firestone. About 10 years ago, this company knew that their tires on certain vehicles were dangerous for use but kept it hidden to avoid a recall.

Manufacturers and designers attempt to avoid products liability lawsuits wherever possible, which is why they attempt to hid defects. Not only are these lawsuits costly for the companies, but they can prove to cause irreparable damage for the company’s reputation. As a result, these organizations go to great lengths to hide the evidence proving their products are defective and dangerous. From vehicle products to medical devices, companies of all kinds have practiced extreme negligence by knowingly allowing these faulty products to be sold. The pharmaceutical companies are another major sector of problems, as are food companies.

Sadly, many companies choose to favor profits over people and are thus willing to knowingly sell products that bring a scary level of unnecessary danger, even death, to those who use them. The civil justice system is imperative to not only punishing these companies, but to force all other companies to act much more responsibility. Claims brought against negligent companies must be handled with care by a legal professional. Speak to a products liability lawyer if you feel that you or a loved one has been injured in some way due to a defective product.

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The Most Common Types of Medication Errors

Medication errors are a never-ending problem in the United States. While prevention programs exist in every hospital and healthcare facility across the nation, there are a variety of elements that are out of these programs’ control. Circumstances such as human error are simply unavoidable. In addition, new drugs are released regularly each year. As these new drugs hit the market, not only is it difficult to monitor their effectiveness, but it is largely impossible to avoid errors in prescribing these new medications. Recent reports highlight the fact that of the 3 billion prescriptions filled each year, over 50 million of them involve a medication error of some sort. As a result, these errors lead to the unnecessary hospitalization and unnecessary death of thousands of Americans.

Preventing medication errors is not solely an issue for the healthcare professionals. Far too many patients blindly place their trust in their doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. It is this carelessness that causes the wide variety of prescription and medical errors. The following are some of the most common medication errors seen today:

  • The mislabeling of drugs when they are prepared and/or repackaged
  • Hospital interruptions that cause medical professionals to make errors while completing simple tasks
  • Drug information is not accessible – as in the warnings on the label are on up-to-date
  • Drug orders are miscommunicated or mishandled by way of dosage confusion, poor handwriting on written prescription, etc.
  • Inadequate patient information – as in being unaware of other medications being taken

The American Hospital Association and the FDA feel strongly that understanding and recognizing the most common types of medication errors is one of the most successful ways to prevent them altogether. While we would like to feel safe in the comfort of our healthcare professionals’ hands, mistakes do happen. The duty of preventing these mistakes cannot falls solely on the hands of these professionals, but also in the hands of the patients. Make sure that you are taking an active role in your healthcare regimen in order to prevent serious error.

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Safe Driving During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is Florida is an incredible time for families and friends to join together and celebrate. With Florida’s beautiful “winter” weather, the holiday season is also a time where the streets are crowded and congested with the snowbirds coming into town to enjoy the warm weather. The combination of population increases, holiday season travelers, and drunk drivers all amounts to rises in traffic and, unfortunately, rises in the rate of auto accidents. Holiday parties and lengthy days of watching football means that many people are consuming large amounts of alcohol. This alcohol consumption threatens Florida’s roadways each and every holiday season.

The Florida Highway Patrol and the local South Florida law enforcement officials are ready to take on this influx of traffic and likelihood of traffic crashes starting with Thanksgiving tomorrow. When the overconsumption of liquor pairs up with driving, the results are disastrous and often deadly. Drinking and driving is never a good idea, no matter what the situation may be. There are going to be a lot of pressures to drink over the course of the next two months. Therefore, Florida motorists are encouraged to take action to avoid putting themselves and others in a dangerous situation.

In order to reduce the risk of being a victim in a drinking and driving accident this holiday season, Florida drivers should:

  • Always wear a safety belt
  • Make sure that all passengers in your vehicle are wearing a safety belt
  • Prepare beforehand with your travel plan in order to avoid unfamiliar roads
  • Never get in the car with someone who has been drinking

Wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of a car accident fatality by 50 percent. But most importantly, avoiding drinking and driving is the most important thing to remember this Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each and every driver must be accountable for their actions and for the number of alcoholic beverages that they consume. Never be afraid to call a cab. Always ask for help if you are too intoxicated to drive. On behalf of Larmoyeux & Bone, Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Florida Bill Would Toughen Texting While Driving Ban

Last Wednesday, a new proposal was filed that would serve to strengthen the current ban on texting while driving in Florida. Filed by Rep. Richard Stark, lawmakers will be considering this bill during the first session in 2015. The next legislative session is already shaping up to be very important for Florida drivers, as the new bill would finally allow law enforcement officials to pull over drivers for texting while driving. Under the current texting while driving law in Florida, police officers are only allowed to ticket motorists for texting while driving if they are pulled over for a different reason. The passing of this new ban would drastically change the scope of Florida drivers’ views on texting while driving.

Rep. Stark went on to say that texting while driving is, “something everyone’s guilty of. But everyone’s guilty of speeding, everyone’s guilty of running a red light, and the police can pull you over for those”. Stark’s bill would have law enforcement officials cite tickets for texting while driving in a similar manner of a typical penalty for a nonmoving traffic violation. If passed, citation costs for those pulled over for texting while driving would be $30. According to Sen. Maria Sachs of Delray Beach, “$30 is not gonna kill anybody. That’s a double double half-caf latte at Starbucks”.

In addition to the bill making texting while driving a primary offense, the newly proposed bill would also double the fine for those who are caught texting while driving in a school zone. While these changes may seem minor and not strict enough, the passing of this bill would make a notable mark on the current driving standards in Florida. Of the 41 state who currently have a texting while driving law in place, only 5 of those states made the action a secondary offense. The current law has been in effect for about a year now and it seems as though it is clearly not harsh enough to make a significant impact.

If the claims that “everyone is guilty of texting while driving” are true, it’s time that Florida lawmakers take action to make the incredibly dangerous act a primary offense. What do you think about the current texting while driving law? Do you believe that the new bill making texting while driving a primary offense will make a big difference? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comment box below.

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Most Common Injuries in Rear End Collisions

When one vehicle hits another vehicle from behind it is referred to as a rear end collisions. In the United States, these type of accidents happen at a shockingly rapid rate. Labeled “fender benders” by many, rear end collisions are typically taken too lightly. Sure, not paying attention and tapping someone’s bumper while slowing down for a red light or stop sign is often not a serious crash. However, when traveling on I-95 or the Florida Turnpike at high speeds, a rear end collision is incredibly serious, and dangerous.

The National Safety Council claims that more than 2.5 million rear end auto accidents occur each year throughout nation. From tailgating to weather conditions and from careless drivers to driving under the influence, the causes of rear end crashes range significantly. The injuries that result from these accidents are often:

  • Traumatic brain injuries or head injuries caused from the head crashing into a windshield or caused by the blunt force of any flying objects inside of the vehicle
  • Wrist fractures caused from the driver’s attempt to brace the steering wheel during the time of accident impact
  • Knee injuries due to a passenger being forced into the vehicle’s dashboard
  • Fatal injuries when a large truck is involved in the crash
  • Whiplash
  • Back injuries
  • Airbag injuries to the face
  • Seatbelt injuries

Rear end collision, especially those that take place when the vehicles are traveling at fast speeds, can be extremely dangerous for all parties involved. Determining who is at fault in these situations is often very difficult. While many believe that the driver who strikes the other vehicle from behind is automatically at fault, this is not always the case. Meeting a burden of proof is imperative to prove that the other driver was in fact to blame. Speaking with an experienced rear end collision lawyer is critical during these situations. Be sure to contact a knowledge legal team to ensure that your case is being handled fairly.

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Car Maintenance Tips to Prevent Auto Accidents

Keeping up with car maintenance can, at times, feel like a full-time job. From oil changes to tire rotations, making sure that your vehicle is in proper form can be time-consuming and, even worse, costly. Therefore, many car owners avoid keeping up with their auto maintenance as much as possible. Sadly, adequate car maintenance is actually a way to prevent auto accidents and those who fail to do so are putting themselves and their passengers in danger. Effective car maintenance is one of the easiest ways to reduce the likelihood of a crash. With an extra focus on the functionality of your vehicle, you will be able to ensure that your car is working properly and as safely as possible.

Delaying your next appointment with the auto shop could prove to be much more costly than you could imagine. A recent study cited that $2 billion a year is spent for collisions due to unperformed vehicle maintenance. The following must be given special attention when it comes to auto maintenance:

  • Consistently get your oil changed
  • Replacing tires when necessary, i.e. bald tires
  • Make sure that your vehicle’s lights are all working properly
  • Replacing your timing belt
  • Tire rotation every 7,500 miles
  • Replacing your PVC valve
  • Making sure that your windshield wipers are working well
  • Attending to any leaks or drips
  • Checking the engine every so often
  • Inspecting your brakes

Far too many auto accidents occur each year due to improper vehicle maintenance. While they may seem minor at the time, neglecting any of the above items can lead to a crash. Take the time to schedule vehicle maintenance and prevent a potential accident in the future.

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