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Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) enacted a federal regulation banning the use of pre-dispute arbitration agreements for nursing home residents.  Through such an arbitration agreement, a nursing home resident agrees to give up his or her right to have any disputes, including those related to injuries resulting from abuse or neglect, resolved by a jury.  Instead, one or more arbitrators will decide the outcome.  The arbitrators are usually attorneys who have practiced in the field of healthcare related injuries.

Awards in arbitration cases are often more limited than those provided by juries.  This results in part due to the fact that the discovery allowed in arbitrated cases is much more limited than in a lawsuit.  As a result, the most damming of evidence is often never found.  This is because much of the nursing home neglect that occurs is not the result of a simple mistake by a nurse or nursing assistant.  Instead, nursing home neglect usually results from a corporation’s systemic effort to cut staffing, training and supplies to a bare minimum in order to maximize profits. Without the ability to conduct thorough discovery, this type of information cannot be uncovered.  As a result, a full measure of justice is often avoided by a neglectful nursing home if the case is arbitrated.

In November of 2017, we reported that a federal court ruled that CMS’ rule banning arbitration agreements was invalid as it overstepped the rule-making authority of CMS. In short, an agency is entitled to make regulations for the implementation of laws provided the rules are consistent with the authority granted by the legislation.  However, an agency cannot create rules beyond the scope of that authority.

The federal court’s decision was on appeal at the time CMS enacted the new rules.  The new rules essentially render the appeal moot as the new regulations remove the ban on pre-dispute arbitration agreements.  This is unfortunate for nursing home residents.

The new rules do provide some additional measures a nursing home must take in order for an arbitration agreement to be binding; however, these measures are more form than function. The new measures include:

  1.  The arbitration agreement must be in plain language;
  2. If signing the agreement is a condition of admission, the agreement must make that clear;
  3.  The arbitration agreement must be explained “in a form and manner” understandable to the resident;
  4.  The resident acknowledges that he or she understands the agreement; and
  5. The nursing home must post a notice in a visible area advising of its use of arbitration agreements.

These additional requirements do little to help.  For the most part, they mirror already existing case law that our lawyers use to challenge the enforceability of a nursing home arbitration agreement.  Further, the requirement that the resident acknowledge understanding the agreement will likely be addressed by a signature line next to a sentence that affirms something to the tune of “I understand the terms of this agreement and I willingly and knowingly enter into the agreement.  I have been provided the opportunity to ask questions about the agreement and to consult with a lawyer regarding the agreement.”

Since these forms are routinely signed as part of a volume of admission documents that are all signed at once, adding such a signature line actually does nothing to demonstrate the resident understood the agreement at all.  Illustratively, it is estimated that fifty percent or more of nursing home residents suffer from some degree of dementia.

It appears that federal legislation will be necessary if pre-dispute arbitration agreements are going to be banned for nursing home residents. With the current makeup of Congress, this is not likely to happen anytime soon.

If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, we encourage you to call Florida’s Department of Children and Families’ hotline at 1(800)962-2873.

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Since 1976, Florida law has required that all vehicle owners purchase personal injury protection insurance coverage.  Personal injury protection (commonly called “PIP”) coverage provides medical and lost wage benefits for people injured in car accidents.  PIP coverage, also referred to a “no-fault” coverage, applies to injuries suffered by the vehicle owner and occupants in the vehicle regardless of fault.  In other words, your own auto insurer pays for up to $10,000.00 for your medical expenses and lost wages even if another driver was at fault for causing the car accident.

By requiring these benefits, Florida’s PIP statute prevents injured persons from seeking reimbursement for pain and suffering unless the person suffered a permanent injury, the loss of an “important bodily function,” significant scarring, or death.  In other words, if you suffered injuries in a car accident but eventually returned to normal, an at fault driver and his or her auto insurance company are only obligated to pay any unpaid medical bills or lost wages.

Concerns have arisen that PIP has provided fertile ground for insurance fraud by medical providers and unscrupulous accident “victims” charging for unnecessary medical care.  The cost for PIP coverage, which can duplicate health insurance benefits that most Floridians now have, was also a concern.

During Florida’s most recent legislative session, House Bill 461 was introduced to repeal and replace Florida’s PIP law.  Instead of requiring PIP coverage, the bill, if enacted as law, would require that every vehicle owner carry bodily injury coverage of $25,000.00 per person and $50,000.00 in aggregate bodily injury coverage if two or more persons are injured.  Currently, Florida law does not require that vehicle owners carry any bodily injury coverage at all.  It was estimated that, if enacted, repealing PIP would save Florida car owners approximately $80.00 annually.

Florida personal injury car accident lawyers are mixed on the idea.  The existing PIP framework allows for injured persons to have their medical expenses and lost wages paid.  This makes it easier for them to obtain medical care, especially for those who do not have health insurance.  Also, medical bills paid by PIP do not have to be paid back to the client’s auto insurer if the client receives a financial recovery from the at-fault driver’s insurer.

On the other hand, people who have suffered serious injuries sometimes lose their case because a jury does not agree that the person has suffered a permanent injury.  This most commonly arises with injuries to intervertebral discs. Spinal discs tend to degenerate over time and can be likened to brake pads that eventually wear out.  Some people who have never suffered an  accident or any trauma of significance have herniated or bulging discs.  Because of this, the presence of a herniated or bulging disc identified on an MRI is not the same as an x-ray that shows a person suffered a broken bone in an accident.

Insurers hire doctors of their own choosing who routinely testify that herniated or bulging discs were not caused by an accident. Unfortunately, the car insurers do this in almost every disc injury case even if the injured person never previously suffered from neck or back pain in their entire life prior to the car accident.

The result can be very unfair.  A jury may very well check the “no” box on the verdict form indicating a legitimately injured claimant suffered no permanent injury, which then results in a loss and subjects that person to a judgment for the insurer’s significant court costs.

If PIP is repealed, the “permanency” threshold will not apply, and jurors will simply award the amount of compensation to which a person is entitled, assuming the jury finds the other driver to be at fault for causing the accident.

For the time being, Florida’s PIP laws will remain in place as the House bill died during the legislative session as the Senate failed to vote on it before the session ended.  Similar bills will certainly be proposed in the future.  Continue reading

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You’re driving down the road and someone cuts you off. You’re understandably mad, so you might yell and wave your fist. But that’s not always where it stops. For many drivers, emotions continue to escalate.

Nationally, incidents of road rage are on the rise.  A recent study from AAA shows 80 percent of drivers admit to expressing significant aggression, anger or road rage in the past year. The same study shows that men are more likely than women to express aggression on the road and that 56 percent of fatal accidents involve at least one form of aggressive driving.

Road rage behavior includes tailgating, blocking and cutting off other drivers and repeated horn honking. All of these can lead to car accidents, injuries and even death.

Earlier this year in Jacksonville, a trucker from New Jersey was shot and killed by another truck driver due to road rage resulting from an earlier traffic confrontation.

Truckers often warn passenger vehicle drivers about the dangers of cutting them off because they simply cannot stop in time to avoid a collision. Not only are they extremely heavy and hard to stop, hitting the brakes hard causes the braking system to dysfunction and can shift the truck’s load out of balance.

Car accidents caused by road rage are not uncommon in Jacksonville, especially since many roadways are congested due to what seems like never-ending construction. Whether you are on the giving or receiving end of road rage, here a few tips to keep you safe:

  • Move over is someone is tailgating you and travel in the right lane if you are driving slower than other traffic.
  • Never engage with someone who has yelled or gestured at you. Most of the time, the person who is angry is not thinking rationally, so trying to engage with them won’t work out well.
  • Use an “I’m sorry” gesture if you accidentally do something offensive to another driver.
  • If an angry driver is following you, don’t pull over and don’t drive home. Instead, call 911 and drive to a fire or police station, or public place like a shopping mall for help.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going. Running late causes anxiety and impatience.
  • Listen to soothing music and relax your shoulders when driving.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the woman trying to get over to the far right lane is rushing a child to the emergency room.
  • Be mindful of other drivers and always use your turn signal.
  • Lay off the horn. Excessive honking stresses drivers.
  • Don’t be distracted by anything. Checking your phone, putting on makeup, texting, even eating, don’t mix well with driving.
  • Don’t tailgate. Follow at a safe distance – allow 10 feet for every 10 mph you are traveling. So if you are going 60 mph, there should be 60 feet between you and car ahead.
  • If you you notice dangerous or aggressive driving, have a passenger write down the license plate number, date, time, and road you are on and contact the Florida Highway Patrol by dialing *FHP. The best people to handle bad drivers are law enforcement professionals

Written by Elizabeth Allen. Continue reading

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It’s not hard to find information about how to select a nursing home, but once you’ve made a choice, how can you make sure the facility is treating your mom, dad or relative well?

The number-one way to find out is simply to be there. Just like it made sense to be involved at your child’s school, it also makes sense to be involved in your parent’s nursing home care. So make regular visits and most of all, be an advocate for your loved one.  If something doesn’t seem right, speak up.

In many cases, being more involved and acting as an advocate for your loved one can make a big difference. But sometimes conditions don’t improve and residents suffer the consequences.  We see this far too often and our lawyers have brought injury or death claims against nearly every one-star rated nursing home in the Jacksonville area.

Pay attention to these important aspects of care to help protect your loved one:

Nutrition is critical for an elderly person. As people age, the number of effective taste buds decreases, so they often lose interest in food and it becomes harder to get the nutrients they need. Because of this, it’s important that food is presented in a visually appetizing way and patients should have a variety of healthy choices at each meal, along with healthy snacks.

Have a meal with your loved one on a regular basis at the nursing home and pay attention to how much your loved one is eating. If they are not eating much, talk to the dietary staff about making some modifications so they can get better nutrition.

How does the staff treat each other? A harmonious work environment usually translates to better care and concern for patients. If the nursing home’s staff doesn’t seem to work as a team and you overhear yelling and harsh words, it may be a sign that they treat patients the same way.

How do staff members interact with patients? Nurses and certified nurses’ assistants should treat patients in a positive and encouraging way. Knocking before entering and calling them by name should be the norm.  A good nursing home will encourage staff to ask each patient how he or she would like to be addressed.

How does the home smell? Of course, there may be some unpleasant smells in any nursing home. Medications, special foods, and even cleaning supplies can emit odors. If the home smells badly every time you are there, and you notice a stale urine or fecal smell, it could mean that the staff is not tending to residents’ needs that can lead to a whole host of other problems.

How does the staff handle a fall? If a resident falls, take notice of what happens next. Do they check the patient carefully to see if they have any injuries? Do they take the time to comfort the patient and make sure he or she is okay? Hallways should be uncluttered with plenty of room for patients to walk.

How do residents spend their free time? A quality nursing home will have activities for residents to engage in if they so choose. Card games, bingo or simply having group discussions are good ways for patients to keep their minds sharp. For patients who are able, it’s good for them to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. For patients who are room-bound, activities should be brought to them.

Interact with management. If you notice something seems out of place, bring it to the nurse unit manager’s attention. If that doesn’t work, escalate your concern to the director of nursing or the administrator. A good nursing home will take your concerns into consideration and make improvements.

If you’re like most people who lead busy lives and you simply don’t have time to visit frequently, enlist the help of other family members. The more advocates a nursing home resident has, the better.

Written by Elizabeth Allen
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Approximately 20% of Florida’s population is over the age of 65. With Florida being a haven for retirees, the need for nursing home beds is on the rise.  However, the state does not currently allow free market forces to control whether new nursing homes are constructed.   Instead, in order to open a new nursing home, or enlarge an existing nursing home, a lengthy “certificate of need” process documenting the need for additional beds must be completed.  Furthermore, the State of Florida enacted a moratorium on any new nursing home beds (regardless of need) from 2001 through 2014. Finally, in 2014, a scant 3,750 new nursing home beds were allowed.

The Florida legislature is now considering repealing the entire certificate of need process allowing free market forces to determine how many nursing home beds are available.  The nursing home industry, represented by the Florida Health Care Association, is lobbying hard against doing away with the certificate of need process.  Why?  Because increased competition will narrow profit margins.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides a five star rating system for nursing homes.  Due to the lack of beds, the one star facilities typically have occupancy rates above 90%.  When there are not available beds in the five star facilities, the facilities providing substandard care fill up.  Our attorneys have brought claims for negligence causing death or injury against 8 of the 10 one star nursing homes in Jacksonville – Duval County.  In comparison, we have never had to bring a claim against a single five star facility.

Newer, nicer nursing homes will take residents from existing older facilities – which is exactly how it should be.  The industry’s position in this regard is not well disguised.  The Florida Heath Care association says that repealing the certificate of need process would lead to an increase in empty beds in “long-established” facilities.  Feel free to insert the words “old,” “out of date” or “no longer desirable to consumers” for “long-established.”  What the industry is saying is that consumers will choose newer, nicer facilities over the old ones. That is a bad thing?

In what industry is a lack of competition good for consumers? Imagine if car manufacturers were not allowed to create new models and sell the new cars in whatever quantity consumers desired.  Instead, the buyers could only choose from a limited number of outdated models.  Prices would be high and quality stymied.   While that sounds preposterous, that is the framework in which the nursing home industry in Florida operates.

Contrary to the nursing home industry’s claims, nursing homes are very profitable.  They are not providing a community service on the brink of bankruptcy.  Every time our lawyers investigate the financial status of for-profit nursing homes in the Jacksonville area, we find they operate with significant profits, much of it hidden from view in the form of “management fees” paid to a related company or outlandish rent paid to a related company that owns the nursing home building.  By doing so, their balance sheet appears to reflect limited or no profit.  Its no more complicated than a hustler’s shell game.

The sponsor of the House bill to do away with the certificate of need process, Alex Miller from Sarasota, details that the current process does not improve the quality of nursing home care, does not improve access and does not control costs.

The nursing home industry claims (apparently with a straight face) that adding more nursing homes will require them to compete for nurses resulting in decreased staffing.  What this really means is that the nurses lose right alongside the consumers.  Competition for nurses is good for nurses’ pay and working conditions – the same way it is very every other occupation.  Further, who provides data to show that the number of licensed nurses is too few to staff additional nursing homes?  No one.  Even if somehow new nursing homes created a void of nurses (which it would not), why wouldn’t free market forces result in more people getting a nursing degree?

In short, the certificate of need process was never a good idea.  Regulations designed to decrease competition have never been good for consumers and never will be.   Continue reading

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Clostridium difficile (commonly referred to as “C diff”), is a bacteria that is a common cause of severe illness in hospital and nursing home settings.  C diff is found naturally in many healthy peoples’ digestive tract, and, in such cases, it does not pose a health risk as the c diff bacteria are kept in check by the many other types of intestinal bacteria.

There are over 1000 types of bacteria commonly found in the human digestive system.  They serve an essential purpose in digestion and the various bacteria have symbiotic relationships among themselves. Some bacteria naturally create waste which can be toxic.  If unchecked by the other bacteria, the toxic buildup can cause severe illness.

C diff infections often occur after someone has been provided a broad spectrum antibiotic.  The use of antibiotics is common when a person undergoes surgery in order to prevent a post-surgical infection. Since many people, especially the elderly and infirm, reside in a nursing home after surgery to recuperate and receive physical therapy, a c diff infection will often appear at the nursing home.

C diff infections can also occur when someone requires a feeding tube.  A gastric tube (or “g tube”) is used to provide a liquefied diet, rich in nutrients, directly into the person’s small intestine where it is quickly absorbed.  However, when on such a diet, the large intestine is deprived of fiber, starches and sugar which can lead to the reduction of healthy bacteria.  A niche is left for c diff to run rampant as it is no longer kept in check by the other bacteria.

Similarly, total parenteral nutrition (“TPN”) or intravenous feeding, in which the person is fed intravenously, can cause the exact same problem.  Again, this is a common scenario in the nursing home environment as persons with feeding tubes or intravenous feeding typically require significant nursing care.

C diff is extremely contagious and can be transferred by person to person contact or through objects such as door handles, clothing, towels and bed linens.  As such, it is imperative that nursing homes be especially diligent in: washing hands after touching each resident; providing clean towels and bed linens; and thoroughly cleaning all potentially contaminated surfaces and objects.

According the the Centers for Disease Control, each year 500,000 Americans suffer from c diff infections.  Of those, approximately 29,000 die within 30 days.  The most vulnerable population is the elderly with 80% of the c diff related deaths occurring with people aged 65 or over. Not surprisingly, the CDC estimates that 100,000 nursing home residents contract c diff each year.

It is imperative that nursing home staff be well trained to identify the signs of a c diff infection. Symptoms include: prolonged diarrhea; an especially foul smell to the feces; feces with the consistency of coffee grounds; abdominal cramping; loss of appetite; weight loss; nausea; vomiting; fever; lethargy; and abdominal distension.  It is critical that such signs be reported immediately to the resident’s physician.  The early administration of antibiotics, such as Flagyl or Cipro, can prevent the infection from worsening.  Untreated, c diff can lead to: severe inflammation of the intestines; rupture of the intestines; septic shock; and death.

Our lawyers have handled two wrongful death cases resulting from c diff infections in Jacksonville nursing homes.  In both cases, our investigations found that the nursing homes ignored obvious signs of infection until it was too late.  If you or a loved one are experiencing the signs and symptoms of a c diff infection, it is necessary that you report the problem immediately to the nursing home’s director of nursing, the assistant director of nursing; the nurse unit manager; and the doctor.  If your complaints fall on deaf ears, go the the hospital.  Every hour counts when a vulnerable person is suffering from c diff.  Continue reading

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When a vehicle breaks down or runs of gas in a lane of traffic, especially on an interstate or expressway, the effects can be devastating.  Just today, a man from Orange Park died when his vehicle was struck from behind by an 18 wheeler on Interstate 95 in Flagler County near Palm Coast. The accident happened in the early morning hours and the car may not have had its lights on.  The reason for the car being stopped on the interstate is not currently known.

Our attorneys have handled numerous serious injury cases resulting from an accident with a vehicle broken down on an interstate or expressway.  Vehicle owners who fail to properly maintain their vehicles or who run out of gas will be responsible for personal injuries or wrongful death that results from an accident.  It is also necessary that the operator of the car or truck remove it from lanes of traffic as soon as possible. Commercial trucks, including tractor trailers, are also required to put out traffic cones so as to warn oncoming drivers of the lane obstruction ahead.

Our lawyers handled a case where a man suffered serious personal injuries after colliding with a moving truck broken down in the outside lane of I-95 in Nassau County, just north of the Duval County line.  The moving truck was broken down for hours before the collision occurred.  The insurer for the moving company tried to blame our injured client by claiming that he should have seen the truck and avoided it like so many other drivers did in the hours that the truck was obstructing I-95.

We were able to prevail by demonstrating that the truck failed to properly put out required warning signs and failed to have the truck removed in a timely fashion.  Also, the claim that our client was negligent was not credible due to the fact that the accident happened shortly after dark, during rush hour, and occurred just after our client changed from the middle lane to the outside lane immediately prior to the location of the truck, preventing him from being able to see it in time to react.

We also recently made a recovery for all of the available insurance coverage limits (both bodily injury and uninsured motorist coverages) for a woman who suffered serious spinal disc injuries when the car in which she was a passenger struck a vehicle broken down on the Dames Point Bridge.

Surprisingly, the car in which our client was riding had dash cam footage of the accident.  The footage showed the other car stopped in the outside lane.  As the Dames Point Bridge has no emergency lane, the broken down vehicle was obstructing more than half of the lane.  The owner of that car placed a cooler in the road to warn oncoming drivers; however, the cooler was only a few yards from the car, providing very little notice.

The driver of the car our client was in failed to observe the other car in the interstate and drove straight into it without braking our changing lanes.  With the dash cam, it was clear that that driver had several seconds to react before the collision.  As a result both the driver of the car our client was in and the driver of the broken down car were responsible for causing the accident. Continue reading

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) recently enacted a new federal regulation [42 C.F.R. Section 483.70(n)(1)] that invalidates arbitration agreements signed at the time of a person’s admission to any nursing home that accepts reimbursement from either Medicare or Medicaid.  This covers essentially every nursing home in the country.

Through an arbitration agreement, a nursing home resident waives his or her constitutional right to a trial by jury in the event the nursing home is negligent and causes injury or death. Instead, through arbitration, one to three attorneys, acting as arbitrators, would decide whether nursing home neglect occurred and, if so, the amount to be awarded to compensate the injured person for medical expenses, funeral expenses (if death resulted from the neglect), and emotional losses.

Arbitration agreements have long been the bane of attorneys that handle nursing home injury and wrongful death cases because, generally speaking, arbitrators tend to be more conservative than juries.  Arbitrators deal with tragic claims routinely.  The thought is that, in doing so, they can become desensitized to neglect and the resulting injuries or death.  Jurors on the other hand, having not been exposed to such tragedies on a regular basis, may be shocked by neglect and have more sympathy with respect to the injury or wrongful death that resulted.

Arbitration agreements, which are usually presented by a nursing home employee along with a host of other paperwork at the time of admission, are controversial to begin with.  Many residents have some degree of dementia and their ability to fully understand the rights they are signing away can be questionable.  Further, with many admissions documents being signed at once, it is common that relatively little explanation is given to the new resident about the effect of the arbitration agreement.

Our law firm challenges the enforceability of arbitration agreements on numerous bases including: whether the resident had the mental capacity to understand the nature of the rights being waived; whether a family member that signed the agreement had the authority to sign on the resident’s behalf, which is usually conveyed by a pre-existing power of attorney; and whether the agreement is unambiguous in the language used to explain what is being waived.  Despite these challenges, it is common that there is no “out,” and the case proceeds to arbitration.

Acknowledging the unfairness of arbitration agreements, CMS enacted the new rule which was to take effect with respect to any arbitration agreements signed after November 27, 2016.

The legality of the new rule has already been challenged by the nursing home industry. Unfortunately, the Court hearing the case – the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi – has made a preliminary finding that there is a “substantial likelihood” that CMS did not present sufficient justification for banning arbitration agreements in nursing home neglect cases. The necessary support, according to the Court, required objective proof that arbitration actually caused the harmful effects CMS relied on in making the rule.

Furthermore, the Court held that CMS overstepped its authority in enacting the rule.  Simply put, an agency, as part of the executive branch of government, cannot create legislation.  Instead, rules created by an agency are supposed to help implement the laws as enacted by Congress.  Citing the fact that Congress has considered, but not passed, bans on arbitration agreements for nursing home abuse or neglect claims, the Court found that CMS lacked the authority to ban arbitration agreements even though it is charged with the task of: “protecting and promoting the rights of each resident;” establishing “other rights” for residents; and promoting the “health, safety and welfare” of residents.

The Court’s ruling is only preliminary; however, the obstacles presented by its preliminary injunction Order present a very burdensome task.  Should the rule ultimately be ruled invalid on the basis that CMS overstepped its authority and effectively enacted legislation, it is unlikely that Congress will ban nursing home arbitration agreements any time in the near future, given the current Republican majority.

We will continue to monitor and report on developments regarding this issue. Continue reading

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Interstate 95 which runs through the length of Jacksonville’s Duval County and goes directly through downtown, is the country’s fifth deadliest interstate according to Everquote Auto Insurance Company.  Everquote compiled data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

I-95 had nearly one death per mile during the five year period of 2010 to 2015.  To put that in perspective, I-95 traverses approximately 30 miles in Duval County – meaning there were nearly 30 deaths on this stretch of interstate during the five year period.

Interstate 10, the eastern end of which begins in Jacksonville, was ranked the seventh most deadly with .85 deaths per mile.  Interstate 4, which runs from Tampa to Daytona, is Florida’s deadliest interstate with an astonishing 1.4 deaths per mile. I-4 is our nation’s fourth deadliest interstate.

The U.S. Department of Transportation also reports a greater than 10% increase in traffic deaths from January 1, 2016, compared to the same six months of 2015.  This may be an anomaly, it may result from an increase of vehicles on the road due to a sharp decrease in gas prices, or it may be due to an increase in distracted driving.  No matter what the cause, we should experience a decrease in collisions over time, not an increase.

What is worse is that 2015 brought the highest increase in traffic fatalities in fifty years according to the National Safety Council.  More than 38,000 people were killed in vehicle accidents in 2015 and another 4 million people required medical care for injuries.  Furthermore, 2014 showed an 8% increase over 2013.  Even though more miles are being driven in the years since the recession that began in 2008, the rate of fatal accidents has outpaced the increase in total miles driven.  The exact cause is not known; however, we suspect that texting, tweeting and using Facebook while driving have played a significant role.

We certainly seem to see more drivers than ever on their cell phones while driving at highway speeds. Whenever I notice someone using their phone while driving (typing, not talking), I take measures to make sure that person does not end up behind me.  Texters often fail to appreciate slowing traffic in time and frequently cause rear-end collisions.

Because interstates involve much higher speeds than local roads, the chances of suffering severe injury or death in a collision are higher than accidents that occur on local roadways.  Further complicating things is that the downtown Jacksonville portion of I-95 has been under constant construction for over ten years now.  Construction causes abrupt lane changes, sudden stops and confusion to motorists, all of which contribute to the chances an accident will occur. Continue reading

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Now that the danger from Hurricane Matthew has passed, the cleanup – and insurance claims – processes begin.  Hurricane Matthew skirted just east of Jacksonville as a category 3 storm, causing an estimated $70 million in damages in Duval County alone.  Counties further to the south, including St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia suffered even worse damage as the storm passed closer to their coasts.

Businesses and houses were flooded, roofs were damaged, oceanfront homes lost their entire backyards, trees fell, and signs were destroyed.  There will be thousands of insurance claims in the Jacksonville area.  Most of them will be adjusted and paid fairly; however, others will not.

Despite the fact that Floridians pay extraordinarily high insurance rates to take into account the threat of hurricanes, some insurers look for every excuse possible to avoid paying claims.  It is important that you don’t give them ammunition to do so.