Actor and comedian, Tracy Morgan, recently settled his personal injury lawsuit against Wal-Mart for an undisclosed and confidential amount.

On June 7, 2014, Morgan was involved in a deadly auto accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. He and five friends were traveling in a limousine while returning home to New Jersey after having performed at the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware as part of the “Turn It Funny” comedy tour, when a Wal-Mart 2011 Peterbilt semi-tractor trailer that was being driven by Wal-Mart employee, Kevin Roper.

Wal-Mart is legally responsible for the damages and injuries caused by Roper as the owner of the truck as well as the legal theory known as respondeat superior which is the legal theory where an employer is generally held responsible for the actions of their employees while they are working and within the course and scope of their employment. Continue reading

car-accident-1256127While researching automobile safety I realized there was an abundance of advice for keeping your car safe and functioning. Most of the information seemed obvious: Repair damaged headlights. Replace old car batteries. Check tires for appropriate air pressure. These are certainly important check-list items, especially when embarking on an upcoming summer road trip. There were two important issues, however, I felt were not so obvious but imperative in ensuring driver and passenger safety. They are:

Missing air bags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that almost 1 in 5 fatal car accidents involved a vehicle with missing airbags. If you have already purchased your vehicle from a previous owner, check the vehicle’s Carfax report which will indicate if the car has been involved in even a low-impact collision where the air bags may have deployed. Additionally, you may want to have your vehicle inspected by a certified mechanic to determine if there are signs of air bag deployment or even theft. Do this when purchasing a vehicle, as well.

Damaged drive belts. (Also referred to as serpentine belts.) This issue, I learned about first-hand. Driving with my infant son in the back seat, I attempted to take a turn across four lanes of traffic when my car’s power steering suddenly quit. My car was in a stall, and it took all of my strength to turn the wheel and get us safely across several lanes of oncoming traffic. My car was several years old and was purchased from a previous owner. Our auto technician informed us that this malfunction was due to my vehicle’s main belt snapping. To help avoid this from happening to you, ask your mechanic to inspect your vehicle’s belts during scheduled services and/or oil changes.

The economic costs as a result of workplace accidents to injured workers and their loved ones is enormous. The National Safety Council estimates that the cost of fatal and non-fatal work injuries were $198 billion in the year 2012. This figure should be shocking to US taxpayers and injured workers who are the ones that bear the majority of these costs.

Additionally, the costs to injured workers continue for years to come. A recent study found that injured workers who receive workers’ compensation benefits for wage loss caused by workplace injuries lost an average of fifteen percent (15%) of their earnings over the 10 years following their workplace injury. Even if you include the workers’ compensation benefits, injured workers’ incomes are, on average, almost $31,000 less over 10 years than if they had not been injured. This figure does not reflect those injured workers who do not enter the workers’ compensation system due to employer’s fraud or lack of insurance coverage (just to name two).

Adding insult to workplace injury, these costs have a greater impact on lower-wage earners and some large costs are not included considering the impact these injuries have on their loved ones. Injured workers loved ones often reduce their hours or even quit their jobs in order to care for an injured worker causing a dramatic reduction in a family’s income which often lead to financial ruin.

If you or a loved one has been injured in the State of Florida and would like to discuss your rights please call me at (305)854-4442 or Toll Free at (877)854-4442. All consultations are free and 100% confidential.

The report of the Occupational Safety Administration (OSHA) finds that roughly 3 million serious work related accidents and 4,500 deaths happen on the job in the US annually. But while that may seem high to you the report goes on to find what workers’ compensation attorneys like myself encounter frequently; that the majority of worker related accidents are never reported or recorded by employers.

Employers get away with not reporting many accidents in many ways. One way is they threaten to fire the employee if he or she reports the accident or goes to a doctor. Frequently employers force the injured worker to lie and tell the ER doctor or other physician that the accident happened at some place other than work, usually at home. In my nearly 20 years of representing injured workers I come across this tactic numerous times a year. Another way is where the employer misclassifies the employee as an independent contractor even though the worker is legally an employee. This removes the payroll tax burden on the employer and also permits them to avoid providing workers compensation benefits.

While these tactics by employers are common they do not prevent you from bringing forth a workers’ compensation claim. They will make your case more difficult but an experienced workers’ compensation attorney like myself can navigate the issues and get you or your loved ones the benefits you deserve.

If you or a loved one have been injured on the job in Florida and would like to discuss your case please call me James D. Payer at 305.854.4442 or Toll Free at 877.854.4442. All consultations are free and 100% confidential.

A maintenance worker was killed on South Beach Friday night when he was struck by a table top that flew off of on of the building’s balconies due to the high winds South Florida experienced that night. The unnamed man was working on repairing the electric gate for the building’s parking garage when he was struck by the table. He was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead from his injuries.

It is unknown who the victim was working for and under Florida Statute chapter 440.11 his employer would only have to provide bi-weekly death benefits to his financial dependents equal to 2/3 of his average weekly wage up to the One Hundred Fifty Thousand ($150,000.00) statutory cap.

However, Florida Statutes chapter 440.39 allows the victim’s family to have a negligence claim (which is not capped at $150,000.00) against the unit occupant or owner who failed to properly secure the table thereby allowing it to be picked up and thrown down an estimate 90 feet sticking the victim.

Additionally, if he was not working for The Flamingo South Beach which is managed by AIMCO and was working for a contractor hired by the Flamingo South Beach his family may have an additional negligence claim against AIMCO and/or The Florida South Beach which would also not be capped at $150,000.00.

In a case like this there are many possible claims to financially compensate the victim’s family for the death of their loved one in this preventable accident.

Should you or any of your loved ones be involved in a wrongful death accident like this please do not hesitate to call me James D. Payer, Esquire at (305)854-442. All consultations are free and confidential.

A recent study performed by the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found what I and Florida’s injured workers have known for years,  that Florida’s workers’ compensation laws provide inadequate benefits for Florida’s workers that are injured while working on the job.

The OSHA study revealed that despite decades of legal requirements that employers provide safe workplaces (Please know Florida is one of the very few states that does not have workplace safety laws), every year, more than 3 million workers are seriously injured, and thousands more are killed on the job.

After representing Florida’s injured workers for more than 18 years I believe that most of these workplace accidents are avoidable.  However, the current laws in Florida don’t encourage employers to spend the necessary resources to make sure that many of these avoidable accidents do not occur. In fact, Florida law provides incentives to Florida’s employers to save money by cutting safety costs since should one of their employees become injured on the job they have little, if any, legal exposure for the injuries they cause.

The OSHA report has determined that changes in workers compensation laws throughout the United States, including Florida, have made it increasingly difficult for injured workers to receive the full benefits (including adequate wage replacement payments and coverage for their medical expenses) to which they should be entitled.

The OSHA report revealed that employers now only provide a small percentage, estimated at about 20%, of the overall financial cost of workplace injuries and illness through workers compensation. Who pays the other 80% you may ask? These changes in workers compensation laws have shifted the cost of workplace injuries onto injured workers, their families and tax payers to subsidize the vast majority (roughly 80%) of the lost income and necessary medical care costs from work place accidents.

In light of the fact that workers’ compensation laws were originally drafted so that industry would bear the cost of their workplace accidents it is very troubling to see that they now only pay for about 20% and that the victims and tax payers now pay roughly 80% of these costs.

Should you like to discuss this article, Or should you or a loved one have been involved in a workplace accident please do not hesitate to call me, James D. Payer at (305) 854–4442. All consultations are free and confidential.

In the wake of numerous high profile cases involving minor children being left alone in vehicles including the case of Cooper Harris, the 22 month old child in Georgia who died after his father left him in a sweltering hot vehicle for more than 7 hours, the state of Tennessee passed a law allowing good samaritans to act to save a child without liability.

The law allows a good samaritan to smash the vehicle’s window without any liability is you have “a good faith belief” that your actions would help a minor who will suffer harm if not immediately removed from the vehicle.

I’m very encouraged by this law and hope that more states will quickly follow and pass similar laws in other states in order to raise awareness of the problem as well as removing any concern a good samaritan he or she may have that they may be held liable for trying to help a dying child or even worse, being arrested and facing criminal prosecution for attempting to break into a vehicle.

Caring for minor children is an issue we can all get behind. These kids are unable to fend for themselves and trust that adults will care for them. Unfortunately, some adults in this country lack the necessary intelligence to care for children under their care or worse they may have mental illness and even criminal intent. In these instances these kids need good samaritans to step in and do something the child’s parent or guardian are unable or unwilling to do. It’s good news to know that they can not do so without worrying about being held legally liable in Tennessee.

The cruise ship Bahamas Celebration hit an unknown object in the water just off of the Bahamas’ coast shortly after departure as it was headed back to Florida leaving hundreds of passengers aboard the cruise stuck in the Bahamas. The cruise company put the passengers into hotels in the Bahamas for some time and since has been able to get the passengers back to Florida.

The Bahamas Celebration cruise ship returned to Grand Bahama Island after the accident late Friday. The Celebration Cruise Line company said in a statement that passengers were evacuated from the ship and that there were no reported injuries although many reported being shaken up by the accident. It is not known exactly how many passengers were onboard the ship at the time.

The ship, which was supposed to return to West Palm Beach Saturday morning, will remain in the Bahamas so the damage can be assessed. The extent of the damage is not known at this point.

Some of the passengers said that they took a ferry boat to Miami and then were then transferred to their original port of destination in West Palm Beach.

Crews were working to assess damage to the ship and the company said it would cancel at least two cruises planned for the vessel.

Florida’s workers’ compensation law provides that employers and insurance companies are only required to provide coverage where the compensable accident is the major contributing cause (MCC). But what does that mean?

Florida Statute 440.09(1)(a) states: “The injury, it’s occupational cause, and any resulting manifestations or disability must be established to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, based on objective relevant medical findings, and the accidental compensable injury must be the major contributing cause (MCC) of any resulting injuries. For purposes of this section, major contributing cause means the cause which is more than 50% responsible for the injury as compared to all other causes combined for which treatment or benefits are sought.”

The definition of major contributor and cause provided in Florida’s Worker’s Compensation laws is vague and difficult to apply to the facts in most cases. For example, what did the legislature mean when it stated “all other causes combined?” Did they intend to have “all other causes” to mean other accidental injuries from things such as prior automobile accidents or could it even include age appropriate degenerative conditions that all of us suffer from as we age? In reality if it did many injured workers over the age of 40 would be denied benefits for many injuries as all of use have what’s commonly referred to as “age appropriate degenerative changes” in our bodies that are the natural consequences of aging.

In the case of Byczynski v. United Parcel Service, a case where the JCC denied entitlement to medically necessary cervical spine fusion, Florida’s 1st DCA stated that the “case illustrates the complex nature of Florida’s current Worker’s Compensation Law, and the myriad of thorny legal and medical issues which accompany even the most fundamental decisions regarding an injured worker’s entitlement to, and the carrier’s liability for, medical treatment.” They went on to reverse and remand for entry of an order authorizing surgery because all of the medical evidence established that the need for the surgery was brought about solely by occupational injuries and, thus, the Judge of Compensation Claims erred in applying [age appropriate degenerative changes] the major contributing cause standard to deny the surgery.

Since the degeneration which predated the accident merely spoke of the claimant’s age and that the degenerative changes did not independently require any level of treatment the appeals court ruled in favor of the injured worker and required the insurance carrier provide the surgery.

But how will the appeals court rule if the degenerative changes were more severe or more than what is considered age appropriate is unclear at this point.

A law putting strict requirements and regulations on parasailing operators in Florida has gone into effect. The law is titled The White-Miskell Act, is named after two victims of parasailing accidents in Florida, and was sponsored by State Sen. Maria Sachs.

The law states that no commercial parasailing shall be allowed in Florida’s waters unless the vessel owner has:

1) Liability insurance in the amount of $1 million per person and $2 million per incident.

2) Proof of insurance be made available to all customers who ask and that the proof of insurance include the insurance carriers information and the policy number.

3) That the vessel owner obtains a license issued by United States Coast Guard.

4) That an observer over the age of 18 be on the boat at all times to monitor and observe. This person can’t be the boat’s operator.

5) That the support system, including harness, and lines are inspected and approved.

6) That the tow line is rated for more than 4,800 pounds, is braided and is low stretch material and less than 500 feet in length.

7) That the vessel is equipped with a VHF marine radio as well as a separate weather radio.

Additionally, the law regulates the operation of commercial parasailing as follows:

1) No more than three parasailers at one time.

2) Operation can’t be more than 1,800 feet from shore.

3) Operation can’t be within 400 feet of a person, an ancored vessel or structure.

4) Operation can’t be within 100 feet of a market intracoastal waterway channel.

5) Operation must be between the times of 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.

6) There must not be any fog and sustained winds can’t be more than 20 mph.

7) Vessel shall maintain a weather log for each and every trip documenting weather conditions.

8) Each passenger shall be provided detailed safety instructions before each trip begins.

If the operator violates any of these new rules they are guilty of a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree.