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Citizens Insurance: Drops Customers and Increases Employees and Salaries?

Something just doesn’t smell right about the latest information discovered about Citizens Insurance.  In Florida, Citizens Insurance is the insurance of last resort who many Floridians have no choice but to be insured by.  But, new information makes their seeming “monopoly” on Florida insurance even more disturbing.

Here are the actual facts:

Costs for salaries, benefits and payroll taxes rose 50 percent, from $57 million in 2007 to about $86 million last year, an estimate based on actual expenses through October. This year, the company plans to spend $95 million in compensation, according to the budget approved by its board last month.

49 Citizens employees were paid more than $100,000 before taxes in 2009, five more than the previous year. Citizens President Scott Wallace was paid $343,608 last year, about 5 percent more than the previous year.

Administrative expenses rose 24 percent over the two years to an estimated $122 million in 2009, up from $119 million and $98 million in the two previous years. This includes salaries, rent, maintenance and subscriptions. This year, the company plans to spend $148 million.

Payroll grew to 1,169 employees in 2009 from 1,000 in 2007.

Meanwhile, the number of policies with Citizens fell from a peak of 1.4 million in October 2007 to just over 1 million now.

All Florida residents with insurance are affected by Citizens’ spending: Homeowners are paying an annual fee of 1.4 percent of premiums until 2017 to cover the company’s shortfalls after the 2005 hurricanes. If a hurricane strikes and causes major damage, all automobile and property insurance policyholders could pay fees to offset Citizens’ shortfalls.

In Florida, insurance is a topic that consumers need to be very aware of.  Speak with your local government representatives, write letters – speak out!

Florida insurance has many inequities that affect their citizens every day, from Workers’ Compensation laws that limit injured workers’ benefits, to the obvious problems with the homeowners insurance crisis.  If you are affected by inequities of insurance in Florida, call The Injury Law Clinic, P.A. for a free legal consultation at (877) 215-3529.  Our Florida Workers’ Compensation Lawyers can help you today!

The Injury Law Clinic on Sports Animal 940 AM

The Injury Law Clinic, P.A. will be advertising their services on Sports Animal 940 AM

Starting February 9, 2010, The Injury Law Clinic, P.A. will be advertising through Clear Channel Radio’s Miami Sports station, Sports Animal 940 AM.

You can listen online at www.Supertalk940.com or through your iheartradio application on your I-Phone or Blackberry.

Listen to our advertisement and tell us what you think.  We look forward to your comments and to your business.  Call for a free legal consultation today (877) 215-3LAW (3529).

Increase on Maximum Workers' Compensation Rate

On January 1, 2010, Alex Sink, Chief Financial Officer for the Florida Department of Financial Services issued an informational bulletin outlining the new Maximum Workers’ Compensation rates.

Section 440.12(2) of the Florida Statutes indicates that for any accidents occurring after August 1, 1979, the maximum compensation rate will be the same as the state-wide average weekly wage for that year. Last year, the maximum compensation rate was $765.00.  According to the department’s newest calculations, Florida workers averaged a weekly pay rate of $771.80. Based upon this average, the new maximum compensation rate will increase to $772.00.

When calculating a person’s average weekly wage, the insurance company takes into account how much that person made for 13 weeks prior to the accident. For example if a person made $500 every two weeks, his or her average weekly wage would be $250.  If the person was not employed there for 13 weeks, then the average weekly wage of someone who worked at the location in the same field for the same amount of hours is taken into account. Also, if the person in question was under the age of 22 when the accident occurred, and it is expected that his wages would have increase if he were allowed to continue working, then this usually taken into account when establishing an average weekly wage. It is also important to note that a person who had more then one job when the accident occurred is able to collect earnings for the other jobs he/she is unable to do because of their injuries.

To ensure that you are collecting the appropriate amount of wages, consult with a qualified Workers Compensation attorney.  Call The Injury Law Clinic, P.A. today for a free consultation (877) 215-3529.

How to Help Someone Who Has Sustained a Head Injury

If you are on the scene of a car accident, a sports game, or any other scenario where a head injury may have happened, it is really handy and potentially life-saving to know what to do in advance.

1. Wave Off the Crowd

If you are there before first responders, appoint 2-3 people from the crowd to form a rough circle around the patient, keeping anyone from moving them. At a car accident, particularly, you may be faced with a belligerent other party who is trying to claim no fault for the accident. Try to avoid legal entanglements by physically harming the person, but do not allow them to touch or harass the injured party.
 
2. Ensure that First Responders Have Been Contacted and DO NOT MOVE the patient

In the heat of the moment, 5-10 people may have called on their cell phones. Or nobody has because everyone assumes that someone else has called. Deputize one of your helpers to contact emergency while you test for a head injury. Do not, at any point, move the patient from the position that they are in unless they are in immediate danger if you do not move them; for example, if they are lying in the middle of a highway.
 
3. Test for Head Injury

Ask the subject easy questions, such as what year it is and who the president is. Try to get them to follow your finger with their eyes. If they have problems answering the questions or following your finger beyond the normal confusion one would have in such a situation, you are potentially dealing with a head injury.

If the subject answers questions lucidly and can follow your finger, watch for other signs such as abnormal behavior and loss of consciousness. Both may also point to head injury.

4. Take Action

If you know CPR and rescue breathing and there is airway obstruction, begin the procedure. If everything is normal but the person is unconscious, treat it as a potential spine injury and place your hands on both sides of the person’s head, keeping the head in line with the spine and preventing movement. Wait for medical help in this position.
 
5. Inform First Responders

As soon as the first responders arrive, tell them that the subject is having a hard time answering questions and following your finger, and you suspect a head injury. This will save them valuable time.

6. Back Off When First Responders Arrive

Remain at the scene as a witness as long as needed, but keep your distance while the first responders are working on the patient. You can do your part by trying to hold off a crowd of curious onlookers at this point.

If you are in a position where you may run into head injuries, such as coaching sports, truck driving, or any other profession that involves driving, see about getting first aid lessons so that you have all of the tools that you need in case you ever do need them.

The Law of First Responders – One Step Forward…Two Steps Back

In 2002, a law went into effect in the state of Florida titled “Move-Over America,” however, very few motorists are aware of it. The National Safety Commission, the organization responsible for the nationwide “Move-Over America” campaign conducted a poll that found that more than 70 percent of Americans are unaware of the Move-Over requirement. Even though most were unaware of the law, the poll showed that 90 percent believe that traffic stops are dangerous for emergency personnel. 

In fact, Nationwide, between 1999 and 2008, 154 law enforcement officers were killed while conducting traffic stops or aiding motorists; that is more than one per month.

One Step Forward
On August 24, 2009, the Florida Highway Patrol announced an initiative to target drivers who fail to Move-Over when passing emergency vehicles. Florida’s Move-Over Law requires motorists who encounter an emergency vehicle with its emergency lights flashing, to Move-Over into the opposite lane or, if they are unable to move into the opposite lane, to slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit. Forty six states have passed similar laws to protect emergency workers who are working alongside the road.

According to the FBI, traffic crashes kill more law enforcement officers than any other cause of death in the line of duty, including shootings. Many state laws not only include fire and police emergency personnel but tow truck operators as well. According to the Towing and Recovery Association of America, tow truck operators are killed at a rate of more than 2 per month while conducting recovery operations on the side of the road.

The FHP’s “Move-Over” campaign has been very successful in protecting our first responders on roadways and in educating the public on these safety measures.

Yet, while the state, vis-à-vis the Florida Highway Patrol have made great strides in trying to protect first responders from being severely injured or even killed in the line of duty, the First DCA, has unfortunately passed law in the latter end of 2009 that have taken away the rights of first responders once they are injured – specifically, with regards to the presumption in favor of providing benefits in cases of heart disease.

Two Steps Back
On November 24, 2009, the ruling came down from the 1st DCA on the matter of Miami-Dade County v. Davis

Miami-Dade County brought forth this appeal after the JCC had found them responsible to provide the Claimant with Workers Compensation benefits due to his heart disease under section 112.18(1), Florida Statutes 2001.   Essentially section 112.18(1) provides a presumption in favor of providing benefits under the Workers Compensation system to first responders who suffer heart attacks or other heart diseases in the line of duty.  However, the Davis case seems to take away that presumption.  

Specifically, the law finds that when a first responder, in the case of Davis – a fire fighter – suffers a “condition of impairment of health … caused by … heart disease … resulting in total or partial disability,” the heart disease is deemed a compensable condition, unless the employer is able to rebut the statutory presumption of compensability., City of Mary Esther v. McArtor, 902 So. 2d 942, 942 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005). 

It is well-established Florida law, that section 112.18(1) establishes a statutory presumption that heart disease suffered by a first responder is connected with exertions of his work so long as the first responder passes a pre-employment physical examination without evidence of such disease.

In Davis, the claimant first worked as a firefighter in 1972 for City of Gainesville and passed a physical at that time that did not reveal heart disease.  During his time as a firefighter with Gainesville, he developed heart disease which required him to undergo bypass surgery.  After some time out of the field, in 1995, he was hired as a firefighter for the City of Miami and underwent a medical examination which confirmed that he did have heart disease and that despite his prior bypass surgery, he had “less than what we would term a normal heart.”

Claimant argued that the 1972 certification examination which was performed and found not to have heart disease should be the only relevant testing for purposes of 112.18(1) presumption.  This was based upon a solid argument that the statutes for certification of firefighters under section 163.490(6), Fla. Stat. (1971) should be read in pari materia with 112.18(1) and that only the first physical examination done by a fire fighter when he goes into the field is the test that should be considered. 

The ruling in Davis basically has a chilling effect on first responders ability to move to different cities within the state of Florida because they will have to be re-examined and the new test results can be used to trump the once-strong presumption in favor or providing Workers’ Compensation benefits.  If Davis had suffered his most recent episode while still employed with the City of Gainesville, there is a strong argument that his case would have been found compensable because the examination would have related back to 1972.

Therefore, in our state’s classic style, we have taken one step forward to protect our first responders, and then taken a giant leap back by taking away a once-strong presumption in favor of provision of benefits for heart disease to first responders.  First Responders, if you are reading this, don’t let your protections be stripped away from you – fight the fight!

The Investigation of a Bicycle Accident Case

The police report:

Hopefully, in any serious injury or death bicycle accident case, the police will be called to the scene and will conduct an investigation and prepare a police report. The police report is a public document and can be obtained by the plaintiff, or plaintiff’s attorneys or investigators a reasonable time after it is completed.

Although the police report itself cannot come into evidence at the time of the trial (it can come into evidence, however, at most arbitrations), the findings of the investigating officers can be elicited through the officer’s testimony at trial and can be utilized by the expert witnesses in the case.

Thus, a plaintiff should always obtain a police report in a bicycle accident case.

Investigation by the plaintiff attorney:

Whether or not a police report is created, a plaintiff’s attorney, either personally, through an investigator or both, should investigate the accident scene. It is normally useful if possible for the plaintiff to be present during the investigation.

Obviously, the sooner an accident scene can be investigated the better; however, even some time after an accident, there may be useful evidence to collect at a scene, such as skid marks, vehicle debris, ruts in the road and scrape marks.

In addition, the condition of the accident scene itself may provide useful information for the case, such as the existence of signs, lights and other factors that can contribute to an accident. Pictures should always be taken documenting the condition of the scene as close to the time of the accident as possible, and in appropriate cases, videotapes.

Maintaining the bicycle and helmet:

It is critical that the bicycle be maintained in the exact condition it was in when it came to rest at the time of the accident and, in cases involving head injuries, traumatic brain injuries or wrongful death, that the helmet the plaintiff was wearing at the time of the accident also be maintained. Failure to do so may seriously compromise a plaintiff’s case.

At the Injury Law Clinic, we can assist someone who has been injured as a result of a bicycle accident.  Call today for a free consultation (877) 215-3LAW (3529).

The Injury Law Clinic Participates in Thanksgiving Food Drive to Help Feed South Florida

On October 8th, 2009, there was a fire at the Daily Food Bank Broward County Warehouse, which caused the tragic loss of 93,000 pounds of food, which equals 62,000 meals.  Knowing the Daily Bread Food Bank serves thousands of people throughout Broward County and that hunger is such a big issue in our community due to the poor economy, South Florida personal injury attorneys from The Injury Law Clinic wanted to give back to the community they serve, so they decided to participate in this year’s Feeding South Florida, formerly Daily Bread Food Bank, Thanksgiving Food Drive event.

Working in partnership with 1st United Bank of Cooper City, Diana Castrillon and the associates from The Injury Law Clinic donated and hand-delivered nearly 500 cans of non-perishable food items. The Injury Law Clinic was excited to contribute to this year’s Feeding South Florida food drive event which helped hundreds of needy families this Thanksgiving holiday.

Feeding South Florida is a not for profit organization that empowers other South Florida Not-for-profit organizations to feed needy people and improve their lives. This is accomplished by providing food and other grocery products and by educating and engaging our community to fight hunger and poverty.

We’re happy to report that Feeding South Florida was able to bounce back larger and stronger than ever, thanks to such a large response from the media and the local community. Feeding South Florida has recently opened a new facility in Pembroke Park. 

Wondering what you can do to help fight hunger? The Injury Law Clinic would like to encourage you to donate money or non-perishable food items to Feeding South Florida. Did you know that by donating just $1 Feeding South Florida can provide six meals?

The Injury Law Clinic Celebrates Hispanic Heritage at This Year's Fiesta's Patronales Event

Diana CastrillonThe Injury Law Clinic was excited to participate in this year’s Puerto Rican Fiesta’s Patronales event, which was held November 12-15, 2009 in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Co-sponsored and organized by The Puerto Rican Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Broward County, Fiestas Patronales and Business Expo is the largest Hispanic event in Broward County.  With Spanish-Speaking and Bi-Lingual Attorneys serving Broward County, The Injury Law Clinic felt this was a perfect event to introduce our law firm to the customers we serve in the Hispanic community in South Florida.  With more than 20,000 attendees per year, it brings the Hispanic tradition to life. 

Diana CastrillonFiestas Patronales is a class-act Hispanic event that brings together the culture, arts and crafts, business exposure of many industries and it’s sponsors, and the music to one venue in South Florida, making it the most popular event among the Hispanic community in South Florida.  During this four day event, our attorneys were able to meet with many members of our Hispanic community and answer many questions about your legal rights when it comes to all types of Personal Injury Cases, including Slip & Fall Accidents, Car Accidents, Workman’s Compensation and more. 

The Injury Law Clinic was very happy to participate in this event, and we look forward to seeing you at next year’s Fiesta Patronales.

Worker Injured on Cargo Ship

A recent news story was reported in local papers on November 19, 2009 about a man who fell about 25 feet into the cargo hold of a ship, The Danica Sunbeam.    The man had to be hoisted out of the cargo hold using a basket and crane/lift so that he could be transported to the hospital.

The latest reports indicate that the man is in miraculously stable condition and has suffered several injuries, including a broken arm.  This is a classic example of a workers compensation case and how these cases happens everyday, even in situations, such as this, where safety is such a tremendous part of the employee’s responsibility.  But what is interesting about Workers Compensation law in Florida is that Florida operates under a “no fault” system as it applies to work accidents.  Therefore, whether the accident could have been avoided either by actions of the injured employee or the employer, the injured worker will be covered for his medical treatment and any wages that he loses as a result of any disability.

There are some exceptions to the general rule that was outlined, however an attorney who is well-versed in Workers Compensation cases such as The Injury Law Clinic, P.A. can help you understand those exceptions and nuances in the law to best protect your rights.  If you or someone you know has suffered an injury at work in Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach counties, please call us for a free consultation, toll-free at (877) 215-3529.

Texting While Driving Kills

Determined to stop people from texting while driving, the Obama administration plans a campaign similar to past government efforts to discourage drunk driving and encourage the use of seat belts. The administration offered recommendations to address the growing safety risk of distracted drivers, especially the use of mobile devices to send messages from behind the wheel. “We can really eliminate texting while driving. That should be our goal,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, declining to provide specifics of the recommendations. Researchers, safety groups, automakers and lawmakers have gathered to discuss the perils of distracted driving.

The Transportation Department reported that nearly 6,000 people were killed and a half-million were injured last year in automobile accidents as a result driver distraction, often by mobile devices and cell phones. LaHood called distracted driving a “menace to society” and said the administration would offer a series of recommendations to encourage Congress, state governments and the public to curb the unsafe behavior. A law has been proposed that would require states to ban texting or e-mailing while operating a moving vehicle or lose 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding. “No text message is so urgent that it’s worth dying over,” Klobuchar told participants.

The government reported that 5,870 people were killed and 515,000 were injured last year in crashes where at least one form of driver distraction was reported. Driver distraction was involved in 16 percent of all fatal crashes in 2008 and was prevalent among young drivers. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws making texting while driving illegal and seven states and the District have banned driving while talking on a handheld cell phone, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“We started driving cars about 100 years ago. We started using phones about 80 years ago. We’ve only really combined those two activities to a great degree in the last five or 10 years. We’re finding out they don’t mix,” said David Teater of Spring Lake, Mich., whose 12-year-old son, Joe, was killed in a 2004 crash when a driver using a cell phone ran a red light. Some researchers cautioned that banning all cell phone use by drivers would undermine the development of safety technologies that could allow vehicles to share traffic information with other vehicles and alert emergency responders to crashes.

It has yet to be seen what laws may develop as it relates to texting/cell phone use and driving, but it’s always important to drive safely and be aware of your surroundings to avoid auto accidents. At The Injury Law Clinic, P.A. we help victims of car accidents everyday. If you or someone you know has been involved in an auto accident as a driver, passenger, pedestrian, bicyclist or other motorist, call today for a free consultation (877) 215-3LAW (3529).