5 Reasons Why Personal Injury Lawyers Refuse to Take Cases

Personal injury lawyers decline legal representation for numerous reasons, most of which have nothing to do with the person they’re consulting with.  They may feel that taking your case doesn’t make any sense financially, that representing you may create a conflict of ethical interests, or that there isn’t enough evidence to win your case.  In any event, here are the 5 most common reasons why a personal injury lawyer may refuse to represent you and your case:

  • The lawyer doesn’t specialize in the practice area that applies to your case – not all lawyers handle every type of personal injury case. For example, some may avoid medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, and workplace accident cases while others have dedicated their practice to only 1 or 2 areas.  So if you approach a personal injury lawyer with a case that falls outside their expertise, they may refuse to take your case.
  • The statute of limitations expired – the statute of limitations establishes a deadline for filing a lawsuit and exists to provide a degree of certainty to businesses and people. The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit based on negligence in a motor vehicle accident or premises liability case is 4 years whereas it’s only 2 years for medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit.
  • The value of your case is too low – if your injuries were minor and you didn’t suffer that much damage, a personal injury lawyer might refuse to represent you. So if you fully recovered from minor injuries, you might not have sufficient damages to make your case economically feasible.
  • There’s a conflict of interest – the rules surrounding conflicts of interest exist to ensure that a personal injury lawyer will represent your best interests. Consequently, any conflict of interest could split their loyalties.  If this should happen, ethical rules will bar that lawyer from representing you and your case.
  • You contributed too much fault – in Florida, your opportunity for recovering monetary compensation is based on the role you played in your accident. If you contributed to the fault of the accident in any way, the court will reduce the number of damages you’re entitled to.  In some cases, it may not be financially feasible for a lawyer to represent you if you contributed too much fault to the accident.

Although it is the sole purpose of lawyers to ensure that justice is delivered and usually, they are ready to take on cases, but sometimes, they do refuse to represent you. The Graves Thomas Rotunda Injury Law Group is here to help and we specialize in an extensive range of personal injury cases as well as consumer fraud, Social Security Disability, and Veterans Affairs benefits cases.  For more information, call us today at (772) 569-8155.


Accidents Involving a Delivery Truck

Delivery truck accidents are very different from ordinary road traffic accidents involving cars or smaller vehicles. The damage is often far worse, and the ensuing lawsuits are more complicated and harder to resolve. That’s why it’s so important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. This will give you the best possible chance of receiving the compensation you deserve for your injuries, medical expenses, pain, suffering, and other damages. 

Every year, thousands of Americans are killed in accidents involving large delivery vehicles. Serious injuries, fatalities, grieving families, financial devastation — these are common in the wake of truck accidents. With the rise of online shopping and home deliveries, this number is only likely to increase. It’s more likely now for people to be injured or killed in an Amazon delivery truck accident, say, or a FedEx delivery truck accident. 

Many factors can cause a delivery truck accident. Speeding, distracted driving, driving while impaired by drugs, driver exhaustion — all of these can contribute to truck accidents. It’s important to get support from an experienced attorney, someone who can help guide you through the complexities of such an accident: determining who is at fault and effectively seeking compensation.

Who’s Liable in a Delivery Truck Accident? 

One of the crucial issues in a delivery truck accident case is determining who’s at fault. For your case to succeed, you’ll need to prove negligence on the part of the driver or other parties. 

In some cases, the delivery company may be liable for negligence. For instance, in a UPS delivery truck accident, UPS might theoretically be responsible. Sometimes, though, the delivery truck driver may be an independent contractor who might be held criminally liable for the crash.

In some cases, delivery companies may attempt to evade being sued by claiming that the driver was an independent contractor. Independent contractors, however, must satisfy certain specific conditions under the relevant employment and tax laws. If it can be proven that a company is paying employment taxes, then the driver can be shown to be an employee rather than a contractor.

Other parties may bear liability for a delivery truck accident. For example, if the accident is due to a cargo having been improperly loaded, the person or entity responsible for loading the cargo may be liable. If the accident is due to a defective truck part, the manufacturer can be sued. If the accident is due to a poorly maintained road or a faulty traffic signal, the authority responsible for their upkeep may be liable.

Comparative Fault in Delivery Truck Accidents 

Some people assume that if they were partly responsible for the accident, they wouldn’t be entitled to compensation. This is a misconception. In many states, including Florida, you may still be entitled to a percentage of compensation even if it’s determined that you’re partly at fault.

Delivery Truck Accident Settlements 

The amount you’re entitled to will depend on several factors. Your settlement may include:

Property and vehicle damage: It’s common for smaller vehicles involved in delivery truck accidents to be very severely damaged. In many cases, they will be written off entirely. You may receive compensation for your damaged or destroyed vehicle.

Medical expenses: Many victims of delivery truck accidents are left facing substantial medical bills. While there’s a lot of variation between cases, your settlement will generally be higher depending on your treatment’s cost and length.

Lost income: You may have to take a lot of time off work after an accident. Some people are rendered unable to work. 

Pain and suffering: You may be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering caused by the accident. 

Other costs included in your settlement may consist of legal fees, expenses relating to ongoing care, and funeral expenses.

Because lawsuits relating to delivery truck accidents are so complicated, it’s important to get expert legal advice. At Graves Thomas Rotunda Injury Law Group, we have the expertise to bring you the compensation you deserve. 

Most Common Real Estate Scams – Real Estate Fraud

Real estate fraud comes in many forms. There are many ways for a scammer to separate you from your funds, from rental scams to title fraud. Once you’ve fallen for a real estate scam, it can be very difficult to get your money back. Prevention is far better than cure when it comes to real estate fraud. Read on to find out some of the most common tricks and how you can avoid falling for them.

Rental Scams

There are many types of rental scams out there. Typically, an individual or organization will claim to be renting a property they don’t own. They will ask for a “viewing fee” to look at the property, or want a big deposit up-front before you can move in. Once you’ve given them your money, you’ll discover that the property was never theirs to rent.

You can protect yourself by renting through reputable property companies.

Escrow Wire Fraud

This is one of the most common types of real estate fraud. It typically starts with a phone call, email, or text, ostensibly from an escrow or title company, often one that the target is already doing business with. These calls and messages originate with scammers. Targets are tricked into wiring money to the fake escrow company. The funds are then withdrawn and transferred to an offshore account, making it hard to recover your money even when you realize that you’ve been scammed.

Today’s fraudsters are very adept at setting up fake websites and phone numbers, so it looks as if you’re interacting with a real company. If you look closely at the email, URL, or phone number, it may be wrong — off by a digit or a letter. These differences can be hard to spot. Consult genuine documents to confirm contact details and access websites by carefully typing the URL into your browser. Before making any transfers, check with the escrow company to confirm any details.

Real Estate Investment Seminar Scams

Real estate investment can be an exciting opportunity. If you’re looking to expand your investment portfolio, you may have been tempted by seminars that promise to help you get started in real estate. These seminars, unfortunately, are often scams. Targets pay a large sum to attend — usually upwards of $1,000 dollars. These events don’t provide you with useful instruction. They are used to sell further training, which is even more expensive. Many people end up paying tens of thousands of dollars, far more than they’ll clear in future real estate transactions.

The best way to avoid this type of scam is to keep in mind this adage: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Take your time and don’t rush into anything. Ask to read the one-page disclosure document that they are legally obliged to provide. If it looks like a scam, you can report the company to the Federal Trade Commission.

Title Fraud

Deeds and titles can be forged or subjected to fraud in other ways. Someone may pose as a seller (grantor) or their representative, possibly working with an unscrupulous notary. Scammers may also obtain access to deeds by presenting themselves as a property owner or through theft.

You can protect yourself through title searches and title insurance. Verifying that the deed is valid is an integral part of any real estate transaction.

As domestic and commercial real estate scams become more common, more and more people fall victim to them. Your best hope of recovering your money is to enlist the services of an experienced real estate fraud attorney. At Graves Thomas Rotunda Injury Law Group, we have the experience and knowledge to help you recover your funds from real estate frauds and scammers. If you’ve been a victim of real estate fraud in Florida, contact us today.

Situations That Warrant a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Claim

A death in the family is always a tragedy. It can be so much worse if you know that the death was avoidable and that someone else was to blame. There is nothing that can truly compensate for the loss of a loved one. In the case of wrongful death, however, taking legal action may help provide closure and address some of the material consequences of your bereavement.

What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a special kind of legal action. It is brought when somebody dies, and the death is the result of someone else’s negligence or because of an intentional act. Wrongful death settlements can help compensate for things like loss of income, the loss of the deceased person’s companionship, and costs relating to medical treatment and funeral expenses.

When is a wrongful death lawsuit applicable?

Although any death is a blow to the bereaved, not all deaths can be deemed “wrongful.” For a wrongful death claim to have merit, the victim would have to have been killed as a result of a wrongful action by the defendant. Here are some examples of situations where a wrongful death lawsuit might be brought:

Intentional killing

If a person dies as a result of murder or manslaughter, a wrongful death suit may be brought against the culprit. The wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action and independent of any criminal cases brought against the person responsible. For example, a person might be found not guilty of murder or manslaughter yet still be found liable for a wrongful death claim.

Vehicle accident fatalities involving negligence or dangerous driving

A person who causes death due to negligent or dangerous driving may be liable for a wrongful death claim if it can be proven that they caused the accident through their negligence.

Workplace negligence

An employer may be the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit if an employee (or someone visiting the workplace) is killed due to negligence. For example, if dangerous machinery isn’t properly maintained and guarded, and someone dies as a result, the courts may deem this a wrongful death.

Medical malpractice

Death as a result of medical malpractice, may be grounds for a wrongful death claim. If a doctor misdiagnoses a condition due to negligence or fails to administer a reasonable level of appropriate care, a death resulting from this may be deemed wrongful.

How can you prove a wrongful death case?

For a wrongful death lawsuit to be successful, the plaintiffs (usually the victim’s surviving family or their estate) need to meet a particular burden of proof. The plaintiffs must show that the defendant had a duty of care and that death resulted from a breach of this duty.

Wrongful death damages

The categories of losses that a survivor might be compensated for include:

  • Loss of the victim’s expected income
  • Loss of the services that the victim would have provided if they’d survived
  • Any inheritance lost because of the death
  • Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before death, also known as the survival claim
  • Medical bills incurred before death as a result of the injury
  • Loss of the deceased’s love and companionship
  • Loss of the deceased’s care, guidance, and nurturing
  • Loss of consortium
  • Funeral and burial costs

How to proceed

Wrongful death lawsuits are very complicated and can be difficult to resolve. It’s important to seek advice from an experienced wrongful death attorney to ensure that you receive the damages you’re entitled. If you think you have a claim for wrongful death, contact Graves Thomas Rotunda Injury Law Group for expert legal advice in the Vero Beach area.

How Many Truck Accidents are Reported in Florida Each Year?

While road traffic accidents have tended to decrease year after year, the number of traffic fatalities in Florida remains regrettably high. In particular, Florida currently ranks third in the US for traffic fatalities when you look at accidents involving trucks. Injuries are unusually high, too.

It’s estimated that a person is hurt or killed in a truck accident every 16 minutes in the US. Every year, an average of 700 people die while driving or as passengers in trucks. In 2018 alone, over 40 people died in truck accidents in Florida. Over 1,250 others were severely injured, with hundreds incapacitated.

How many semi truck accidents per year occur in Florida? How many lift truck accidents are reported each year?  The number varies, but certain factors seem to remain consistent. The size of the vehicle is important. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety’s Crash Report, six people died in 2018 after being in accidents involving light trucks of 10,000 lbs or less. Fifty-three people suffered incapacitating injuries, while 236 are less severely injured. In total, In the case of medium and heavy trucks (those over 10,000 lbs), the numbers are much, much higher. In 2018 there were 39 deaths, 129 people suffered incapacitating injuries, and 421 had less severe injuries. There are also several hundred people who may have been injured but whose medical status was not recorded.

What makes trucks more dangerous than other vehicles? Partly it’s their large size, which makes them slower to swerve or stop as well as producing worse injuries than a car or van. A semi truck might weigh over 30 times as much as a standard passenger car.

Does this mean that truck drivers are more careless or accident-prone than other drivers? No. While negligent or irresponsible driving on the part of truck drivers is to blame for some of these accidents, a large proportion of accidents involving trucks are the fault of other drivers who fail to respect the risks presented by these large vehicles.

Many drivers routinely drive too closely behind trucks, ignoring the stickers and notices reminding those behind them to stay back 50 feet. These mandatory warnings are there for a reason: in the event of an accident involving that truck, those 50 feet could mean the difference between a minor fender-bender and a life-altering or life-ending crash.

It’s especially important to be mindful of trucks when you’re driving in poor conditions. You should always remain aware of your surroundings, but when driving at night or in bad weather, your risk of an accident is elevated. There is a blind spot behind the trailer; you need to avoid this. Be alert to trucks that are changing lanes or driving more slowly than usual. If you must pass a truck, always avoid doing so on the passenger side.

Of course, if you’re a truck driver, you also need to stay alert and follow all the regulations governing safe driving. Don’t drive over the speed limit, even if under pressure to do so. Do not become distracted, and make sure you never disobey a road sign or sign and exercise caution while passing.

If you’re involved in a truck accident, the most important thing to do is avoid further harm. Get to safety and contact the emergency services. If you can, try to take photographs of the scene and make notes.

Once you’re out of danger and have received any medical attention you may need, you should contact an experienced truck accident lawyer. At Graves Thomas Rotunda Injury Law Group, we have the expertise in truck accident cases to give you the legal support you deserve. Call us to arrange a consultation.


Injury Law Covid-19 and Medical Malpractice – Cases and Issues

Medical malpractice is always a complex area of injury law, never more so when dealing with treating an emerging disease like COVID-19. People who have lost loved ones or suffered long-term health damage due to COVID-19 may be considering legal options,

including bringing a malpractice suit against the medical professionals involved in their diagnosis and treatment. Read on if you’re wondering, “do I have a case for medical malpractice after COVID-19?”

When little is known about an infection, diagnosing the condition and administering the appropriate treatment may be very difficult. Cases may have unfavorable outcomes that, with hindsight, could have been prevented. Yet, these may not rise to the level of malpractice if medical professionals acted in accordance with the best available information at the time. Even so, it is still possible to commit malpractice if proper procedures aren’t followed. If a medical professional harms a COVID-19 patient through inaction or the administration of inappropriate drugs or procedures, the case may rise to the level of malpractice.

It can take many years for an infection to be thoroughly studied and proper treatment to be discovered and evaluated. When the condition isn’t properly understood, there are likely to be many interventions that seemed reasonable at the time but which turn out to be ineffective and even dangerous. A drug that shows promise initially may be found to be ineffective or to come with side-effects that rule it out in some cases. A procedure that would be routine in superficially similar cases may turn out to be counterproductive when used to address the new disease. People may be harmed by these interventions or may have a slower recovery than they would have if different interventions had been used.

In some cases, the disease may not be diagnosed in time, and the patient may suffer as a result. Even so, these situations needn’t be malpractice. A doctor or other medical expert may follow every recommended procedure and still not treat their patient successfully.

Another potential issue is the lack of resources. A medical professional’s preferred course of action may not be possible if the medication or equipment required isn’t available. If a patient needs oxygen and there is none available because it’s being used on other patients, the medical professionals may be forced to make difficult decisions about who should receive treatment. In this case, some patients may not receive the ideal spectrum of interventions — yet this may not meet medical malpractice requirements.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is everyone’s responsibility, yet medical professionals have a particular duty to avoid the transmission of viruses and other infectious agents. If a professional neglects to take all reasonable precautions against allowing a patient to be infected with COVID-19, it might theoretically be possible to build a case for malpractice if the negligence is especially egregious.

In the case of COVID-19, the situation is further complicated by measures designed to protect overburdened carers and medical facilities from lawsuits. Some states have now put laws in place that indemnify doctors and other care providers against legal action arising from COVID-19 cases. Florida may also introduce similar restrictions. In most states and districts, there is a proviso that excludes serious negligence or misconduct. In New York, for instance, treatment decisions must have been made “in good faith” for the practitioner to be protected. In Kentucky, medical professionals are only protected if they can show that their actions were “prudent and reasonable.” If Florida does bring in similar laws, they’ll likely be limited in the same way.

While the standards for malpractice may be higher in cases involving COVID-19, it may be more challenging to bring a malpractice case. You’ll need an expert medical malpractice lawyer to help navigate this complex situation.

COVID-19 Florida Reopening Update

Most of Florida will slowly start to reopen next week after COVID-19 struck the state in March, paralyzing businesses, putting millions out of work and killing more than 1,000 people.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday laid out the first phase to reopen Florida, which will for now not include Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties — areas where the virus has swiftly spread. Starting Monday, elective surgeries can resume, retail stores can operate at 25 percent indoor capacity and restaurants may offer outdoor seating with six feet of space between tables and indoor seating with 25 percent capacity, DeSantis said. Schools will continue distance learning and visits to senior living facilities will still be restricted. Bars, movie theaters, gyms and businesses such as hair salons will remain closed.

“We will get Florida back on its feet by using an approach that is safe, smart and step-by-step,” DeSantis said at a televised press conference from Tallahassee.

While the state starts to reopen, vulnerable individuals with underlying health conditions and citizens over 65 should avoid close contact with people outside their homes. The public should still keep a safe distance from one another while in public spaces and must avoid socializing in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that don’t allow for physical distance. Facial masks are recommended for those in face-to-face interactions and in situations where social distancing is impossible, DeSantis said.

DeSantis added he’s hopeful South Florida can reopen as its positivity rates of COVID-19 cases steadily decline as they have for the rest of the state.

“These counties have seen the lion’s share of the state’s epidemic, but they are trending in a positive direction,” DeSantis said. “I am working with them and will continue to work with them, and I do believe that they will be able to move to Phase One very soon.”

Three more walk-up testing sites — mainly in South Florida — will open, bringing the total sum of sites to 11 across the state. The sites have testes at least 6,330 people, DeSantis said. Five additional drive-thru testing sites will open across the state and a mobile lab will begin conducting 3,500 tests a week that provide results in 45 minutes. The state will continue to consistently test at senior care facilities, where the virus especially travels quickly.

An at times emotional DeSantis said he plans to monitor testing to ensure there’s no spike in cases or hospitalizations before proceeding to the next steps of putting the state’s roughly 2 million people back to work.

“This has thrown the lives of millions of Americans into economic and social turmoil. Floridians have lost jobs at no fault of their own and many are fearful of what may come next,” DeSantis said, choking up. “Others have seen small businesses that represent their life’s work devastated practically overnight. This current crisis has impacted in one way or another all 21.5 million Floridians in life-changing ways.”

The next steps toward fully reopening the state will follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control — just as Phase One has. The second phase for states and regions with no evidence of a COVID-19 resurgence recommend vulnerable individuals to continue to shelter in place.

“Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home,” the White House’s website states. “Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.”

Social settings of more than 50 people — where appropriate distancing may not be practical —should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed. Non-essential travel may resume and the CDC encourages employers to allow employees to work from home whenever possible. Schools can reopen and gyms can open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols. Bars may operate with diminished standing-room occupancy. Visitation to senior care facilities would still be prohibited in the CDC’s Phase 2 plan.

Phase 3 of the CDC’s plan to reopen — that DeSantis plans to eventually mimic — allows workplaces to operate with unrestricted staffing, visits to nursing homes are permitted, gyms can remain open if they adhere to standard sanitation protocols and bars may operate with increased standing room occupancy. Large venues such as sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues and places of worship can operate under limited physical distancing protocols — although the distance requirements are not provided on the White House’s website.

Lastly, under Phase 3, “vulnerable individuals can resume public interactions, but should practice physical distancing, minimizing exposure to social settings where distancing may not be practical, unless precautionary measures are observed”. Low-risk individuals should consider minimizing time spent in crowded environments, according to the CDC.

Florida has seen 33,193 cases, 5,419 hospitalizations and 1,218 deaths related to COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Health. Hospitalized patients never threatened capacity at any of the state’s hospitals which have nearly 70,000 beds, DeSantis said.

The U.S. has confirmed just over 1 million cases of COVID-19 and 58,965-related deaths. Worldwide, more than 200 countries and territories have confirmed more than 3.17 million cases and 219,611 deaths. The novel virus — believed to have originated in Wuhan, China sometime late last year — is marked by symptoms of cough, shortness of breath or at least two of the following symptoms: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste and smell, according to the CDC.

If You Are a Witness in a Vero Beach Car Accident

Most of us hope that we’ll never witness a car accident. From time to time, though, accidents do occur. If you’re among the first people on the scene, you may want to stop and help. While you’re under no legal obligation to do so, you might feel a moral obligation. While being a good citizen is highly rewarding, it can also be dangerous. If you do go to help, be cautious, and keep the following advice in mind.

Stay safe

After witnessing a car accident in Vero Beach, you should ensure that you’re in a safe location before you exit your vehicle. Other drivers may not have noticed the disabled vehicle and may collide with it, or with your car. Stop your vehicle a safe distance away — at least 100 feet. Turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers and wait until you’re sure it’s safe before getting out of your car. Car accidents often present hazards like broken glass, leaking fuel, or fires.\

Call emergency services

If the accident looks serious, you should phone 911 immediately. Don’t assume that someone else has already called for an ambulance. It’s better for multiple reports to come in than for an accident to go unreported. Contact emergency services, explain the situation and tell the dispatcher as much as you can. For example, state the number of people involved and whether any of them need medical attention.

Approach with caution

You may wish to assist the people involved in the accident. Approach the scene with care, looking out for hazards. If the accident scene looks dangerous, return to your vehicle. You should also be alert to any signs of aggression in those involved. People who have just been involved in a car crash may be shaken, angry, and not thinking clearly. It’s common or altercations to arise. Be careful if you try to intervene and de-escalate the situation.

Assist the injured with care

Unless there is an imminent risk of further injury or death, do not move an injured person. They may have internal injuries that you could exacerbate if you move them. Instruct victims to stay still and let them know that help is coming. Try to keep the person as calm as possible and remain with them until the emergency services arrive.

Note that Florida has a Good Samaritan law, which protects those who render emergency first aid at the scene of an accident. As long as you are acting in good faith, you cannot be held liable for unintentional injuries or property damage caused while you were trying to assist.

Provide eyewitness information

You should stay at the accident scene until the police arrive. The responding officer may wish to take a statement regarding the accident. Stick to the facts. Don’t speculate as to who may have been at fault — tell the officer what you saw.

If you’re not able to stay at the scene, you could give those involved your contact information. The drivers or their insurance companies may wish to contact you later for details about the accident. It’s a good idea to make a few notes about what you saw in case you’re contacted later.

If you are asked to give a statement

You might be asked to testify or give a statement about the accident to the police or for a court case. In most instances, you won’t need to do this — you may never hear anything about the car accident again.

Serving as a witness following a road traffic accident is usually voluntary. You may be asked to give a deposition or to testify on the stand, but it will generally be up to you whether you wish to do this. If, however, the judge orders a court summons, you are obliged to attend court. A summons means that you could face legal repercussions, such as a fine or even jail time if you don’t comply.

Witnessing a car accident can be stressful, particularly if you may be called upon to testify in court. It can be helpful to know what to expect should this happen. You can find out more by contacting an attorney.

Business and Contract Disputes Related to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on businesses of all kinds. Many organizations find themselves struggling, for various reasons, to fulfill their contractual obligations. In some situations, it may be impossible to fulfill a contract, while in others, it may be possible to meet the terms of the agreement by offering a substitution or alternative to the goods or services initially discussed. Another option might be to delay fulfilling the contract until a later date. Under what circumstances is it acceptable to amend or cancel a contract? How does the rise of COVID-19 affect business and contract disputes?

Government actions and restrictions

As well as the impact of the disease itself, with the tragic loss of life and health that it has brought, businesses must confront the effects of government interventions to limit the spread of the virus. While necessary from a public health perspective, these interventions have had a significant impact on businesses across virtually every sector. Some industries — notably hospitality and travel — have been affected more dramatically, but all sectors are feeling the pressure created by these new restrictions.

We might point towards the ‘lockdown’ strategies deployed in many regions. The closure of businesses deemed non-essential, and the introduction of social distancing has caused significant disruption, especially when these measures have moved from voluntary to mandatory. Supplies of raw materials have been disrupted. Staff have become unavailable. Transportation has been affected by these restrictions, whether by road, rail, sea, or air.

Contractual defenses

In law, it’s a basic tenet that if a party breaches a contract, that party is liable to pay damages. There are defenses, however. These fall into three general categories: impossibility/impracticality, the frustration of purpose, and force majeure.


Put simply; this defense is valid when it is simply no longer possible to carry out the terms of the contract. If, for example, the contract specifies that a singer or actor will perform a show at a particular venue, but government interventions result in such places being closed, then impossibility would be a reasonable defense. Neither party could reasonably have foreseen the rise of COVID-19, nor could they have anticipated that the government might need to close venues because of the virus.

Impracticability is a similar defense that may be available in some jurisdictions. If the fulfillment of a contract is theoretically possible but would be excessively difficult, complicated, or expensive, it may be possible to mount a defense of impracticability. This excessive burden can’t be the fault of the defending party, nor can it be due to something that was reasonably foreseeable.

Frustration of Purpose

Frustration of Purpose is somewhat similar to the impracticability defense, in that the contract could still be carried out. In the case of frustration of purpose, however, carrying out the contract is no longer reasonable as its purpose has been obviated. In the example above, where performance could no longer take place due to the venue having been closed, it might no longer be reasonable to fulfill a contract to provide lighting or sound services for the performance. The equipment and personnel might still be available, but there would be no sound to amplify or performance to light, nor an audience.

Force majeure

‘Force majeure’ is a contractual provision which excuses parties from their contractual obligations if some circumstance beyond the parties’ control prevents them from fulfilling those obligations. It’s easy to see how government restrictions due to COVID-19 could reasonably fall under force majeure.

We can see, therefore, that those who find themselves unable to fulfill their contractual obligations may be able to defend themselves against legal action. As long as they can show that it is the situation related to COVID-19 that has caused the issue, and not some negligence or lack of effort on their part, there are various defenses that might be open to a party who can no longer fulfill a contract in these complex and troubled times.

Leaving No Stone Unturned; Understanding the Often-Elusive Insurance Benefit of Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Leaving No Stone Unturned; Understanding

the Often-Elusive Insurance Benefit of Uninsured Motorist Coverage

By: Matthew M. Thomas of Graves Thomas Rotunda Injury Law Group – October, 2019.

Life altering injuries are a potential reality for all of us. They can happen instantaneously and without warning. Tens of thousands of people die each year in motor vehicle accidents across the country. This includes Florida, who sees its fair share. Beyond those resulting in a death, greater numbers of drivers suffer from non-fatal injuries on a daily basis. Hopefully, this never happens to us or anyone we know. Hopefully, we make it back home safely to our families, each and every day. Unfortunately, this is not our reality.

When someone is permanently injured in a car accident, their own life and oftentimes the lives of those closest to them, are changed drastically. Issues – such as financial pressures from mounting medical bills or an inability to work can prove to be overwhelming. Ideally, the individuals who negligently cause such accidents and any resulting injuries, will have sufficient bodily injury liability coverage under their insurance policy to fully compensate the injured victims. 

But what if they do not? Well, in the sunshine state, chances are they will not. According to research, Florida ranks first in the percentage of uninsured drivers on public roadways, with approximately 26% of the state’s drivers doing so without any bodily injury liability insurance whatsoever. That, is where uninsured motorist coverage (synonymous with underinsured motorist coverage) comes in. In collecting this insurance coverage, it is critical to understand it and explore all its potential applications. This article is a cursory attempt at doing so. 

Uninsured motorist insurance coverage, often referred to “UM” coverage is a creature of statute and contract. Florida’s UM statute, Section 627.727, Florida Statutes, was initially passed in 1961, and while it has seen its share of changes over the years, its intent remains. The statute was enacted to protect individuals who are legally entitled to recover damages caused by owners and operators of uninsured or underinsured vehicles. To illustrate, suppose the driver of vehicle 1 is at fault for an automobile accident that resulted in the driver of vehicle 2 sustaining bodily injuries. If Driver 1 does not have sufficient bodily injury liability coverage to fully compensate Driver 2 for their injuries and damages, then Driver 2’s UM coverage would provide insurance coverage to compensate Driver 2 for his or her injuries. Chiefly, to qualify as an uninsured motorist under Florida Statute §627.727, the value of Driver 2’s injuries must exceed the bodily injury liability limits afforded to Driver 1. Think of it like a tiered insurance system. Once the damages of Driver 2 exceed the bodily injury liability limits available under Driver 1’s insurance policy, Driver 2’s UM coverage picks up the tab.

The statute’s purpose is to protect persons who are injured on public roadways due to other motorists who cannot make the injured party whole again with sufficient bodily injury liability insurance coverage. Section 627.727 was neither “designed” to protect the motorists that injure and damage others, nor to compensate or benefit insurance companies. Indeed, the protections  afforded by the statute are not susceptible to the attempts of insurers to limit or negate that protection. The statute’s “design” includes separating out causes of action for UM coverage under theories sounding in breach of contract made against insurers; as opposed to causes of action that are sounded in general negligence and made directly against at-fault drivers themselves.  Once a cause of action is filed, courts give effect to the legislative intent in application of the statute to the specific facts presented in any given case. This results in an ample supply of court cases and opinions outlining various applications of UM coverage in different factual scenarios, which is beyond the scope of this article. 

Because Florida’s legislature understood the importance of UM coverage to the state’s general welfare, Florida law requires all automobile policies with bodily injury liability coverage to have equal UM limits. An exception – or escape – from this requirement exists when an insured has made a knowing reduction or rejection of UM coverage. Most commonly, insurers achieve this by having an insured sign a valid UM rejection form that is compliant with the requirements of Section 627.727. Only one signature of a named insured is required to bind the policy to the selection of UM coverage. A valid UM form that is signed by an insured, creates a “conclusive presumption” of a knowing rejection or reduction of UM coverage which then applies to the policy for all insureds. Yet, this conclusive presumption is not always so conclusive. This conclusive presumption can be overcome by evidence of fraud, trickery, or forgery of the insured’s signature on the UM form.

Without a valid UM form signed by an insured, there is no conclusive presumption and an insurer must undertake the task of proving that an insured made a knowing and informed selection of UM coverage through other methods. This includes offering proof that an insured “orally” rejected UM coverage. Perhaps unfairly, insureds must their demands for UM coverage in writing to claim entitlement. Obviously, the factual disputes that can arise in the absence of a signed and valid UM form create uncertainty, with results in more costs, more time and more litigation.  

Although UM compliance may appear simple in concept, fact disputes still commonly arise over the validity and statutory compliance of UM forms. For instance, whether an UM form satisfies the formatting requirements for “electronically delivered documents” or is considered “readable language” is dependent on the specific UM form in question. Those wishing to invalidate an UM form should use strict application of the requirements found within Section 627.727. Even the slightest deviation from the language provided in the statute renders any given UM form potentially invalid.

Beyond the issues of an UM selection/rejection form’s contents, are issues surrounding the insurer’s compliance with Section 627.727’s notice requirements. If an insurer is unable to prove proper notice was accomplished per the statute’s requirements, then the insurer has a renewed responsibility to offer UM coverage equal to the bodily injury liability limits under the policy. That is – when a signed and valid UM form rejecting or reducing coverage exists, and the insurer has sent the required notices to the insured, the insured is bound to the original election of the rejection or reduction of UM coverage. Alternatively, when an insurer fails to send an insured the required annual notice, insurers are required to provide full UM coverage (equal to the bodily injury liability limits under the policy) regardless of the insured’s initial election of UM coverage.

Needless to say, a smooth navigation of all the potential UM coverage issues can prove difficult – if not downright impossible. All those involved in actual disputes of UM coverage are bound to encounter some of them. Importantly, the ultimate consequences associated with litigating these issues is potentially devastating for insureds and insurers alike. On one hand, an insurer may be required to extend UM coverage in the amounts of 6 or 7 figures, to equal bodily injury liability limits, even though no premiums were ever paid by an insured. On the other hand, injury victims may be potentially left out in the proverbial “cold” with absolutely zero sources of recovery.

Given the uncertainties found in the realm of UM coverage, it is imperative to enter into these disputes with a full understanding of the potential pitfalls and an organized plan of attack. This topic’s vast body of law allows the insurance industry, who are repeat players in the litigation of insurance disputes, to craft their arguments in favor of themselves and against UM coverage. It also allows technicalities to become mountains made of molehills. Being able to practice in this realm effectively, means being proficient in its terms and their application.  If sufficiently qualified to do so, an individual can use the statutes governing UM coverage and the court opinions interpreting them as pivotal tools in obtaining the full amount of insurance coverage available. As the great military general Sun Tzu once wrote, “the enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead.”