Jury Awards Stalking Victim $4.8 Million

On August 31, 2012 a Collier County jury returned a verdict of $1.2 million in compensatory and $3.6 million in punitive damages against 70 year old James L. Dingwall, III. The jury found that for over 7 years he haunted and terrified the victim, the daughter of a deceased friend. The victim’s name has been withheld for reasons of privacy and she is referred to as Jane.

The victim told the jury that in 2005 after the death of her father, “Uncle Jim,” as she knew her tormentor growing up, began aggressively and obsessively attempting a sexual relationship with Jane. She testified that he showed up at her home, at the church where she worked as a teacher, and at the homes of her neighbors and friends. He contacted her constantly, in person, by phone, voice mail, email and text messages. At 6’3” and close to 300 pounds, Dingwall threatened her, physically as well as financially, claiming he could steal her identity, make her lose her job, and ruin her credit.

According to the evidence, Dingwall offered money if the victim would have sex with him, and threatened violence if she did not. He ignored her constant pleas to stop. Even after courts had issued multiple restraining orders and he was convicted of criminal stalking, Dingwall accosted Jane as she jogged and attempted to force her into his car. Dingwall reportedly warned the victim he would never leave her alone until he died, that “the police will have to kill me for me to stop.” According to her attorney, terror and humiliation eventually led Jane to bring a private lawsuit against her former family friend.

Attorney Mark Steinberg from Steinberg and Linn, who represents the young woman, noted that since the civil suit, Dingwall has ceased stalking his client. Asked if he thought the award would bring an end the nightmare, Steinberg commented “I don’t know. We can only hope.”

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July Means Higher Potential for Medical Malpractice, Wrongful Death, Jacksonville Florida Law Firm Says

It’s called the “July Effect,” and it could prove devastating to you or a loved one seeking medical care at a teaching hospital this month. An analysis of 39 separate studies concludes that teaching hospitals tend to suffer a drop in efficiency and a spike in patient deaths during July, when experienced medical residents move on and newbie interns pour in.

“Our study is a signal that there is increased risk at this time,” said study author Dr. John Q. Young, associate program director of the residency training program within the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine. “That’s the bottom line, and it’s something that patients should be aware of.”

The 39 prior studies that researchers analyzed were conducted between 1989 and 2010. Researchers focused on the July rate of fatalities, medical complications and medical errors, as well as overall efficiency variables including patient hospitalization times, operation room times and medical costs at teaching hospitals. Findings, published in the July 12 online edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, confirm the long-suspected July Effect phenomenon truly does exist. The studies consistently showed patient fatalities increased and care efficiency dropped during July, when staff changeovers involve upwards of 100,000 medical staff in the U.S.

Top concern is that new interns are as yet unfamiliar with the intricate workings of a complex hospital environment and lack the experience needed to effectively meet the demands of a high-paced, high-stress clinical setting where an intern’s performance can mean the difference between life and death for a patient. For patients injured due to a medical mistake or the families of patients who died unnecessarily, the July Effect often leads to the filing of medical malpractice and wrongful death complaints.

Of course, no one recommends waiting out a medical concern just because it’s July. But if you do need medical attention and a teaching hospital is the closest or best option for you, be sure to bring a family member or friend who can help advocate for you. And don’t be afraid to request to speak with an experienced attending physician on staff.

If you suspect that a medical injury or death of a loved one occurred as a result of medical negligence or medical malpractice, contact Steinberg and Linn, medical malpractice and wrongful death attorneys with Florida offices in Port Charlotte, Fort Myers and Naples.

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Spring Break Boosts Potential for Harm, Say Personal Injury, Auto Accident Attorneys in Florida

The Sunshine State is a top destination for spring breakers – and that’s a top concern for personal injury and auto accident attorneys. Florida draws a huge number of college and high school students bent on a week of sun, fun and, unfortunately, drinking. If you’re a level-headed spring breaker, or if you live, work or travel in areas where spring breakers frequent, keep in mind statistics that show an increased risk of injury.

Areas popular among spring break participants all report a spike in the number of DUIs and DUI-related car crashes during the season, which typically spans from early March to mid or late April. In fact, for many college and beach towns, spring break and the weekends before and after represent the most dangerous nine days of the year on the road. During this time, the demographics of car crashes shift as well, more people in their late teens and early twenties involved or affected.

Inebriated individuals also can be prone to physical violence. Bars and night clubs in particular see an increase in violence during the spring break season. Choose your night spots wisely. Look for nightlife establishments that have cover charges, dress codes, well-lit parking lots and security cameras. Many nightclubs and bars are starting to wand down customers and even check purses that security personnel feel may hold a weapon. All night spots in spring break destination areas have making money on the mind, but the better, safer and ultimately more fun establishments are mindful of safety as well.

Spring break also can be marred by diving and drowning incidents. Overcrowding of pools and beaches can lead to accidents or even intentional harm. A scan of past media coverage includes multiple stories of spring breakers injured from falling or being pushed into pools or off balconies, or from diving into unmarked shallow areas.

Drunk drivers, violent individuals and hotels, bars, nightclubs and other establishments with unsafe conditions can cause irreparable harm or even death to spring break participants and those around them. If you or your loved one is injured this spring break season, contact Steinberg & Linn, P.A., experienced personal injury and auto accident attorneys with Florida offices in Port Charlotte, Fort Myers and Naples.

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Claim Denied? Five Tips From a Florida Insurance Lawyer

Statistics show that some 30 percent of medical insurance claims get rejected and, of them, fewer than half are resubmitted. While some denials are legitimate, as many as 10 percent of claims submitted are unjustly denied. If your insurance company denied your claim or paid you less money than you believe you’re entitled to, don’t simply take their word, Florida insurance lawyers say. Steinberg & Linn, PA offers these tips for getting the financial compensation your insurance policy promises.

  1. Insist upon a written explanation of the insurance company’s denial. Florida state law requires companies to provide written explanations, so if yours fails to comply, they could face legal trouble.
  2. Do your research. Once you’ve received a letter explaining the reasons for your claim’s denial, start your own investigation by carefully reading your policy. Insurance companies and insured patients may interpret a clause differently – and companies have been known to exercise “selective interpretation” to justify a claim denial. If you received a payout that was less than you expected, check to see what other doctors in the area charge for the same treatment. If there’s a significant difference, you may have a case for additional dollars.
  3. Check for violations on the insurance provider’s part. If the insurance company says you’re to blame for incorrectly completing a claim for or missing a deadline, their excuse may not cut it legally. The insurance company must show that your error harmed the company or impeded their ability to adequately investigate to get out of paying an otherwise valid claim. Also, many insurance companies will point to a system-wide reduction of coverage. But if they failed to notify you about a reduction, that’s a violation of insurance law.
  4. Ask for help. Talk with your doctor, insurance agent, group policy manager at your workplace, a representative with Florida’s Department of Insurance, a professional arbitrator or an experienced Florida insurance attorney. Each of these people can help bolster, mediate or litigate a valid insurance claim.
  5. Keep copious records. In all communications with your insurance company over your denied claim, keep records of the date and time you called, the name and position of the person to whom you spoke and notes summarizing each conversation. Keep copies of all relevant bills and documents. Send letters by registered mail, so that you have proof of the company’s receiving them. If the situation turns into a legal one, you’ll need to show that you gave the insurance company ample opportunity to justly address your claim.

Steinberg and Linn’s Florida insurance attorneys have years of experience and a strong track record in securing sizeable insurance recovery claims for clients. Contact our Port Charlotte, Fort Myers or Naples offices for a free consultation.

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Beware Holiday Drunk Driving Crashes, Florida Accident Attorneys Say

The Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year season should be filled with the sounds of carolers, the scents of holiday dinners and the sights of colored lights and fireworks. But for many, the season will bring the sounds of screeching tires, crunching metal and shattering glass; the odor of spilled gasoline and motor oil; and the flashing red and blue lights of police cars and ambulances. We hope your holiday season won’t include us, but should you find yourself the victim of a speed or alcohol-fueled crash, Florida accident attorneys Steinberg and Linn are here to help.

According to results of Crash Stats, a 10-year study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the deadliest day of the year for speeding-related fatal crashes is New Year’s Day. Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas follow. And a high percentage of these speed-related accidents also involve drunk driving. In fact, 54 percent of all New Year’s Day accident deaths and 38 percent of Christmas-time car accident deaths are alcohol related, the NHTSA says – a result of all the holiday partying that goes on from late December through early January.

You may be (unpleasantly) surprised to learn that less than 20 percent of drunk drivers injured in car accidents are charged and convicted, 11 percent are charged but not convicted, and a full 72 percent are never charged. That’s because criminal cases are much tougher to prosecute than are civil cases. But it doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck if a drunk driver injures or kills you or someone you love. Even without a charge or conviction, you still can file a civil suit and win if it can be proved that the driver was negligent and that his or her negligence caused your injuries.

If your holiday – and your life – is marred by a drunk, speeding or otherwise negligent driver, contact Steinberg and Linn, Florida accident attorneys since 1985 with offices in Port Charlotte, Fort Myers and Naples. We can help you build a wrongful death or personal injury case to help compensate for your injuries or loss.

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Florida Third in Truck Accidents, Attorneys Say

Florida ranks third among the states with the most truck accidents, attorneys with Steinberg and Linn say. Behind only California and Texas, and just ahead of Georgia and Pennsylvania, Florida averaged about 380 fatal trucking accidents each year from 2003 to 2007 according to results of a study released last year by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

The study revealed that an average 5,212 trucks are involved in fatal trucking accidents each year and that tractors pulling a semitrailer account for about 59 percent of those accidents. Common causes of these accidents include fatigue in commercial truck drivers under pressure to haul more loads further and faster than ever. Unfortunately, it’s the drivers and passengers of the other vehicles that pay with their lives for a truck driver’s mistake 98 percent of the time. Other victims include some 360 pedestrians and 80 cyclists, as well as 700 truck drivers annually. Figures reflect one person killed or injured in a trucking accident every 16 minute in the U. S.

In total, more than 500,000 truck accidents occur every year. Though only a small percentage of these accidents prove fatal, many cause life-altering injuries. Studies show that nearly 75 percent of trucking accident victims who survive carry symptoms of severe injury for at least six months after the accident, and that 20 percent see their symptoms worsen between the first and second year following.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, or if you’ve lost a family member to a trucker’s negligence, contact Steinberg and Linn, Florida truck accident attorneys with more than 60 years of combined experience. We have offices in Port Charles (941-766-0600), Fort Myers (239-332-1200) and Naples (239-793-4000). We’ll immediately dispatch our private investigator to the scene of the accident and begin preparing your legal case for fair compensation.

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What to Do After a Slip & Fall in Florida

If you trip, slip and fall on Florida property owned or maintained by someone else, you may be entitled to damages including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other related costs. But what you do immediately after the accident can make a huge difference in your case. Specializing in slip and fall cases, Florida-based Steinberg and Linn offer these tips:

  1. Call for help: If you fear you’re seriously hurt, call a paramedic. Not only does this help assure you won’t cause further injury by trying to get up and move about, but it helps establish your case by having a third party assist.
  2. Gather evidence: Common causes of these accidents include such conditions as uneven floors, objects or debris on floors, wet or slippery substances on floors, poor lighting, potholes, walking surface design flaws, or a person’s impaired physical or mental condition. Quickly write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of all witnesses. If you have a camera with you, including a cell phone camera, take photos of the accident scene, making sure to photograph the dangerous condition that caused you to fall. If you’re unable to take photographs, take extensive note about the scene and the condition – size, shape, color, placement, location, etc. Also note the date, time, weather conditions if the accident occurred outside and a description of the clothes and shoes you were wearing at the time. Be sure to keep those clothes, shoes and anything else that confirms the accident (such as broken glasses), as they may need to be entered as evidence.
  3. Report your fall: Once you’ve gathered witness contacts, notes and photos, report your fall to the property manager or owner. However, do not give him or her a thorough statement until you’ve spoken with a lawyer. Details not carefully worded can be used against you.
  4. Contact a reputable slip and fall attorney: Florida law limits the time in which an investigation and other certain actions must be taken, or you will forfeit your right to file a claim for damages.
  5. Seek additional medical attention if necessary: Often, certain aches and pains caused by a slip and fall accident won’t manifest until several days later. Be sure to tell your doctor of ALL physical complaints – even minor ones. For instance, a scrape that leaves even the faintest scar can make a sizeable difference in a damages award. Also photograph any visible injuries, including bruises, scrapes or broken bones, as soon as they appear and as they change over the days and weeks.

Understand that falling on someone else’s property doesn’t necessarily mean that the property owner, manager or occupier is at fault. Multiple factors are at play and it takes a skilled attorney to know whether you have a solid slip and fall case.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a fall on someone else’s property anywhere in Florida, call Steinberg and Linn at 239-793-4000 in Naples, 941-766-0600 in Port Charlotte or 239-332-1200 in Fort Myers.

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Contributory or Comparative Negligence? The Difference can Affect your Florida Personal Injury Case

Do you know the difference between contributory negligence and comparative negligence? The difference can make or break your Florida personal injury case, say attorneys at Steinberg and Linn, one of Florida’s leading personal injury, wrongful death and accident law firms.

Contributory negligence is a defense claim that applies to cases wherein the plaintiff, through his own negligence, contributed to the harm he suffered and for which he is seeking damages. A primary example is a pedestrian who crosses a road without first looking both ways and his hit by a driver who also was acting negligently. This defense often is considered unfair because, under the current doctrine, a victim found to be as little as one percent at fault can be denied compensation entirely.

Comparative negligence differs in that it is a partial legal defense that reduces the amount of damages that a plaintiff can recover in a negligence-based claim. The amount awarded is based upon the degree to which the plaintiff’s own negligence is deemed to have contributed to the injury.

The doctrine of contributory negligence first appeared in an 1808 landmark English case in which the defendant, Forrester, had placed a pole near the road next to his house while repairing the home. At around 8 p.m. that night, plaintiff Butterfield later came along riding his horse at a high rate of speed, struck the pole and fell off his horse. At the subsequent personal injury trial, Butterfield’s attorney argued that he could not have seen the pole at twilight and assured the judge and jury that his client was not intoxicated. But witnesses testified that visibility at the time Butterfield rode past Forrester’s property was nearly 100 yards. The judge instructed that if a rider using reasonable care could have avoided the pole, and that if the jury found that Butterfield had not used that reasonable care, then the verdict must go to Forrester’s favor. That’s exactly how the jury ruled and Butterfield later appealed.

Comparative negligence began gaining widespread acceptance around the 1960s. An early example is Li v. Yellow Cab Co., in which both the plaintiff and defendant were found to have been driving negligently. The defendant’s employee was traveling at 30 miles per hour and entered an intersection on a yellow light. Meanwhile, plaintiff Li made a left turn across the southbound lanes of the street. The trial court found for the defendant on the grounds that California at the time was a contributory negligence jurisdiction, barring recovery by Li based upon her own contributory negligence. Li appealed and the Supreme Court of California reversed the trial court’s decision, urging state legislators to adopt comparative negligence over the harsh, all-or-nothing doctrine of contributory negligence.

Steinberg and Lin, Florida personal injury attorneys since 1985, can help determine whether and how your case might be affected by contributory or comparative negligence. Contact the Steinberg and Linn offices in Port CharlotteFort Myers or Naples via phone or our online contact form.

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How to Avoid Motorcycle Accidents

For an avid biker, there is really no other activity that compares with riding their motorcycle. Unfortunately, motorcyclists have to share Florida’s roadways with millions of other vehicles and unexpected accidents do happen every day. Although some crashes may appear to have been unavoidable, according to the motorcycle accident lawyers at Steinberg & Linn, most motorcycle accidents have similar causes. Some are directly associated with rider-related factors. With a little extra effort, even the most novice rider can take steps to avoid accidental injuries and expensive damage to their favorite ride.

5 Tips for Avoiding Motorcycle Accidents

  1. Take a Motorcycle Safety Course
    Too many riders take to the road without considering the value of proper training. Motorcycle owners are quick to invest in a killer bike loaded with neat accessories but ignore the need for professional instructions on “how to ride their bike”. A lack of rider skill for braking and steering maneuvers is among the most common causes of single-vehicle motorcycle accidents and likely the most avoidable
  2. Make Yourself Visible to Other Motorists
    The number one reason given by another motorist during the investigation of a multiple-vehicle collision is “I didn’t even see the bike. It came out of nowhere.” Even though you may insist on appearing stealth in your all black riding gear, there are couple of measures that will always aid in being seen. First, ride with your headlight on. Secondly, whenever possible ride in a group. After all, it’s typically more fun to go riding with others. Also, remember all vehicles have a “blind spot”, so avoid riding in spots where a motorist may not have a clear line of sight.
  3. Read the Road and Use Extreme Caution
    No vehicle is more affected by hazardous road conditions than a two wheeler. Loose gravel, steel grates, ripple surfacing, uneven pavement and common road debris can make a motorcycle feel like its riding on ice. These are situations that require a firm but relaxed grip of the handlebars with steady throttle control and careful application of both front and rear brakes. Whenever possible, take another route so you can fully enjoy your ride.
  4. Don’t Drink in Excess and Ride
    Alcohol, drugs and motorcycles don’t go together. A rider’s best safety equipment is their reaction time. Don’t even attempt to ride when you’re impaired. It doesn’t matter whether you’re taking prescribed medications or just out having fun, if you’ve had one too many, leave the bike and catch a ride. There’s nothing cool about being stupid, so take responsibility for your actions and plan your fun accordingly.
  5. Follow Routine Maintenance Schedules
    For the most part, a motorcycle requires a shorter maintenance cycle than a car or truck. A motorcycle’s tires are the only contact the bike has with the road. So, it is always important to pay close attention to tire pressure and tire wear. If you’re not a seasoned mechanic, schedule your bike for routine service. Parts and pieces simply wear out quicker and require more frequent attention.

A few simple disciplines can make riding a motorcycle on Southwest Florida roadways safer and without causing a great deal of personal sacrifice. It’s true that most multiple vehicle accidents involving a motorcycle are the cause of another motorists. However, it is never good to be “Dead Right”. By following a few safety tips, even the most inexperienced motorcycle rider can become a seasoned veteran and enjoy the sport for years to come.

At the Law Offices of Steinberg & Linn, our personal injury attorneys have been helping the victims of motorcycle accidents for decades by helping clients in NaplesFt. Myers and Port Charlotte obtain fair compensation for financial, physical and psychological damages. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, even if you are not sure who was a fault, contact us today to discuss the details of your case.

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Florida Auto Accident Attorney Warns of “Hundred Deadly Days” for Driving Teens

Florida auto accident attorney firm Steinberg and Linn, PA wants to warn parents of the annual “Hundred Deadly Days.” Each year during June, July and August, the number of serious auto accidents involving teen drivers spikes significantly. Kids are out of school for the summer and anxious to hit the road with friends for days at the beach and nights partying.

Unfortunately, many teens fail to take seriously the chances and consequences of irresponsible driving -both on their own part and on the part of other young drivers. Even the most careful and alert teenage can become the victim of a serious car crash caused by a less attentive or impaired young driver. In fact, more wrongful deaths of teenage drivers happen during the three-month summer break than in any other time period throughout the year.

Steinberg and Linn, Florida auto accident attorneys with more than 50 years combined experience, offer tips for parents of teen drivers on the roads this summer:

  • Nix the thought of buying your teen a new car and limit his or her driving to a family car with which you are already familiar. You’ll be better able to advise your teen about the nuances of the car’s handling, which boosts both your teen’s level of comfort and your own.
  • Limit nighttime driving for teens. Reduced visibility means less time to react if your teen sees a potential hazard. Plus, there are many more impaired drivers on the road at night than in the daytime.
  • Limit the number of passengers allowed in the car when your teen is driving. A car full of teenagers laughing, chatting and blasting the radio represents a huge distraction for any driver.
  • Let your teen know that you have no tolerance for alcohol or drug use. Peer pressure can be tough for any young person, so make sure your teen knows that one slip up will cost his or her driving privileges – no exceptions!
  • Watch your own driving habits. Teen pick up traits of their parents and other adults in their lives. If you speed regularly, run stop signs, check your text messages and blare music while behind the wheel, don’t be surprised when your teen does the same thing.

Hopefully, you and your teen won’t need our services. But if you do find yourself in need of an experienced and dedicated Florida auto accident attorney, contact Steinberg and Linn via our online email form or by calling one of our offices in NaplesPort Charlotte orFort Myers.

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