Personal Injury Lawyer in Clearwater

When most people think of personal injury lawyers, they may immediately think about car accidents.  However, there are many other situations in which an attorney may be able to assist a person who has suffered injuries.

A couple of examples where a personal injury lawyer may be able to assist victims of injuries in contexts other than car accidents include:

Premises Liability:  Slip and falls/trip and falls at the grocery store, or at a hotel, or on a slippery dock are common scenarios in which a person can suffer a serious injury that could have been avoided.  All business owners have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition.  However, it is also true that business owners are not strictly liable for all injuries that occur on their premises.   What constitutes negligence by the property/business owner in this context is often hotly debated between the injured party, and the owner.  Chris Roberts can help you determine and prove at a trial if necessary whether your injury was the result of the business owner's negligence, such that you may be entitled to recovery for your medical expenses and other losses.

Product Defects:  There are literally thousands of injuries that occur to consumers each year as a result of defective products.  Everything from defective vehicles or tires that cause serious accidents or preventable injuries (crashworthiness), to pressure cookers that explode for no reason, to laptop or ecig batteries that catch fire, to defective dry wall that causes mold and resulting respiratory problems can result in preventable injuries for which the product manufacturer and/or seller can be held responsible.    This is also an area in which many personal injury attorneys who focus mostly on car accident cases may not be the best fit for the injured party.  Product defect cases often involve the retention of highly trained engineering experts who are necessary to prove your case, and a detailed understanding of the law as it concerns the proper presentation of evidence.   Chris Roberts devotes the majority of his practice to assisting consumer victims in Clearwater and around the country who were seriously injured by defective products.   Among other successes, Chris Roberts was lead counsel for the plaintiffs in a defective tire case against Goodyear in 2010, which resulted in a $5.6 million verdict for his clients, one of the highest verdicts of its kind ever in Pasco County, Florida.  Few personal injury lawyers in the Tampa Bay area have such experience or results.  Before you hire a personal injury attorney to assist you in a case involving a dangerous product, make sure they have experience in that particular field of personal injury law.

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Chris Roberts is a lawyer with 25 years of experience handling personal injury, premises liability, product defect, car accident cases, and complex commercial litigation.  He is available for a free consultation, and even makes "house calls" if needed.  You can contact Chris and schedule a free consultation by emailing him at this link:  freeconsult@chrisrobertsfirm.com, or call his office at 727.286.3537.

 

Dog Bite Lawyer -- Clearwater

When the average person hears the term "personal injury lawyer," they may tend to think of lawyers who assist victims of car accidents.  That is certainly an area in which many personal injury attorneys focus their practices.  But there are many other types of injuries that can occur that require the services of a personal injury attorney such as Chris Roberts.  One of the most common involves dog bites.

Under Florida law, the owner of a dog that bites a person who did not provoke the bite can be held strictly liable for the injury, if the bite occurs in a public place or while the victim is lawfully on private property where the dog is located.  What this means is that the victim of the dog bite does not need to prove that the owner was negligent in some way, such as having prior knowledge that the dog had a tendency to bite.  This is an important rule of which many individuals are not aware, believing incorrectly that the owner may only be liable if he had some reason to suspect that his dog was dangerous.

Even in circumstances where the victim himself did something to provoke the bite, there may still be a chance of recovering if the owner was also negligent.  This is where knowledge of the dog's propensities may come into play.

A complicating factor in dog bite cases is determining the existence of insurance that may cover the injuries suffered by the victim.  Many rental and even homeowners policies exclude dog bite injuries from coverage, leaving the consumer with no choice but to consider collecting directly from the owner, which can be difficult if the owner has no tangible assets.   

If you or a family member are a victim of a dog bite that will require significant medical expense and/or significant recovery time, don't go it alone.  Consult with a personal injury attorney who can assist you in understanding both the liability of the dog's owner, and the possible availability of insurance to cover your losses.

Chris Roberts is available for a free initial consultation on dog bite cases in the Clearwater and Tampa Bay area.  Chris generally handles dog bite cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning he does not get paid unless you do.   If you have questions or wish to schedule a free no obligation consultation, contact Chris at freeconsult@chrisrobertsfirm.com, or call to schedule an appointment:  727-286-3537. 

 

Social Media and Personal Injury Litigation

Social media has become a common platform for people to stay in touch with friends and family.  According to recent figures, more than one billion people use Facebook, and millions more use platforms such as Twitter or Instagram or many other services.  What most people do not think about is that what they post online will likely become available to the defendant if you file a lawsuit seeking compensation for personal injury, medical expenses, or other damages which you believe were caused by another's negligence or wrongful conduct.   And don't be fooled into thinking that using privacy settings will matter.   Many Courts are ordering that social media content be made available to the defendants in civil litigation regardless of privacy settings.    

The average person considering a lawsuit, or who is already involved in a lawsuit, may ask -- "why does this matter?  It's not like I'm going to post comments about what my lawyer told me and violate an attorney-client privilege.  I'm not even going to comment on the lawsuit on Facebook."  The answer is that it may still matter a lot, even if you just stick to mundane posts that do not comment on your lawsuit.  

One common way that people use Social Media is to post photographs of themselves on vacation, at the beach, at a birthday party, at dinner, or engaging in other fun events.   It is just a fact that people tend to post pictures of themselves smiling, having fun, looking like they don't have a care in the world.   If an alien civilization came along and started looking at Facebook photographs to get an idea of how we all live, they would probably conclude we are the happiest species in the galaxy.  That's because few people post pictures of themselves on a day they are feeling extreme pain, or visiting the doctor's office, or feeling so down in the dumps from their condition that they don't leave their home, etc.   What's more, most of us can look "happy" for long enough to pose for a photo, even if we're not in the greatest spirits at that moment.  No one wants to frown for a photograph!   And most people do not want to project to the world that they have bad days, too.   So they post photos or comments about the good times, and keep the not-so-good times to themselves.

With that in mind, here is how this topic matters in the context of a lawsuit.  Assume you have filed a lawsuit following a serious car accident.  You are in daily pain.  You have $50,000 in outstanding medical bills or health insurance liens.  Your life has been changed dramatically by your injuries, but you are not the type to give up on life because of some pain.  You want to try to live the most normal life you can.  So you make yourself go to the beach or an amusement park with friends or family and try to enjoy some time with them, even if it's sometimes difficult.  You can still go to dinner.  And you can still post photographs of those events, most of which will probably show you with a big smile on your face because that's just what people do when someone points a camera at them.  Now imagine that the Court in your case orders you (or the social media site) to turn over all of those social media photographs during the "discovery" phase of your personal injury case.   One photo shows you smiling in front of a roller coaster at an amusement park a few months after your accident.  Another shows you at dinner with friends (smiling, of course).  At trial, the defense starts putting some of those photographs on the big screen and says to the jury, "does this look like someone who is in severe pain?   Does this look like someone who has had her life turned upside down by her injuries as she and her lawyer are arguing?"   Think about what effect that may have on your case. You may know that you were actually in pain when those photos were taken.  You may know that you did not ride the roller coaster that day because of your pain, or that you went home after dinner and had to lay down for 12 hours.   In short, you may know that those pictures do not fairly represent what you've been through, and that they in fact present an overly rosy impression of your life.   What about all of the hours you spent getting painful physical therapy, or laying down during the day because you were having trouble sitting or standing?  Of course you can try to explain that the jury, but a picture is worth a thousand words.  Your desire to live a normal life and "grin and bear it," and your desire to appear "happy" to friends and family, can be used against you at your trial.  The jury may see the photograph of you smiling with friends, and think you're exaggerating your injuries at trial.

If you are in any kind of litigation, you should assume that anything and everything you post online, or have stored on your smartphone, will get into the hands of the party you are suing.   Before you post to social media while you have a lawsuit pending, consider whether you want the jury to see that content, and how it could be taken out of context by a clever defense lawyer.   

 

 

How Much is My Personal Injury Case Worth?

This is one of the most common questions asked of lawyers by clients (or potential clients) who are seeking recovery for injuries sustained in an accident.  The obvious answer is that every case is unique, but here are some general guidelines that may help you understand what to expect when you talk to a lawyer.

There are basically six separate things lawyers like me look at to determine the potential "value" of a case.  The ultimate objective is to try to predict what a jury will do if your case goes to trial, because that is all that matters in the end.   Six common considerations used by lawyers are:

1.  What are the economic losses caused to the client by the accident?  Economic losses are those losses that can be objectively measured in dollars and cents.  They include:  medical and physical rehabilitation expenses (past and anticipated in the future); wage losses (past and anticipated in the future, including loss of income potential due to physical or mental injuries); vehicle damage or loss; the cost of medical equipment if needed; and similar items.  Basically, all of the actual expenses or economic losses suffered as a result of the accident.  

2.  What are the non-economic losses?  In Florida, an injured individual can generally recover "pain and suffering" damages, as well as other intangible damages such as mental anguish caused by an injury.  This includes pain and suffering that has been endured in the past, and that is likely to endured in the future.    This category of damages is the most difficult to measure because the effect of an injury is very subjective to the person.   The more severe the injury, and the more it impacts your life, the more a jury may award you for these types of damages.  Insurance companies often try to measure these figures by taking a multiple of the economic losses, for example they may measure the "value" of the pain and suffering by multiplying the economic losses by a factor or 2 or 3, or some other number.   But this is a very generic guideline and should only be used to give you a general idea of how an insurance company may try to measure these losses in your case.  If your life has completely changed as a result of your injuries and you are in constant, extreme pain, a jury could award you almost any figure they want within reason.  The amount a jury may award is almost impossible to predict.  It can be affected by all sorts of intangibles such as whether the jury subjectively "likes" you as a person, whether the jury believes you are honestly relating the extent of your pain and suffering, whether the jury is conservative or more liberal-minded (more on that below), whether the jury likes or dislikes the person you sued, the extent of wrongdoing of the person you sued (was it an innocent accident caused by simple negligence, or was the person acting recklessly), and all of the other things that may cause six different people to give you six different answers about what they may award you in your lawsuit.   Even members of the same jury may have vastly different ideas of what your case is worth, and they may decide to "compromise" when they announce a verdict.

3.  What is the liability picture?  By this I mean -- is the accident clearly the fault of another person, or is there an argument that you were also at fault, or that the defendant was not at fault at all?  In many cases, there is a dispute on this point.  Let's say for example that you were rear-ended after you stopped very suddenly to avoid an animal that darted across the road.  The driver who rear-ended you may argue that he could not stop in time because you suddenly slammed on your brakes, that you were speeding, and that he hit you only because you suddenly slammed on your brakes.   He may deny that there was anything in the road.  It's your word against his.    In Florida, a jury can assign fault to you, the Plaintiff, and to the Defendant you've sued.  In such a case, the jury is basically saying that both sides were partly at fault.  Any damages awarded by the jury for your accident will be reduced by that same percentage.  So let's say the jury awards you $60,000 in damages, but believes you were 50% at fault for causing the accident.   Your net verdict will be $30,000.  So even if your damages are "worth" $60,000, the value of your case is really only $30,000.  If there is a risk that the jury may find against you entirely, which is true in almost all cases, then you must factor in that possibility, further reducing the settlement value of your case.   

4.  What is the jurisdiction where your case will be filed if a lawsuit is filed?  This is very important consideration.  Some venues such as Miami are considered more Plaintiff friendly, and we lawyers often see larger verdicts from the Miami area than in some other cities, where juries tend to be less generous.  Valuing a case is all about trying to predict what six random people are going to do if the case gets tried.  And unfortunately, you are generally stuck with filing your case where the accident happened (there are exceptions to this of course).  So your case may have more or less value simply because of where the accident happened.  Again, the value of your case can only be determined pre-judgment based on an educated guess of what your jury, in your jurisdiction, will award you if you go to trial.

5.  How much insurance is available from the at-fault party?  In many situations, especially auto accidents, the driver who struck you may have low insurance limits, and have no real assets of their own to pay any court judgment.  It will not do you any good to sue the driver and get a judgment against him that he can never pay.  So in some situations, the value of your case is effectively maxed out at whatever the insurance policy limit is.  

6.  How much will it cost to take your case to trial?  Taking a lawsuit through trial isn't cheap.  Although lawyers generally front case expenses in personal injury cases, the costs of litigation will ultimately come out of any recovery you may obtain.  Taking a case to trial can cost thousands of dollars on the low end (filing fees, medical witness fees, etc), to hundreds of thousands of dollars in complex product defect cases involving engineering and other experts.  If you win your case, some of the costs may be payable by the other side, but there is no guarantee of this even with a successful outcome.  Therefore, the value of your case is dependent in part on how much it will cost to obtain you a recovery.   It will do you no good to "win" a case and receive a $10,000 verdict, if it costs you $20,000 in expert witness fees and other costs to achieve that result.  You will end up with nothing in the end.  Thus, the cost of litigation must be considered in determining a fair pre-suit or pre-judgment case value.

The discussion above is incredibly generic, and there are important exceptions to almost every point.  For example, some cases may involve an element of punitive damages.  Some cases may involve the existence of prior lawsuits by the Plaintiff, which can make a jury skeptical of your "new" case, and thus reduce its potential value.   A judge may be assigned to your case who tends to rule adversely to one side or the other on important evidence issues because of his own view of the law.  You may draw a particularly friendly jury even in a jurisdiction where verdicts tends to be lower on average.  And on and on and on.  Only a lawyer who examines your individual case and all of the unique factors that make it up, can give you his or her professional advice as to the potential value of your claim.  And even then you must understand that the lawyer is just making his best educated guess.  Nonetheless, the above will give you some insight into how lawyers and insurance companies try to value personal injury claims. 

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Chris Roberts is a lawyer with 25 years of experience handling personal injury, product defect, and complex commercial litigation.  He is available for a free consultation.  You can contact Chris and schedule a free consultation by emailing him at this link:  freeconsult@chrisrobertsfirm.com, or call his office at 727.286.3537.

What Are the Steps of a Personal Injury Case?

You or a family member have been injured in an accident and you are considering talking to a lawyer.  What should you expect from this process?  

Of course every case is unique, but here are a few typical steps or "stages" in the personal injury claim process:

1.  You need to decide which lawyer or lawyers to talk to.  Do you go with a billboard firm, a TV advertiser, or someone else?  There is no "right" answer to this question.  Your best bet is to obtain recommendations from friends or co-workers, or do some online research.  Large firms who spend a lot of money on advertising also have big advertising budgets they need to worry about.   While every firm is different, some larger firms will also assign you to a paralegal or young associate.   Do some research before you set up your first meeting.   Some clients want the "brand recognition" of the firms they see on billboards, while others feel more comfortable speaking to a lawyer who handles each of his cases personally and individually.   As a small firm lawyer myself, I am biased and believe that most clients are happier when they hire local attorneys who handle their cases personally and who do not see the practice of law as a big business enterprise.

2.  Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation.  So once you've chosen a lawyer to speak to, you will call or email him/her and schedule an appointment to meet with the lawyer, talk to him or her over the phone, or exchange emails about your case.  The lawyer will ask you a series of questions to determine some basic things such as:  what happened and was your injury the result of someone else's negligence or misconduct?  Is there insurance or other funds available for recovery?  What are the extent of your injuries?  You should "interview" the lawyer at the same time.  What is his experience?  Will he be handling your case, or someone else?  Does he actually go to trial, or does he only handle cases that settle out of court?  Ask for specifics!  A lot of lawyers will tell you they are big time trial lawyers, but in fact they rarely take cases to trial and have little real-world courtroom experience.  

3.  If the lawyer tells you that you have a case that can be pursued, and you are happy with the lawyer and want to hire him, you will generally be asked to sign a contingency fee contract.  Such contracts provide that the lawyer will be paid out of any recovery, as opposed to charging you by the hour.  There is no "standard" contingency fee rate.  Talk to the lawyer you've chosen about options.  Some smaller firms will negotiate the fee depending on the nature of your case.  A lot of lawyers will charge 1/3 to 40% of any recovery, or more.

4.  Once you've signed on the dotted line, the lawyer will obtain your medical records (sometimes you can be involved in this process and it will save you money in the long-run), and otherwise investigate the claim.  He will obtain a copy of the police report if there is one.  He may interview witnesses.   He will monitor your medical status.   Once the lawyer feels he or she has the information needed to evaluate the claim, he will make recommendations to you concerning the "value" of the case.  This is based on a variety of factors, and is covered in a separate article here:  How Much is My Personal Injury Case Worth? (click the link for more information).  

5.  A typical next step is that the lawyer may suggest that you send a settlement "demand" to the other side, basically giving the at-fault party a chance to resolve the case for a set sum of money without being sued.   At this point, negotiation may take place, where both sides try to reach a middle ground figure that is fair to all concerned.  If the at fault party knows he will likely lose at trial, he is likely to want to negotiate a resolution of your case.  But insurance companies often get involved at this point, and they may decide to fight your case for business reasons.  There are also situations, especially in complex cases involving serious injuries, where pre-lawsuit settlement talks are very unlikely to yield any productive results, and the lawyer will recommend that you file suit and then consider settlement talks later.

6.  If the case cannot be settled to your satisfaction without a lawsuit or if the lawyer is convinced that settlement discussions would not be fruitful, your next step is to file a lawsuit.  Some of the stages in the lawsuit/litigation process are discussed in a separate article here:  What Should I Expect if My Lawyer Has Filed a Personal Injury Lawsuit (coming soon!)?

A common question at this point is -- how long will this whole process take?  That depends on a lot of factors.  First, it depends on your medical condition.  If you sustained serious injuries, your lawyer is not going to be able to evaluate the "settlement value" of your case right away.  You may need surgery or surgeries, or you may have long-term disabilities that will not be clear until you further along in your treatment.  Second, it depends on how much investigation is required to put your case together.  Some cases are relatively straight-forward, others require months or investigation including retention of experts.  Third, it depends on the attitude of the party you are considering suing.  If there is an insurance company involved, the adjuster may move quickly to try to resolve your claim, or drag out the process for weeks or months, asking for additional information to evaluate the claim.  Your lawyer should be able to give you guidance in your individual case concerning what information he needs to evaluate your claim, and what to expect from the other side.   While you may be anxious to obtain recovery, understand that your lawyer does not want to jump the gun and try to resolve your case without having all of the information he or she needs to determine it's full value or potential, and that some factors are beyond his control.

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Chris Roberts is a lawyer with 23 years of experience handling personal injury, product defect, and complex commercial litigation.  He is available for a free consultation.  You can contact Chris and schedule a free consultation by emailing him at this link:  freeconsult@chrisrobertsfirm.com, or call his office at 727.286.3537.

Clearwater Car Accident Lawyer

If you have been injured in a car accident in Clearwater, and you have not already picked up the phone and called a lawyer based on the first billboard or TV advertisement you saw, then maybe you are looking for a lawyer who takes a more personal approach to representing clients.  

Chris Roberts has more than 20 years of experience handling cases involving injuries caused by car accidents.   He also has extensive experience in evaluating and handling complex injury cases involving tire and vehicle defects, which is something a lot of the lawyers you see on those billboards around town cannot say.  If you were seriously injured and you are concerned that there is not enough insurance to cover your losses, Chris will be able to evaluate other potential angles such as whether the vehicle's safety devices (seatbelts, airbags, etc), failed to function properly and played a role in causing your injuries.  Many personal injury lawyers do not even consider these issues, and focus only on collecting the available insurance money. 

Before you hire an attorney to represent you, shop around.  Ask each lawyer you consider to provide you detailed information about how your case will be handled by his or her law firm if you sign up.  And ask for the lawyer's experience in handling complex trials and insurance disputes.  And most importantly, ask the lawyer about his results.  Chris will be happy to answer all of these questions for you, and give you examples of some of his results for clients.

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Chris Roberts is a Safety Harbor lawyer who handles car accident cases throughout Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough counties, as well as other surrounding areas.  Chris also handles complex product liability actions for clients around the country.  He has represented clients in Arizona, New Mexico, California, Texas, Arkansas, and many other states in addition to Florida.   For a free no-obligation consultation about your potential case, email Chris at this link:  freeconsult@chrisrobertsfirm.com.  Or call Chris and schedule an appointment.  727.286.3537.  

 

 

When a tire fails by "tread separation," what does that mean?

A tread separation failure of a tire involves the violent ripping of the tread and/or steel belt(s) from the carcass of a tire while the vehicle is in motion.  These types of failures are also known as "tread belt detachment" failures.  Some people also refer to them more generically as "blow outs," though this is a misnomer because a true blowout involves a sudden loss of air pressure in a tire due to puncture, as opposed to a tread separation failure which involves the loss of integrity of the internal tire structure during operation.   A tread separation failure of a tire is a fatigue failure that usually takes at least 2 to 4 years to develop. The failure mode involves the internal components a tire literally ripping apart violently, usually at highway speeds. Properly built and designed tires will virtually never fail in this manner. Consumers who believe their tires are safe because they still have legal tread depth, generally have no warning that a catastrophic tread separation failure may occur.

If a tread separation failure occurs at highway speed, if often causes loss of vehicle control. Hundreds or even thousands of deaths and serious injuries are caused each year by tread separation failures that did not need to happen.  These types of failures are almost always caused by hidden design and/or manufacturing defects in the tire.  

A lot of people are under the misapprehension that the government institutes rigorous tests which weed out defective tire designs. That is not correct. The Firestone Wilderness AT and ATX tires that were sold to the public and later recalled years later in the tens of millions, passed all government tests with flying colors. Government mandated tests have improved somewhat since the Firestone recalls, but the testing remains entirely self-regulated by the industry and the tests do little to predict or prevent tread separation propensity in tires. Removing any reasonable doubt that government regulations do not prevent the sale of tires containing defects that lead to unreasonable tread separation propensity, one can point to literally dozens of large-scale tire recalls associated with tread separation failures of tires that passed all applicable government testing and regulations. Unfortunately, most tire companies deny that their tires are defective even when they are failing by tread separation in large numbers. They blame the consumers, the weather, the road conditions, etc. It is notable that Firestone blamed consumers for the failures of its Wilderness AT and ATX tires for literally years before massive government and public pressure caused the world’s largest recall.

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Chris Roberts is a tire defect lawyer located in the Tampa Bay area.  He has represented consumer victims of tire defects in lawsuits against tire manufacturers literally all over the country.  

 

Are Automotive Tires Safety Tested by the Government?

The short answer is a resounding "No!"

Many people assume that before tires are sold by tire companies to the public, the tire designs are safety tested by the government.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Tires are not subjected to any government testing, inspection or approval before they are sold to the public. In fact, the tire industry is entirely self-regulated when it comes to design criteria and testing for safety.  The fox is guarding the hen house where tires are concerned.

There are government regulations applicable to the tire industry, but the only government regulations that even arguably address tire safety are a set of stationary wheel tests that were originally developed literally decades ago. The tests involve the tire company running a few sample tires for a matter of hours on a test wheel at varying speeds and loads, and also subjecting a few tires to some basic puncture resistance protocols. Aside from the fact that this type of testing is entirely inadequate to test for hidden tire defects like tread separation propensity (a dangerous type of tire failure that ordinarily occurs in tires only after a year or two of use by the consumer), the testing is not monitored or verified by anyone.  The tire companies must be trusted to run the tests and record the results.  What's worse, if a tire fails during tire company testing, the company can decide simply to test another one and another one until they can find a tire that passes. There is no law preventing this. The companies merely need to certify that they could subjectively pass a tire. There is literally zero oversight of this process by the government, and the public must simply trust the tire companies to: 1) run the tests properly; 2) accurately record the results; and 3) ensure that the tires are otherwise properly built so they don’t fail in ways that are not prevented by the testing, e.g., by tread separation failure.

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Chris Roberts is a Tampa Bay area attorney who has been representing victims of tire defects for more than a decade, all over the country.   If you have sustained serious injuries as the result of a tire failure that caused you to lose control of your vehicle and crash, Chris can help you determine if your tire failed due to a hidden defect  .  If a defect was involved, Chris can assist you in seeking compensation from those responsible.   To schedule a free consultation with Chris to discuss your potential case, email Chris at this link:  freeconsult@chrisrobertsfirm.com.  Or call Chris at 727.286.3537, and schedule an appointment.

Tips From a Safety Harbor Bicycle Accident Lawyer

If you or one of your children sustained a serious injury in a bicycle accident (by which I mean the non-motorized, pedal your way up a hill kind of bike), you may be wondering what you should do next and where you can go for help.  Most importantly, you may be wondering if there a potential source of compensation for your injuries or your child's injuries.

There are four primary situations in which you may be able to seek compensation for injuries sustained in a bicycle accident.

1) Automobile involvement:  the most obvious situation in which you may be able to seek compensation for injuries sustained in a bicycle accident is where you were hit by a car or truck.  Drivers owe a duty to yield to bicycles and keep an eye out for them.  This applies of course to children (drivers are required to anticipate that children may "dart out" into the roadway), but also to adults.   Some drivers become downright angry when they are delayed in their travel by a bicyclist in the roadway, but many drivers do not realize that the bicycle rider has just as much right to be on the road as do motor vehicle operators.  Just as a vehicle driver cannot recklessly pass a slow moving car, so must a driver yield to a slow moving bicycle.  Safe passing of course is allowed, but if a car forces you off the road you have rights (even if the driver leaves the scene and cannot be identified).   This is also true even if you were forced off the roadway and crashed simply because the driver did not see you.  You may be able to obtain compensation from your own automobile insurance policy in this situation.  

2) Defective bicycle:  I have been seeing a lot of complaints lately of bikes that suffer front fork or other sudden catastrophic breakage, causing serious injuries.  This is true of many of the "cheap" Chinese and other imports that are often made with little regard to safety, and it is also true of "high end" bicycles.  Some of the most expensive bikes around, including those costing thousands of dollars, have been failing because designers are elevating weight savings above safety.  Generally speaking, bicycles -- cheap or extremely expensive ones -- should be designed and manufactured to operate without frame or other catastrophic failures during anticipated usage.  If you sustained an injury because of a frame or other breakage on your bicycle, you may be able to obtain compensation from the manufacturer or distributor (seller) of the bicycle.  Note -- if you believe a bicycle defect may have caused your injury, keep the bicycle and store it in a safe place!  It is critical evidence in your potential case.

3) Defective helmets:  many bicycle helmets look like they will protect you, but they will not.  As with any other product, looks can be deceiving and many manufacturers are more concerned about selling their product than protecting your safety.  This is especially troublesome for safety equipment like bicycle helmets, but it is a fact of life.    If you were wearing a helmet but nonetheless sustained a serious injury to your head when you fell for whatever reason, you may be able to obtain compensation from the helmet manufacturer or seller.  Note -- if you believe that a defective bicycle helmet may have caused your injury, keep your helmet and store it in a safe place!  It is critical evidence in your potential case.

4) Defective roadway conditions:  the other common cause of bicycle accidents is poor roadway maintenance or signage.  This can take many forms from broken roadways, to overgrown trees at an intersection that makes you invisible to oncoming traffic, or other scenarios.  If you suspect that improper roadway maintenance or signage caused or contributed to an injury causing bicycle accident, you may be able to obtain compensation from the government or private entity responsible.

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Chris Roberts is a Safety Harbor lawyer with more than twenty years of legal experience.  He has extensive experience with personal injury and product defect claims, and other types of cases.  Chris can help you seek compensation from the responsible party or even your own insurance company if you were injured in a bicycle accident.  If you are considering hiring an attorney, and you want the personal attention and experience that Chris can provide you, give him a call and schedule a free consultation.  727.286.3537.  Or email Chris by clicking here:  freeconsult@chrisrobertsfirm.com.

Air Bag Manufacturer Takata Concealed Product Defects According to Former Workers

You may have heard about the recent recalls involving air bags manufactured by a company named Takata (a major air bag manufacturer for the auto industry).  The recall affects several makes and models of vehicles, and involves the potential that shards of metal may be ejected towards passengers upon an airbag deployment.   The recall is already far-reaching.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), these airbags are especially susceptible to injuring or killing vehicle occupants in hot, humid states such as Florida.  Heat and humidity apparently cause an acceleration in the process that leads to the potentially deadly condition.  The recall includes multiple vehicle manufacturers who equipped their vehicles with Takata airbags, ranging from BMW, to Ford, to Honda and Toyota and others.  To learn more, follow THIS LINK TO SAFERCAR.GOV.

In a new twist, former Takata workers have now come forward and stated that the company knew about this danger as far back as 2004, and then covered it up.   MORE AT THIS LINK.   The story is absolutely amazing.  According to the former workers, the air bag manufacturer conducted secret testing that revealed the defect in 2004, and then instructed workers to destroy the test results!  Takata then doubled down as time went on, allegedly assuring vehicle manufacturers for years that the air bags were safe, despite its own testing that showed otherwise.

The defect is potentially deadly, and the statements by whistleblower employees that the company knew about the defect for the better part of a decade and then covered it up, is nothing short of criminal if true.

Chris Roberts is a lawyer with 23 years of trial experience, based in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.  He has handled dozens of cases for consumer victims of motor vehicle related defects around the country.   To learn more about the Takata defective air bag recall, or if you believe that you have suffered an injury as a result of an airbag defect, contact Chris for more information.  You can call him at 727.286.3537, or send Chris an email about your potential case by clicking on this link:     freeconsult@chrisrobertsfirm.com.

 

Did JP Morgan Buy Its Way Out of Fraud Charges Associated with Mortgage Backed Securities?

If you believe the recent, well-researched article by financial journalist Matt Taibbi, the answer is a resounding YES!

On November 6, 2014, Matt Taibbi published an amazing piece of investigative journalism in Rolling Stone.  Click HERE for the full story.

It's a little on the long side, but worth the read to any consumer who wonders how it is that not a single banking executive or even mid-manager has faced any consequences for the massive mortgage fraud that resulted in a near melt-down of the American financial system in 2007/2008.  As Taibbi explains, a Whistleblower lawyer who worked for JP Morgan came forward after the crisis, and explained to federal prosecutors and regulators -- the guys who are supposed to be watching the public's back -- that the bank systematically purchased and then resold to pension funds and other investors, bundles of mortgages that the bank allegedly knew were non-performing.  Why is this a problem?  Because, according to the Whistleblower, Alayne Fleischmann, JP Morgan did not disclose these facts to the investors, and in fact actively concealed them.   At one point, the bank allegedly instituted a "no-internal-email policy," prohibiting employees from putting in writing any concerns about the products the bank was selling to large and small consumers.  So public and private pension funds all over the country were duped into purchasing what they thought were among the safest investments in the world -- packed groups of mortgage backed securities -- that the Whistleblower says were already known to JP Morgan to be largely non-performing assets that would likely default.  And according to the article, investors in fact lost billions as a result.  And remember, JP Morgan received billions from the U.S. Taxpayers when the financial system crashed in the late 2000's.  The financial crisis has been blamed in large part on a huge bubble in mortgage debt that went bad, due to intentionally loose lending practices that allowed banks to receive huge sums of money in originating and then reselling mortgages that they knew would never be paid back.

Where this really gets strange is that no one in government did much of anything about the Whistleblower's damning testimony.   As explained in the article, prosecutors initially took great interest in her information, and at one point the federal government was poised to pursue fraud charges against the bank and presumably various executives.   But a phone call from JP Morgan's CEO to the Justice Department changed all of that.   As explained by Taibbi:

"It began when Holder's office scheduled a press conference for the morning of September 24th, 2013, to announce sweeping civil-fraud charges against the bank, all laid out in a detailed complaint drafted by the U.S. attorney's Sacramento office. But that morning the presser was suddenly canceled, and no complaint was filed. According to later news reports, Dimon had personally called Associate Attorney General Tony West, the third-ranking official in the Justice Department, and asked to reopen negotiations to settle the case out of court."

The result of the phone call?  Instead of facing fraud charges, the bank paid a fine and admitted no wrongdoing.  But the fine was huge, right?  Not really.  JP Morgan wrote off a huge chunk of the fine as a tax deduction, and the share price rose shortly after the announcement because investors were so relieved that the bank got off easy.  The net result was that JP Morgan made money on the deal.   The CEO received one the largest executive bonuses in history after the resolution was reached.   You can reach your own conclusions about that.   Meanwhile, many individual investors and those whose retirement is tied to pension funds that lost billions, were left holding the bag.  Some lost everything.

Maybe money can't buy you happiness, but if you are a big Wall Street bank, it can do a lot more than that.  Money can apparently buy you a get out of jail free card.

If a tire fails and causes an accident, may I still have a valid claim for compensation against the tire company even if the tire was not recalled?

The short answer is YES.

The fact that a tire has not been recalled does not even begin to tell us whether it is defective and dangerous, or whether the tire company should be held responsible for ensuing injuries or loss of life.  The tire industry may try to tell you otherwise, but the large majority of tire failures that cause accidents occur with tires that have not been recalled.    And many of these failures are the results of design and/or manufacturing defects in the tire.  Believe it or not, tire companies do not always do the right thing and recall defective tires, even if they should. Many lawsuits have been filed by victims, and won, due to defects in tires that were not recalled.

A particularly dangerous type of tire failure is known as a tread-belt detachment.  This is more commonly referred to as a "tread separation" failure.  It involves the tread and often the top steel belt separating from the bottom belt and carcass of the tire while a vehicle is being driven on the highway.  This failure mode -- if it happens often enough to a particular tire design -- can cause a tire company to issue a recall.  But recalls are expensive.  Tire companies often insist that individual failures of this variety were the result of customer misuse or road hazards, and they refuse to recall tire brands that have a history of these failures.   It is important to note that many investigating police officers will still call a failure of this type a "blowout," but that is not really an accurate description of what has occurred.  In some instances, a tire may not even lose air pressure despite a tread separation failure, if the carcass remains intact.   It is not uncommon to see an overturned vehicle with a fully inflated tire that is missing its tread.  These failures are particularly dangerous due to the forces involved when the tire begins to disintegrate, and often cause loss of vehicle control even for experienced, careful drivers.

Chris Roberts has successfully handled literally dozens of tire defect cases for victims of tire-failure-related crashes.  The majority of those cases have involved tires that were never recalled, even if they should have been.  In 2010, Chris was lead counsel in a case against Goodyear involving an RV tire (a G159 brand) that failed and caused serious injury.  The case went to a jury verdict.  Goodyear insisted the tire was non-defective and failed due to external causes beyond its control.  The jury disagreed, found that the tire was indeed defective and caused the accident, and awarded Chris' clients $5.6M in compensatory damages.

If you have suffered serious injury or the loss of a loved one due to a tire failure, take action.  Know your rights.  Call Chris at 727.286.3537, or email him at -- freeconsult@chrisrobertsfirm.com --  and Chris will help you determine if you may have a right to compensation from the manufacturer or others involved in placing the tire on your vehicle.  

Chris Roberts Among the Highest Rated Lawyers on Avvo.com

What is Avvo.com?  Avvo is a free website that has accumulated information about attorneys all over the country.  In short, the website helps people find the right lawyer to assist them with their legal needs.   

Chris has never paid Avvo.com a penny to feature him, or to increase his rating.  Nonetheless, Avvo has rated Chris as a 9.9 out of 10 using its proprietary rating system.   You can learn more at this link:  Chris Roberts Avvo Ranking.

Unlike many other businesses, lawyers must comply with strict guidelines on things like asking current or former clients for ratings and reviews.  So it means a lot when a website like Avvo.com -- which ranks lawyers according to their own internal guidelines, with no input whatsoever from the lawyer himself -- ranks a lawyer among the top in his field.

Chris Roberts handles a wide variety of cases for individuals in the Safety Harbor/Clearwater area, and all over the country.  From personal injury cases, to product defect claims, to consumer class actions, Chris brings to the table more than 20 years of legal experience and a proven track record.  Chris has extensive trial experience as well, and will take your case all the way to trial if necessary.

If you are looking for a Clearwater or Safety Harbor lawyer to assist you, give Chris at call at 727.286.3537, or email him here:  freeconsult@chrisrobertsfirm.com.    Even if Chris does not handle the type of case with which you need help, Chris has many contacts in the area and he can help steer you in the right direction.  

Safety Harbor and Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyer

Are you looking for a personal injury attorney, and you want to stay "local?"   And more importantly, do you want to avoid the big billboard firms?  Chris Roberts has more than 20 years of experience in handling personal injury cases.  He focuses his practice on serious injury and wrongful death cases, including product defect cases.  

Chris Roberts handles each of his cases personally.  He will not assign you to a young associate to handle your case after you sign on the dotted line.  He handles a limited number of cases at any given time, and does not consider any of his clients to be "just another client."  

Chris has handled everything from relatively minor accident cases, to multi-million dollar product defect cases against household name companies.  He is well-versed in dealing with insurance companies, and he also handles less typical injury claims such as those involving bicycle accidents or bicycle defects.  Chris brings extensive experience, a long history of favorable results for clients, and personal attention to each case he handles.  Chris is also comfortable in the courtroom if a lawsuit is necessary.  Unlike many lawyers who "farm out" cases to other lawyers when the need arises to file a lawsuit, Chris will be there to handle your case from start to finish, whatever may be required.

If you are looking for an attorney to assist you in the Clearwater/Safety Harbor area, give Chris a call at 727.286.3537, and schedule a time to talk over the phone or meet in person.  Or email chris at -- freeconsult@chrisrobertsfirm.com -- to get the conversation started.  Tell Chris about your potential case and why you are seeking legal assistance, and Chris will respond promptly and answer any questions you may have.