Property Damage and Hurricane Irma

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Property Damage and Hurricane Irma

While Tampa Bay was largely spared a direct hit by Hurricane Irma, a lot of property damage did occur.  One senior living complex called the Drew Ridge Apartments had its roof blown off, crashing down and damaging four cars.  A satellite dish and even cement blocks were found in the complex’s parking lot.  If you have property damage from a storm in Saint Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Largo, Clearwater or Tampa, read on.

Hurricane Irma

More than 3.3 million homes and businesses lost power throughout the State of Florida as Hurricane Irma kept extending her reach.  The hurricane’s center went about 25 miles northeast of Tampa-St. Petersburg, but by that time, the storm, thankfully, had weakened to a Category 1.

In Hillsborough County, there was a collective sigh of relief that damage wasn’t any worse than it was.  Millions of dollars in damage was done, including trees that were uprooted and fell on at least a dozen homes, but it was less than had been expected.  Wind gusts were strong and were the cause of electrical outages to more than 300,000 homes.

Insurance Coverage

As was witnessed in the Florida hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, some insurance policies cover storm and wind damage, but not flooding.  Homeowners trying to get coverage for floods had to buy another policy specific to that damage.  Typically, an insurance policy for flood damage does not also cover wind or storm damage; therefore, you have to purchase two homeowners’ insurance policies.  What has happened many times in the past, when you have two policies like this, is that the insurance company will “waffle,” with one saying the type of damage incurred was due to something other than what the policy covered your home for.  Your claim can get “batted back and forth” leaving homeowners feeling like they were in a tennis match. During this “game” insurance companies like to play, to keep from paying a claim, and all the while your expenses do not get reimbursed.  If you don’t have the money to pay upfront to fix the damage, your home will also remain damaged until the day when one insurance company or the other decides to pay, or you call a personal injury attorney.  At times, insurance carriers will then claim that you did not “mitigate” your damages while they adjust your claims. When this happens, call one of our attorneys to help.

Florida Law

The State of Florida has a requirement that “… insurers issuing residential property insurance policies to include hurricane windstorm coverage …” (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 627.0629[6]).  Hurricane coverage includes “… loss or damage caused by windstorm during a hurricane.  It includes ensuing damage to the interior of a building, or to property inside a building, caused by rain, snow, sleet, hail, sand, or dust if the direct force of the windstorm first damages the building, causing an opening through which rain, snow, sleet, hail, sand, or dust enters and causes damage (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 627.4025[2][a]).  The term “windstorm means wind, wind gusts, hail, rain, tornadoes, or cyclones caused by or resulting from a hurricane that results in direct physical loss or damage to property.  ‘Hurricane’ means a storm system that has been declared to be a hurricane by the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center.”

Many insurance carriers in Florida now have “wind” or “hurricane” deductibles.

Be very cautious about the wording in your insurance policy and do not always take your insurance carrier’s word for how it is to be interpreted!  Oftentimes, insurance carriers will try to settle with their homeowners by patching a spot of damage on floors, cabinets or roofing even though coverage allows the homeowner to replace the whole thing so it all matches.

If a lawsuit is needed to get your loss fully covered, we can often force the insurance carrier to pay for our attorneys’ fees.

If you have property damage questions in St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Largo, The Beaches, Clearwater, or you are having problems getting an insurance company to pay your claim for property damage, please contact one of our attorneys to see if they can help you make your claim.


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What is a Low Impact Auto Accident?

Medical remedy for torn ligament and fractured bone

Can a person be seriously harmed in a so-called low impact auto accident? (i.e., where there appears to be minor, little, or no damage as a result of a collision). Many insurance companies want you to believe that a person won’t / can’t suffer serious injuries if their vehicle doesn’t show the prerequisite amount of damage they deem necessary. How hard does a person have to be hit before they are hurt? What does low impact auto accident mean?

Research into Low Impact Auto Accidents

The fact is that research has proven that there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever that minimum auto damage also means minimal injuries suffered. Yet, everyday insurance companies will argue that low impact auto accidents equaling minimal, or no, injuries suffered by those parties involved. Engineers have shown that when a car’s body and frame do not bend, all the force is translated into the occupant, creating the whiplash effect on the occupant instead of cushioning the blow.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissues are the tissues that are not bone. They include cartilage, ligament, tendon, disks, etc. They are typically what is repaired in most neck, back, shoulder and knee surgeries. Soft tissue injuries are common in low impact auto accidents. If you have been involved in what someone has termed a “low impact” accident, but yet you don’t feel right – you have new pain, you’re noticing health symptoms that weren’t there before the accident, make sure you get checked out right away.

You may not have broken any bones, but soft tissue injuries can necessitate a lifetime of treatment for conditions that either won’t go away, or will never be the same again, as far as your health is concerned. Begin documenting any injuries right away, and seek treatment for them from a physician. You don’t know what the future may hold for you – chronic pain from soft tissue injuries could make it impossible to keep your current employment.

Pictures of the Damaged Vehicle

Attorneys for insurance companies will use photos of a vehicle sustaining minor damage to “show” to a jury that you couldn’t possibly have been injured when there was hardly any damage to the vehicle. Sadly, it can often be the “perception” (shown by a photo) that may make a lasting impression with a jury. In fact, many insurance company attorneys will call on so-called experts to denounce the fact that a low impact accident can also take a toll on those involved. It takes a skilled personal injury attorney to know how to talk to the jury, and get them to put the photo in the background, while examining actual, physical, and mental sustained injuries from the collision in the foreground.

Knowing What to Look For

An insurance company’s adjuster who wants to diagnose your case as minimal damage and no injuries will focus his/her attention on the minimal damage that can be seen in the outward appearances of your vehicle. They will want photos of the car before the accident and they will also ask about any possible pre-existing damage. They will also want:

• You to get an appraisal of any damage;
• A recorded statement (do NOT do this without your attorney present);
• Background information on you (do NOT give your Social Security Number to the adjuster);
• Their own “experts” to evaluate any damage to your vehicle; and
• A quick, low settlement.

Perhaps most of all, it will take patience on your part because insurance companies love to delay, delay, and delay some more. They are hoping you will stop treating, run out of patience and decide to “settle” on a lesser amount than you deserve just so you can be through with them. Don’t give in to them. If you have been involved in a low impact accident in St. Petersburg, talk to a personal injury attorney soon to get assistance in dealing with the insurance company.

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Cell Phones As Evidence in Personal Injury Cases

People have been taking photos and videos on their cell phones since the 1990s, mostly sharing for fun and making memories. Cell phones today play larger and larger roles in daily life. They can even help people capture crimes in pictures or videos in an instant. If you realize you are witnessing a potential crime in St. Petersburg, likely your cell phone will be a lot handier than a “regular” full-size camera. People are starting to grasp the significance of how they can help assist others in a moment of need by using cell phones as evidence.

Assault on Elderly Man

On October 25, in Winter Haven, Florida, a 90-year-old man was backing out from his parking space in a Publix lot about 4:50 in the afternoon. A black four-door vehicle was driving in the parking lot, in the wrong lane. The 90-year-old victim had looked in both directions to ensure it was safe for him to back out of his parking space, when, BAM! The black vehicle (which may have been a Kia) slammed into him. Both drivers got out of their cars and proceeded to yell and curse at each other. There was also a passenger in the black vehicle, who got out of the car and was yelling as well, when, all of a sudden, one of the occupants of the black vehicle hit the 90-year-old man so hard, it knocked him unconscious.

It was reported that several people were in the vicinity during this time, and one witness even tried to stop the occupants of the black vehicle from speeding off after the assault, but was unable to do so. Police are asking for the public’s help to identify the occupants of the black vehicle. It is thought that at least one person might have taken a video of the incident. This is where everyday citizens can step up and help solve cases like this, especially when there is unnecessary brutality involved. With that being said, it is also important to keep calm and quiet, trying to take pictures or video unobtrusively, as no one would want an innocent bystander to get hurt “because” they were trying to record an event. Use commonsense and, when possible, if you are witness to an incident, if you can take pictures or a video that could be useful later, don’t hesitate to use the smart technology at hand to help another.

Importantly, for intentional acts, such as assault and battery, the defendant may be open to punitive damages without caps and cannot simply avoid the judgment by declaring bankruptcy.

Photos and Videos

Photographs and videos have become two of the most effective pieces of evidence that can be presented in court. In fact, in car accidents and many other types of accidents, it is unusual NOT to have photos or videos presented as evidence. Of course, before cells phones as evidence can be entered, either photos or videos, they must pass the authentication test. Questions that will be asked include:

• Does the photo accurately represent the subject?
• Does the photo or video fairly represent the subject?

Issues remain that could cause the photo or video to be admissible, or inadmissible, in court. The question will also arise:

• How relevant is the picture and how does that weigh against an undue prejudice on a party?

Photos and videos submitted as evidence could also raise challenges due to the ease with which photos and videos can be altered. The angle and light in photos and videos could also be called into question to address the pertinence of the evidence. Many variables could come into play; however, it is still considered very helpful to have this kind of material available for use. If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident or incident where cell phone photos and/or videos may have been taken, speak with a personal injury attorney about potential acceptance of that material as crucial evidence in your case.

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What Happens When a School Bus and Car Collide

It’s that time of year again – time for all vehicles to be on the lookout for children going back to school in Saint Petersburg and everywhere else in Florida. It is extremely important for motorists to watch for children crossing roadways near schools and always watch for a school bus. An intersection with or without a crossing guard can still be extremely dangerous for children. Even when being driven in a school bus, parents have to be aware of the possibility of a collision with another vehicle while children are en-route to school.


An accident involving a vehicle and a school bus occurred on August 17 in Pine Hills, Orange County, FL at the intersection of Silver Star Road and Willow Bend Boulevard. It was not immediately known if there were students on this bus but two people were transported with injuries. In January 2017, three accidents involving school buses happened in one day, all three involving Pinellas County schools. One involved a collision with an SUV. Thankfully, no students were injured in any of these collisions. One incident involved the driver of a school bus failing to stop at a stop sign. In one of the other two accidents, a school bus driver was arrested on DUI charges. The third incident involved a bus running into a pole after it was struck by a car.


Sit up and take notice of Makayla Trowell, a 14-year-old girl who wrote a letter to 8 On Your Side because she was very concerned about the traffic speeds outside her school. The road in question for Trowell was in front of Crews Lake Middle School. Upon further inspection by Leslee Lacey, a WFLA traffic reporter, it was discovered that, besides speeders near the school, there was no traffic light and no “School Zone” sign along the busy road. There was only a “suggested” speed limit sign of 35 mph along the road in question, Shady Hills Road. There is also a “blind curve” that can be another cause of trouble for the area. Reporter Lacey clocked drivers at 64 mph during school hours with her Speed Busters radar gun.

Further investigation showed that at least 13 crashes had been recorded in that area within a one-year period. When Leslee Lacey addressed these concerns with Pasco County Traffic Operations Manager, David Skrelunas, he “told Leslee one of the reasons the school lacked a designated school zone was because it’s entrance was not directly on Shady Hills Road. However, Leslee found there is a designated school zone on nearby Hudson Avenue, yet the school entrance is not along Hudson Avenue.”

Thanks to Makayla Trowell’s letter and the follow-up of WFLA Traffic Reporter Leslee Lacey, the Pasco County Traffic Operations Department decided to create a designated school zone in that area. Now, there is a flashing “School Zone” sign that tells drivers not to go over 15 mph during school hours. Fines for abuse of that law have also been doubled. Makayla is very excited as she was greatly concerned about the safety and well-being of her school friends. Speed Busters radar gun wielder and traffic reporter Lacey have since been back to the scene and discovered that the sign has, indeed, made a difference and the speeds of vehicles passing through that area have been greatly reduced.


Makayla Trowell has realized through this encounter that she did, in fact, effect change and that one voice can make a difference. Trowell’s story should give us all hope and a new determination to try to implement change where it is most needed. Makayla has since been honored by her school, as well as Pasco County, for her resolve to make a difference.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a vehicle accident in St. Petersburg, contact a personal injury lawyer to determine your rights for recourse as a result of that accident.

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