Archive for December, 2009

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Trains and Cars Don’t Mix: Florida Auto Safety Tips

December 31, 2009

For whatever reason, South Florida auto safety rates decline around train tracks: Florida has a very high rate of train-versus-car accidents. The Sun Sentinel newspaper reported a story in November, 2009 in which a collision between a Tri-Rail communter train and a car resulted in the deaths of two of the three women in the car. The third passenger in the car was seriously injured. This accident is the sixth South Florida accident in 2009 that involved a car and either a Tril-Rail train or an Amtrak train. Most of the accidents involved a car that was stuck on the tracks at a railroad crossing.

There is more bad news: the Federal Railroad Administration reports that Florida ranks 9th on the list of states for collisions between a train and an automobile. The Sunshine State had 74 collisions out of the 2,391 auto-train accidents in 2008 and these collisions resulted in 25 deaths.

While it is difficult to know exactly why people have trouble at railroad crossings, impatience surely is a factor. People just do not want to be stuck waiting for a train to cross in front of them, so they try to jump the crossing gates to get through before the train does. Distraction plays another role: if people are on their cell phones or are texting while driving, they often miss visual or auditory clues from the environment around them. Many fail to see the changing of a traffic light or the pedestrian stepping off a curb in front of them, and often can fail to see railroad gates lowering in front of them.

Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit public education program formed in 1972, offers videos, publications, and tips to help drivers end collisions, deaths and injuries at places where roadways cross train tracks, and on railroad rights-of-way. They give seven steps for Florida auto safety around train tracks:

1. Approach crossing with care. Slow down when you see an Advanced Warning Sign.

2. Prepare to stop. Turn off fans and radio, roll down windows. Look and listen for a train.

3. Stop at least 15 feet from nearest rail, but not more than 50 feet, if you see a train.

4. If it won’t fit, don’t commit. Trains extend beyond the width of the rails at least 3 feet on each side. If your vehicle has a trailer, remember the additional length.

5. Double check, back left and right. Before you move look in both directions.

6. Cross tracks with care. If your vehicle has a manual transmission, use a gear that will not require shifting until you reach the opposite side.

7. Keep going once you start, even if lights start to flash or gates come down.

We will offer an additional Florida auto safety tip: if traffic is backed up from a traffic light on the other side of the tracks, don’t stop your car on the tracks while waiting for the light to change. If a train comes before the traffic in front of you can move out of the way, you will be the one stuck in its path!

If you have been involved in a Florida auto accident, contact South Florida accident lawyer Joseph M. Maus, P.A.at 1-866-556-5529, visit his website at http://www.mauslawfirms.com, or email him today.

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Florida Lawyer Answers Auto Accident Question

December 30, 2009

The following is an expert answer given by Florida Auto Accident Lawyer, Joseph M. Maus, and taken from AllExperts.com, a free Q & A service on the internet:

Question: I had two friends who were in an accident. Their car was stopped in traffic when a vehicle rear ended it at 50-60mph sending it into another car. The car was completely totaled. Emergency personnel on scene said there was enough damage from the impact that the airbags should have deployed, but they did not. Is there anything that can be done about that?  Also, the name on the title was in the female’s mother’s name, but it is her car that she drives on a daily basis. Her boyfriend was the one driving at the time of the accident.  Does it make a difference with who was driving vs.who is on the title as far as the insurance company for the at-fault driver is concerned? They would be paying for the medical bills and for the car that is now totaled.

Answer:
It depends on where your friend’s accident occurred.  I am a Florida auto accident lawyer specializing in car accidents, slip and falls, and work accidents.  Your email doesn’t indicate what state the accident happened in.  Laws vary from state to state, so make sure you speak with an accident attorney in your state.

If the car accident occurred in Florida, it does not matter if the owner of the car was not driving it at the time of the accident.  Florida recognizes the "Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine" which imposes liability on the owner of a car involved in an accident, just as if they had been driving the car themselves when the accident occurred.  The one requirement for liability under the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine is that the driver of the car at the time of the accident must have had permission to drive the car when the accident occurred.  If the driver had permission, then the owner is responsible for whatever damages were caused by the boyfriend driver.

In Florida, the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine has been held to even apply in accidents where a car is not involved.  It has been used in accidents involving boats, planes, motorcycles, tractors, and rental car companies, although rental car companies how have statutory protections as to how much, and under what circumstances, a person can recover.

Regarding the air bag, it is fairly common that air bags do not deploy even though they should have.  If your friends suffered injuries in the accident that could have been prevented by the air bags, they may have a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the car.  If they want to pursue such a claim, it is critical that they make sure the car is not destroyed, or altered until their accident injury lawyer can investigate the accident, and why the air bags did not deploy.

My advice for your friends is to speak with an experienced accident injury attorney as soon as possible.  It is important for them to preserve any evidence which is available, such as the vehicle, and an attorney will be able to help identify the evidence that is most critical.  Once the evidence has been destroyed, it can make it very difficult, if not impossible, to bring a claim.

 

For more information if you have been involved in an auto accident in Florida, contact Florida auto accident lawyer Joseph M. Maus, P.A.at 1-866-556-5529 or email him today.

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Florida Car Accident: Settlement Question

December 26, 2009

The following is an expert answer given by Florida Auto Accidents Lawyer, Joseph M. Maus, and taken from AllExperts.com, a free Q & A service on the internet:

Question:
One month ago, in my vacation time, somebody hit my car from rear. The car was called total loss and I got paid for that. There was a little pain in my back for a few days. I needed to go overseas so I did not seek medical examination and treatment. While overseas, I got a medical examination (x-ray and MRI), the results were all OK and I paid only a very small percent of the actual fees.

When I got back, the insurance company contacted me and offered $300 for settlement. In the pain and suffering perspective, I am OK with the offer. But, although I was out from my company with a paid leave, I have losttime from my holiday time due to time spent in and after accident (medical examination, buying a new car etc). The insurance company’s adjuster told me that, as I was on vacation, they are not going to compensate that.

It does not sound meaningful to me so I wanted to take advice from an expert.

Thank you.

Answer:
I am an attorney in Florida, so I can only speak about what type damages you can recover in a Florida car accident.  If you were injured in a Florida car accident, you can recover damages for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, and any other out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of the accident. Based upon an impact which totaled your car, an offer of $300 is very low, however their offer is going to be based upon whatever injuries you suffered and the amount of medical care you have received.

Your email states that you have lost holiday time due to time spent from the accident.  If you accrue that time, and can be paid whatever time you have accrued if you were to leave the company, then that is an out of pocket expense that you have incurred and the insurance company should have to reimburse you.  If the time you are referring to is just your vacation time, and you would have been taking that time regardless of the accident, then the insurance company is probably not responsible for paying you for that time.  It sounds like the insurance adjustor may be confusing the vacation time being used when the accident occurred, with time spent after you returned from vacation for medical visits and buying a new car.

As for pain and suffering from a Florida car accident, Florida Statute section 627.737 states that "a plaintiff may recover damages in tort for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, or use of such motor vehicle only in the event that the injury or disease consists in whole or in part of:

(a)  Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.

(b)  Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability,
other than scarring or disfigurement.

(c)  Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement."

The value of your claim depends on a combination of factors such as any lost wages you may have suffered or may suffer in the future, money paid for medical bills, bills that remain outstanding, or medical bills you may have in the future, and pain and suffering, past and future.  So, if you only received a small amount of medical care, I am guessing that there has not been a doctor that has stated you suffered a permanent injury as a result of the accident.  Without that type of medical opinion, you are not entitled to recover damages for pain and suffering.  This is most likely the main reason the adjustor is offering such a low amount.

Your state may have different laws, so it is important to check with an attorney specializing in auto accident claims in your area if you intend to pursue the claim further.  My suggestion would be that if you are still experiencing any problems from the injuries, and want to get more medical care, do not settle the case for $300.  Settling at this point would require you signing a General Release which would bar any claims down the road in the event your injures did not go away on their own.  But, if you are going to get more medical care, you should do so now; don’t wait.

If you are in Florida, I would be happy to discuss your claim further.  Most car accident personal injury lawyers will meet with you for a free consultation before you decide to hire a lawyer.  If you are out of Florida, you should definitely try to speak with an experienced car accident personal injury lawyer before you settle your claim.

Good Luck.

For more answers to questions about a Florida car accident, contact the Florida auto accident lawyers at Joseph M. Maus, P.A.at 1-866-556-5529 or email them today.

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Are You Owed An Overtime Wage Under Florida Law?

December 18, 2009

One of the primary laws dealing with overtime in the U. S. is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which was passed in 1937. The United States adopted the Act in order to set certain wage standards and guidelines for employers. The FLSA requires that employees who work overtime be paid for the additional time they have worked beyond the standard 40 hour work week. In addition to the FLSA, the state of Florida also has a separate set of regulations that employers must follow when it comes to paying overtime for their employees.

  • In Florida, overtime wage payments are structured to go along with the U.S. guidelines. Often, though, an employer may ask an employee to do something that seems innocent, such as requesting them to check company email or answer an office-related text message over their lunch break, or maybe staying a few minutes late so they can wrap up a meeting. They may require employees to set up or put away equipment before or after normal working hours or may not pay for time spent on legally mandated breaks. If this has happened to you and you are a non-exempt employee, you may be entitled to an overtime wage claim in Florida. All of this unpaid time can add up, too: if you only work an extra 20-30 minutes a day doing these "extras", that means you are working unpaid for at least two hours a week. Figured at $12.00 an hour over a two year period, your employer could owe you $2,500.00!
  • Most "salaried" employees are entitled to an overtime wage payment! In many cases, being paid a salary just means the employee gets paid the same amount of money each week. Your status as an exempt or non-exempt employee is what determines your eligibility for overtime pay.
  • Some employees work over a two-week pay period that adds up to an average of forty hours a week (an example would be when you work 35 hours in one week and 45 hours in the second week). It is not allowable for an employer to average your work hours between two weeks to determine overtime pay. In cases like this, you may be entitled to overtime pay for the second week if you are a non-exempt employee.
  • Employers can not give you comp time off instead of paying you overtime wages. This is a violation of the FLSA.
  • The FLSA and the Florida wage laws prohibit employers from punishing or firing an employee who has asserted his or her rights to overtime wages.
  • The FLSA allows employees two years to file an overtime lawsuit or three years if the employer’s violation was willful. Employees and former employees should file a claim with a Florida overtime wage attorney as soon as possible after a suspected violation so the attorney can put the strongest possible case together.

Even though the FLSA is supposed to provide regulations that provide that all employees are treated fairly, some employers routinely fail to pay their employees overtime pay, even if they do not intentionally try to get out of doing it. The overtime wage laws are confusing and complex – it is easy for employers to either misinterpret the FSLA or try to get around the law to avoid paying their employees a Florida overtime wage.

Florida overtime attorney Joseph M. Maus can help if you have a question or need information on Florida overtime wage claims. Contact him at 1-866-556-5529 or email him today for a free consultation. The Law Office of Joseph M. Maus and Associates has handled some of the largest Florida overtime wage claims. Attorneys in their offices were recently appointed in Federal Court as lead counsel in an Overtime Class Action against a large Fortune 500 Company.

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Grocery Cart Accident – Expert Advice from a Florida Personal Injury Accidents Lawyer

December 15, 2009

The following is an expert answer given by Florida Premises Liability Lawyer, Joseph M. Maus, and taken from AllExperts.com, a free Q & A service on the internet:

Question: I have been reading some of the other posts for slip and falls. I don’t see any information or letters that pertain to grocery carts (not that there aren’t any.) I was at a grocery store with my 17 month old daughter sitting in the front compartment of a grocery cart (she was buckled in) and my son sitting in basket. I felt the cart was wobbling however I knew I only wanted to pick up a few items so it would not take long. Well as my son was getting out, I held onto the cart, however, because the wheels were not secure, the cart tipped over with my daughter in the cart. She fell on her side and injured her hand, however no broken bones according to her Pediatrician. I filled out an accident report with the store manager and he did see the blood on her hand after the fall. A rep for the store called and left me a message today. My question is, am I entitled to any compensation for my daughters pain and suffering? After reading some of the other letters I don’t think the injuries are severe enough to seek an attorney or should I? Do you think it would be necessary to write a letter demanding or requesting a settlement? Thank you for your time! Your site has been very helpful.

Answer:
Your email does not indicate what state you live in.  I am a Florida personal injury accidents attorney specializing in auto accidents, slip and falls, and workers compensation claims.  Laws vary from state to state so the best advice I can give you is to consult with an accident lawyer in your area.

Regarding your daughter’s accident, the same standard for negligence should apply.  In Florida, a store owner owes two duties to its customers – maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition, and to warn its customers of dangerous conditions that the customers cannot appreciate themselves.  This would extend to a store’s grocery carts and making sure they are in good working order.  A cart that tips over on its own while your daughter is sitting in it is obviously not working properly.

Most stores do routine maintenance on their carts so that they operate properly for shoppers.  However, just judging by my own experience at grocery and "big box" stores, it is the exception that you get a grocery cart that works properly, rather than the norm. You almost always get a cart with a wobbly wheel.  In order to determine whether you have a claim to pursue against this store, you would have to be able to show that this particular store was not properly maintaining its carts.  In my opinion, based on what happened with the cart, if your daughter’s injury is serious enough, you should pursue the claim.

At least in the case of Florida personal injury accidents and in most other states, when making a negligence claim for injuries, you can recover damages for pain and suffering, both in the past and if she is going to have pain and suffering in the future due to the injury.  Additionally, you can recover damages for past and future medical bills.

You may want to ask the grocery store if they have an insurance policy which has medical payments coverage, also known as "medpay".  Medpay is insurance coverage that will reimburse you for any out of pocket medical expenses you incur for medical treatment for your daughter.  The store would also have liability coverage which is insurance which covers claims such as your daughters.

You do have the opportunity to try and settle your daughters claim without an accident lawyer.  It just depends on how serious the injury is.  For very minor injuries, I would probably suggest putting in writing a summary of how the accident occurred, the reason the store is responsible, and details of your daughter’s injury and medical care.  You should include a demand for settlement – a dollar figure – which you would be comfortable settling the claim for.  Keep in mind, whatever dollar figure you put down, the store or its insurance company will try to negotiate down from that amount, i.e. aim high.

If the injury is more serious, I would not hesitate to speak with an experienced accident injury attorney.  An attorney specializing in negligence claims will know how to proceed on the claim to maximize your daughters’ recovery, and to resolve the claim as quickly as possible.  One of the first things you or your accident lawyer would want to do is to advise the store to preserve the cart, without alteration, so it can be inspected to determine why it tipped over.

FOLLOW UP RESPONSE:

Hi Joseph, yes I am in Apopka, FL…sorry about that. Thank you so much for responding so quickly.

My intentions were to write a letter demanding compensation for pain and suffering not for the medical. My insurance covers my daughter’s medical 100%.

When I return the call to the rep for the grocery store should I tell her I will be writing a letter requesting compensation? Can you help me with writing the letter and where the letter should be sent? Should I copy anyone in upper mgmt such as the CEO, CFO, COO, etc? I am willing to pay (if it’s not too expensive).

By the way, with regards to the cart: the manager told the cart attendent to remove the cart after the incident happened.

Thank you again for all your help!!!

Answer:
You should probably explain to the grocery store representative that you are considering hiring an attorney as your daughter is having significant problems with her injuries.  You can inquire about the possibility of a settlement prior to you hiring an attorney.  The store will most likely request a settlement demand, preferably in writing, and summarizing your daughter’s injuries, to include an amount you are comfortable settling the claim for.  Keep in mind the grocery store will attempt to negotiate down from whatever you demand, so leave yourself room to negotiate.

If you’re not satisfied with the grocery store’s response, I would probably speak with a Florida personal injury accidents lawyer.  Most Florida injury attorneys handle these claims on a contingent basis, which means you would not have to pay them anything out of your pocket, but they would be entitled to a percentage of whatever is recovered, usually 1/3 if the claim is settled before filing a lawsuit.

With regard to the cart, you obviously want the cart removed from being used, but you don’t want it destroyed or repaired.  If you need to file a lawsuit down the road, you will need that cart to prove liability against the grocery store.

For more information about Florida personal injury accidents, contact Florida premises liability lawyer, Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529, visit his website at http://www.mauslawfirm.com, or email him today.

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Expert Advice About Hiring Florida Auto Accidents Lawyers

December 13, 2009

The following is an expert answer given by Florida Premises Liability Lawyer, Joseph M. Maus, and taken from AllExperts.com, a free Q & A service on the internet:

Question:
This is going to sound awful! I was rear ended in May of this year. When it gets down to settling, how does one determine that a lawyer has "actually" gotten what the case is worth?

By this I mean I kind of feel like it would just be easier for contingent lawyers to just take the first offer and move on – so how does a client determine if they should reject the settlement and have a lawyer go back and fight for more or if it is really a fair settlement? For a lay person it’s very hard to determine the amount of battle done by an attorney before accepting an offer.

Let’s pretend you are my attorney. You tell me the settlement offer and I refuse it. Can you then dismiss me as a client? Is there a way to determine, in Florida, what is "fair"? I hope this is not offensive but is there a site where you can plug in an impairment rating and see averages for Florida auto accidents lawyers or something like that?!

Answer:
This is a great question.  It is very difficult for me to know exactly what is going through the client’s mind when, as their Florida accident lawyer, I tell a client about a settlement offer on their accident
claim.  Sometimes, the client will tip you off that the offer "sounds great", or sometimes when the offer is low, you’ll hear the client’s disappointment.  But, your question raises issues that really need to be considered in communicating settlement offers to clients, and are probably taken for granted by the attorney many times.

The short answer to your question is – there is no uniform amount of money that will be paid to a person in a Florida injury or accident claim simply based upon an impairment rating, or even based upon a particular type of injury, i.e. torn ligament in knee requiring surgery; unoperated herniated disc in the neck or back.  The reason is that every case, every client, and the adjusters and insurance companies handling the claims are different. Even the county your claim is being made in, and the time of year you try settling your claim factor into the settlement value on any particular injury case. The primary factors in establishing a value for a Florida accident injury settlement are the nature and extent of any injury(s), the amount of medical bills (past and future), the amount of lost wages or loss of earning capacity (past and future), and the amount of pain and suffering related to the injury (past and future).

Your email asks how you can be certain that the accident lawyer has fought for you to obtain the maximum recovery, instead of just accepting the first offer that is made.  I can only speak from my experience – if I don’t maximize the recovery for each client, and make sure the client is satisfied with the work done on their file, I will never see the client again, nor have them refer another client to my office.  The vast majority of Florida injury accident cases that I work on are referred by former clients, or by attorneys that don’t specialize in accident injury cases.  If the client or referral source is not comfortable with what has been done on the file, and comfortable with the amount of money they receive from their case, my referral well dries up, and I go out of business.  Self preservation is strong motivation to do the best job you can!

Keep in mind that Florida auto accidents lawyers are paid on a contingent basis.  Their attorney fee is a percentage of what they recover for you. Putting aside an attorney’s ethical responsibility of representing the client to the best of their abilities, there is strong incentive to maximize any settlement offer to their client – the more they obtain for the client, the more they make for themselves as attorney’s fees.

One of the things you can do to become more comfortable with the amount of "battle" that has been done on your accident claim, is to ask the accident lawyer to show you the file, and any correspondence that has been sent to or received from the insurance company.  Most offers to settle a Florida injury claim by insurance companies are put in writing and sent to the Florida auto accident lawyers who are handling the case. You’ll see where your lawyer started, what the basis for the demand was, the strengths and weaknesses that have been discussed, and whether the offer you are being asked to consider is the first offer, or maybe the fifth (and last).

As for discharging your attorney, you can do that, and choose to go it alone, or transfer the file to another attorney.  But, the discharged attorney will usually be entitled to a lien against your settlement proceeds for work that has been done on your file.

You also asked about a website to punch in an impairment rating to find out a case value.  I do not know of a website like that.  The closest thing to that is the Florida Jury Verdict Reporter which documents trial verdicts throughout the State.  It details the county a case was tried in, the attorneys and doctors involved in the case, the nature and extent of any injuries, liability issues, the amount of the verdict, and additional details about the case.  I don’t know if the public has access to this Reporter, but most Florida auto accidents lawyers do.

Good luck with your claim.

For more information about your rights in a case, call the Florida auto accidents lawyers of Joseph M. Maus and Associates at 1-866-556-5529, visit their website at mauslawfirm.com or email them today.

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Child Hit By Car – Florida Car Accidents Question

December 12, 2009

The following is an expert answer given by Florida Premises Liability Lawyer, Joseph M. Maus, and taken from AllExperts.com, a free Q & A service on the internet:

Question: In June my daughter got off of the public bus and crossed the street as a pedestrian and was hit by a vehicle that went around the bus. My daughter went to the hospital for observation and suffered bruises, rib fracture and she did recover in a week. The lady who was driving the car’s insurance company has just gotten back in touch with me and said that my daughters bodily injury claim is being denied due to she ran out in front of the bus (which is not true, the bus driver told her to cross). I feel that they are being very unjustified in not compensating my daughter. Is it too late to hire an attorney? I never hired one originally because I was only trying to be fair and was happy that my daughter was not very badly hurt, however I do not feel that they should not offer her any compensaton for her injury and it was my auto insurance who paid her medical bills. Basically the driver who hit my daughter got off free and I do not feel this is justified. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. My daughter still has permanent marks on her left side. I feel the insurance company rendered this decision because we did not obtain an attorney.

Answer:
You are probably right.  Insurance companies know that most people that are not accident lawyers will not file a lawsuit, or know how to file a lawsuit, if their claim is denied.  The insurance company will either offer a very small settlement, or no settlement offer at all.

Your email does not say in what state the accident happened.  I am a Florida accident injury lawyer specializing in Florida car accidents, slip and falls, and work accidents.  Laws vary from state to state, so you should speak to an accident injury lawyer in your state to find out what laws may apply.

Your first concern should be the Statute of Limitations in your state.  A statute of limitations is a statutory time limit in which any claim arising out of a car accident has to be filed.  If the claim is not filed in that time period, your claim may be barred.  In the case of Florida car accidents, the Statute of Limitations for a car accident is four years from the date of accident.

If the Statute of Limitations has not run on your daughters claim, you can definitely still bring a claim against the driver, but you will most likely need an accident injury lawyer to do it.  The insurance company is disputing that their driver was at fault, and you will probably need to file a lawsuit, conduct discovery (depositions, interrogatories, document requests), through which the issue of who was at fault for the accident may become more clear.  You or your accident attorney will want to find out if there were any independent witnesses, maybe video surveillance from the bus or intersection, or any other evidence which may show the driver of the car was at fault.

One other issue to consider is whether the bus driver was at fault.  I handled a very similar accident in which a boy tried to cross a very busy 6 lane road after being dropped off by a school bus.  He was struck by a car and badly injured.  We filed suit not only against the driver of the car that hit him, but also against the School Board as the bus driver was not supposed to drop the child where he did on the date of the accident.  The actual bus stop was around the corner on a much quieter, and less traveled, street.  However, through discovery, we learned that the bus driver regularly dropped students at bus stops that were not the actual scheduled stops for that school bus.

Finally, in the case of Florida car accidents, when a school bus has stopped, it automatically extends red signs from both sides of the bus which alert traffic behind and alongside it, to stop.  If a driver goes around the bus while it is stopped dropping off children, the driver can be cited for a traffic infraction. Your email does not give all the facts surrounding the accident, but if the driver went around the bus while the signs were extended, the insurance company is going to have a difficult time denying liability for its driver.

If your daughter still has scarring from the accident, or is feeling any residual effects, you should definitely pursue the claim further.  I file lawsuits on claims all the time where the insurance company, or at fault party, takes the position that they are not responsible.

If your daughter’s accident occurred in Florida, please give me a call.  I would be interested in speaking to you further about the claim.

For more information about your rights if you are involved in any Florida car accidents, contact the Florida auto accident lawyers at Joseph M. Maus, P.A.at 1-866-556-5529 or email them today.

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