Florida Construction Injury Lawyer: Can I Sue the Florida Department of Transportation for a Highway Car Accident?

Brandon Stein

By: Brandon Stein

If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident at or near a construction zone, contact our Florida construction lawyers today.

Being a North Miami construction lawyer that helps those injured in car accidents on highways, I frequently come across road blocks (no pun intended) in litigation when trying to sue the Florida Department of Transportation (“FDOT”).  Florida personal injury lawyers are always aggressive, but when it comes to attacking the Department of Transportation, the FDOT typically hides behind the shield of sovereign immunity.  Florida Statute 768.28 details sovereign immunity, and is almost always cited in arguments by the FDOT.

Not to delve into an entire legal thesis, but essentially the FDOT is immune from construction litigation arising out of an injury resulting from “faulty” roadway or highway design.  So, for any South Florida driver that is injured in a car accident and retains a lawyer to sue the FDOT because the highway was designed improperly or dangerously, be prepared for intense litigation.

As a South Florida construction injury lawyer, I have many cases against the Department of Transportation despite the presence of sovereign immunity.  In fact, today we are in mediation for a highway car accident on I-95 in Miami involving the FDOT, as well as several other contractors.  The car accident occurred back in 2008 and involved the newly installed “Express Lanes.”  Essentially, these express lanes are two toll lanes that are separated from the rest of traffic through the use of high performance highway tubular delineators.  These delineators are essentially large tube-like plastic poles that are often utilized by construction companies for the separation of traffic.

My client had been traveling on I-95 and became trapped in these “Express Lanes.”  Unbeknownst to her, when driving within these lanes, no exit is possible for over 10 miles. However, my client had to exit the highway prior to the end of the toll lanes, so she attempted to travel through the delineators in order to exit the highway.  Since these delineators were 20 feet apart, it gave drivers the appearance that travelling in between them was indeed possible — but it was not possible.  Unfortunately, my client crashed her car and had been involved in a near-death car accident.  Fire rescue and ambulances arrived to the scene instantly and thankfully her life was spared.

A major defendant in this construction car accident case is the Florida Department of Transportation.  As expected, a major defense of the FDOT is sovereign immunity.  So, how do you sue the Department of Transportation for this Florida highway construction car accident?  Most Florida lawyers should be familiar with the exception to sovereign immunity.  Simply stated, or as simply as one could state this complex area of law, when a dangerous condition exists that is known by the state (i.e. FDOT), the state owes a duty to the general public, such as my client, to warn of this known dangerous condition.

Ultimately, certain precautions must be taken by the state when undertaking construction projects on Florida’s highways.  Especially when a project involves a complete transformation of a highway, the Florida Department of Transportation has a duty to warn and inform the public of this drastic change to a roadway that hundreds of thousands travel on every single day.

Florida Construction Injury Lawyer: Fatal Truck Accident on I-75 Near Tampa

Brandon Stein

By: Brandon Stein

Car accidents happen in the glimpse of a moment, and this past Friday on Interstate 75 near Tampa, Florida, a construction site accident involving two trucks and two cars resulted in the entire interstate being closed.  As an Aventura lawyer that handles car accident and truck accident cases that happen at or near construction areas, I am always in tune with those accidents occurring in South Florida.  This Tampa truck accident at an I-75 construction zone is one of the most devastating car crashes I have ever seen.

Early Friday afternoon on northbound I-75 a large truck struck a concrete barrier wall within a construction site and immediately became engulfed in flames shortly thereafter. Sadly, the driver of that truck died immediately, but authorities have not reported any additional casualties.  Limited information regarding this truck accident and possible injuries has been released, but what is clear is that large semi-trucks must heed caution when traveling through construction areas.

Being a North Miami construction lawyer that helps those injured from construction site car accidents, I quickly came to recognize that the Florida legislature stresses safety when enacting the state highway traffic laws.  In fact, section 321.14 of the Florida statutes specifies that all highway traffic laws shall be liberally construed so that its “greatest force and effect may be given to its provisions for the promotion of public safety.”

Florida has several chapters of legislation dedicated to highway traffic control and driver and pedestrian safety.  It is imperative that lawyers in North Miami that do car accident and truck accident cases be aware of the legislation established for the protection of Florida drivers.  Title XXIII of the Florida Statutes is dedicated to motor vehicle regulation — including cars traveling in or around construction zones.

The devastating truck accident that occurred this past Friday on I-75 is a perfect example of why Florida takes motor vehicle safety so seriously.  Given the hundreds of miles of highway within the state of Florida, it behooves all drivers to abide by Title XXIII of the Florida Statutes, as well as any other provision pertaining to motor vehicle or construction site safety.

If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident or truck accident at or near a construction zone, please contact our South Florida lawyers today.


Florida Construction Injury Lawyer: Car Accidents in Construction Zones Can Be Prevented

Brandon Stein

By: Brandon Stein

As a North Miami lawyer that helps those injured at or near construction sites, highway car accidents often occur when safety precautions are not properly followed. Highway construction is perhaps the most dangerous type of roadway construction for workers to perform. Drivers rarely obey highway speed limits, couple that with highway construction without proper safety measures taken, and you have an accident ready to happen.  Being a lawyer in South Florida with all of the highways throughout this state, I have come to recognize that highway construction accidents are prevalent — leading to injured drivers.  And this is not only limited to Florida highway construction car accidents.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) and Federal Highway Administration publish statistical tables pertaining to car accidents occurring at or near construction sites.  Here in South Florida, highways are often times the roadway of choice, thus Florida drivers must be cognizant of the startling statistics revealed by the U.S. DOT.

In 2010, the most common cause of highway car accidents had been due to rear-end collisions.  As a North Miami lawyer that helps those injured from car accidents at or near construction zones, this statistic is not shocking to me.  In fact, nearly half of the car crashes studied by the Federal Highway Administration were rear-end collisions at or near active construction sites.

These percentages dropped drastically for sideswipe collisions, fixed-object collisions, and other types of car crashes.  In my humble opinion, after helping several victims injured due to car and truck accidents near construction sites, rear-end collisions are most frequently due to tailgating by the other driver.  Simply stated, tailgating lessens the reaction time that a driver has to traffic traveling at a slower pace around a construction area.

Unfortunately, on highways and roadways in Florida, local police and highway patrol do not strictly enforce drivers keeping their distance from the car in front.  If there is one message that Florida law and authorities must stress to drivers: Slow Down when traveling through construction zones and keep your distance from the vehicle traveling in front of you.

If you or someone you know was injured in a construction site accident or car accident please contact our Florida Lawyers today.

Florida Construction Injury Lawyer: Florida Keeps it Difficult to Sue the State

Brandon Stein

Being an Aventura lawyer that sues the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) for construction site injuries, I have been finding that the Florida Legislature is making it increasingly difficult for my clients to bring a lawsuit. However, the Florida Legislature does not make it impossible to sue the DOT.

Just this morning, I was before 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Miami-Dade County Judge Marc Schumacher on a Motion to Dismiss.  We had initially filed a Complaint on behalf of our client injured in a tragic car crash involving the express lanes on Interstate 95 northbound in Miami.  The accident had occurred on the very first day that the express lanes opened in July 2008, which many remember as being an extremely chaotic day on I-95.  Construction was not yet finished when these lanes were opened, and as a result, confusion spread among South Florida drivers. Many car accidents occurred, and naturally, several South Florida lawyers received calls from injured drivers.  One of those injured drivers was my client, which ultimately led to us filing a Complaint against the Florida Department of Transportation and several contractors hired by the FDOT to perform work on the 95 Express Lanes Project.

Immediately, without submitting any type of answer to our Complaint, the FDOT filed a Motion to Dismiss on the basis of Sovereign Immunity identified in Florida Statute Section 768.28.  Basically, if you are injured in a car accident or construction accident, your lawyer will most likely inform you that the law in Florida prevents lawsuits against the state because of sovereign immunity.  But does this mean that the state is immune from all negligent acts?

According to Florida law, the state is immune from acts committed that are defined as “planning level” or “decision-making” functions.  For example, if a person is injured in a car accident on a highway in North Miami and their lawyer wants to sue the state of Florida because the road was negligently designed, then the state will be immune — as this falls within the “planning” or “decision” function of the state.  However, the Florida Supreme Court does point out an exception to this immunity.

In the landmark case of “Department of Transportation v. Neilson,” the issue of sovereign immunity was directly addressed — which in fact was the very issue argued before Judge Schumacher this morning.  The Supreme Court in “Neilson” established an exception for when an injured person may sue the state.  So, if an accident occurs and the injured person contends that the state is responsible, then he or she must prove the following elements: (1) governmental entity created a known dangerous condition; (2) that known dangerous condition was not readily observable to the public; and (3) the state failed to provide adequate warning informing the public of this dangerous condition.

Essentially, if the state fails to adequately warn the public of a known dangerous condition that they created, then a person injured in a car accident, construction accident, or any accident for that matter, may bring a lawsuit against the state for negligence.  Because of this exception laid down in the “Neilson” case, I was successful in my hearing this morning, thus preventing this very significant I-95 Express Lanes case from being dismissed.

If you or someone you know was injured in an accident involving a governmental entity, then please contact us today.

By: Brandon Stein

Florida Construction Injury Lawyer: Why are Construction Workers Constantly at Risk?

Brandon Stein

As a North Miami car accident lawyer that sues for construction site accidents, a case that I have recently filed in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida is just another example of the dangers of working construction. For purposes of anonymity, I will refer to my client as John Smith.

Mr. Smith was a construction worker employed as an asphalt laborer to perform paving work for the construction of Biscayne Boulevard just north of the American Airlines Arena.   Note: I say “was” because due to the significant injury from the car accident, as his lawyer, I do not know at this point whether John will ever be able to work construction again.

Mr. Smith had reported to work at the construction site for an overnight shift.  Naturally, the risks of being involved in a car or truck accident rise significantly at night — that is precisely why the presence of construction flaggers are of utmost importance to preserve the safety of all people working at the site.  Given the huge responsibility of directing traffic, flaggers are often required to undergo additional training and have more experience than your average construction worker, such as John Smith.

However, Mr. Smith’s supervisor required him to direct traffic that night, which happened to be a Friday night in downtown Miami — needless to say one of the busiest nights of the week.  Mr. Smith, fearful of losing his job if he told his boss that he was not properly trained and could not to perform this task, simply did what he was told and proceeded to direct traffic without any training or experience.

This is a construction zone that has the presence of trucks and cars traveling through the area constantly — always with a risk of causing an accident involving a construction worker, including John Smith.  As expected, shortly after Mr. Smith began directing traffic, he was hit and nearly killed by a car traveling through the construction site.  Fire Rescue and police responded to the scene and John was taken by ambulance to the Hospital.  The injuries that construction worker, John Smith, suffered from this car accident ultimately required two surgeries and extensive rehabilitation — the only way to get compensated for his loss was to hire a lawyer and recover money damages for his pain and suffering.

A major issue in this case is whether my client, John Smith, received adequate training in order to be qualified to direct traffic.  In fact, Florida has its own training and certification requirements for construction companies to follow when it comes to flaggers.  The Florida Department of Transportation (“FDOT”) sets forth Standard Specifications for Road and Bridge Construction.  Contained within those standards is a section dedicated to flaggers.  According to section 105-8.4 of the FDOT’s Standard Specifications, construction companies are required to provide trained flaggers to direct traffic.  In other words, it is illegal to have untrained, unqualified construction workers, such as John Smith, direct traffic and work as a flagger.

When you have untrained construction workers directing traffic, car accidents or truck accidents are inevitable to occur at the construction site, which almost always cause serious traumatic injury.  Being a North Miami lawyer who sues for car accidents or truck accidents in construction areas, I find on many occasions that the contractor has failed to abide by the standards set forth by the Department of Transportation.  When these failures occur, the person who pays the price is the construction worker that is placed in harms way and vulnerable to car accidents, or worse, truck accidents.

The one golden piece of information that I would like all construction workers to take from this article is that no matter the cost, never place yourself in a situation where you are performing work without the proper training.  Unfortunately, my client, John Smith, succumbed to the pressure of his employer to perform dangerous flagger work, which led to his injury from a car accident while at work.

If you or someone you know was injured from a car accident or truck accident in a construction area, please contact us today.

By: Brandon Stein

Florida Construction Injury Lawyer: Worker Killed in Truck Accident

Brandon Stein

As a North Miami lawyer who sues for truck accidents, I find it shocking the number of car accidents that occur on South Florida’s highways and roadways — particularly in construction zones.  The tasks that construction workers perform on job sites are dangerous enough — now add large trucks passing through and you have serious safety risks.

Yesterday afternoon on a Texas highway, a construction worker was killed after being struck by a large truck.  The worker was performing highway construction for the Department of Transportation when he was hit.  Authorities state that the 20-year old man was in the middle of a cement paving job on the side of the road.  However, it remains unclear as to whether the construction worker was in the road at the time of the truck accident, or if the truck swerved off to the side of the road.  Yet, investigation is ongoing and no charges or lawsuits have been filed.

As I mentioned in my post from September 17, 2012, one of the most dangerous vehicles traveling on the road are trucks.  Simply put, lanes on a highway are typically 12 feet wide. This lane width does not pose a problem for normal cars.  However, the average width of an 18-wheeler truck is 8 1/2 feet — that means that the truck has only 3 1/2 feet to work with when traveling in a typical highway lane.  I do not mean to get all technical and numbers oriented, but in many of the truck accident cases that I have litigated in North Miami, the offending truck often sways just outside of its designated lane — causing a car accident, or worse, an accident involving a construction worker.

Needless to say, performing construction work on the side of a highway is extremely dangerous.  This work becomes especially dangerous when trucks are traveling through these construction zones.  For large trucks that have several blind spots, being given adequate notice of the presence of construction workers is of the utmost importance. That’s right, notice.

Many North Miami construction site cases involving a truck accident often come down to whether the truck driver had the proper notice of the presence of a construction project. Florida law requires that adequate notice is given to drivers well before approaching a construction area so that the driver, or truck driver for that matter, can have time to slow down, change lanes, or exit the highway if proper detours are in place.

Unfortunately, as a North Miami lawyer for many who are injured from truck accidents, I constantly find that one, or both, of the following factors contribute to car accidents: (1) the truck driver was speeding and driving carelessly through a construction zone; or (2) the truck driver was not given proper notice of a construction area ahead.

No matter the case, and sadly, even if all necessary precautions are followed, truck accidents continue to occur involving construction workers — as we have seen from the tragic accident detailed above.

If you or someone you know was injured in a truck accident, please contact us today.

By: Brandon Stein 

Florida Construction Injury Lawyer: Trucks Driving Through Construction Zones Pose Serious Safety Risk to Aventura Drivers

Brandon Stein

As an Aventura car accident lawyer that sues construction companies, I have noticed that the Florida Legislature has made it increasingly difficult to bring a lawsuit if a construction worker is injured in a construction zone by a car.  This piece of legislation is more fully explained in my previous post from August 18, 2012.  But what if the injured person is the driver of the car passing through the construction area?  I have litigated many car accident cases in Aventura that have occurred in construction zones where the liable vehicle turns out to be a truck.

Frequently, cars traveling through a construction site must deal with the presence of large trucks that certainly pose a hazard for all South Florida drivers.  In many cases, trucks traveling through a construction area fail to obey the local speed limit, or even worse, fail to recognize the presence of traffic control devices — including construction workers performing flagging duties.  One of the most, if not the most, dangerous types vehicles traveling on Florida roadways are large trucks.  Now, add a construction site that a truck must pass through — you have a car accident waiting to happen.

Each construction zone has its own traffic control plan, which is basically an engineering plan that informs the construction company how traffic will be ambulating through the site while work is being performed.  Simply stated, the traffic control plan is a safety precaution utilized by construction companies to allow for the continuous flow of traffic while work is being performed.  Nevertheless, no matter how specific these plans are, car accidents continue to occur within construction sites that involve trucks.

Unfortunately, the mentality of a truck driver is that he or she is “king of the road.” However, this does not mean that the truck driver is the only vehicle on the road.  Driving a truck with this mentality is dangerous as it is, but driving a truck with this mentality through a construction zone can lead to catastrophic personal injury requiring a car accident lawyer.

Car accidents involving large trucks within a construction site often lead to serious personal injury for the driver or passengers of the car.  As I explained thoroughly in a previous post from September 4, 2012, when you are injured in a car accident in Aventura, Florida and you hire a lawyer, you are usually at the mercy of auto insurance policies. However, if you happen to be injured from a truck traveling through a construction area, the injured person typically has a greater chance of receiving full compensation for his or her injuries.

Typically, trucks are traveling with commercial auto insurance policies that contain coverage for bodily injury sometimes exceeding $1 million.  As a lawyer who sues for car accidents in Aventura, I have yet to see a typical State Farm or Progressive automobile insurance policy that has bodily injury coverage approaching the seven figures. Additionally, if you are injured by a truck in a construction zone, you may also have a case against the construction company managing the site.  Simply stated, many car accidents occur at construction sites because of improper or poor management of the construction area.

So for you car drivers out there, as dangerous as it may be for a truck traveling through a construction site, the possibility of receiving full compensation for your personal injury is that much greater given the high bodily injury coverage for commercial truck drivers.

If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident involving a truck, please Contact Us today.

By: Brandon Stein 

Florida Construction Injury Lawyer: Remembering the Victims of 9/11

Brandon Stein

As a Florida personal injury lawyer, everyday I speak with current or prospective clients that have, one way or the other, fallen victim to tragedy.  Whether a person is involved in a car accident, slip and fall, or construction site accident — I can typically proceed with a certain course of action that will hopefully enable my injured client to recover damages.  While the system we have is not perfect, it is the best we have to offer for our injured clients. The tragedy that occurred on 9/11 is in a class of its own, and no legal action or damages can repair the pain and suffering that this country endured on that fateful day.

Many of you are well aware that I focus my posts primarily on construction site accidents and construction site injuries.  However, on this somber day, 9/11, I believe it is necessary to remember the 3,000 people who perished from the terrorist attack on our country that day.  Yet, I believe I speak for everyone when I say that we all suffered that day, and we are reminded every year on this date of the tremendous sacrifice that our troops, law enforcement officers, and firefighters make every day to keep us safe.

I, like many others, can recall exactly where I was, what I was doing, and what was going through my mind on the morning of 9/11.  It was an experience that I remember vividly and will be etched in my memory for all my life.

The morning was 9/11/01.  The time was just before 9AM.  I was a senior at East Brunswick High School in New Jersey and sitting in second period.  Class was just about over, so my teacher allowed us to put on the television for the final 10 minutes — like she had done so many times before.  However, when we turned on the TV, nearly every channel was covering a “plane crash at the World Trade Center.”  My initial thought was: “Wow.  How can a plane get so sidetracked that it crashes into a huge skyscraper?”

The live footage that my entire class was watching was focused on the first tower that was hit. The fire and flames were out of control, and the smoke was darker than I had ever seen.  While watching this live feed of the burning tower, I noticed another plane come into the frame and become hidden for a moment behind the tower.  A split second later — the second tower was hit and a large explosion engulfed the sky.  At this point, I knew that this was no accidental plane crash — those planes were undoubtedly hijacked and used as kamikaze jets circa World War II.  While watching this live, I do not recall a single word being uttered by any of my classmates, nor my teacher.  Moments later, the bell rang for us to go to our third period class.

Walking through the narrow crowded hallways of East Brunswick High School that day was a surreal experience.  Seeing my classmates and teachers literally running through the hallways frantic was a scene out of a movie.  That entire day I felt like I was under water and simply could not speak or be my normal self.  I did not know how to react.  That was truly a day that will be imprinted in my mind and history books forever.

Let me stress that this anniversary should not be the only day that the victims, their families, fallen police officers and firefighters are remembered.  Every single day they should be remembered.

By: Brandon Stein

Florida Construction Injury Lawyer: Electing Not to Carry Uninsured Motorist Coverage is Like Playing Russian Roulette on the Road

Brandon Stein

As a South Florida personal injury lawyer who sues construction companies, many of the cases that I litigate involve clients injured due to car accidents within a construction site.  In my post from August 28, 2012, I illustrated the importance of holding the construction company responsible for its potentially negligent maintenance of a construction site.  Yet, sometimes construction site car accidents occur and fault does not lie in the hands of the construction company.  So, the only means of recovery for your injury is through the other driver’s automobile insurance policy.  Or is it?

In Florida, every licensed driver is required by law to carry automobile insurance. Additionally, every driver’s insurance policy comes equipped with Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, for short.  PIP provides each driver injured in a car accident with up to $10,000 in medical expense coverage.  However, once that $10,000 has been exhausted by the medical providers, the injured driver falls mercy to the bodily injury coverage that the other driver has according to their auto policy.  What if the other driver elects not to carry bodily injury coverage?

Unfortunately, in the state of Florida, if you are in a car accident, whether it occur in a construction site or not, and the other driver does not have any bodily injury insurance coverage, then you may be out of luck.  Of course, you may be able to file a lawsuit and attempt to recover against the other driver personally — but good luck with that, unless the driver that hit you happens to be Lebron James.  Although, there is one other option that you can explore so that you can avoid the gamble of whether the other driver has bodily injury insurance coverage.  Uninsured motorist coverage.

Unlike PIP, every driver in Florida has the choice of electing to carry uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage.  Why pay the extra money for UM coverage?  Simple.  In Florida, with all the highways, the massive amount of traffic, and construction sites and work zones to travel through, you are constantly putting yourself in harms way while driving.  All it takes is that one rear-end collision because the other driver was texting or talking on their cell phone — leaving you with a debilitating neck or back injury requiring a significant amount of medical treatment.

Now, you would like to have the other driver pay for all of your medical treatment, but if that driver chooses not to carry bodily injury coverage, then that ship has come and gone.  So, this can all be prevented by electing to carry UM coverage. When purchasing automobile insurance, if there is one type of coverage that you do not want to skimp out on, it is UM coverage.  The higher your UM coverage is, the more likely that your car accident injury will be covered in full by your own insurance policy.

Ask yourself this — do I even have UM coverage?  If I do, then what are my coverage limits?  These are two very important questions that you should ask yourself because if you are injured in a car accident in a construction site, then even if the construction company did no wrong, you can still do right for yourself and seek medical treatment courtesy of your uninsured motorist insurance policy.

If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident or a construction site accident, please contact us today.

By: Brandon Stein 

Florida Construction Injury Lawyer: Woman Challenges Conviction for Murder of Two Construction Workers

Brandon Stein

As a Broward car accident lawyer, one aspect of the law that I rarely venture into is the criminal arena.  In most car accidents, the culpable party is often times cited with a traffic offense.  Additionally, on rare occasions, the driver that is at fault is sometimes arrested and faced with criminal charges.

Back in 2007, a driver was arrested and charged with two counts of reckless second-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery for killing two construction workers. Those two workers had been performing construction on U.S. Highway 59.  According to reports, a flagger had been on site to direct traffic through the zone, but the driver allegedly drove past the flagger and sped through the construction site.  As a result, two construction workers were put in harms way and, unfortunately, the car traveling 51 mph through the construction site struck and killed the 30 year old and 24 year old.

Yesterday, the lawyer for that driver convicted in 2008 and sentenced to 26 years in prison argued that the state wrongfully imprisoned the woman.  Her lawyer claims that during the trial the instructions given by the judge to the jury created a prejudice against the driver.  Arguments will continue tomorrow in Douglas County District Court.

There are few guarantees in life, but in Florida, I can guarantee that a construction site is present on some roadway or highway, and that you will have to drive through the zone in order to get to where you want to go.  As a result, the State of Florida and the Department of Transportation sets forth strict guidelines for operating a construction site when traffic is expected to pass through — as further illustrated in my post from August 28, 2012.

Thankfully, the State of Florida and the Department of Transportation takes construction site safety very seriously and enforces its rules and regulations in order to prevent injury to our construction workers and you, the public.  Yet, drivers often feel that the lower speed limits handcuff them and force them to drive at a snails pace through a construction zone.  The case mentioned above supports the fact that lowered speed limits and strict regulations for traveling through a construction zone are in place for a reason — to save lives.

If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident, please contact us today.

By: Brandon Stein