cruise injury attorney

Cruise Injuries Create Complicated Legal Issues

Taking a Caribbean cruise this year? Traveling to an all-inclusive resort for a well-deserved vacation? Be safe. Bringing a lawsuit against a cruise line or a resort for injuries or damages occurring on board or at a foreign location is not easy.

When you purchase a cruise line ticket or book your hotel, you are probably thinking about all the fun you will have and not what can go wrong. In the fine print of your tickets and reservations, however, cruise lines and resorts insert language that limits your opportunity to sue them. The language is a contract that you agree to when you purchase the ticket and courts generally enforce it.

First, cruise lines and resorts almost always reduce the time you have to bring a lawsuit to one year instead of the two years most states allow for filing of injury lawsuits. If a passenger or guest fails to act promptly, he or she may lose the ability to sue. Second, cruise lines and resorts usually insert a “forum selection clause.” This clause requires passengers to sue the cruise line or resort in the court of its own choosing, generally a location where the law is more favorable.

In Seung v. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Inc., the injured passenger, an elderly resident of California, filed suit against the cruise line in Florida. However, the cruise line’s forum selection clause required any legal action against the company occurring on a cruise that did not include a U.S. port to be brought in Paris, France. Unfortunately, the woman’s cruise took place in the Polynesian Islands. The Florida federal court dismissed the case. It ruled that the age and physical condition of the passenger was not a valid reason to strike the forum selection clause as unduly harsh. The court ruled the woman did not have to take the cruise and may have benefitted from a lower fare by virtue of less legal exposure to the company in French courts.

Third, cruise lines and resorts may insert a “choice of law” clause in the ticket or reservation language. While the “forum selection clause” controls where a lawsuit may be filed, the “choice of law clause” controls which country’s law may apply. The choice of law clause may have a huge impact on the amount of money an injured passenger can recover. For example, if a Liberian flagged cruise ship operating out of a U.S. port imposes Liberian law instead of U.S. admiralty law, a passenger’s damages may be limited to $70,000.00. And even U.S. admiralty law is not as favorable to a passenger’s recovery as traditional state tort law is.

In a cruise ship fiasco, passengers may recover for any physical injuries causally connected to accident. However, those who simply suffered from frayed nerves and exasperation will have a more difficult time. While they no doubt may suffer from emotional distress and disappointment of a dream vacation turned nightmare, admiralty law requires emotional distress to manifest itself in physical symptoms (e.g. vomiting, sleeplessness) before damages will be allowed.

If you have been injured on vacation, call Scott Fegley at the Fegley Law Firm, (215) 493-8287 or by email at scott@fegleylaw.com. Mr. Fegley has 30 years of accident litigation experience. We Give You Peace of Mind.

outdoor injury attorney

Who Is Liable for Outdoor Injuries?

Summer is upon us! Time for hiking, swimming, climbing and enjoying the great outdoors! However, these seasonal activities, like any other outdoor activities, are not without risk. Serious injury can occur from diving in shallow water, hiking off marked trails, and failing to exercise caution outdoors.

In Pennsylvania, we have a law called the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act. The RULWA provides landowners immunity from lawsuits if they allow the general public access to their land for recreational purposes without a fee. The law was intended to encourage landowners not to post their lands with “No Trespassing” signs and enable fishermen, hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts greater access to our open spaces. In general, landowners who allow access are given the same protection from liability as if they had posted “No Trespassing” signs. The landowner cannot be liable unless he actually knew of a hazard on his property and deliberately failed to take steps to correct it or warn about it.

Let’s look at some examples. A sledder walking across land to a snowy slope falls in a deep, uncovered well on the property. If the landowner (a) knew people walked on his land for recreational purposes, (b) knew about the well, and (c) failed to take steps to cover it or prevent someone from falling into it, the landowner may still be sued. The RULWA offers no protection in that circumstance. However, if the sledder, while sledding down the hill, loses control or strikes a tree and suffers a head injury, the landowner will not be liable.

Landowners may also rely on a doctrine called “assumption of the risk.” Those of us who enjoy outdoor activities are assumed to know the risks inherent in the activity and assume the risk of being injured while participating.   However, the doctrine generally affords protection to landowners only for known or expected risks such as collisions with natural objects.

Before engaging in outdoor activity, it is always important to be familiar with the area and to observe signs and marked trails. Enjoying the sport safely is far more important and worthwhile than trying to figure out who’s at fault after an injury occurs.

If you have any questions regarding possible exposure as a landowner or if you sustained an injury due to someone else’ fault, call Scott Fegley at the Fegley Law Firm, in Yardley, PA at (215) 493-8287 or email us as scott@fegleylaw.com.

security cam attorney

Can Accident Videos Be Used in Civil Cases?

Can Accident Videos Be Used in Civil Cases?

A video of a vehicle accident can be powerful evidence in a personal injury case. The number of cameras that surround us increases every day. On any given roadway, intersection or parking lot there may be multiple surveillance cameras. After an accident, locating available videotape evidence can mean the difference between a settlement and a much larger one.

Typically, lawyers litigating accident cases must rely on;

  • Statements by the drivers and witnesses,
  • Physical evidence such as damage to the vehicles and skid marks, and
  • An investigation by an accident reconstruction expert who then offers an opinion as to how the accident happened.

One video of an accident can overcome a witness’ inaccurate memory or another driver’s spin of the events. It can also save injured plaintiffs a substantial amount of money paid to experts to recreate the accident through the physical evidence and computer modeling.

Videotape evidence of an accident is fairly easy to have admitted at trial. In fact, it is much easier than having an expert’s computer created model or demonstration admitted and much more difficult for the defense to attack. The images in the video are often self-authenticating. The injured plaintiff can identify himself, his vehicle, the scene. . . even if he isn’t the one who took the video. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. And videos are worth considerably more.

Admission of video evidence is not guaranteed. If the video is of poor quality or an argument is made that the video was tampered with, additional steps may be necessary to use the video at trial.

  • The person responsible for the video surveillance system could be called to testify about the camera, where it was pointed, how images were recorded, how the images were stored, and the reliability of the images.
  • An expert may be employed to improve the quality or restore damaged video or extract information from a video such as object locations to create a computer model.

While an accident video is just one tool in the legal toolbox that an attorney can use to prove a plaintiff’s negligence case against another driver, it is a powerful one and often leads to a pretrial settlement. An attorney should be thinking of possible sources of videotape evidence from the very first client meeting.

If you or a family member has been injured in an accident, contact Scott Fegley at the Fegley Law Firm, (215) 493-8287 or by email at scott@fegleylaw.com. Mr. Fegley has 30 years of accident litigation experience. We Give You Peace of Mind.

Is Driving More Dangerous On New Year’s Eve?

Driving is more dangerous on any day on the calendar that increases the number of vehicles on America’s roadways as well as the number of drivers who still get behind the wheel while under the influence of intoxicating substances. Nevertheless, it may come as a surprise that New Year’s Day is statistically not the most hazardous driving day of the year. That dubious distinction belongs to July 4th.

In a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analyzing traffic fatalities from 1986 through 2002, the researchers found that New Year’s Eve was the fourth most hazardous driving day of the year with an average of 142 deaths. The top three were July 4th, (161), July 3rd (149), and December 23rd (145). The study analyzed only fatalities and not the entire number of reported accidents.

Even the fourth most hazardous day of the year for traffic fatalities deserves serious reflection and appropriate caution if venturing out on New Year’s Eve. The following are some common sense precautions to assure you return home safely:

  • Allow yourself plenty of time traveling to and from your destination.
  • Make sure your vehicle’s headlights and taillights are functioning properly so you can see and be seen.
  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Avoid distractions in your vehicle from cellphones and other devices.
  • IF YOU CONSUME ALCOHOL OR OTHER CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES, FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, DON’T GET BEHIND THE WHEEL. HEAVEN DOESN’T NEED YOU YET.

Although traffic-related deaths may increase around certain holidays, the number of fatalities across the entire 17-year period covered by the study still averaged 117 per day. As Allan Williams of the IIHS cautioned, “While more deaths do occur on some of the holidays, the toll of fatalities is relentless every day, all year long.”

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, contact Scott Fegley at the Fegley Law Firm, (215) 493-8287 or by email at scott@fegleylaw.com. We Give You Peace of Mind.

Love ’em And Leash ’em

Whether you own a poodle or a pit bull, you have a legal responsibility for your dog’s behavior. Two recent Pennsylvania court cases reaffirmed that failure to control a dog may have serious legal consequences.

In Franciscus v. Sevdik, 135 A.3d 1092 (Pa.Super. 2016), an employee of a pet sitting business was out walking a client’s dog when the dog, a pit bull, jumped up and bit a 5-year old girl on her chin. Interestingly, the trial court held only the dog owner responsible for the girl’s injury and dismissed the pet sitter. On appeal, the Superior court reversed. The evidence showed the owner had posted a “Beware Of Dog” sign on his property. Moreover, the owner specifically wrote in the service request form to the pet sitter to avoid routes with children when walking the dog. It seems the pet sitter rather than the owner should have been held responsible. The court ruled the pet sitter had knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities and should not have been dismissed from the case. The court held that a pet care business has the same legal responsibility for a dog bite as the owner when the dog is in its care.

The court declined to recognize pit bulls as a dangerous breed. The court held the breed of the dog is not the issue. The focus must be on the owner’s knowledge of behavior that indicates the dog may attack a human. Knowledge of growling or aggressive behavior, such as a fight with another dog, may give rise to liability even if the dog has not previously bitten anyone.

In Skotnicki v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Insurance, (156 C.D. 2015), the court upheld an insurance company’s cancellation of a homeowner’s insurance policy after it learned the homeowner’s dog had bitten someone. The dog, an English Springer Spaniel, bit the owner’s neighbor on his calf as the owner and the neighbor were talking. The owner described the attack as “out of the blue.” It is a simple fact that dogs who bite are more costly to own.

Dog bites are preventable in most situations. Dog owners should always keep a dog on a leash, even in an unfenced yard. Even smaller breeds may run away and encounter people. A dog owner should never allow a person who is a stranger to the dog to approach the dog and pet it without the owner’s introduction. An introduction involves the owner specifically talking to the dog to calm it and let it know the owner approves. If the owner knows the dog has a tendency to be protective or be anxious around strangers, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid contact at all. Dog owners must also exercise caution when a visitor enters the home. The same rules for outside interaction apply. An aggressive or protective dog should be confined before allowing anyone to enter.

A dog’s companionship can enrich our lives, but it brings with it responsibility just as children do. And just as with children, an adult’s carelessness can lead to injury. Take these simple precautions to prevent dog bites and protect yourself from expensive consequences.

 

 

Scott Fegley is the son of veterinarians who maintained a practice in Hatboro, Pennsylvania for over forty years. He has had dogs as companions his entire life. Scott Fegley also has veterinarians and pet care services among his clients, and has represented persons in dog bite injury cases.  If you have questions about a dog bite case, call The Fegley Law Firm at (215) 493-8287 or by email at scott@fegleylaw.com.