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.

Bucks County Jury Awards $362,015 To Gunshot Victim

On February 18, 2016, a Bucks County jury awarded Steven Vickers of Morrisville $362,015 due to injuries suffered after he was accidentally shot by his friend, Charles Byle, III, of Levittown. The verdict followed a three day trial in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas in Doylestown. Yardley attorney Scott Fegley represented the plaintiff Vickers.

“The verdict was fair,” Fegley said. “The jury acknowledged the severity of the injury even though Mr. Vickers made a remarkable recovery in a relatively short period of time and is not restricted by his injuries today.”

Vickers, 26, was at Byle’s home on November 8, 2013, to help him clean out his garage. At the end of the day, Vickers walked into Byle’s bedroom to tell him he was leaving. Byle, holding a .357 Magnum revolver, pointed it at Vickers and pulled the trigger believing the gun was unloaded, but the gun discharged. The bullet passed through Vickers’ right bicep and into his chest cavity where it lodged in the 5th thoracic vertebrae of his spine.

Byle applied a tourniquet to Vickers’ arm and drove him to Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol. Vickers was stabilized and airlifted to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia where he underwent several surgeries to stop the bleeding and re-inflate his right lung. The bullet fractured a rib and punctured Vickers’ right lung, ending up near the descending thoracic aorta. It was too close to this major artery to be safely removed.

After being hospitalized at Temple for seven days, Vickers was discharged but was admitted to St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, PA a few days later because fluid filled his chest cavity. Vickers remained in the hospital another nine days.

Vickers sued Byle in 2013 on claims of assault and battery, recklessness and negligence. Byle agreed he was liable for the injuries and the parties also agreed Byle would pay not less than $81,000 to no more than $420,000 regardless of the jury’s verdict. The jury decided the issues of causation and damages.

The jury awarded Vickers damages of $67,015 for past medical expenses; $200,000 for pain and suffering; $50,000 for loss of life’s pleasures, $5,000 for disfigurement, and $45,000 for future medical expenses resulting in the $362,015 verdict. Vickers’ estimates of his future medical expenses were hotly contested during the trial by the defense attorney, R. Anthony Michetti, of Doylestown.

Although Vickers has continuing pain in his right arm and back, he is not restricted in his activities and has been reluctant to seek further medical attention. “I think the jury recognized he should have some follow-up evaluation over the course of his life for his injuries,” Fegley said, “although the possibility of Steve developing more severe conditions later in life will always be there.”

“As a gun owner myself, I know how important it is to handle firearms safely. They are not toys and are never to be pointed at anyone except in the extreme situation of self-defense. But Steve was Byle’s friend, not an intruder. This was a near tragedy that could easily have been avoided.”

Scott Fegley is an attorney based in Yardley, Pennsylvania, who helps clients in personal injury, employment and business law matters. He’s licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. His website is www.fegleylaw.com.

Why the Only Thing You Should Worry About After an Automobile Accident is Your Health.

Serious motor vehicle accidents occur on a daily basis across the United States. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nationwide in 2012:

  • More than 2.5 million Americans sought treatment in hospital emergency rooms due to injuries caused in motor vehicle accidents, and
  • Nearly 200,000 of them were hospitalized.

The CDC estimates that vehicle accidents result in:

  • Americans spending over a million days in the hospital each year,
  • At a cost of $18 billion dollars (in 2012),
  • With a lifetime economic cost to crash victims of $33 billion.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that in 2013 nationwide 32,719 people died in vehicle accidents while:

Negligent operation is the single biggest factor leading to motor vehicle accidents. Today, with smart phones, texting, even onboard computer displays for everything from phone calls to music selection, there are more causes for distraction and driver inattentiveness than ever.  The economic costs to an injured person and his or her family can be staggering when job loss and loss of future earning capacity are compounded with medical expenses.  Then there is always the difficult-to-quantify component of pain and suffering.

Prompt legal representation is essential after an accident occurs for several reasons.  First and foremost, it is crucial to collect and preserve evidence to demonstrate the cause of the accident.  Accident scenes can change within hours due to weather conditions or other vehicular traffic.  While you or your family member may be hospitalized and healing, critical physical evidence may be lost.  An attorney can accomplish the following:

  • Photograph the accident scene and involved vehicles
  • Collect and preserve physical evidence
  • Obtain police investigation reports
  • Obtain witness statements
  • Contact insurance companies and deal with them for you

Even if the other driver’s liability is clear, only a qualified personal injury attorney will be able to sort through the complicated insurance coverage issues including possible Medicare or Workers Compensation liens, tort threshold selection, and the steps to take if the driver responsible for causing the accident does not have enough insurance, or has none at all.

While most states afford injured persons two years from the date of the accident in which to file a lawsuit, your attorney should be working from the outset to gather records and build your case for compensation.  This may include hiring experts to analyze the cause of the accident and quantify economic losses, contacting physicians and other healthcare providers to establish the severity of your injuries, and communicating with your employer to obtain wage loss data.  In short, there is much work for the attorney to accomplish before a lawsuit is filed.   If the other party’s responsibility for the accident is clear, it may be possible to settle the case without having to file a lawsuit.  However, each case is different and an attorney’s legal expertise is necessary to make the decisions to protect your rights and prepare your case to receive the greatest possible compensation.

Protect your rights by calling our office so we can help you now.  Contact us at (215) 493-8287 or by emailing Scott Fegley at scott@fegleylaw.com.

Bicyclists at Risk

Bicyclists Can Be At Risk On Bucks County Roads

Bicycling the roads of Bucks County is a popular way to see the local sites and stay fit at the same time. Though bicycling is excellent exercise and a great way to experience Bucks County, our narrow roads are often poorly maintained and at times heavy with traffic. It should come as no surprise that an afternoon ride can become a dangerous activity.

  • In August 2015, a Washington Crossing resident was arrested after an accident that left a bicyclist riding on scenic River Road seriously injured, reports the Intelligencer.
  • A bicyclist was injured in an accident in Yardley borough in May. The driver of the truck that hit him was arrested for drunk driving, according to Bucks Local News.
  • In 2014, an accident left a 73 year old bicyclist dead in Yardley. He was riding on North Delaware Avenue when he was hit by a car, reports the Courier Times.

Nationwide the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates,

  • Over 900 bicyclists were killed, and bicycle related injuries resulted in about 494,000 emergency department visits in 2013.
  • Fatal and non-fatal accident bicycling injuries occurring in 2010 resulted in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $10 billion.

The CDC states those aged 15 to 29 and 45 years and older have the highest bicycle fatality rates with males being far more likely to be killed or injured on bicycles than are females. Head injuries occur in 22% to 47% of injured bicyclists and are most often caused by collisions with motor vehicles, according to an article published in American Family Physician. These head injuries account for more than 60% of bicycle-related deaths and most bicycle-related long-term disabilities.

In Pennsylvania, bicyclists have as much a right to use the roads (but not highways) as cars or trucks. Under Pennsylvania law, drivers are required to keep a four foot distance between their vehicles and a bicyclist and are allowed go into an oncoming lane (if it’s safe) in order to provide that distance and pass in areas where passing is otherwise not allowed. However, the best advice for cyclists is to take as many safety precautions as possible. Where available, cyclists should ride bike paths and trails and avoid heavily traveled roads.  Cyclists should always wear helmets and make themselves visible to drivers with lights and/or bright clothing.

While bicycling offers many benefits to riders, an accident can not only put a premature end to what should have been a great day of riding but can result in serious injuries and lifelong disabilities. If you or a loved one are injured in a bicycle accident, contact our office as soon as possible for the legal help you’ll need to recover for your injuries.