The practice of law includes the drafting of documents for clients as well as the bringing
and defending of lawsuits on the client’s behalf. Our firm is able to review and draft
documents for its clients, to include but not be limited to, contracts, leases, employment
agreements, waivers, estate planning documents, and transactional documents such as
deeds, and promissory notes to name a few. We also handle litigation matters. To
determine whether your case is one we can accept, you must make an appointment for a
free consultation. The engagement of attorney only occurs after written agreement between
the parties. An overview of the courts and different types of cases is found below.
The practice of law covers many areas arranged on various dockets in state and federal courts. Most people are familiar with criminal dockets, where people are charged with felonies and misdemeanors by either the state or federal government. However, in addition to criminal
dockets, judges also hear cases brought by citizens against one other or entities, which are assigned to various courts, dockets, and divisions. In the federal system, there are tax courts, patent courts, bankruptcy courts and the general civil courts.
For civil matters in Florida’s state system, there are County and Circuit courts. Circuit courts are assigned matters that reach jurisdictional and monetary amounts, as well as cases that are assigned to them by statute, such as probate and trust matters or cases that involve title and
boundaries to land. On January 1, 2020, changes in Florida state law and the Florida Rules of
Procedure went into effect, changing jurisdictional amounts as follows:
County court jurisdictional thresholds increased to $30,000 (and will further increase to $50,000 on January 1, 2023). Presently, cases with an amount in controversy exceeding $30,001 are heard in Circuit court.
Small claims cases now include cases up to $8,000. Small claims are heard in County court.
Filers are required to include a civil cover sheet specifying the dollar amount in dispute in cases exceeding $8,000 in value. [This enables the various clerks of court to assign the cases to the proper docket.]
Thus, a Circuit Civil Division typically hears cases with damages in excess of $30,001 filed by an individual, business or government agency. The Circuit Civil Division has jurisdiction over a broad category of cases, including tort actions, contract disputes, products liability issues,
malpractice matters, infringements of intellectual property, injunctions, probate, guardianship, trust matters, family law, ejectment, matters involving titles and boundaries to land, and other matters meeting the statutory monetary amount.
A County Civil Division typically hears Landlord Tenant, Small Claims (amounts up to $8,000), and other civil matters like auto negligence, condominium and personal injury protection (amounts of $8,001 up to $30,000) cases.
For a more comprehensive discussion on the Florida Court System, visit https://www.flcourts.org/Know-Your-Court
TYPES OF CASES OUR FIRM HANDLES
Our firm handles cases, to include but not be limited to, Appeals, Probate and Trust Matters, cases involving titles and/or boundaries to land, Quiet Title actions, Automobile Accidents, Negligence, Premise Liability, Contract Disputes, and Medical Malpractice. To determine whether your issue is one that we would accept, please feel free to call us for a free consultation.
Automobile Accidents: When you are involved in an automobile accident, there is often a great deal of confusion. At the Law Offices of Jennifer Kerkhoff, we help clients cope with the consequences of the accident and, where the injuries are serious, we pursue claims on the client’s behalf where appropriate. We provide a variety of services to clients who have been injured in automobile accidents.
Evidence Gathering: We photograph of the accident vehicles, the scene of the accident, and interview witnesses and/or place ads to locate eyewitnesses in the evidence gathering stage. If the case warrants, we may employ expert witnesses who provide testimony regarding how the accident occurred, vehicle speeds, forces involved in the accident, visibility conditions, and opinions on mechanical issues.
Monitoring Medical Treatment: If you have been injured in an automobile accident, you must receive appropriate medical attention. While a the is proceeding, our firm obtains copies of applicable medical records and forwards documents to the insurance carrier while building your case.
Payment of Medical Bills and Lost Wages: Florida law requires owners or registrants of motor vehicles licensed in this state to carry "no-fault" insurance. Florida's no-fault insurance law provides medical, surgical, funeral and disability insurance benefits without regard to fault. Typically, Florida’s no-fault insurance will pay 80% of reasonable medical expenses related to injuries sustained in the accident and 60% of lost earnings subject to the limits of the no-fault coverage and any applicable deductible. If you have been involved in an automobile accident, the first policy examined is yours, and we can examine your insurance coverage and explain your benefits to you. If your Florida auto insurer wrongfully refuses to pay benefits on your behalf, we will bring suit to help recover any benefits to which the client is legally entitled.
Payment of Other Damages: Under Florida law, in order to recover damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of injuries sustained in an automobile accident, the injured party must establish a significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function, a permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or death. For clients who have sustained serious injuries in an accident, our firm works to determine whether the injuries satisfy the statutory criteria to allow recovery of such damages. Where the requirement is met, our firm will bring suit to help recover any damages to which the client is legally entitled.
Defective Products: A wide range of defective products kill and injure people every day. Unfortunately, many manufacturers use a cost/benefit heuristic that places profits over safety. Defective products cases are varied and include rollover crashworthiness cases, gas tank fires, seat belt failures, tire and wheel failures. Typical manufacturers sued include those of heavy equipment, motorcycles, lawnmowers, steel products, electrical cords, and the makers of safety and guard rail type products used to alter or divert the flow of traffic. Injuries from defective products are oftentimes horrific and debilitating to downright deadly. If you or a loved one has been injured from a defective product, call today for a free consultation to review the specifics of your case.
Medical Malpractice: A cause of action for medical malpractice applies to a variety of healthcare providers and is not limited to medical doctors. The term covers osteopaths, nurses, dentists, health care facilities and others providing healthcare services. In order for there to be an actionable malpractice case, a healthcare provider must have acted improperly toward a patient. The legal definition is that the healthcare provider breached the accepted medical practices for a specific specialty of medicine. It is often equated with carelessness or negligence. A injured patient MUST prove that the wrongdoing of the healthcare professional actually caused the injury and damage. The fact that a less than favorable result occurred, or even a poor result occurred, does not necessarily mean malpractice exists. Establishing wrongdoing on the part of a healthcare provider is often difficult. It requires the hiring of specialists with the same training as the one being charged with misconduct to testify as to what should have properly been done. Since medical organizations to which most healthcare providers belong discourage them from testifying against one another, it is difficult to secure experts who have the integrity and courage to come forward and testify as to misconduct by a peer. Another difficulty lies in the fact that insurance carriers providing coverage to a healthcare provider prohibit testimony against another provider having nsurance with the same company. Another difficulty in proving medical malpractice is the challenged report. The healthcare professional being charged is generally the one who wrote the report that forms the basis of the suit. Since they are often the only ones who are present and know what really occurred when the misconduct happened, and they choose how they want to describe the event, records seldom are descriptive of what truly happened. In addition, there have been more than a few occasions where records have been changed or added to after the fact to cover up" what actually may have occurred. Likewise, other healthcare providers may frame their reports so as to protect the one guilty of misconduct. There have been many cases of malpractice resulting in death where a burial or cremation without an autopsy prevented discovery f the wrongdoing. Thus, rarely do wrongdoers step forward, admit the mistake and offer compensation. Another hurdle is connecting the serious njury to the medical misconduct and proving that the healthcare provider actually caused the injury. Thus, while a healthcare provider can act improperly, unless it can be said that "but for" the wrongdoing of the provider the injury would not have occurred, or that the wrongdoing played a substantial part in causing the injury or that the misconduct deprived the patient of a substantial chance of survival, a case will not succeed.
For instance, the giving of wrong medication or unacceptable doses of medication may constitute malpractice, but unless it causes injury, there is no viable claim. A healthcare provider may fail to diagnose a serious medical condition, but unless the diagnosis would have changed the outcome, a lawsuit will not lie.
Nevertheless, a healthcare provider who clearly disregards well-established standards of medical practice or who performs procedures that are well beyond his or her level of skill and competence may be found guilty of malpractice. Where the damages for which the healthcare provider is responsible are serious, he or she can be held liable for those damages. Ferreting all of the applicable issues and statutes of limitations requires a
comprehensive review of your case to include all medical records, which a client should request from each healthcare provider before making an appointment with an attorney.
In Florida, there is a statutory obligation on the part of the injured patient and his or her attorney to conduct a good faith pre-suit investigation into the merits of a potential medical malpractice claim. At a minimum, pertinent records must be gathered and reviewed by a properly qualified
expert. Then, if there is a reasonable basis for pursuing the claim, the expert must sign an affidavit setting forth his opinions in some detail. This affidavit, accompanied by a Notice of Intent letter, must be sent to the potential medical malpractice defendants alerting them that at
the end of ninety (90) days, a lawsuit will be filed against them. During the ninety-day pre-suit period, "discovery" of information by both sides is permitted. Interestingly, an unsworn statement may be taken from the healthcare provider, but it may never be used for any purposes
whatever in a subsequent lawsuit. Thus, even if the physician makes a statement at trial that is 180 degrees different than expressed during
pre-suit screening, the change in his testimony cannot be used or referred to. If a case has not settled during the ninety-day pre-suit period, suit
Unsafe Premises: The owner of property owes a duty of reasonable care to prevent injury to a person whose presence is known to the landowner and the injury is caused by the active conduct of the landowner. This duty is changed when the injury was caused by a defect in or a dangerous condition of the premises itself. In these cases, the status of the person on the premises determines the duty of care owed by the possessor of the premises. When a person on the premises of another is injured as a result of a defect in the premises, the injured person falls into one of several categories. These include 1) Trespassers, 2) Licensees, and 3) Invitees. These designations are irrelevant if the injury is not caused by a condition of the premises but as a result of misconduct of the owner.
A "trespasser" is an individual who goes on property without the permission of the landowner or without some other right to be on the property. In this case, the entry is for the trespasser's own purpose or convenience and not for the benefit of the landowner. The landowner has a duty to
refrain from willfully and wantonly causing injury to an undiscovered trespasser. If the landowner discovers the trespasser, the landowner's duty to the trespasser increases. In addition to a duty to refrain from willfully and wantonly causing injury, the landowner has a duty to warn a "discovered trespasser" of known dangers that are not immediately obvious.
An "uninvited licensee" is a person who is privileged to enter the property of another for the purposes of convenience, pleasure or benefit. A licensee may enter the premises when the owner has given permission to do so and this distinguishes the licensee from the trespasser. The duty
owed by the licensee is essentially the same as that owed to a discovered trespasser. The landowner must warn the licensee of a defect or condition known to the landowner to be dangerous when the danger is not open to ordinary observation by the licensee.
An "invitee" or "invited licensee" involves a situation where the owner or occupier of the land has led the visitor to believe that the premises are intended to be used for the purpose for which the visitor has in fact entered the establishment, and that such a purpose was contemplated and
encouraged by the occupier in the design or arrangement of the premises. The duty of care owed to this class of persons is such that the possessor of the premises 1) must use ordinary care in a) keeping the premises in a reasonably safe condition and b) correcting dangerous conditions of which the owner knows or should reasonably know, and 2) must give timely notice of hidden or concealed perils that are known or should be known to the owner, but that are not known to the person on the premises. The owner or occupier of the premises must act as a reasonably prudent person would in maintaining the premises in a safe condition. The owner or occupier mustundertake reasonable steps to repair any dangers of which the owner has actual or constructive knowledge.
A child who is injured while trespassing may still bring a suit against the landowner if the injury is caused by an artificial condition on the land and all of the following conditions are met:1) The place where the condition exists is one on which the possessor knows or has reason to know that children are likely to trespass; 2) The condition is one which the possessor knows or has reason to know and which he or she realizes or should realize will involve an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily harm to children; 3) The children, because of their young age, do not discover the condition or realize the risk involved in intermeddling with it or coming into an area made dangerous by it; 4) The utility to the possessor of maintaining the condition and the burden of eliminating the danger are slight as compared with the risk to children involved; and 5) The possessor fails to exercise reasonable care to eliminate the danger or otherwise protect the children. Swimming pools are an example where this doctrine may come into play.
Slip and fall is an example where substantial injury occurs. Generally, these occur wherethe injured person has been invited or granted permission to be on the premises. The injured person must prove misconduct on the part of the property owner or occupier. The
owner or occupier of the premises must have used reasonable care to maintain thepremises in a safe condition and warn the invitee of any concealed dangers. The owner or occupier, however, is not an insurer of the customer's safety. The mere fact that injury
occurs on the premises of another does not mean that there is liability for the damages unless some wrongdoing has occurred. A customer still has a duty to exercise reasonable care in moving about the premises and must be alert to obvious and apparent dangers.
Swimming pool drownings. The owner of the premises must take measures to ensure that the facility is reasonably safe. The owner has an obligation to make adequate provision for life-saving and resuscitation. If such is not available, warnings must be issued. Among the factors to be considered is whether a particular piece of safety equipment or a lifeguard is available, the size of the complex, the age of the tenants, the characteristics of the pool and the extent to which the facility is used. In private pools, the owners are required to use reasonable care for children and protect against uninvited children who might have access. Proper precautions include factors such as fencing, gate alarms, etc.
The owner of a motels and other businesses must take reasonable care to provide for the safety of guests. The degree of care is related to the circumstances of the assault, the foreseeability of the event, and the history of crime in the area.
THE ABOVE SHOULD BE CONSIDERED INFORMATIONAL ONLY AND NOT THE GIVING OF ADVICE RELATIVE TO YOUR SPECIFIC CASE.