Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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Labor Day weekend was marred by several drunk driving accidents in Southwest Florida.

The Florida Highway Patrol provided extra enforcement as part of the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, beginning August 15th and lasting through Labor Day weekend. It will be one of a series of enforcement blitzes as we head into the fall holiday season. While Labor Day is one of the deadliest in the nation, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years typically prove deadlier. The start of fall football season also results in a measurable uptick when it comes to drunk driving crashes. Whether high school football under the Friday night lights, or cheering for your favorite college or pro football team, fans are encouraged to be responsible party hosts, and to make a commitment to never drink and drive. beer-taps-1-300x225

“If you are under the influence of alcohol or any substance, be responsible and have a designated driver to get you to your destination safely,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding. “There is never an excuse for impaired driving.”

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As a general rule, bicycle helmets are a smart safety investment in safety all cyclists, regardless of age or skill – especially in Florida, which has the unfortunate, long-running reputation as the most dangerous in the U.S. for riding. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported of the thousands treated in hospital emergency rooms nationally for bicycling injuries, traumatic brain injuries account for 60 percent of deaths, 67 percent of hospital admissions and 33 percent of injuries. Only 17 percent of all cyclists killed in crashes were wearing helmets.

If you weren’t wearing a helmet at the time of your bicycle accident, it’s important to understand how that will – and won’t – affect your claims and/ or litigation.

What is Florida’s Bicycle Helmet Law?

bicycle accidentLegally, there is no universal bike helmet law in Florida. If you’re 16 or older, you don’t have to wear one. However, if you’re younger than that, the law says you must wear one that meets federal safety standards, fastened to your head security with a strap.

However, a defendant in a Fort Myers bicycle accident cannot use your decision to wear a bike helmet – or to ensure your child is wearing one – as a means to gain the upper hand in the case. The defense strategy, existing in some states that don’t expressly forbid it, involves asserting that a cyclist’s decision to forego the known protection of a helmet, is an act of contributory negligence resulting in exacerbated trauma that otherwise would not have been sustained, and therefore, defendant shouldn’t be responsible for the full extent of your injuries.

Florida law expressly prohibits this defense tactic. Continue reading

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Last legislative session, the Florida legislature failed to pass a bill that would have required mandatory bodily injury insurance for drivers in Florida.  The bill would have replaced laws enacted in 1971 as part of a no fault automobile insurance plan.  This change in law aims to replace the current no fault system under which Florida drivers are forced to purchase only Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, which is costly, and requires Floridians to purchase additional health insurance that is only in place when they are in a vehicle. According to a State-commissioned actuarial study, the proposed reforms would have saved drivers an average of $81 per car.  Thankfully, last week a second and similar bill cleared it’s only committee in the Florida House and is heading to the floor for a vote. As always, we continue to recommend that Florida drivers purchase Uninsured Motorist insurance coverage as there is currently no requirement that Florida drivers purchase bodily injury insurance to cover the damage they cause unfortunate event of an automobile accident.

Florida’s Current No Fault Automobile Insurance Laws

In 1971, Florida adopted a no fault automobile insurance plan. “No fault” and “PIP coverage” are used interchangeably to describe an automobile insurance plan that allows policyholders to recover money for certain financial losses from their own insurers.  The system was designed to provide injured drivers with up to $10,000 to cover medical bills and certain other costs, regardless of who was at fault for the accident that resulted in their injuries.  Currently, owners of automobiles in Florida are required to  purchase only $10,000 in PIP coverage and $10,000 in Property Damage Liability (PD coverage).

This current system is not working out very well.  PIP coverage with a $10,000 limit does not cover much, insofar as it covers only 80% of medical expenses and 60% of lost income, leaving claimants responsible for 20% of medical expenses and 40% of lost income; and that’s only up to $10,000.00.  Drivers with healthcare insurance are paying for PIP insurance that may overlap, thus double paying; this is especially costly for veterans, and the elderly who are already covered under federal health plans.  A bigger problem is that, according to information provided to a panel of the Florida Senate, Florida drivers are paying insurance premiums that are among the country’s five highest for some of the lowest required coverage amounts. The vast majority of states do not have Florida’s no fault system that continues to riddled with fraud and leaves many victims responsible for their medical bills caused by the negligence of another driver.

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Unlike 48 of the other 50 states, Florida does not require its drivers to carry insurance that will pay for bodily injury caused by a negligent or reckless driver.

Fort Myers Auto Accident AttorneyAccording to a recent study done by the Insurance Information Institute, Florida is second only to California in the number of uninsured motorists on the highways. Currently, Florida has 3.2 million drivers on the highways driving without any type of insurance which would pay for the injuries or death of the people they may hurt or even kill. Florida and New Hampshire are the only two states in the entire country that do not currently require even a minimum amount of bodily injury liability coverage. On top of the 3.2 million that are totally uninsured Florida has another major problem. Of those drivers in Florida counted as “insured” many have chosen to only buy PIP insurance that provides minimum payments to themselves and nothing to others that they may harm.

Under current Florida law, a vehicle owner can legally purchase an insurance policy that qualifies him or her as an “insured” that only provides Personal Injury Protection for themselves. Taken together, we have the 3.2 million who have absolutely no insurance and countless others who have simply bought PIP coverage with no liability insurance included. As a result, there is a strong likelihood that if a driver is involved in an accident in Florida the person who caused the accident is carrying no insurance to pay for the victim’s injuries.

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Florida_PIP_changesAfter years of effort (and plenty of money spread around Tallahassee by powerful lobbyists) the insurance industry has finally succeeded in limiting a motorist’s right to collect under Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage.

As advocating for the rights Floridians injured in auto accidents is a large portion of or our practice, we have been watching this issue very closely.

For years, the industry has been blaming Florida’s no-fault law for staged accidents and other health care fraud. Portions of the Florida no-fault law requires every motorist to carry $10,000 in PIP coverage. This coverage is meant to pay the first $10,000 in expenses after an accident, regardless of who is at fault. The at-fault driver’s liability insurance and a victim’s health insurance come into play after the PIP benefits have been exhausted.

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The State of Florida can now be liable for up to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per tort claim, effective Oct. 1, 2011. That’s up from the $100,000 and $200,000 caps that had been in existence for lawsuits against the state, its agencies or political subdivisions.

While the increase is welcome news to victims of governmental negligence, the new caps may still be woefully inadequate when it comes to compensating a victim for a personal injury, wrongful death, or other injuries caused by t. Suing the State of Florida is a complex process, which includes extensive pre-suit requirements and as such; Government liability claims in Florida require an experienced law firm. As these relatively modest caps indicate, identifying other entities that may be liable for damages can be critical when it comes to securing a victim adequate compensation in the wake of a serious injury or fatal accident. The sovereign immunity limits in Florida apply to schools, police departments, counties, and many other offices and agencies under state jurisdiction.1232540_statue_of_wisdom

Florida Statute 768.28 sets the still relatively low damage caps, which were previously unchanged for nearly three decades. Lawmakers contend the caps have deterred claims against the state as there is also 25 percent cap on attorney fees which provide for a maximum fee of $25,000 (or $50,000 under the new cap). While that may sound adequate to some, bringing a serious personal injury, auto accident, or wrongful death lawsuit to trial can cost a law firm hundreds of thousands of dollars. Whether in Fort Myers, Naples, or Fort Lauderdale, finding a firm with the resources to properly handle your case is an important consideration when choosing an attorney. Injured claimants must also consider that their lawyer will only get paid if they are successful in making a recovery on behalf of a client.

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The National Transportation Safety Board has recently recommended that commercial truck drivers be prohibited from using hand-held or hands-free cell phones while behind the wheel.

As Florida trucking accident attorneys we have been following this issue and have come to the conclusion that the NTSB recommendations should be either be made into law or imposed privately by individual carriers. Despite a move last year by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to ban bus and truck drivers from text messaging, several horrific accidents have been blamed on distracted commercial drivers. 62565_white_semi-truck

According to a report by CNN, the latest proposal comes in the wake of an accident in Kentucky where a 45-year-old trucker is accused of killing 10 people in a van while distracted by a cell phone. The truck in Kentucky crossed the median and slammed into the van, which was on its way to a wedding. An investigation revealed the driver had used his cell phone 69 times in the 24 hours before the accident and used it four times in the minutes before the crash.

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PIP (No-Fault) insurance in FloridaSound too good to be true? Well it probably is…We’ve all heard the catchy jingles on our favorite radio stations announcing that after a car accident, we may be entitled to $10,000 in lost wages and benefits. DJ’s and “attorney spokesmen” encourage us to call one of these hot-lines from the scene of the accident—but is what they’re selling us for real?

The long and short answer is: Yes and No (answered like a true lawyer…I know.), but we realize, you probably already knew that. Many people, especially in South Florida, come to personal injury attorneys after even a minimal car accident looking for the $10,000 check that they’ve been hearing about on the radio or billboards.

What all these advertisements are referring to is your PIP (or Personal Injury Protection) Insurance, also referred to as No Fault Insurance. This insurance, which has long been the center of fierce debate in Florida, is the only type of mandatory auto insurance that Floridians are required to purchase. You may have even heard about this insurance from news reports of fraud, staged accidents, and Florida lawmakers constantly trying to regulate it in one direction or another.

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During the 2010 Florida Legislative Session, no less than 17 bills were introduced relating to distracted-driving.

Perusing some of these bills, there’s a sad irony in their fates: All were pronounced dead – like many drivers who took their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road.

This despite the number of organizations supporting bans on texting while driving, from the American Medical Association, Florida Justice Association and chat-show queen Oprah Winfrey to, astonishingly, AT&T. And, of course, the Federal Government.

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According to a recent study performed by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, 73% of Americans talk on the telephone while driving. The Insurance Industry for Traffic Safety found that almost 6000 deaths were caused by distracted drivers in 2008. The numbers for teens are particularly striking. 21% of fatal car crashes involved cell phone usage and at least 50% of Florida teens admit to texting while driving.

Fort Myers Auto Accident LawyersIn Florida these numbers have particular significance because of our existing insurance laws and the number of uninsured drivers on our highways. Unlike many states, Florida does not require its drivers to have liability insurance conditioned to pay someone else harmed by a negligent or reckless driver. The only required insurance is PIP insurance which provides just $10,000 worth of no-fault medical or lost wage coverage. Very few hospital stays cost less than $10,000 so rarely is there any money for lost wages. Surprisingly, there is no requirement that Florida drivers carry insurance to pay the people they injure. Even more troubling is the fact that Florida, while having only minimal insurance requirements still has the 5th highest rate of uninsured drivers in the entire country. According to a recent study by the Insurance Research Council, a full 23% of Florida drivers had no insurance of any nature. Regrettably, those who do have liability insurance often have limits of only $10,000. All of which increases the likelihood that if you are seriously injured on the highway you may well have no one to look to reimburse you for your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. So, how can you protect yourself?

First and foremost, make sure to buy liability insurance that also includes uninsured motorist coverage. Unless you reject it in writing, your insurance company is required to sell you uninsured motorist coverage in limits equal to your liability coverage. For example, if you have $300,000 worth of liability coverage, unless you have rejected it you will also have $300,000 worth of uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage will insure you not only against people who hurt you who have no insurance but also drivers who have some insurance but who don’t have enough insurance to compensate you for your losses.

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