Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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Florida motorists can soon be stopped and ticketed for using their cell phones while driving. At least when it comes to text messaging.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a measure this month that will make texting while driving a primary offense, meaning a police officer can stop and ticket a distracted driver caught texting, web surfing or using social media while behind the wheel. Florida’s existing law was a secondary offense, meaning drivers had to be stopped for another traffic violation before a distracted-driving citation could be issued. Distracted-Driving-Pic-Horizontal-300x200

Our car accident lawyers in Fort Myers and Cape Coral continue to see far too many traffic collisions caused by distracted drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports more than 3,000 motorists are killed each year in collisions involving distraction; but by some estimates, one-third of all traffic collisions involve driver distraction, resulting in more than 10,000 road deaths each year.

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Florida is the most popular state in the nation for motorcycle riders.

It is also the most dangerous.ridersafety-300x261

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Our motorcycle injury attorneys in Fort Myers encourage motorists to take seriously safety messages like “Look Twice, Save a Life.” Do not assume motorcycle safety is a rider’s responsibility. Most riders do whatever they can to stay safe. The reality is that the vast majority of motorcycle accidents involving passenger vehicles are the fault of the vehicle’s driver.

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The National Safety Council has launched “DriveitHome,” a nationwide campaign urging parents to play an active role in their child’s driving education.

Here in Southwest Florida, our car accident lawyers in Fort Myers and Cape Coral know teenagers and young adults are involved in a disproportionately high number of serious and fatal motor vehicle collisions. Most parents believe they understand the risks and are doing enough to help educate their young drivers; however, traffic collisions remain the leading cause of death for children. Put another way, your child is more likely to die in a traffic collision than by any other means.ambulance-300x201

Drivers under the age of 19 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal traffic collision than drivers over the age of 65, the second-most-dangerous age group. The DriveitHome campaign reports more than 2 million young drivers take to the roads each year and are involved in nearly 1 million reported crashes. Nearly half of all crashes occur at night, despite far fewer drivers on the roads.

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The Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox have rolled into town for Spring Training and Spring Breakers are right behind them.

The next two months will be the most exhilarating of the year in Southwest Florida; and the most dangerous.tourbus-300x185

Over the next two months, nearly 1.5 million people will visit Lee County, about twice the county’s residential population, adding more than $1 billion to the local economy. Our injury lawyers in Fort Myers know traffic accidents are a primary threat, but far from the only risk facing visitors and residents through the height of tourist season.

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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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