Articles Posted in Car Accident

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Car_crash_2Suppose you are injured in an automobile collision caused by a negligent driver. You then go to a duly-licensed physician for medical care. You certainly trust your physician and her dedication to the well-being of her patients.  Ultimately, your physician provides treatment and even surgery.  Down the road of litigation, the negligent driver’s attorney claims that the surgery you underwent was medically unnecessary or unreasonable.  Assuming this treatment was “unreasonable,” should you be on the hook to pay for it?  Is it your fault if your physician provided unnecessary treatment by mistake or for financial gain? Of course not!

The Florida Supreme Court (Stuart v. Hertz Corporation) established long ago that a negligent party who injures another is liable not only for the resulting injuries, but is also liable for any medical negligence stemming from services of a competent physician.  This principle has been reaffirmed many times and even extended by Florida Courts to hold negligent parties liable for improper and unnecessary medical treatment performed by an allegedly unscrupulous physician.

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On October 1, 2013, the first law banning texting while driving comes into effect in the State of Florida. This law is a half step in the right direction, but a half step nevertheless.

crphoto 3_resize.jpgThe Florida legislator has advocated for a ban on cell phone use while driving for several years. The best compromise Tallahassee was able to reach has essentially pulled the teeth of the new law. We described in detail the shortcomings of the new piece of legislation in our previous articles on the topic:

Florida’s ban on texting while driving – A toothless law in need of more bite!

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At dawn this morning in Miami, a Chevy pick-up truck traveling eastbound on Northeast 15th Street, in downtown Miami, was t-boned by a white Daimler SMART car traveling southbound on Biscayne Boulevard. One of the investigators told the media that it is believed the driver of the SMART car failed to stop at a stop sign or a red light, which was the cause for the two vehicle to collide at such a high rate of speed.

car2go-crash.jpegThe incident occurred at approximately 4:45am on Wednesday August 14, 2013. The passenger of the SMART car, a young woman in her twenties was fatally injured and died at the scene. The driver of the SMART car was critically injured and rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital. The condition of the driver of the pick-up truck remain unknown but reporters have shared that there are serious concerns he may have sustained a catastrophic spinal cord injury and may be paralyzed. (Photo on the left courtesy of Miami Herald)

The SMART car involved in this incident, whose driver was supposedly at fault, was a CAR2GO vehicle. According to the company’s website, CAR2GO is a mobility program launched in Austin, Texas back in November 2009. The company provides a fleet of free-floating vehicles distributed all over the city. Individuals who become members of CAR2GO have the ability to use any vehicle from the CAR2GO fleet at any time.

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On April 8, 2013, the Florida Judiciary Committee approved by unanimous vote a bill (SB 52) that would ban texting while driving statewide for the first time in Florida. The bill cleared The Senate Transportation Committee last February, cleared the Senate Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee in March and this week cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill can now be taken to Florida’s Senators for a final vote.

If the bill passes the Senate and the House, this will mark the first time that a ban on texting while driving becomes in effect (on October 1, 2013) after several years of futile attempts to ban texting behind the wheel.

While any ban on texting and driving is a step in the right direction, the proposed law is so meaningless in its reach that it will sadly create absolutely no incentive or deterring effects to dissuade drivers to stop texting while driving throughout the State.

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ira-leesfield.jpgTEXTING AND DRIVING Make the right call on texting and driving

By Ira H. Leesfield

After years of false stops and starts, a bill to curb texting while driving is finally building momentum in the Florida House. The current bill would impose a $30 fine for anyone texting while driving, and a $60 fine for doing so again within the same five-year period. Texting would still be allowed when stopped or at a red light.

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Texting and driving has been and continues to be one of the leading causes of fatal car accidents in the State of Florida. Easily explaining the reasons for the situation is the ever standstill of the Florida legislator on this issue. For several years Ira Leesfield and the personal injury lawyers at Leesfield Scolaro have argued in favor of, and pushed legislators to pass a ban on texting while driving. Last week, despite a House and Senate either ignoring the reality of distracted driving, or incapable of coming to a sensible piece of legislation, a Broward County Judge allowed punitive damages in a civil negligence lawsuit for the first time in the State of Florida.

cell-phone-car.jpgWe have reported multiple times in the Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg the calamitous reality in Florida. As explained in our recent post “Florida still refuses to ban texting while driving“, Florida remains one of only six states without any limitations on cell phone use while driving. Every other State has either a total ban or a partial ban on texting and driving.

Over the years, Ira Leesfield has been a spokesperson for greater safety and common sense in the law. His experience fighting for the rights of innocent victims injured by the negligence of others has flourished in the passage of many important laws during his career as a personal injury attorney in Miami, Key West, throughout the State of Florida and the rest of the nation.

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Last month, 25-year-old Alicia Westgate killed Richard Webb, an avid 68-year-old bicyclist. New York prosecutors charged Westgate with reckless operation, use of a portable device for texting and failure to use due care. The defendant will answer those charges in Newfane Town Court on August 14.

The state of New York is one of the 38 states that currently have a ban on texting while driving. Last month, we reported on a landmark case in the Massachusetts, where a young man was convicted for 2.5 years in jail for texting while driving and killing a husband and father. Westgate is facing a similar road in her upcoming criminal trial (unless she pleads guilty) if the evidence reveals that she was indeed texting at the time the incident took place.

Studies on the dangers of texting while driving continue to provide more evidence that drivers should not be using their hand-held devices to text. Recently, CNN Anderson Cooper reported on a new study below:

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The legal responsibility of a Florida driver involved in an accident causing injuries or death is extremely straightforward as provided by Florida Statute 316.027 – Crash involving death or personal injuries:

(1)(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting in injury of any person must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and must remain at the scene of the crash . . . . Any person who willfully violates this paragraph is guilty of a felony of the third degree. . . .

(b) The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting in the death of any person must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and must remain at the scene of the crash . . . . Any person who willfully violates this paragraph is guilty of a felony of the second degree . . . .

hit-run.gifIn Florida, a hit-and-run causing injury is a felony of the third degree which is punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, and a hit-and-run resulting in the death of the victim is a felony of the second degree punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 15 years (Florida Statute 775.082).

Gabriel Amaya, a 17-year-old boy, who was riding his bicycle at the crosswalk of Powerline Road and Prospect Road in Oakland Park, was killed last week by a car that slammed into the teenager’s front tire. Gabriel was thrown off his bike and laid motionless on the asphalt. The driver of the car sped off, then stopped and exited his car, before walking right back into his vehicle and fled the scene for good.

Despite the best efforts of the medical team at Broward Health Medical Center, the young boy was pronounced dead later that day.

Broward Sherrif’s Office, investigating the crime, has limited information about the driver or vehicle involved in this incident. They are currently looking for a vehicle with damage to the left, front headlight, grill and side mirror. BSO is encouraging witnesses to come forward and contact the detectives with any information at 954-321-4845.
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Florida law provides that every car insurance company must provide $10,000 in PIP benefits to its insured – Florida Statute 627.736(1). For the past few years, the Florida legislator has made multiple attempts to reform the use of Personal Injury Protection benefits, and prevent further abuse, n order to continue the crackdown on PIP claims fraud which are at an all-time high.

How do PIP benefits work?

When a person is involved in a car accident, and sustains an injury that requires any kind of medical treatment, that person’s car insurance will reimburse (at an established rate) the medical bills incurred to treat them. Through PIP, car insurance companies are required to pay for medical treatment (as well as lost wages if applicable), up to $10,000. Once the PIP benefits are exhausted, the insured becomes responsible to pay for their own medical bills, either through their own private health insurance or out of pocket if they are uninsured.

PIP Fraud claims skyrocketing in Florida

Division of Insurance Fraud.jpgLast April, the Office of Florida’s Chief Financial Officer released staggering numbers indicative of a systemic-induced fraud. In the fiscal year 2010/2011, the Division of Insurance Fraud investigated 13,452 cases of insurance fraud, which ultimately resulted in 997 arrests and 804 convictions. In only one year, Florida Courts have ordered restitution amounting to more than $156 million to defrauded insurance companies.

The Florida Division of Insurance Fraud regularly issues a newsletter “The PIP Source” which summarizes the latest scams and arrests in PIP fraud cases. The latest edition can be downloaded here.
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Aaron Deveau is currently on trial, facing criminal charges including motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, being an operator under 18 using a mobile phone, being an operator reading or sending an electronic message, driving over marked lanes, and two counts of negligent operation and injury from mobile phone use.

This Massachusetts criminal case could be the first landmark case in the controversial topic of texting while driving, after the 17 year-old-teenager, Deveau, collided head-on with a pickup truck on Feb. 20, 2011, and killing 55-year-old Donald Bowley.

Had this accident occurred in Florida, Aaron Deveau would be freely walking down the streets of the Sunshine State with the comforting knowledge that he will never face criminal charges. The victim’s family on the other hand would only have a civil remedy against the negligent teenager.

In 2010 the state of Massachusetts has passed a law banning the use of mobile phones while operating a motor vehicle. A contrario, Florida is one of only six states in the country which continuously refuses to ban the practice of texting and driving. In fact, this year marked the 7th year in a row that the Florida legislature could have voted on a total or partial ban of the use of handheld mobile phones while driving and adjourned without producing a single distracted driving law.

Map of USA - Texting and Driving Ban.jpg

Image above courtesy of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Ira H. Leesfield, as Senior Managing Partner of Leesfield Scolaro, has continuously been an advocate in favor of a total ban of the use of mobile phones when driving a motor vehicle. Recently, Ira Leesfield highlighted the main concerns and legal theories under which plaintiffs could attempt bringing civil cases against negligent drivers who caused injuries while using their cell phone: Driving + Cell Phones = Bad Call.

In an article published in the Miami Herald, Texting and driving a costly business risk, Ira Leesfield warned the corporate world of the dangers of having employees driving and using their cell phones. In 2007, an article published in the American Bar Association’s The Brief, Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, in which Ira Leesfield analyzes and discusses remedies and tactics for handling motor vehicle collision cases arising from cell phone use and distractions. This article can be downloaded here.
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