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Although we often think of distracted drivers as being teens exchanging light-hearted banter via text messages, the truth is one of the major causes of distracted driving is the constant demand top stay connected at work. Employers expect their workers to be available at a moment’s notice – whether by email, text message or phone call. This creates a powerful and constant incentive for employees to be checking messages and responding to calls. iphone

This is not only dangerous to employees, but also to the rest of us who share the road with them.

Although many company leaders are socially aware and mindful, they are also concerned about their bottom line. That’s why they push workers to maintain this level of availability. But it’s also why they may be receptive to a growing chorus of advocacy directed at the business community to reduce distracted driving. These types of crashes could make companies vulnerable to civil liability. Continue reading →

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A pickup truck collided head-on with a church van recently, killing a total of 13 people on a rural road in Texas. iphone

Now, after a witness asserted he had seen the truck moving erratically on the two-lane road just before the crash, the pickup truck operator admitted he was texting and driving. The witness had perceived the pickup truck driver’s maneuvers behind the wheel to be so dangerous, he called authorities and was following the truck at the time of the fatal collision. Just before the crash, he told dispatchers that they needed to send someone soon to get him off the road, “before he hits somebody.”

The witness watched in horror as the truck slammed into the bus. Soon thereafter, he spoke with the 20-year-old pickup truck driver, who was injured but survived.  The driver reportedly apologized repeatedly. The witness said, “Son, do you know what you just did?” to which the pickup truck driver again apologized and said he was, “Just texting.”  Continue reading →

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Two students from Florida State University will killed one recent weekend in a pileup on Florida’s Turnpike. highway rescue

As the Tallahassee Democrat reports, the chain reaction crash claimed the lives of a 20-year-old woman and an 18-year-old man and also resulted in more than a dozen injuries. The Florida Highway Patrol reports the two decedents are from Weston and both graduated from Cypress Bay High School.

Any time there is a chain reaction crash, there are often serious injuries, particularly when they happen on the highway, because of the high speeds and number of vehicles involved. Chain reaction crashes can be difficult in terms of financial recovery because it is not always clear who was at-fault. Making this determination typically requires extensive investigation, and it may be that several parties are to blame. This is why it is so essential for individuals in these cases to hire an attorney with experience.  Continue reading →

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Pedestrian deaths in Central Florida are rising at an alarming pace. The Orlando Sentinel recently reported there have been two dozen people killed in Orange, Osceola, Lake and Seminole counties just so far this year. crosswalk

That’s six more than compared to this same time last year, when there were 18 – a 33 percent increase.

This is seemingly a troubling continuation of a trend reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), wherein the number of pedestrians killed in traffic crashes rose 9.5 percent from 2014 to 2015, reaching 5,376 that year. This figure, the most recent for national statistics, is the highest its been in two decades.  Continue reading →

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Being a pedestrian in Florida is dangerous. The risk of being hit by a car while walking is increasing everywhere, but the Sunshine state has one of the highest rates of pedestrian injuries and fatalities in the country. This risk is exacerbated by the proliferation of hybrid and electric vehicles. crosswalk

Although these cars are great for the environment, they are not so great for people on foot. The reason has to do with the fact that they are so quiet, they “sneak up” on pedestrians, who might otherwise hear the vehicle approach and take appropriate protective measures. The risk is especially out-sized for people who are blind, visually impaired or elderly.

Engine noise in these vehicles is next-to-nothing, usually limited to sounds generated by wind resistance or tire noises – and even that occurs only at moderate speeds. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a new rule requiring that by September 2019, all newly-manufactured electric vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less make some audible noise when traveling either forward or in reverse at speeds of 19 mph or less.  Continue reading →

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In October 2015, a 30-year-old woman involved in a horrific motorcycle accident on I-95 in Miami lost half her leg. Her friend, another female motorcyclist who was riding alongside, was also seriously injured when the two were struck by a Toyota Corolla whose driver barreled through a gap in the orange pylons.motorcycle

Now, both women have filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Transportation and DBI Services (the contractor that maintains the lanes) as well as the allegedly negligent driver.

The plaintiff whose leg had to be amputated just above her knee also needed hip surgery. Both motorcycles were destroyed. An attorney representing both women alleges FDOT and DBI have a duty to maintain the roadways properly for the safety of all motorists. However, he alleges defendants breached this duty with regard to the express lanes, where this crash occurred, resulting in a situation that is both extremely and unnecessarily dangerous for drivers. In particular, the delineator poles, which are supposed to keep drivers in their respective lanes, are not properly maintained. This means motorists are weaving in and out of lanes of extremely fast-moving traffic. This, plaintiffs allege, was the direct and proximate cause of their injuries.  Continue reading →

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Florida’s distracted driving laws are weak, failing to protect motorists or deter violators, and are driving up auto insurance rates. brokenphone

That’s according to several reports released recently, including a three-part series by WTSP 10 News in Tampa. It’s well-established that Florida has one of the weakest anti-distracted driving laws in the country. It was one of the last states to pass a measure outlawing texting while driving, and it’s one of just nine states to make the offense secondary, meaning officers can’t stop a driver based solely on observing a violation of F.S. 316.305. Fines for violations are just $30 (littering carries a $100 fine), and they don’t result in any points on one’s driver’s license.

Approximately 3,500 Americans were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2015, and the number climbs each year. However, Florida leaders aren’t preparing to change that anytime soon, prompting WTSP reporters to delve into their reasoning why.  Continue reading →

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We all rely on bridges in everyday transportation in Florida, whether commuting for work or heading to church or just out for a fun family day. Bridges are not just historical and aesthetically valuable to our skylines – they are integral to modern transportation.bridge

However, there is growing concern that a number of these structures are not actually safe. Not all are built with parts or structural integrity that are entirely sound. Even those that are can degrade and erode over time with exposure to the elements. Some sustain more severe damage in natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

Recently, the Washington Post developed a user-friendly, searchable database using figures from the National Bridge Inventory, breaking down which areas have the highest percentages of structurally deficient bridges that pose the greatest risk to drivers.  Continue reading →

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When the negligent actions of an employee acting in the course and scope of that employment result in injury to a third party, that individual has a few different avenues he or she may pursue for recovery of damages. taxi

The first involves seeking accountability of an employer per the doctrine of respondeat superior, which is Latin for, “let the master answer.” Under this rule, it isn’t necessary to show the employer was personally negligent in any way, only that it employed someone who acted in a negligent manner while on-the-job, thus resulting in plaintiff’s injuries. The second way involves asserting direct liability of the employer. That means plaintiff is arguing employer was in some way directly negligent for what happened. Some possible claims that fall under this category would be: Negligent hiring, negligent supervision, negligent vehicle maintenance, etc.

Courts in different states have reached different conclusions about whether injured parties should be able to pursue both types of claims if an employer concedes vicarious liability. For example, the Tennessee Supreme Court rejected the so-called “preemption rule” last year. The court held comparative fault could still apply for direct negligent claims when an employer had already admitted vicarious liability for a plaintiff’s injuries.  Continue reading →

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Three years ago, Florida lawmakers altered the standards for admissibility of expert witness testimony in the courtroom. We went from being a “Frye” state (based on the 1923 precedent in Frye v. U.S.) to a “Daubert” state (based on the 1993 case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.). science

The latter is a more stringent standard of weighing scientific methodology. This change has had a profound impact on civil litigation in Florida, requiring that expert witness testimony (needed in so many cases, from medical malpractice claims to car accident injury lawsuits) be thoroughly vetted. The Frye test required that the methodology or theory from which a scientific deduction was made had to have gained acceptance in that particular field. Daubert, meanwhile, the judge is responsible for being the gatekeeper of the expert witness’s qualifications and also ensuring that the testimony is both relevant and reliable. With regard to methodology, this generally means the court has to consider whether the theory or technique has been or can be tested, whether it has been subject to peer review, what the known or potential rate of error is and whether the theory is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community.

In a recent product liability case considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, justices reversed a $3 million award in favor of the plaintiff after finding the trial court judge failed to perform the proper gatekeeping duties with regard to plaintiff’s expert witness. Further, without that testimony, plaintiff did not have enough evidence to prove his claim, and therefore justices issued an order remanding the case for entry of a judgment in defendant car manufacturer’s favor. Continue reading →

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