Does Cell Phone Use Cause Florida Car Accidents?

Where do you stand on this issue? It seems wherever you go, people are on their cell phone even while driving their cars. This has caused many to wonder whether cell phone use should be permitted while operating a motor vehicle. There are three sides to this issue:
1. A ban on cell phone use by drivers due to the fact that many Florida car accidents happen when a driver is distracted while talking on the phone.
2. No ban on cell phone use due to the opinion that it is possible to drive safely while speaking on a phone and no one should dictate that drivers should not be able to talk and drive.
3. A compromise – allow cell phone use only with a hands-free headset or ear piece.

Earlier this year bills were introduced by Florida Legislators which were aimed at reducing cell phone calls in moving cars, none were passed. One bill was aimed at banning all Florida drivers from sending a call, texting, dialing, listening or speaking on a wireless device without a hands-free device. Another would have banned teen drivers from driving and talking on hand-held devices.

We have found in our practice that there are more and more accidents that are caused by drivers who are on there cell phones and there are statistics that do seem to suggest that legislation is needed. The leading cause of fatalities for teenagers and drivers in their 20’s and 30’s reported by the CDC are car accidents. In addition, it is well known that car accidents also cause many serious injuries to drivers and passengers. The following studies have found a link between fatalities and injuries in vehicular accidents and cell phone use by the drivers:
1. In 2002, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis study, found that about 2,600 fatalities each year are caused by drivers who are distracted by cell phones at the time of an accident.
2. The California Highway Patrol also conducted their own research in 2001 and found that during a nine month period 4,699 car crashes were linked to drivers distracted by their cell phones.
3. Another study conducted by the University of Utah found that drivers using cell phones had the same response times as drunk drivers. The drivers using cell phones, the research revealed, were 9% slower to brake and 19% slower to return to normal driving speeds.

It’s almost impossible to believe that our Florida legislature decided five years ago to make it illegal for local jurisdictions to ban cell phones. The studies listed and data from our own Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reveal that in 2006, 26 car accident fatalities and 1,364 car accident injuries in Florida involved driver distractions. We all need to let our legislature know that the citizens of Florida want their streets and highways to be safer and legislation that limits the use of cell phones while operating a motor vehicle will help to accomplish that goal. This is not about convenience or taking away our rights, it is about saving lives that are needlessly cut short as a result of drivers who are unnecessarily distracted while operating a vehicle.

Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

On July 23, 2008, the head of a prominent cancer research institute issued a stunning warning to his faculty and staff:

Limit Cell Phone Use because of the possible risk of cancer.

The director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, is convinced that while the date is still equivocal and incomplete, there is enough evidence of a possible link between cell phone use and cancer.

Dr. Herberman has concluded that it often takes too long to get answers from science and rather than wait for a definitive study to come out, it is better to err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to children. Studies have proven that children’s developing brains are more susceptible to electromagnetic waves, which penetrate deeper into a child’s brain. Because of this, Dr. Herberman has recommended to parents that children should use cell phones only for emergencies.

He also recommends that adults should keep the phone away from their head and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset. We have been recommending to our clients that they purchase devices that limit the radiation emitted trough cell phones. These devices are often the size of a penny, fit over the cell phone ear piece and reduce radiation by as much as 97 percent. There are several companies that sell these devices and one that we recommend that you go to is (No one associated with our law firm has any relationship, financial or otherwise with anyone associated with these companies that sell these devices.)

This article will not discuss the number of studies that have found no link between cell phone use and cancer. While we acknowledge that these studies exist, some of them are not recent and they appear to run contrary to an international trend over the last several years where cancer researchers in several foreign nations have also found a link between cell phone use and cancer. In fact, many of these countries have already issued warnings similar to Dr. Herberman.

The point of this latest warning and this article is it is the first credible finding by a renowned American Cancer Institute and it merely concludes that while the data is inconclusive, it is better to err on the side of caution and use all safety remedies at your disposal. No one, in their right mind, who does not have an agenda, can argue with the logic in this warning. We are not, and I repeat, NOT attempting to procure litigation cases against the Cell Phone Industry and their various companies. We are merely using this opportunity to educate our friends and neighbors and advise them to exercise caution, especially when it comes to their beautiful children.

South Florida Hospitals Fined for Lack of Specialists in ER Care.

In 2006 Palms West Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center failed to appropriately treat a child who was bleeding into the brain after being hit by a softball. As a direct result, the State of Florida has fined both St. Mary’s and Palm West Hospital hospitals and they have agreed to pay a combined meager $17,500.00 to the state. Although the settlement is a minor expense to the parent companies of Palms West and St. Mary’s, it is the largest state penalties levied against any hospital in this area over the past two years. In addition, both hospitals have changed how their emergency rooms handle emergency patients due to this and other incidents in which the hospitals failed to provide specialists in local emergency rooms.

After a thorough investigation of the incident, state inspectors fined St. Mary’s for their failure to adequately document how it handles emergency transfers from other hospitals. St. Mary’s was also was fined for their failure to provide emergency neurology services. (This was the type of specialist that was needed to render the proper treatment to the child at issue in this investigation.)

Several other local hospitals have been cited over the past five years for similar problems. In addition to fines and citations levied by the state, these patients and their families may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and /or death. Recently, another case of note is that of a Boca Raton woman who died after two hospital’s emergency rooms, West Boca Medical Center and Delray Medical Center were unable to find a neurosurgeon to render treatment to her following her stroke. Her family filed a medical malpractice suit and has received almost $2 million in a settlement.

It is clear that pursuant to state and federal “patient dumping” laws, hospitals that offer a specific service to insured and self-pay patients, also must offer the service for emergency patients. The reasoning behind this law is that hospitals that benefit financially from offering these specialists to their elective patients cannot refuse to provide them to their emergency room patients, some of whom may lack insurance coverage. This law prevents patients from being “dumped” onto other hospitals due to lack of insurance.

Lack of insurance should not determine the quality of care one receives when they are in need of emergent care in the hospital. Patients with severe and life threatening inures do not have luxury of time to shop around for the hospital that will have the necessary specialists to treat them with the degree of competence they deserve. If a patient who electively chooses a hospital for the high quality of their doctors can seek a specialist’s services, then an Emergency room patient in that same hospital should have the same right to be treated by the same high quality specialist. The practice of transferring ER patients to other hospitals at the expense of that patient’s well-being is morally repugnant and can not be justified by payment issues. This is emergent care- in many cases these patients must be attended to quickly in order to save their lives. Every second counts…their life depends on it.

Florida Personal Injury Checklist

You are driving down the road in Broward County, wearing your seatbelt and obeying all traffic signals and laws. The last thing you thought would happen is a car running a red light and striking your vehicle at the intersection. You advise the Officer at the scene of your statement and the other driver is cited at fault for the accident. You are injured so you go to the ER. You are waiting to be seen and so many things are running through your mind…am I going to be OK…what about my car…how am I going to get to work…etc… These are questions our South Florida firm answers everyday when we speak with our prospective clients for the first time. In an effort to help our prospective clients we have compiled a checklist of sorts that can be used by anyone who is injured in an accident in the State of Florida.

1. Be truthful to everyone about any physical limitation you now have. In order for your doctors and attorney to help you with your case we need to know about all of your symptoms.

2. Don’t accept a check or sign a release from an insurance company for your property damage claim unless you are sure you know exactly what it covers. Sometimes insurance companies will attempt to get you to release “any and all claims” – including your personal injury claim when you are only settling your claim for property damage. Please check with your attorney if you’re not sure.

3. Do not hide past accidents or injuries from your lawyer. Insurance companies have access to accident information in a central database, so the other insurance company will more than likely find out about your prior medical history and accident.

4. We find that it is extremely helpful when clients keep a record of how they feel. A diary is an excellent way to organize this information. The diary should contain notes of their doctor and therapy appointments, medications, and inability to work and enjoy any of the activities that were enjoyed and participated in before the accident. In real life there are few “cant’s” after an accident. Most people recover the ability to perform most activities, unless they are bedridden. But generally, if they have limitations, it’s because they can’t do the activity as long, as hard, or as strongly as they used to. A diary which reflects these limitations is important to your injury case because they can really show the adjuster how you have been affected on a daily basis as a result of the accident.

5. Do not try and deal with pain. See a doctor or go to the ER immediately after your accident. Tell your doctor everything: about how the accident occurred, and advise him or her of any past accidents or medical conditions.

6. Video cameras can be hidden anywhere. You may not know you are being videotaped and it could be at anytime or in any place. We have seen this many times. You will lose all credibility if you claim you cannot perform a certain way and then are caught “on tape” doing those exact things or something similar. If you are honest and truthful about your injuries and limitations this invasion of your privacy will only bolster your case. Go on as usual if you see someone following you and let them record for all to see how your injuries have affected your ability to perform your normal everyday functions. This will be your best evidence.

These are just a few of the things we routinely go over with our clients so they can be educated on what they can do to help us to obtain the maximum recovery possible for their individual case. Insurance companies are for profit businesses and in order for us to obtain fair, speedy and just compensation to persons injured through the fault of another (the insurance company’s policyholder) we have to do everything we can do to present a case in the light most favorable to our clients and convince the Insurance Companies that our clients are entitled to be paid a fair, speedy and just settlement as a result of their insured’s negligence. If you want to read more about what not to do after you are in an accident you can read an article in our blog : “Florida Auto Accidents: The Mistakes People Make” dated June 26, 2008.

Florida Auto Safety: Move Over Law Saves Lives

On Monday, June 23, 2008, a statewide campaign was instituted by the Florida Highway Patrol to spread awareness of Florida’s Move Over Law. This law is designed to protect Police Officers, Emergency Workers and Pedestrians at the scene of accidents from being struck by vehicles on Florida roads. The Move Over Law states that a driver must vacate the lane next to where a law enforcement vehicle has stopped on the side of a road with its lights flashing. During the weeklong campaign officers will issue warnings to motorists through Wednesday and on Thursday will begin issuing tickets for violations.

Florida’s Move Over Law was meant to prevent tragedies such as these:

• A case in Miami recently when Rescue crews amputated a man’s leg on a Miami highway after he was crushed between two vehicles. The accident occurred while the man was checking the damage to his car after he was struck from behind by a sport utility vehicle. Another vehicle then crashed into the SUV, pinning the man.

• According to Florida Highway Patrol three people were killed since the Memorial Day weekend while checking their vehicles for damage after a crash in the middle of a road.

• A Road Ranger was critically injured while assisting a motorist on the Palmetto Expressway. The Road Ranger was assisting a vehicle that was disabled when another car struck the Ranger’s truck, which then in turn struck the Road Ranger.

Tragedies such as these can be been avoided if all drivers adhere to the following safety precautions:

1. Drivers should move their cars to the side of the road before checking for damage after minor accidents;
2. Drivers should vacate the lane next to where a law enforcement vehicle has stopped on the side of the road; and 3. Drives should vacate the lane next to the scene of an auto accident.

Florida Auto Accidents: The Mistakes People Make

Quite often during meetings with our clients in our Fort Lauderale and Weston offices, we are frequently asked the question: What do I do when I am injured in a car accident in the State of Florida? The answer to that question in our opinion is better answered by providing our clients with a very short list of things they should never do. These are the mistakes that we are often faced with when clients first come to our office and we find that they have:

1. Failed to report the accident to the Police and to the insurance company;
2. Failed to document their Injuries to the Police, Rescue, and the insurance company;
2. Failed to take photographs of their injuries and property damage;
3. Failed to go to a doctor to document their injuries;
4. Made a signed or recorded statement to their own insurance company without first seeking legal advice; and 5. Made a signed or recorded statement to the party at fault’s insurance company without first seeking legal advice.

These may seem like fairly simple things that need to be done at the time, but at the time of an accident most people are upset, anxious and sometimes injured and as a result may not be thinking clearly. If you take our tips and follow them you will at least have ensured that the necessary information is being documented properly at the outset of your case. This documentation is essential in helping our offices to be better able to resolve your case either through settlement or litigation.

Nursing Home Negligence: South Florida Patients Are Signing Away their Rights to Sue Nursing Homes

South Floridians are placing their loved ones into nursing homes and are increasingly signing away the patient’s rights to sue for nursing home negligence over sub standard care.

How can this happen? Easily, it occurs when nursing homes place arbitration clauses and/or agreements in the documents that patients and their family members sign upon admission to the nursing home. These admission documents are signed at a time when the family members and patients are in distress and not fully aware of the magnitude of the binding contractual terms they are agreeing to and the legal rights that they are forever waiving.

As a result, the patients are unknowingly signing away their legal rights to a trial by jury. This is the reason why a number of lawmakers are pushing legislation to make such agreements unenforceable. The lawmakers in the Senate, consumer advocacy groups and trial lawyers, take the position that families shouldn’t be giving away their ability to hold the nursing homes accountable for poor and substandard care in a court of law.

On Wednesday, June 18, 2008, a Senate committee will hear from the family of William Kurth. He fractured his hip and leg and contracted numerous pressure ulcers in a nursing home before he died. His family attempted to sue the nursing home for negligence, and a judge dismissed the case because Mr. Kurth’s wife signed admission documents which included a binding arbitration clause that required all claims go through an arbitrator. It is important to note that Mrs. Kurth was under extreme duress and on medication when she signed the papers that allowed her husband, a stroke victim, to stay at the nursing home. Kurth family members will appear before Congress and testify to the fact that their father, a World War II veteran, died at age 84 from infections that occurred because excrement and urine were not cleansed from his bedsores for days at a time.

A panel in the U.S.Senate is investigating the increasing use of binding arbitration by nursing homes. Their search of court records revealed that more than 100 lawsuits have been filed in the past five years challenging these types of arbitration agreements.

There are some that argue that arbitration has become a shield for large corporations to hide behind and decrease the quality of care given to their patients. Some companies actually conduct a cost benefit analysis and determine that it is economically more profitable to continue to provide substandard care and address any claims made by the patient and their families at a later date on a case by case basis. In the end, the companies benefit because the cost of arbitrating a negligence claim is minimal compared to an increase in daily costs at the nursing homes for more doctors, staff, supplies…etc.. Binding arbitration minimizes the nursing home’s expenses and forces patients and their families to resolve their disputes without any further redress. The ones who suffer from this “strategy” are the patients who are either seriously injured or die from the negligent care and their families.

This point was very well understood by Mr. Kurth’s children and well stated in written testimony provided to the Associated Press:

“It is economically more profitable to let people like my father suffer than to provide proper care. And now that our family is trying to hold the nursing home corporation accountable for its actions, Kindredcare is trying to bury our case by forcing us into a mandatory, secret, and binding arbitration process that they chose.”

Nursing Homes take the position that the arbitration program was designed to achieve several goals, including prompt resolution of legal disputes and lower costs to both residents and their families.

Binding arbitration does have a place in the American Judicial System and it should not be precluded as an option, but the decision has to be made by both parties after a dispute occurs. “Many incoming residents lack the capacity to make even simple decisions, much less judge the legal significance of an arbitration agreement,” Sen. Herb Kohl, D.-Wis., said. “Most are unaware that they are signing away their right to go to court.”

The AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association support legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., that would make arbitration agreements for nursing home patients unenforceable.

Our firm supports legislation which would make binding arbitration agreements for nursing home patients unenforceable. It is time that these arbitration clauses and /or agreements are removed from all admission documents in Nursing Homes. These binding arbitration agreements are one-sided and strip patients of their legal right to pursue their negligence claims in a court of law against nursing homes for substandard and poor care that results in serious injury and/or death.

Stack$ Survives South Florida Car Accident

Well known Rapper, STACK$ was involved in a serious car crash in Miami, Florida on May 30, 2008. He escaped severe injury despite the substantial property damage to his vehicle.

Stack$, a hip-hop star and nightclub owner, was driving with a friend when he collided with another car, and his Ford Explorer was sent airborne. His SUV crashed into the barriers of an overpass, narrowly avoiding the 40 foot fall from a bridge.

Stack$’s injuries included second degree burns, a broken hand, chiropractic injuries and numerous cuts and bruises. Both Stack$ and his passenger were taken to Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, where they both spent the night before being discharged. He is now resting at his South Beach home and is grateful that he survived the near-fatal accident.

South Florida Hit and Run and Drunk Drivers

Within the past few weeks the police in the Fort Lauderale area have been investigating two instances of pedestrians being injured in vehicular accidents. In the first instance, law enforcement is attempting to locate a car that a surveillance camera caught hitting a pedestrian, Marshall Clinton, 51,and then driving away. The crash happened about 11 p.m. Friday, May 23, 2008 as Mr. Chilton crossed the street. Marshall Chilton, 51, was admitted in the hospital with broken bones and is expected to recover.

In a second incident in Fort Lauderdale, a man is accused of killing a woman, Ms.Kathleen Gosnell, 60, and injuring Mr. Raymond Haruben, 63, after striking them with his vehicle on Thursday, May 22, 2008. Toxicology reports confirmed that he was Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI). Steven Kopson, 53, of Fort Lauderdale, was charged with manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol, among several charges.

Both these incidents raise the question, “If I am a pedestrian in an accident who was struck by a hit and run driver- who will pay for the treatment and pain and suffering I have sustained through no fault of my own?” The answer is that even though you are a pedestrian, your own PIP and UIM insurance will ensure that you are fully protected and covered for your injuries even though you weren’t driving your vehicle at the time.

The importance of PIP coverage and UIM coverage on your automobile policies is especially important when you are a pedestrian and you you are struck by a hit and run driver. It is in that instance that your own insurance coverage is there to protect you. Your PIP Insurance or Personal Injury Protection Insurance will cover the first $10,000.00 of your medical bills and your UIM Insurance will afford you coverage for everything over and above the first $10,000.00 up to the limits you choose.

What if your injuries are serious and you need treatment well over and above $10,000.00 and what about pain and suffering, wrongful death and lost or diminished capacity to earn a living? UIM coverage is the only coverage that will protect you if the party at fault in an accident either is unknown, has no Bodily Injury coverage (which is not required in the State of Florida) or has a minimal amount of Bodily Insurance Coverage. In effect you can seek compensation for your injuries and damages from your own insurance company should any of these circumstances occur, but only if you have UIM Insurance coverage.

If you would like to read further about this issue, we have addressed the Florida UIM and PIP Insurance issue in a previous article on our blog entitled: “Florida No-Fault, Med Pay and UIM Insurance” dated May 12, 2008. It is our hope that all Florida drivers will contact their insurance agents and demand a quote for UIM coverage on their policies. That way, should the unfortunate happen and you are injured in an accident caused by an uninsured driver or underinsured driver, you won’t have to worry about your financial future being decimated by medical bills.

If you have any questions about these issues please feel free to call our offices. We want every Florida driver to be aware and informed about their right to protect themselves through proper and FULL automobile insurance coverage.

Mattel Toy Recall

As remarkable as it may seem, the world’s largest toy maker has announced another recall of its products, which involves 800,000 Barbie accessories, Fisher Price train locomotives and bongo drums. The reason given for Mattel’s third recall was identical to the previous two; the presence of unacceptably high quantities of lead in the paint used to brighten these toys.

In early August, Mattel recalled 1.5 million toys featuring Elmo and other popular characters. Later in the same month, “Sarge” toy cars from the hit Disney movie “Cars” in addition to 9 million other toys containing tiny magnets were recalled. The total number of toys recalled by Mattel is now an incredible 19 million. The latest recall was announced jointly by Mattel and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (C.P.S.C.).

In September, a consumer watchdog web site Consumer published an article about a study done by a national non-profit agency called Kids in Danger, which proved that injuries among children in this country have more than doubled in the last five years compared to the previous ten years.

Despite these recent recalls, child safety experts are concerned that the market could still be flooded with these lead tainted toys. The government agency in charge of inspecting these products, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), has only 15 inspectors for the entire country. You read that correctly. The United States of America, a country of 300 million people, has a total of 15 people in charge of inspecting all toys that are placed into the marketplace.

What’s even more disturbing is the fact that the C.P.S.C. is not legally able to levy fines against companies that withhold information about a recalled product. According to the article, Mattel has been accused of doing this on at least two occasions.

So, what can we Parents do to protect our children?
• Sign up for the C.P.S.C.’s recall alerts at Whenever there is a dangerous toy being recalled, you’ll receive an e-mail alert.
• Go on the site and check for past recalls and make sure you do not have any of these toys in your home. Also, share this information with family and friends.
• If you find any toys in your home that have been recalled due to lead, you should consider taking your children to their pediatrician for a check up, including blood work. Quite often, the symptoms from lead poisoning can lie dormant for years.
• When purchasing new toys for your children, fill out the recall registration card so the manufacturer can contact you directly in the event of recall.

Our children in the South Florida area are in need of our help to keep them safe. When the very things they love may do them serious harm it us up to us as parents to do what we can in our small neighborhoods as well. Speak up at your play groups, send out a message to all the parents in your child’s school, or volunteer to do a safety check in you child’s school or day care to weed out any suspect toys. This may be a national re-call but it has small town implications and touches us all the way down to our own child’s bedroom or playroom. So, let’s get together South Florida and make a difference one child at a time.