UF Student Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver While Riding Her Bicycle in Gainesville

1253140_bicycle%20sxchu%20username%20aganaui.jpgIn early July, a 20-year-old University of Florida student died as a result of the injuries she sustained in a June 23rd hit-and-run accident. Rebecca Harris was struck by a white sedan while riding her bicycle in a crosswalk on Southwest 16th Avenue in Gainesville. After the accident, rescue crews transported Harris to a local hospital in critical condition. She reportedly suffered a traumatic brain injury, two broken legs, and a broken arm.

According to Lt. Bruce Giles of the Gainesville Police Department, although the vehicle that struck Harris did not stop, it was later found abandoned near Southwest 131st Lane. Lt. Giles stated he was certain the car found by police was the same vehicle involved in the hit-and-run accident because it not only matched accident witness reports, but the damage to the car was also consistent with Harris’ injuries. Following the collision, police issued a warrant for the arrest of 22-year-old Jessica Paige Becerra. Becerra reportedly turned herself in to police and was placed in the Alachua County Jail on June 29th. She was released four days later on a $25,000 bond.

Florida State Attorney Bill Cervone stated that the charges Becerra faces will be changed from leaving the scene of an injury accident to leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death. Because Harris died after the hit-and-run, Becerra now faces a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

Bicyclists, skaters, joggers, and anyone traveling on foot are at risk of being the victim in a Florida pedestrian accident. Because pedestrians have little protection from cars, trucks, and motorcycles, the injuries sustained in such a crash can be catastrophic. Severely injured accident victims may suffer a spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, paralysis, and a variety of other permanent disabilities. Unfortunately, as was the case here, vehicle collisions with pedestrians may also be fatal.

Treating the injuries sustained in a pedestrian accident is often costly. A victim may be eligible to receive compensation for medical expenses, physical therapy, surgery, lost income, pain, suffering, and other damages. Additionally, although no amount of compensation can bring back your loved one, close family members of those killed in pedestrian accidents may be able to relieve some of their financial burden by filing a wrongful death claim. An experienced Florida lawyer can help you evaluate your options for recovery.
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Oakland Park, Florida Teenager Killed in Hit-and-Run Accident While Riding His Bicycle

1356569_bicycle_macro%20sxchu.jpgThe Broward County Sheriff’s Office is asking the public for any information related to a fatal hit-and-run bicycle accident in June in Oakland Park. On June 14th, 17-year-old Gabriel Amaya was struck by a dark sport utility vehicle while headed east along Prospect Road on his bicycle. Amaya was hit in a crosswalk near Powerline Road just after dark. The force of the impact reportedly threw the boy into the roadway. The driver who hit Amaya allegedly continued on before he stopped a short distance down the road and got out of the vehicle. The driver then got back into the SUV and fled the scene of the crash. Amaya died as a result of his injuries while en route to the Broward Health Medical Center.

Law enforcement officers would reportedly like to question 37-year-old Christopher Thompson of Oakland Park about the case. Thompson may be driving a black 1995 Chevy Tahoe with extensive damage to the left side mirror, grill, and headlight. Although Thompson purportedly lives near the scene of the fatal accident, his neighbors stated they had not seen the man for several days when questioned by police. According to law enforcement officials, Thompson has a criminal record as he was previously arrested on drug possession charges.

A large percentage of bicycle accidents are caused by careless and inattentive drivers who fail to notice or yield to bicyclists. Unfortunately, a bicycle rider is no match for even a small car, much less a sport utility vehicle. Sadly, injuries that are caused by a bicycle accident are often catastrophic. Many bike accidents also result in a victim’s tragic and untimely death. Because of the severity of most accidents, it is important for riders to ensure their bicycle is well maintained and to wear both a helmet and reflective clothing. Additionally, bicycle riders should always obey all traffic signs and signals.

No matter how careful a bike rider is, an accident with a car cannot always be avoided. Common injuries sustained by victims in a bicycle accident can include traumatic brain injuries, fractures, spinal cord injuries, permanent disability, and even wrongful death. Due to the severity of most injuries, the medical costs associated with a cycling accident can be quite high. If you were hurt by a negligent driver while riding your bicycle, you should contact a skilled South Florida car accident lawyer to help you recover damages for your injuries.
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Driver Charged Following Hit-and-Run of Gulf Breeze Bicyclist

1180083_bicycle_parking_2%20sxchu.jpgA Gulf Breeze woman was recently charged with reckless driving and leaving the scene of an injury accident after she allegedly struck a 31-year-old man riding his bicycle. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 19-year-old Debi Cummings was arrested nearly two hours after she struck Nicholas Medina from behind with a Chevrolet Cruze on U.S. Highway 98 in Santa Rosa County. Following the accident, Cummings reportedly left Medina in the road with a skull fracture and other injuries. Medina was transported to a local hospital about 30 minutes later after other motorists noticed him lying in the roadway.

A Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office deputy later discovered Debi Cummings’ father, Thomas, driving the Chevrolet and began questioning him. After the deputy learned Debi Cummings was operating the vehicle at the time of the accident, the deputy asked her father to call her and requested that she come in for questioning. According to her arrest report, Debi Cummings arrived at the station about two hours after the crash. Although Cummings allegedly smelled of alcohol and exhibited slurred speech when she arrived, her blood alcohol content was not formally tested. Consequently, Cummings was not charged with driving under the influence despite that she blew a .117 blood alcohol content on an unofficial device about an hour later at the Santa Rosa County Jail.

Lt. Steve Preston, a spokesperson for the Florida Highway Patrol, stated Cummings was not required to submit to a formal blood alcohol test due to the extended time period between the accident and her arrest. The trooper who handled her arrest stated the case was complicated by the fact that Cummings left the scene of the crash before officers arrived. Lt. Preston said even with a blood alcohol test, it would be difficult to prove that Cummings was driving under the influence when she allegedly hit Medina. Cummings reportedly admitted to a state trooper that she hit the bicyclist, but left the scene of the crash because she did not know what to do. She is currently free on a $10,000 bond.

The case is still being investigated by the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Attorney’s Office to determine whether Cummings will also be charged with driving under the influence. The investigation will purportedly focus on Cummings’ location immediately prior to the collision.

Every year, motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of personal injuries in the State of Florida. The injuries sustained by anyone involved in an accident with a car can be life altering. A bicyclist who is hurt by a negligent or impaired driver may suffer from broken bones, spinal cord injuries, neck injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. If you were hurt by a careless or intoxicated driver, contact a dedicated Miami car accident lawyer to help you protect your rights.
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Bicycle Riders Should Replace Helmets Every Few Years

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Did you know that bike helmets only last for three to five years? According to a report by station WSVN-TV in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, the plastic and foam materials inside adult and child bicycle helmets break down after a few years, no longer providing the needed protection to riders. Small cracks below the shell of the helmet can also leave you vulnerable to injury.

Parents often pass down bike helmets to younger children, inadvertently putting them at risk for injury. Unless your children are very close in age, you should buy each child a brand new helmet every couple of years. Even the wear and tear of the older child on a helmet can be enough to make it unsafe for the younger child.

Check the Manufacturing Date
Helmets have a manufacturing date stamped on the inside of the shell cavity. If the helmet is banged up or has a manufacturing date more than five years old, it’s time to replace it. Similarly, when buying new helmets, be sure to check for the manufacturing date. Many stores will sell helmets that were made more than three to five years ago and most buyers are never the wiser.

Further, if you’ve had an accident while wearing a helmet, experts recommend that you replace it right away for an undamaged one. Even a simple bump on the head can be enough to shift the protective materials inside the helmet to render them useless for the next fall. If you have been injured by a faulty or outdated helmet, contact a personal injury lawyer who can explain your legal options.

Teen Bike Safety Tips Can Prevent TBI

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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is one of the leading dangers for teenage bike riders in South Florida. The National Bicycle Safety Network (NBSN) reports that the failure to wear a helmet is the direct cause of most head and brain injuries in bicycle accidents. According to the NBSN, well over half of those killed in bicycle accidents in recent years were not wearing helmets. Wearing a helmet can reduce your risk for major injury and/or death by up to 88%.

In the state of Florida, the law requires bicycle riders under the age of 16 to wear helmets, although all riders are strongly encouraged to wear protective gear. The enforcement of the bicycle helmet law has helped to reduce the number of fatalities in South Florida since its inception in 1997. According to a June 29, 2010 report released by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), bicyclist fatalities decreased 15% between 2008 and 2009 from 118 to 100.

Safeguarding Teens Against Injury
Most bicycle accidents involve careless drivers who fail to yield to bike riders. Sadly, a bicycle is simply no match for a 5,000-pound vehicle, and the results can often be devastating. Here are some helpful tips to stay safe on the roads this summer:

– Wear reflective clothing or attach reflective strips to your backpack, jacket or vest to allow drivers and pedestrians to see you at all times.
– Check your bicycle and equipment regularly for maintenance/repair. Check that all nuts and bolts are secure and that your tires are properly inflated and free of punctures.
– While riding, stay alert at all times. Ride on the right hand side of the road with traffic and always obey stop signs and traffic signals.

No matter how careful you are, though, some car drivers on four wheels simply aren’t as careful when it comes to looking out for those on two wheels. If you are injured while riding your bicycle, a personal injury lawyer in Florida may be able to help you recover damages for your injuries.

South Florida Cycling Event Honors Teen Biker Killed by Driver

About a month ago, 17-year-old Rodolfo Rojo of Bay Harbor Islands was killed in an auto accident around 2:30 a.m. when he and his friends were riding their bikes on Biscayne Boulevard near 113th Street in Miami and Rojo was struck by a vehicle.

To honor Rojo, Critical Mass, an event in which cyclists gather in a large group to promote bicycle safety and awareness, dedicated their Friday bike ride in his memory. According to an article in the Miami Herald, the bike ride will proceed along the same route where Rojo was killed and parents and friends will leave a white painted bike with a plaque.

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This is another unfortunate story pointing out a major problem with cycling fatalities in South Florida. According to the article, Florida has the highest number of fatalities in the U.S. Bicycles are classified as vehicles and cyclists have rights. Though they are required to have front and back lights when riding at night and cyclists and drivers must observe safety laws, a lack of bike lanes on Miami’s busy streets and growing numbers of bikers leaves many people concerned.

It is obvious that more action will need to be taken to ensure cyclist safety, focusing on both the driver and the cyclist’s observance of the law.

Cyclists in South Florida Taking a Stand, Promoting Safety

We have posted about bicycle accidents in the past, noting our concern as the statistics show that eight cyclists were killed in Palm Beach County alone last year, and a total of 118 bicyclists were killed last year in Florida.

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In light of the dangers cyclists face every day, bike groups are taking a stand to ensure the safety of their groups and of all cyclists in the South Florida area. Along with ensuring that their groups follow traffic laws and erecting safety signs, these groups are working with local authorities to ensure that uniform bike laws are enforced and that motorists follow theses traffic laws while keeping the safety of cyclists in mind.

Part of this movement is a campaign called “Ride Right, Drive Right”, an idea by Broward resident and founder of cycling group zMotion Pat Patregnani. According to the Sun Sentinel, Patregnani came up with the campaign after an incident in August in which a cyclist and motorists were involved in an altercation. The hope is that the campaign will educate both cyclists and motorists, encourage patience and sharing of the roads and prevent bicycle and auto accidents. Groups such as zMotion, the South Florida Bike Coalition and the Boca Raton Bicycle Club have all done their part, requiring their members to ride in small groups and in single file.

The campaign also includes signs designed to notify motorists of laws such as giving a cyclist three feet of clearance when passing them. The signs will be posted along State Road AIA in Palm Beach County and the Department of Transportation will review the signs. Hopefully, this campaign, along with efforts by cyclists, motorists and the police will encourage both groups to share the road and work together to prevent accidents and injuries.

Weston Boy on Bicycle Strcuk by Automobile

A 10-year old boy was struck by a van on Tuesday, October 20, in Weston, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office. The Sun Sentinel reported that the boy was riding his bicycle when a van hit him on the 4400 block of Foxtail Lane.

Apparently, the bicycle accident occurred when the boy was crossing the street when he rode into the path of the van. He was taken to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in South Florida, where he was treated for non-life threatening head injuries. It is important to note that the victim was not wearing a helmet.

We’ve noted in several previous postings that riding a bicycle can be a very dangerous activity in South Florida and that drivers need to be more cautious to avoid accidents with bicyclists. However, the wearing of a helmet is a basic safety measure that should never be overlooked, especially in the case of children. According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, riders who don’t wear helmets are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash then those who wear helmets, and head injuries account for over 60 percent of bicycle-related deaths. Anywhere from 45 to 88 percent of a bicyclist’s brain injuries can be prevented by wearing a helmet.

Parents need to be especially careful when their children go riding and insist that their children always wear a helmet. Another safety precaution that would help to decrease the number of bicyclists injured would be to avoid areas of heavy traffic to minimize the risk of injury.

Our firm specializes in and has been handling accident cases for over 19 years, Therefore, if you or your loved one have been injured in an accident, please contact our office. We are here to answer any of your your questions and concerns.

Concern Grows as South Florida Bicyclist Struck by Automobile Dies

On Saturday, October 17, a bicyclist was struck from behind by a pickup truck in Boca Raton near Palmetto Park Road and Shorewind Drive. Police identified the bicyclist as Elizabeth Victoria Stewart of Tamarac, Florida, according to the Sun Sentinel. She was pronounced dead at Delray Medical Center.

This tragedy adds to the growing list of bicycle injuries and fatalities from auto accidents, and to the concern many South Florida residents have about the general safety of bicyclists. The Sun Sentinel noted numerous bicycle fatalities like this which have occurred in Palm Beach County this year, including: a Pompano Beach man killed in a hit-and-run crash in September, a 17-year-old hit during rush hour in Boynton Beach in March, and a 12-year-old hit by an SUV in West Palm Beach in April.

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Eight cyclists were killed in Palm Beach County last year, and 333 were injured, while 336 were injured in 2007. Palm Beach County has a higher fatality rate than Miami-Dade and Broward, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Bicycle advocates are very concerned and calling for more safety programs to prevent injuries and fatalities. Based on the statistics, it seems that bicycle safety is a legitimate concern and more needs to be done to ensure the rights and the safety of our citizens.

Auto Accident in Fort Lauderdale Kills Cyclist

A cyclist was found dead from an auto accident on Friday, August 28, in an auto accident which occurred shortly after midnight on State Road AIA in Fort Lauderdale. The Miami Herald reported that the cyclist was heading northbound when a Mercedes Benz, also headed northbound, collided with the cyclist.

Police had not released the man’s name because they had yet to notify the family. The cyclist was pronounced dead at Broward General Medical Center. Police continue to investigate whether the driver was under the influence at the time of the accident.

While driving under the influence is speculative in this case, it brings up a concern that Florida drivers are no stranger to. Concerns for drunk driving grow on holiday weekends, such as this weekend’s Labor Day. According to a study referred to in a previous blog entitled “Broward County auto accident puts eight in hospital”, last year there were 36 fatalities on Labor Day weekend, 12 of which were alcohol-related. That same study showed that, in 2008, there were 4,380 bicyclist injuries and 118 bicyclist fatalities in traffic accidents.

The Florida DMV calculates that, in 2006, there were 1,606 DUI convictions in Broward County and 1,824 convictions in Miami-Dade County. Statewide, there were 34,638 convictions. While this reflects an 8 percent decrease from 2005, the numbers are staggering.

However, Florida has enforced strict laws to crack down on drunk driving. Florida’s zero tolerance law enforces an automatic 6-month suspension for any driver under the age of 21 who has a blood alcohol level (BAL) higher than .02. The level for drivers over 21 is .08. The effect is that a driver under 21 in Florida cannot have a single drink of alcohol and get into a vehicle.

With warnings of DUI road stops and increased police force during these weekends, and the risk of serious and fatal injury, drivers are encouraged to do all that is necessary to prevent from driving under the influence. The abundance of taxis in large South Florida cities such as Miami have given drivers a safe alternative. For others, choosing a designated driver or finding activities that don’t involve alcohol will ensure a safe ride home for ourselves and for others as we celebrate a great Labor Day weekend.