Florida Highway Patrol on the Lookout for Aggressive Drivers

232051_semi-truck_1%20sxchu.jpgThe Florida Highway Patrol will be on the lookout for aggressive drivers this week. According to state law, an aggressive driver is someone who commits two violations such as following too closely, speeding, making unsafe lane changes, failing to yield, passing improperly, and running stop lights or signs at the same time. Additional State Troopers will be dispatched to major state roads such as Florida’s Turnpike and interstates 75, 95, and 595 this week to combat aggressive driving.

By stepping up enforcement, the Highway Patrol seeks to reduce or eliminate the number of collisions between passenger vehicles and commercial trucks such as 18-wheelers. According to the law enforcement agency, 88 percent of such crashes result from driver choices and behavior. Meanwhile, only 12 percent are caused by road conditions and motor vehicle defects. In 2010, Florida law enforcement officers ticketed 23,180 aggressive drivers. That number was almost 20,000 more tickets than were issued in 2003.

The Florida Highway Patrol is also seeking to reduce accidents by using educational tools such as roadside billboards and radio spots. Drivers are also being warned to take safety precautions such as ensuring they stay out of a commercial truck’s blind spots. In 2010, approximately 10 percent of all traffic deaths in Florida resulted from crashes between semi-trucks and passenger cars.

Florida Trucking Association Road Team driver Frank Silio believes most drivers are not trying to be unsafe, but do not fully realize the amount of time it takes for an 18-wheeler to stop when traveling at interstate speeds. He stated at 50 miles per hour it can take more than 100 yards to stop due to the truck’s weight. Silio and 22 other Road Team drivers work with the Florida Highway Patrol to educate drivers about safe driving near 18-wheelers. He believes drivers ought to be more cognizant of a commercial truck’s large blind spots and allows individuals to sit in his cab during educational events in order to see the road from a truck driver’s perspective.

Folks in Florida spend a great deal of time in their automobiles each year. Unsafe or distracted drivers are a hazard to everyone on the road. Aggressive driving can lead to major injuries and death. An individual who is hurt in an automobile accident due to someone else’s negligence may be eligible to receive compensation for medical bills, disability, pain, suffering, lost earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life and other damages. If you or a loved one was hurt in a motor vehicle collision, a qualified car accident attorney can help you evaluate your case.
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More Trouble for Costa Cruise Lines, May Affect Florida Cruise Industry

1121405_boats_at_kusadasi%20sxchu.jpgFor the second time in as many months, a Costa Cruise ship has lost power and left its passengers unexpectedly stranded. Earlier today, a fire broke out in the engine room onboard the Costa Allegra. The fire left the ship stranded in pirate infested waters operating on emergency power sources.

At least one thousand passengers and crew are awaiting rescue in the Indian Ocean about 200 miles from the Seychelles island nation. According to the cruise line, which is owned by Carnival Corporation, the fire has been extinguished and no injuries were reported. Italian Coast Guard Commander Cosimo Nicastro has stated everyone aboard the luxury cruise ship is safe and that the weather is not currently a concern.

The Seychelles Navy purportedly launched tug boats and rescue vessels to assist the Costa Allegra. Other nearby vessels, including a French fishing boat, also agreed to lend aid to the stranded cruise ship. Costa Cruises currently has crews inspecting the engine room for damage and is hopeful the ship may become operational again soon.

The Costa Allegra was en route to the Seychelles from Madagascar when the fire broke out. The month long cruise was scheduled to stop at several east African island nations before ending in Savona, Italy. Eight United States citizens are reportedly onboard the ship.

Last month, the Costa Concordia made headlines when it struck a rock formation off of the coast of Italy. The ship lost power, began taking on water, and capsized near the island of Giglio. At least 32 people were killed in the accident.

A personal injury can suddenly arise in any number of settings, including on a luxury cruise vacation. If you were hurt while either traveling as a passenger, or working as a crew member on a cruise ship, it is a good idea to consult with a skilled personal injury lawyer. Personal injury claims which occur on a cruise ship or other vessel are often subject to an assortment of federal, state, and international laws. Because of this, the time during which you may file your claim can be extremely limited and the process for recovery is often cumbersome. If you were hurt in a cruise ship accident, an experienced personal injury advocate can assist you in seeking the compensation your injuries merit.
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Florida Lawmakers Consider Statewide Driver Texting Ban

1307593_mobile_phone_in_hand%20sxchu%20website.jpgFlorida’s Budget Committee is considering a bill which would ban texting while driving throughout the state. Senate Bill 416 would prohibit drivers in Florida from sending or reading non-voice communications using a wireless device. If approved, the ban would go into effect on October 1st of this year.

Senate Bill 416 was introduced by Senators Margolis, Sachs, Sobel, Lynn, and Altman. If the law is passed, a driver caught texting while driving would be subject to a $30 fine and gain 6 points on their driver’s license. A driver cited twice within 5 years would be subject to a $60 fine and receive an additional 6 points. In Florida, once a driver has received 12 or more points the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles may suspend their operator’s license for 30 days.

If passed, the law would not apply to police or emergency personnel engaged in their official duties. It would also provide an exception for those reporting an emergency or crime. Emergency alerts, messages concerning weather or traffic, and navigation systems would also be exempted under the proposed law. As written, the bill would make texting behind the wheel violations a secondary enforcement offense. This means a driver could only be cited for violating the law if initially pulled over for another violation.

According to Captain Mark Brown, Chief of Public Affairs for the Florida Highway Patrol, nearly 2,600 motor vehicle collisions in Florida in 2011 involved an “electronic distraction.” He also stated all use of cellular telephones in Florida Highway Patrol cars is banned unless a hands free device is being used. The Highway Patrol instituted this policy in an effort to set a good example for Florida residents.

Senate Bill 416 is modeled after a 2009 Executive Order which prohibits federal employees driving a government vehicle from texting behind the wheel. At present, 35 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving. Previous attempts to prohibit texting while driving never made it out of the Florida Legislature. The current Senate bill has seen support as it traveled through several committees, but it has not been scheduled for a full chamber vote. House Bill 299, the House counterpart to Senate Bill 416, has not moved forward.

Florida citizens spend countless hours in their automobiles every year. Drivers distracted by cellular telephones, text messages, and email can be a hazard to everyone on the road. Serious injuries and even death may result from their inattention. If you were injured in a car accident due to another person’s negligence, you may be eligible to receive monetary damages for lost wages, lost earning capacity, medical bills, suffering, pain, disability, and loss of enjoyment of life. Since no two injuries are alike, it is a good idea to contact an experienced automobile accident lawyer to help you assess your damages.
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Florida House Bill Would Make Medical Malpractice Claims More Difficult

A bill currently before the Florida Legislature would make proving medical malpractice claims against doctors more difficult. House Bill 385 would allow a lawyer for a doctor accused of malpractice to question other doctors who previously treated an injured patient in private. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, believes the law would entice more physicians to practice in Florida. He also said the bill is designed to limit unnecessary tests administered by Florida doctors merely to avoid a potential malpractice lawsuit. A similar bill, Senate Bill 1506, is also being considered in the Florida Senate.

Opponents of House Bill 385 believe the proposed law is unnecessary and would violate patient privacy rights. They argue the bill has the potential to destroy a patient’s relationship with his or her doctor. It would also purportedly eliminate a physician’s liability for failing to administer necessary health tests. According to the Office of Insurance Regulation, medical malpractice insurance rates for physicians in Florida have recently declined. Additionally, malpractice claims against Florida doctors dropped between 2009 and 2010.

Representative Gaetz said that doctors will still be held responsible for their actions under the bill. He also claims patients who sue their doctor in Florida give up their medical history privacy rights regardless of the proposed law. House Bill 385 originally included state funded financial protections for emergency room doctors as well. That language was removed after financial estimates determined such protections would cost Florida taxpayers as much as $24 million annually.

The State of Florida requires patients to notify a doctor who may be sued for medical malpractice prior to filing a lawsuit. Patients must also obtain an expert opinion which supports a malpractice claim based on negligence. In 2003, limits were placed on damages which could be paid out for specific medical malpractice claims in Florida.

Doctors, nurses, dentists, hospitals, and other health care providers must provide patients with a reasonable standard of care. If a health care provider fails to provide proper care, a patient may be able to file a malpractice lawsuit. In Florida, a patient who was the victim of medical malpractice has two years to file a claim. Because insurance companies have up to two years to evaluate a medical malpractice claim before a lawsuit may be filed, it is important to consult with a qualified medical malpractice lawyer to represent your interests as soon as possible.
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Marion County Explosion Kills One Woman, Injures Another

746971_broken%20sxchu.jpgOn Friday morning, a hyperbaric chamber explosion killed a veterinary employee and a horse in Marion County, Florida. 28-year-old Erica Marshall died at the KESMARC Florida Equine Rehab Center in Oclala after a horse being treated in the chamber purportedly began to kick and the metal on its horseshoe ignited a spark. Fellow employee Sorcha Moneley, 33, was also injured in the blast. She was taken to a local hospital in critical condition.

Hyperbaric chambers are used to create environments that contain higher than normal levels of oxygen. Use of the chambers is highly regulated and requires extensive safety training. In humans, the chambers are generally used to treat divers for sickness resulting from pressure changes, more commonly known as “the bends.” At KESMARC, the chamber was used to treat a variety of equine illnesses and injuries.

Marshall worked at the facility for approximately two years and was reportedly well trained on the use of hyperbaric chambers. Although horses inside the chamber are normally sedated, the one in the chamber at the time of the blast was not. Marshall was monitoring the horse using a closed circuit video system and had already begun to shut the chamber down when it exploded. Hyperbaric chambers must shut down in a series of steps to protect patients, however. It was during the shutdown phase when the horse inside allegedly kicked away the chamber’s protective coating. His next kick struck the chamber’s metal walls and ignited an explosion which purportedly rattled windows for miles.

Although seriously injured in the explosion, Moneley reportedly told emergency responders what caused the explosion. The horse killed was undergoing treatment for a neurological disease. An additional 30 horses were later removed from the partially collapsed facility unharmed. Questions are being asked regarding why the horse was not sedated and why he was allowed to enter the chamber wearing horseshoes. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration is currently investigating the explosion.

In Florida, the manufacturer of a product may be held strictly liable if a product failed to function as intended or according to safety standards and the failure resulted in injury or death. If a product is defective, a manufacturer may be held liable regardless of whether any negligence occurred. Manufacturing defects, insufficient operating instructions, failure to warn consumers, and design defects can all lead to a finding of strict liability. If you were injured as a result of a defective or poorly designed product, it is highly recommended you contact an experienced products liability lawyer.
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Civil and Criminal Trials Against Polo Magnate Who Adopted 42-year-old Girlfriend Begin Soon

On February 11, 2010, 23-year-old Scott Wilson drowned in his car when it flipped and landed upside down in a Wellington canal after an early morning auto accident. The other driver, polo mogul John Goodman, is accused of driving while drunk and impaired, speeding, running a stop sign, colliding with Wilson’s vehicle, leaving the scene of the accident, and waiting about an hour before calling 911. Goodman also allegedly called his girlfriend prior to alerting authorities to the accident.

A criminal trial against Goodman is scheduled to begin in South Florida on March 6th. He is charged with D.U.I. manslaughter and motor vehicular homicide. According to Goodman, now 48, his cell phone was not working at the time of the accident and he left the scene to get help. After the accident, Goodman’s blood alcohol content was purportedly more than twice Florida’s legal limit of .08 percent.

Wilson’s parents have also filed a $100 million wrongful death lawsuit against Goodman. The lawsuit, also scheduled to begin in March, made international headlines after Goodman adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend, Heather Hutchins. Although attorneys for Goodman’s minor biological children have asked a Miami-Dade judge to toss out the adoption, it makes Hutchins the current beneficiary of a $300 million trust established for his children.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley is presiding over the Wilsons’ civil case. He has expressed disbelief over the adoption and called it a “legal twilight zone.” In September, Judge Kelley refused to allow the Wilsons to introduce evidence in the civil case regarding the contents of the trust because Goodman’s children, not Goodman, were the beneficiaries. On January 26th, Judge Kelley reversed his decision and stated information about the trust may now be presented to jurors.

Goodman is an heir to a $1.4 billion fortune. According to Goodman’s civil attorney, the adoption was merely an estate planning tool designed to protect the contents of the trust. Litigation concerning the adoption is currently taking place in Florida, Texas, and Delaware.

Losing someone you love is always devastating, but it can be especially difficult when your loved one died as a result of a preventable accident. Unfortunately, tragic deaths such as this are increasingly common. A wrongful death claim can provide compensation to close relatives of someone killed due to another person’s carelessness, negligence or wrongful act. Your ability to file a wrongful death case will depend on your relationship to the deceased person. In Florida, a family member has up to two years to file a claim for wrongful death. Because of the limited time period in which to file your case, it is important to speak with a qualified wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible after a fatal accident.
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Lawsuit Filed Over Fort Meyers Gas Line Explosion

A class action lawsuit against TECO Peoples Gas and Posen Construction is currently pending in Lee County Circuit Court on behalf of businesses that lost revenue after a high pressure gas line exploded in Fort Meyers last November. The explosion occurred after construction crews working on widening Colonial Boulevard severed a purportedly unmarked eight inch TECO gas line. The accident thousands of residential and commercial customers in Lee and Collier counties without natural gas services and sent a 26-year-old construction worker to the hospital in critical condition with burns on more than half of his body.

According to Lee County Transportation Director, Paul Wingard, an inspection conducted after the accident revealed bright yellow markers designed to warn construction workers a gas line is present were missing at the time of the explosion. He also stated natural gas company TECO recently relocated the gas line approximately 15 feet to the south in preparation for the road expansion. Wingard said once the line was moved, it was up to the road contractor, Posen Construction, to maintain the natural gas line markers. Michigan based Posen Construction has refused to comment on the explosion.

The accident occurred after an employee for the construction contractor inadvertently hit the buried gas line with a piece of heavy machinery. The gas line explosion was not the first accident at this particular construction site. Last June, a crane boom fell and pinned a Posen construction employee’s arms and legs. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is currently investigating whether Posen Construction violated any federal safety standards.

According to the lawsuit, the gas outage had a tremendous financial effect upon restaurants and other tourism based businesses such as hotels in Lee and Collier counties. Plaintiffs in the suit are seeking damages for lost income which purportedly resulted from the natural gas outage as well as expenses related to business attempts to compensate for the lack of available gas. The plaintiffs charge that the outage occurred just as the tourist season was picking up, and that it affected many businesses still struggling to recover from heavy financial losses associated with the BP Horizon oil spill.

Construction sites can be dangerous. Thousands of construction workers are injured on the job each year in Florida. A worker may be hurt in a fall, burned in an explosion, or harmed as a result of defective machinery or tools. Common wounds include broken bones, burns, back injuries, brain injuries, and tragically, even wrongful death. Injuries can be difficult to treat and a worker may become permanently disabled as a result of a construction accident.

In most cases, Florida workers’ compensation laws will provide the exclusive remedy for employees injured while working at a construction site. Important exceptions do exist, however. A qualified construction accident attorney can explain your rights and help you receive damages for your injuries.
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Eleven Dead in Gainesville Interstate Pileup

285433_car_accident%20sxchu%20website.jpgEarly Sunday morning, 11 people were killed and 21 injured in a massive vehicle pileup on Interstate 75 south of Gainesville. The accident, which involved seven 18-wheelers and 12 passenger vehicles, left behind fiery wreckage which spanned more than one mile of roadway. Poor visibility from a mixture of heavy smoke and fog is being blamed for the crash. Rescuers on the scene stated it was nearly impossible to find victims in the dark cloud.

According to crash survivor Steven Camps of Gainesville, it was a horrific scene. Camps said he hard vehicles crashing into one another, explosions, and people screaming. He also stated it looked like the “end of the world,” had arrived. Camps said while he was headed home traffic on the northbound interstate stopped. While stopped, Camps’ vehicle was purportedly struck twice. He also claims he witnessed the car stopped next to his own smashed into and forced underneath a stopped semi-truck trailer. After that, Camps and his passenger exited his vehicle and ran to a grassy bank nearby.

Accidents occurred on both sides of the interstate and all six lanes of I-75 were closed throughout most of the day on Sunday as fire crews extinguished the last of the flames. According to a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol, portions of the northbound lanes actually melted from the various fires.

Ludie Bond, spokeswoman for the Florida Forest Service, stated roadside fires began along I-75 sometime on Saturday. Previously during the weekend, the interstate was closed for a short time due to poor visibility. It was later reopened prior to the deadly crash. Because no controlled burns were scheduled in the area, investigators are currently examining whether the roadside blaze may been the result of arson.

Sadly, automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of personal injury and death in Florida each year. Injuries sustained in a car accident may be very minor or quite disastrous as was the case on Sunday. Although the causes of a vehicle crash can vary, hazardous road conditions, driver inattention, driver impairment, and driver fatigue are commonly to blame. Other factors include defective vehicles, road debris, driving too fast for conditions, and aggressive driving. If you were hurt in a car crash due to someone else’s carelessness, an experienced automobile accident lawyer can help.
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