A 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.
A recent report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement states Florida Highway Patrol officers made errors in connection with a January 29, 2012 accident that killed 11 people on Interstate 75 near Gainesville. On the day of the multi-vehicle crash, the interstate was closed through Paynes Prairie State Park prior to the accident due to a mix of fog and smoke from a nearby wildfire. According to the report, Sgt. Bruce Simmons was reluctant to reopen the interstate and warned Lt. John Gourley that poor visibility was likely to return. In a conversation recorded on Simmons’ in-vehicle video equipment, he told a deputy from a local Sherriff’s Office that his warning fell on deaf ears. Gourley allegedly ordered that the roadway be reopened because he believed keeping the interstate closed through the dark, unlit stretch of road also created a potentially hazardous situation for drivers. Gourley was reportedly concerned about creating secondary wrecks like those he had investigated in the past. Gourley was also allegedly concerned about a lack of suitable alternative routes for drivers. Department of Law Enforcement investigators stated Officer Gourley made the decision to reopen the interstate without any sort of proper formal training.
Although the Florida Forest Service and the Florida Department of Transportation reportedly supported reopening the roadway, the accident investigation report placed blame on the Florida Highway Patrol due to a lack of effective safety guidelines and procedures. The report stated troopers refused to share information that was vital to decision-making with one another prior to the pile-up accident. The investigation report also said troopers failed to adequately monitor conditions on the interstate after it was reopened. As a result, more than 12 passenger vehicles, six semi-trucks, and a motorhome crashed in six different pile-up accidents on the dark roadway. Several vehicles burst into flames. In addition to the dead, 18 people were hospitalized for their injuries.
The investigation report suggested that the Florida Highway Patrol adopt written and mandatory guidelines for reopening roadways when visibility is poor. It also suggested the state add signs along the interstate to warn drivers the roadway through the State Park may be hazardous. The Florida Legislature recently appropriated about $4 million to improve interstate warning signs in areas where visibility may be diminished throughout the state. Read more “Report Says Florida Highway Patrol Erred in Reopening I-75 Before Deadly Gainesville Crash”
Not surprisingly, elderly adults are the largest consumers of prescription medication in the U.S. Many aged Americans are reportedly over-medicated and placed at risk by the possible side effects associated with the drugs they regularly consume. In fact, over 40 percent of citizens over the age of 65 take at least five medications on a daily basis and about one-third of them suffer a dangerous adverse side effect at some point.
Recently, new guidelines that point out the most dangerous drugs for the elderly were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The guidelines, which updated the Beers Criteria, were created by a panel comprised of 11 pharmacology and geriatric care experts. The group reviewed over 2,000 research studies related to drugs often prescribed to the elderly. Based on their review, the panel named 53 drugs or classes of drugs that may be inappropriate for use in people over 65. The 53 drugs were then labeled in one of three ways: to be used with caution if no alternative drug exists, to avoid in individuals with certain conditions, and a drug that should not be prescribed to the elderly.
According to the panel, many antihistamines should not be used in the elderly due to a host of possible side effects. Many common anti-inflammatory medications also place older people at an increased risk of intestinal bleeding, especially when combined with certain other drugs. Sedation hypnotics may cause confusion or severe sedation. Additionally, aspirin may not pose a benefit for individuals over age 80 according to the panel. Although the guidelines are recommended for use by physicians who treat the elderly, the panel stated the guidelines cannot replace a doctor’s judgment and should not be used in malpractice litigation.
The Foundation for Health in Aging has also created a drug and supplement diary for elderly patients to share with their physicians and pharmacists. Too often, elderly patients have multiple doctors who do not communicate regarding the drugs they are taking. Without proper knowledge, health care providers may prescribe additional drugs that can potentially create toxic combinations. Elderly patients should also be vigilant regarding possible drug side effects.
Physicians, nurses, hospitals, dentists, and even pharmacists have a duty to provide all patients with a reasonable standard of care. When an individual is harmed by a medication, they may have a professional malpractice or pharmaceutical negligence claim against their doctor or the pharmacist who dispensed the drug. In Florida, patients who were the victim of any type of medical malpractice have only two years to file an injury claim. Because insurers also have up to two years to evaluate a medical malpractice claim before a lawsuit may be filed, it is vital for you to discuss your Florida pharmaceutical malpractice case with a knowledgeable lawyer as soon as possible. Read more “Elderly Americans Are Often Prescribed Too Many Drugs in Florida, Nationwide”
A study recently published by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) found that driver misuse of turn signals contributes to approximately 2 million car crashes in Florida and elsewhere throughout the United States each year. The study found drivers fail to use their turn signals when making lane changes or leave their signals on after changing lanes about 48 percent of the time. It also found that one quarter of the time, American drivers do not signal before making a turn. This means U.S. drivers fail to properly use turn signals approximately 2 billion times every day.
Distracted driving such as talking, texting, using email, or even eating behind the wheel is a hot topic in the news lately. In April, United States Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called for federal legislation that would ban cell phone use while driving. Still, only about 950,000 U.S. accidents are blamed on distracted driving each year. That is less than half the number associated with misuse of turn signals.
The SAE turn signal study was reportedly the first of its kind. Police and other law enforcement officers allegedly tend to refrain from enforcing turn signal requirements and instead focus more on compliance with speeding and other laws. The author of the study report, Richard Ponziani, stated although turn signals are highly effective for communicating with other drivers and avoiding collisions, their lack of use has reached epidemic proportions. He also said drivers should view their duty to use turn signals in the same way they view their obligation to stop for red lights.
The SAE study suggested the use of smart turn signal technology may be useful in avoiding collisions. Ponziani said a turn signal that shuts itself off after a specified period of time or after detecting a lane change could be helpful to drivers and contribute to roadway safety. Additionally, a system that reminds drivers who regularly fail to use their turn signals may also aid in preventing crashes. According to Ponziani, incorporating smart turn signal technology into new vehicles may actually be cheaper than current turn signal mechanisms. He believes implementing such technology would not only reduce the nation’s accident rate, but may also make drivers more courteous.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration recently issued a three-page memorandum that was designed to eliminate a flaw in House Bill 119, the state’s new personal injury protection (PIP) law that was signed by the Governor in early May. As written, the law created a six-month eligibility gap beginning July 1st for health care providers such as doctors, dentists, and chiropractors. Although eligibility would have automatically been restored on January 1, 2013, insurance companies could arguably have refused to pay health care professionals who treated accident victims as part of the PIP insurance program in the interim.
PIP insurance was adopted in Florida in 1972. During the recent legislative session, Governor Rick Scott lobbied for changes to the law which requires Florida vehicle owners to carry $10,000 in mandatory no-fault accident injury insurance. Proponents of the new law say the changes are aimed at combating staged accident fraud. The law now includes tightened restrictions regarding who constitutes a medical provider, requires the name of all passengers involved in an accident to be noted by police officers, and creates a 14-day medical treatment window following an accident. Insurers are also required to lower the cost of premiums so long as certain specified criteria are met.
Critics of the new law believe it does more for insurance companies than consumers. Bill Newton, Executive Director at the Consumer Action Network, said recent changes to the PIP law will result in more limited services without the benefit of lowered insurance premiums. He also stated the law has shifted the burden of injury accidents onto the victims.
It is currently unclear whether the Agency’s memo is sufficient to eliminate the purported eligibility gap. According to Mark Seidenfeld, a Florida State University administrative law expert, the document may be useful to influence a court regarding the intent of the law, but whether it would have an actual impact on a court’s decision following a challenge is not apparent. Seidenfeld believes it is only a matter of time before someone challenges the state’s new PIP law based on either the eligibility gap or the constitutionality of the measure.
If you were hurt in an auto collision, it is a good idea to consult with a skilled Florida car accident lawyer as soon as possible. You may be eligible to receive compensation for medical bills, suffering, pain, disability, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and loss of enjoyment of life. A knowledgeable car accident attorney can explain your options and help you preserve your rights under Florida law. Read more “Memo Seeking to Correct Florida PIP Eligibility Gap Issued”
In early May, the bond for Tampa Bay Rays baseball player Matt Bush was reduced from $1 million to $440,000. Bush has remained in the Charlotte County Jail on multiple driving under the influence (DUI) charges since March. He was arrested on March 22nd after the sport utility vehicle he was driving allegedly hit a motorcycle carrying 72-year-old Anthony Tufano on US Highway 41. Although Tufano was seriously injured as a result of being thrown from the motorcycle, Bush reportedly fled the scene of the collision. The Rays pitcher was later stopped by police on another road and subsequently arrested. Following the accident, Tufano was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital with serious injuries.
According to local law enforcement, Bush exhibited slurred speech, poor coordination and balance, bloodshot eyes, and smelled of alcohol following the crash. When police administered a breathalyzer test, Bush blew a .180 and a .171, more than twice the State of Florida’s legal limit of .08. Bush admitted to hitting a pole earlier in the day, but told police officers he did not remember hitting a motorcycle. He was previously charged with DUI in both Arizona and California.
Following the crash, Bush was charged with fleeing the scene of a serious injury accident, DUI with serious injuries, DUI with property damage, and driving on a suspended license. If he is released on bond, he will be required to wear both an alcohol monitoring device and a GPS tracking bracelet. The judge who lowered his bond also told Bush he was not allowed to leave Charlotte County or enter any establishments that serve alcohol. Although prosecutors argued Bush was a flight risk, his attorney stated Bush cannot afford bail and will likely remain in Charlotte County Jail even with the lowered bond.
In April, an unresponsive airplane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico while on its way to Sarasota, Florida. After the Jacksonville Air Traffic Control Center notified the United States military that a Cessna 421C was flying close to one of the warning areas near Eglin Air Force Base, two New Orleans National Guard F-15s closely monitored the small plane for about three hours until it apparently ran out of fuel and went down about 120 miles west of Tampa. All attempts to hail the pilot of the Cessna were unsuccessful.
According to the military pilots who attempted to intercept the Cessna, the small plane’s windshield was iced over and the aircraft’s altitude fluctuated by about 10,000 feet. The plane also flew in circles high above the water. A representative from the Coast Guard stated the plane landed in the Gulf of Mexico upright and intact, but there were no indications the pilot was alive or made any attempts to exit the aircraft. The F-15 pilots also said they saw no life rafts deploy. The pilot, a 65-year-old Louisiana physician, was reportedly the only person on board the Cessna when it left Slidell, Louisiana. The plane later sank in about 1,500 feet of water before rescue boats could arrive. The body of Dr. Peter Hertzak was not recovered.
Although it is unclear what transpired onboard the Cessna, some have speculated the pilot may have lost consciousness due to a lack of oxygen. A similar tragedy occurred in 1999 when five people aboard a Lear jet carrying professional golfer Payne Stewart lost consciousness due to changes in cabin pressure and a lack of oxygen. Everyone aboard the jet died when it crashed several hours later after running out of fuel. According to Slidell Airport mechanic Bill Huete, the pilot regularly ensured the Cessna aircraft was well-maintained.
Gary T. Lazarus was born in Queens, New York, on August 26, 1965. He received his Bachelor of Science from St. John's University in 1987 and received his Juris Doctorate from Nova Law School in 1990. In 1992, Gary founded this Personal Injury Firm, dedicated to the representation of persons injured due to the negligence of another.