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.

South Florida Boomers to Pay $2.3 Million to Accident Victim

On Monday, August 31, a jury awarded 48-year-old Michael Livington of Boston, MA, $2.3 million for injuries he suffered at the Boomers! in Boca Raton, Florida.

According to the Palm Beach Post, the accident occurred on May 15, 2005, in which Livington fell from a 25-foot rock climbing-wall, due to a hydraulic cable falling from the top of the wall. Livington suffered a broken ankle, which had to be fused.

Boomers is a family entertainment center, home to many games and attractions such as go-karts, laser tag, and bumper boats. Boomers, with two South Florida locations – Boca Raton and Ft. Lauderdale – is owned by Palace Entertainment, which owns many other popular parks such as Wild Waters and Silver Springs, both located in Ocala, Florida.

Amusement parks have been a staple in America for many years, from the large world-renowned parks of Walt Disney World “need to link to Disney article” to smaller establishments such as Boomers. In 2007, a survey by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions showed that 1,309 ride-related injuries occurred, with 35 considered “serious”.

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Red-light Cameras: a Violation of Florida Law?

Many cities in South Florida have followed a practice that the city of Pembroke Pines put in place last year: installing a red-light camera. However, since then, the question has been raised as to whether this practice conflicts with Florida state law. Several lawsuits have been filed in cities such as Aventura and Miami, with varied results.

The goal of the red-light camera is simple: to monitor the streets of our cities so as to prevent auto accidents and deter drivers from running red lights. The camera takes a photo of the vehicle before it reaches the intersection and after it passes. Another camera takes a 12-second video of the vehicle, which allows police to view the scene and assess whether the violation was necessary and determine whether or not to issue a ticket. Later, drivers can see the evidence online for themselves.

There is also a great financial incentive. Tthe Miami Herald reported that tickets in Pembroke Pines are $125, with American Traffic Solutions, the vendor, taking about $17.50 to $47.50, and the city keeping the rest. One camera in Pembroke Pines, Pines Blvd. and Southwest 129th Ave., has issued more than $100,000 since March. Aventura’s five cameras have brought in almost $1 million, and Fort Lauderdale’s proposed cameras hope to bring $1.8 million.

While proponents of the cameras stress the importance of safety for drivers, while making a few extra dollars amid harsh economic times, critics raise concerns about their due-process rights. In Florida, traffic laws must be uniform across the state. Having varied city camera laws would be a violation of state law. Furthermore, critics raise concerns as to an owner being cited for a violation, rather than the actual driver of the vehicle.

Legislation has been proposed for cameras in the past, but has not passed due to legal concerns. Last year, Legislation tried to legalize the cameras but failed. In 2005, then-Attorney General Charlie Christ noted that local governments had the right to set up cameras, but further added that state law would need to be changed for cities to issue tickets with red light cameras.
Read more “Red-light Cameras: a Violation of Florida Law?”

Fatal Injury at Florida’s Disney World

Last week, 30-year-old Anislav Varbanov, a stunt performer at Disney Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida, died when he broke his neck while rehearsing for a stunt show. The Orlando Sentinel story reports that the performer was practicing a tumble roll for the popular Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. The Orange-Osceola County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause of death due to a cervical spine fracture in Varbanov’s neck.

A spokeswoman for Disney, Zoraya Suarez , stated that the tumble roll was a common maneuver which had been performed many times in the show without injury. One employee said he was told that Varbanov landed awkwardly on his neck during the rehearsal.

This is the third incident in two months at the popular Florida amusement park. A week prior to this incident, Mark Priest, a 47-year-old actor at Captain Jack’s Pirate Tutorial in the Magic Kingdom, was injured after stumbling into a wall.

During the 4th of July weekend, 21-year-old monorail operator Austin Wuennenberg was killed in a monorail collision. The Sheriff’s Office is also investigating these other accidents. While the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigates each incident for patterns, Disney has said that each of these cases is unique and there is no link between them.

Since 2007, the OSHA has started 17 investigations, including the three mentioned this year, but only had three investigations in the previous five years. While no guests were injured in these three recent incidents, this wave of accidents in the past two months still presents a concern to the millions of guests and children who visit Disney’s theme parks in the summertime. Investigators must do their best to see that, whether these incidents were separate or related, the appropriate measures are taken so that both employees and guests are assured that Disney continues to operate its facilities with the utmost safety.

South Florida Hospital Sued for Malpractice for Brain Damage to Baby

St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida is being sued by a pregnant woman for injuries her baby suffered when the hospital mistakenly gave the woman a drug which speeds up labor. The Miami Herald reports that the woman, Tesome Sampson, gave birth two months early and her baby suffered brain damage as a result of the drug. She and baby’s father, Frank Guy, filed suit for negligence against the hospital, its owner Tenet Healthcare, and other hospital personnel, claiming $3.5 million in medical costs.

In the hospital’s statement, it apologized and acknowledged that Sampson was given the wrong medication, and that the mistake was “an unfortunate error”. The drug, Prostin E2, has been approved by the FDA , and is commonly used for the termination of pregnancies and expelling uterine contents, and can be used to induce labor.

Sampson was admitted to the hospital on August 25, 2008, 24 weeks pregnant. She was put on bed rest, but ten days later was given the wrong drug and suffered severe cramps. Sampson was given a portable toilet, where the baby was delivered.

Hospitals are not impervious to error. In 1999, an Institute of Medicine study found that about 98,000 people die every year from medical errors. These errors can be attributed to a number of factors such as miscommunication or failure of communication between hospital personnel and inefficient safety systems. Human error also plays a part, sometimes due to hospital staff work long hours.

However, the consequences of such mistakes can be life-altering, or even lead to death. Our firm has handled cases such as this where a careless error, one that could have been easily avoided, has taken the most precious of life away- a child. Furthermore, medical errors can attribute to millions of dollars spent on additional care needed to treat medical errors, rehabilitative treatment, increased medical malpractice insurance costs, and litigation expenses. Hospitals must do their part at all levels of administration to implement appropriate measures to ensure safety of their patients.

Broward County Auto Accident Puts Eight in Hospital

On Wednesday, August 20, the Sun Sentinel reported an auto accident that occurred in Hallandale Beach, where eight people, including two children ages 3 and 7, were sent to the hospital after a three –car collision on Pembroke Road, about 1 block east of I-95. The accident occurred at about 3:30 in the afternoon.

The driver, a man in his 70s, was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood in serious condition. The accident occurred when the driver, heading west on Pembroke Road, crossed into the eastbound lane, crashed into a Lexus, then crashed head-on into a pick-up truck. The cause of the accident is still unknown.

According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Traffic Crash Statistics Report 2008, the state of Florida had 243,342 traffic crashes last year, down about 5% from 2007. The report shows that Broward County had a total of 26,417 traffic accidents in 2008, with the greatest concentration of accidents on a weekday occurring after noon, between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Broward County was second only to Miami-Dade in total crashes last year. The risks associated with driving increase in larger metropolitan cities, such as Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Modern-day distractions (cell phones, mp3 players, etc.) and other factors, such as alcohol/drug abuse, poor vision, and aggressive driving all add to the danger. We have recently written about the issue of cell phone use and driving in a previous article “Does Cell Phone Use cause Florida Car Accidents?” It is clear that cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle can cause drivers to be distracted and distracted drivers can cause accidents.

We all need to make a conscious effort to be safer drivers. Our lives and the lives of our friends and families depend upon it. The Florida Safety Council is one of many great sources of information for tips on driver safety. By knowing the facts and being informed, drivers of all ages can get a better understanding and take more preventative measures to ensure the safety of themselves and others.

Mouthwashes with Alcohol Could Increase Risk of Cancer

A University of MelbourneStudy found that use of mouthwash containing alcohol could increase the risk of oral cancer. Professor Michael McCullough and co-author Dr. Camile Farah concluded that there is now sufficient evidence to prove that ethanol in mouthwash allows cancer-causing substances to permeate the lining of the mouth.

The Study involved 3,210 people, which found that daily mouthwash use was a significant risk factor for head and neck cancer-whether or not they used alcohol or tobacco. The effects of mouthwash were worst in smokers, who saw a 900% increased risk of oral cancer. Those who consumed alcohol saw a 500% increase.

On cue, a spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson Ltd. UK, the manufacturer of the popular “Listerine” brand stated: “There is no scientific evidence to support an association between the use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes, such as Listerine, and an increased risk of oral cancer.” As always, our position is to avoid panic, but err on the side of caution and seek out an alcohol free mouthwash at a health food store.

Although there is no way to definitively confirm the results of this new study, one thing is certain. Historically, the larger multi-national corporations that operate throughout the globe have a history of denial and cover-up when the safety of their products has been questioned. Their enormous wealth allows them to finance opposing scientific studies, some of which the corporations author themselves. They will then pay for the signature of a so-called expert, who decides to compromise their principles to chase the almighty dollar, or at least, the currency of their liking.

Erring on the side of caution can never be opposed, even by the most skeptical of critics.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can Shrink the Brain

The Journal of Neurology has reported that common forms of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can shrink the brains of post-menopausal women. Researchers performed brain scans on 1,400 women aged 71 to 89 who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative, A major American Study.

The Study found that women who were being administered HRT had smaller brain volumes in two key areas than those given a placebo. Brain volume was lower in the frontal lobe and in the hippocampus. Both of these areas of the brain contribute to thinking and memory skills. Shrinkage of the hippocampus is a known risk factor for dementia.

This Study was ironically renowned for finding a link between long term HRT use and increased stroke risk. The question that must be examined is whether the Pharmaceutical Industry is going to continue to be allowed to obtain approval of their products without greater scrutiny.

The conventional wisdom is that the American F.D.A., which regulates the Pharmaceutical Industry, has the most stringent and arduous approval process on the planet. However, conventional wisdom appears to be nothing more than American Corporate propaganda as the overwhelming number of drugs that have been recalled or that have caused significant health problems has been staggering over the past ten years.

Too, often, we learn of the politicizing of the F.D.A., which is given its marching orders to treat the pharmaceutical industry with kid gloves. Former industry personnel end up working for the agency that is supposed to regulate the very same industry they just left, and are going to return to after this government stint.

We are supposed to have a government for the people, not for the corporations. Hopefully, the pendulum will be shifting back.

Medical Malpractice and Uninsured Florida Doctors

Were you aware that pursuant to Florida law doctors are allowed to treat patients in our state without any insurance coverage? Not only are they allowed to do so but they have been allowed to go without malpractice coverage for decades. As a result, the following percentage of doctors opt out of medical malpractice coverage:

• 1/4 of the doctors in Broward and Palm Beach Counties;
• 1/3 of the doctors in Miami; and
• 1/8 of the doctors statewide.

Florida law states that doctors can go uninsured if they post signs in their offices and promise to pay up to $250,000 per malpractice award, with a maximum of $750,000 per year. Their penalty for not paying pursuant to statute is revocation of their medical license.

Ultimately, the victim’s desire is twofold; to ensure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to someone else in the future and to be compensated for the severe injuries that they have sustained at the hands of a doctor who rendered care that substantially deviated from the professional standards. Although revocation of the at fault doctor’s license is a remedy that is warranted in some instances; the amount of compensation mandated by the Florida legislature doesn’t begin to cover the damages of a catastrophic injury caused by medical malpractice.

This practice has left patients with valid malpractice claims unable to retain counsel to represent them in claims against these uninsured doctors and obtain financial compensation for their injuries. As a result, malpractice victims are less likely to sue doctors who don’t carry insurance and are paying the highest price of all…loss of their health, loss of their ability to earn a living, loss of their quality of life…all due to the malpractice of a doctor who is uninsured.

It’s amazing to believe, but despite the fact that medical doctors are allowed to practice without insurance coverage, Florida does require the following medical professions to obtain malpractice insurance: chiropractors, podiatrists, midwives, some nurses, acupuncturists and optometrists. Where is the logic in this?

South Florida Citizens To Be Charged Fees For Automobile Accidents

In a misguided attempt to find other sources of revenue, cities throughout South Florida are actually considering charging a fee to those citizens who are involved in auto accidents within their city limits. This month, the town of Davie will likely vote whether to bill non-residents who are involved in automobile accidents in their city.

The Florida Sun Sentinel reports that Davie is defending the fee as “a way of recouping tax dollars that are spent on non-residents”, town spokesman Braulio Rosa said. Davie is considering an average charge of $840.00. Miramar, Plantation and Southwest Ranches are still undecided as to what to charge, if anything, and under what circumstances.

There are those that are worried that this will start a fee war between the cities. The city of Weston has already threatened to respond by passing a similar ordinance if their residents are charged. The American Civil Liberties Union may challenge these ordinances on constitutional grounds. Brandon Herslan, a spokesman for the ACLU of Florida, stated that by singling out non-residents, proposals being considered in Davie and Miramar “raise questions about equal and fair treatment of citizens” and could spur lawsuits.

The cities are responding by saying they will bill the driver’s insurance companies. Michael Connolly, a spokesman for State Farm Insurance, the state’s largest private insurer, responded by saying automobile insurance premiums will rise.

This issue represents a microcosm of the problems that have been caused by the cuts in our state’s budget. These cuts have left local governments in a desperate search to make up the lost funds that they were once receiving from the state. Compounding this problem is the decrease in the local tax base caused by the pop of the real estate bubble and the significant increase in foreclosures.

However, by creating these quasi tax schemes, the citizens of all cities are the ones that are harmed. With the state and national economy causing widespread problems for everyone, it is time for the cities to slash even more fat out of their budgets.

Cities should retain independent companies to analyze their budgets and recommend reasonable cuts that will force the cities to operate more efficiently. Disparate tax schemes, like the one discussed in this article, are not the answer and may in fact be unconstitutional depending on how they are framed.