Parents Urged to Give Guidance when Giving New Phones, Tablets and Computers to their Kids This Holiday Season

Parents, what do you have wrapped up for your children this holiday season – new phones, tablets, and computers that will give internet access to your children?  If you do, we urge you to take some proactive steps to create cyber boundaries to safeguard your family.  This includes talking to your kids about safe and responsible smart phone, social media and online activity.

Avoiding Cyber-Bullying

Cyber safetyThe internet is a two-way street: allowing your kids to access the internet means that potentially everyone else using the internet can gain access to your kids.  Unfortunately, online games, apps and social media sites can be places where predators and cyber bullies roam, looking for easy targets.  Recent events clearly show that the risks of exploitation, cyber-bullying and now, radicalization that your kids face online should not be underestimated.  Some experts are advising parents to put safety ahead of privacy and go as far as to know their kids’ passwords and regularly review all of their messages and downloaded material.

Regardless of how far you decide to go in monitoring your kids’ “private” online messages and activity, make sure that your kids are aware that predators often pose as teenagers to build relationships and set up face-to-face meetings.  Ask your kids to tell you about any incidents of cyber-bullying or extremist content, if something or someone concerns them or appears to threaten them or others, or if they think someone is depressed or suicidal.  As a parent, it is up to you to safeguard your child’s online safety.

Cyber-Bullying Attorneys Bradenton

Heintz & Becker urges all parents to watch out for the online safety of their children.  If your child has been targeted by a cyber-bully or online predator, we urge you to take appropriate action and call us to discuss your legal rights.

Source(s): WWSB ABC 7, “Attorney General issues reminder about cyber safety for children”, posted December 22, 2015; WINK News, “State officials urge parents to talk to teens about online safety”, posted December 21, 2015; Sky UK News, “Stop Online Radicalisation, Schools Told”, posted December 22, 2015

Heintz & Becker Boating Safety Series Part 5: Wear It! Florida Campaign Provides a Great Holiday Gift Idea

wear it logoAre looking for a great holiday gift idea for your fishing and boating friends who have everything?  Here’s an idea – how about a belt or suspender style inflatable life jacket that they can snap on and wear comfortably on the water?  Florida leads the country in annual boating deaths with an average of one death every week – most of which happen when someone has fallen overboard.  Many such deaths could be prevented by getting people in the habit of wearing lifejackets.  This is where the Wear It! Florida campaign comes in to play. The campaign has just one goal: to get people to wear life jackets while on the water.

Why not increase the likelihood that someone will actually wear their lifejacket by giving them something lightweight, compact and comfortable?  Inflatable life jackets are two times as buoyant as traditional orange horseshoe life jackets and less than half the size.  In fact, they can be so light and comfortable that you could forget you have one on.

What about the people that don’t believe they need to worry because they are experienced boaters and good swimmers?  Here’s a reality check for them: in an average year more than half of Florida’s boating deaths are men over the age of 30 with over 100 hours of experience on the water.  Not only is it a great idea for those people to wear a life jacket for their own benefit but also for the benefit of everyone who will take notice that they are wearing one.  Wearing a life jacket will encourage others to follow their example.

All of us at Heintz & Becker are committed to bringing helpful boating safety information to our readers.  We enthusiastically support the Wear It! Florida Campaign and urge everyone to wear their life jackets every time.

Source(s): Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “WEAR IT Florida Campaign”

Brain Injury Series Part 4: Was This College Football Player, Like Many Others, Merely “Collateral Damage”?

Nearly everyone knows about the infamous incident involving former Florida State University football player Jameis Winston leaving a Tallahassee Publix Supermarket without paying for $32.72 worth of crab legs.  But what about the time former University of North Carolina offensive lineman Ryan Hoffman, homeless and hungry, who was arrested for stealing an eight-piece fried chicken bucket from a supermarket?

football playerTwo decades after his glory days as a star offensive lineman, Hoffman, homeless and suffering from severe mental issues, drove his bike into oncoming traffic and was killed on November 16, 2015 at the age of 41.

Hoffman sustained an unknown number of “hard hits” playing high school and college football, sometimes resulting in headaches and vomiting afterwards.  He had at least one known concussion, and perhaps others, but he kept quiet to keep from losing his playing position and to pursue his dream of becoming an NFL star.

But the NFL was not interested in Hoffman and his father took him in after he graduated from college.  He had no job, trouble sleeping, headaches, dizzy spells and complained that he would hear noises like shotgun blasts inside his head and see flashing lights.  He began to get into fights, steal, to use marijuana and abuse Valium.

What is C.T.E.?

Although doctors could not figure out what was wrong, Hoffman’s sister came across information about a brain disease called “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” or “C.T.E.”, which can occur in football players and others who have suffered repeated blows to the head.  Hoffman had the symptoms of C.T.E. – depression, sensitivity to light, memory loss, lack of impulse control and aggression.  Hoffman’s sister sought assistance and Hoffman was offered help from the University of South Florida and UNC alumni.  After having some initial testing, Hoffman decided not to undergo the follow up testing that was recommended.  I didn’t like them prodding,” he said. “I’m afraid they will tell me something I don’t want to hear.”

Hoffman is only one of a multitude of former football players whose lives may have been turned upside down due to football-related brain injuries.  The Concussion Legacy Foundation (formerly the Sports Legacy Institute) reports being flooded with calls from former players and their families who are afraid they have or may develop brain disease as a result of being hit in the head on the football field.  Former players and their families are “starting to connect the dots, because the players are literally watching themselves change,” said one of the institute’s founders.  Sadly, there are thought to be so many former college football players affected that “even if the N.C.A.A. paid a billion-dollar settlement, it may not be enough.” This is according to Ramogi Huma, president of the recently established National College Players Association.

Not long before his death, Hoffman told a news reporter who had become interested in his story, “something is wrong with me. I don’t know what it is, but I used to be normal. ”  Hoffman and his family believed football -related brain injuries were at least partly to blame for the tragic unraveling of his life.  Hoffman’s family plans on keeping a promise they made to Hoffman that when he died they would have his brain tested for C.T.E. – there is currently no test for C.T.E. that can be done while someone is still living.  Now, after years of not knowing, his family will finally be able to know the truth.

Bradenton Brain Injury Attorneys

The brain injury attorneys at Heintz & Becker believe that even though Ryan Hoffman and the multitude of others like him never became big NFL stars, their stories deserve to be told.  If you or a member of your family could be suffering from brain injuries from playing football or another contact sport, we invite you to contact us.  We will provide you with a free, no-obligation legal consultation to discuss your case.

Source(s): The New York Times, “A Former College Lineman Now on the Streets, Looking for Answers, and Help”, posted March 5, 2015; MSN Sports, “Homeless former UNC football player killed riding bike into oncoming traffic”, posted December 3, 2015

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…right?

Ah, December. Christmas carols playing on the radios and in shops; finding the perfect gift for the ones you love; spending holidays with family and friends. Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah or another holiday celebration you’re enjoying this month, it’s also one of the busiest months for emergency rooms. Thanks to trees and household decorations, shopping cart accidents, and the inevitable holiday party where there’s just a little too much fun to be had, this time of year can be hazardous to your health!

Here at Heintz & Becker, we’d like to offer you a few ideas on how to avoid some of the potential pitfalls of the holiday season:

  • Be careful when putting up your decorations. The top step of a ladder is not designed to hold you. And please, DO NOT use a ladder when alone.
  • Certain plants can be dangerous for humans and animals. Consider your household when choosing live plants to display.
  • Some decorations could cause cuts or swallowing hazards to small children and pets. Watch where you display them on the tree or around your home.
  • Candles and lights are fire hazards. Watch not only where you place them, but also when you leave or go to bed be sure to extinguish them beforehand.  You should also check for frayed cords and other damage before putting string lights up each year.
  • Watch out for the shopping carts and escalators… Small children should always be supervised and make sure there aren’t any untied shoes or pants that drag the ground!
  • Know your surroundings. This is, sadly, a time of year for criminals to take advantage of the unsuspecting or overloaded shopper.
  • Last, but certainly not least, always designate a driver. If you don’t have a sober driver, please call a cab, get a ride with a sober friend or co-worker or use one of the many tow services that offer free DUI preventative rides.

The injury attorneys and staff at Heintz & Becker would like to wish everyone a Happy Holiday. Should you or someone you know or love become injured through the fault of another, please contact us at (941) 748-2916 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation with one of our lawyers.

Sources: Tips for Preventing Injuries During the Holidays, 11/15/2000,

Can You Help Identify Local Hit-and-Run Driver?

Hit-and-Run Driver in Bradenton

Heintz & Becker is trying to use the power of social media to help authorities find the vehicle – thought to be 1997 or 1998 red or maroon Mustang with dark tinted windows – that hit and seriously injured a motorcyclist around 5:45 p.m. on October 10, 2015 in Bradenton.  The suspect vehicle was headed east in the center lane of 6th Avenue when it turned left into the left lane, striking the motorcycle being ridden by our client, and then fled the scene at a high rate of speed southbound on 5th Street East, running the stop sign at the 800 Block of 5th Street East.

Our client, who was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, was admitted to intensive care at Blake Medical Center with extensive blood loss and gruesome injuries to his right leg and foot.  If you have any information that could help find the Mustang and the person who was driving it, Heintz & Becker asks you to call the Bradenton Police Department at 941-932-9300 or Heintz & Becker at 941-748-2916.  If you are the driver of that Mustang, we urge you to seek legal advice then contact us.

New Hit-and-Run Awareness Campaign

In response to the ever growing epidemic of hit-and-run crashes, the Florida Highway Patrol developed the hit-and run awareness campaign called “Hit & Run, Bad 2 Worse”.  The campaign discourages people from leaving the scene of an accident by educating drivers that doing so will make a bad situation even worse because they have now committed a crime and may face serious criminal consequences.  If you become a victim of a hit-and-run driver your quick thinking may enable authorities to locate the hit-and-run driver.

You should remain alert and try to get as much information as possible, including the license tag number/state, a description of the driver, the make and color of the vehicle and what direction it was headed.  Immediately call 911 or *FHP (*347), and give a detailed account of all the information you have.  Let the authorities pursue the hit-and-run driver – don’t go after the driver yourself.  If there were any witnesses, see if they can provide any additional information and get their contact information in case they need to be contacted later.

Contact Our Car Accident Attorneys

The attorneys at Heintz & Becker hope that posting this appeal may help locate the hit-and-run driver and enable the authorities, as well as the victim of this accident, to take action to hold him or her responsible for their actions.  If you or a member of your family has been wrongly injured and need an experienced accident lawyer, please call us for a free no-obligation consultation.  We may be able to help you even if the at-fault driver has not been located.

Source(s): Bradenton Herald, “Hit-and-run epidemic engulfs Manatee County”, posted February 18, 2014