Texting While Driving Is A Primary Offense

Cell phones have become commonplace in the last ten to fifteen years. With increased usage, distracted driving has become a prevalent problem. As most Florida motorists know by now (hopefully), texting while driving became a moving violation, effective July 1, 2019.

The Florida House voted overwhelmingly in favor of HB 107 that makes texting while driving a primary offense. The provisions of HB 107 took effect on July 1, 2019, and the provisions related to the prohibition on the handheld use of a wireless communications device in work and school zones took effect on October 1, 2019.

FLA § 316.05 (3)(a)

A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging. As used in this section, the term “wireless communications device” means any handheld device used or capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communications service as defined in s. 812.15 and that allows text communications. For the purposes of this paragraph, a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition in this paragraph.

Texting while driving is now a moving violation or primary offense, which means a law enforcement officer may stop motor vehicles and issue citations to persons who are texting while driving. The difference? When this infraction was a secondary offense, law enforcement could not stop and issue a citation to motorists who were texting but not committing any other driving offense.

Considerable research indicates that distracted driving is the leading cause of Florida car accidents. Although distractions while driving, whether dealing with children or putting on makeup, have always existed. In 2019, texting while driving is now causing more fatalities than DUIs.

The most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that over 3,000 motorists were killed in 2017 in collisions involving distraction. Some estimate that one-third of all motor vehicle accidents involve driver distraction, resulting in more than 10,000 deaths on the road annually.

Detecting this crime certainly is not as easy as observing a car traveling at an excessive, speed or running a red light. Since it is not easy to determine whether a driver is using a phone for a permitted use such as dialing or for a prohibited use, distracted driving laws are difficult to enforce.

More than half of all states have already passed measures to prohibit drivers from using a handheld device at the wheel for any reason except an emergency. According to data from the Governors Highway Safety Association, 48 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 3 of these states and territories make it a primary offense. Florida was the 45th state to make text messaging while driving a primary offense.

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents. All of us are susceptible to the potential danger caused by an inattentive, preoccupied – distracted – driver. If you or a loved one have been involved in any type of motor vehicle accident contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped accident victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida receive compensation for their damages. Clients pay no fees or costs unless we, and they, get results. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. Our website is available in English and Spanish!

Florida Is A No-Fault State

How insurance companies compensate an injured driver varies from state to state and often tends to confuse the average motorist. Many different types of auto insurance systems exist in the fifty states. Florida uses a no-fault system to determine financial responsibility for a motor vehicle accident.

A no-fault insurance system is based on each involved party’s insurance provider, automatically paying for certain damages suffered by its insured. The notable characteristic of this system is that payment is made regardless of fault. Of course, there are exceptions, and this rule applies only up to a designated limit.

This system is distinct from a tort insurance system, in which a driver’s insurance carrier is financially responsible for causing a car accident and pays damages, even if fault is equal between the parties involved (50/50).

Florida motorists are required to have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance which pays for their damages regardless of fault up to the limits of the policy. PIP covers a covered party’s children, household members, and certain passengers who do not own a vehicle and therefore do not carry PIP insurance.

Passengers in a vehicle involved in an accident who carry PIP will receive coverage under their own insurance policy for their damages. Not only does PIP coverage protect them while in someone else’s vehicle, but it also provides protection to them as a pedestrian or bicyclist.

PIP coverage also applies to certain licensed drivers who drive the insured’s vehicle with permission. PIP also covers the children of an insured party if they suffer an injury while riding on a school bus.

PIP covers the following expenses:

  • Lost wages or income
  • Costs of hospitalization
  • Prescription and non-prescription medication
  • Medical expenses
  • Surgeries

Florida’s insurance laws and the system they created are as confusing as any other state’s legislation and protocol in this area. Determining the maximum compensation to which any driver is entitled is not always an easy task. Experienced Florida motor vehicle accident attorneys may assist any injured motorist or passenger recover maximum compensation. 

Our law firm has consistently utilized its experience and expertise to develop a powerful philosophy that we employ on behalf of every personal injury client that we represent: Meticulous Preparation + Aggressive Advocacy = Achieving Justice. To discuss your case with a Sarasota personal injury attorney, call us at 941-748-2916, or contact us by e-mail. We have offices in Sarasota and Bradenton to serve you.

What Is A Contingency Fee?

Most personal injury attorneys are paid under contingency fee agreements. Unlike retainer agreements whereby the fee or money is paid in advance for services to be rendered by the attorney on the client’s behalf, contingent fees are usually paid, at the conclusion of a legal matter.

A contingent or contingency fee is fairly self-explanatory: Fees are paid contingent on success.. This type of fee arrangement is typically used only in cases such as those involving personal injury, where the plaintiff has a monetary claim.

In a contingent fee arrangement, the lawyer agrees to accept a fixed percentage of the award received by the client. This percentage is typically 33 1/3 to 40%.

If the case is unsuccessful, neither client nor attorney will receive any money, and the client is not responsible for reimbursing the attorney for the work expended on the case. It is important to note that contingency fee agreements typically require the client to pay fees and costs for filing, discovery, and similar expenses related to the case.

We are more than personal injury lawyers. The attorneys and staff at Heintz & Becker are members of your community who are dedicated to helping you get the compensation you deserve. To serve you more efficiently, we have offices conveniently located in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida. Our website is available in English and Spanish! To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation call our injury law firm at 941-748-2916.

About Florida’s Comparative Negligence System

The first step in a personal injury case involving a motor vehicle accident is the determination of fault. This also includes, if necessary, apportioning fault among the parties before any final damage amounts can be paid. Once fault is apportioned, any calculation of final damages is affected by Florida’s comparative negligence system.    

Until the decade of the 1970s, Florida, like most states, allowed the defense of contributory negligence, which mandates that a plaintiff may not recover any compensation for an accident if he or she was responsible to any degree for causing the accident. If a driver was .1% at fault and the other driver was 99.9% at fault, the driver .1% at fault would make no recovery.

The result was an unfair, harsh “all-or-nothing” focus on determining damages in every motor vehicle personal injury accident case. Four states and the District of Columbia still follow the strict doctrine of contributory negligence.

Tort reform later introduced the doctrine of comparative negligence which focuses on each party being held financially responsible for its share of fault and damages. There are two primary forms of comparative negligence systems:

The “pure” system used by Florida and twelve other states; and the modified system used by Georgia and 33 other states.

The modified system utilizes both the 50% bar rule and 51% bar rule. The 50% bar rule means that an injured party may not recover if it is 50% or more at fault. The 51% bar rule means that an injured party may not recover if it is 51% or more at fault.

Under the “pure” system of comparative negligence, parties who are up to 99.9% at fault may still recover damages. Fault is apportioned among the parties, and any damages award is determined by this basic mathematical formula. Many criticize the pure comparative fault system for permitting plaintiffs who are primarily at fault to recover from lesser-at fault defendants some portion of damages.

Despite the straight-ahead approach of the pure comparative negligence system, the calculation of damages in a Florida motor vehicle accident case may still be complicated. Consult with a seasoned Florida motor vehicle accident attorney.

If you’ve been involved in any type of accident as the result of another party’s negligence, contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped accident victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida receive compensation for their damages. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online.

Trucking Accidents: Who Do I Sue?

Involvement with a truck in an accident may be an extremely frightening experience. Any collision with a vehicle weighing 35,000 pounds and moving at speeds of 70 mph or more may be the scare of a lifetime. More importantly, this type of incident also has the potential to leave its participants with severe, even fatal, injuries.

Like any motor vehicle accident, when a driver is negligent, he or she is liable for any damages legally and proximately caused by this negligence. When a motorist is involved in a car accident, the other driver is typically the owner of the vehicle and filing a lawsuit against the proper party is straightforward.

When involved in an accident with a truck, it becomes more complicated because there may be more than one party legally responsible. Injured motorists must hold all drivers accountable for operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner, including drivers employed by commercial trucking enterprises.

A lawsuit may hold a truck driver accountable, but the personal assets of most truck drivers will not adequately compensate a personal injury plaintiff for any losses. However, the assets and insurance of his or her employer may be sufficient to cover all damages suffered by a personal injury plaintiff.

The truck driver is an agent of his employer acting on its behalf. Therefore, agency principles dictate that any accident occurring during the scope of the truck driver’s employment may allow a plaintiff to pursue a lawsuit against the employer.

Seeking recovery from the truck driver’s insurance company is typically a more fruitful option. This is important since it increases the chances of the plaintiff realizing a more complete recovery of losses. These parties may provide additional sources of compensation contributing to a higher damages award.

Another possibility is suing the employer for negligently hiring or training the driver. The driver may not have been qualified at the time of hiring or at the time of taking his or her first load.

Accidents may be caused by a bad tire or the driver’s intoxication. If some faulty, worn or degraded tire caused injuries, a plaintiff might sue the:

  • Driver
  • Owner
  • Manufacturer

An injured plaintiff may sue any motor vehicle owner who has failed to replace recalled tires or failed to follow NHTSA guidelines for the replacement of worn tires. An injured plaintiff may also bring a products liability action against the manufacturer of a defective or dangerous tire.

If an accident was the result of the driver being intoxicated, a plaintiff might sue the:

  • Driver
  • Owner
  • Business establishment that served alcohol to the truck driver   

If a truck driver is intoxicated and causes an accident which results in personal injuries because of intoxication, Florida’s Dram Shop laws allow an injured plaintiff to directly sue the business establishment that sold and served the alcohol.

Proving allegations related to any truck accident caused by driver negligence or intoxication may be a complicated and time-consuming process. It is a wise course of action to contact an attorney experienced in litigating personal injury lawsuits involving truck accidents. If you or a loved one has suffered any type of injury resulting from a truck, motor vehicle, or motorcycle, accident, call us at 941-748-2916, or contact us by e-mail. We have offices in Sarasota and Bradenton to serve you.

A Summary Of Florida’s Dog Bite Law

In Florida, dog owners are liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person or to any animal included in the definitions of “domestic animal” and “livestock” as provided by Florida statute. Included in the definition of “domestic animals” are dogs.

Because Florida is a statutory strict liability state, a dog bite victim may recover damages under Florida’s dog bite statute, FLSA 767.04, which states that a dog owner is liable for injuries if:

  • the dog bites another person, and
  • the person is in a public place or lawfully in a private place.

This statute only applies to injuries caused by dog bites. This statute contains an exception that there is no liability under FLSA 767.04 if:

  • the victim is six (6) years of age or older;
  • the incident occurs on the dog owner’s premises; and
  • these premises contain a conspicuously posted sign inscribed with “Bad Dog” or “Beware of Dog.” 

The sign must be displayed in a prominent place and easily readable for the purpose of giving actual notice of the risk of bite to the victim. If the victim is not old enough to read the sign, then the exception does not apply. 

Persons injured by a dog other than by a bite may prove liability by showing that the owner’s negligence, i.e., failure to use reasonable care, caused the injury.

Typically, dog owners are not held liable for their dogs who bite trespassers on their property. Of course, there are exceptions, including if:

  • The trespasser was under the age of 6; or
  • The owner acted negligently by failing to place prominent signs warning of the presence of a known bad or aggressive dog.

Dog attacks may cause serious, even fatal, injuries. Florida’s dog bite statute imposes strict liability upon owners for a dog bite that causes injury to a human being. A seasoned personal injury attorney familiar with Florida’s statutory scheme regarding injuries by animals, including dogs, may assist any victim in recovering compensation in this circumstance.

To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our distinguished attorneys, call 941-748-2916. You may also contact us online. Our website is available in both English and Spanish. We have offices conveniently located in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida. Clients pay no fees or costs unless we win!

Preparing To Meet Your Personal Injury Attorney, Part 2: Qs & As

Preparing to meet with a personal injury lawyer for the first time requires a reasonable amount of groundwork and preparation. Of course, there is an abundance of information that must be gathered and exchanged between potential client and attorney before and after this consultation. Clients who are potential plaintiffs should prepare to both ask and answer various questions in this initial consultation.

The following are possible questions that may arise at an initial consultation with a personal injury attorney:

  • What specific injuries do you believe you suffered?
  • What is the present level of pain that you are experiencing?
  • Does this pain prevent you from working?
  • If so, to what extent?
  • Where are you employed?
  • How long have you been employed by this employer?
  • What is your job description?
  • Have you kept a post-accident diary?
  • Have you seen a doctor?
  • If you have seen a doctor, what was the prognosis?
  • Have you consulted with any other medical professionals?
  • Who else (lawyers or insurance representatives, etc.) have you spoken with about the accident and what details did you provide to these parties?
  • What type of auto and medical insurance coverage do you have?
  • Have you given a recorded statement about the accident or injury to your insurance carrier or the other party’s insurance carrier?
  • Have you been in any other accidents prior to or since this accident?
  • What are the details of these accidents?
  • Have you received any notices of lien claims?

A good personal injury attorney will patiently, clearly, and concisely answer any questions in detail. Do not be afraid to bring a written list of questions with you to the consultation.

It is not unusual for a meeting with a lawyer to cause anxiety. Knowing in advance how the meeting will transpire and being adequately prepared to answer any questions is a positive step forward to receiving compensation for a personal injury claim.

To allow this meeting to proceed as efficiently as possible, prospective clients should bring all the paperwork and documentation related to their injuries and the event that caused them.

The injury attorneys at Heintz & Becker know where to look to find insurance coverage and assets. We have the knowledge and experience to build effective strategies that prevail in a courtroom if a case goes to trial. If you’ve been injured in Florida, we want to hear your story. Call941-748-2916 for a free consultation today. We don’t get paid unless we obtain results!

Preparing To Meet Your Personal Injury Attorney, Part 2: Qs & As

Preparing To Meet Your Personal Injury Attorney, Part 1: Information

After suffering injuries in any type of accident, it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss a possible claim. There is no financial reason to delay this meeting since most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations.

Before meeting for the first time with an attorney, potential plaintiffs should gather documents and other information in their possession that relate to the incident that caused the harm involved.

This information may include different types of documentation depending on the circumstances and nature of the personal injury.

The list of information and documentation includes the following:

*Medical Information

  • Bills, invoices from doctors and hospitals, physical therapists and/or chiropractors
  • Names and addresses of any service providers such as hospitals, ambulance services, etc.
  • Dates of any treatment including admit and release dates
  • List of all prescription medications presently taken

*Insurance Information

  • Documentation detailing health insurance coverage
  • Documentation detailing auto insurance coverage if the injury was a result of a motor vehicle accident

*Miscellaneous Information

  • Documentation of lost work or income caused by the injury
  • Photos of the accident scene or injuries incurred

If clients have any questions about a document or other piece of documentary or even physical evidence that may relate to their case, they should simply bring it with them to the consultation or contact the attorney’s office for guidance and clarification. The quicker clients can provide all the information necessary to initiate a personal injury claim, the more expediently a personal injury attorney can pursue the claim.

Steven Heintz knows what it’s like to be involved in a life-changing traffic accident. Not only as an attorney – but also as a victim and client.

In 1974 in Bradenton, a car ran a red light and hit Steven broadside while he was riding a motorcycle. He lost the big toe on his right foot, and his ankle had to be fused together. Steven endured over a dozen surgeries and was in a cast for over a year.

He has experienced pain and suffering on a unique level.

At the time, he felt the insurance company was less than fair. As a result, he has made it his life’s mission to protect others from unfair and unscrupulous insurance companies. If you have been involved in any type of accident, the attorneys at Heintz and Becker possess the necessary expertise and experience to handle your personal injury matter. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation call our injury law firm at 941-748-2916. To serve you better, we have offices conveniently located in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida. Our website is available in English and Spanish!

Preparing To Meet Your Personal Injury Attorney, Part 1: Information

Back-To-School Driving Tips, Part 2: Young Pedestrians & Bicyclists

Children in the early years of schooling – nursery school, kindergarten, first and second grades – are the most prone to being struck by a motor vehicle. According to research by the National Safety Council, most children who are struck and killed by a car or a school bus are pedestrians between the ages of 4 to 7.

Thus, motorists must always use extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians wherever they may be, no matter who has the right of way. Of course, the same applies to young bicyclists. Youngsters on foot and on a bicycle often create special challenges for drivers because children lack the ability to determine traffic conditions properly and how to interact with such conditions safely.

Here are some back to school safety tips for dealing with and addressing the safety of young pedestrians and bicyclists.

  • Do not block a crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a right turn. This will cause pedestrians to leave the crosswalk and potentially move in the path of moving traffic
  • When a school zone’s overhead flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians using the crosswalk
  • Stop when a school patrol officer or crossing guard holds up a stop sign
  • Take extraordinary care to detect the presence of children in school zones, playgrounds, parks, and residential areas
  • Do not honk at children who are pedestrians, even with the right of way
  • Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians

On most roads, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicles. One of the major problems with bikes and motorcycles is that they are difficult for other motorists to see on the road.

  • Always use your turn signals, even if a car is not approaching, because a bicycle or pedestrian may be present and not within the line of sight
  • When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly, and leave 3 feet between car and bicycle
  • When turning left and a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, wait for the bicycle to pass. The most common cause of a collision is a driver turning left in front of a bicyclist
  • When turning right and a bicyclist is approaching from behind on the right, permit the rider to advance through the intersection first
  • Be vigilant for young cyclists who have a tendency to turn in front of a vehicle without looking or signaling
  • Watch for bikes exiting driveways or behind parked cars
  • Check side mirrors before opening the driver and passenger doors

By exercising the necessary care and caution, motorists, young drivers, and young pedestrians may co-exist safely in school zones. At Heintz & Becker, there are no fees or costs for our representation unless we get results. To discuss your case with a Sarasota personal injury attorney, call us at 941-748-2916, or contact us by e-mail. If you are cannot come to us, we can come to you. We have offices in Sarasota and Bradenton to serve you.

Back-To-School Driving Tips, Part 2: Young Pedestrians & Bicyclists

Back-To-School Driving Tips, Part 1: School Buses & School Zones

September is synonymous with school opening. While the malls may be a little less crowded, the roads are certainly more congested with parents ushering their kids to and from school. And then there is the increase in bicycle and pedestrian traffic. With all this chaos, it pays to be calm, cool and collected. It also pays to remember some back to school safety tips.

  • First and foremost, remain alert since children are unpredictable and often assume risks and ignore dangerous hazards.
  • Be extra vigilant in school zones and residential neighborhoods.
  • When school is in session, drive slowly and increase your level of attention in the cluster of hours before and after school.
  • Stop far enough behind a bus to allow children ample area to safely enter and exit the bus. The area immediately around a school bus is prone to having young pedestrians in its vicinity. Thus, the area approximately ten (10) feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children.  
  • Never pass a school bus from either direction if you’re on an undivided road, and the bus is stopped to load or unload children. A friendly reminder: Each of the 50 states makes it illegal to pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading children.
  • When driving behind a school bus, allow a greater following distance than you would normally, such as when driving behind a car. This will provide more time to stop once the school bus starts flashing its yellow lights to indicate it is coming to a stop. If the yellow or red lights of a bus are flashing and its stop arm is extended, traffic must come to a complete stop.
  • Know the rules for getting your kids to and from school. Most schools have specific procedures for picking up and dropping off students. Ignorance of these procedures may not only be disruptive and cause traffic problems but may also be dangerous to children.
  • Don’t double park since it blocks other children and vehicles from being visible and may cause traffic problems
  • Don’t load or unload children across the street from the school
  • Use carpools when possible to reduce the vehicle traffic at the school

The attorneys at Heintz & Becker — Steven E. Heintz, David S. Becker, Danielle Lindauer, and Eric D. Bruce — all have perfect 10.0 ratings on AVVO, the top legal review site. In addition, Steven E. Heintz and David S. Becker have perfect 5.0 AV peer review ratings through Martindale-Hubbell, among other honors and awards. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our distinguished attorneys, call 941-748-2916. You may also contact us online. Our website is available in both English and Spanish. We have offices conveniently located in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida. Clients pay no fees or costs unless we win!

Back-To-School Driving Tips, Part 1: School Buses & School Zones