Heintz & Becker Boating Safety Series Part 1: Florida Leads in Preventable Boating Accidents

We want to welcome our readers to the first installment of a brand new series of Boating Safety blogs we are launching on our Heintz & Becker website and Facebook page.  Unfortunately, the State of Florida, which leads the country and has more boat registrations than any other state, also led the country in 2014 and had more boating related accidents and deaths than any other state – the majority of which could have been prevented.

Boating Safety BlogOur initial thought was that alcohol use and going too fast would be behind most boating accidents, but we were wrong.  While these are significant issues, they are not among the top three factors behind most boating accidents.  Surprisingly, the top three factors behind most boating accidents are:

  • Operator inattention
  • Improper lookout
  • Operator inexperience

How can this be?  Well, for starters, Florida’s boater safety education requirements are minimal and apply only to individuals born after January 1, 1988.  That means it’s perfectly legal for anyone born prior to that date (i.e., the majority of us) to drive a boat without having had any safety training whatsoever.  What that means is that it is left mostly to individuals to voluntarily attend safety courses and learn how to safely operate and navigate their vessels.

Being able to enjoy boating is one of Florida’s top recreational attractions.  But, going out on a boat is not all fun and games – and anyone going boating is putting their life in the hands of the person driving.  So, the message we want everyone to get from the initial blog in our new series dedicated to boating safety is to ALWAYS make safety a priority and NEVER go boating with an inexperienced or irresponsible driver.

While it is our sincere wish that you and your family never experience a boating related accident, if you or a member of your family is ever injured on a boat due to the negligence of someone else, please make an appointment to see one of our attorneys to discuss your legal rights.

Source(s): WUFT.org., “Florida Leads Country In Boating Accidents, Deaths”, posted July 30, 2015; U.S. Coast Guard, “2014 Boating Accident Report”; Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,“2014 Boating Accident Statistics”

Controversial Proposal to Regulate Roadside Memorials in Palmetto

Losing a family member or friend to a car or motorcycle accident is devastating and changes everything.  Everything that is, except the love of family and friends.  For those left behind, roadside memorials can be a great comfort, marking the location where a loved one died and preserving their memory with messages and mementos.

roadside memorial-thumb-300x225-61086After the tragic death of 18-year-old Kyle O’Halloran on Christmas Day 2014 on 24th Avenue West in Palmetto a large roadside memorial was created with an umbrella and an empty chair at its side so visitors could sit and reflect.

Police say O’Halloran was killed after a drug deal gone bad when someone tried to drive away with O’Halloran hanging onto their car. O’Halloran’s memorial has been a place of healing, according to his mother, Leann.  “It’s the place he took his last breath.”

But to others, the memorial created safety and maintenance concerns, leading to a proposal put to the City of Palmetto to regulate roadside memorials and limit than to basic round white signs, much like the ones the Florida Department of Transportation allows to be placed on state road right-of-ways.

City officials acknowledged the safety issue, but after holding a workshop on the sensitive proposal they decided to remove the item from their meeting agenda and discard the policy – leaving things as they are and in the hands of Code Enforcement and Public Works.

Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said although the idea was aimed at helping people by implementing a policy to allow a consistent form of memorial roadside markers, it was misunderstood and in the end could not be worked out.  “It became harder and harder to work it out to where it could and couldn’t go,” she said. “In residential areas, it could be in somebody’s yard… we couldn’t find consistency so that it was equitable throughout the city.”

While some people might say the proposal to regulate roadside memorials was a waste of the City’s time and money, the attorneys at Heintz & Becker believe the community discussion brought much needed attention to the grief and suffering of families and friends who have lost loved ones due to traffic accidents.  If you suffered the loss of a family member as the result of a car or motorcycle accident caused by a careless, distracted or impaired driver, please contact us for a free consultation.

Source(s): Bradenton.com, “Controversial roadside memorial policy removed from Palmetto meeting agendas”, posted August 4, 2015; Bradenton.com, “Palmetto officials seek to legislate roadside memorials honoring lost loved ones”, posted July 22, 2015

Motorcycle Safety Series Part 19: Special Price Offered for Motorcycle Rider Safety Classes in August at State College of Florida in Bradenton

Attention motorcycle riders: State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) is offering its Basic Motorcycle Rider 1 class for a special price of $175 for its upcoming 16-hour class that will meet 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, August 12-13, 2015 at SCF, 5840 26th St. W., Bradenton.

SCF logo-thumb-184x120-60576Completion of SCF’s Basic Rider 1 – Riding and Street Skills satisfies the Florida Rider Training Program Basic Rider Course (BRC) requirement for obtaining a State of Florida driver license motorcycle endorsement or motorcycle only license.  Classes are taught by MSF and FRTP certified instructors and covers basic safety operations, effective braking techniques, turning skills, obstacle avoidance maneuvers and safe street-riding strategies.  SCF provides state-of-the-art facilities for the classroom part of the course and smooth parking lot surfaces for the riding portion.  Motorcycles and helmets are provided.  For more information or to register, call SCF Bradenton at 941-752-5203 or visit scf.edu/motorcycle, where you can view the class schedule along with videos taken during the course.  Maps and directions are online at scf.edu/maps.

Promoting motorcycle safety has always been a top priority of Heintz & Becker.  As part of our continuing commitment to motorcycle safety we have created the Heintz & Becker Motorcycle Safety Series which contains valuable safety tips and information for all of our readers.  We are also committed to providing expert legal representation to injured motorcyclists and their families.  Please call us for a free consultation if you or a member of your family has been hurt in a motorcycle accident caused by someone else’s carelessness.

Source(s):  SCF News, SCF Motorcycle Class Page

FSU Study of Distraction Caused by Cell Phone

“Shocking” is the word used by one of the FSU research coordinators who worked on a study to see how  distracted a person can become when they get a notification on their cell phone.  FSU researchers suspect that upon getting a notification – even if the recipient lets it go and does nothing else – the recipient, knowing that they missed a call or have a text message waiting for them, shifts their attention to what they may have missed and momentarily stops focusing on the task at hand.

FSU CrestFSU called its study “The Attentional Cost of Receiving a Cell Notification.”  The first study of its kind, it has now been published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.  During the study, researchers were shocked to discover that merely receiving a notification but not responding can be just as distracting as actually answering the phone or replying to a text message.  While many public safety campaigns simply advise drivers to “ignore” phone notifications while driving and wait until later to respond to messages and calls, the results of the FSU study suggest that may not be enough to avoid distraction and that the safest practice would be to turn off cell phones while behind the wheel.

Even a slight distraction while driving can lead to devastating consequences.  The problem has become so common that after an accident, one of the first questions now being asked it whether any of the drivers had been using their phones, GPS systems and other devices.  The attorneys at Heintz & Becker strongly advise everyone to take heed of the results of this latest study and TURN OFF your phones and other devices while driving.  We also wish to thank the researchers at Florida State University for their important work and the potentially lifesaving information coming out of their study.

We encourage you to contact the accident attorneys at Heintz & Becker if you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a distracted or impaired driver.  Our attorneys are available to consult with you about your case and will provide a free analysis of your claim and rights to seek compensation for your injuries and damages.

Source(s): Florida State University, “Cell phone alerts may be driving you to distraction”, posted July 9, 2015; Science Daily, “Cell phone notifications may be driving you to distraction”, posted July 9, 2015

Distracted Florida Driver Jumps Partially Open Drawbridge!

By Steve Heintz of Heintz & Becker

Palm Beach resident James Montano crashed through the flashing gates and jumped a small gap of an open drawbridge on the Flagler Memorial Bridge in Palm Beach, Florida on Sunday, June 28, 2015.  After the event he reportedly told a law enforcement officer that he failed to see that the bridge was opening because he had been distracted by his GPS.  No Kidding – it really happened. And there’s a video of the whole thing.

Luckily, Montano was not injured. Officers cited him for reckless driving and the bridge was closed for five hours for repairs.  The accounts of the incident and comments that followed are full of comparisons of Montano’s jump to those of the Blues Brothers and Dukes of Hazzard – as well as plenty of jokes about Florida drivers.  But, could it be that these clever comments and jokes are just another form of distraction to avoid acknowledging how serious this accident could have been?  All joking aside, this could have ended much, much worse.

Heintz & Becker is posting this information to remind everyone of the serious dangers of letting oneself become distracted while behind the wheel and to ask drivers to pull over while using their phones, GPS systems and other devices.  If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a distracted or impaired driver, the experienced accident attorneys at Heintz & Becker are available to consult with you about your case and rights to seek financial compensation.  We urge you to contact us for a free analysis of your claim.

Source(s): Orlando Weekly, “A distracted Florida driver actually jumped an open drawbridge”, posted July 1, 2015; Dailymail.com,  “Distracted driver ‘playing with his GPS’ misses signs and JUMPS car over drawbridge as it is rising”, posted July 2, 2015

Exploding Takata Airbag Recall Expanded to Historic Proportions

The ongoing saga involving defective “Takata” airbags has now reached epic proportions as the scope of the recall has been expanded to include 17 million vehicles in the U.S. and more than 36 million worldwide.

The announcement of the expanded recall was made on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, after which National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA) Administrator Mark Rosekind remarked that “This is probably the most complex consumer safety recall in U.S. history.”

urgent-thumb-264x262-56657The latest announcement is said to double the extent of the massive recalls made by BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota in 2014, and has sparked widespread confusion about what specific vehicles are impacted and how and when repairs will be made available to affected owners.

While the fact that a massive number of additional vehicles are being recalled has been made known, consumers are currently left not knowing if their vehicle has one of the defective airbags because the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) of the specific vehicles involved are not yet available.

Without the VIN, consumers cannot find out whether their car is part of the new recall.  So, what are consumers to do?  Here is the advice was given by Jack Gillis of the Consumer Federation of America author of The Car Book, published by the Center for Auto Safety:

  • Look for your vehicle’s identification number (VIN).  It can be found by looking at your dashboard from the outside of the driver’s side or on the outer edge of the driver’s door.  It should also be listed on your vehicle registration certificate.
  • Contact ANY dealer of your vehicle immediately to schedule a replacement appointment if your vehicle is part of the recall.  The sooner you make contact, the sooner you’ll get on the dealer’s list for repairs.
  • Ask for a ‘loaner vehicle’ while you await repairs to your vehicle.
  • If your vehicle is not currently listed, it could still be added to the list at a later date, so check back on a regular basis.

The latest news has reignited allegations that Takata has been hiding knowledge of the exploding airbag problem for years.  Heintz & Becker wants to be part of the solution to this problem and work to hold manufacturers responsible.  First and foremost, we urge you to seek any and all necessary repairs to ensure that your vehicle is safe to operate.

Second, if you or a member of your family is a victim of a defective Takata airbag, faulty GM ignition switch, or other vehicle defects we urge you to reach out to one of our attorneys and tell us your story.  You may be entitled to receive compensation and telling your story may result in others being spared the same suffering experienced by you and your family.

Source(s): ABC News, “US Listing of Cars Affected by Takata Airbag Recall Not Updated Yet”, posted May 20, 2015; Autoblog, “Takata changed airbag design in 2008”, posted May 21, 2015; Consumer Affairs, “The Takata airbag recall: What should you do?”, posted May 21, 2015

Healthcare Alert: Serious Concerns Raised About Quality of Medical Assistant Training Programs

We have good news and bad news to share with our readers about the quality of training being received by the Nurses and Medical Assistants we trust with our care.  The good news is that we have Florida’s top rated training programs right here in our area: University of Tampa, University of Central Florida and State College of Florida – Bradenton.  The bad news is that there are many training programs out there that are raising serious quality of care concerns.

caduceusFlorida’s “career colleges,” which are mostly for-profit, now account for about 60 percent of Florida’s healthcare graduates in fields such as nursing, ultrasound technology and medical assistance.  The Miami Herald has recently completed an investigation into Florida’s for-profit college industry and published a series of articles it called “Higher Ed Hustle” which included a piece titled “Raising Concerns About Quality” that contains allegations that dollars are being put ahead of quality instruction at certain medical training programs, citing instances of certain classes being taught by instructors who lacked bachelor’s degrees, and struggling and unprepared students being given inflated grades and being passed through the system.

As part of its investigation, the Miami Herald analyzed the results of over 12,000 Florida nursing graduates who took the RN exam in 2014.  What they found is that the passing rate varied with the type of school attended.  Public colleges performed the best, with an 84.4 percent RN passage rate. Nonprofit schools had a passing rate of 80.9 percent.  Trailing far behind were the for-profit colleges, with a mere 52 percent pass rate.

There’s been a boom in new nursing programs in recent years — from 175 in 2009 to 366 in 2014. The growth has consisted largely of for-profit nursing schools and has coincided with a drop in Florida’s RN passage rate from 88.4 percent in 2009 to 72.6 percent in 2014.  Florida’s passing rate now stands second to last among the 50 states.  Here are the numbers for the top scoring and lowest scoring schools that had at least 20 students take the 2014 NCLEX RN license exam published in the Miami Herald article:


Rank School Pass rate School type
1 University of Tampa 100% Nonprofit
2 University of Central Florida 98% Public
3 State College of Florida – Bradenton 96% Public
4 Florida Gulf Coast University – Fort Myers 96% Public
5 Santa Fe College – Gainesville 95% Public
6 Florida Keys Community College 94% Public
7 Valencia Community College – Orlando 94% Public
8 Jacksonville University 93% Nonprofit
9 Seminole State College of Florida – Altamonte Springs 93% Public
10 Keiser University – Miami 93% Nonprofit


Rank School Pass rate School type
1 Med-Life Institute – West Palm Beach 11% For-profit
2 Burnett International College – Boynton Beach 11% For-profit
3 Censa Miami Institute – Hialeah Gardens 11% For-profit
4 Dade Medical College – Hollywood 13% For-profit
5 Techni-Pro Institute – Boca Raton 14% For-profit
6 Hope College of Arts and Science – Pompano Beach 17% For-profit
7 Sigma College – Oakland Park 18% For-profit
8 Carleen Home Health School – Lauderhill 19% For-profit
9 Florida College of Health Science – Orlando 26% For-profit
10 Azure College – Miami Gardens 27% For-profit

It would be unfair to make presumptions about a particular Nurse or Medical Assistant simply based on where they went to school, but the unfortunate fact is that there are practicing Nurses and Medical Assistants who are not fit to do so.  Patients and their families need to be diligent in observing what is happening when they are in a medical setting.  Make sure you know and understand what is happening, what medications are being used and ask as many questions as you need to in order to be assured that all is in order.  If you are not comfortable – speak up immediately and request to see the supervising doctor or get another opinion.  The attorneys at Heintz & Becker represent victims of medical mistakes and their families.  If you or a family member has been injured we are available to consult with you about your case and rights to seek financial compensation.  Don’t delay in calling us: your time to take action is limited.

Source(s): MiamiHerald.com, “Higher-Ed Hustle”, posted April 2015

Alex Cooks Sr. Dies after Motorcycle Accident in Tampa

Tampa area restaurant owner and community favorite, Alex Cooks, 49, has died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash on Fletcher Avenue on Monday, June 8, 2015.  Cooks’ motorcycle struck another vehicle while Cooks, who was wearing a helmet, exited a supermarket parking lot into oncoming traffic.  As the news of the tragedy has spread, mourners have been leaving items at a growing memorial outside of Cooks’ Carrollwood restaurant and posting messages on Alex’s BBQ’s Facebook page.

As a child, Alex Cooks Sr. grew up without a bicycle.  As an adult, he found success in his restaurant, Alex’s Southern Style BBQ and satisfaction in helping to give away thousands of brand-new bicycles to Tampa area children every Christmas since 1999 through the foundation named Alex’s Xmas for Kids.  “Just knowing that there are kids waking up Christmas morning with nice new bicycles under the tree … that’s the most gratifying part,” Cooks once said.  A giver in life, Cooks will now be a giver in death, through the generosity of organ donation.

Cooks’ wife, Amee Cooks, says the family will continue to operate Alex’s Southern Style BBQ.  The Cooks family will also see to the continuation of Alex’s Xmas for Kids and requests that people donate to the charity in lieu of sending flowers.  Cooks’ son, Alex Cooks, Jr., plans on given back to the community too.  He will be sworn in as a Polk County deputy next week. He just wishes his father could be there for his swearing-in ceremony. “I know that he was excited for next Thursday. I feel like he left proud. So that makes me feel better.”

The accident attorneys at Heintz & Becker offer their sincere condolences to the Cooks family.  Tragic accidents like this happen far too often in our area, and, sadly, most of them are preventable.  We ask drivers to always look out for motorcycles, be courteous and share the road.  Your care just may prevent an accident like this from happening.

Source(s): myfoxtampabay.com, “Family, friends remember community hero, Alex Cooks”, posted June 10, 2015; TBO.com, “Carrollwood barbecue restaurant owner dies in motorcycle crash”, posted June 10, 2015; Carrollwood-Northdale Patch, “Motorcycle Crash Claims Community Leader’s Life”, posted June 10, 2015