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,http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=15239


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


Boating Safety Series Part 4: Protecting Florida’s Beloved Manatees

Manatees are the State of Florida’s official marine mammal and can live for over 60 years. Tragically, only about half of the wild manatees that reach adulthood survive into their twenties.  Being hit by passing boats or personal watercraft is a major threat to manatees and the number one cause of human-related manatee deaths.  Manatees can be injured or killed by being run over by boats and watercraft and being gashed by boat propellers.

In fact, the majority of the manatees you will see have noticeable scars on their backs or tails caused by boat propellers.  Manatees can also get into serious trouble and even die if they become entangled in discarded plastics, monofilament line, rope, and other fishing gear.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Boater’s Guide to Living with Florida Manatees offers the following tips for boaters to help protect manatees:

  • Observe speed limits at all times.
  • Keep a look out for manatees and give them plenty of room.  Wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare and help you see manatees under the water.
  • Look for the circular wave patterns known as “manatee footprints” that are made on the surface of the water by the manatee’s tail.
  • Don’t get between a mother manatee and her calf.
  • Manatees are curious and often approach boats – look but don’t feed them.
  • Discard unwanted plastics, monofilament line, rope, and other fishing gear properly in trash or recycle bins – never toss them into the water.
  • Call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) #FWC or *FWC on cell phone, or text Tip@MyFWC.com if you accidently collide with a manatee, see an entangled,  distressed or dead manatee, or see what may be an orphaned baby manatee.  If possible, stay with the manatee until a FWC biologist.  Do not try to rescue a manatee that is in trouble by yourself as you could inadvertently cause further injury.

If you want to become involved in efforts to protect the Florida manatee, you may be interested in joining the Save the Manatee Club, an award-winning national nonprofit organization established in 1981 by renowned singer/songwriter, Jimmy Buffett, and former U.S. Senator, Bob Graham.  You can also support manatee research and conservation by purchasing “Save the Manatee” license plates for your vehicles.  The attorneys at Heintz & Becker are posting this information on how boaters can protect our beloved manatees as a public service and ask all boaters to do their part to protect their safety.

Source(s): Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “A boater’s guide to living with Florida Manatees”


Heintz & Becker Brain Injury Series Part 2: DTI Technology

Car accident victims often suffer forceful blows to the head that result in temporary unconsciousness and concussions or what doctors call “minor traumatic brain injury”.  While many victims seemingly recover with no lasting effects, there are also many who do not.  These victims may report experiencing problems with their concentration, memory, reading comprehension and verbal comprehension long after their accidents took place.  The lives of people who have had such brain injuries can be significantly impacted and forever changed.

Unfortunately, most traditional medical tests, like the MRI, would come back with “normal” results and leave these victims without a means to prove their injuries and obtain adequate treatment and compensation.  In fact, research shows that MRI tests come back with normal results in 43% to 68% of all minor traumatic brain injury victims.

Thankfully, newer technology called Diffusion Tensor Imaging or DTI is giving doctors a real breakthrough and allowing them to see and document brain injuries that cannot be seen with an MRI.  This is because DTI is able to reveal problems with the brain’s neurons that are undetectable by MRI.  This is great news for head injury victims whose injuries were previously unable to be documented through medical testing.

Finally, these victims can prove that they have “real” injuries to the brain that can be seen in actual medical images and which can account for their ongoing cognitive problems.

Since many people have never even heard of DTI, the accident attorneys at Heintz & Becker are working to get the word out to our clients and their doctors.  Now, when an insurance company tries to deny a victim’s claim because their MRI test came out “normal”, our attorneys can not only show that MRI’s are inadequate and cannot be relied on to prove that someone does not have a brain injury, but also present the DTI evidence and the testimony of qualified physicians that will back up our client’s claims with actual medical images and objective findings.

If you want the experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at Heintz & Becker to represent you and your family, give us a call today to schedule your free consultation.

Source(s): Brain Injury Professional, “Rethinking Brain Injury”, posted in October, 2015 issue; National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Diagnostic confirmation of mild traumatic brain injury by diffusion tensor imaging: a case report”, posted February 16, 2012


CRPS/RSD PART 24: Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mike Alstott Speaking Out About Painkiller Dangers

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer fullback Mike “The A-Train” Alstott remains an all-time fan favorite for his accomplishments on and off the field.  He played 12 seasons as a fullback, racking up 5,088 yards rushing; 71 touchdowns (a team record); six Pro Bowls; and a 2002 Super Bowl championship.  He was also injured nearly 50 times and was given prescription painkillers to get him through the pain and back on the field.

Fortunately, Alstott, now 41 years old and a head coach for a St. Petersburg high school football team, came through it all without experiencing an overdose or becoming dependent on painkillers, something he credits to having trainers and physicians on his side who helped him understand how to take them safely.

Mike Alstott knows first-hand how opioids, when used correctly, can play an important role in managing pain and helping people to function, but he is also keenly aware of the growing crisis of opioid misuse and overdose.  More American adults are dying from misusing prescription narcotics than ever before.  An estimated 35 people die every day in the U.S. from accidental prescription painkiller overdoses resulting from things like not taking a medication as directed or not understanding how multiple drugs can interact.  “So we need an educated conversation about this,” Alstott explains. “We need to be upfront, and truthful, and help people be able to start the conversation with their doctors, so they can find out what they need to know.”

One of the things Alstott is doing to spread opioid safety awareness is through his taking part in the “America Starts Talking” campaign.  The America Starts Talking website offers factual information and tips on how to safely use opioids, quizzes, videos and discussion tools.  In addition, the website provides potentially lifesaving information on how to respond to an opioid-related emergency.  The pharmaceutical company Kaleo, maker of the Evzio auto-injector that’s used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, is sponsoring the campaign in partnership with the American Academy of Pain Management, the American Chronic Pain Association, The Pain Community, and the U.S. Pain Foundation.  Click here to learn more from AmericaStartsTalking.com.

The attorneys at Heintz & Becker are grateful to Mike Alstott and America Starts Talking for promoting opioid safety and educating people about what to do in an emergency.  Our personal injury attorneys represent many serious accident victims who are suffering in pain from their injuries and, in addition to helping them receive the financial compensation they deserve, we can help our clients find medical professionals who specialize in safe and effective pain treatment and management.  If you need a personal injury attorney, call us today for a free consultation.

Source(s): FoxNews.com, “Former professional football player tackles dangers of opioids”, posted October 27, 2015; KCBD.com, “Ex-NFL star helps spread the word on risks posed by painkillers”, posted October 30, 2015


Motorcycle Safety Series Part 21: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Riders

Dr. Mike Tuccelli, a former University of Florida professor of American Sign Language has been profoundly deaf since birth, but his lack of hearing has not stopped him from being an active motorcycle rider.

For the past 14 years, Dr. Tuccelli has organized an annual Florida/Alaska motorcycle trip raising money for the SKI-HI Institute, which provides much needed assistance to parents of deaf and blind children.  He’s currently working on plans for his upcoming 2016 trip, which will begin in St. Augustine, Florida around July 2, 2016 and arrive in Alaska around July 10, 2016.

Dr. Tuccelli is just one of a large group of deaf motorcycle riders in the United States.  To make motorcycle safety education for deaf and hard of hearing riders available, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation will provide sign-language interpreters upon request.

To help with the costs of hiring the interpreters, the National Motorcycle Safety Fund (NMSF), has set aside a pool of $15,000 in special grant funds for the next 12 months.  For more information or to enroll in an MSF safety course, visit msf-usa.org or call (800)446-9227.

The motorcycle attorneys at Heintz & Becker support motorcycle safety initiatives for everyone and believe that deaf and hard of hearing riders are just as entitled to use the road as anybody else.  We hope that this information will give encouragement to the deaf and hard of hearing and their families that they too can experience the fun and freedom of motorcycling.

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident and need an experienced motorcycle attorney, call us anytime.  There is no fee or cost until we make a recovery.

Source(s): Motorcycle Safety Foundation, “National Motorcycle Safety Fund Launches Initiative to Help Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students Take MSF’s Signature Motorcyclist Safety Training Course”, posted October 21, 2015; alaskabikerun.com; SKI-HI Institute


Heintz & Becker Brain Injury Series Part 1: The Silent Epidemic

By Steve Heintz of Heintz & Becker

We decided to launch our newest series of blogs on the subject of brain injury for three main reasons.  First, the most common causes of traumatic brain injury in the general population are motor vehicle and motorcycle accidents.

Second, we now know for a fact that there is really no such thing as a “minor” brain injury – all brain injuries are serious and can have long-term effects.  And third, advances in medical tools and scientific knowledge are giving doctors greater abilities to document and diagnose brain injuries than ever existed before.

Traumatic brain injury is caused by some kind of sudden trauma to the head, and its symptoms can range from mild to moderate to severe. Common symptoms include headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurry vision, energy loss, sleep changes, changes in behavior, and memory or cognition impairment.

Traumatic brain injury is often called the silent epidemic because its long-term complications are often undiagnosed and untreated.  Recent advancements in understanding brain injuries are shedding light on the differences between brain injuries and other injuries, like broken bones.  Most broken bones will heal and completely return to their normal function.

In contrast, it is now a known fact even a “mild” concussion of the brain can result in long term damage and trigger progressive neurological deterioration over time.  Returning to normal after a brain injury may take months or years, and even then, “normal” may never be what it was before.

While insurance companies have historically been successful in under-compensating brain injury victims, new levels of understanding and medical advancements are leveling the playing field and giving a voice to victims of the silent epidemic.

If you or a member of your family has suffered a brain injury in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, the injury attorneys at Heintz & Becker are familiar with the latest advancements in proving the full extent of the damages and long-term consequences that can result after a brain injury.  Contact us to learn more about how we may be able to help you and your family members receive full compensation for your claims.

Source(s): Brain Injury Professional, “Rethinking Brain Injury”, posted in October, 2015 issue; National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Diagnostic confirmation of mild traumatic brain injury by diffusion tensor imaging: a case report”, posted February 16, 2012