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.

Heintz & Becker Golf Cart Series Part 6: “GolfBoards” Bring Excitement and New Safety Issues to Golfers

A revolution is underway at the Legacy Golf Club in Lakewood Ranch that lets golfers “surf the turf.” It’s called ‘GolfBoarding” and it’s the latest golfing craze thanks to the invention of the “GolfBoard” by Don Wildman, who created Bally Total Fitness, and Laird Hamilton, a well-known professional surfer.

For those invested in the golf industry, the hope is that the trendy machine that resembles a giant skateboard on wheels will attract more young players and revitalize excitement in the game.

The GolfBoard was named new golf product of the year in 2014 and is taking the greens by storm.

“It is a blast. I’m telling you”, says Legacy Golf Club General Manager Kevin Paschall. “We’ve had people from 16 to 85 already trying it out.”

GolfBoards have a stability bar with a switch, and a high-tech suspension system for a smooth ride. Turning is accomplished by shifting your body to the direction you want to go – much like skateboarding and snowboarding.

Obviously, these new machines do not come without safety concerns. So, how do you learn how to safely operate a GolfBoard and reduce your chances of getting hurt? Before you can set out on your GolfBoarding adventure at the Legacy Golf Club you must complete a training session and sign a waiver which says the Club is not responsible for any accidents or injuries.

There’s also an informative safety video available for first time users:

In addition to keeping our readers informed about safety issues, Heintz & Becker is always looking for new developments to share information about. The GolfBoard is the most exciting development to come to golfing in years and we are excited that our local Legacy Golf Club is taking the lead in making GolfBoards available to its players.

Whether you are adventurous enough to try GolfBoarding or prefer the traditional comfort of a golf cart, the injury attorneys at Heintz & Becker remind you to make safety a priority at all times.

Source(s): KGNS-TV, “Golfboards introduce a new way to play the game”, posted March 29, 2016; inventorspot.com, “Invention Of The Week? Golfboard: Surf And Swing”, posted August, 2015

Heintz & Becker Golf Cart Series Part 5: Safety Issues Associated With Golf Carts and Low Speed Vehicles

Golf Cart Safety

The fun, convenience and economy of getting around in a golf cart or Low Speed Vehicle can be very appealing. But, there is a major catch. Golf carts and Low Speed Vehicles are just not designed to be as crash-worthy as cars or to offer the same kind of protection against injury to their occupants.

So, if you get in an accident in one of these alternative vehicles, you are more likely to be ejected and/or suffer serious injuries than if you had been in a traditional automobile. Over 10,000 golf cart related injuries send people to the emergency room in the U.S. every year with head trauma, fractures and other serious injuries.

Golf Cart Safety Tips

Because they are intended for low risk driving, these alternative vehicles just don’t measure up to traditional automobiles in terms of passenger protection, braking ability and impact absorption. In addition, sharp turns and steep inclines and declines can create the danger of rolling over or passengers being ejected.

Just think of all of the safety features and safety testing that come with a traditional automobile. Compare that list to what you get with a golf cart or Low Speed Vehicle and it’s easy to see why the safety differences exist. Safety concerns are multiplied further in situations where golf carts and low speed vehicles use the same roadways as cars and trucks.

That’s why golf cart friendly communities like the Villages and Sun City Center go to great lengths to emphasize responsible driving, safety and accident prevention. For these communities, maintaining the privilege of being able to get around by golf cart and Low Speed Vehicle as safely as possible is a real priority that requires constant work, dedication and cooperation.

Click play below to watch a free golf cart safety video produced by the Villages Homeowners Association:

Golf Cart Injury Attorneys

Heintz & Becker urges drivers of all types of vehicles to make safety a personal priority and to share the road responsibly and with common courtesy. We hope that you enjoy accident free driving, but should you ever be injured due to another driver’s carelessness, our experienced accident attorneys are here to help with your injury-related claims. Please continue watching for more valuable information about golf carts and Low Speed Vehicles. Our next feature will discuss ways to protect yourself with golf cart and Low Speed Vehicle insurance.

Source(s): WUFT-TV, “How Safe Is It To Drive Golf Carts In The Villages?”, posted February 29, 2016; TBO.com, “SCC golf cart driving exemption a privilege, not entitlement”, posted January 6, 2016; CBS News, “Low-speed electric vehicles on the fast track among seniors”, posted December 26, 2015; DriveByGolf.com, “Golf Cart Communities: A Modern Trend”, posted October 12, 2012; SunCityCenter.org, “Greater Sun City Center Golf Cart Drivers Handbook”

Golf Cart Series Part 4: All Aboard the B-Town Shuttle – It’s FREE!

One local company is providing a wonderful FREE shuttle service in downtown Bradenton, Village of the Arts, Tarpon Point, Riverwalk and all the way to McKechnie Field.  The service not only helps people get around town, it also gives people the chance to experience the fun and convenience of riding in a Low Speed Vehicle.  It’s called the B-Town Shuttle Service and it’s hard to miss with its bright yellow custom built six-passenger Low Speed Vehicles traveling around the Bradenton entertainment district.

The B-Town Shuttle Service is the brainchild of its owner, Kimberly O’Keefe, who came up with the idea after spending a day downtown and thinking “I really wish there was a shuttle service here.”

So, after 35 years of working in computers and bookkeeping, she bought a Low Speed Vehicle with her own money and began providing complimentary pick-ups and drop-offs.  In addition, the company has an active Facebook page that lets locals know all about what is happening in the area.

Local business operators, including Mike Gold of the B’Towne Coffee Company on Old Main Street, not only love it but are helping to keep going by supporting it through advertising.  That support is what is keeping the service free to riders, although tips are certainly welcome.

O’Keefe says the B-Town Shuttle Service is looking forward to serving the citizens of Manatee County for many years to come and expanding its services to meet the needs of the community.  For information, call 941-238-8873 or email btownshuttle@gmail.com.

As a final note, the B-Town Shuttle Service assures its riders that it is licensed and insured.  We’ll be exploring those subjects in upcoming posts.  The entire firm of Heintz & Becker offers its enthusiastic appreciation to Kimberly O’Keefe and the B-Town Shuttle Service and we encourage everyone to get on board and support this valuable service.

Source(s):  Bradenton Herald, “New B-Town Shuttle service coming to downtown Bradenton”, posted March 3, 2015, WWSB My Suncoast, “Bradenton residents create free B Town Shuttle service”, posted May 4, 2015, Bradenton Herald letter to the editor, “B-Town golf cart service meets legal requirements”, posted May 16, 2015

Heintz & Becker Golf Cart Series Part 3: Low Speed Vehicles and “Street Legal” Golf Carts

As we discussed in our last post, Golf Carts are not ordinarily allowed to be used on Florida’s public roads or streets outside of self-contained retirement communities such as Sun City Center.  What are allowed are “Low Speed Vehicles” (sometimes called “Street Legal Golf Carts”) which may be used on Florida roads with a posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less.  So, what is a Low Speed Vehicle?

Golf Cart Safety

Low Speed Vehicles are not only growing in popularity with individuals, they are also growing in popularity with businesses and public and private organizations.  Under Florida Law, a Low Speed Vehicle is any four-wheeled electric vehicle whose top speed is greater than 20 miles per hour but not greater than 25 miles per hour.  Low Speed Vehicles must comply with certain State and Federal safety standards and be equipped with a windshield; rearview mirror; head, tail and brake lights; reflectors; parking brakes; seat belts and vehicle identification numbers.  Because Low Speed Vehicles are generally intended for “low risk” trips for neighborhood shopping, social, and recreational purposes, the safety standards for Low Speed Vehicles are much lower than those for standard automobiles.

Low Speed Vehicle Registration

A Low Speed Vehicle must be registered and insured in the same way as a standard automobile and any person operating a Low Speed Vehicle must have a valid driver’s license.  While some companies specialize in manufacturing their own brand of Low Speed Vehicle, like the Polaris® GEM® and Atomic Electric Vehicle, many Low Speed Vehicles are simply jazzed up Golf Carts.  This is where the term “Street Legal Golf Cart” comes from, which means an ordinary Golf Cart which has been modified to meet Low Speed Vehicle standards.

Golf Cart Safety Attorneys

Stay tuned for more essential information about Golf Carts and Low Speed Vehicles, including safety and insurance information and where you can go right here in Bradenton to experience riding around town in a Low Speed Vehicle for FREE.  Whatever your vehicle of choice may be, car, truck, motorcycle, Golf Cart or Low Speed Vehicle, our experienced accident attorneys are here to help if you should ever be seriously injured in an accident caused by someone else’s carelessness.  Call us to find out how we may be able to help you obtain financial compensation for your injuries.

Source(s):  Florida Statute §316.2122 Operation of a low-speed vehicle or mini truck on certain roadways; SunCityCenter.org, “Greater Sun City Center Golf Cart Drivers Handbook”; Florida Driver License Handbook

Heintz & Becker Golf Cart Series Part 2: Everyone knows what a Golf Cart is – Right?

Yes, we all know what a golf cart is – in the general sense. But, for purposes of Florida Law, a “Golf Cart” has a limited, specifically defined meaning. Florida Law defines a “Golf Cart” as a motor vehicle that is designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting or recreational purposes that is incapable of going faster than 20 miles per hour.

While the operation of Golf Carts on public roads or streets is generally prohibited within Florida that prohibition has been lifted within a number of self-contained retirement communities, including Sun City Center, where all streets are approved for Golf Cart use by anyone age 14 and up.

Golf Cart Community Safety

Sun City Center permits the operation of Golf Carts between sunrise and sunset. For safety reasons, Golf Carts may not be operated at night. The only safety features that Golf Carts are required to have are efficient brakes, reliable steering, safe tires, a rearview mirror, and red reflectors on the front and rear. It’s not necessary to have a valid drivers’ license, nor is it required to register Golf Carts with the Florida Division of Motor Vehicles or have a Florida vehicle License Plate. There is also no requirement that the driver or owner have any insurance coverage(although, as we will cover in an upcoming installment, we strongly advise against not having insurance). The rules we are describing are those in effect in Sun City Center as of the date of this post, however, it is important to keep in mind that the specific rules that apply to Golf Cart usage may vary from one community to the next and can change from time to time.

Who Can Drive in Golf Cart Communities?

Sun City Center and similar communities allow retirees who no longer have a drivers’ license or who no longer want to own an automobile to be able to maintain their independence and easily get from place to place within their self-contained community by Golf Cart. It’s easy to see how these communities can be especially helpful to seniors who can no longer drive an automobile due to health or other issues, but who do not want to lose their independence or have to rely on others for transportation.

Low Speed Vehicles or LSV

Our next post will explain what a “Low Speed Vehicle” or “LSV” is, what the term “street legal” means, and how certain upgrades can transform a Golf Cart into a “street legal” Low Speed Vehicle. Heintz & Becker is providing this information for our readers who either own a Golf Cart or a Low Speed Vehicle or who are considering buying one. Make sure to continue to follow our blogs for more valuable information on this and other important topics and remember that our experienced accident attorneys are here to help with your injury-related claims.

Source(s): TBO.com, “SCC golf cart driving exemption a privilege, not entitlement”, posted January 6, 2016; Baby Boomer Retirement, “Golf Cart Friendly Retirement Communities”, posted March 24, 2013; SunCityCenter.org, “Greater Sun City Center Golf Cart Drivers Handbook”;Florida Driver License Handbook

Golf Cart Series Part 1: Serving Our Growing Number of Golf Cart Lifestyle Clients

The number of people choosing to travel by traditional golf carts and newer “street legal” versions just keeps growing.  In addition to beautiful communities like Sun City Center and the Villages, where golf carts number in the tens of thousands, many people all over our region are joining the golf cart movement.  To better serve our growing number of golf cart owner clients, as well as all of those contemplating getting a golf cart, we are launching a new series that will provide much needed information on a variety of golf cart related topics.

Given that we have many readers who are thinking about getting a golf cart for short trips close to home, but who don’t know much, if anything, about the applicable state and local requirements, we are going to start at the beginning and go forward from there.  Our starting point will be to educate our readers about the differences between the traditional golf cart intended to be used on the golf course and the new generation of “street legal” versions.

We’ll be talking about the physical differences, who may drive them, and where and when they may be driven.  For example, even though traditional golf carts and “street legal” versions (also called “low speed vehicles”) are operated side by side and share the streets within Sun City Center, it may surprise people to hear that a drivers’ license is NOT required for drivers of traditional golf carts and traditional golf cart owners are NOT required to register their golf carts or carry any insurance whatsoever.

In addition to the confusion that this can cause owners and drivers, the different treatment of traditional golf carts and street legal versions creates a multitude of legal and liability concerns.  We’ll be covering a number of those legal issues including registration requirements and insurance and liability concerns in detail in our upcoming posts.  We’ll also be providing information about golf cart accidents and accident prevention that all current and prospective golf cart owners need to know.

The Bradenton injury attorneys at Heintz & Becker represent victims of all types of vehicular accidents, including golf cart accidents in the Sun City Center and Villages communities and elsewhere throughout the State of Florida.  If you or a member of your family has been hurt in a golf cart accident, you need to find a firm that is qualified to handle your case.  Call us to arrange for a free, no-obligation consultation today.