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.

Motorcycles: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Dangers?

As the roads continue to grow more dangerous for motorcycles in Florida, hazards abound from the moment you start the motor. It would be nice to think that this is an understatement, but as distracted drivers just continue to increase, despite stronger laws and texting bans, anyone traveling must practice extreme diligence in driving defensively and taking any extra safety measures available.

While the ability to enjoy the outdoors is one of the greatest advantages of riding a motorcycle, the health benefits are surprisingly expansive too. A motorcycle is much heavier than toting around a regular bicycle—and involves a lot more physical effort in comparison to getting into a car. Every ride is a complete core and body work out. As a motorcyclist, you must use your arm and leg strength constantly, and the center of your body is used as you continually maneuver through starting, stopping, and traveling in traffic. Posture, neck, and back muscles are consistently strengthened also. This is not an exercise for the weak, but it will build them into the strong!

There are dangers in taking any vehicle to the streets, with even walking presenting a dangerous proposition in many cities. It is up to you to decide which form of transportation you prefer. One of the obvious problems with motorcycles is that the operator is more vulnerable without the protection of a 4,000-pound metal car, or a much heavier truck. Other motorists are often not paying as much attention as they should to the road and do not see motorcyclists. While this is their responsibility, they may be so used to looking for other larger vehicles that they do not take time to notice those traveling on two wheels, or foot.

If you choose to ride a motorcycle, it is not an endeavor that should be taken lightly. Be certain that you purchase a motorcycle you can handle, whether you are a novice or not, and that you are equipped with all the necessary gear, from a helmet for your head to boots for your feet, protective clothing, and even eye goggles and gloves when necessary.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of another driver, contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida get compensation for their damages and medical expenses after accidents. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help!

All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.

Family Topics: When Your Spouse Wants to Buy a Motorcycle

The dangers of riding on a motorcycle are obvious. We have all heard the horror stories, and it’s obvious how vulnerable a motorcycle is in traffic in comparison to a car. And although more female riders are choosing to purchase their own motorcycles, if one partner wants a motorcycle while the other is hesitating with trepidation, today it is still usually the husband who wants a bike while the wife is worried about death and disaster (and rightly so, in some cases).

With over half a million motorcycles registered in the state of Florida, this is obviously a mode of transportation that is not slowing in popularity anytime soon—and there must be some good reasons behind that. So whether your spouse has surprised you with such a request, or if this has been an ongoing conversation (but a reluctant one on your part), it is important to understand the benefits too of having a motorcycle—and especially if it does not seem like your spouse wants to back down on the idea!

Let’s look at the downsides first:

  • Motorcycles lack the protection that cars have and the potential for injury in an accident is much greater.
  • Motorcyclists are in greater danger in traffic—and motorists are often the biggest threat.
  • Motorists and truck drivers often do not see the motorcyclist and will cite the lack of visibility in an accident. This is usually simply because motorcycles are in the minority and others are used to looking for cars or larger trucks, rather than motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.
  • Areas like intersections and road construction zones are hot spots for accidents, along with added difficulty in traveling safely during bad weather.

There are many good points if you can get past the safety worries:

  • The economics of riding a motorcycle can be substantially cheaper. The initial cost or monthly payment is usually much lower too.
  • Fuel and maintenance cost much less.
  • Motorcycle insurance is considerably less.
  • There are many health benefits to riding a motorcycle, with every ride being a core workout.

The spiritual, Zen aspect of riding a motorcycle cannot be overlooked either, as motorcyclists not only enjoy the fresh air and freedom, but they also enjoy a camaraderie amongst other motorcyclists.

If your spouse is considering getting a motorcycle, but you are still worried, the best thing to do is continue an ongoing conversation, mainly revolving around safety. To get licensed, they will have to take a course, and this includes reviewing many safety rules and regulations, as well as training. Along with all the basic information and learning how to ride (if that is a need due to a novice driver), all motorcyclists should know what to do in the case of an accident.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of another driver, contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida get compensation for their damages and medical expenses after accidents. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help!

All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.

 

Larger Motorcycle Motors Often Correspond to Worse Injuries

While motorcycles may be one of the more dangerous ways to travel today (and historically—even worse), statistics seem to show that navigating through traffic in any form is hazardous for nearly everyone in the vicinity of a side street, major road, highway, or byway. And in Florida, traffic incidents are on the rise not only between motorists and truckers and motorcyclists, but also pedestrians, and bicyclists. No one is safe, but others are more vulnerable for many different reasons.

Walking or traveling in the fresh air can be a great boon to our psyche, and give a fresh perspective on the day, especially if you have a stressful work life, or often need to get out of the house and clear your head. As a motorcyclist, you may enjoy breaking free of the confines and protection that the metal structure, seatbelts, and airbags offer to travelers choosing to ride in cars; however, this does come with some potential sacrifice for safety—and unfortunately, the sacrifice of life in some cases as fatalities continue to rise on Florida roads.

The irony is that riding a motorcycle offers so many health benefits too, and the first is building up strength. Handling a large motorcycle is no easy feat, and novices should be very well trained before heading out onto the road. Recent data from IIHS suggests that the actual size of a motorcycle motor may play a part in creating more accidents:

“Engine sizes of motorcycles whose drivers were killed in crashes have gone up dramatically. Among motorcycle drivers killed in 2017, 33 percent drove motorcycles with engine sizes larger than 1,400 cc, compared with 9 percent in 2000 and less than 1 percent in 1990.”

Corresponding data also states that most motorcycle fatalities involve men, with most female fatalities occurring when women are riding as passengers. If you are a motorcyclist, or a passenger, be aware of additional ways to stay safe. This includes being extremely visible with bright clothing, reflectors at night, and additional clothing. Always make eye contact with motorists at intersections (especially before turning left) and make yourself seen and heard.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of another driver, contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida get compensation for their damages and medical expenses after accidents. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help!

All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.

 

Common Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents

It’s a wonderful feeling to get out in the fresh air after a busy day at work, or 40-plus hours in a weekly jag of servitude to your job and myriad daily responsibilities. Most motorcyclists enjoy that feeling of being able to hop on their bike, rev the engine, and feel the wind in their hair, taking advantage of their more economical and unfettered choice in transportation. Whether you are involved in a daily commute though or going on a road trip through some of the most scenic byways of the US (not to mention just in Florida alone), there is much to be said for getting outdoors, traveling with freedom, and often enjoying the company of like-minded souls.

For most motorcycle enthusiasts, it is not a good idea just to purchase a motorcycle and ride off into traffic without prior training. These bikes are extremely heavy objects, even if you buy the most lightweight of motorcycles, and they require strength on the part of the rider; in fact, your strength will just continue to build with each ride as you work your core each time.

Unfortunately, however, hazards abound on the road, and especially for travelers left more vulnerable to cars and trucks, whether driving a motorcycle, bicycle or traveling on foot. Visibility is often an issue for others on the road as they may not take the proper time to look when slamming on the brakes, changing lanes, turning left at intersections, or turning right into a crosswalk area; this is why motorcyclists must drive even more defensively.

Injuries in a motorcycle accident can be catastrophic, if not fatal. Every time a motorcyclist lays down their bike, their life could hang in the balance. While road rash is one of the most dreaded results of a motorcycle accident, along with a concussion and traumatic brain injury (most likely if there was not a helmet being worn), broken bones are extremely common. Motorcyclists may commonly experience broken arms, but even more so—broken legs and foot injuries occur as the motorcycle falls directly on them during a crash.

Protective gear should always be worn, beginning with the helmet, but also to involve thick pants and heavy motorcycle boots. Although it may often be tempting in Florida to don a bathing suit, flip flops, and take off down the road, such carelessness could result in devastating injury.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of another driver, contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida get compensation for their damages and medical expenses after accidents. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help!

All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.

Motorcycling in Florida: Summer Wear Does Not Cut It on the Bike

Motorcyclists usually have the cool factor down when it comes to traveling the roads and highways; and while for some that may be intentional, for most it is just the benefit of wearing the proper gear. In Florida, however, most of us are all too used to being able to walk outside at nearly any time of day in shorts, tee shirt, and sandals—and take off. This is one of the great perks to living in the Sunshine State, but it can also be your fatal downfall if you do not take time to cover up when riding a motorcycle.

The summer look is attractive on many Floridians, but believe it or not, the leather and boots and thick gloves are more about your health than your attractiveness, as they protect you from road rash and a wide range of physical harm—not to mention the helmet, which protects your brain from concussion and traumatic brain injury, as well as facial fractures and other types of damage, such as to the eyes—which is why goggles are necessary too. This type of protection usually does not come cheap; however, be sure to factor it in when you are purchasing a motorcycle, because it could be vital to saving your life.

And although you may be a fan of black leather like so many motorcyclists are, be extremely certain that you are visible to other motorists. Brightly colored jackets, shirts, helmets, and even a brightly colored motorcycle are all smart measures to take for visibility. Consider additional lighting on your bike, along with reflectors everywhere possible, including your helmet and even your boots. Take special care at intersections, and do not ever assume that motorists see you. Chances are they may not, which is why if you are turning, it is in your best interest to make eye contact with anyone else behind the wheel or traveling on a motorcycle, bike, or on foot. Also make contact in traffic when changing lanes, if you can see the motorist in their rearview mirror.

Motorcyclists also have the obvious option of being heard loudly. The ability to rev that engine may annoy some, but in the end, it makes everyone on the road aware that you are there.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of another driver, contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida get compensation for their damages and medical expenses after accidents. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help!

All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.

 

Motorcyclists Have the Same Rights as Motorists: Practice Courtesy on the Road

Motorcyclists have the best of all worlds—and the worst—while traveling on today’s highways. Whether you ride a motorcycle or not, some of the benefits are obvious; for instance, while protective gear is meant to be exactly that, it also lends a certain air of cool to those riding the roads and highways on two wheels—not to mention the willingness to eschew the conventional car and all the comforts it has to offer. Riding a motorcycle also offers a wide range of health benefits. This type of activity is not for the weak though, and every workout makes the motorcyclist stronger, working the entire core and the rest of the body too.

Unfortunately, motorcycling isn’t always just about fresh air and a friendly atmosphere out on the road. Drivers are often stressed about getting to their destination on time, and some may be irritable in general. This can lead to an accepted attitude of quasi-belligerence on the road, rather than the opposite, and what is much needed: courtesy. When traveling the roads today, it is critical not only that you follow road signs and signals, but also treat everyone with the same amount of respect. Cars may rule the roads in terms of numbers, but everyone has the right to be there.

As much as motorcyclists may be admired for their seemingly carefree demeanor, they also receive equal amounts of stereotyping and negative behavior toward them while riding with the masses of conventional cars and trucks. Practice common sense and basic good manners on the road to keep everyone safe, and when motorcycles are in your midst, follow these tips:

Always doublecheck your blind spots – while this is always important, motorcyclists can be difficult to see as they are smaller and may shift in their lanes.

  • Watch those lane changes – always use your signal, check your blind spots, and be careful to avoid colliding with a motorcyclist.
  • Be extra careful when turning – this is when many accidents occur, and travelers who are in a hurry or used to traveling the same path every day may not look closely and notice a smaller vehicle. This goes for pedestrians and bicyclists too, as fatalities are on the increase for those groups in traffic as well.
  • Practice caution at intersections – those left turns are known to be the most dangerous for travelers like motorcyclists. While they should work to be as visible as possible, remember that this is one of the hotspots for accidents and extremely defensive driving should be exercised by all.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of another driver, contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida get compensation for their damages and medical expenses after accidents. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help!

All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.