Amusement Park and Fair Season is Just Around the Corner!

Amusement parks offer guests fun, adrenaline-pumping rides, fantastic sights, and much more. Whether you are visiting a county fair, state fair, carnival, theme park, amusement park, or even a water park, no element of surprise should include injury erupting from reckless behavior. Unfortunately, when carelessness is blended in with excitement, the outcome can be anything but joyous, resulting in serious personal injury and even wrongful death. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, 300 million people go to amusement parks each year. It is estimated that the chance of an injury happening in a theme park setting is 1 in 9 million. After recent fatal events at the Ohio State Fair, Hicks & Motto wanted to inform you about what to do in the event of an injury at an amusement park, fair, or carnival.

Guest safety in any amusement park setting should always come first and be at the top of the establishment’s list of priorities. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and when careless actions or efforts are carried out by owners or employees, people get hurt. Some common negligence issues that lead to injuries include:

  • Dimly lit areas like parking lots where assaults can take place
  • Unlocked doors or gates that can permit access to dangerous areas
  • Poorly maintained rides or buildings
  • Ride operators under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Defects in rides
  • Slippery surface areas
  • Equipment or other articles that obstruct walkways

Tampa, Orlando, Weeki Wachee, and other parts of Florida have some magnificent theme parks that are famous throughout the country. Popular theme parks like these are required to have routine safety inspections and highly trained employees operating the rides. However, even if these safety precautions are performed regularly and properly, accidents can still happen. Injuries at theme parks can be lethal due to extreme heights and momentous speeds reached within seconds flat.

Many amusement park accidents take place on a more local level, at county or state fairs, and short-term festivals and carnivals. The safety measures for small-scale events like these are not as strict as large and permanent parks. Rides and stations are set up and taken down repeatedly and transported across the country every few days or weeks. Sometimes the storage process of these rides can be inadequate. These rides are usually not maintained properly, overused, and outdated. It is not uncommon for these rides to be improperly set up, which can make them a full-on danger zone for paying customers.

The staff at these local events can also be crookedly constructed. Many times they are not fully aware or trained at handling such intricate structures. When this is the case, serious unfortunate accidents can occur. All it takes is one missing screw or an untrained employee to create a catastrophic injury that can change your life forever.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) used to track the number of deaths due to theme park or carnival rides (52 deaths between 1990 and 2004), but they no longer collect mortality data. They did report that, in 2011, over 37,000 people were sent to emergency rooms. Of those, approximately 36,000 were released and a little over 1,000 were admitted to the hospital. The CPSC regulates portable rides such as the ones that you see at county fairs and carnivals, but they have nothing to do with standard fixed rides such as the ones found at Disney World, Universal Studios, or Busch Gardens.

When a wrongful death or amusement park injury occurs, and that injury occurs on a ride, it will be generally due to improper ride maintenance, inspection, or a failure to warn. A theme-park injury may originate with a ride manufacturer’s product defect – which would give rise to a product-liability claim.

However, plenty of people are injured at theme parks or carnivals, and those injuries have nothing to do with the actual rides. The owner/manager of the park has an obligation to maintain the general premises in a safe condition. Inadequate security, broken stairs or handrails, uneven pavement, or insufficient lighting in the parking lot may also be evidence of general negligence that would give rise to a premises-liability claim.

Most theme park accidents deal with large corporations; sometimes one claim can involve several different companies. At Hicks & Motto, we are prepared to go to bat against major corporations; we will not cower from scare tactics enlisted by these corporations to get you to take a low settlement. It is important to know that swift settlement offers are usually not in your best interest; however, all cases are unique. Generally speaking, companies will try and dissuade you from pursuing your legal matters by convincing you that you will be unsuccessful against them. This is simply an effort to limit their product liability exposure. Whether you, or someone you know, is injured at any fairs, carnivals, or theme parks in Florida, call the injury lawyers at Hicks & Motto, P.A., for a free consultation.

Summer is Ending — Watch for School Busses!

back to schoolPalm Beach County Schools are back in session starting August 14. Here’s what you need to know about the laws so you, your fellow travelers, and the students can stay safe.

Florida law says signs must be posted around each school zone telling drivers how fast they can go and when the school zone is in effect. Some signs feature flashing lights rather than a list of times — so don’t assume that because there aren’t lights flashing, you aren’t in a school zone.

If a driver goes over the posted school zone speed — which in Florida could be as low as 15 mph, but no higher than 20 mph — that driver could see a whopping fine. If the set school zone speed limit is 20 mph and you’re caught going 40, your fine usually would be $175 — and that’s aside from any other citations an officer may write. But that speed in an active school zone would net you a ticket of $350.

If a school bus stops to pick up or drop off children, there’s only one situation where it’s legal for drivers to pass: if there is a five-foot barrier or unpaved median between the side of the road you’re on and the side of the road the bus is on.

Otherwise, drivers must stop, whether approaching a bus from the front or behind, when a bus is halted with its lights flashing and its “stop” signs extended.

Penalties for drivers who pass on the right side of the bus are stiff, double the penalty for those who pass on the left.

An illegal left-hand pass could net you a $100 ticket, according to Florida statutes. If you’re ticketed for the same violation again with the next five years, your license could be suspended anywhere from 90 days to six months.

But pass on the right, and that ticket bumps up to $200, with a second violation leading to a license suspension of six months to a year.

If you get pulled over for any reason and issued a citation, contact the attorneys at Hicks & Motto for a free consultation.

–Samuel S. Cohen, Esq.

Car Insurance: Get the Right Coverage!

auto accident

If you own a motor vehicle which is registered in the State of Florida, you are required to have certain types of coverage, namely Property Damage and Personal Injury Protection. If you have only these two types of coverage, you have what is mandated by the State. You do not have “full coverage.” Many people mistakenly assume that if they carry the required coverage, that is all they need – nothing could be further from the truth!

At Hicks & Motto, we can’t begin to tell you how many injured people have come into our office in the last 25 years after having been in an automobile accident and thinking they have “full coverage,” since they have the coverage which the State requires all automobile owners to have. It is heartbreaking to tell them that they actually have no insurance coverage which will pay them in the event they need to be off work for an extended period of time, or that will pay their medical bills for extended hospitalization or surgeries.

There are two additional types of coverage which are, in my opinion, extremely important to purchase. The first of these is called Bodily Injury Liability (“BI”) coverage. That coverage is designed to protect your personal assets in the event you cause or contribute to an automobile accident. For example, if you are involved in an automobile accident which is totally or partially your fault, and anyone is injured, the injured party or parties can sue you. This is the case if you are driving the automobile or if you own the automobile which is involved in the accident.

If you don’t have BI coverage and the injured person or persons obtain a judgment against you for damages they sustained on account of your negligence, your personal assets can be in serious jeopardy. Further, you will either have to defend yourself in court or hire an attorney at your own expense to do so. If, on the other hand, you had purchased Bodily Injury Liability coverage, your insurance company will not only provide an attorney on your behalf, but they will also pay the injured parties’ damages up to the limits of your coverage.

If the driver who caused the accident does not carry BI coverage and you are seriously injured, you may have no recourse against that driver, unless they have sufficient personal assets against which you can collect a judgment. So, how do you protect yourself in that situation? Uninsured (or underinsured) Motorist coverage, called “UM” for short, is the answer. If you have UM coverage, your own insurance company will pay you for your damages if the at-fault driver either doesn’t have Bodily Injury Liability coverage, or doesn’t have sufficient coverage to adequately pay all of your damages. UM is very valuable coverage to have – IT PROTECTS YOU.

In addition to discussing Bodily Injury Liability and UM coverage with your insurance agent, be sure to also ask them to review your current policy to be sure you are carrying adequate Property Damage coverage. In this day and age, when many vehicles on the road are worth $50,000 or more, you need to be sure you have enough Property Damage insurance. Also, carefully look at your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage and Medical Payments coverage. In my experience, for just pennies a month, you can increase your Medical Payments coverage to the maximum allowed by law. Make sure you understand what it means if you have a deductible on your PIP and ask how much it would cost to remove that deductible.

If you are involved in an auto accident, call Hicks & Motto, P.A. for a free consultation.

–Samuel S. Cohen, Esq.

 

Annual Medical Costs Related to Bicycle Accidents Soar Into the Billions

Bicycle accidents are on the riseA study published this week in the journal, Injury Prevention, estimates that from 1997 to 2013, the medical costs for non-fatal bicycle crashes involving adults increased by an average of $789 million each year. In 2013 alone, total costs were $24.4 billion — about double the amount for all occupational illnesses, the researchers wrote. Those figures cover emergency transport, hospital charges, rehabilitation, nursing home stays, the cost of lost work, and quality of life, among other things.

The rising costs can be partially explained by how bike crashes have changed in recent years, according to Thomas W. Gaither, one of the study’s authors. In the past, there were many “non-street” incidents, but these days most involving adults are crashes with motor vehicles. In 1997, 46 percent of injuries occurred on a street, while in 2014, nearly 67 percent did. This increases, “the velocity of the crash impact and, as a result, the severity of the injury,” Gaither explained. He and the other researchers also suggested that, “streets might also predispose to more injuries due to the coexisting environment with urban areas, increased population density, or the presence of more unyielding street furniture” (meaning things such as telephone polls, fire hydrants, parking meters, and the like).

Despite the bad news about the medical and cost consequences, the researchers said they still thought cycling’s health benefits outweighed its risks. But they concluded the study findings show that there should be a policy focus on injury prevention, adding that better design of roadway infrastructure, and even of bikes and cars, might be in order.

Legal rights are affected by an accident, and it is in your best interest to have a knowledgeable attorney review the facts of your case before you decide what course of action to pursue. An attorney can negotiate a replacement bicycle and/or compensation for damage to your bicycle, and negotiate a bodily injury settlement with the insurance company that takes into account all of your damages, including your pain and suffering. You can learn about all your legal rights and speak directly with an attorney for a free consultation with Hicks & Motto.

Here’s a quick list of what to do in case of a bicycle accident:

  1. Check yourself – do a cursory and visual search of your person to determine if you have sustained any injuries that need immediate attention. If necessary, call an ambulance. Do not be a hero!
  2. Assist the injured – check with each person involved in the accident to see if they have been hurt. If necessary, call an ambulance.
  3. Call the Police!
  4. Gather as much information as you can – take pictures of the scene; document the make, model, and license plate of the offending vehicle; gather the vehicle’s driver information including name, address, phone number, license number, and insurance information.
  5. Do not admit fault – your comments made in the tension and excitement of the moment may not be accurate! Wait for all the facts, and consult an attorney before admitting to responsibility, especially if you received a traffic ticket.
  6. Obtain witness information – write down the names and addresses of all the witnesses or involved parties to your accident. Don’t forget any passengers of the vehicles. Ask the witnesses what they observed.
  7. See a doctor – serious injuries do not always show immediate symptoms. It is smart to have your doctor or an emergency room doctor examine you as soon as possible. With the recent PIP law changes, you need to see a Medical Doctor within the first 14 days after your accident.
  8. Bicycle Repair – take you bicycle to a reputable shop with skilled mechanics to evaluate the damage.
  9. Tickets – don’t admit fault even if you are given a citation. The police officer is only giving his or her opinion of what happened. The ticket itself does not affect your case.
  10. CALL HICKS & MOTTO – Be sure after your accident you contact your law firm right away. A lawyer can give you advice, and help you through the process whether you are at fault or not.

Erskine Rogers Receives Special Commendation from Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County

Erskine Rogers recognized by Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach CountyHicks & Motto associate Erskine C. Rogers III is set to receive a special commendation on June 3, 2017 for his pro bono work in 2016. The honor comes from the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, the Florida Supreme Court, and the Florida Pro Bono Coordinators Association. Erskine’s recognition comes at the Silver Level for providing 50-99 hours of pro bono assistance last year.

We congratulate Erskine for the award!

May 21-27 is National Safe Boating Week!

The number of vessels registered in Florida increased slightly in 2016 — to 931,450 — and the state leads the nation in registered vessels. Additionally, it is estimated that up to one million non-registered vessels actively use Florida’s waters, and this segment of the boating population appears to still be growing. Our waterways show the strains of congestion, as each year brings more residents and visitors together to utilize our abundant water resources and enjoy Florida’s boating lifestyle.

2016 SUMMARY OF BOATING ACCIDENTS

  • Florida leads the nation with a total number of 931,450 registered vessels in 2016.
  • There was a total of 714 reportable boating accidents in 2016.
  • Collison with vessel was the leading type of accident with a total of 181 (25%).
  • Towed watersport activities were involved in 13 accidents, resulting in 13 injuries.
  • Paddlecraft (canoes, kayaks, rowboats, paddleboards) were involved in 10 accidents resulting in nine fatalities and three injuries.
  • July was the month with the highest number of accidents (96).
  • Monroe County reported the highest number of accidents and injuries (105 total accidents with three fatalities and 52 injuries).

BOATING FATALITIES

  • 56 fatal accidents for 2016 resulting in 67 fatalities.
  • 29% of the fatal accidents were falls overboard (16 accidents). Boaters falling overboard remains the main cause of boating fatalities.
  • The leading cause of death in fatal boating accidents was drowning with 40 fatalities (60%).
  • July was the deadliest month in 2016 with eight fatalities.
  • Alcohol or drug use is reported to have played a role in 24% boating fatalities.
  • 95% (58) of the victims of fatal boating accidents were males.
  • 65% (39) of the 60 operators involved in fatal accidents were age 36 or older.
  • 78% (47) of all vessels involved in fatal accidents in 2016 were 21 feet in length or less.

BOATING INJURIES

  • There were 714 accidents resulting in 421 injuries. The rate of injury was 45 injuries per 100,000 registered vessels.
  • REPORTABLE PERSONAL WATERCRAFT ACCIDENTS
  • Personal watercraft (PWC) accounted for 13% of all registered vessels in Florida.
  • PWCs were involved in 26% (253) of reportable boating accidents.
  • Rented PWCs represented 41% (89) of PWC involved in accidents
  • 42% of PWC accidents involved a collision with another vessel.
  • 45% of PWC accidents occurred in Miami-Dade (32), Monroe (20), and Pinellas (18) counties.
  • 11 fatalities resulted from the 158 PWC accidents.

EDUCATION STATISTICS

  • The Florida Fish & Wildlife Coservation Commission (FWC) issued 47,307 Boating Safety Education ID Cards in 2016.
  • 63% of the cards were issued to persons born on or after January 1, 1988.
  • Of the 47,307 cards issued, 34,654 were issued to males, 12,606 were issued to females. An additional 1,132 cards were printed for lost, damaged, and information changes.
  • 70% of the operators involved in fatal accidents had no formal boater education.

Boating education is critical

Florida’s current boating safety education law only applies to boaters born on or after January 1, 1988, operating a motorized vessel of 10 horsepower or greater. The face-to-face contacts by FWC officers and its partner agencies are a critical part of outreach efforts and education to the boating public. These statistics show us that the boat operator most likely to be involved in a boating accident is a middle-aged or older male who has boating experience, yet has never learned the most important safety considerations by having taken a boating safety course. When officers observe boating violations or perform fresh and saltwater resource enforcement activities, they conduct boating safety inspections aimed at both identifying and preventing violations or accidents. FWC officers make boating safer and ultimately save lives.

Safe boating is a choice

Florida is the leader in promoting boating accident prevention. The FWC, in association with the National Safe Boating Council, Bombardier Recreational Products Inc., West Marine, and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), launched a statewide boating safety campaign as part of a national initiative. The “Wear It Florida” campaign encourages boaters to wear life jackets anytime they are on the water and educates boaters about the ease and convenience of inflatable life jackets. The campaign is designed to reach the public through a variety of methods including media events, exhibits, personal contacts, social media, radio, and televised public service announcements.

For more information, contact Samuel Cohen of Hicks & Motto at scohen@hmelawfirm.com or phone 561.683.2300.

Riding Your Bike in Florida

May is National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and celebrated in communities from coast to coast. Established in 1956, National Bike Month is a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling — and encourage more folks to give biking a try.

Whether you bike to work or school, ride to save money or time, pump those pedals to preserve your health or the environment, or simply to explore your community, National Bike Month is an opportunity to celebrate the unique power of the bicycle and the many reasons we ride.

So you wake up, throw on your kit and your helmet, log in to your Strava, and head out on your morning ride. Lights are on, a quick 20 miles before work. As you near the halfway point, every cyclist’s fear happens – you get hit by a car!

Here’s a quick list of what to do in case of a bicycle accident:

  1. Check yourself – Do a cursory and visual search of your person to determine if you have sustained any injuries that need immediate attention. If necessary, call an ambulance. Do not be a hero!
  2. Assist the injured – Check with each person involved in the accident to see if they have been hurt. If necessary, call an ambulance.
  3. Call the police!
  4. Gather as much information as you can – Take pictures of the scene; document the make, model, and license plate of the offending vehicle; gather the vehicle’s driver information including name, address, phone number, license number, and insurance information.
  5. Do not admit fault – Your comments made in the tension and excitement of the moment may not be accurate! Wait for all the facts, and consult an attorney before admitting to responsibility, especially if you received a traffic ticket.
  6. Obtain witness information – Write down the names and addresses of all the witnesses or involved parties to your accident. Don’t forget any passengers of the vehicles. Ask the witnesses what they observed.
  7. See a doctor – Serious injuries do not always show immediate symptoms. It is smart to have your doctor or an emergency room doctor examine you as soon as possible. With the recent PIP law changes, you need to see a Medical Doctor within the first 14 days after your accident.
  8. Bicycle repair – Take you bicycle to a reputable shop with skilled mechanics to evaluate the damage.
  9. Tickets – Don’t admit fault even if you are given a citation. The police officer is only giving his or her opinion of what happened. The ticket itself does not affect your case.
  10. CALL HICKS & MOTTO – Be sure after your accident you contact your law firm right away. A lawyer can give you advice, and help you through the process whether you are at fault or not.

Florida Bicycle Law Summary

Bicycle Regulations (see Section 316.2065, F.S.)

  • A bicyclist must obey all traffic controls and signals.
  • A bicyclist must use a fixed, regular seat for riding.
  • No bicycle may be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed or equipped.
  • Parents and guardians must not knowingly allow a child or minor ward to violate any provisions of this section.
  • Every bicycle must be equipped with a brake or brakes which allow the rider to stop within 25 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement.

Sidewalk Riding (see Section 316.2065, F.S.)

  • When riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks, a bicyclist has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian.
  • A bicyclist riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and must give an audible signal before passing.

Lighting (see Section 316.2065, F.S.)

  • A bicycle operated between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with a lamp on the front exhibiting a white light visible from 500 feet to the front and both a red reflector and a lamp on the rear exhibiting a red light visible from 600 feet to the rear.
  • Additional lighting is permitted and recommended.

Roadway Position (see Section 316.2065, F.S.)

  • The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle.
  • A bicyclist who is not traveling at the same speed of other traffic must ride in a designated bike lane or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. A bicyclist may leave the right-most portion of the road in the following situations: when passing another vehicle moving in the same direction; when preparing for a left turn; when reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, or turn lane; when a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side.
  • A bicyclist operating on a one-way street with two or more traffic lanes may ride as close to the left-hand edge of the roadway as practicable.
  • Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding two abreast shall not impede traffic when traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions existing, and shall ride within a single lane.
  • §316.083(1): the driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle.

Left Turns (see Section 316.151 (1)(b)(c), F.S.)

  • A bicyclist intending to make a vehicle left turn is entitled to full use of the lane from which the turn is made. After scanning, signaling, and moving to the center of that lane, the bicyclist must check the signal, and then proceed when it is green and safe to do so.
  • In addition to the normal vehicle left turn, a bicyclist may proceed through the right-most portion of the intersection and turn as close to the curb or edge as possible at the far side. After complying with any official traffic control device, the bicyclist may proceed in the new direction.

Signaling Turns (see Sub-section 316.155(2) and 316.157(2), F.S.)

  • A signal of intention to turn must be given during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning. If a bicyclist needs both hands for control, the signal need not be given continuously.
  • A bicyclist may signal intent to turn right either by extending the left hand and arm upward or by extending the right hand and arm horizontally to the right side of the bicycle.

Headsets (see Section 316.304, F.S.)

  • A bicyclist may not wear a headset, headphone, or other listening device other than a hearing aid when riding. Wearing a headset blocks out important audio clues needed to detect the presence of other traffic.

Civil Penalties (see Sub-section 318.18(1),(2),&(3), F.S.)

  • Non-moving violations, such as failure to use required lighting equipment when riding at night, failure to have working brakes.
  • Moving violations, such as running stop sign or signal, riding against traffic
  • Violations of Chapter 316, F.S. by a bicyclist 14 years of age or younger

Local Ordinances

  • The local governments of counties, cities, towns, and other municipalities can adopt ordinances regulating bicycle riding.  Some towns may also have registration and licensing ordinances. Sidewalk riding may be prohibited entirely or only in certain areas such as business districts. Local law enforcement agencies can provide copies of local ordinances.

Legal rights are affected by an accident and it is in your best interest to have a knowledgeable attorney review the facts of your case before you decide what course of action to pursue. An attorney can recommend appropriate medical treatment, negotiate a replacement bicycle and/or compensation for damage to your bicycle, and negotiate a bodily injury settlement with the insurance company that takes into account all of your damages, including your pain and suffering. You can learn about all your legal rights and speak directly with an attorney for a free consultation with Hicks & Motto.

Hicks & Motto Attorney Christian Kribbs Helps Uber Driver Successfully Challenge Town Ordinance

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, law firm Hicks& Motto attorney, Christian Kribbs, successfully challenged a Town of Palm Beach ordinance used to fine an Uber driver. The Uber driver, Vincent Allora, was ticketed in the Town of Palm Beach; however, his citation was overruled and he will not have to pay a fine thanks to the efforts of Mr. Kribbs. The popular ride service phone app is currently considered illegal in multiple cities and Palm Beach County.

“It was beyond embarrassing, not to mention there was a young female who was waiting for a ride,” said Vincent Allora, the Uber driver who was ticketed. Allora said he was surrounded by three police cars and then slapped with a ticket by police for operating ride-for-hire services without a permit.

But after he challenged it, the town found he was not breaking any law. The driver is now back to work in Palm Beach. His lawyer feels a precedent has been set for all Uber drivers. “At this point, until they change the ordinance, it’s open season for Uber,” said Christian Kribbs, the lawyer for the driver.

“My guess is that they’re going to change the ordinance as quickly as possible. Until they do that though, it’s my opinion they did make a legal ruling,” he said.

Contact Hicks & Motto, 3399 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410.  (561) 683-2300 for more information.


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