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.


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