Fatal Motorcycle Accidents Continue to Rise Every Year

Hicks and Motto attorneys for motorcycle accident injuries

 

 

In what we find to be unsurprising news, deaths from motorcycle accidents increased dramatically when tracked over a 10-year period – in fact, the statistics show that from 1994 to 2014, nationwide fatalities increased EVERY YEAR.

Sadly, Florida’s statistics follow the same trend. The most recent data show that total motorcycle crashes increased from 8,706 to 9,143, with fatalities increasing from 497 to 531 (source: Florida Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles).

To put this death toll into context, here’s a jarring view – motorcycles account for less than 1% of the national miles driven but account for 15% of traffic deaths. So, with close to 5,000 people dying every year while riding a motorcycle, it makes this form of transportation 26 times more deadly than driving a car.

There are many reasons for this high rate of fatalities and injury accidents involving motorcycles; the most commonly reported being that the motorist didn’t see the motorcycle until it was too late.

If you are a motorcycle rider, what can you do to stay safer on Florida’s congested and dangerous roadways?

  • WEAR A HELMET, even though you are no longer required to by Florida Statutes Section 316.211. It reduces your probability of head injury by as much as 70%.
  • BE CONSPICUOUS; wear bright colors and always be sure your headlamp is on even in daylight.
  • AT NIGHT, wear reflective gear and in addition to your headlamp, use your running lights (if your bike is equipped with them).
  • EXCESSIVE SPEED is involved in a significant number of accidents, so obey posted speed limits.
  • ALCOHOL INTAKE impairs reaction time. You do not have to meet legal standards of intoxication to be a few seconds too slow – and on a motorcycle, that is the difference between life and death.

Motorcycle riders are at an overall higher risk on the road – the stats bear it out – and are at a much higher risk of serious injury or death. Motorcycles have the same rights as cars to be on the roadways, regardless of some people’s opinions to the contrary. If a motorcycle rider is injured or killed through no fault of their own, they or their family are entitled to the same compensation as those injured or killed in an auto accident.

If you or a loved one need a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer with the experience to negotiate adequate compensation, or take your case to trial, contact Hicks & Motto at 561.683.2300.

Florida Ranks Number One in U.S. Boating Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries

Florida ranks number 1 in boating accidents Hicks and Motto Attorneys

 

 

With the warm sun, sandy beaches, and ocean just steps away, Floridians have always enjoyed an active outdoor lifestyle.  Boating is a favorite activity for many South Florida outdoor enthusiasts; however, it is extremely important to know how to stay safe when out on the water.

Florida’s boating facts are astounding.  According to 2018 United States Coast Guard statistics, Florida had the highest number of fatal injury, non-fatal injury, and property damage accidents compared to any other state.

Here are some other key findings from the report:

  • In known causes of boating deaths, 77% were from drowning
  • In known drowning victims, 84% were not wearing life jackets
  • In fatal boating accidents, alcohol is the leading contributing factor
  • In fatal boating accidents, lack of operator boating safety education is a major factor
  • In boating accidents, operator inexperience or inattention are among the top five contributing causes, along with improper lookout, speed, and machinery failure.

These statistics indicate that responsible boating can prevent injury and save lives.  To prevent accidents and injury:

  • Always wear a life jacket
  • Never boat under the influence
  • Take a boating safety course
  • Know navigational rules

Both federal and state laws can apply to boating accidents on Florida’s waterways.  Depending on the circumstances, the operator of a boat may be liable.  If you or someone you know has been injured in a boating accident, you may be able to recover from the responsible party.

Please stay safe and boat responsibly.

Hurricane Property Damage – What to Do

 

property damage

In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, our thoughts are with you, your families, and friends. And with more severe weather on the horizon, there are things you need to know.

After a natural disaster, it can be stressful and completely overwhelming to try assessing your property damage. While you are doing so, we urge you to please be careful – that damage may have made things unstable and even dangerous.

Here are some helpful guidelines:

DOCUMENT THE DAMAGE
Create a thorough list of every damaged item. Include its description, manufacturer name, brand name, model number (if applicable), as well as the location of purchase, date of purchase, and purchase price. Include photographs and videos.

PREVENT FURTHER DAMAGE
Do what you can to prevent further damage. Cover exposed areas like broken windows and damaged roofs to keep the rain out. Avoid hiring anyone to make permanent repairs until your insurance adjuster reviews the damage in person. And be very wary of anyone who comes to your door telling you they’re “working in the neighborhood.” It may be true, but take no chances. There’s a reason the State of Florida has a scam hotline — 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.

FILE YOUR CLAIM QUICKLY
Insurance companies typically handle claims in the order in which they are received. Therefore, it’s important to file your claim as quickly as possible. Contact your insurance company, let them know the extent of your damages, and that you have an inventory. An insurance adjuster will assess the damage and determine the damage amount.

If your property was impacted, here is a list of helpful agencies:

If your home was damaged by Hurricane Dorian and you have any questions about what to do next, please call us 561.683.2300. We’re here to help.

Be Safe!

 

Safe Cycling in Unsafe Times

bicycle accident-hicks and motto

With school back in session, the number of bicycles sharing the road with automobiles dramatically increases, and we’re reminded to be extra careful. Soon, South Florida’s weather may actually grow cooler, and even more cyclists will be hitting the road.

The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports there were 783 bicyclists killed in traffic crashes in the United States in 2017 (its most recent data). No surprise – a car vs. bicycle crash almost always leaves the cyclist injured.

The most troubling part of that statistic is that Florida leads the country in the number of fatal bicycle crashes, accounting for 125 of those 783.

There are two main types of crashes: the most common — falls, and the most serious – those involving cars.

There are things you can do to decrease the risk of a crash.

  • Regardless of the season, bicyclist deaths occurred most often between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Bicyclist deaths were 8 times higher for males than females in 2017.
  • Alcohol was involved in 37% of all fatal bicyclist crashes in 2017.
  • Bicyclist deaths occur most often in urban areas (75%) compared to rural areas (25%) in 2017.
  • Ride responsibly and remember: All states require bicyclists on the roadway to follow the same rules and responsibilities as motorists.

 

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 from 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. PIP laws require you to see a Medical Doctor within the first 14 days after your accident.
  8. Bicycle Repair – take your 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 may not affect your case.
  10. CALL HICKS & MOTTO at (561) 683-2300 – 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.

Put Down That Phone, Drivers

put down the phone drivers

You already know texting and driving is dangerous.

Beginning today, Florida drivers will be ticketed if caught, so it will be expensive, too.

When Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 107, it made texting and driving a primary offense. That means an officer who sees you doing it can pull you over and write you a citation.

There are enforcement issues – but do you want to take that chance?

In order to prove you were texting while driving, the officer needs to look at your phone. But the officer must inform you of your right to refuse to hand your phone over before that.

Here’s the exact text of the statute: “A law enforcement officer who stops a motor vehicle for a violation of paragraph (a) must inform the motor vehicle operator of his or her right to decline a search of his or her wireless communications device and may not access the wireless communications device without a warrant.”

There are also exceptions — you can use your phone for GPS or call 911 or other emergency services. You can also use your phone hands-free. The other exception is that you can text if your car is stopped, such as at a stop sign or red light.

While you’re getting used to the texting/driving ban, get ready for the October 1 portion of the same law to go into effect. It bans handheld phone use in school zones and active work zones. You’ll get a warning from October 1 through the end of the year, and starting January 1, 2020, you’ll get a ticket.

Our advice? Don’t text and drive. Distracted driving results in injury and death on the roads. If you or a loved one are injured due to another’s negligence contact Hicks & Motto at 561.683.2300.

 

Don’t Let the 4th of July Ruin Your Summer – or Your Life

They’re already on every available corner – those fireworks tents selling the biggest, best, most amazing explosives you can buy. But the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) says that, on average, 280 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month surrounding the 4th of July holiday.

If that’s not enough to make you EXTREMELY careful, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) says that, “explosive devices commonly referred to as M-80s; M-100s, M-250s; M-1000s, and cherry bombs exceed the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s explosive weight limits for consumer fireworks and are therefore classified as illegal by ATF and many other law enforcement agencies.”

So many people set off fireworks that the risk of serious harm doesn’t seem likely – not true. So, here are some of the CPSC’s safety tips to keep you and your family safe, especially your children. Kids under the age of five are the second-highest percentage of victims in the ER because of firework-related injuries.

  • Never allow young children to play with or light fireworks.
  • Avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper; it’s often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays, posing serious danger to you.
  • Adults should always supervise fireworks activities – kids can suffer really serious injuries from sparklers, which burn at about 2,000 degrees.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over fireworks when lighting the fuse, so immediately back up to a safe distance.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that didn’t fully ignite.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy.
  • Light fireworks one at a time and move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks are done burning, douse them with plenty of water before you throw them away to prevent a trash fire.

The consumer fireworks specifically prohibited by Florida law are firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets, roman candles, daygo bombs, and any fireworks containing explosive or flammable compounds.

If you or a loved one are injured due to another’s negligence or by a prohibited firework sold to you illegally, contact Hicks & Motto at 561.683.2300. Your first consultation is always free.

 

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.

Is There Insurance Coverage If I Am Injured By or Riding In Uber or Lyft?

So, you decide to use Uber because it is easier or safer. Maybe you use Lyft for a ride. But what happens if your Uber or Lyft ride becomes an auto accident in Florida?

Uber, and its similarly operated competitor Lyft, allow smartphone users to digitally request rides from drivers who operate their own cars. Riders pay for the travel by credit card though the company’s app. Uber, Lyft, and other Transportation Network Companies (TNC) are revolutionizing the way people travel. But one thing hasn’t changed – people get seriously injured in car accidents all over the state of Florida. And when good folks get injured in an Uber or Lyft crash, they should talk to an attorney skilled in handling personal injury claims as soon as possible.

The absence of adequate insurance for drivers of an Uber or Lyft has generated controversy. The politicians and the public wanted to know who would be responsible when:

  • An Uber or Lyft car injured another driver, motorcyclist, pedestrian, passenger, or bicyclist.
  • A passenger in a Lyft or Uber car was injured as the result of the negligence of an uninsured or underinsured driver.
  • A Lyft or Uber driver was injured by an uninsured driver.
  • An Uber or Lyft car injured another driver, motorcyclist, pedestrian, passenger, or bicyclist while awaiting a ride.

These ride-sharing companies answered the question by promising that they had insurance coverage with one million dollar ($1,000,000) insurance policy limits. Uber and Lyft promised that if one of their “Partners” (read Drivers) injured another driver, pedestrian, or motorist while they were “on the clock,” then the Uber driver was covered for one million dollars ($1,000,000).

They also promised that if an Uber or Lyft customer was injured due to the negligence of an uninsured motorist, then Uber and Lyft have one million dollars ($1,000,000) in uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance coverage. In other words, the Uber or Lyft passenger with personal injuries as a result of an accident with someone who did not have car insurance, or not enough car insurance, would have one million dollars ($1,000,000) in insurance available to compensate them for injuries and damages.

But the question of PIP, or Personal Injury Protection, benefits has not been resolved. It is fairly certain that the Uber or Lyft driver’s personal automobile policy would deny coverage. Most auto policies exclude coverage when its insured driver is using the insured vehicle for a commercial purpose like driving for Uber or Lyft unless the insurance company knows about it in advance, which is commonly referred to as a livery exclusion. If the insurance company knows that the insured person or vehicle is driving for Lyft or Uber, then they can offer the correct policy of insurance and charge an appropriate premium.

On May 9, 2017, Governor Rick Scott signed into law House Bill 221, which will take effect July 1, 2017.

HB 221 sets various levels of insurance that either the ride-hailing company or driver’s personal policy must provide as drivers turn apps off and on, and transition from regular civilians to the ride job. That way, if a driver is involved in an accident in the period after logging into the app but before accepting a ride, the driver will have insurance coverage. Similarly, the driver will also have coverage during the period after the driver has dropped off a rider and before the next ride.

If you are interested in becoming, or already are, a driver for Uber or Lyft, please review your insurance coverage immediately. A new coverage, commonly called Rideshare, extends your personal auto insurance coverage through Periods 0 and 1 as shown below. Your full Rideshare coverage ends when you accept a ride request in the app (Period 2). When you drop off the passenger at their destination, Rideshare coverage once again applies while you are still logged into the app and until you accept your next ride request. Although this does reflect an increase in costs to the driver, it can be considerably cheaper than buying a commercial policy.

Rideshare coverage

Our attorneys closely watch the law as it develops in the area of Uber or Lyft car injury crashes. If you were injured by an Uber or Lyft driver, seek appropriate emergency medical treatment, and then contact Hicks & Motto, P.A

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