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As of December 2008, More Than 271,000,000 Cell Phones Are In Use In The United States

More than 84% of the country’s population now own a cell phone. According to the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal, talking on the cell phone while driving increases fourfold the risk of having an injury-causing accident. Cell phone drivers’ reaction time is reduced by approximately 20%. Hand-held and hands-free phones are equally faulty in distracting drivers because of “inattention blindness.”  Inattention blindness is a cognitive state that slows the driver’s reaction time and limits the ability to detect changes in the road. Inattention blindness is a cognitive reoccupation with a conversation, and not related to manually holding the phone. The performance of drivers who are conversing on cell phones is more impaired than drivers who are intoxicated.  Drivers who are using call phones have more accidents and slower reaction times than drivers who are legally drunk. In 2007, Americans sent more than 600 billing text messages, ten times the amount sent three years prior to that.  The use of Internet on mobile devises has grown so sharply – it is estimated that 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries result from driver cell phone use each year.

In Florida and in many other jurisdictions, an employer is held liable for the acts of its employees – This would include cell phone usage.  See Vigilant Ins. Co. v. Keiser, 391 So.2d 706, 714 Fla. 1st DCA 1980). Six states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from talking on hand-held cell phones while driving. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have banned all text messaging while driving.

Hidden dangers of theme park rides

By Ed Normand

While standing in line at a theme park, in anticipation of enjoying a ride you have seen advertised on television, you read a warning. It tells you not to ride if you are pregnant or if you have a back or neck injury. No problem there and so you proceed to the ride. While on the ride something about the ride causes you to smash a vertebrae, rupture a disc or sustain a head injury. Should the parks be held responsible for these injuries where the park “guest” did nothing wrong, obeyed all warnings and there was no foreseeable likelihood of such an injury being sustained from the advertisements about the ride? What if the theme park operator knew others were hurt before on the ride, but they deliberately make no mention of it in the warning? This is the true state of facts for many theme park rides.

Sadly, in Florida the big theme parks are legally allowed to keep most ride-related injuries forever secret even when the injuries are sustained in the normal operation of the ride and even when the warning mentions nothing of the known prior injury. The parks intentionally withhold from the public information about the ride injuries and instead go to great lengths to keep the data secret and they are no obligated to report injuries except in very limited circumstances (in fact, the local fair is held to a higher injury reporting standard than the big three parks). To prove the point out of the multitude of injuries in the lawsuits cited in an Orlando Sentinel article, “Only nine of the 101 ride-related lawsuits found in the Sentinel’s review of 2004-08 court cases were reported to the state as accidents when they occurred.” The parks keep secret most of the injuries sustained in amusement park ride related injuries. The theme park industry has cadres of lawyers who are hired to keep the information on ride injuries away from the public. Why would they do that if the rides are as safe as they claim? I have represented children with horrible permanent head injuries and facial scarring, others with broken bones and ruptured discs requiring surgery. All sustained from using the ride as instructed. Tell me where the warning explains those risks. Further, on some of the rides the same injuries had been caused to others already on the same ride yet the warning makes no mention of the known danger.

Even after it is proved that the injury was caused by the ride, many times the parks do not do the right thing. Most people just want their medical bills paid but they get stonewalled by the parks. Often these are tourists from out of the country who do not have health insurance for U.S. injuries. Other times U.S. health insurance does not cover the injury and so when the parks refuse to pay for even the medical bills indisputably caused by the ride, “guests” must then come to a lawyer out of desperation. The big parks make billions from advertising inviting guests to ride their rides. In turn, when an invited guest heeds all warnings, uses a ride in the manner intended, and yet sustains serious injury on a ride shouldn’t the park pay for the damage caused by the ride? In my mind, that is simply the right thing to do.

Orlando Ranks Number One in the Most Dangerous Cities for Walking

By: Andrew Price

Transportation for America released a new study on which U.S. cities are most dangerous for pedestrians. If you’re going for a stroll in Florida, keep your wits about you: Orlando, Tampa, Miami, and Jacksonville take the top five spots.

The report blames most pedestrian deaths on what they call “poorly designed arterial roads”—they’re high-speed, multi-lane city streets lined with shopping centers, drive-throughs, apartments, and office space, yet devoid of pedestrian-friendly elements like crosswalks.

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You can get the full report here and send Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood an email about pedestrian safety here.

Special Editorial to the Orlando Sentinel From Attorney John Stemberger, Attorney for Rifqa Bary

orlando personal injury lawyer The Orlando Sentinel's news coverage and editorials on Rifqa Bary's case have been consistently biased and disingenuous. The Sentinel's religious-like commitment to protect Islam from any and all examination or criticism has compromised its ability to objectively understand and report the news in this case.

The Sentinel largely ignored the key motivating force behind this case — the Noor Islamic Center mosque in Columbus, Ohio, which Rifqa's parents attend. The Sentinel gave paltry coverage to the 35-page memorandum I filed with the court documenting this mosque's ties to terrorist groups. Rifqa successfully hid her faith from her parents for over three years until the local Islamic community learned of Rifqa's conversion on Facebook. Rifqa said they pressured her father through e-mails and calls to "deal with this matter immediately." Without the mosque's influence on Mr. Bary, he would have never exploded in anger, threatened Rifqa's life and then said he was sending her back to Sri Lanka...(To read Full Editorial Peice click here: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opinion/os-ed-stemberger-111009-20091109,0,3462885.story )

Ohio man killed Sunday in auto accident in Jensen Beach

By staff report
Monday, July 27, 2009

JENSEN BEACH — One Ohio man was killed and another critically injured in a single-vehicle accident Sunday, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The accident, which happened at Northeast Pineapple Avenue and Northeast Jensen Beach Boulevard, is under investigation.

Neither man was using a seat belt, according to an accident report released Monday.

Dead at the scene was Cole Dando, 22, of Union, Ohio. John A. Cohoon, 22, of Englewood, Ohio, was critically injured. The FHP has not said which man was driving when the 2002 Chevrolet pickup truck failed to negotiate the curve of the round-about on Jensen Beach Boulevard and smashed into a large tree.

Cohoon was taken to the trauma center at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce. No determination has been made as to whether alcohol had a role in the crash. The FHP is awaiting toxicology reports from the Medical Examiner’s Office before deciding that issue.

Car Accidents Caused by Text Messaging

Text messaging by drivers is legal even though research has found that it increases the chance of accidents. When people engage in multitasking, they lose the ability to monitor themselves while they are driving, according to a researcher at the University of Utah at Salt Lake City who has studied cell phone and motorist safety for seven years.

In a recent study of 19- to 24-year-olds in driving simulators, motorists who text message while driving are six times more likely to be distracted and have an accident. When a driver texts, driving patterns change. For example, the response time to brake is 23 percent slower — 1.077 seconds when texting and driving compared with 0.881 seconds when unencumbered.

The National Safety Council finds that text messaging is among the worst things a driver can do. Of course, any time you take your hands, eyes or brain off the wheel it's not good idea. However, with text messaging, you take all three off the wheel. In fact, the study found that drivers who are talking on a cell phone or texting while driving don't process the visual environment. They may not recognize whether they are seeing a red traffic light or the onset of a brake light.

Investigators of a recent accident in which five teenagers were killed said the phone owned by the 17-year-old driver was used to make a call and send and receive text messages in the three minutes before the crash. It isn't known whether the driver, Bailey Goodman, or a passenger was text messaging.

Only Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., have prohibited motorists from driving and talking on hand-held cell phones. California and Washington will ban cell phone use starting Jan 1. Also, AAA says 14 states restrict the use of cell phones by drivers younger than 18.

Florida Enacts Updated Seat-belt Law to Protect Drivers and Save Lives

As Orlando personal injury and car accident attorneys practicing statewide and located in Orlando, we thank and priase the Florida Legislature for enacting a new seat-belt law, which will allow police to issue ticket to drivers because they are not wearing seat-belts. Seat-belts prevent serious injuries and wrongful deaths.  Therefore all actions taken to insure their use is not only appropriate, but necessary.

Previously, officers were only allowed to ticket a driver for not wearing a seat-belt, if they stopped that driver for another violation. However the new law, which Governor Crist signed, is named after Dori Slosberg and Katie Marchetti, both of whom lost their lives in car accidents while not wearing seat belts.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the new bill will save 124 lives and prevent over 1,700 serious injuries every year in Florida. That statistic is signifigant and speaks for itself.

TRYING TO FIGURE OUT YOUR AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE?

With all the changes in Florida’s No Fault law (here one day, gone the next, but now it’s back), knowing what automobile insurance to have, what is required and what coverage is important can be very confusing.  This article seeks to provide some basic information to answer whether or not you truly have “full coverage” and whether or not “full coverage” in Florida, is enough.

Ten Coverages in One Policy

First, let’s look at the typical auto policy.  It is not just one kind of insurance, but actually 10 different coverages, all rolling into one policy.  Here is a quick overview of the 10 kinds of coverage in an Auto Insurance Policy.  Please note:  The following is certainly not intended to provide a legal definition of any policy, as definitions differ per insurance company.  Also, it is not a substitute for reading and understanding your own policy.

Bodily Injury Liability – It pays the medical and other expenses or damages of those people injured or killed in accidents you cause.

Property Damage Liability (PDL) – It covers the damage your car causes to property which is usually another person’s car, but it also covers damage you do to any object you hit, such as a fire hydrant, light pole, garage, fence, etc.

Collision – This is the damage done to your care when it collides with other vehicles or other objects.

Comprehensive – This covers damage to your car that results from something other than a collision with another vehicle, such as damage caused by hitting a deer or having a tree fall on your car.  It also includes coverage for theft.

Medical Payments Coverage (MPC) – It provides supplemental coverage for medical bills and sometimes funeral expenses for you, as well as members of your family and passengers in your car, if it is involved in a collision, regardless of who caused the accident.  It also general covers you as a pedestrian if you are hit by a vehicle.

Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM) – It pays for injuries to you if you are hit by a driver who doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have sufficient limits of coverage.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) – Also known as PIP or No-Fault Insurance.  It is mandatory in Florida and covers 80 percent of medically necessary medical expenses; 60 percent of lost wages, plus all replacement services such as child care, housekeeping, or yard work that you would have performed had you not been injures; and $5,000 in death benefits.  This provides coverage to you or a family member or other passengers, regardless of fault to the limit of your PIP coverage.

Additional Equipment – Should you add additional equipment to your car (after-market car stereo system, special rims or tires), some insurers provide coverage for this equipment.

Rental Car Reimbursement – It reimburses you to a certain extent for your rental car expenses when your car has been damaged in an accident.

Towing
– It reimburses you for towing charges if your car breaks down.

Mandatory Insurance in Florida

As a Florida resident, you must carry $10,000 of personal injury protection and $10,000 of property damage liability.  This applies to self-propelled vehicles, with four or more wheels that are registered and licensed in the state.  It also applies to any part-time or seasonal resident living in Florida at least 90 days of the year.  The 90 days do not have to be consecutive.

If you have been in an accident, you also may be required to carry bodily injury liability coverage of at least $10,000 per person and $20,000 per occurrence to comply with the Financial Responsibility Law.  Factors that trigger this requirement may include a conviction for a traffic violation or failure to pay for accident damage.

What Optional Coverages are Important?

The answer to this question often depends on how you view insurance coverage.  From experience, however, the greatest mistake Floridians make is in not carrying Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage.  Why is this important?  Two reasons:  (1) Because of the large percentage of people driving in the State of Florida without insurance or without sufficient bodily injury insurance; and, (2) because this is an insurance purchased to protect you.  To put it as simply as possible, if you are in a serious accident that requires more than the required $10,000 in medical care and/or lost wages, and the at-fault driver is without bodily injury insurance, without UM/UIM insurance there is no recovery if the at-fault driver has no personal assets.  Unfortunately, we have seen scenarios such as this where the injured party has been forced to leave work and live solely on social security disability.

Frequently, clients will call complaining that the at-fault party’s insurance company won’t pay them enough for their damaged vehicle.  This is one good reason to have collision and comprehensive coverage.  Often times, an insured driver is able to work better with their own insurance company to obtain reimbursement for the repairs or replacement of their vehicle.  But, without this coverage, you are at the mercy of the at-fault party’s insurance company.  Although going through your own insurance company for this coverage will require you to pay your deductible, once your insurance company is able to obtain recovery against the at-fault driver, you should get back your deductible.  Likewise, if you back into someone’s car or cause damage to your own vehicle, this coverage will cover the repairs to your vehicle.

Last, but certainly not least, is making sure you have sufficient limits in your bodily injury coverage to provide enough coverage to someone else if you were to cause a tragic injury or death.  If you have personal assets, there is nothing stopping the injured party from coming after those assets.  Therefore, carrying greater than the minimum $10,000 (per person)/$20,000 (per accident) limits is a good idea

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