March 29, 2015

Study: Buyers Purchasing Vehicles With Outstanding Recalls

Last year, there were more motor vehicle recalls than any other year on record. This stemmed from a combination of issues, including the fact that years-old problems were finally being conceded and addressed by manufacturers, and regulators were beginning to take a hard line with the auto industry as new issues emerged. adriver.jpg

Now, a new study from Carfax (a firm that sells reports on vehicle history) reveals there are some 46 million vehicles on the road in the U.S. that were recalled at some point for a safety hazard, but never repaired. What this means is 1 in every 5 cars on the road has an unaddressed recall. Government data indicates it may be even more - that 1 in 4 vehicles has an unaddressed recall.

Bear in mind: These are major defects that have the potential to result in a crash, serious injury and possibly even death.

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March 25, 2015

Southwest Florida Bicycling Deaths Spark Outcry, Calls for Change

The stories of Southwest Florida's bicycling dangers became personal for many people recently, as The News-Press detailed a dozen of them in a recent series entitled, "Paths of Peril."
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In the last five years, there have been 1,400 bike accidents in Lee and Collier counties, with Lee County ranking third in the state for the highest-number of bicycle deaths last year. Florida ranks as the No.1 most dangerous state for cyclists in the country, with 120 people killed on bicycles last year alone.

Although there aren't accurate figures to tally the number of people who are biking in the region in the last several years, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that those figures are rising. When the governor declared March as "Bike Month" in Florida, he noted there were an estimated 25 million residents and tourists who rode bikes every year in the state. What's more, many communities are pushing cycling as a healthy, fun means of transportation in a sunny, picturesque place. There is an expectation that people should be able to engage in it without dying - and that is a reasonable expectation.

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March 24, 2015

Lee County Bicycle Crash Analysis Reveals Unexpected Facts

Recently, The News-Press launched a series on bicycle safety in Southwest Florida, analyzing five years' worth of crashes and examining what needs to be done differently. Reporter Janine Zeitlin even penned an opinion piece detailing why she no longer rides her bicycle on public roads in Southwest Florida, despite enjoying the activity. (The reason: She doesn't feel safe.)
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The precursor to the larger series looked at "7 Things That May Shock You" about bicycle accidents in Southwest Florida. The research destroys the misconceptions many have about why these crashes occur, and why they're so deadly.

Last year, Florida was No. 1 in the nation for bicycle fatalities, tallying 120 total deaths in 2014. There are many reasons for that, including the fact Florida is filled with wide roadways that have high speed limits. We have yearlong riding weather, which means more cyclists are out on any given day than might be in northern states. We also don't have the kind of safety infrastructure that supports cycling, and the criminal penalties for mowing over a cyclist are relatively low.

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March 23, 2015

Report: Lee County Roads Increasingly Dangerous

It's been an inauspicious start to 2015 as the number of traffic fatalities in Lee County has surpassed last year.
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Just in the first month, officials reported 15 people were killed in traffic accidents across the county. Of those, four occurred in a 36-hour period, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The types of crashes range from cyclists struck by motor vehicles to single vehicles striking fixed objects to multi-vehicle collisions. The hazards on Southwest Florida roadways abound, and motorists must be more careful if we hope to avoid nearly doubling the number of car accident deaths we saw last year.

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March 14, 2015

Club Mediterranee v. Fitzpatrick - Sexual Assault Lawsuit Not Bound by Employee Arbitration Clause

Florida's 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled an employee who was sexually assaulted in an employer-provided dormitory is not required to bring her premises liability and negligence lawsuit before an arbitrator, as her employer had argued.
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The arbitration agreement had been signed as part of her employment contract with the company, but the court ruled her injuries had not arisen as a result of or in the scope of plaintiff's employment, and therefore, affirmed the trial court's order denying a motion to dismiss on those grounds in Club Mediterranee v. Fitzpatrick.

This was a unique case in that usually, injury cases against employers by their workers are barred by the exclusive remedy provision of workers' compensation law - even if an employer did act with negligence. However, that's only applicable when the injury was work-related. This case was not, even though the injuries occurred on employer property.

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March 13, 2015

Florida v. Dorsett - Hit-and-Run Proof Standard Shifts

The Florida Supreme Court recently reviewed Florida v. Dorsett, a case that involves a serious and growing problem in the state: Hit-and-run accidents.
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These are cases in which one of the drivers illegally flees the scene of a serious or fatal crash without stopping to render aid or report the accident, as required by law. Not all hit-and-run drivers are the at-fault motorist, though that's often the case. Usually, fleeing stems from the driver lacking a driver's license or insurance, being wanted by law enforcement for some other offense or being drunk or otherwise impaired.

Whatever the reason, it's on the rise. According to the Sun-Sentinel, the number of hit-run crashes statewide totaled 84,000 in 2014 - a sharp increase from the 78,500 reported a year earlier.

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March 5, 2015

Researchers: Adults, Not Teens, More Likely to Text-and-Drive

As Florida lawmakers begin the push for tougher texting-while-driving laws, an interesting piece of information was revealed in a recent study published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
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We already knew Americans far too frequently engage in the dangerous activity of texting behind the wheel. However, we tend to mostly blame teens and young drivers. While it's true such actions are a problem among this group, it turns out they aren't the biggest offenders. It's adults who should know better.

The foundation surveyed thousands of drivers over the age of 16 who had driven at least once in the last month. Although researchers focused on a gamut of traffic safety behaviors, one of those included texting while driving.

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March 4, 2015

Report: 1 in 5 Drivers Involved in Serious Crash, Many Still Drive Carelessly

The latest annual Traffic Safety Culture Index study, released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, reveals that while 1 in 5 U.S. drivers has been involved in a serious crash - with 1 in 10 seriously injured - many still continue to engage in risky behavior behind the wheel.
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Researchers polled more than 2,700 licensed drivers who had driven at least once in the last month, asking about their perception of highway threats, acceptability of certain driving behaviors, support for certain laws and the frequency of their own engagement in those behaviors.

The common thread study authors discovered was a "Do As I Say, Not As I Do" attitude among motorists. For example, though nearly 55 percent of drivers reported red light running was a serious threat to roadway safety and 73 percent deemed it completely unacceptable, nearly 36 percent admitted they had done so themselves at some point in the last month.

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March 3, 2015

Millard Mall Services v. Bolda - Slip-Fall Defendant Blocks Evidence Production

A woman allegedly slipped, fell and was seriously injured while shopping at the Sawgrass Mills Mall in South Florida. To recover damages for her injuries, she filed a lawsuit against mall services and ownership.
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During the discovery phase of litigation, plaintiff sought certain documents from defendants pertaining to similar prior instances at that location. While trial court granted the request, Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed in Millard Mall Services, Inc. v. Bolda, agreeing with defendants that the information was protected under the work product privilege.

Specifically, plaintiff sought production of:
--All records, incident reports or other written memorandum regarding other substantially similar acts and/or occurrences on defendant's premises regarding slip-and-fall accidents over the three years prior;
--All documents regarding maintenance and cleaning the site during the month in which the incident occurred;
--All documents pertaining to the maintenance and cleaning of the site by an outside person/company/organization during that year.

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March 1, 2015

Phantom Vehicles and Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Sorting through auto insurance coverage in the event of a crash can be a complex process under any circumstance, but it can be especially challenging in cases involving "phantom vehicles."
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These are cases where one vehicle crashes, but another unidentified vehicle is alleged to have been the cause. Phantom vehicle cases can be difficult with regard to collection of uninsured motorist benefits because insurance companies often require some degree of independent confirmation (aside from the claimant's testimony) that another vehicle was to blame.

Uninsured motorist benefits in hit-and-run cases are much more straightforward because it's obvious another vehicle was involved due to the damage done by that vehicle upon impact - even if that other vehicle driver is never identified or located. However in phantom vehicle cases, there is usually an allegation of a vehicle being run off the road. But without evidence of impact or fault, it can be tough to prove.

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February 28, 2015

Grebing v. 24 Hour Fitness - Liability Waivers as a Defense

Waivers of liability can be powerful defenses in certain personal injury cases, particularly in Florida in the wake of the Florida Supreme Court decision in Sanislo v. Give Kids the World. That case essentially stated waivers don't have to be written in very specific language in order to be enforced, so long as it's clear to those signing the legal rights they are giving up.
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That is going to make it tougher for plaintiffs in certain personal injury cases to prevail where liability waivers exist. Each case will need to be considered on its merits.

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February 27, 2015

Back Seat Passengers Face Unique Risks in Crash

The recent death of veteran newsman and "60 minutes" correspondent Bob Simon has raised a number of questions about how safe back seat passengers are in the event of a crash.
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Simon was killed while riding in a livery cab in Manhattan. Although he was not wearing a seat belt, officials say he was not violating any laws, as passengers in vehicles-for-hire are not required to wear seat belts. (Similarly, Florida law requires only front seat passengers to be belted in, and all passengers under 18 must buckle up.)

Such laws tend to imply the back seat is somehow a safer place in the event of a crash, and that isn't necessarily true.

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