August 31, 2010

Dogs can be cause of distracted driving car accidents in Fort Myers

Dogs might be man's best friend, but there is clear and convincing evidence that they are not a driver's best friend.

About two-thirds of dog owners surveyed by AAA said they routinely play with their dog while driving -- some go so far as to feed or water their pet while maneuvering through traffic. Our Fort Myers injury lawyers continue to report on the dangers of distracted driving, which is a leading cause of Fort Myers and Cape Coral car accidents.
The increasing popularity of dogs -- and particularly smaller lap dogs -- could be contributing to the dangers. The Humane Society of the United States reports there are 77.5 million dogs in the United States, or one dog for every four people. Dogs are in nearly half of U.S. households. A report by the Chicago Tribune suggests that more owners are keeping small dogs in their laps while driving and are allowing bigger dogs to roam free inside the vehicle.

"As about 40 percent of Americans own dogs, we see this as an increasingly big problem,'' said Beth Mosher, spokeswoman for AAA of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

An 80-pound dog exerts more than a ton of force in a 30 mph crash, creating an extreme hazard for anyone in its path. Dogs also often become territorial inside a wrecked vehicle, becoming protective of the owners and hindering the ability of emergency responders to provide medical attention. In some cases, law enforcement has been forced to shoot a dog so that rescue workers could assist an injured motorist.

More than 6,000 people are killed and 500,000 are injured each year in accidents caused by distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Other common forms of driving distraction include talking on the cell phone, eating, drinking, smoking, grooming, using in-car electronics or talking to passengers.

The survey of dog owners found that more than half have pet their dog while driving, 21 percent have held the dog in their lap, 7 percent have fed or watered their dog in the car and 5 percent have played with their dog while driving. Eighty percent of dog owners said they have taken their dog on car trips but only 17 percent said they have used a pet-restraint system.

August 28, 2010

Competition seeks input from teens about the dangers of distracted driving car accidents in South Florida

Young drivers are being asked to prepare and submit public service announcements about the dangers of text messaging and using a cell phone while driving. Authorities hope the messages by teenagers for teenagers will help reduce the dangers of distracted driving. As we continue to report, teenagers are at increased risk of car accidents in Cape Coral and Fort Myers.

The winning announcement will debut at National Two-Second Turnoff Day on Sept. 17 and will be featured at the U.S. Department of Transportation's second annual Distracted Driving Summit on Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C. The Two-Second Turnoff Day encourages teenagers to take two seconds to shut off their cell phones before getting behind the wheel -- about the same amount of time it takes a distracted driver to cause a serious or fatal accident.

As our Fort Myers accident attorneys recently reported on our Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, the Sunshine State is one of the few that does not have a law preventing teenagers from text messaging or using a cell phone while driving.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for young drivers ages 15 to 20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nationwide, an estimated 6,000 motorists are killed and 500,000 are injured in distracted driving accidents each year. Only speeding and drunk driving are responsible for more crashes.

Those interested in entering the contest can do so by clicking here.

“One in four teen drivers say they’ve texted behind the wheel, and that’s a trend we’ve got to confront head on,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This contest is an innovative and fun way to get teens involved in spreading the word about the importance of keeping their eyes on the road – and off their phones.”

Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds, doubles your risk for a crash, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

“AAA is pleased to partner with the Department of Transportation and Seventeen magazine in a unique viral campaign that is certain to engage young people and encourage them to spread the word about how simple it is to prevent the dangerous practice of driving while distracted,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet.

August 23, 2010

Senior driving safety an important issue in reducing risk of Fort Myers car accidents

South Florida is likely to be on the front lines in dealing with the huge increase in the number of senior drivers as the Baby Boomers hit the road to retirement.

Our Fort Myers accident attorneys frequently report on the dangers faced by teenage drivers. But the Washington Post reports that drivers over the age of 75 are the most at-risk drivers on the road. And those same drivers are twice as likely to say they plan to drive into their 90s than drivers ages 65 to 74.
Meanwhile, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports the percentage of those over the age of 70 who remain licensed to drive has increased from 73 percent to 78 percent in the last decade. Today's 30 million senior drivers are expected to be joined by 78 million Baby Boomers who will begin hitting their 70s over the course of the next decade.

Talking to older adults about driving safety "is happening all across the United States in families up and down the streets every day," said Elinor Ginzler, a senior vice president of AARP. "It's a huge issue."

In 2008, drivers over the age of 65 were involved in 5,569 fatal accidents and more than 183,000 older drivers were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The issue is compounded by the fact that Americans are living longer than ever, though many are dealing with debilitating illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's, diabetes and dementia.

"In the old days, or even 20 years ago, people just did not live long enough for this to be a problem," said Elin Schold-Davis, head of the American Occupational Therapy Association's Older Driver Initiative. "People are living with a level of impairment that is unprecedented."

The NHTSA offers a wealth of safe driving information for older adults and their families. Topics include:

-Screening and evaluation
-Medication and older drivers
-Adapting motor vehicles for older drivers
-How to understand and influence older drivers
-Driving safely while aging gracefully
-Family and friends concerned about an older driver
-Safe driving for older adults
-Driving transition education

August 21, 2010

Cape Coral school crossing debate is senseless; improved safety reduces risk of pedestrian and bicycle accidents

As the school year begins, we encourage Cape Coral and county officials to act quickly in installing school zone lights at Trafalgar Parkway and Skyline Boulevard.

The Lee County School District reports that about 2,000 students attend Trafalgar elementary and Trafalgar middle school. Skyline Boulevard is one of the city's busiest. The News-Press reports local officials have given installation of school zone lights the go-ahead now that the price has dropped from $270,000 to $45,000.

We think it’s unfortunate that they were not installed long ago. Thousands of young children flood this area everyday and their safety should never be compromised by an attempt to keep costs down.

As school begins, please take extra care in watching for young children, either walking or riding their bicycles, as well as school buses that are loading or unloading passengers. Students are at increased risk of a Fort Myers bicycle accident or pedestrian accident, especially in the early morning or late afternoon when commutes can compete with the fringe of rush hour.

Last week we wrote on our Florida Injury Lawyer Blog that teenagers are at increased risk of a car accident as the school year begins. And that is true. But the truth of the matter is that all children are at significant risk of being involved in a traffic accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for those ages 3 to 20.

Back to school means the law of averages simply is not on the side of a motorist. More than 80,000 students will flood one of the nation's 50-largest school districts. It's a safe bet that 79,900 would otherwise be in bed at 8 a.m. The coming weeks are among the most dangerous time of the year as students and motorists relearn the art of safe travel and coexistence.

Many accidents happen around school buses or crosswalks. Dangers include:

-Children are most likely to be hit while hurrying to get on the bus.

-Act before they think and have little experience with traffic.

-Assume motorists will see them and wait for them to cross.

-Don't always stay within a bus driver's site.

-Try to reach under a bus to pick something up.

We urge you to speak with your child about safe walking and cycling habits. The U.S Department of Health and Human Services provides excellent learning tools, including downloadable presentations.

You may also view the Kids Walk-to-School Brochure.

August 20, 2010

School year begins; use caution in avoiding school bus accidents in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Port Charlotte

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced this week that all new motor coaches will be required to have seat belts to prevent ejection in the event of a rollover accident. That's good news unless your child rides a school bus -- existing buses and new school buses are exempt from the requirement.

The new school year brings increased risk of a school bus accident in Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte. Student fatalities are thankfully rare, though they do happen. Just this month in St. Louis a horrific accident involving two school buses and a semi killed two students and sent 50 to the hospital. An average of 19 students die in school bus accidents each year in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Injury accidents are much more common. At risk groups include student passengers and other motorists who are involved in an accident with a school bus, which carry the increased risks often associated with being in an accident with a semi or other large commercial vehicle.

State law requires drivers to stop for school buses with activated red flashing lights. For the busy motorist, it can be helpful to remember that these laws are aimed at preventing tragedy; certainly no driver wants to be responsible for hitting a child. Passing is not permitted until the red lights and signals have been turned off. The law applies to cars traveling in the same direction, as well as traffic moving in the opposite direction. Never pass a bus on the right side where children enter or exit.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles does not distinguish between school bus accidents and accidents involving motor coaches or passenger buses. Last year, 2,163 crashes were reported. Twenty-three people were killed and 1,203 were injured.

As our children head back to school, we encourage you to speak with them about school bus safety. The following tips are provided by the NHTSA:

-Supervise children to make sure they get to the stop on time, are waiting away from the road and are avoiding rough play.

-Teach children to ask the driver for help if something is dropped near the school bus. Have a child use a backpack or book bag to keep loose items together.

-Make sure clothing and backpacks are free of long drawstrings or straps that can get caught on handrails or bus doors.

-Encourage safe loading and unloading.

-If you think your bus stop is dangerous, talk to school officials about taking corrective action before a child gets hurt.

August 14, 2010

Elderly residents are at high risk of fall injuries in South Florida nursing homes

The family of a woman who was killed in a Florida nursing home fall has been awarded $114 million -- a record verdict in Polk County, the Ledger reported.
The verdict has put the focus on the epidemic of nursing home falls in this country. The suit claims the home knew of the 76-year-old woman's risk of falling and failed to take preventive measures. The patient fell within two weeks of being admitted to the home. She never recovered from a traumatic head injury, broken arm and other injuries. She was malnourished, dehydrated and suffering from bed sores when family pulled her out of the home in May 2003. She died several months later.

We make the often difficult decision to place our loved ones in a nursing home because we do not feel qualified to provide the kind of professional care necessary to keep them safe from harm. The average annual cost of nursing home care is $50,000 and we expect professional care and the protection of whatever quality-of-life is left to an aging family member.

Yet the prevalence of nursing home falls shows that far too many homes are failing in the basic task of ensuring a resident's physical safety. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reports as many as 200 falls a year occur in the average 100-bed nursing home.

Facts about nursing home falls:

-About 1,800 nursing home residents die from falls each year.

-As many as three-quarters of nursing home residents fall each year.

-The average patients falls more than once. In fact, he or she falls 2.6 times per year.

Falls frequently lead to a decline in quality of life. Fear of falling, loss of function, depression, social isolation and increasing helplessness are common consequences of fall injuries.

Some argue that nursing home falls are common because of the failing health of residents. However, a closer look at the statistics reveals that only about one-fourth of falls are caused by a resident's diminished physical ability.

Common causes of nursing home falls:
-24 percent of falls are attributed to muscle weakness, walking or gait problems of the resident.

-Up to 27 percent are caused by avoidable environmental hazards, including wet floors, poor lighting, incorrect bed height and poorly fitted wheelchairs.

-Failure to properly administer medicine, especially sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs, are commonly blamed for nursing home falls.

-Other common causes are poorly fitted clothing and failure to provide proper walking aids and supervision.

Continue reading "Elderly residents are at high risk of fall injuries in South Florida nursing homes" »

August 13, 2010

Back to school puts emphasis on teen driving safety in South Florida

The Fort Myers injury attorneys and staff at Associates & Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, urge parents to speak with their children about the dangers of distracted driving as teenagers begin returning to school this week.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers ages 15 to 20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And Florida ranked just "fair" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety when it comes to the training young drivers receive. Only 13 states did not earn the agency's top rating.
Regardless of the training a teen receives in the classroom, it is the involvement of parents who are willing to set clear rules that frequently makes the difference when it comes to keeping teens safe behind the wheel.

Florida is one of only a dozen states with no laws preventing teenagers from using cell phones or text messaging behind the wheel. A recent study published in USA Today found that the vast majority of teenagers understand the dangers of text messaging or using a cell phone while driving ... but they do it anyway. Nationwide, 6,000 people a year are killed by distracted driving and more than 500,000 are injured. Only speeding and drunk driving account for more fatal accidents on our roads.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood plans to increase the pressure on non-complying states like Florida during a national distracted driving summit planned for next month in Washington.

“Working together, we can put an end to the thousands of needless deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving each year,” said Secretary LaHood. “By getting the best minds together, I believe we can figure out how to get people to put down their phones and pay attention to the road.”

And the Florida Sheriff's Association reports that between 25 and 30 percent of teenagers will be involved in an accident within 12 months of getting their driver's license.

Frequent causes of teen accidents in South Florida include:

-Text messaging, talking on the phone, eating, drinking, grooming, using in-car electronics and talking to passengers are all leading causes of teen car accidents.

-Studies show allowing a teen to ride with a passenger significantly increases the risk for an accident; in fact, the majority of teenagers killed in car accidents are riding with teen drivers.

-Teens driving at night are four-times more likely to be involved in a serious or fatal crash.

Comprehensive teen driving safety information is available here.

August 12, 2010

Medical bills often a huge headache after a South Florida injury accident

The New York Times recently reported the case of a mother who was shocked to learn her son racked up a $5,398 emergency room bill for a cut chin after slipping and falling in the bathroom.

Medical bills in the wake of a serious injury accident can be astronomical. Errors are quite common and the added stress placed on a family can be almost too much to bear. Our Cape Coral injury lawyers and Fort Myers accident attorneys understand what it takes to cut through the red-tape. And to help ensure that you are receiving the care you need and deserve.

At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Personal Injury Lawyers, we have a department dedicated to assisting clients with medical bills and insurance paperwork. We also work with clients to assist them in getting the necessary follow-up medical care.

Medical billing is often needlessly complex and over-billing is common in the wake of a serious or fatal car accident -- we've all heard the stories of $40 aspirin and $1,000 crutches. Insurance companies frequently ask grieving families to sign unfamiliar documents or other paperwork that can impact their ability to collect damages. Complicating the whole process is the fact that insurance payments and medical bills frequently pass each other in the mail.

The law requires most hospitals to treat all emergency room patients the same, regardless of whether or not they have insurance. To compensate, hospitals set gross charges very high and then negotiate lower costs with insurance companies.

What this means to the patient is that nobody pays retail billing prices for hospital services -- A $3,000 bill may be satisfied with a $500 insurance payment. Such billing practices are just another reason that having an experienced law firm on your side is critical to protecting your rights and the financial well-being of you and your family in the wake of a serious or fatal accident.

“People don’t realize that the prices on the bill are just a starting point,” said Dr. Jesse M. Pines, an associate professor of emergency medicine and health policy at the Center for Health Care Quality at George Washington University. “Prices listed on the bill often don’t represent what the insurer or the patient will ultimately pay.”

Unpaid medical bills are frequently turned over for collection, often before a victim has recovered from his or her injuries and managed to return to work. By dealing with the doctors, hospitals and insurance companies, our staff can help ensure that you are treated with the dignity and respect you deserve.

August 7, 2010

Florida permits faster heavier trucks - more semi accidents a certainty

Lawmakers ignored the wishes of motorists and safety advocates this summer in passing a law that permits some of the heaviest semis in the nation to roll down Florida highways.

Only Idaho, Maine, Washington and North Dakota permit heavier trucks. Nationwide, nearly every state limits the weight of a semi to 80,000 pounds. When Gov. Charlie Crist signed House Bill 1271 into law, he permitted Florida semis to add an additional 8,000 pounds to the maximum load.
Beginning July 1 semis are permitted to add the weight of two additional passenger cars to the average load, which already weighs as much as 20 passenger cars. And Florida's 70 mph speed limit for semis is already one of the highest in the nation. Is it any wonder that Florida is among the deadliest states in the nation for trucking accidents? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 269 semis were involved in fatal Florida trucking accidents in 2008. Only California and Texas recorded a worse safety record.

Our Fort Myers accident attorneys are frequently called to represent motorists who have been injured or killed in accidents with semis or other large commercial vehicles. These trucks must obey specific safety regulations precisely because of the dangers they pose to the motoring public. Relaxing these standards is never a good idea, particularly in a state that already has one of the worst safety records in the nation.

Supporters of the change (trucking companies, naturally), claim it will make the system more efficient by reducing the number of trips required to deliver maximum roads. Reduced congestion, fuel consumption and emissions are also benefits.

Safety advocates argue more innocent motorists will be killed. Every year. Without a doubt.

Road Safe America, an organization that was founded by the parents of a child killed in a semi accident, reports that more wrecks are a certainty when 10 percent more weight is added without requiring additional axles, brakes or other controls.

"Floridians must ask themselves 'Who benefits from Governor Crist's raising the weight limit?'" declared Tom Hodgson, Executive Director of Road Safe America.

Semis already require about three-times more room to stop than a typical passenger car.

"The dangers of increasing tractor-trailer truck weights are well known - they are harder to stop, steer and more vulnerable to roll over during a crash," said Tom Guilmet, the Executive Director of the Florida Safety Council. "But, by far, the most compelling objection to heavier trucks is the fact that they will cause more deaths and injuries on our highways."

August 6, 2010

Fewer Lee County motorcycle accidents welcome news after decade of rising crash rates

Our Fort Myers motorcycle accident lawyers welcome the news that the number of Florida motorcycle accidents decreased last year, after increasing each year for more than a decade.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports the number of fatal accidents plunged 25 percent, from 532 in 2008 to 402 last year. The total number of crashes and the number of riders injured also decreased.

That's welcome news after a decade in which the number of riders killed on Florida roads each year nearly doubled, from 5,075 in 2000 to 9,618 in 2008. Still, motorcycle accidents accounted for 1 in every 6 fatal accidents on Florida roads during 2009. And thousands of riders were seriously injured in Florida motorcycle accidents.

For four decades, our Fort Myers injury lawyers have been fighting for the rights of riders who have been seriously injured or killed in motorcycle accidents across South Florida, including Naples, Cape Coral, Port Charlotte, and Lehigh Acres. Ask a rider, they'll tell you to call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Personal Injury Lawyers.

Last year, 402 riders were killed and 7,435 were injured in more than 8,000 Florida motorcycle accidents. Fourteen motorcyclists were killed in Lee County last year. Broward (23), Duval (18), Hillsborough (27), Miami-Dade (45), Orange (25), Palm Beach (18), Pinellas (24) and Volusia (22) counties reported more fatal motorcycle accidents.

2009 motorcycle fatalities
Charlotte: 4
Collier: 3

2009 motorcycle injuries
Lee: 172
Charlotte: 78
Collier: 74

Nationwide, more than half of all motorcycle accidents are the fault of a motorist who fails to yield the right-of-way or otherwise causes a serious or fatal accident. For rider safety information, visit our website dedicated to Florida bikers.

August 5, 2010

Cape Coral among the most dangerous areas in Florida for drunk driving accidents

A recent report in the Fort Myers News-Press revealed that Cape Coral has the third-highest rate of drunk driving accidents of any major city in Florida.

The news comes as the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles releases accident data for 2009. The statistics show a record drop in the number of fatal car accidents, from 2,983 in 2008 to 2,563 in 2009. However, our Cape Coral car accident attorneys expect Florida to rank as one of the most dangerous states in the nation for all types of traffic accidents when the federal government releases statistics in the coming weeks.
Historically, Florida has joined California and Texas in reporting the highest number of car accidents, drunk driving accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, trucking accidents and boating accidents.

Drunk driving accidents are among the most tragic cases we handle. Too often, an innocent motorist, or an innocent family, is seriously injured or killed by the senseless act of a driver who climbed behind the wheel after having too much to drink.

The new statistics show that 109 Cape Coral drunk driving accidents were reported last year. Only Coral Springs and Palm Bay reported a higher rate of drunk driving accidents.

Cape Coral ranks 17th with a total of 1,062 crashes reported -- the only area city in the top 20. The number of Lee County car accidents blamed on drunk driving has declined in recent years, from 715 in 2007, to 685 in 2008 to 617 last year.

More than one-third of the state's fatal accidents are blamed on drunk driving, 1, 004 of 2,563.

Some smaller area cities have even higher rates of drunk driving accidents:

-Fort Myers: 7.3 percent

-Bonita Springs: 20.1 percent

-Fort Myers Beach: 36.96 percent

-Sanibel: 5.71 percent

-LaBelle: 27.08 percent

-Lehigh Acres: 16 percent

-North Fort Myers: 10.91 percent

-Punta Gorda: 12.17 percent

-Immokalee: 12.12 percent

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