Texting While Driving In Florida…

Texting While Driving in Florida: Dangerous and Against the Law!

The Florida ban on texting while driving law is found at Florida Statute §316.305.  Incredibly, although everyone knows it’s a careless and dangerous practice, it is still only a secondary offense (F.S. 316.305(1)(d)).  This means to be cited (receive a ticket) for texting while driving (TWD), a motor-vehicle operator must be detained (pulled over or stopped) for another type of violation (i.e., speeding, running a red light, taillight out, etc.)  (F.S. 316.305(5)).

Evidence of texting will be admissible in criminal and civil proceedings where the driver that was texting while driving cased a crash involving death or personal injury.  In those cases, cell phone bills or other written evidence of TWD will be admissible in Court.  (F.S. 316.305(7)(c)).

TWD is distracted driving.  The U.S. Department of Transportation has recognized that such a major problem exists with distracted driving that they have funded an education campaign known as www.Distraction.gov.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has instituted an extensive education effort aimed at young drivers using powerful YouTube videos that graphically depict the danger of texting behind the wheel.  The statistics are overwhelming.  The National Safety Counsel reports that 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by TWD.  The list goes on and on.  More incredible is the fact that TWD makes you 23 times more likely to crash – the same as driving after 4 beers!  Despite this indisputable evidence, 800,000 drivers are doing it at any given time across the country.

Certainly, no one can argue that TWD is negligent.  Florida courts are starting to hold that it may even rise to the level of recklessness (an intentional act like driving while intoxicated).  This clear and obvious danger of TWD has led to Plaintiffs (people bringing lawsuits) to seek punitive damages under Florida Statutes §768.72 (1) and (2).  To make a claim for punitive damages against a driver that has caused personal injury or death due to a crash while texting, an injured party needs to prove gross negligence that indicates a wanton disregard for the rights of others.  (As early as 2011, Florida courts began allowing punitive damage claims against a Defendant whose conduct (TWD) caused a car crash resulting in death (Margaret S. Caskey, et. al. v. Astellas Pharma US, Inc., et. al., Collier County Case No. 112010 CA 0005820001XX (Fla. Collier Cir. Ct. 2011).  It should be noted that regular insurance policies do not provide coverage for these damages.  Since 2011, discovery of electronic records and data has become increasingly more sophisticated in criminal and civil cases and text message histories are readily obtainable.  This evidentiary proof will continue to become more accessible and verifiable in injury and death cases.  Phone records, billing records, and screen shots are the proverbial “smoking gun” in modern distracted driving cases.

Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A. is a Florida injury law firm that has more than 30 years’ experience in representing victims of personal injury and wrongful death.  We handle cases throughout Florida involving texting while driving and distracted driving claims.  Please contact us for a free case evaluation.

What is Mediation and Why is Mediation Required in Florida

Mediation is required in every civil action in Florida. Mediation is a structured settlement conference that the parties to a civil lawsuit must attend. In every personal injury case that is in litigation, the Court will require the parties to meet at a mediation in order to try and settle their case. Mediation works – cases settle at mediation very often. A mediator must be certified in order to preside over a mediation conference. A mediation conference is scheduled, usually well in advance, in order to give both sides an opportunity to prepare. The Plaintiff, that is the person bringing the lawsuit, attends the mediation with their lawyer. They are responsible for presenting the case to the other side, the Defendant.

A mediation can be as simple as a short discussion about the facts of the case or as elaborate as a mini-trial with evidence, presentations of exhibits, visual aids, PowerPoints and other demonstrative tools. Our firm prepares for mediation on significant cases by gathering all of the client’s special damages, medical bills, liens, and other accident related expenses in order to specifically show the economic loss suffered by our clients.

Frequently, we will meet with visual aid companies to create mediation exhibits such as animations of the accident, PowerPoint demonstrations showing our clients’ case related photographs, videotape, damage charts, summaries of depositions, medical bills and insurance spreadsheets, accident and security films, relevant case law excerpts, jury instructions and verdict forms in order to present to the defense what we believe the jury in the trial of the case will ultimately see. The defense usually appears with the defense lawyer and a representative of the insurance company, however the Defendant individually can be required to attend as well. In the case of a business, a corporate representative can be in attendance. The mediator is typically a retired Judge or senior trial lawyer with vast experience over many years of handling similar cases.

The mediator listens to the initial case presentations from both sides that detail their case. Afterwards, the parties are usually separated so that the mediator can travel back and forth between the parties sharing relevant points and details about each side’s strength and weaknesses. Ultimately, the Plaintiff makes a settlement demand and hopefully, after some work and negotiation, the parties may reach a settlement agreement. If a settlement agreement is reached, a written mediation settlement agreement is signed by both sides and their representatives and the mediator notifies the Court of the result.

Mediation is a significant tool in trying to resolve a case since it forces both sides to attend a conference, hear from the other side and focus on the case.

Uninsured Motorist Insurance – Why you need it!

In Florida, like many states in our country, only a minimal amount of bodily injury insurance is required to register your automobile. Car insurance is usually divided into different categories; bodily injury coverage, property damage coverage, medical insurance coverage, collision and comprehensive coverage. There are other kinds of insurance as well which supplement these such as medical payment coverage, towing & storage insurance, rental car coverage and excess or supplemental insurance. The truth is most people do not carry enough bodily injury liability insurance to cover the harm they do. This means that the average driver, especially in Florida, has only $10,000 available if they cause an accident and injure or kill someone. $10,000 will not even pay for one day of a hospital stay for a person with severe injuries.

That’s why uninsured motorist coverage was created. Uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage means that your own insurance company will pay you when the person who causes an accident does not have enough insurance to pay for the damage you have sustained. For instance, if a crash takes place and the person at-fault causes you to suffer a fractured leg or other debilitating injury, their insurance company is responsible for payment of your damages under the bodily injury portion of the policy. What happens if the bodily injury coverage is only $10,000? Your damages are certainly worth well in excess of this amount. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, the injured person looks to their own insurance company to make up the difference in the value of the claim. Uninsured motorist insurance is a way to protect yourself from the limited insurance most people drive with. Uninsured motorist coverage also pays when the other person has no insurance.

Many people allow their insurance to lapse. Unfortunately, folks will pay for insurance in order to get their car registered and then allow their monthly premium to go unpaid rendering them uninsured. If that uninsured motorist causes an accident, who is going to pay for the damage? Certainly, the uninsured motorist is personally responsible but good luck collecting. Suing an individual who is financially unable to even pay their insurance premiums will likely be a waste of time and money. That is where uninsured motorist insurance comes in to cover your losses following an accident.

A separate premium is charged for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. In Florida, it is automatically included in your policy of insurance unless a specific rejection is made. In fact, the state of Florida recognizes that uninsured motorist coverage is so important that they mandate a specific form of rejection which must be signed and acknowledged by the insured before a rejection may be deemed valid. I advise all of my clients: purchase as much uninsured motorist coverage as you can financially handle. Remember, the vast majority of motorists carry the minimal insurance coverage at best. Most accident lawyers have horror stories representing clients with serious injuries or tragic losses caused by uninsured and underinsured motorists. Protect yourself and your family by purchasing uninsured motorist coverage on your automobile policy.