Articles Posted in Bicycle Accidents

Over the last year, our Miami personal injury lawyers have discussed the dangers associated with bicycling in Florida. Last September, 24-year-old bicyclist Jacob Landis was severely injured after being struck by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bicycle in the final leg of a cross-country cycling trip in Polk County, Florida. In October, a young couple, Rob Lemon and Hilary Michalak, died after being struck by a motorist while riding their tandem bike on the Memorial Causeway in Clearwater, Florida.

Florida a Dangerous Place for Cyclists

According to report by the NHTSA found that Florida’s bicyclist fatality rate consistently exceeded that of the rest of the United States and often ranked highest among the states. In 2011, Florida bicycle fatality rates were almost triple the national average, and, between 2010 and 2011, the bicycle fatality rate increased from 0.40 fatalities per 100,000 persons, to 0.63. In the same year, Florida made up only six percent of the U.S. population in 2011, but accounted for 17.4 percent of all U.S. bicycle fatalities.

Late last year, our Miami bicycle accident attorneys kept a close watch on the development of new legislation, entitled the “Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act,” that, if passed, would increase the minimum jail sentences for leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident. Specifically, the measure would allow prison sentences of up to three years for an accident resulting in injury, seven years for serious bodily injury, and ten years for a hit-and-run resulting in death.

A recent brutal hit and run accident in Fort Lauderdale, Florida has emphasized the continuing need for such harsher penalties. In December, motorist Axel Inostroza, struck 53-year-old bicyclist Craig Camlin near the 5200 block of Northeast 18th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. The force of collision caused Camlin to become wedged on the rear window of the vehicle, as Inostroza drove on for two more miles. Eventually, Inostroza dumped Camlin’s body behind a trash bin near his home in Pompano Beach.

Several hours after the accident, a landscaping crew discovered Camlin, who was rushed to a local hospital and listed in critical condition with a broken spine and other injuries. As for Inostroza, he took his car to a local body shop and then went home to take a nap. Inostroza later admitted to investigators to his involvement in the crash and confessed that he had been drinking before the accident.

Last month, 24-year-old Jacob Landis, of Annapolis, Maryland, was severely injured after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in a bicycle accident in Florida in the final leg of a cross-country cycling trip to raise money for deaf individuals. Our personal injury lawyers in Miami, Florida are all too familiar with these and many other unfortunate accidents cases over the years.

Landis was knocked unconscious at approximately 10:00 pm on September 21, 2013, after being hit by the mirror of a passing tractor-trailer on US Highway 27 southbound in Polk County, Florida. Landis was accompanied by his riding partner and cousin, Jack Riddle, who witnessed the incident. Landis was transported to a local hospital where he was treated for a concussion, multiple fractures and various lacerations. The truck that struck Landis did not stop after the crash, and, according to the local sheriff’s office, it was possible the driver of the truck didn’t realize he had hit the bicyclist.

At the time of the accident, Landis had been cycling for several months and rode almost 11,000 miles to 29 of the 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in the U.S., raising $140,000 help the hearing impaired get fitted for cochlear implants.

Early this month, a young couple, Rob Lemon, 25, and Hilary Michalak, 25, were struck by a motorist while riding their tandem bike on the Memorial Causeway in Clearwater, Florida. According to reports, the force of the impact shattered the bike and threw the pair over 50 feet. Although both individuals were wearing helmets, Lemon later died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa and Michalak fell into in a coma.

The vehicle that struck Lemon and Michalak did not stop, however, two days after the incident, Christopher Patrick Weed, 29, of Clearwater, came forward and admitted he may have been involved. According to police, Weed claimed that he had blacked out on the way home from and didn’t remember hitting anyone.Upon seeing news coverage of the incident, Weed went to police, who later discovered Weed’s vehicle had a missing windshield and damage to the front end. Weed was arrested on two felony charges of leaving the scene of a crash.

According to those close to the victims, both were aware of the danger posed by bicycling on Florida’s roadways. Both Lemon and Michalak always wore helmets and usually rode their bike on trails to avoid the dangers posed by traffic. Lemon also wore an anklet engraved with his father’s name and phone number so that he could be identified and family contacted if he was ever seriously injured.

Florida legislators are considering measures that would repeal Florida’s No Fault Benefits, also referred to as Personal Injury Protection. Under the current law, Florida drivers are required to carry up to a total of $10,0000 in coverage. The benefits pays an insured’s medical bills and expenses regardless of fault. Currently, the PIP covers up to 80% up to $10,0000 of medical bills and hospital related expenses and up to 60% of wage loss. Once the 10,0000 has been exhausted, accident victims must find other sources such as making a claim against the at fault party. Of course, that assumes the driver of the other vehicle also has coverage for bodily injury. In Florida, unlike many other states, bodily injury coverage is not legally required. Just recently, Florida’s PIP laws were changed. Prior to January 1, 2013, there were not as many limitations on personal injury benefits such as who can claim them and under what circumstances. Now, the PIP laws require that injury victims seek medical attention within 14 days of an accident to receive maximum benefits. Other changes to the law require the diagnosis by a medical doctor that an accident victim sustained an “emergency medical condition”, among others. The new laws also placed limitations on the types of medical providers that could get paid under PIP. The law now excludes massage therapists and acupuncture all together. The changes, of course were the direct result of insurance companies claiming that the system was being taken advantage of by medical providers and others in car accidents. Attorney referral services and other marketing companies that advertise for car accidents have also been under scrutiny by the Florida Bar. The “savings” argument was that the changes in Florida PIP laws would allow for future lower insurance premiums for all, and that savings would then be passed on to Florida consumers drivers. Of course, that logic and reasoning is now being questioned. In the midst of the new “Affordable Healthcare Act” ready to take effect, law makers are beginning to wonder if personal injury protection benefits will be necessary. Most states, require motor vehicle operators to carry bodily injury insurance. If PIP is repealed in Florida, Florida law would likely require all vehicle owners to carry bodily injury protection as well. Miami, Florida injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, PA believe changes to existing Florida No Fault Laws are a good thing. Since bodily injury coverage is not required in Florida, many accident victims are left with little legal recourse if there is no insurance coverage available. The latest news is that the Florida Senate is considering a bill and other law makers are considering other legislation to address the issue. The bill that is in the works, would repeal Florida’s No Fault Benefits. It appears that it may have a chance of being passed by both the house and senate as it appears it has gained much public attention and support.

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Yesterday, a Florida State Senate Senate committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 52 (“Bill 52”), which would impose a statewide ban on texting while driving. Similar bills have repeatedly passed through the Florida Senate, but failed in the House of Representatives. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia already adopted texting while driving bans.

The Florida Senate Communications Committee voted 9-0 in favor of SB 52 which outlaws texting by motorists but exempts police and other emergency vehicles. SB 52 would make texting subject to secondary enforcement, meaning that law enforcement can cite drivers for texting only if they had been stopped for another traffic violation such as speeding. Under SB 52’s provisions, an initial violation of the anti-texting law would result in a $30 fine. Further, if the illegal texting caused an accident, the driver would be assessed six points on his or her driver’s license.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Courtney Heidelberg, stated that Florida highway safety records indicate that, of the 171,538 Florida crash reports filed during the first ten months of 2011, 149 involved drivers that were texting at the time of the accident.

According to a recent study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s (“Foundation”), distracted driving is a growing concern and common practice among motorists. The study, referred to as the Traffic Safety Index (“Index”), was assembled based upon data gathered from surveys of 3,896 U.S. residents over the age of sixteen. The Index concluded that, although many Americans value safe travel and support laws discouraging unsafe driving behaviors, e.g. speeding, they tend to practice dangerous driving habits themselves.

According to the Index’s findings, 88.5% of drivers consider using a cell phone while driving a serious threat to motorist safety. Additionally, 67.3% of respondents feel that distracted driving is a bigger problem today than it was three years ago. Although most of the surveyed individuals expressed concerns about distracted driving practices, they also adopted a double standard with regard to support of measures to discourage such behavior.

More than two-thirds (68.8%) of respondents confessed to using their cell phone while driving at least once in the past thirty days. 31.9% admitted to doing so “fairly often or regularly.” However, 57.9% of surveyed individuals felt that talking on a cell phone while driving was a serious threat to driver safety and 66% considered the practice to be “unacceptable.”
Just recently, a Broward court entered an order granting a plaintiff in an automobile accident case with leave to plead punitive damage based on an accident with a driver that was text messaging. Under Florida Statutes, 768.73, punitive damages may be awarded if there is “clear and convincing evidence” of reckless disregard for the life and safety of others. In Florida, this legal standard has been often been applied to drunk drivers. More and more recently however, courts are allowing plaintiffs to pursue claims for punitive damage for injury and accident victims due to text messaging. However, most personal insurance policies don’t cover punitive damages, or they are excluded under the policies, so there are practical limitations one must consider when pursuing a claim against a text messaging defendant. Considerations an experienced car accident attorney will look for include an investigation into the personal assets of the defendant, the existence of whether there is any third party liability, such as an employer/employee relationship, or some other legal theory under the law of agency.

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A recent report prepared by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (“AHAS”), calls on the elected officials of all fifty states to adopt 15 basic traffic safety laws that the AHAS maintains have the potential to save thousands of lives and billions of dollars each year.

According to the report, states that adopt the laws will benefit by reducing the number of preventable deaths and injuries due to traffic accidents, save on medical and work loss costs such as Medicaid, hospitalization, emergency responders and law enforcement, and qualify for federal grants designed to encourage enactment of traffic safety programs. The release also contains a report card grading each state’s efforts to adopt the proposed laws.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia received “green” ratings, indicating significant advancement toward adopting all of the recommended laws. Six states received a “red” rating, indicating poor performance due to a dangerous lack of basic traffic safety laws. Florida was one of thirty states to receive a “yellow” rating, indicating that a “moderately positive performance but with numerous gaps still in [its] highway
According to the report, Florida saw 2,398 traffic fatalities in 2011 and suffered an average annual economic cost due to motor vehicle accidents of $14.4 billion. So which recommended traffic laws is Florida missing?

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Yet another tragic bicycle accident has occurred in South Florida. A 26-year-old Miami man was recently charged with first degree murder after he allegedly struck two bicyclists in South Broward County while attempting to flee from law enforcement officers. In the early morning hours of August 5th, police reportedly caught Obrian Oakley and an accomplice, 25-year-old Sadik Baxter, engaged in misdemeanor theft while in the Hard Rock Casino parking lot. Instead of being taken into custody, however, Oakley is accused of speeding away from the parking lot in his vehicle. While fleeing from police, Oakley allegedly drove through a red light at a high rate of speed and hit two cyclists before striking another vehicle. 60-year-old Dean Amelkin and 61-year-old Christopher McConnell were killed in the accident. Both men reportedly died immediately at the scene of the crash.

Following the deadly crash, Oakley allegedly attempted to flee from police on foot. He was arrested several hours later when a Broward County Sheriff’s Office helicopter spotted him. According to police, although Oakley had a minor arrest record, he did not intend to kill anyone when he initially began his crime spree. After a witness notified police regarding vehicle burglaries in progress in the casino parking lot, Oakley’s accomplice was arrested. Instead of being taken into custody with his friend, Oakley now faces two counts of first degree murder.

Although this was a tragic accident, the result could have been much worse as the two cyclists killed were reportedly riding with a large group of bikers when Oakley struck them. This was the second catastrophic bicycling accident in South Florida within one week. Earlier in the week, another cyclist was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital after he was hit by a car on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Police failed to charge the driver in that incident, however.

Unfortunately, riding your bicycle in South Florida has become an increasingly deadly proposition as many motorists simply fail to notice or refuse to share the road with cyclists. If you or someone you love was injured in a bicycle accident, you may be able to sue the person who hit you for medical expenses, suffering, pain, any resulting disability, lost wages, and lost earning capacity. Because you have a limited amount of time during which you may file your Florida personal injury or wrongful death claim, you are advised to discuss your case with a capable personal injury lawyer as soon as you are able.

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Last week, a West Park bicyclist died after he was hit by an automobile in Hollywood, Florida. 57-year-old Fearly Brownlee was in the center turn lane on Johnson Street when he was struck by a white Jaguar. The driver of the Jaguar reportedly failed to stop and render aid following the accident and continued driving her adult son to the airport. She was later stopped by police several miles from the crash site. Following the accident, Brownlee was transported to Memorial Regional Hospital where was pronounced dead.

The driver of the Jaguar, 67-year-old Eve Ramsden, told police she had no idea she hit someone and believed she instead struck a box in the roadway. According to police, since Brownlee’s bicycle was not damaged in the accident the father of nine may have been stopped in the turn lane and crouched down next to it when he was injured. Because it is unclear whether Ramsden was in fact aware she hit the bicyclist, Hollywood traffic-homicide investigators have asked any witnesses to the accident to contact them. Hollywood Police Sgt. Gene Cochenour stated Ramsden has not been charged in connection with the accident, but the crash is still under investigation for any possible criminal intent or neglect on the part of the driver.

Unfortunately, bicyclists are commonly struck by automobiles in South Florida. Unexpected motor vehicle collisions are one of the most frequent causes of personal injury and wrongful death in our state every year. When a bicyclist or pedestrian is struck by a car or truck, complex injuries, lifelong disabilities, and even death often result.

Bicycle crashes are normally caused by a reckless, inattentive, or careless drivers who simply fail to notice bicyclists. If you were injured or tragically lost a loved one in a bicycle or other accident, you may be able to sue the person who caused your harm or loss for the cost of your medical care, pain and suffering, temporary or permanent disability, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and funeral expenses. Unfortunately, the amount of time you have to file your personal injury or wrongful death claim in the State of Florida is limited. Because of this, you should contact a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as you are able.

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