Frequently Asked Questions
- Page 5
What are the Most Common Ways Cyclists are Forced Off the Road?
There are three different ways this can happen.
Probably the most common way a cyclist is forced off the road is by a driver who collides with them, but stops and remains at the scene of the accident.
The second way it happens is when a vehicle strikes a cyclist but does not stop. This is what we refer to as a hit-and-run accident. People leave the scene after causing an accident for many reasons. Often times, the driver does not have a valid license, he or she has been drinking and wants to avoid a DUI, or already has a warrant out for his or her arrest.
Fleeing the scene after an accident in which the cyclist was injured is a cowardly thing to do. The driver may be the only person who knows the cyclist has been hurt. When they fail to call for help, they put the cyclist’s life in danger. It is also a felony in Florida.
There are also crashes caused by phantom vehicles. That would describe a driver who comes so close to a cyclist that the rider is forced off the road to avoid a collision and the driver keeps going. It is almost as if the driver were never there, hence the term ‘phantom vehicle.’ These accidents can be fairly tricky to handle because the driver may not realize that he or she caused an accident and can be difficult to locate.
Anyone that suffers a serious injury as a result of any of these types of collisions should contact an experienced bicycle lawyer to understand what can be done to seek compensation for your injuries and have your medical bills paid.
What are the Penalties for Hit and Run Drivers in Florida?
In 2014 the Florida legislature stiffened the penalties for drivers who flee the scene of an accident involving an injury. The new law was the result of the outcry after the death of Aaron Cohen, a cyclist, who was killed by a hit and run driver in Miami in 2012.
The law created increased penalties for someone convicted of leaving the scene of an accident in which someone was injured. There are four levels of penalty:
- First, fleeing from an accident with injury which is not serious bodily injury is punishable by up to five years in prison (a third degree felony).
- Second, if the victim suffered serious bodily injury, the penalty is increased to up to fifteen years (a second degree felony).
- Third, if the victim was killed, the penalty increases to up to thirty years of incarceration (a first degree felony) and there is a four year mandatory minimum sentence.
- Fourth, if the driver was driving under the influence at the time, they are subject to a four year mandatory minimum sentence as well.
The law also imposes requirements for restitution to the victim or their family and a required driver’s license suspension.
These enhanced penalties are designed to give the sentencing judge greater discretion to impose longer jail time after a conviction, especially when there are aggravating circumstances involved.
If you have questions about a hit and run injury accident in Florida we would be happy to help you. Simply call us for a free comprehensive case evaluation or contact us online. There is never any cost for discussing your case.
What are the Most Common Misconceptions About Car Accidents in Pinellas & Hillsborough Counties?
Many people believe they know how to avoid an accident by driving at certain times or being extra careful in certain places. The truth is, you never know when someone else is going to doze off behind the wheel or decide to send a text message instead of watch the road. You have to stay alert the entire time you are driving your car, riding your bike or walking near the street.
Myth: Most accidents are caused by drunk drivers.
Truth: Less than 7% of all crashes in Pinellas County involved alcohol impairment. However, 46% of all fatal crashes in the county were a result of intoxication. So, while most accidents are caused by sober drivers, nearly half of all deadly accidents involved alcohol intoxication or drug impairment.
Myth: The elderly community is responsible for the dangerous roads.
Truth: Only 11% of crashes in Pinellas involved people ages 65 or older, but drivers aged 15 to 34 were involved in almost 30% of accidents. Although the elderly are an at risk population of drivers, their decreased mobility keeps them driving less as they adapt their driving pattern to accommodate their limitations.
Myth: Most severe accidents occur at low speeds and close to home.
Truth: Accidents occur within 5 miles of the driver’s home. That being said, over 75% of severe crashes in Hillsborough County occurred on roads with posted speed limits of 45 miles per hour or greater. What does this tell us? Although the drivers may have been ‘close to home’, these accidents weren’t little fender benders inside the subdivision. A vehicle moving at 45 mph can cause a lot of damage and is surely not moving at a law speed.
Myth: If you don’t feel any pain at the time of the accident, you are injury free.
Truth: Often, people leave the scene of an accident pain free. Once the shock wears off and the adrenaline in your body returns to normal levels, the pain may start to kick in. Some injuries, like whiplash or neck and back pain, may not be apparent immediately. It may take a few days to feel your injuries. In fact, certain injuries get worse with time as they go untreated. If you are involved in an auto accident, you should seek treatment from a medical professional immediately to determine whether you have any injuries.
Myth: Morning rush hour is the deadliest time to be on the road.
Truth: Most fatal crashes in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties occur at night, a shocking number considering less than 30% of all crashes occur at night.
Request our free Glove Box Accident Kit today. It includes all the information you need to be prepared for an accident. We have more free literature available here.
If you or someone you care about was injured by a vehicle, give us a call to discuss your options. You may be able to recover compensation for your injuries, time away from work and pain and suffering.
What If a Minor is Served Alcohol and Injures or Kills Someone in a DUI Crash?
It is considered common knowledge that it is illegal to serve alcohol to a minor. Florida has strict laws against serving alcohol to a minor and outlines who is financially responsible if something happens. But regardless of the law and what we know to be right, minors still find ways to consume alcohol. Sometimes parents do it thinking it is harmless fun. Sometimes a store owner sells alcohol to a minor without realizing it.
Under Florida law a bar owner, alcohol vendor, or homeowner who gives or sells alcohol to someone underage may be held liable if the individual is involved in an accident and kills or injures someone.
It is illegal for a minor to drive with a blood alcohol level of as little as 0.02. These BAC levels are based on a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking that makes it a criminal DUI offense for drivers under the age of 21 to drive while under the influence. That means that even one small glass of wine could put a minor over the 0.02 level.
Florida has a criminal statute, the “Open House Party” law, which states that it is a misdemeanor to provide alcohol to minors at a residence. The purpose of the law is to protect innocent people who are injured or die in a crash caused by a minor who was served alcohol at someone’s house. Depending upon whether the minor hurts or kills anyone as a result of being served alcohol, the offense could lead to up to one year in jail for the person who provided the alcohol.
Florida’s law is designed to deter underage drinking and dissuade those who may be willing to provide alcohol to a minor. Parental responsibility is vital to educating and protecting young drivers against the dangers of driving while under the influence. For more information regarding DUI crashes and underage drinking, request a free copy of our Florida DUI Crash Victim Guide or give us a call at 727-446-0840. We have helped victims and their families through their experiences with death and injury caused by drunk drivers. Let us help you.
The Driver Who Ran into Me Didn’t Get a Ticket, Do I Have a Case?
It’s pretty common for people to assume the police must ticket the other driver in order to have a case against them. Don’t fall into that trap. It doesn’t matter whether the police wrote a citation to them or not. We’ve brought many accident claims for people who were seriously injured where no ticket was issued.
What’s most important is what the other driver did to cause the crash. Were they speeding? Did they violate your right of way or fail to stop in time? Did they drive carelessly? Having an independent witness who will describe how the other driver caused the accident helps even more.
For example, let’s say you were in a car accident in Florida and the driver who caused it was not ticketed. You can still bring an injury claim against them. Proof the driver was ticketed is not part of a claim. In fact, if an accident case has to be tried in front of a jury, they will not be told whether the driver did or didn’t get the ticket. This is because it’s the jury’s job to decide if someone was negligent or at fault in causing the accident. What a police officer decided is not part of the case. Juries have to make their decision without being influenced by what a police officer thought.
If you've been injured in a car accident please feel free to contact us online or call us directly at 888.815.6398 for your free consultation.
Should I Hire a Small Law Firm or a Big Firm to Handle My Accident Case?
I met with a potential new client recently to talk about her accident case. After talking a while, she said she had already met with a lawyer at a big law firm in town. Then, she asked an interesting question I am always more than happy to answer.
“Why should I hire a small law firm instead of a large firm?” I answered without hesitation.
First of all, I asked her if the big firm had offered to give her any free information about how an accident case works. "No, I didn't get any information from them," she said, "but I remember you answered lots of questions when I first called your office. Then, I went to your website and saw all your videos and felt like I knew you before we met and when I first came to your office I was given a copy of your book, Five Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Florida Accident Case, along with some other useful information – this was all before I had even decided to hire you.”
I said “I know you interviewed with a big firm but do you know which lawyer and paralegal would be handling your case there?” She told me that while she had met with a lawyer, she had no idea which paralegal she would be dealing with or if she would have the same one throughout her case. By now, she knew she would be dealing with me as her lawyer in addition to my paralegal of 27 years and when she called the office; she would never be asked “how do you spell your name." I assured her my paralegal knows every client and the daily status of their case and she responds to calls and emails immediately, not the next day or week.
"If you want to be another fish in the big firm’s pool," I told her," I'm sure you'll be happy with them. Our practice also consists of an experienced team, beyond what you see in the office, to assist in evaluating, litigating and settling our client’s cases, while giving you the personal attention your case deserves.”
The client went on to hire us and recently mentioned how extremely happy she was with her decision.
Can a Cyclist have a Case Against the Driver in a Crash if the Cyclist was Given the Ticket?
The short answer is yes. Remember, the police do not investigate a cycling crash the same way as an injury lawyer does. Police look for who was mostly at fault and whether they violated some traffic infraction or other law. A lawyer will look for every argument the driver was partly or even mostly to blame in causing the crash or contributing to it, even if the police cited the cyclist. Never take the police report or the opinion of the investigating police officer at face value without having it evaluated by an experienced attorney.
Here are some other questions you might have about your cycling accident:
How Long Does A Traumatic Brain Injury Typically Last?
There are many popular misunderstandings about brain injuries. Some people want to dismiss them as a simple”head injury” or concussion, as if this makes them sound like something minor. Too many people mistakenly believe recovery from a brain injury occurs rapidly and recovery is always complete.
On average, about half of the patients who have been diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury should expect to recover fully within about a month. About 80 to 90% should recover within 6 to 12 months. However, there is a very distinct group who will continue to suffer persistent symptoms for additional months and years.
There are risk factors for people who have a higher likelihood for long lasting consequences from a mild traumatic brain injury. Those risk factors include persons over the age of 40, anyone who has struggled in school, females, and those with a history of alcohol abuse, prior head injury or multiple traumas.
It can never be assumed that someone who’s been diagnosed with even a mild traumatic brain injury will quickly or fully recover. Many times the outcome will not be known for quite some time. This is why it is so important the symptoms be described to a doctor so they are accurately included in the patient’s medical record. There are important medical treatments that may be used to help with the symptoms. Medical tests, including different types of MRI, may also be used in confirming the diagnosis of a head injury.
Did you find this article informative? Use the Share button on the left side of the screen to let others know about this helpful information.
What is a Brain Injury and is a Concussion Considered a Brain Injury?
A brain injury is caused by damage to the individual neurons that make up the function of the brain. These neurons are damaged when the brain suffers injury from something striking the head, the head striking another object, or from an acceleration/deceleration motion of the head causing the brain to collide with the inside of the skull. Brain injuries are common in car accidents, cycling crashes and falls.
Even Seemingly Minor Concussions Should Be Treated As Serious Brain Injuries
Most of us are accustomed to hearing the term concussion which we associate with a sports injury or fall. Many people assume a concussion is not a big deal and the symptoms will pass. But, a concussion is a form of brain injury and must be taken seriously.
Injuries to the brain are called traumatic brain injuries. They are classified as mild, moderate or severe. Even mild traumatic brain injuries can have profound lifelong effects on brain function and someone’s quality of life. A traumatic brain injury occurs when there has been a traumatic physiological disruption of brain function. This disruption of brain function may be observed in one of the following common ways:
- Any period of loss of consciousness;
- Any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident;
- Any alteration of mental state at the time of the accident (feeling dazed, disoriented or confused); or
- Any focal neurological deficit (injury to a nerve of the brain or spine for instance.)
Emergency medical personnel (EMS or emergency room) will evaluate someone who’s been involved in an accident using a Glasgow Coma Scale to measure their brain function and awareness. The highest score a person may have is 15. A person may be classified as having a mild traumatic brain injury if their Glasgow Coma Scale is between 13 and 15 within 30 minutes of an accident, their loss of consciousness (if any) was less than 30 minutes and any posttraumatic amnesia (their inability to remember events before or after the accident) lasts less than 24 hours.
Anyone who has suffered a blow to the head or a significant acceleration/deceleration of their head in an accident and shows any of these symptoms should be carefully evaluated at the earliest opportunity by physician. A brain injury can become a serious permanent injury and be a very important part of evaluating someone’s case after an accidental injury.
What’s the Law in Florida on Opening the Car Door into a Cyclist?
Florida statute 316.2005 says that no person shall open a car door until it is reasonably safe to do so. This puts the responsibility on the driver or passenger in the car to make sure that they can do so safely. They can be cited if they open their car door into the path of a pedestrian, cyclist or even another vehicle. This has nothing to do with whether a cyclist is in a bicycle lane. It clearly applies to the situation where the occupant of the vehicle opens her door into a bike lane, but it is not limited to those situations.
In most situations when a cyclist is approaching a car they are doing so on the driver’s side and generally are keeping an eye out for whether the car they’re approaching has someone sitting behind the wheel who could potentially open a door into their path. But those are not the only situations where this problem can occur.
I represented a cycling client who was riding in a bike lane approaching an intersection with a line of cars which were slowing or were stopped. A vehicle passed the cyclist, stopped in the line of traffic at which point the front right passenger opened their door suddenly to get out of the vehicle. The door caught my cyclist square on the bike and their body, causing significant injury. The passenger was cited by the police for improperly opening the door of the vehicle.
A cyclist who’s been injured when a car door is opened into their path has a claim against the insurance of the vehicle involved their injuries, medical expenses and other harms.
Did you find this article helpful? Share this on Facebook or Google+ to let others know what their rights are. If you have been involved in a similar accident, call us today.