April 29, 2011

Florida Legislature Helps Insurance Companies, Hurts Homeowners. Again.

The Florida Legislature, acting upon the wishes of the insurance industry, one of their biggest contributors, passed a bill which will allow those insurance companies to remove sinkhole coverage from their policies. The bill then permits the insurance companies to re-sell the coverage back to home and business owners at a much higher premiums.

This bill, along with many others working their way through the Florida Legislature, place insurance companies' rights and profits ahead of the interests of homeowners. Even some Republican Senators agree that this bill will allow insurance companies to make a financial killing at the expense of homeowners.

Too often, homeowners fail to notify their state representatives and senators of their displeasure with pending legislation; that is, until after a bill, such as this one, becomes law. We urge all homeowners, especially those who are also registered voters, to immediately contact their representative and senator and let them know that their jobs as legislators are in jeopardy, should they continue to pass laws which place insurance company profits above the rights of the individuals who voted them into office.

April 26, 2011

Florida Court Rules Rental Car Companies Not Responsible for Car Accidents

Although Florida has more rental cars on its roads than any other state, and even though the drivers of those cars may have limited driving experience or foreign licenses, the Florida Supreme Court recently held that the car rental companies are not responsible for any car accident, no matter how deadly, which are caused by the drivers of their rented vehicles.

The Florida Supreme Court's ruling essentially upheld a Federal Law, known as the Graves Amendment, which the United States Congress passed into law in 2005, solely to provide a benefit to rental car companies. This ruling and the Graves Amendment overrule decades of established Florida Law which holds the owner of a motor vehicle responsible for the operator of their "dangerous instrumentality."

Prior to the passage of the Graves Amendment, car rental companies were held to the same standards as any private citizen or business owner who allowed someone else to operate their vehicle. For whatever reason, Floridians are now at a greater risk of not having someone to hold responsible for the damages they suffer in a serious car accident.

This law essentially "passes the buck" from the rental car companies, who are profiting from the rentals of their vehicle, to the hospitals who must treat many seriously injured victims who often do not have enough insurance to cover what may be extensive medical bills. Ultimately, the cost of treating those uninsured victims falls upon all tax paying Floridans to cover those medical bills; all so the rental car companies can increase their profits. This just doesn't pass the smell test.

April 7, 2011

Deadly Car Accidents Decrease Even as We Drive More Miles

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wrongful deaths from car accidents dropped to a new low in 2010. These results are surprising given that we are driving more than in years past. Incredibly, the three percent drop from last year still resulted in more than 32,000 people dying on our roadways.

Secretary of Transportation attributes these welcome decreases to advances in vehicle safety, greater seat-belt usage and increased enforcement in preventing drunk and distracted driver. Thankfully, wrongful deaths from car accidents have declined steadily since 2005.

We commend our friends in law enforcement and encourage them to keep up the aggressive crackdown on distracted drivers, particularly in South Florida, where many of our main highways are under constant construction.

April 5, 2011

Car Accidents Kill Too Many Police Officers in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale

As lawyers representing police officers from Miami and Fort Lauderdale, who are seriously injured in car accidents, we were not surprise to learn that over the last fourteen years, more officers have died in car accidents than from being shot in the line of duty. In fact, more than double the number of police families have had to endure the wrongful deaths of officers than those who suffered fatal gunshots.

Not surprisingly, many of these tragic losses occur when a patrol officer is stopped along the shoulder of a roadway and a passing motorist fails to "move over" a lane. A study by the National Highway Safety Administration confirmed the alarming increase in wrongful deaths to police officers due to car accidents.

Unfortunately, the studies also found that only about half of the officers involved were wearing their seat-belts when the collisions happened. So, as we tell our friends in law enforcement, please keep your seat-belts on, especially when stopped along our dangerous roadways. And, please make sure you have uninsured motorist coverage on your personal automobile insurance policies, as this will provide a source of recovery in the likely event you are struck by someone who does not have any insurance, a likely reality in South Florida.

April 4, 2011

Distracted Pedestrians Cause Car Accidents Too

As lawyers practicing personal injury law in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, we are glad to see that some state legislatures are looking to increase public awareness about the dangers of pedestrians and bicycle riders who text and use personal music players while near motor vehicles.

In the words of the Governors Highway Safety Association, "distracted walkers and joggers," also present a safety hazard on areas adjacent to a street or roadway. In downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale, too often are pedestrians crossing the street, while using some type of electronic device, often walking directly into the path of an oncoming car. Not surprisingly, nationally, about twelve percent of traffic wrongful deaths involve pedestrians.

In the hopes of decreasing what are too often deadly accidents, we agree with such efforts to increase education about the dangers of walking or running while distracted by electronic devices.