Jacksonville Injury Attorney Blog
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Theft from nursing home residents by nursing home employees is a very real concern.  These thefts tend to occur in two ways: 1. the diversion of narcotic medications; and 2) the theft of money or personal belongings.

Nurses and certified nurse assistants are no more immune to substance abuse problems than the rest of us.  The difference is, that when nurses are employed at nursing homes, they have the opportunity to steal residents’ medications.  Some nurses with substance abuse problems will actually gravitate to work in nursing homes for this reason.

Although there are strict measures in place to document each narcotic pill dispensed from the nursing home’s pharmacy, what ultimately happens with the pills is not as easy to control.  Nursing homes are required to maintain a “controlled substance log,” through which the dispensing of every single narcotic pill is documented with the signature of the receiving nurse.

From there, a nurse makes rounds with a medication cart and dispenses medications to each resident to whom the nurse is assigned.  It is easy to simply not provide a certain pill to a resident or to provide an over the counter replacement.

Some residents, especially those suffering from dementia, do not know that their medications have been diverted.  When they are handed several pills, they have no way to determine what was, or was not, provided.  Even if they are aware of the diversion, it is difficult for them to effectively communicate the problem to someone willing to listen.  A nurse’s motivation to divert narcotics include personal use or sale.

The result for the nursing home resident is unnecessary pain and a decreased quality of life.  Also, narcotic medication withdrawals can be life threatening and are easily misdiagnosed given that the resident’s chart will reflect that the medications were provided.

Theft of residents’ funds and personal property also occurs.  It can take a number of different forms. For instance, a staff member might steal a resident’s personal property or obtain information in order to withdraw money from the resident’s bank account.

Recently, a 30-year-old nursing assistant from Philadelphia was arrested when she returned from a vacation to Miami, Florida. Police claim the nursing assistant and another suspect stole a blank check from a deceased patient and wrote it out for more than $2,400, funding their vacation.

The nursing assistant is also alleged to have made four transactions using a credit card of another recently deceased resident of the nursing home.


Financial abuse can cause real misery for an elderly person and can be as distressing as physical abuse or neglect. Every year as many as 500,000 elderly people are victims of financial scams, and this abuse costs the elderly population up to $3 billion annually, according to NursingHomeAbuseGuide.org.

The opportunity for nursing home abuse and neglect continues to increase across the country as the elderly population continues to rise, especially with the aging of the “Baby Boomer” generation. According to statistics from to the National Center on Elder Abuse, more than a third of the country’s nursing homes have violated elder abuse laws.

That’s a staggering and alarming figure. Florida, with its large senior citizen population, is particularly vulnerable to elder abuse, yet Florida’s laws fall short of protecting nursing home residents.

For example, Florida Statutes require that nursing homes have professional liability insurance in the event of neglect that causes injury or death; however, the statute stops there: no minimum amount of coverage per claim is required. The result is that nursing homes purchase ridiculously minimal amounts of coverage, sometimes as little as $25,000.00 to be shared by however many injury or death claims that are made against the nursing home in the year.  Often, the insurance is purchased from a company owned by the nursing home’s parent company.  The result is that there is, in effect, no insurance at all.

Written by David Macaulay

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When we think of the dangers facing police officers, most of us think of violent or deadly confrontations with criminal suspects.  However, car accidents present the highest risk of injury or death to police officers.

In a recent incident, a Jacksonville police officer who was sitting in his car preparing an accident report was injured when his patrol vehicle was hit from behind on Interstate 295 between New Kings Road and Dunn Avenue.

The patrol car was hit while it was out of the lanes of traffic in the right emergency lane.  The driver apparently lost control and crashed into the rear of the patrol car as the officer was on a call for a single car crash with injuries. The vehicle that hit the patrol car bounced into the left barrier wall and ended up in the center of the interstate.

The police officer was taken to the Shands – UF Jacksonville hospital for treatment of his personal injuries. The driver that struck the patrol car suffered minor injuries and was  treated at the accident scene. Police are investigating whether there were any other factors that caused this accident.

Police officers and other emergency workers face daily dangers on the roads of Florida. That’s why the state enacted a “Move Over” law that is intended to protect first responders such as police, fire and ambulance crews

The “Move Over” law requires drivers to change lanes if possible to provide additional space between the officer and traffic.  For single lane roadways or in circumstances where changing lanes is not possible, drivers must reduce their speed to 20 miles-per-hour below the speed limit. If you are on a road where the speed limit is 20 mph or less, you are required to slow down to 5 mph.

The “Move Over” law was enacted to protect law enforcement and emergency workers from being hit by vehicles passing them at high speed. Drivers who are not in the lane closest to the stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights should be prepared to allow other drivers to move over. We often think of laws like this as applying only to police officers or ambulance and fire officers, but it also applies to tow trucks with yellow flashing lights or other vehicles that may be stopped at the side of the road such as sanitation trucks.

If you fail to move over in compliance with the law, you are subject to being issued a ticket. You may receive 3 points on your license, and have to pay a fine. More importantly you will be putting the lives of emergency workers in danger and could be sued for injuries or fatalities that your actions cause.

Florida’s “Move Over” law at a Glance

When Driving on Multi-Lane Roads:

  • Drivers must move from the lane closest to the stationary emergency vehicle, tow truck, sanitation, or utility vehicle.
  • Drivers are required to slow down to a speed of 20 mph below the posted speed limit if they cannot move over safely.
  • Drivers who are not in the lane closest to the stationary vehicle should be prepared to allow those who are to move over into their lane

On Roadways with Only One Lane in Each Direction:

  • Drivers must slow down to a speed of 20 mph below the posted speed limit.
  • If the speed limit is 20 mph or less, drivers must travel at 5 mph

Written by David Macaulay

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Distracted driving has been highlighted by the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles as the number one cause of accidents in the state and a more serious threat for causing injuries than drunk driving.  While Florida has a ban on texting while driving, a number of our legislators don’t believe it goes far enough in reducing distracted driving.

Florida’s texting-while-driving ban would be strengthened under a proposal filed this month by Sen. Thad Altman, from Rockledge, for the 2016 legislative session. His bill (SB 328) would ensure texting while driving is a “primary” offense – meaning police could pull over motorists who violate the ban without having any other reason to stop the driver.

Currently, as a “secondary” offense, drivers can only be cited for texting while driving if they are stopped for other reasons such as driving erratically or a headlight being out.

Another bill that was filed in August by Rep. Richard Stark, from Weston, would bring in stiffer penalties for motorists who text while driving in school zones or at school crossings. Stark’s bill seeks to double fines for drivers who violate the texting-while-driving ban in the designated school areas.

Although texting while driving is a primary offense in many states, previous attempts to strengthen the law have failed in Florida.  A number of other measures to crack down on cellphone use while driving have been submitted to the legislature but have also failed to be enacted into law.

Earlier this year, Rep. Mia Jones, from Jacksonville, and Sen. Audrey Gibson also from Jacksonville, submitted bills to completely outlaw cellphone use while driving, not just the text messaging banned under the current statute. The bills were unsuccessful. More than half a dozen bills have been introduced to combat distracted driving in Florida.

Local law enforcement officials and activists support the strengthening of the Florida’s distracted driving laws and building off the previous statute.

”We’ve allowed this to happen as a society. We’ve cracked down on drinking and driving, impaired driving, but we haven’t done anything about distracted driving,” said Jay Anderson, executive director and president of Stay Alive…Just Drive!  a distracted driving awareness group.

Florida lags behind many other states in the crackdown on texting at the wheel.  When the legislature passed the “Ban on Texting While Driving” law, Florida was the 41st state to outlaw text messages at the wheel.

The statute made it a secondary offense to use a cellphone to send or read a text message. As well as the concerns about it being a secondary offense, the law also only restricts texting while driving, not if a driver is stopped at traffic lights. Drivers can also be distracted by cellphones for everything from playing music to surfing social media sites to GPS navigation

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 14 states along with Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. All are primary enforcement laws.

While no states have a blanket ban on cell phone use for all drivers, 38 states and Washington D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit it for school bus drivers. Federal laws prevent truckers from using hand held cell phones. All but five of the 46 states that have banned texting while driving have a primary enforcement law.

Earlier this year, Jacksonville Mayor, Alvin Brown, signed a proclamation declaring April 3, 2015, as “One Text or Call Could Wreck It All” Day. He asked all residents to help spread awareness against the dangers of texting while driving by signing a new pledge to end distracted driving. He issued new executive orders to promote best safety practices among city employees.

“We want our roads to be safe for everyone in our community,” said Mayor Brown. “Distracted drivers threaten not only their own safety, but also the safety of others. That’s why the city is leading by example, improving our driver certification process and bringing in outside experts to ensure that the welfare of our citizens and property is protected.”

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As reflected in some of our prior blogs, Jacksonville has some of the least pedestrian and bicycle friendly roadways in the nation and few of them are as deadly as the Arlington Expressway.

Recently, it has been announced that there are plans to make the Arlington Expressway safer for pedestrians and cyclists.  If the improvement happens, it won’t come a moment too soon. The expressway was built in 1953 and is vital to linking downtown with Arlington and the Jacksonville Beaches.

More than half a century ago, urban planners focused little towards pedestrians, and roadways were designed primarily with the interests of motorists in mind. That lack of vision has led the expressway to become a very concerning danger in recent years.  One of the main problems is that pedestrians have very few access points to safely cross the expressway.

From May 2010 to May 2015, as many as 100 car accidents per year were reported on the expressway, including three fatalities. During those five years, no fewer than 14 pedestrians were hit, including 10 on service roads for the expressway.

“I would sit here when I’m walking around patrolling, and I watch people with toddlers or whatever crawl between the fence and the pole and dodge traffic to get across,” Bucky Carver, who lives and works near the expressway. The road is so hazardous that officials have sought ways of keeping pedestrians away from part of the expressway that runs from University Boulevard down to Mill Creek Road, the area near the Regency Square Mall. Fences have proven to be of marginal benefit.

However, a preliminary study by the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization suggests an alternative plan that would entail a redesign of the expressway in which new bike lanes, sidewalks and other pedestrian friendly areas would be created on both sides of the highway.

The corridor study provides that Jacksonville’s first suburban freeway fails to meet today’s engineering standards as sidewalks are limited and there are few crosswalks. Moreover, the expressway divides communities and people want to be able to cross between them. The existence of as many as 65 vacant or under-utilized parcels of land gives space for features that could make the road safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The plan illustrates alternatives.  Alternative 1 calls for a six-lane highway with a 7-foot bike lane and an 8-foot sidewalk behind trees. Alternative 2 provides for three 12-foot traffic lanes and a 7-foot bike lane with sidewalks along the edge.

The regeneration of the area around the highway presents a number of distinct issues. One of them is the large number of boarded-up buildings where businesses have failed.  The expressway splits the area in two, and some planner think a new expressway would bring both sides together and would make businesses more profitable.

It would cost about $50 million to implement the changes referenced in the report, and it would take state and city approval before the construction can begin. Officials are yet to identify a funding source, but the study said improving the area could have a $178 million positive impact on local commerce.

Jacksonville is not a pedestrian or bicycle friendly city. In 2010, about 200 bicyclists or pedestrians were injured in motor vehicle accidents. This makes our city the third-most dangerous city in the United States for bicyclists and pedestrians. Arlington Expressway is typical of a roadway that lacks designated bike lanes and pedestrian features. Often bicyclists must ride on a sidewalk, which can lead to accidents. Many sidewalks are uneven or nonexistent and do not have curb cuts allowing for safe access on and off the sidewalk at intersections.  Continue reading

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The discovery of what federal investigators are calling an illegal commercial driver license scheme – that helped more than 600 people get Florida commercial drivers’ licenses without proper training – has raised new concerns about unqualified truckers on the highways of our state.

Many of the students in the scheme were Russian-speaking immigrants living in New York, Illinois, California and Virginia, according to federal-court documents.

Investigators say most of the drivers found out about the commercial license training through a now-defunct website — russiantruckingschool.com — and then traveled to Florida to obtain licenses to use back in their home state, according to federal court documents.

Authorities said it only took a few days to get a license through the school and usually cost each person between $2,000.00 and $5,000.00.

In July, United States Attorney, A. Lee Bentley, III, announced an indictment against four men with conspiracy to aid and abet the unlawful production of Florida drivers’ licenses and commercial drivers’ licenses (“CDLs”). If convicted on all counts, each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison.

The alleged scheme raises a number of concerns about truck accidents caused by these unqualified drivers and the liability of the carriers and employers hiring them.  As Jacksonville trucking accident lawyers, we have seen many instances in which trucking companies put drivers on the roads who should not have been there in the first place.

The evidence of the federal investigation is shocking due to its scope. The alleged scam involved more than 600 invalid commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs) issued in Florida — to Russian-speaking truck drivers who did not receive appropriate training.

Apart from this scam, we already face a multitude of problems with unfit truck drivers. Many of the drivers who cause truck accidents on the roads of Florida have legitimate commercial licenses but may be unfit to drive due to other reasons. These include:

Drunk Driving – a trucking company has a responsibility to check a driver for past offenses involving alcohol or drugs and federal regulations set out strict drug and alcohol testing rules and regulations for employees who drive commercial trucks and buses that require a commercial driver’s license.

Distracted Driving – cell phone use, texting, interacting with passengers and even surfing the internet have all resulted in unnecessary and avoidable trucking accidents.

Driving while Drowsy – As many as one in five accidents are caused by drowsy driving and driving hours longer than allowed and untreated sleep apnea are big issues in the trucking industry. Trucking companies are responsible for making sure their drivers take mandated breaks, stay within allowed maximum driving hours and do not have untreated conditions that can cause safety issues.

Speeding – Truckers are under a lot of pressure to make deliveries on time and may put their foot on the gas in an attempt to catch up. At a higher rate of speed there is less time for truckers to react to other drivers and road conditions. Speeding can also lead to potentially fatal blow outs of heavy truck tires. Between 2009 and 2013, heavy trucks and buses were responsible for 14,000 fatal accidents. According to government figures, 223 of those fatalities were related to heavy truck tires that failed.

Two catastrophic truck accidents in less than a month on I-16 near Savannah, Georgia, not far from the Florida line, earlier this year highlighted the dangers posed by big rigs. Each crash claimed the lives of five people on the Interstate.

Written by David Macaulay Continue reading

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Florida has a shortage of nursing home beds.  That is bad news for anyone who is in need of placing an elderly relative into the care of a nursing home. While Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration recently approved the addition of almost one thousand new beds, the state’s demand is outpacing supply at an alarming rate.  The result can lead to limited options for a family in need of nursing home care.

The number of nursing home beds in the state is strictly regulated and some nursing homes benefit tremendously by this.  Basic economics tells us that an artificial limit on supply is not good for consumers.  By keeping the number of beds low, homes providing inferior care still have plenty of residents – those residents often have no other options.

Earlier this year, the Agency for Health Care Administration estimated it needed 3,115 additional nursing home beds to serve Florida’s aging and disabled population, yet less than one thousand additional beds have been approved. Thankfully, most of the new approvals are in North and Central Florida. Before this month’s announcement, it had been more than a decade since the state issued certificates for new nursing home beds.

The 3,115 new nursing home beds to be added in the next few years in Florida will not be enough, according to Tony Marshall, an administrator with the Florida Health Care Association, an organization of the nursing home industry. He said Florida will need as many as 20,000 new beds in the next 20 years.

In situations like this, families can end up making unfortunate choices and putting their loved ones in facilities with poor records that can lead to them becoming the victims of nursing home abuse and neglect.

According to statistics from the National Center on Elder Abuse, 36 percent of the country’s nursing homes have violated elder abuse laws. These problems are particularly concerning in Florida, with its large population of retirees and senior citizens.  Several years ago, an investigation in the Miami Herald highlighted the widespread nature of abuse in Florida’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities and uncovered a multitude of questionable deaths.

The Jacksonville metropolitan area has fifty-four nursing homes. In recent rankings issued by Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, many of the Jacksonville area nursing homes received a low score in important areas, such as quality of care, quality of life, effectiveness of administration, providing appropriate food and drink, and treating their residents with respect and dignity. Alarmingly, as many as one-third of the nursing homes in the city of Jacksonville received a one-star inspection rating – the lowest rating possible.  Of course, low scores are a key indicator of the potential for neglect, injury and abuse in a nursing home.

If you or a family member has been mistreated, neglected, abused or injured at a nursing home or an assisted living facility, a Jacksonville nursing home neglect attorney can help you.  We are also happy to consult with you when you are in the process of making the decision about which nursing home to use.  Call us for a free consultation at (904) 632-0077.

Written by David Macauley

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When school is out for the summer, many American families embark on road trips to see more of the country and to make the most of their leisure time. While road trips lead to memories, it is important to make sure they do not lead to the wrong kind of memories. Interstate car accidents spike in the summer months when more cars are on the roads.

This is a particular problem in Florida which has some of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the country. Five years of highway fatality data demonstrate that Florida’s 382 mile stretch of I-95 is the most dangerous highway in the country, with the highest rate of fatal vehicle accidents, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. Researchers found Florida’s stretch of I-95 has 1.73 fatal accidents per mile per year.

Tragic examples abound. Just last month, a man was killed on I-95 near Jacksonville when his SUV became lodged under a jackknifed tractor-trailer that crashed trying to avoid highway debris on northbound Interstate 95 in St. Johns County.

There is no way to prevent other drivers speeding or driving carelessly but there are some safety tips you should consider before you set off with your family on your summer road trip that could decrease your odds of being involved in a car crash.

Five safety tips for your summer road trip:

1. Make a checklist of things you should monitor on your car before you get on the road and go through the list. It should include:
• Tires are properly inflated with adequate tread;
• Belts and hoses;
• Wiper blades;
• Cooler systems;
• Fluid levels;
• Headlights and other lights;
• Air conditioning; and • Brakes.

The NHTSA urges drivers to check their tires at least once a month. The checks should include the spare. “A tire doesn’t have to be punctured to lose air. All tires naturally lose some air over time. In fact, under-inflation is the leading cause of tire failure,” according to the NHTSA.

2. Check child safety devices If your child is traveling with a badly fitted, or improperly installed, seat, it can be as unsafe as riding in a car with no child seat. Unfortunately, many parents fail to fit seats properly and terrible injuries can be caused to children. You can get your child’s seat checked at an inspection station by a certified technician. To find the nearest one see the Safercar.gov website. The NHTSA says all children aged 12 or younger should ride in the back seat. Also make sure your car seat is not the subject of a safety recall. You should also look out for other people’s children on the road. Be particularly careful if you are reversing in a holiday area full of children. SUVs often have blindspots and are a major cause of “backover” accidents.

3. Take Regular Breaks You may be eager to get to your destination but long periods of driving without breaks can be deadly. As many as 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths and, 71,000 injuries. You should pull over for a rest every couple of hours, according to AAA and consider taking stimulants such as coffee. Rotate drivers, if possible. We have many drivers arriving in the Jacksonville area who have driven through the rural areas of South Carolina and Georgia without a break.

4. Avoid Distractions Plan your route in advance and plug it into your GPS before you start driving. If you are using a map, get a passenger to navigate, if possible. Don’t check routes or road conditions on your cell phone while you are driving and never text. Avoid other distractions such as food and distracting interactions with children.

5. Don’t speed Summer road trips can be frustrating, particularly when there is heavy traffic on the highways. Avoid putting your foot on the gas to make up time and getting involved in risky traffic maneuvers. Speeding and aggressive driving causes about a third of all fatal vehicle crashes. It’s not worth risking the lives of your family and other drivers, to get to your destination on time.

Authored by David Macaulay.
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“Head-on” collisions are obviously among the worst of all auto accidents – the force of the combined speed of the vehicles produces devastating impact. These accidents typically occur when one driver crosses a center line on a two lane road with no median. More than 40,000 people die in traffic accidents every year and a disproportionate number happen in head-on collisions.

Tragically, this was the case in Clay County earlier this month when five adults were killed and two children were seriously injured. The two car accident happened on Florida 21 about 30 miles south of Jacksonville near Green Cove Springs when a Toyota Camry crossed a center line and hit a vehicle heading the opposite direction.

Both drivers died in the impact as well as three other adults. Two children survived the wreck but were reported to be in a critical condition. Four of the dead were in the Camry which crossed a center line and the other fatality was the lone occupant of the other car, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. A 4-year-old who was injured in the Camry was not in a child restraint, according to reports, while the 2-year-old was restrained, according to the Florida Highway Patrol’s report.

This tragedy illustrates the deadly nature of head-on collisions in which both drivers have little time to react. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, nearly one in five fatal auto accidents involve head-on collisions. Nearly three quarters of head-on crashes occur on undivided two lane rural roads.

Very few of these accidents were a result of risky passing maneuvers. Of 7,430 vehicles involved in head-on crashes on two-lane, undivided roadway segments in the study, a mere 4.2 percent involved a vehicle “passing or overtaking another vehicle.” Instead, most of these accidents resulted from one driver losing control of his or her car and crossing a center line.

Although it can be difficult to take evasive action in situations like this, there are some things drivers can do to protect themselves from head–on collisions. First, you should stay well centered in your lane, where oncoming traffic is less likely to stray, and where you can get to the shoulder or the opposite side of the road more quickly. On multi-lane highways, the right lane is always the safest lane. Divided interstates are safer than rural undivided roads. When taking trips, plan to drive in mornings and avoid night time driving when a higher percentage of impaired drivers are on the road. If a car veers into your lane, steer to the right to avoid impact. Always wear your seatbelt. As always, defensive driving is a must.
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Tractor-trailers are the most dangerous vehicles on the roads. If you are hit by a eighteen wheeler, your chances of survival are much slimmer than if you are hit by a car. When we think of accidents involving tractor-trailers, semis, eighteen wheelers and other large trucks, we typically think of collisions. However, there is another type of accident that happens more often than many people think – when heavy objects fall from tractor-trailers and construction vehicles.

Even if you avoid an object that falls off a truck, it can cause a dangerous highway obstruction that causes other vehicles to crash. As reflected in some of our prior blogs, Jacksonville has had its fair share of these types of trucking accidents.

Earlier this month a 42-year-old man was killed in Jacksonville when a 7-ton slab of concrete fell from a truck, crushing him near the intersection of I-295 southbound and Old St. Augustine Road. According to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, the sound barrier panel which was to be put up on alongside I-95 fell off the truck, crushing the victim’s vehicle and killing him. The truck was owned by Big Ben Transport, a company headquartered in Tampa. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration and Department of Transportation was reported are investigationg to determine how this happened and to establish if negligence was involved.

In February of 2015, a driver was killed and his wife was injured on Interstate 95 in northern St. Johns County when a ladder fell off a truck into the path of another vehicle towing a camper. The 59-year-old man was killed and his wife was injured when their pickup truck jack-knifed and overturned after swerving to avoid the ladder that was lying in the center lane of the highway. The northbound lanes of I-95 were closed for more than eight hours while the accident was investigated and debris was cleared.

In addition to items that fall from vehicles, parts can come off a truck with deadly consequences. Last September, a 27-year-old man was killed when he was driving northbound on I-95 about 30 miles south of Jacksonville in St. Johns County, when a wheel came loose from a southbound truck, bounced over the concrete median and crashed through the windshield of his Mitsubishi Lancer.

Loads, tools and parts that fall from trucks prove deadly on Florida’s highways. One hundred and thirty one crashes caused by debris on the roads have already occurred in Florida since the beginning of 2015, with 21 persons suffering personal injuries. According to Triple A, unsecured loads are responsible for approximately 25,000 auto accidents in the United States annually. In those accidents, approximately 100 people die each year.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration governs trucks operating in interstate commerce. It has issued rules to ensure loads are safely secured on trucks. These load or cargo securement rules set out certain criteria for proper truck loading. Among those rules are:

• Maximum load weight limits;

• Requirements for transporting certain types of cargo that are susceptible to falling from a truck, such as logs (with the pulpwood logging industry in and around Jacksonville, this rule has special importance here), metal coils or automobiles;

• Requirements for cargo to be fully immobilized through the use of equipment such as inflatable dunnage bags; and
• A minimum number of tie-downs to immobilize cargo on the vehicle.
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Every year, boating accidents make headlines in the Jacksonville area as the waters get warmer and people head out for fun on our abundant waterways. Although boating accidents occur less frequently than automobile accidents, they tend to result in more serious injuries. With more than one million registered boats, Florida has the highest number of boating fatalities in the nation according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Just last month, a 9-year-old boy drowned when he was thrown from a boat into the St. Johns River during a fishing trip near East Palatka in Putnam County. The child and his grandmother’s boyfriend were knocked into the water when their 14-foot jonboat capsized after it was hit by the wake of a larger boat in the river near the U.S. 17 Memorial Bridge.

In 2009, a serious boating accident near Jacksonville left five people dead. The tragedy unfolded when an overcrowded 22-foot Crownline pleasure boat slammed into a moored 25-foot tugboat on the Intracoastal Waterway at Roscoe Boulevard South near Jacksonville Beach. The accident injured nine people, five from the Jacksonville area and four from California.

Personal watercraft, or jet skis, are among the most dangerous vessels. In 2010, a man from Jacksonville lost his life on a jet ski on Kingsley Lake, located about thirty minutes to the southwest of Jacksonville. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission indicated it was dark when Roche was riding and he he crashed the jet ski into another boat. Florida law prohibits the operation of personal watercraft from half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise even if navigational lights are used. In addition, there are age restrictions that apply to PWCs that do not apply to other vessels.

Boating accidents can occur in a number of ways and a mistake can quickly become a disaster on a boat. They include:

• Inexperienced or negligent boat operation;
• Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
• Excess speed, leading to collisions;
• Capsizing or sinking of a boat;
• Being thrown overboard or falling overboard from a vessel;
• Distracted or careless boat driving;
• Gasoline fires or explosions; and • Overcrowded vessels.

The rules for boating in Florida are established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission which are intended to prevent the careless and reckless operation of vessels. Anyone found to be operating a boat with “willful disregard for the safety of persons or property” will be cited for reckless operation, a first-degree misdemeanor.

The commission points out all boat operators are responsible for operating their vessels in a “reasonable and prudent manner” with regard for other boats, posted restrictions, the presence of a divers-down flag and other relevant circumstances so as not to endanger people or property.

There are also rules about speed on the water. Any vessel operating in a speed zone that is posted with “Idle Speed – No Wake” must operate at the minimum speed that allows the vessel to maintain headway with the ability to effectively steer the vessel.

Vessels operating in a speed zone posted with “Slow Down – Minimum Wake” are required to operate fully off plane and with the boat’s hull settled in the water. The commission states a vessel’s wake must not be excessive nor create a hazard to other vessels.
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