Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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Interstate 95 which runs through the length of Jacksonville’s Duval County and goes directly through downtown, is the country’s fifth deadliest interstate according to Everquote Auto Insurance Company.  Everquote compiled data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

I-95 had nearly one death per mile during the five year period of 2010 to 2015.  To put that in perspective, I-95 traverses approximately 30 miles in Duval County – meaning there were nearly 30 deaths on this stretch of interstate during the five year period.

Interstate 10, the eastern end of which begins in Jacksonville, was ranked the seventh most deadly with .85 deaths per mile.  Interstate 4, which runs from Tampa to Daytona, is Florida’s deadliest interstate with an astonishing 1.4 deaths per mile. I-4 is our nation’s fourth deadliest interstate.

The U.S. Department of Transportation also reports a greater than 10% increase in traffic deaths from January 1, 2016, compared to the same six months of 2015.  This may be an anomaly, it may result from an increase of vehicles on the road due to a sharp decrease in gas prices, or it may be due to an increase in distracted driving.  No matter what the cause, we should experience a decrease in collisions over time, not an increase.

What is worse is that 2015 brought the highest increase in traffic fatalities in fifty years according to the National Safety Council.  More than 38,000 people were killed in vehicle accidents in 2015 and another 4 million people required medical care for injuries.  Furthermore, 2014 showed an 8% increase over 2013.  Even though more miles are being driven in the years since the recession that began in 2008, the rate of fatal accidents has outpaced the increase in total miles driven.  The exact cause is not known; however, we suspect that texting, tweeting and using Facebook while driving have played a significant role.

We certainly seem to see more drivers than ever on their cell phones while driving at highway speeds. Whenever I notice someone using their phone while driving (typing, not talking), I take measures to make sure that person does not end up behind me.  Texters often fail to appreciate slowing traffic in time and frequently cause rear-end collisions.

Because interstates involve much higher speeds than local roads, the chances of suffering severe injury or death in a collision are higher than accidents that occur on local roadways.  Further complicating things is that the downtown Jacksonville portion of I-95 has been under constant construction for over ten years now.  Construction causes abrupt lane changes, sudden stops and confusion to motorists, all of which contribute to the chances an accident will occur. Continue reading

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In January, a twenty-nine year old driver caused a fatal accident driving the wrong way on Interstate 295 near the intersection with Interstate 95 here in Jacksonville.  The car crash happened at 4:00 a.m.  Sadly, a sixty-nine year old military veteran and grandfather died as a result of the accident.  The wrong way driver was also critically injured in the crash.

Hours after the accident, the blood alcohol level of the wrong way driver was .117 – well above Florida’s .08 maximum blood alcohol level.  Given that alcohol in the blood dissipates at the rate of approximately .015% per hour, a two hour delay between the accident and blood testing would put the driver’s blood alcohol level at .147, nearly twice the legal limit.  The wrong way driver was not arrested for driving under the influence/manslaughter until last week – six months after the collision.


Wrong way car accidents are much more common than many people think. During 2015, there were 1490 wrong way crashes in Florida alone – more than four per day.  Because wrong way car accidents typically cause head-on collisions, the injuries that result are often tragic. This is illustrated by the 96 fatalities and 1454 injuries that resulted from 2015’s 1490 crashes. In more than two-thirds of wrong way car accidents, the driver was either injured or killed.

Whenever I hear of a wrong way accident, I tend to assume the driver going the wrong way was intoxicated; however, the statistics do not support this presumption.  With respect to Florida’s wrong way collisions in 2015, fifty-one percent of the at-fault drivers were not intoxicated at the time of the crash.

There are things you can do to minimize your chances of being involved in a wrong way car accident.  According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, interstate and freeway drivers should stay in the right lane, especially at night, to avoid the chances of being struck by a wrong way driver.  According to the Department, most fatal wrong way accidents take place in the left or center lane.

Of course, it is also very important to take steps to ensure you do not enter an expressway going the wrong way. As referenced above, many wrong way drivers were not intoxicated.   To prevent such mistakes it is important to: avoid driving while drowsy; avoid distractions, such a cellphones, while driving; and not driving after dark if your night vision is impaired.

In addition, Florida’s Department of Transportation is implementing new measures in an effort to reduce wrong way accidents.  FDOT is installing additional signage at expressway exit ramps warning drivers that they are proceeding in the wrong direction.  FDOT is also installing flashing lights at exit ramps and using radar to detect wrong way drivers headed up exit ramps. When the radar detects a wrong way driver, emergency alert signage warns others drivers to be on the look out for the wrong way vehicle.

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The greater Jacksonville area has had a rash of tragic motorcycle accidents causing fatalities during the last ten days.  Four of these accidents involved a vehicle that failed to yield to the motorcyclist when making a left turn.  In at least two of these motorcycle accidents, the person operating the motorcycle was not wearing a helmet.  Four of the accidents happened in Duval County, one in Flagler County and two in Clay County.

Left turn accidents are the second most common type of accident our lawyers encounter, with rear-end collisions being the most common.  Left turn accidents are especially tragic for motorcyclists who typically hit the turning car head-on. Further compounding the problem is that motorcycles, with their much smaller profile, are harder to see than larger vehicles.  With texting and the other driver distractions that are so common these days, the failure to appreciate that a motorcycle is approaching becomes all the more likely.

Most motorcyclists are trained to drive defensively and to be on the lookout for drivers that do not see them; however, drivers turning left across their path of travel often offer no opportunity to avoid impact.

Defensive driving tactics for motorcyclists include:

– wearing a helmet;

– having a working headlight on at all times;

– operating within the speed limit;

– not driving in the blind spots of other vehicles;

– not sharing a single lane with other motorcyclists;

– riding a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of you; and

– watching for drivers trying to turn left across your path of travel, especially when their light is yellow;

– leaving yourself an “out” in case something unexpected happens;

– never drive when drowsy, under the effects of medication, alcohol or illegal substances; and

– take a motorcycle driving course.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2013, motorcyclists were twenty-six times more likely to die in an accident than occupants of four wheeled vehicles.  Motorcyclists account for approximately fourteen percent of traffic deaths despite representing only a tiny fraction of the number of vehicles on the road.

Florida law requires that motorcycle operators under the age of twenty-one wear helmets.  Operators who are at least twenty-one years of age are required to carry at least $10,000.00 in insurance to cover them for injuries they might suffer.  This law is designed to ease the burden on the state and public to pay for the increased injuries that can result from the failure to wear a helmet.

Florida law also requires that drivers under the age of twenty-one must take a course in motorcycle operation.  Drivers twenty-one and over can take a skills test instead of taking the course.


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Jacksonville has an alarmingly high number of driving under the influence convictions.  Using 2011 as an example, Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicles provides there were 33,625 driving under the influence convictions in the state. The Jacksonville area had the third highest number of DUI convictions – 2,222. Only the Tampa area and Miami-Dade had more convictions, with 3,256 and 2,274 respectively.

Factoring in the much larger populations in those cities, it appears Jacksonville has the highest per capita DUI convictions of all large cities in the state.   Whether this means we have the highest number of drunk drivers on our roads or whether Jacksonville’s police and state attorneys are simply doing a better job is impossible to know.

This problem is reflected in our news nearly every week. For example, recently, a 21-year-old Jacksonville man was charged with the death of his friend in a crash on Loretto Road in the Mandarin area of Jacksonville. Police say the man was exceeding the speed limit and traveling at 47 to 60 mph in a 30-mph zone on a curve. Wet weather conditions added to the danger.

The car left the roadway and struck a tree.  The 22-year-old passenger was ejected and killed and the driver broke an arm and suffered other injuries. Police reported there were containers of alcohol at the scene and said the driver showed signs of impairment and smelled of alcohol. At first, the man admitted he was the driver but later claimed he was not, investigators said.

The driver has been charged charged with vehicular homicide, DUI-manslaughter, and knowingly operating a vehicle with a suspended license. We can only imagine that the grief, remorse and guilt will dwarf this young man’s criminal consequences, no matter how severe they may be.

The driver’s blood alcohol content tested at .23, according to the arrest report. The legal limit to drive in Florida is .08.  Intoxication at the level of .23 is associated with a laundry list of deficits including: nausea; blackout; emotional swings; severe motor skill impairment; drastically reduced reaction times; stupor; and loss of consciousness.

A host of laws have been enacted in the state in an effort to reduce drunk driving.  Despite these measures, the problem continues.  Years ago, the legal limit was reduced from .10 to .08.  In addition, fines and sentences have increased dramatically.   Due to public pressure, state attorneys are much less likely to agree to a plea arrangement that does not include a conviction for DUI.

Florida law mandates that any driver convicted of a second DUI must have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle.  The interlock prevents the car from being started unless the driver successfully blows a breathalizer connected to the engine’s ignition system.  A judge may order an interlock installed on a first conviction depending on the circumstances.  Perhaps this law be changed to include all first convictions.

Florida also has a “zero tolerance” policy for drivers under 21 who drink alcohol and get behind the wheel. Any driver under 21 who is stopped by police and has a blood alcohol level of .02 or higher will automatically face the suspension of their drivers’ license for six months.

In addition to criminal consequences, drunk drivers face civil liability for wrongful death or injuries.  Unlike other debts, claims for injuries or death caused by drunk driving are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.


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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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On April 10, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court issued an important ruling regarding Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine as it applies to the owners of vehicles involved in auto accidents. Generally speaking, Florida’s dangerous instrumentality laws provide that the owner or owners of a vehicle are responsible for any injuries caused by anyone else driving the vehicle with permission. The rationale for this rule is that the owners of a vehicle are in the best position to ensure that persons operating it are safe drivers.

There is an exception to this rule, commonly referred to as “beneficial ownership” exception. This exception applies when the ownership interest in the vehicle has been transferred from one person or entity to another but the title hasnot yet been changed when an auto accident occurs. This situation usually occurs when, in the sale of an automobile, the buyer takes possession the vehicle, yet the title has not been changed to reflect the new owner. In this situation, the seller no longer has the ability to control who is driving the car after possession is given to the buyer, so the rationale of the dangerous instrumentality doctrine is not undermined.

In the case ruled on last week by the Florida Supreme Court, a husband was placed on the title as co-owner with his wife. They later divorced . After the divorce, the husband did not have access to the vehicle nor did he have keys to the vehicle, yet his name remained on the title as a co-owner. The case proceeded to a jury trial and the jury determined that the husband was not a beneficial owner at the time of the accident, and, therefore, the husband was not liable to the plaintiff. Unfortunately, the car accident at issue caused the wrongful death of the driver of the other car. The appellate court held that the husband was still responsible as the owner of the vehicle. The issue was certified as one of great importance to the Florida Supreme Court.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the ex-husband still had the ability to exert control of the vehicle as an owner even though he chose not to do so. The ex-husband’s subjective intent that the wife be the sole owner of the vehicle, and that he gave the vehicle to her as a gift, was not relevant. As a result, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the ex-husband was responsible for the wrongful death damages resulting from the car accident.

In so doing, the Florida Supreme Court limited the beneficial ownership exception to Florida’s dangerous instrumentality law to apply to the narrow circumstance where the ownership of a vehicle has been transferred, yet the title work has not caught up with such transfer. To rule otherwise would allow co-owners in all sorts of car accidents to avoid liability for injuries by claiming an intent to have no actual interest in the vehicle despite the fact that, legally speaking, he or she did have the right to exert control over the vehicle.

In short, the ruling was a victory for persons injured in car accidents as a co-owner will not be able to escape liability by merely claiming that he or she did not intend to exercise any control over who used the vehicle.
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Earlier this month, a tragic accident on I-295 took the life of one college student and injured two others. According to a report by the Florida Times-Union, the three college students were travelling on I-295 in Duval County, Florida, shortly before noon on December 13th, when they came upon a pickup truck that was travelling slowly in their lane. As the driver attempted to swerve around the pickup truck, she lost control of the vehicle and she over-corrected. The vehicle then spun out of control.


The vehicle containing the three college students then hit a semi truck in a neighboring lane before rolling over. The vehicle ultimate came to a rest upright a few lanes away. All three occupants were wearing their seat belts when the accident occurred. One girl was killed in the accident and the other two were taken to Shands Jacksonville in critical and serious conditions. Police do not believe that drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident.

This is certainly an unnecessary and sad accident. Giving the timing and the age of the occupants, they may have been headed home for Christmas break from college. The grief of their families must be tremendous.

Reckless Driving Causes Accidents

It certainly seems that, in the above example, the driver came needlessly close to the vehicle in front of her before changing lanes. Perhaps this was the result of: failing to properly observe conditions in front of her; being distracted; or driving too aggressively.

Generally reckless or negligent driving can be considered to be any of the following:

– Inattentive Driving (talking to a passenger, day dreaming);
– Distracted Driving (texting, applying make up, reading, eating);
– Speeding;
– Impaired Driving (drugs or alcohol);
– Erratic Passing (cutting in and out of traffic, speeding while passing, passing on the right).

This list is not exhaustive, however. Anytime a driver is not paying full attention to the road, fails to properly maintain their vehicle, or intentionally disobeys a traffic law, that driver is negligent. Negligent driving causes accidents.

When drivers act in an aggressive manner, they greatly increase the chance of causing a car accident. When a driver’s reckless or negligent behavior causes an accident that injures another, that victim is entitled to recover for the cost of their medical bills, future medical expenses, as well as for the pain and suffering resulting from personal injuries.

Photo Credit: Daniel Stagner via Compfight cc
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Last month, a Florida man was allegedly driving under the influence when he collided with a car that was pulled over on the side of the road to help a friend change a flat tire. According to a story by the Tampa Bay Times, three female motorists got a flat tire and called three male friends to help them change the tire. When the male friends arrived, they parked behind the females’ vehicle and began to change the tire.

Flat%20Tire.jpgIn the middle of changing the tire, a BMW came speeding down the highway and apparently didn’t see the cars on the side of the road until it was too late. The driver attempted to veer away from the parked cars, but ended up slamming into the back of the males’ car, sending it into the rear of the females’ car. All six of the victims were taken to the hospital and are recovering well.

The man driving the BMW was apparently driving under the influence with a breath alcohol content of .10. He was arrested and charged with felony DUI causing serious bodily injury. This was not the first time the driver had been charged with a DUI. Apparently, he was charged several years back with a DUI-related offense in Texas.

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