Texting and Driving Revisited in this Legislative Session

texState Senator Maria Sachs of Delray Beach is attempting to get the Florida Senate to beef up the law regarding texting and driving. She believes (and correctly so) that the current law is ineffective to deter drivers from engaging in this activity.

Senator Sachs states the current Florida law is too difficult for officers to enforce because it is a secondary offense which means that drivers can only be stopped for another offense witnessed by the officer. For example, before an officer could stop and ticket a driver for texting he is required to observe the driver engage in a different moving violation such as speeding or running a stop sign.

Sachs’ proposal (S.B. 246) proposes to change this. Her proposal would allow police to pull people over drivers if they see them texting or surfing the web while driving. It would also double texting fines in school zones.

Most other states have much stronger laws prohibiting texting and driving. But just a handful treat it as a secondary offense like Florida.

The bottom line is that the telecommunications lobby, particularly in Tallahassee, has a lot of money and therefore usually gets its way. There are just too many legislators who are more concerned about pleasing lobbyists with the ultimate goal of making sure they are reelected. Although this is a significant safety issue for every Floridian, you can expert no significant legislation to strengthen what is obviously a very weak law.

With over 50 years of collective service to the South Florida community, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, personal injury lawyers at The Ben Law Firm have helped thousands of clients to obtain money compensation for their personal injury and wrongful death claims.

All of the firm’s partners have received the prestigious “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, which is a recognition by their peers in the legal community that their practice meets the highest professional and ethical standards.

Jury Awards $150M In Wrongful Death Trucking Accident Case

1-thumb-333x220-76025A California jury awarded over $150 million in damages to a 13-year-old girl who watched as her family burned to death in a fiery crash on a highway in Southern California. This tragic accident occured when the family’s SUV got caught under a tractor trailer which was negligently parked on the shoulder of the highway.The jury found a California trucking company and one of its drivers liable for parking the company truck on the side of the freeway in the early morning darkness without leaving on any light or emergency reflector.

The award to the young girl included damages her brother suffered as a result of his parents death and who later committed suicide on his mother’s birthday, before the trial began. The proceeds will be placed in a trust until she is 18.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the truck driver pulled over to sleep, ignoring written warnings that stopping in the “emergency lane” was only for “emergencies.” The family SUV had to pull into the emergency lane after striking debris in the roadway.

During the trial, defense attorneys countered that driver merely stopped to take medication for a headache, which constituted an “emergency.”

This lawsuit illustrates several types road hazzards which can cause catastrophic events. These include vehicles stopped on the side of the road and debris from other vehicles on the roadway. On high speed freeways, vehicles stop for all sorts of reasons, which create the strong probability for rear-end accidents, even if the disabled vehicle can make it to the side of the road. Virtually everyone who drives has had to dodge the remnants of re-tread tires and other materials lying in the lanes of travel.

Obviously, the jury experienced tremendous sympathy towards this young girl who to endure this horredous experience.

With over 50 years of collective service to the South Florida community, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, personal injury lawyers at The Ben Law Firm have helped thousands of clients to obtain money compensation for their personal injury and wrongful death claims

All of the firm’s partners have received the prestigious “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, which is a recognition by their peers in the legal community that their practice meets the highest professional and ethical standards.

Remote texter may be held liable for distracted driver’s crash

dwt-thumb-333x195-72045A New Jersey appellate court has ruled that a non-driving texter may be liable for injuries to an automobile accident victim.

In order to be responsible for damages, the New Jersey court ruled the person sending the texts from another location must have known they were being viewed by the diver while this person was actually driving. Although in this particular case, there was insufficient knowledge on the part of the remote texter. The accident, resulting in serious injuries to two motorcyclists, occurred within seconds of the time phone records show the driver, 18-years old, received the text in question.

The New Jersey Appellate Court stated: “We conclude that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving.”

In Florida the legal liability of a remote texter to a driver is unknown. The Florida legislature just recently enacted legislation making driving while texting (“DWT“) worthy of a traffic ticket. This watered down legislation came after many years of delay as a result of lobbying from the telecommunications industry.

It is currently without dispute that DWT is a major source of accidents on Florida’s roadways. It makes good sense, as the New Jersey Appellate Court ruled, to not only hold the driver who is texting responsible for injuries, but also the person on the other end — assuming the remote texter knew he was texting to someone who was driving.

With over 50 years of collective service to the South Florida community, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, personal injury lawyers at The Ben Law Firm have helped thousands of clients to obtain money compensation for their personal injury and wrongful death claims

All of the firm’s partners have received the prestigious “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, which is a recognition by their peers in the legal community that their practice meets the highest professional and ethical standards.

Florida’s Legislature –Texting while Driving–A Profile in Cowardice

images[2]-thumb-333x220-23896Again, because of public outcry, our political “leaders” in Tallahassee were forced to consider a bill to ban texting while driving (“TWD”), but this time they finally did something, albeit reluctantly. After years of lip service about enacting a ban on TWD, but doing nothing because of the strong and corrupting influence of the telecommunications lobby, our politicians finally caved in. The repeated DWT tragedies on Florida’s roads forced the legislature to confront this issue in the most recent session. The Senate finally passed a water downed TWD bill whose most significant benefit is to provide cover for our state politicians.

The bill now has to pass the House and our Governor must sign off on it. This toothless legislation is the best case scenario for the telecommunications industry — so why wouldn’t our Republican friends sign off on it. The Florida legislature had to finally do something to ban TWD, but the penalties offered very little punishment to deter that type of phone usage by drivers.

Under the proposed bill, police would only be able to stop a driver for texting if he was actually in the process committing a different offense like speeding. Accordingly, if a police office observes some distracted driver TWD, but he is not speeding or driving incorrectly, the driver cannot be stopped and can continue to text and drive. Even if the driver is stopped and given a ticket, a first-time violator could only get a $30 fine! A draconian punishment if ever there was one.

While the bill marks a baby step in the right direction, our politicians once again have demonstrated that they are more concerned about the welfare of the lobbyists in Tallahassee than they are about the safety of the citizens of Florida. Virtually every other state has a bill banning TWD with substantially stronger penalties.

TWD, like DUI, presents a demonstrable danger to every one of us who is on the roadway and public opinion regarding this has changed. We can only hope that our political leaders summon the courage to likewise evolve and finally stand up to the telecommunications lobby rather than bowing down to it.

With over 50 years of collective service to the South Florida community, the Hollywood, Florida, personal injury lawyers at The Ben Law Firm have helped thousands of clients to obtain money compensation for their personal injury and wrongful death claims

All of the firm’s partners have received the prestigious “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, which is a recognition by their peers in the legal community that their practice meets the highest professional and ethical standards.