Arrival of self-driving vehicles on Florida roads raises liability questions

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a bill that allows fully automated cars on state roads without a human driver or anyone else inside the vehicle. While self-driving technology is viewed as the future of transportation, it raises important safety concerns as well as questions about legal implications if accidents occur.

The law only allows fully autonomous cars of levels four or five on public roads. Since they are still being tested, it may be a while before prototypes of driverless vehicles will actually debut in Florida.

The new legislation establishes a legal framework for self-driving vehicles to operate within the state. Carmakers and tech companies like Tesla, Uber, Google and General Motors seeking to test autonomous cars on Florida roads must follow basic safety and insurance regulations.

The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. Commenting on the potential liability of self-driving cars, he said the state will turn to the example of rides-haring vehicles like Uber for their liability models.

In a semi-autonomous car, the human driver is expected to share responsibility for any accident that occurs. In contrast, fully autonomous vehicles are entirely controlled by self-driving software.

The state law clearly notes the self-driving system is considered the vehicle’s operator when it is engaged. This clause implies the party that built the autonomous technology prototype is responsible in the event of an accident. The risk of liability compels engineers and self-driving software developers to ensure their technology is safe and reliable.

Existing liability laws will apply to accidents resulting from unforeseen events such as poor weather or a deer encounter. When asked about a recent crash in which a Tesla vehicle struck a semitrailer while on autopilot, Brandes said the driver was completely responsible for it since “Tesla isn’t a self-driving car. It really is a level two or a two plus.”

What to do at the scene of a truck accident?

Automobile accidents can be horrible for those involved. Accidents involving trucks are especially devastating. The size and weight of trucks, 80,000 pounds, produces severe damages and injuries.

If you are involved in an accident with a truck, there are many things that you can do at the scene of the accident that can help you and help your lawyer deal with a lawsuit. First, report the crash by calling 911 as soon as possible. First responders will be able to arrive quickly to help the injured. Remember, being in a crash caused by the negligence of an 18-wheeler driver can cause serious injuries.

Calling 911 allows the police to arrive at the scene quickly. Police officers will be able to direct traffic and prevent new accidents. Moreover, a police officer will be able to begin investigating the accident by taking photos, confiscating evidence, collecting contact information and securing the scene of the accident. Police officers can also perform sobriety tests and breathalyzer tests. Additionally, police can generate an accident investigation report that can be used later by your lawyer to help win the fair compensation you deserve for your injuries.

Before the police arrive, you take additional action, if able, after an accident with a truck. Be aware of the truck driver’s actions. Do they seem intoxicated? Make not if the truck driver is trying to destroy evidence of intoxication, like throwing away alcohol bottles or cans.

Next, attempt to obtain the names, addresses and phone numbers of everyone involved in the accident. Moreover, talk and collect this information from any witnesses to the crash.

If possible, take pictures of the scene with your phone. Take photos of the damage to the vehicles, skid marks and debris.

Lastly, be cooperative and honest with the police officers when providing a statement of what happened. Do not leave any details out, even if you think they might not be significant.

Immediately after the crash, get medical help. Even if your injuries do not seem major at the time, see a doctor. Some injuries, like internal bleeding, might not show up immediately. Keep all records of your appointments and medical bills.

When you are able, contact an experienced truck accident attorneys at the Joyce & Reyes Law Firm at (813) 251-2007. The initial consultation is free.

Three safe driving topics for parents to discuss with their teens

Getting a driver’s license is an exciting milestone for teenagers. Unfortunately, they may not realize that driving comes with the very real risk of car accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted a high rate of accidents among 16- to 19-year-olds in comparison to other age groups.

Not only are teens inexperienced drivers, but they are also more likely to engage in speeding and other reckless driving behaviors. Parents can help their teens become careful, responsible drivers by discussing the following safe driving habits:

Dangers of distracted driving. Parents should discourage cellphone use and other risky, distracting activities while driving such as changing music, using the car’s navigation system or eating. Avoiding distractions is one of the most important driving safety tips there is to protect your teen and others while on the road.

Zero tolerance for drinking and driving. Talk about why drinking and driving do not mix. Teens often face social pressure to experiment with alcohol or drugs. However, intoxicated driving can lead to tragic, life-altering consequences like serious injuries, criminal charges and license suspensions.

Importance of car maintenance. It is easy for new drivers to get preoccupied with their car’s appearance. However, parents should explain the importance of maintaining their vehicle, including aspects like checking tire pressure and fluids. Educate your teen about how the car works, whether it is using different headlight modes or adjusting mirrors.

Despite following safety tips, car accidents can and do still occur. Fortunately, Florida law allows injured drivers to pursue compensation from negligent parties. Teen drivers who are involved in a crash have various options under the law. Contact the experienced Tampa car accident attorneys at Joyce & Reyes to learn more.

How bicyclists can stay safe on Florida roads

Riding a bicycle is an enjoyable outdoor activity and an increasingly popular way to commute. However, cycling in Florida is notoriously dangerous due to a lack of proper infrastructure to support bicycle safety.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the state has the highest number of bicycle fatalities in the nation, accounting for 16 percent of deaths in 2017. The most common factors behind bicycle deaths include not being visible, failing to obey traffic signs and making improper turns.

Although bicyclists have the same legal rights to use the road as drivers, they are likely to be the ones who suffer the severest injuries in a collision. Bicyclists can be proactive about taking responsibility for their own safety, such as by making sure they wear a proper helmet.

Here are some more tips to remember the next time you are cycling on Florida roads:

• Ride predictably and avoid making sudden moves when cars are approaching. Follow all traffic rules and signs. Signal when turning so that motorists can anticipate your actions.

• Be extra careful at night. Wear bright colors and make sure to have a functioning headlight and taillight.

• Avoid distractions. Do not use headphones to listen to music, talk on the cellphone, text or engage in anything that can take your attention away from your surroundings.

• Ride with the flow of traffic. While it might make sense to ride in a direction that allows you to see approaching motorists, remember that drivers do not always check for wrong way traffic before entering an intersection.

Adopting the above bicycle safety tips is important. However, the reality is that bicycle accidents can still occur. If you get injured in a bicycle accident in Florida, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Joyce & Reyes to discuss your case.

Why the rising popularity of electric scooters is linked to a higher risk of injuries

Electric scooters may seem like a fun and convenient way to get around. They have become popular in urban areas because they enable a more environmentally friendly, car-free lifestyle. While electric scooters appear to be harmless, what many people do not realize is that some models can reach speeds of up to 30 mph and have the potential to cause accidents.

A recent study by researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School found that riding electric scooters without a helmet has resulted in three times more facial and head injuries over the last decade. The number of accidents tripled from around 2,300 in 2008 to almost 7,000 in 2017. There were approximately 32,000 injuries nationwide during that period.

Laws regarding electric scooters are different in every state. In Florida, people can only ride motorized scooters and bicycles on sidewalks as they are not allowed on roads.

Earlier this year, electric scooter rental company Lime was sued for negligence by the family of a 28-year-old Florida woman who was left in a vegetative state after being hit in an accident. Lime was accused of violating state law by advising users to ride electric scooters on streets rather than sidewalks.

Electric scooters were first launched in South Florida in July 2018. Lime had a yearlong trial period with Broward County but saw a rise in accidents and complaints from the public. Other lawsuits have accused electric scooter companies of negligence and causing serious, even fatal injuries to riders and pedestrians.

The Rutgers researchers called for more “public awareness and policy to improve safety,” including standardized electric scooter laws and license requirements. If you decide to ride an electric scooter, make sure to wear a helmet and obey Florida laws regarding their use.

4 common types of car accident injuries in Florida

Car accidents have the potential to cause many different injuries. They can range from minor scrapes and bruises to more serious injuries that may require long-term treatment. If you have been involved in a car crash, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Here are four types of injuries that are commonly reported among car accident victims in Tampa, Florida:

Head injuries: Head and brain injuries from car accidents can be extremely dangerous, especially because symptoms such as internal bleeding may not be immediately apparent. Closed head injuries, like traumatic brain injuries, typically happen when there is major impact that results in a violent shaking of the head. For example, a collision might cause your head to bang into a window. Besides brain injuries, there are other forms of head injuries that can occur such as jaw fractures or facial wounds.

Back injuries: Car accidents can result in back injuries such as herniated disks or lumbar sprains. Be aware that symptoms may not appear until some time has passed after the crash. Pain, weakness, stiffness and muscle spasms are among the first signs of a potentially serious back or spinal injury. Some injuries can even have permanent effects, like paralysis or loss of sensation due to nerve damage.

Neck injuries: Whiplash is a neck injury that is often reported in rear-end collisions. It happens when the force of impact causes the neck to suddenly move back-and-forth. Neck sprains and strains are also common. Symptoms might include headaches, stiffness, pain, dizziness or ringing in the ears.

Broken bones: The force of impact in a car crash can lead to broken bones, whether they are fractured ribs due to a deployed airbag or a shattered ankle that got stuck under a pedal. While broken limbs may be painful and require surgery, they typically heal over time. On the other hand, more complicated fractures can cause lasting damage.

No matter the type of injury, make sure to see a doctor immediately after a car accident, even if there are no obvious symptoms. Individuals who have been hurt in a crash may be able to recover compensation for their medical bills, pain and suffering, lost earnings and other accident-related costs. Contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Joyce & Reyes to learn more about how we can help.

What to do after a parking lot accident

Parking lot accidents are on the rise and becoming a serious issue in Florida. In the Tampa Bay alone, these accidents were up 16 percent in the last four years. Around 5,600 parking lot accidents were reported in 2018 alone.

Parking lots can be chaotic and busy where tensions can run high as people try to find a parking space and navigate around other drivers. In addition, distracted driving contributes heavily to accidents in parking lots.

What should you do if you are ever involved in an accident in a parking lot or garage? There are important steps to take to be sure everyone is safe and to help you be protected in any potential legal proceedings following the incident.

Get medical help. If needed, call 911 for any injuries sustained by those involved in the accident. Injuries may not be apparent immediately so be sure to get medical attention if injuries or pain are worse than initially thought.

Stay calm. Tempers may flare after an accident. Keep yourself and attempt to keep others calm. Never admit fault at the scene.

Call local police. Even if there are no injuries, still report the accident to police. It is important to have a record of it.

Take pictures. Use your cellphone or another camera to photograph the scene before the vehicles are moved. Get pictures of any damage sustained by the vehicles and other property. Try to capture any conditions which may have contributed to the accident, such as snow or ice, and things like skid marks or broken glass.

Get contact information. Get names and phone numbers of other drivers and all witnesses. Get their insurance and license information if possible. If not, record as much as possible.

If you have hit a parked vehicle, record information about the vehicle and leave a note with your contact information for the driver. If you leave without doing this you can face serious hit-and-run charges.

Contact your insurance company. Your insurance company can advise you on what to do next.

Speak to an experienced attorney. Dealing with another driver and insurance companies after an accident may be complicated, especially when someone has been injured. You do not have to do it alone. Contact an attorney with experience dealing with car accidents and personal injuries.

The professionals at Joyce and Reyes would be happy to assist you. Your initial consultation is free. https://www.joyceandreyespa.com

Florida car seat laws and safety for kids

As parents anywhere can attest, car seats and the laws governing them can be complicated. However, the stress they cause is not in vain. Car seats, when used properly, reduce the risk of death for children in an accident by 70 percent.

Florida’s state car seat and booster laws are minimal, and recommendations are based on the child’s age instead of height and weight.

  • Ages 0-3 – Babies and children from birth to age three must be in a car seat
  • Ages 4-5 – Children must be in a car seat or booster
  • Ages 6-17 – Children and teens must use a seatbelt

However, there are many other factors to consider for maximum protection for kids in the car. Florida state car seat laws do not align with American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines, which are considered very comprehensive by many experts and parents.

The AAP recommends that babies and toddlers ride in a rear-facing car seat until they have maxed out the height and weight requirements for the seat, typically past age two. Once they transition to a forward facing seat, children should again max out the height and weight requirements before moving into a booster seat which will position the seat belt across their chest and lap. Some seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds.

Only once a child has reached 4’9” and can sit with the seatbelt positioned correctly should they be allowed to sit without a booster. Typically, the youngest that this could occur is age eight. They should sit in the back seat until at least age 13, because of the dangers of air bag deployment for kids, and always use the lap and chest belts.

Parents and kids alike often look forward to transitioning to the next stage or ditching the booster altogether. However, this is one instance when it is better to hold off on the milestones for as long as possible. Your child’s safety depends on it.

What to do after a motorcycle accident

A motorcycle accident is every rider’s nightmare. If you are involved in one, it is important to do certain things right away to ensure your safety and that of others and to protect yourself legally. Remember these steps so that you know what do should you ever find yourself in an accident.

Get help. First, you should check to see if anyone, including yourself, has been injured. Call 911 for help if need be and follow the instructions given by the dispatcher. If no one is hurt call your local police department for assistance.

Document the scene. As long as it is safe to do so, take plenty of photos with your cellphone or another camera before the scene is disturbed. Capture the motorcycle, any other vehicles involved, the surroundings, injuries, and whatever else you think may be relevant. These photos may be important to an insurance claim or court case.

Move your bike, if possible. If you are able, try to make the area safe for other drivers. Get your bike or loose debris off of the road so that another unsuspecting motorist does not cause further damage or make the accident worse.

Take notes. Writing down as much information as you can is important because you are very likely to forget things if you simply rely on memory. Get names and contact information of all witnesses, descriptions of any involved vehicles such as make, model, color, plate numbers, names of responding officers and any other relevant information. Notice and describe the conditions at the scene too, especially those that led to the accident such as slippery roads or weather.

Call your insurance company. You will want to speak to an agent about your accident as soon as you are able and answer their questions about injuries or damages. Be careful though, do not admit fault for the accident and do not downplay anything. Sometimes the true extent of the damage will not be apparent until later.

Call an experienced attorney. You may want to hire an attorney to answer your questions and help you through the complicated process that will surely follow your accident. Be sure to contact an attorney with experience handling motorcycle accidents, like the professionals at Joyce and Reyes Law Firm, P.A. We have over 32 years of experience with accident cases.

What to do after an Uber accident

With the recent popularity of ride sharing services, using Uber to get around is an ordinary part of the day for millions of people around the world. Uber drivers are not immune to vehicle accidents, however, and you may not know what to do if you are involved in one as a passenger. There are steps to take immediately after an Uber crash that can keep you safe and make the process of recovering any damages you may deserve easier.

First, get help. Check yourself, the driver or any other person involved in the accident for injuries. Call 911 or the local police department if necessary. Everyone’s first concern should be with the health and safety of everyone at the accident scene. Be wary of the role adrenaline can play after an accident and how it dulls pain. You may feel okay initially but realize you have been hurt after some time has passed.

Document the scene. If you are able, take pictures of the vehicles and other parts of the scene that you deem relevant. These could come in handy in a future court case or insurance claim. Collect names and contact information for all involved parties and witnesses. Take notes on the scene and the driver’s state. Could they be intoxicated? Were there environmental factors, such as icy roads, that caused the accident?

Contact Uber. The driver may be hesitant to contact the company because they are afraid to lose their job. You should report the accident without delay because there needs to be a record of the accident on file. If no injuries were sustained and the very least you suffered was some inconvenience, Uber will likely refund your ride fee. If you were hurt, you will have a more complicated process but you will be covered by Uber’s million dollar insurance policy.

Call an experienced attorney. As an Uber passenger you are protected in almost all cases. Contact an attorney with Uber accident experience to be sure you are receiving the money that you deserve. The professionals at Joyce and Reyes Law Firm, P.A are well versed in the intricacies of ride sharing service accidents. Contact them at https://www.joyceandreyespa.com for a free consultation.