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Attorney Elizabeth Munro Presents at the Senior Summit at Big Country Preps

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Recently, our team of Tampa personal injury lawyers at Vanguard Attorneys participated in Big County Preps’ inaugural Senior Summit in Ybor City. During this seminar, high school seniors and their parents attended in order to gain knowledge from four experts regarding state laws, financial management, media, and NCAA compliances. For each category, the speaker with expertise in that particular field provided specific information and answered a variety of questions asked by the students and their parents.

Our very own Attorney Elizabeth Munro led the discussion regarding state laws. During her speech, she discussed why it is important for young persons to abide by the laws put in place by the state. In addition, she shed light on the lifelong consequences that can occur when young persons do not follow laws put in place to protect individuals. She focused much of her presentation on DUI related matters and used images of DUI collisions involving University of South Florida students to depict the severity of such accidents.

In addition, Ms. Munro explained that any students wishing to pursue an education in pre-law risk their educations and potential careers when making poor decisions such as getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. She stated that these types of decisions may not only lead to arrests and heavy fines, but they can cause haunting effects as well.

Vanguard Attorneys Is Here to Protect Our Community

At Vanguard Attorneys, our Tampa legal team is dedicated to standing by the sides of those injured in serious accidents. That is why our team takes every opportunity to spread awareness about harmful choices, such as drunk driving, and the lasting effects these decisions can have on a person’s life. Because we are truly passionate about protecting the rights of accident victims, our Tampa personal injury lawyers work diligently to ensure we have the resources, skills, and knowledge it takes to obtain successful results on behalf of our clients.

If you or someone you love is involved in an accident, get in touch with a Tampa personal injury attorney from Vanguard Attorneys right away. We have recovered millions of dollars in compensation on behalf of our clients!

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Common Causes of Car Crashes

By | Car Accident, Distracted Driving, Drunk Driving | No Comments

Automobile accidents happen every day. Fortunately, most car accidents are relatively minor and do not cause injury to the occupants. However, other car accidents can be more severe and sometimes result in catastrophic injury or even death. Both fatal and non-fatal traffic accidents are commonly caused by some form of driver error, such as driver distraction. Although rare, automobile crashes can also be the result of inclement weather or defective road conditions.

Traffic accidents sometimes involve a single vehicle, particularly in cases of collisions with fixed objects and vehicle rollovers. Other crashes involve collisions between two or more motor vehicles. Studies have proven that driver distraction, inclusive of cell phone use and texting, is the leading cause of all car crashes. As of July 2013, Florida drivers are prohibited from texting while a vehicle is in motion.

Driver Distraction – The #1 Cause of Automobile Accidents

“Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety,” according distraction.gov. More specifically, the following are a few more causes of driver distraction:

  • Reading or composing text messages
  • Talking on a cell phone
  • Reading, including paper maps
  • Typing or making selections with a navigation system (GPS)
  • Checking emails or browsing the internet
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
  • Eating and drinking
  • Conversations with passengers
  • Personal grooming / applying makeup
  • Exterior visual distraction

Other Common Causes of Auto Accidents

Driver distraction accounts for considerable majority of the primary causes of fatal and non-fatal traffic accidents. Aside from the many forms of driver distraction, the following include a few other major causes of car crashes.

Drunk Driving: Another major cause of fatal car crashes is driving under the influence (DUI). Alcohol impaired drivers are linked to some of the most severe automobile crashes that occur on US roads.

  • In 2011, 226 children were killed in DUI-related crashes. Of those, 122were riding as passengers with the drunk driver /
  • Almost every 90 seconds, somebody is injured in an alcohol-related car crash.
  • Every day in the US, an average of 28 people die as a result of drunk driving accidents.
  • The rate of drunk driving is highest among 21-25 year olds (23.4 percent).
  • Adults drink too much and drive about 112 million times per year – nearly 300,000 incidences of drinking and driving each day.

Defective Roads: Roadway defects refer more specific to problems associated with a road and the surrounding conditions. Dangerous conditions may contribute to a serious accident involving one or more vehicles. Despite a cautious driver’s best efforts, poorly maintained roads or construction zones not properly set up can cause serious automobile crashes and catastrophic accident-related injuries. Defective roadways are often associated with:

  • Uneven or broken pavement
  • Potholes
  • Excessive oil or gravel on the roadway
  • Road debris, tree limbs, garbage, or other obstructions
  • Inadequate or defective street lights
  • Inadequate or missing signage
  • Broken or missing guardrails
  • Malfunctioning traffic signals
  • Overgrown vegetation
  • Poor drainage

Road defects linked to construction zone hazards may also include any of these items in addition to a few inches of gradient, construction trucks/equipment, debris in traffic lanes, confusing signs, or narrow roadways.

References:

Praxim

Insurance Journal

Distraction.gov

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Drunk Driving Caused Tampa Wrong-way Crash

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On March 21st, a medical examiner’s report was released on the at-fault driver in Tampa’s second fatal wrong-way crash that took place in late February. The examiner’s findings indicate the young man was drunk when he collided with an Enterprise rental truck.

According to a recent update released by the Tampa Bay Times, the news report says Chase Kaleb Leveille’s blood-alcohol level was confirmed to be 0.21 at the time of the February 21st crash that took place in the wrong direction on Interstate 275.

Leveille was driving a 1993 red Honda Civic north in the center lane of southbound I-275 near Bearss Avenue around 2:35 a.m. Troopers said Leveille travelled north in the southbound lanes of the interstate for nearly three miles before colliding head on with an Enterprise rental truck heading south in the center lane at the same time.

The medical examiner’s report stated Leveille’s blood alcohol level was almost three times the legal limit. Leveille, a 25-year-old man from Riverview, was the only person killed in the traffic accident. Two men riding in the rental truck were treated for minor injuries. That accident came just two weeks later after five people, including four University of South Florida fraternity brothers, were killed on I-275 in a separate, unrelated wrong-way crash. The two fatal auto accident sites are located about three miles apart from one another.

Daniel Lee Morris, 28, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.20 with traces of marijuana present when he drove a friend’s Ford Expedition south in the northbound lanes of I-275 early on February 9th, according to earlier reports. Several organizations partnered their efforts to honor the four USF students killed by the alcohol-impaired, wrong-way driver last month in a deadly car crash on I-275 in Tampa. The goal was to help raise awareness about the dangers of impaired driving.

AAA and other local organizations joined with MADD on Friday, March 21st to sponsor nearly 400 students in an awareness walk event that took place around the USF Tampa campus. All proceeds raised by the walk were to benefit MADD’s victim outreach services.

Drunk Driving Statistics

  • In the state of Florida, the majority of DUI-related fatalities occur on Friday or Saturday, with most accidents taking place between 3:00AM and 5:00AM.
  • In 2011, the Florida DMV recorded a total of 55,722 DUI arrests, of which 2,045 occurred in the Tampa Bay area.
  • In 2012, Tampa DUI arrests decreased by more than 100 cases down to 1,912. In 2012, Tampa had its lowest number of DUI arrests in 10 years.
  • In 2012, there were 697 traffic fatalities caused by drunk driving in the state of Florida
  • In 2012, approximately 10,300 people died in the US due to accidents caused by drunk/impaired drivers.

References:

Bay News 9

DMV Florida

MADD

DUI Charges in Accident with Troopers

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A Tampa woman will face a count of one DUI charge in connection with a car accident in which her vehicle collided with a parked Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) cruiser. The FHP vehicle was stopped when the allegedly intoxicated female driver crashed into it, leaving the trooper inside with minor injuries

Official patrol reports indicated 47-year-old Sgt. Brenda Simmons was parked in an unmarked patrol vehicle in a construction zone on a westbound Interstate 4 interchange ramp with the northbound Interstate 275. Per FHP safety protocol, the trooper’s emergency lights were turned on and flashing as part of a traffic-control support effort linked to ongoing construction on the interstate just outside of downtown Tampa.

Close to 2:50am on Thursday, September 6th, Nedra Shical Deardra Miller, 29, of Tampa, struck the stationary FHP patrol car from behind with her Chevrolet Malibu. According to a statement from a Florida Highway Patrol spokesperson, Sgt. Simmons was taken to Tampa General Hospital and treated for minor injuries following the accident.

FHP also stated the Malibu’s driver, Miller, was uninjured in the collision, but was formally arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. There were minor traffic delays as the ramp was closed for a little over 90 minutes. Just after 4:30am, the exit ramp was reopened to traffic after authorities concluded their accident scene investigation. Miller was not carrying any passengers in her Chevrolet.

Ohio Man Confesses to DUI in Video

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Matthe Cordle, an Ohio man who posted an online video confession to being the cause of a wrong-way drunk driving accident, appeared in court on Wednesday, September 11th. Although his video indicated that he would plead guilty to his involvement in the fatal crash following an evening of heavy drinking, he pleaded not guilty in order to have a judge chosen at random. He is expected to enter a guilty plea before a new judge on September 18th.

An organization named “Because I said I would” posted a 3.5 minute video online last week in which Cordle admits to killing a Columbus man and also admits that he “made a mistake” when he decided to get behind the wheel of a car that night.

Cordle’s video confession was posted on YouTube and was filmed on September 3rd. The current version has more than 1.7 million views by users. It starts out with a blurred image of Cordle’s face. He then begins to describe how he has struggled to overcome depression and was simply hoping to have a good time with friends going “from bar to bar” on the night of the tragic accident. Cordle then goes into an account of apparently driving his car into oncoming traffic on Interstate 670. His face becomes visible as he confesses to accidentally killing Canzani. He ends the video by pleading with viewers not to drink and drive.

Cordle, was first denied a plea on Tuesday, September 10th, after a local judge indicated that his lawyers did not follow proper court procedures for first appearances. County Court Judge Julie Lynch also alleged Cordle’s attorneys intentionally delayed coming before her because she wouldn’t promise a specific sentence. Cordle’s attorneys denied the claim.

Cordle is from Powell, a nearby suburb of Columbus. He voluntary turned himself in to local police and also faces a charge of a misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. In total, the charges carry a possible jail sentence of 2 to 8½ years in prison.

On Wednesday, Cordle was seen wearing standard issued jail attire and slippers as he sat between his lawyers and did not speak during the hearing. Both his family and the family members of Canzani all declined to comment.

There is no word yet on what sentence Cordle’s criminal charges will bring. Following the criminal case, it is likely that Canzani’s family may pursue a wrongful death suit against Cordle in civil court.

Drinking and Driving – Labor Day & Holiday DUI Awareness

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With the close of yet another Labor Day weekend, DUI enforcement patrols were out in full force and we are once again reminded of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol. This year, an Arizona task force made national news headlines by reporting nearly 375 arrests for DUI over the long weekend.

Unfortunately, these arrests are just further evidence that drunk driving remains a prevalent issue across the US. On average, nearly 30 people die each day from fatal motor-vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. In the state of Florida, 33,625 DUI convictions were recorded at the close of 2011, 854 of which involved fatal accidents. While the average number of DUI-related fatalities in Florida and across the US has progressively declined over the past 20 years, efforts to prevent DUIs and promote awareness must continue.

DUI Accident Statistics

Labor Day indicates an end to summer and serves as an early pre-cursor to the holiday stretch. It also brings about the first of a series of holiday-related spikes in DUI arrests and accidents. Halloween parties bring an increase in alcohol consumption, followed by what many call “DUI season” or the time between Thanksgiving eve and New Year’s Day.

  • An average of about 570 traffic fatalities occur on US roadways over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend each year, with about 36% of those deaths related to alcohol.
  • In 2011, there were 138 traffic fatalities involving drunk driving.
  • Research shows that high-visibility enforcement, such as well-publicized Labor-Day weekend DUI checkpoints, can reduce drunk-driving fatalities by as much as 20%.
  • Since 2008, at least 750 DUI-related traffic fatalities have occurred in the State of Florida each year involving at least one driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
  • Drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine) are involved in about 18% of motor vehicle driver deaths. These other drugs are often used in combination with alcohol.
  • According to MADD statistics, Florida experienced 716 alcohol-related traffic fatalities so far in 2013.
  • Florida has recorded a total of 108,853 3-time DUI offenders and 13,054 5-time offenders.
  • 100% of DUI cases are preventable.

DUI Legal Consequences

If a driver is involved in a motor-vehicle accident, he/she is likely to be at fault if his/her BAC is above 0.08%. That driver can be held liable for the costs of any injuries that result from the accident. If a fatality occurs, that driver can be found liable in a potential wrongful death suit – in addition to any criminal and punitive consequences.

The legal BAC limit in Florida is 0.08% – a first offense DUI, including costs of legal defense, fines, and auto insurance increases, averages about $8,000 over a 3-year period.

Breakdown of Florida Penalties for DUI (First Conviction)

  • Fine – $250 to $500
  • Community Service – 50 Hours
  • Probation – Maximum of 1 Year
  • Imprisonment – Maximum of 6 Months
  • Imprisonment (with BAC of .08 or higher with a minor in the vehicle) – Maximum of 9 months
  • License Revocation – Minimum of 180 days
  • DUI School – 12 Hours
  • Repeat DUI offenses are taken very seriously, as these drivers are deemed a serious threat to public safety and often require treatment for alcoholism. In addition to potential jail sentences, repeat offenders may face:
    • Second Conviction – Revocation for 5 years (hardship/limited operation reinstatement after 1 year)
    • Third Conviction – Third degree felony charge, up to $5,000 fine, 10-year license revocation.

Florida Man Arrested in New Orleans DUI Traffic Fatality

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On Tuesday, July 16th, Alfred McKnight, a 28-year-old Miami native, crashed his Ford Crown Victoria into a GMC SUV with three occupants. The SUV’s driver, an 18-year-old woman from New Orleans, lost control when McKnight’s vehicle struck the SUV at a high rate of speed and sent it into a concrete guardrail before flipping over multiple times. The crash occurred on Louisiana Interstate 10 near the Lafitte Street intersection around 11:20pm.

17-year-old Sharmaine White, who was sitting in the SUV’s front passenger seat, was ejected from the vehicle during the crash and pronounced dead at the scene by first responders. The 18-year-old driver and another 17-year-old passenger were transported to a nearby hospital and treated for moderate injuries. McKnight was alone at the time of the crash and was uninjured.

Authorities detained McKnight after detecting a strong smell of alcohol on his breath. A police station breathalyzer analysis revealed McKnight’s blood alcohol level to be 0.117, considerably above Louisiana’s legal limit of 0.08. McKnight was booked and charged with reckless driving and vehicular homicide in connection with the crash.

Florida police records revealed this wasn’t McKnight’s first arrest for DUI. Miami’s Dade county records of McKnight show multiple drug-related offenses as well as an arrest for DUI and driving with a suspended license in April of 2008. Public record did not verify whether McKnight was convicted of either charge.

Due to his prior record, a conviction could have McKnight facing a $15,000 fine with a maximum sentence of 30 years. This does not include a potential wrongful death lawsuit likely to be filed by White’s surviving family members.

Dram Shop Laws in the State of Florida

By | Automotive Safety, Car Accident, Drunk Driving | No Comments

A dram shop law or statute is a term associated with liability for injuries caused by drunk drivers. Many states have enacted a dram shop law, but limitations and conditions vary from one state to the next. In general, dram shop laws refer to the idea that establishments which serve alcohol, like bars and nightclubs, have a responsibility in preventing drunk driving. If a drunk driver was served alcohol in one of these establishments and later gets involved in an accident and causes injury or property damage, the victim can potentially pursue a liability claim against the serving establishment.

Dram Shop Statute Specifics in Florida

Florida’s dram shop law, statute 768.125, reads as follows:

“…a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person.”

This means that a drunk-driving accident victim can only pursue a claim against an alcohol-serving establishment if one of two specific conditions applies.

  1. Underage Drinking: If the driver is under the lawful drinking age (21 in FL), serving establishments bear the burden of responsibility in verifying legal drinking age in all customers as well as denying service if they suspect use of a fraudulent ID. If an underage driver is served alcohol, then leaves the establishment and causes an accident, any party injured in that accident can pursue a legitimate claim against the establishment under current Florida dram shop law.
  2. Knowingly Serving an Alcoholic: If an accident is caused by a person habitually addicted to alcohol, any person injured by the accident may be able to pursue a liability claim against the establishment if they can prove the bartender or manager was aware of the driver’s status as an alcoholic and elected to serve alcohol to that individual.

These claims can be more difficult to pursue due to the burden of proof. Proving habitual addiction to alcohol can be done by accessing the driver’s arrest history. Evidence of court-ordered alcohol rehabilitation programs, as well as multiple intoxication-related arrests, may serve as proof. However, an investigation must also prove that the establishment was aware that they were serving drinks to an alcoholic. Most times, bartenders might not pry into touchy subjects like alcoholism and may not be aware of a patron’s status as a diagnosed alcoholic.

Summary of Dram Shop Law Intent

Florida’s Dram Shop law has been criticized by some as weak or relatively ineffective, but others may view the law as effectively limited to protect bars and restaurants from indirect liability associated with individual acts it cannot possibly control. The law aims to hold establishments responsible for areas of clear responsibility for public safety– such as serving any underage patron or knowingly serving someone who has a problem with alcohol.

Many bars and restaurants choose to protect themselves further by participating in and strongly advocating taxicab ride programs for intoxicated patrons. Many bartenders are also trained to look for signs of intoxication and will often take proactive steps to prevent inebriated patrons from getting behind the wheel.

References:

Online Sunshine – 2012 Florida Statutes – http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0768/Sections/0768.125.html

Madeira Beach Man Arrested for DUI Crashes

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Deputies have arrested Grant Mulder, a man involved in two DUI crashes, NBC 6 South Florida reports.

This arrest came after the 41-year-old man from Madeira Beach struck a telephone pole, left the scene, and left the child passenger in the median at another location, struck two vehicles leaving two people with minor injuries; and left that scene, a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office news release shows.

Deputies responded to the first crash with the telephone pole at 10:10 p.m. on July 10. They say a witness to the crash, saw that the airbag of the vehicle had deployed, hitting the child and approached the vehicle and attempted to help the 7-year-old girl out of the car, but Mulder drove away from the scene of the first crash with the child still inside the vehicle.

He headed to Duhme Road and the Tom Stuart Causeway, the intersection where the child exited the vehicle, according to deputies. Another witness saw the child and called 911.

The suspect then headed north on 113th Street where he struck two vehicles that were stopped side by side at the light at Park Boulevard. Deputies say Mulder tried to pass between them when he struck them from behind. The two drivers: 18-year-old Zachary Barrett and 21-year-old Rebekah Trout, were treated on scene for minor injuries and subsequently transported themselves to local hospitals for further medical treatment. Mulder then backed up, went around the crashed vehicles and continued north on 113th.

A deputy conducted a traffic stop at 113th and Ulmerton Road; and arrested the suspect. Deputies say when Mulder was placed in the deputy vehicle, he tried to kick the cruiser windows out.

Mulder was impaired and was arrested for leaving the scene of a crash with property damage, child abuse, leaving the scene of a crash with injuries, driving under the influence, and driving with a suspended or revoked license.

Mulder was transported to Pinellas County Jail where he was booked on July 11 at 1:40 a.m. He was released on a cash bond two days later.

This is just one of example of a tragic series of events involving drunk driving. If you have been injured as a result of a drunk driver’s negligence, please contact Vanguard Attorneys to protect your legal rights. Florida law allows for punitive and compensatory damages. Also if the establishment serving the drunk driver knew he or she was a habitual drunk or kept drinking after beer goggles were obvious, there may be liability on the part of the establishment. Our experienced attorneys will work hard to help you pursue the compensation you deserve and deter the drunk driver from injuring another person.

MADD Statistics

The statistics from the national organization, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver to aid the victims and families are staggering:

  • Every day in America, another 27 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.[1]
  • Almost every 90 seconds a person is injured in a drunk driving crash.[2]
  • Drunk driving costs the United States $132 billion a year.[3]
  • About one-third of all drivers arrested to convicted of driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol are repeat offenders.[4]

[1] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration FARS data, 2012.

[2] Blincoe, Lawrence, et al. “The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2000.” Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2002. NHTSA FARS data, 2011.

[3] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration FARS data, 2010

[4] Fell, Jim. “Repeat DWI Offenders in the United States.” Washington, DC: National Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Traffic Tech No. 85, February 1995.

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