Gainesville Personal Injury, Divorce and Alimony Attorney

Floridians concerned over Increase in Hit-and-Run Crashes

The Gainesville Auto Collision Attorneys of Alba & Straile, PLLC note recent crash data, which shows a steady increase in hit-and-run car accidents in Florida over the past few years. According to reports, between 2013 and 2014, hit-and-run crashes rose by 7%, with an overall increase between 2012 and 2014 of approximately 15%. Most alarming, however, is the rise in fatal hit-and-runs in Florida, which increased by 23% between 2013 and 2014.

Although hit-and-runs, both fatal and non-fatal, have climbed nationwide in recent years, the rate of increase in Florida is much higher than in many other states, raising cause for concern. Despite 2014 legislation, which enhanced penalties for leaving the scene of an accident, hit-and-run accidents continue to remain a problem throughout the state.

Referred to as the ‘Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act,’ last year’s amendment to Florida statute §316.027, extends from the 2012 death of a bicyclist caused by a hit-and-run driver that was suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. While investigators did find evidence that the driver, Michele Traverso, had been drinking, difficulties in proving intoxication given that he fled the scene, resulted in a sentence of only less than a year in jail.

In part prompted by public upheaval following this tragic accident, the need for legislative redress became clear. The problem, as bill supporters noted, was that the statute, as was then in place, essentially made it more desirable for drunk drivers to flee and ‘take their chances’ of either being caught, or leaving it to prosecutors to prove that the driver was legally intoxicated.

Under the new law, a driver that is convicted of fleeing the scene of an accident in which a death occurs, is now subject to a mandatory minimum imprisonment term of 4 years, regardless as to whether the driver was operating under the influence. The new law also increased penalties for fleeing drivers that cause serious bodily injury from its former 3rd degree felony offense, to its current 2nd degree status. In addition, drivers that flee the scene of an injury-causing accident face a minimum of 3 years license revocation, plus must complete either: (a) a victim’s impact panel session, if available; or if one is not available, (b) a department-approved driver improvement course.

In recognition of the ongoing issue of hit-and-run car accident in Florida, as well as the need to promote awareness regarding amendments to §316.027, Florida Highway Patrol announced their launch of the ‘Hit-and-Run—Bad to Worse’ campaign, stating that:

“The Patrol is partnering with the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Police Chiefs Association, Students Against Destructive Decisions and the Florida Department of Transportation to combat the problem. The campaign aims to reduce the number of hit and run crashes in Florida by educating drivers on their responsibilities if involved in a crash and the consequences they face if they leave a crash scene.”

As injury attorneys that also represent claimants in wrongful death actions extending from motor vehicle collisions, we support the recent revisions to Florida’s hit-and-run laws, as well as campaign efforts to increase consequence-awareness and promote driver responsibility. Anytime a driver injures someone, and then callously flees the accident scene, they should be held liable to the fullest extent possible—both criminally and civilly. We encourage any person that witnesses a hit-and-run crash to immediately report the incident to authorities.

In the event that you were injured, or a loved one was killed, as a result of an accident involving a hit-and-run driver, knowing the law in Florida, including your rights and options as a victim, is the first step in seeking justice. Contact the Gainesville Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC, and allow us to evaluate your case and explain your legal rights to financial compensation.

Post-Accident Considerations 

It is not uncommon for victims to have uncertainties over just how to proceed following an injury-causing accident, and rightfully so—being injured in an unexpected accident can be quite unnerving in and of itself. The Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC discuss some post-accident considerations to keep in mind in the event that an accident an injury were to occur.

It is important to be aware that the actions you take following an accident can potentially impact your right to seek recovery and/or the eventual outcome of your case. For example, preserving evidence at the accident scene (i.e. taking photographs, or identifying witnesses), as well as formally documenting the case (i.e. police report following an auto collision, or incident report following a slip & fall) can play a critical role in your case.

In addition, and depending on the type of incident, you may be required to report the incident to an insurance company, and/or seek medical treatment from an appropriate provider with a certain period of time. Victims should also be aware of any time limitations for filing suit, as set forth by statute.

Adhering to legal obligations and requirements, while doing so in a manner that best serves your interests can be difficult for many, because it requires the ability to properly interpret provisions set forth under an insurance policy, as well as those set forth under Florida law.

Some victims may have concerns over the impact of prior actions, or failure(s) to act, following the incident. Some have questions over potential sources(s) of liability; which person or entity may be at fault; and/or what types of damages they may be entitled to recover. Some have concerns over a pre-existing injury, or a subsequent or concurrent accident. These are all questions that can answered by a skilled legal professional.

By securing representation, you can focus on recuperating from your injuries, while your attorney focuses on seeking the compensation that you deserve.

Revisions to Florida’s Child Safety Seat Laws to go into effect January 1, 2015 

Following more than a decade of debate, in 2014 Florida finally enacted more stringent regulations regarding the use of child safety seats. The Automobile Collision Attorneys of Alba & Straile, PLLC remind parents of the revisions to child restraint device laws in Florida which go into effect on the first of the year.

Formerly, children age 4 through 5 could be secured by a seatbelt, however, effective January 1, 2015, this is no longer permitted. Under the new law in Florida, the lawful transport of a child aged 5 years or younger, via motor vehicle, requires the use of a federally approved child safety restraint device. If the child is age 3 or younger, the device must be a separate carrier, or a vehicle integrated child safety seat. If the child is age 4 through 5, a separate carrier, integrated device, or a booster seat must be used. An exception to this law, as amended, does exist in circumstances involving: (1) temporary transport; (2) emergency situations; and (3) when a child has documented medical condition necessitating an exception.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of fatality in children. Child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers, ages 1-4. Yet despite this data, as well as the fact that Florida has one of the highest crash rates in the nation, our state’s laws pertaining to child devices have lacked significantly in comparison to regulations adopted by other states. And while recent revisions offer the hope of reducing accident-related fatalities in children there is still room for improvement.

Some reasoning behind Florida’s failure to incorporate restraint laws that adequately address child safety issues can be found, at least in part, in our heavy reliance on the revenue producing tourism industry. It is easy to see how the burden imposed upon a parent in carrying a car or booster seat for a child, over the age of 4, could potentially alter a family’s travel decisions in a manner that affects our state’s tourism economy. Likewise, requiring a car rental agency to provide safety seats would be equally burdensome and could result in increased rental costs or additional fees, which could also impact travel decisions.

Fortunately, many newer vehicles have manufacturer integrated safety seats, which may have played a role in Florida’s recent decision to implement changes to child restraint laws. In addition, recent innovations, such as inflatable federally-approved booster seats, as well as other booster devices that are more lightweight and transportable, may have also contributed to the amendments passed in 2014.

The Injury Attorneys of Alba & Straile, PLLC are happy to see the state put aside lesser concerns—financial interests, tourist inconvenience and/or the imposition of obligations upon car rental agencies—and focus on what is really far more important—ensuring the safety of children by protecting them against injury or fatality. At the same time, we also acknowledge the need for additional legislative action in the future.

In the meantime, we encourage the use of car seat or booster seat at all times while traveling with a child passenger under the age of 6, but also recommend use beyond this age when it is necessary for the child’s safety and protection. For more information on child restraint device safety, see ‘Child Safety Seats: What Every Parent Should Know.

The Benefits of a Bilingual Attorney

As managing partner of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC Gainesville Attorney Gilbert J. Alba has always embraced his Latino heritage, particularly due to his ability to serve the Spanish-speaking members of our community. However, an often overlooked consideration is the benefit that his bilingualism offers to English-speaking clients as well.  As you are reading this, you may be asking yourself—‘I speak English, why would I need a bilingual attorney?’  Well, actually, there are many advantages of selecting a lawyer that is fluent in more than one language.

Consider being injured in an accident, or being involved in a criminal matter, and then discovering that the only witness or a key witness needed to corroborate facts, is a person that does not speak English. In these situations, obtaining a favorable outcome may be dependent, at least in part, on your attorney’s ability to effectively address language barrier issues.

In example, from the viewpoint of a bilingual attorney, there should be immediate concern over the possibility of translation errors in any prior statements made by a witness, whether such statements were made to a party to the action, the police, an insurance company, or another person. This consideration is important, but one that may be overlooked by a legal professional that speaks only English. However, this is only one example of how a bilingual attorney can benefit their client. In practice, the value of a bilingualism, is found in the ability to identify, evaluate and overcome evidentiary issues at ALL stages of the claims process, particularly the litigation phase.

When a key factual witness does not speak English, the need for a bilingual attorney becomes increasingly vital the further along that a case progresses into the litigation phase. For example, where a non-English speaking witness will be providing testimony during deposition or trial, it is important to consider the manner in which bilingual lawyers are far more suited to both (1) ensure proper witness preparation prior to testimony; as well as (2) identify and address translation issues arising during testimony.

With regard to testimony preparation, fluency in both English, as well as a witness’s language, allows the ability to more effectively convey to a witness how to respond to inquiries presented, without the  need for the attorney to hire a translator. As referenced by the author of ‘5 Ways Attorneys Can Break Through Language Barriers,’ Attorney Alba comments on the essential nature of proper witness preparation:

 ‘During that process, attorneys should try to install in the witness the need to simplify his or her testimony…It’s really important to avoid niche terms, avoid colloquialisms, words that don’t translate as the speaker intended them to.’

A bilingual attorney is also better equipped to identify circumstances where a witness’s testimony on a specific topic or issue, may be better if presented through alternate means, such as the use of an expert witness.  Further, and in regard to language barrier and translation issues arising during testimony, it is important to keep in mind that for purposes of fairness to each party, the court will appoint the interpreter to be used in cases where a non-English speaking witness is providing testimony at trial. Having a lawyer that is bilingual will ensure that questions posed to a witness are correctly conveyed and that responses provided are properly translated.

Another benefit of bilingualism in terms of selecting a legal representative, is found in the capacity to assess language barrier issues in general, even in cases where a witness speaks a language outside of that attorney’s lingual fluency. Stated differently, an attorney that has handled prior cases involving witness language barriers from a bilingual viewpoint, is in a better position to identify potential issues, and address them in a way most suitable to a client’s needs. Like many other bilingual lawyers, Attorney Alba’s dual fluency, continues to contribute to his professional development as a respected member of the legal community.

Gainesville Community Concerned Following Attacks: Safety Tips for Nighttime Travel 

The Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC, along with residents of our community, remain concerned following reports of numerous victims being assaulted in the UF vicinity. Fortunately all of the victims were able to get away unharmed. However, students, and any other persons traveling by foot on or around campus at nighttime, particularly females, are reminded to take extra precautions to ensure their safety, including:

Whenever walking at nighttime:

  • Avoid walking alone
  • Call for a ride or hail a taxi
  • Travel in groups
  • Stay in well-lighted areas
  • Stay in areas that are patrolled by campus security
  • Remain aware of your surroundings, both visually and audibly
  • Do not use headphones or listen to music while walking at night
  • Do not talk on phone while walking at night, but DO carry phone in hand
  • If you feel you may be in danger, call 911
  • Carry an audible alarm/personal security device/pepper spray/mace in your hand as you walk
  • If you attacked, scream/yell as loud as possible and continuing to do so
  • If you are entering a parking garage alone, use the call boxes, when available, if you feel in danger, or notify campus security before proceeding into the garage alone.
  • If you must travel alone at night, and you are worried, notify Alachua dispatch at 352-955-1818, or UF campus security at 352-392-5447, to see if you can get a police/security escort, or at least notify them of your location, and that you will be traveling alone at night

As far as the recent UF incidents, the university states they have increased security on and around campus. Whether recent safety measures will be enough, we have yet to know—but we hope that this will not be discovered through an attack on another victim. Consequently, we urge any persons traveling by foot in the Gainesville/UF area, now more than ever, to take measures to protect themselves and ensure their own safety. To view more safety information, see UF’s ‘Together for a Safe Campus’ brochure.

Proper use of Child Safety Seats: What Every Parent Should Know

While failing to use a child safety seat altogether is both dangerous and unlawful, what the Automobile Collision Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC find even more concerning is that nearly three-quarters of children that are secured in a safety seat, are not buckled in properly. What this tells us is that although many parents are indeed making a valid effort to protect their children and abide by the law, they are either not using the right type of car seat, or the proper seat is being used, but in an improper manner.

Appropriate Seat Choice.

In selecting the proper restraint device, it is important to consider the child’s: (1) Age; (2) Height; and (3) Weight. Other factors may need to be taken into consideration, depending upon the specific needs of a child. For example, where the child has learned how to unlatch the restraint device or wiggle out of the harness or safety straps, a more secure device may be needed.  This is particularly important when the child has a known tendency to free themselves from restraint devices. Although it may be necessary to purchase multiple seats in the carrier and/or booster stages, ensuring the safety of our most precious cargo should always takes precedence.

Proper Installation & Use.

When installing and utilizing a child restraint device, there are several factors that should be considered, including:

  • Seat direction
  • Location of Airbags
  • Harness/ Strap Tightness/Tension
  • Seatbelt Adjustment/ Use of locking clips, keeping in mind the:
    • child’s size
    •  restraint device being used; and
    • vehicle type

Other Device-related issues.

Purchasing or using a previously-owned car or booster seat is never recommended, and for several reasons. Examples of safety concerns include: (1) broken seats; (2) product recalls due to defects; and (3) seats involved in prior accidents. In situations where a previously owned restraint device is used, parents can ensure device safety by:

  • Having the seat inspected at an approved seat-check location; and
  • Routinely checking for consumer product recalls, through official sources such as recalls.gov.

Minimum Requirements pursuant to State Law versus Child Safety.

Although Florida only requires the use of child restraint devices for children through the age of 5, the safety benefits of using a booster seat extend far beyond a child reaching 6 years of age. In fact, the use of restraint devices in children aged 6 or older, although not required by law, can be vital to ensuring the child’s optimal safety, depending on their size, height, weight, or other factors. As provided in FLHSMV’s Child Safety Seat Brochure, the following guidelines should be adhered to whenever traveling with a child in your vehicle:

Age, Weight, Height Range Safety Recommendations
Birth (any weight)-through-1 year old (20 lbs)
  • Use a rear-facing child car seat in the back seat of the car.

1 years old (20+ lbs)-through-4 years old (40 lobs)
  • Use a rear-facing child car seat in the back seat until they outgrow the weight and height limit of the child car seat.
  • Normally when children are over 1 year old and weigh over 20 pounds, you can switch to a forward-facing car seat in the back of the car if you must but rear-facing is best so long as it is within the weight and height limit of the car seat.
4 years old (40+ lbs)-through-8 years (4’9’’ tall)
  • Use a forward-facing child seat in the back seat until they reach the weight and height limits recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Switch to a booster seat in the back of the car.

8 years old or 4’9’’ tall-through-12 years
  • Use a booster seat in the back seat until your child is big enough to use the car’s seat belt.
  • At 13 years old, your child can sit in the front seat of your car.

Gainesville – Ocala Attorneys Discuss Fault Following Death of 5-year-old child in Rear-end Collision 

Due to a recent tragedy involving the death of a 5-year-old child, the Gainesville Automobile Collision Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC revisit a previous topic in which we discussed common misconceptions regarding the presumption of fault in rear-end collisions.

While often time we use hypothetical scenarios, here we discuss an actual real-life scenario involving the heartbreaking death of a 5-year-old child. The facts of the accident, reported by the Gainesville Sun, are as follows:

On Thursday, July 24, 2014, a 2014 Kia occupied by 4 out of state residents, including two adults, 32-year-old Joseph Paul and 24-year-old Cassandra C. Montimaire, as well as two children, 8-year-old Sebastien G. Montimaire and 5-year-old Annabel Jeanine Montimaire, pulled over to the side of Waldo Road near Gainesville, in order to enter information into their GPS. According to FHP, the Kia was stopped, but was partially blocking the outside lane. Thereafter, a 2009 Ford Expedition, driven by a 32-year-old resident of Starke, Tabitha Morris, failed to see the stationary vehicle, and as a result struck the Kia from behind. As a result of the collision, the 5-year-old was fatally injured, the 8-year-old suffered serious injuries, and the rest of the parties involved sustained minor injuries.

So, given these facts, let’s examine this accident in terms of fault and liability…*

In Florida, case law provides that, in rear-end collisions, the rear-driver shall be presumed to be the sole and proximate cause of the accident, unless the front-vehicle is able to ‘rebut the presumption.’  In other words, they must present evidence sufficient to demonstrate that the rear driver’s negligence contributed to (or caused) the accident. This is referred to as the Rear-end Collision Rule.

And applying this rule to the facts…

The front vehicle (the Kia), was pulled over to the side of the road, and the rear-vehicle (the Ford), struck the Kia from behind. Therefore, according to the rule, a presumption of fault will arise over the driver of the Ford. However, keep in mind that the presumption is rebuttable, and according to FHP, the Kia was ‘partially blocking the roadway.’ As such, the driver of the Ford may attempt to rebut the presumption by asserting that the Kia was illegally stopped, unlawfully parked, or otherwise obstructing the roadway.

Our assessment of fault does not end here, though…

While, at a quick glance, one may be inclined to think that the position of the Kia is sufficient to overcome the presumption, this is not necessarily true. It is important to remember that Florida adheres to principles of comparative negligence. Consequently, if the driver of the Kia (front vehicle) is able to present sufficient evidence showing that the negligence of the driver of the Ford (rear vehicle) contributed to the accident, the presumption is eliminated.

As automobile collision attorneys, we understand the need to thoroughly examine accident circumstances, as well as identify, gather and preserve all relevant evidence, in order to properly assess fault. For example, while FHP stated that the Kia was blocking the roadway, further investigation, such as accident reconstruction or witness statements, could possibly reveal otherwise. In addition, evidence of distracted driving, such as cell-phone records showing that the rear-driver was talking on a cell phone, or texting while driving, can also support an assertion of comparative negligence. The examples provided represent just a few potential scenarios, and there are a number of additional factors that should be taken into consideration in examining fault.

So, given the foregoing, let’s say there is sufficient evidence of comparative fault….

Generally speaking, there are two things likely to occur in the event either party asserts an auto negligence claim. First, evidence of comparative fault may be used during the negotiation process, in an attempt to reach a settlement with the opposing party.  Second, if the parties are unable to settle, the matter may proceed to trial. At trial, evidence will be presented for the purposes of assigning percentages of fault, which is then used to offset each party’s damages. This process is referred to as apportionment of damages.

Again, hypothetically speaking, let’s say it is determined that each party was 50% at fault for the accident…

While one might think that equal fault would leave both parties emptied handed, this would only be true if they had an equal amount of damages. Just as the percentages of fault must be determined, so must the amount of damages. In the accident at hand, the only occupant in the Ford, the driver, suffered minor injuries, and therefore it is necessary to determine whether that party’s injuries are sufficient enough to meet the permanency threshold.  However, the Kia had 4 occupants, and as a result of the collision, one child was killed, the other sustained severe injuries, and the two adults suffered minor injuries. Clearly the death of the child is permanent in nature, but more information would be needed to determine the extent of injury suffered by the others.

Now, applying fault to damages (hypothetically)…

Keep in mind that it is also necessary to consider each party’s insurance coverage, including PIP coverage, as well as Bodily Injury and Underinsured/ Uninsured Motorist coverage. Therefore, for explanatory purposes, and without taking into consideration insurance coverage, deductibles, other factors pertaining to damages, and crossclaims or counterclaims, let’s say it is determined that damages on one side total $20,000, and on the other side, $100,000. If this were a simple case involving only two parties, the assignment of 50% fault to each would result in a reduction in damages to $10,000 and $50,000, respectively. However this accident is a bit more complex, in that it involves several injured parties, multiple potential claims, as well as a possible wrongful death action.

What can be taken from the foregoing?

As a general rule, accident victims should never rely on a police officer’s finding, the contents of the police report, or their own assumptions regarding fault and liability. It is far more beneficial to discuss the matter with an experienced attorney who will investigate the accident and potential fault, gather evidence, and explain your legal rights and options regarding entitlement to financial compensation. Not only is consultation free in personal injury matters, but representation is provided on a contingency basis, which means if you don’t recover financially, neither will your attorney. If you or a loved one were injured or killed in an accident that occurred in Starke, Waldo, Melrose, Gainesville, or a surrounding area in Alachua or Bradford counties, the Gainesville Automobile Collision Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC want to help you.

*Please note that this discussion should not be construed as legal advice nor determinative of the outcome of any claims associated with this particular matter.

Sharing our Roadways: Is Gainesville Doing Enough to Improve Safety and Prevent Bicycle Accidents?

As our nation becomes more environmentally friendly and health cautious, the use of bicycles—both as a means of recreation and transportation—is at an all-time high. Along with this increased use, however, has come a simultaneous rise in injury and death caused by bicycle accidents.

This problem is particularly concerning in Florida, which, according to the NHTSA, has more bicycling-related fatalities than any other state in the nation. The Gainesville Personal Injury Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC wonder if enough is being done to address the safety issues that continue to plague the cyclists with whom we share our roadways.

The need to improve safety, through bike infrastructure, planning, and similar initiatives is a concept that has long been recognized in many of our nation’s large cities. However, many argue that bike safety efforts in Florida have failed to keep up with those in place and/or underway in cities in other states with comparable bike usage rates.

Consider Gainesville as an example.

According the 2012 American Community Survey, Gainesville ranks 12th in the nation, amongst cities with populations of 65,000 or more, for its percentage of people that commute to work by bicycle. Further, the city considers itself to be a bicycle-friendly city, and as stated in local media reports, has even been listed within the top 50 bike-friendly cities in the nation. Yet if Gainesville is so ‘bike-friendly,’ the statistics appear to say otherwise.

According to crash data, Gainesville has one of the highest rates of bicycle injury/death per 100,000 in the state. While it is also necessary to factor in the area’s increased level of ridership, the figures are still alarming. Despite millions of dollars in funding, and the city’s purported goal to “invest in community infrastructure and continue to enhance the transportation network and systems,” many residents remain concerned over the dangers of cycling in their communities.

While large-scale projects aimed at improving safety and networking along some of Gainesville’s busiest roadways are certainly a step in the right direction, the City also needs to consider the benefits of incorporating more small scale-projects to address the needs of cyclists in other areas as well. For example, many argue that there are simply not enough crosswalks throughout Gainesville to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to safely commute.

Concerns over the city’s lack of crosswalks heightened recently, following a tragic bicycle accident, in which a 49-year old Gainesville man, William Leon Bailey III, was struck and killed by a motorist while attempting to cross a street in an area that had no crosswalk. To view more information regarding this incident.

Just a few days following this incident, a Gainesville woman was seriously injured when a dump that was pulling out of a job site struck the victim, and then ran over her leg. Details on this incident can be accessed. While certainly in either of these accidents, it cannot be said that ‘through tragedy comes triumph,’ what can be hoped for is progress—and in the very least awareness.

Quite simply, we all must keep in mind that bicyclists and pedestrians are in a far more vulnerable position than any other type of road user. The Gainesville Personal Injury Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC hope that this recent bicycle accident fatality, and others similar to it, serve not only as an impetus for the city to make a more concerted effort to strive for improvement, but also as a reminder to motorists of the importance of sharing our roadways.

The Often Overlooked Dangers of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

The Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC comment on the dangers of all-terrain vehicles, in light of the alarming number of ATV accidents that occur each year throughout the state. According to the Consumer Protection Safety Commission’s annual report, which compiled data over a 30-year period, Florida has consistently ranked amongst the top ten states having the highest rate of ATV-related fatalities in the nation, when considering incidents occurring on all roadway types. While Florida does rank lower in ATV rider deaths on public roads, this is largely due to the fact that ATV use in our state is much more common in rural areas.

Below is a map of all ATV crashes in North central Florida from January 2012 through September 2013:

Unlike other types of fatal crashes, which are more likely to involve multiple-vehicle collisions, the majority of fatal all-terrain vehicle accidents involve a single vehicle—the ATV. According to a 2013 status report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, three-quarters of fatal ATV crashes between 2007 and 2011 reported a single-vehicle incident, while less than half of fatal motorcycle accidents were single-vehicle crashes.

Another distinguishing aspect of ATV accidents, in comparison to other crashes, is the tendency of all-terrain vehicles to roll. As provided in the IIHS report referenced above, close to three-fifths of single-vehicle fatal ATV crashes involved the ATV rolling over. Further, when considering all types of ATV crashes, whether single or multiple vehicle, fatal and non-fatal accidents, as well as reported and unreported, studies have shown that as many as three-quarters of all ATV accidents occur as a result of the vehicle either tipping or overturning.

ATV rollovers are particularly dangerous due to their propensity to cause catastrophic injury. One of the most common causes of death in ATV-overturn accidents is due the vehicle landing on top of the victim. In some accidents, a driver or passenger may be ejected from the ATV as it is overturning, and the vehicle subsequently lands on a victim. In other crashes, one or more of the occupants may roll with the ATV, thereby crushing and/or pinning the victim.

It is important for drivers to understand just how easy it can be for an ATV to overturn. Unfortunately, many drivers operate ATVs under the misconception that ATV rollovers can be avoided by refraining from high-speed driving and/or reckless behavior. However, in actuality, even a small incline can cause an ATV to roll, regardless of the driver’s rate of speed.

For example, earlier this month, a 71-year-old man was killed in an Alachua County ATV accident as he was performing volunteer duties in San Felasco Preserve. As reported by the Gainesville Sun, “[…] it appears that Rossley allowed the ATV to veer off the normal travel path onto the slightly raised right edge of “Main Road,” causing the ATV to overturn to the left 1 1/4 times, where the ATV came to rest atop Rossley, pinning him underneath.” This tragic scenario demonstrates just how easy it is for an ATV to overturn, and cause death, even in cases, as it appears here, where the victim was neither speeding nor engaging in reckless activity.

At a very minimum, drivers should be aware of six key safety tips, as provided by AtvSafety.gov:

    • Get Trained
    • Wear a Helmet
    • No children on adult ATVs
    • Don’t ride tandem
    • Don’t’ ride on pavement
    • Don’t ride under the influence

Knowing the features as well as deficiencies in safety of the ATV being used can also aide in the prevention of accident, injury, or death. Riders should be aware of the risk factors associated with their specific type of ATV, as well as monitor safety recalls, and when feasible, register the product with the manufacturer and/or distributor.

The Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC urge the operators of ATVs, four-wheelers, and other recreational vehicles, to practice safe and responsible riding. If you were injured, or a loved one was killed as a result of an ATV accident, our experienced personal injury attorney team can evaluate you matter and explain your legal rights, as well as any entitlement to financial compensation.

Swimming Pool Safety: Preventing Child Drowning Deaths

The Personal Injury Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC take note of the astounding rate of drowning deaths involving children that occur each year throughout the state and how they can be prevented. According to FloridaHealth.gov, Florida has the highest drowning death rate in the nation amongst children ages five or younger. On average, approximately three quarters of these deaths involve swimming pools accidents. Shockingly, more than a quarter of swimming pool drowning incidents happen while adults are present.

Some basic safety tips include:

Supervision

Constant monitoring of children is vital, regardless of whether your child is swimming in a pool, or simply in the vicinity of one. Water Watcher Tag’ system, in which an adult is designated to closely supervise children. The designated watcher wears a lanyard around their neck, which as a reminder to adults to pass the responsibility of supervision onto another adult.

Education

Explain to children, in an age appropriate manner, the risks associated with being in or near any body of water without adult supervision. A child’s ability to fully understand the dangers of water is often gained through basic swimming instruction. Further, a child that knows even the most basic of swimming skills, may be able to reach the side of a pool or keep themselves afloat until help arrives. Because every second counts, the longer a child is able to keep their head above water, the better the victim’s chances are of avoiding death or serious injury due to oxygen deprivation.

Security

Pursuant to Florida’s Residential Pool Safety Act, at a very minimum, pools must have a 4 foot barrier (fence), and have access gates that open in an outward direction, with a self-latching locking device located on the pool side of the gate.  Pool owners are encouraged to use multiple barriers, or layers of protection,  such as installing alarms on all doors, windows and gates that provide access to the pool (including dog doors and any other potential points of entry); using a motion-detecting or water-movement detection signaling device; and covering pools or spas with an approved cover.  See the CPSC’s Consumer Safety Brochure for more information on barrier systems.

Emergency Preparedness

A phone should be kept nearby whenever children are swimming. In addition, statistics show that drowning deaths can be greatly reduced when parents, caregivers, water watchers, or other persons responsible for supervising children know CPR. Further, always look in pools or spas first when a child is missing. It is also helpful to know your neighbors, in particular, consider the following: (1) do your neighbors have a pool and you have children; (2) do you have a pool and your neighbors have children; (3) does your neighbor know CPR and you have children; (4) do you know CPR and your neighbor has children?

While Florida’s alarming drowning rate is in part due to climate factors that facilitate swimming year-round, this provides all the more reason for parents, caregivers, and pool owners to take the precautions necessary to ensure the safety of children. The Gainesville attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC encourage the residents of our community to practice pool safety, as well as share your knowledge with family, friends, and neighbors. By doing so, we can all contribute to the reduction of drowning deaths and serious injury caused due to water-related accidents, the vast majority of which are preventable.