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Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Tesla’s driver assistance tools are being challenged yet again in court. 

This time, a Florida driver is suing the electric car maker for negligence and breach of duty after a collision with a disabled vehicle on Florida’s Turnpike that destroyed the front end of his Tesla Model S.

The man says the collision, which happened while he was doing around 80mph on Autopilot, left him with “severe permanent injuries.” He is seeking unspecified monetary damages. 

In addition, the lawsuit also claims that Tesla is misleading consumers into believing its Autopilot system can safely transport passengers at highway speeds.

When you engage Tesla’s Autopilot at over 50 mph it has trouble finding stationary objects and parked cars. 

In May of this year, Tesla settled a class action lawsuit from drivers who had bought cars with Autopilot 2.0, a feature that cost an extra $5,000 per vehicle, and which the drivers said was dangerous and unusable. In the settlement, Tesla put $5 million in a fund for legal fees and to compensate buyers of the enhanced Autopilot package from 2016 and 2017 with payments of $20 to $280.

While Autopilot’s enhanced features are Tesla’s incremental steps towards developing a fully self-driving car, these vehicles are not self-driving yet.

While Tesla’s Autopilot system can handle a range of driving conditions, it’s not designed to stop for parked cars or other stationary objects when traveling at highway speeds.

Tesla released a major Autopilot software update last week. Tesla’s new ‘Navigate’ feature on Autopilot “guides a car from a highway’s on-ramp to off-ramp, including suggesting and making lane changes, navigating highway interchanges, and taking exits.” However this warning is also added: “Until truly driverless cars are validated and approved by regulators, drivers are responsible for and must remain in control of their car at all times.”

A closer look into the autopilot issue could reveal that the problem is how these cars are being marketed. The driver in this lawsuit claims that a Tesla sales representative reassured him he only had to “occasionally place his hand on the steering wheel and that the vehicle would ‘do everything else.’”

In September, a driver from Utah lodged a similar complaint after her Tesla hit a stationary fire truck at a red light while on Autopilot. The woman said Tesla sales people told her she only had to occasionally touch the steering wheel of the Model S while using the Autopilot mode.

In response to the Florida lawsuit, a Tesla spokesperson said that they are unable to review the vehicle’s data from the accident because “the car was incapable of transmitting log data to our servers.” The spokesperson went on to say, “However, we have no reason to believe that Autopilot malfunctioned or operated other than as designed.”

Tesla also stressed that driver vigilance remains paramount. “When using Autopilot, it is the driver’s responsibility to remain attentive to their surroundings and in control of the vehicle at all times. Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents, and Tesla goes to great lengths to provide clear instructions about what Autopilot is and is not.”

Tesla has the following information available on their website regarding Autopilot: 

Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance system that enhances safety and convenience behind the wheel. When used properly, Autopilot reduces your overall workload as a driver. 8 external cameras, a radar, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a powerful onboard computer provide an additional layer of safety to guide you on your journey.

Autopilot is intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any time. While Autopilot is designed to become more capable over time, in its current form, it is not a self-driving system. There are five levels of automation and Autopilot is currently classified as a Level 2 automated system according to SAE J3016, which is endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Tesla’s Autopilot program is clearly not infallible. Just like other machines, the system is susceptible to defects. While these vehicles equipped with Autopilot features are advertised as being able to prevent or avoid accidents, this case shows that that is clearly not always the case. 

In personal injury claims stemming from auto accidents, the main aspect of the lawsuit is proving who is to blame. This can be a heated and complicated debate. In normal car accident claims, the careless or negligent driver who caused the accident is usually found to be liable for damages. However, when a self-driving car is involved in a collision, there is no driver to hold accountable. This presents the issue of product liability because a piece of machinery and a computer is involved. The only way to hold a computer accountable is to sue the entity or company that designed or programmed the computer. There are other legal issues involved as well, which can further complicate personal injury or wrongful death claims. 

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Driverless semi-trucks could be sharing Florida highways as early as next year, according to recent reports, and there will be no requirement that surrounding motorists know it.

These autonomous driving systems will not need to be tested, inspected, or certified before being deployed under a new state law that takes effect July 1.

Starsky Robotics, a San Francisco-based startup company that’s been testing its driverless trucking technology in Florida and Texas, has put out a call for job applicants who one day want to pilot big rigs remotely.

Starsky envisions its remote drivers logging onto computers in an office environment to take the reins of its trucks during the first and last miles of their long hauls.

That means the trucks will be on autopilot for the vast majority of their highway journeys.

Driverless deployments should begin in Florida by the end of 2020, Starsky says.

That’s much sooner than 2027, the year consulting firm McKinsey & Company projects fully driverless trucks will be ready to hit the highway.

On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill enacting the law in a ceremony at SunTrax, the state’s new autonomous vehicle testing track in Auburndale.

While the law will also open the door for ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to deploy fleets for commuter use, DeSantis’ signing ceremony was staged in front of a Starsky-branded semi-truck.

Co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Fischer, a Duval County Republican, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, the new law replaces an existing one that required a human driver be present and able to take over driving chores in autonomous vehicles operating on public property for any other reason than testing.

Brandes, Fischer and other proponents of driverless vehicle technology say automated systems will make transportation safer by removing the potential for human error. Driverless technology proponents envision a day in the not-too-distant future in which most driving becomes automated, freeing commuters to stare into their smartphones or their dashboard video screens.

The safety requirements under the new state law are limited.

Companies will be allowed to deploy their systems with no state inspection or certification.

Owners of autonomous commercial vehicles will be required to carry at least as much liability insurance as the state requires for commercial vehicles driven by humans. Currently, that means a minimum level of $300,000 in combined bodily liability and property damage coverage for trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 44,000 pounds or more, and lesser amounts for lighter vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles used for “on-demand” networks must be covered for at least $1 million for death, bodily injury and property damage, the law states.

Autonomous vehicles also will be required to achieve what’s called “minimal risk condition” — such as coming to a complete stop and activating their hazard lights — if their operating systems fail.

Existing traffic laws requiring drivers to promptly notify law enforcement agencies of crashes and then remain on scene to provide information or render aid will be exempted if law enforcement is notified by a vehicle’s owner or by the vehicle’s automated system.

When asked how Starsky Robotics plans to assure Floridians of the safety of the company’s driverless trucks, Starsky founder and CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher said only that the company, founded in 2016, has been working with all relevant authorities, including the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Turnpike Authority, and those agencies’ federal counterparts.

The company has also developed a “Voluntary Safety Self-Assessment,” based on recommendations from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, that will guide how its vehicles will react to unforeseen circumstances.

Starsky this week launched a campaign titled “The future of driverless trucking is not driverless” to attract recruits willing to drive in its fleet of 36 traditional over-the-road rigs before — if they make the cut — transitioning to the autonomous truck side. Those drivers will work at a computer in a fixed location and go home to their families between shifts, the company said.

In Florida, the company will locate its remote drivers at its facility in Jacksonville, a spokeswoman said.

The company currently has three trucks capable of autonomous operation but expects to have up to 25 by next year as it begins removing human drivers. Florida will be among the first states where it will run driverless trucks.

The company completed a seven-mile driverless test on a closed-off rural road near Lake Okeechobee in February 2018. It expects to conduct another test sometime this year, Seltz-Axmacher said.

This new wave of autonomous trucks is propelled by the rapid growth of e-commerce, retailers such as Amazon are busy automating as much of their supply and delivery chains as possible, and shipping is a major cost component ripe for disruption, according to reports.

Keeping drivers on the road for a month at a time has become a huge problem for the trucking industry, where the turnover rate for at large carriers averaged 89 percent in 2018 — two points higher than the previous year, according to the American Trucking Association.

Consumers’ demand for cheap goods and cheap shipping costs means haulers want to pay truck drivers cheap wages. That contributes to a 60,000-driver shortage in the U.S.

Paying someone $50,000 to $60,000 a year isn’t enough to keep them behind the wheel of a truck for a month, so the logic to solving that is to remove a person from the cab entirely.

Florida is not just testing out driverless big rigs. In Clearwater Beach, they are testing out driverless buses. Orlando is testing out a small driverless bus that soon will maneuver around Lake Nona. Driverless shuttles could be cruising Bay Street in downtown Jacksonville very soon. And in just a few months, Gainesville residents will be among the first in the state to travel for free through their town in a driverless shuttle.

Driverless cars, buses, shuttles and semi-trucks are officially upon us and no longer just  a thing of the future. These autonomous vehicles have been designed with cameras, sensors, artificial intelligence and algorithms to replace human drivers and eliminate human error, which is one of the leading causes of truck accidents, car accidents and bus accidents across the country. The hope is for these driverless vehicles to operate safer than human drivers, who can become distracted, drunk and careless when behind the wheel.

Much like everything else, nothing is perfect and these driverless vehicles can absolutely find themselves involved in an untimely collision. This will bring a whole new wave of car accident lawsuits, and it will certainly be interesting to see how these claims play out. Just like regular auto accidents between human drivers, driverless motor vehicle crashes will require thorough investigations to determine liability.

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Florida’s new distracted driving law, or texting while driving, goes into effect July 1, and law enforcement agencies across the state are preparing for how they will enforce it.

As far as enforcing the rule, a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s spokesperson said it will be done on a case-by-case basis.

The Sheriff’s Office said texting violations will be treated like any other primary offense traffic violation.

Deputies expect challenges from drivers trying to find loopholes around getting a citation, because they exist.

According to officials, drivers can still use their GPS, look at weather or traffic alerts, or call in an emergency.

Traffic judges might see more work as a result.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s officials said their enforcement will go through an education period. They’ll give out a warning the first time.

But drivers better make changes, because getting pulled over multiple times for texting while driving will end up in a ticket.

A hands-free requirement while driving in school and work zones goes into effect in October.

Citations will not be handed out for this violation until January 1, 2020.

This new law that makes texting while driving a primary offense as opposed to a secondary offense is meant to curb dangerous and deadly behavior while behind the wheel. Distracted driving accounts for more teen deaths than drunk driving, and kills 9 people of all ages every day across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Car crashes in Florida rose by 11 percent from 2013 to 2016, but collisions caused by problems stemming from distracted driving, like drifting out of a lane, sideswiping another car or simply blowing through a stop sign, increased by 40-50 percent.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a distracted driving accident, our Florida Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can investigate your crash thoroughly and determine if the other driver involved in your accident was using their cellphone or otherwise driving while distracted. We will use this evidence to establish that the other driver was indeed at fault, which may result in a more favorable outcome when pursuing financial compensation.

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A woman who was driving without a valid license is accused of fatally hitting a 13-year-old girl Wednesday morning as the teen was riding her bike to school.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 25-year-old woman from Argentina who had been staying in the Kissimmee area.

According to deputies, the woman was driving a minivan around 7:50 a.m. Wednesday when she struck the 13-year-old student in the Poinciana/Kissimmee area.

The eighth grader was on her way to Lake Marion Creek Middle School when she was hit. The child was airlifted to Orlando’s Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital, where she later died.

The man told deputies she has been in the U.S. on a “visitor pass” since October of 2018. She presented an Argentinian identification card to investigators.

Deputies said condensation covered approximately 80% of the woman’s windshield at the time of the crash, obstructing her view.

She has been charged with operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license causing death, a third-degree felony.

If your son or daughter has been killed in a pedestrian or bike accident, this is a tragic time for your family. It is important that you do not accept an insurance company settlement as compensation for your loss without consulting our Florida Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton. A sudden death in a family can take its toll not only emotionally, but also financially. Not only are family members grieving an irreparable loss, but they are also struggling to deal with medical expenses and funeral and burial costs, which can add up quickly.

The insurance company does not care about your family’s welfare or your losses. Their goal is to offer you the least amount of financial compensation possible so they can get rid of your claim quickly. During such a challenging time, you need our Florida Wrongful Death Attorneys on your side as we have successfully handled numerous fatal pedestrian accident cases.

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Longtime Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a man along an interstate highway late Wednesday night as he tried to avoid hitting the man’s disabled vehicle, according to police.

Syracuse believe the 51-year-old deceased man was an occupant in a black Dodge Charger with three others when they apparently lost control on a patch of ice and hit a guardrail before midnight Wednesday on I-690 in Syracuse.

Boeheim struck the man with his GMC Acadia while trying to avoid the disabled car, which was resting perpendicular on the darkened highway. The group had been heading toward the median for safety. The man was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Another man in the group suffered minor injuries in the accident, police said.

Police said Boeheim has been cooperating with the investigation. He even used his cellphone light to warn other drivers of the disabled car after the accident, police said.

Police said sobriety tests administered to Boeheim and the unidentified driver of the other vehicle were negative for any signs of impairment.

No tickets have been issued to Boeheim at this time and the investigation is continuing. Police did say that they do not believe criminal charges would be filed.

When it comes to pedestrian accidents, many drivers will attempt to blame the accident on the pedestrian to avoid legal liability. Sadly, pedestrians involved in car accidents can suffer from the following:

  • Severe head trauma
  • Brain damage
  • Leg injuries
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Paraplegia
  • Quadriplegia
  • Amputations
  • Disfigurement
  • Death

At Whittel & Melton, our Florida Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Attorneys will conduct a thorough accident investigation to determine who exactly is to blame. The smallest details may become the evidence needed to prove speed or driver inattention caused the crash, even when the driver states otherwise.

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A woman and baby were killed and a man and another infant were seriously injured in a crash at a Florida intersection Sunday afternoon.

Florida Highway Patrol says a man lost control of his pickup truck and crashed into the victims’ car, as well as other vehicles. Officials say a 19-year-old and a 1-year-old were pronounced dead at the scene. The car’s driver, a 22-year-old man, was taken to a Fort Myers hospital with serious injuries, and a 1-year-old was airlifted to a Tampa hospital with critical injuries.

Several occupants of other vehicles suffered minor injuries.

The crash remains under investigation. No citations were immediately reported.

Highway intersections bring multiple roads and opposite lanes of traffic together. It’s no wonder that they are the site of so many car accidents. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 40 percent of car crashes in the U.S. happen at intersections.

The at-fault driver of an intersection accident that causes serious injuries or death may be legally liable if it was caused by their carelessness or recklessness. Those who have been injured or suffered a serious loss have a right to seek financial compensation when this happens.

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A head-on collision killed a woman and seriously injured a man on South U.S. 301 in Summerfield Thursday night.

According to a witness, a 2011 BMW 5 series driven by a 34-year-old was in the wrong lane on U.S. 301 at Southeast 132nd Street Road and collided with a 47-year-old driving a 2003 Honda Civic.

Marion County Fire Rescue and arrived at the scene at 10:30 p.m. The driver of the Honda Civic was pronounced dead at 10:22 p.m., according to reports.

The BMW driver was taken by ambulance to Ocala Regional Medical Center.

According to FHP, the BMW was stopped in the outside northbound lane of U.S 301 facing south. The Honda was just south of the intersection, traveling north in the inside lane.

Troopers said the BMW proceeded south in the northbound lanes and the Honda took evasive action by swerving to the left into the outside left turn lane, but the two cars collided head-on.

There are no updates at this time if alcohol was a factor and if charges will be filed.

Wrong-way driving occurs when a motorist drives against the direction of traffic. The most common result of this error is a serious head-on collision. Wrong-way driving accidents can happen at any speed on any street, highway, or road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 350 people are killed every year nationwide in wrong-way highway accidents.

Serious injuries can result from wrong-way accidents, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, lacerations, and even death. These injuries can be costly to treat, which is why Florida law allows you to recover financial damages through a personal injury or wrongful death claim. These damages may include medical costs, rehabilitation expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, costs of future medical care, loss of earning capacity, property damage, and all other losses resulting from the accident.

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More than a dozen people were taken to a hospital after two Disney World buses crashed into each other Tuesday at the entrance to Epcot’s parking lot, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The crash happened just before 10 a.m. A Disney bus driven by a 21-year-old failed to stop and rear-ended a Disney bus driven by a 62-year-old near a tollbooth on Epcot Center Drive, according to an FHP report.

According to authorities, 51 passengers were on the bus that was hit. Fourteen were taken to a hospital with minor injuries, police confirmed.

The driver of the bus that failed to stop was ticketed for careless driving, according to an FHP report.

Neither driver was injured.

When you are driving on any type of road, or riding as a passenger, you are trusting that everyone on the road will follow the laws and operate their vehicles with caution. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes, drivers get careless with the way they maneuver their vehicles. Careless driver accidents can result in serious injuries and damage, possibly even wrongful death.

Once you have recovered from the shock and pain of your injuries, obtaining legal representation can help you financially recover after an auto accident caused by a reckless or careless driver. Seeking legal help from Whittel & Melton is one of the first steps to returning to your normal life after the accident. In preparation for your lawsuit, it is important to collect:

  • Information about the accident
  • Medical records and bills
  • Wage loss information
  • Pictures of injuries

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A deadly Sunday crash that killed a cyclist and injured six others in South Florida is sadly the latest reminder about the dangers of distracted driving.

Investigators are still working to piece together what happened, and state lawmakers are continuing their push to strengthen Florida’s traffic laws in the hopes of making people safer on the road.

And it’s not just lawmakers calling for change. Families who have lost loved ones are joining in the effort, saying the laws don’t do enough to crack down on texting while driving.

Legislation has been trying to enhance existing laws since 2015, but concerns about racial profiling and potential privacy issues have put the brakes on any substantial change.

Under the latest proposal, drivers could still use cell phones for navigation. To talk on their phones, however, they would be required to use a hands-free device.

Last year, state Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville, now the Senate Minority Leader, suggested that moving to hands-free devices would erase concerns about racial profiling.

Keeping with current law, the legislation allows for cell phone records to be accessed in cases dealing with deal or physical injury. That could curb some of the privacy concerns voiced in years past.

Though this year’s version of the bill has not been assigned to any committees yet, lawmakers will return to Tallahassee in December for the first rounds of committee hearings.

On highways, interstates and roadways throughout Florida, drivers who allow distractions to interfere with their driving cause serious accidents that can lead to fatalities. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you don’t need to go through this difficult time on your own. Our Florida Auto Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help.

We will investigate your case and determine if the other driver involved in your accident was using their cellphone or otherwise driving while distracted. We can use this evidence to establish liability, so that you can seek financial compensation for your losses.

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The Thanksgiving holiday will have over 54 million drivers hitting the road to visit with their families and friends. With an increased number of cars on the road, drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are at greater risk for being involved in a car accident resulting in serious physical injuries. Our Florida Auto Accident Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have outlined traffic tips below to keep you and your loved ones  from becoming another car accident statistic this holiday season.

Delete Distractions

Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents at any time of the year. When driving, even the smallest distractions can become disastrous. Some of the most common driving distractions include texting or talking on cell phones while driving, eating and drinking while driving and adjusting car radio or temperature control dials. Please keep your eyes on the road the entire trip and pull over when you must use your cell phone or interact with other passengers.

Travel Delays Will Happen

Speeding is another major cause of car wrecks. Anticipate that there will be holiday traffic, so plan ahead so you aren’t speeding to make it to Thanksgiving dinner. Allow yourself plenty of time to arrive at the destination without the need to break speed limits. You can even choose alternative travel days to avoid being on the road during peak travel days like Thanksgiving and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Make Sure Your Vehicle is in Top Shape for Travel

Drivers and their passengers should always wear seatbelts and follow traffic safety rules. If an accident does occur, wearing a seatbelt can be the difference between a minor injury and a serious injury or even wrongful death. Infants and young children should be using properly installed car seats and pets should be adequately secured in the vehicle. Make sure your car has been properly maintained with adequate amounts of gasoline, oil, windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid and air in the tires. Turn signals, brake lights and headlights should be functioning properly, and if a service light is illuminated on the car’s dashboard, have the car checked out by a certified mechanic to make sure everything is safe before leaving for your destination.

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