Articles Posted in Florida

An Oklahoma judge was three decimal places off, mistaking thousands for millions, when he originally calculated the amount Johnson & Johnson should pay for its role in the state’s opioids crisis.

Judge Thad Balkman announced his mistake on Friday and set a new fine, reduced by about $107 million. The total is now $465 million, down from the $572 million he assessed in August.

The miscalculation came when he was assessing various costs to the state to deal with addiction and prevention issues stemming from opioids. In his August order, Judge Balkman listed the yearly price to train Oklahoma birthing hospitals to evaluate infants with opioids in their systems at $107,683,000.

The amount was actually $107,683.

He was alerted to the mistake by lawyers for Johnson & Johnson. 

The judge’s order on Friday is the final decision from last summer’s landmark eight-week trial, the first state trial to determine whether pharmaceutical companies could be held liable for the opioid disaster.

His ruling highlighted two challenges that opioid plaintiffs face: how to calculate the cost of damage wrought by opioids and how to assign blame.

Those questions are at the heart of thousands of opioid lawsuits, brought by cities, counties and states nationwide, against a much broader swath of drug manufacturers, as well as distributors and pharmacy chains. 

Two Ohio counties recently obtained settlements worth $320 million from opioid distributors and manufacturers. The next opioid trial, currently set for March 20, will be brought by New York State and Suffolk and Nassau Counties against an array of opioid manufacturers and distributors with deep pockets, including Johnson & Johnson.

Months before the trial, Oklahoma had settled with Purdue Pharma and Teva, an Israel-based manufacturer of generic drugs, for a combined $355 million. Johnson & Johnson, which said that its sales of opioids were scarcely 1 percent of the market, instead chose to fight. In August, Judge Balkman ruled that Oklahoma had proved that the company’s aggressive marketing tactics had an outsized impact on the state’s crisis.

In suing to abate the continuing “public nuisance” exacerbated by opioids, Oklahoma said it would need $17 billion over 30 years to address drug treatment, pain management and prevention education. But in August, Judge Balkman had said that $572 million represented roughly only a year’s worth, because the state had not shown sufficient evidence to merit a 30-year award.

Both sides wondered whether he intended the judgment to be a one-time fine or subject to annual renewal. Friday’s order suggested it was one time.

Another point of contention was whether the judge would deduct $355 million from Johnson & Johnson, the amount from the earlier settlements.

That money has begun to flow to the state. Fees for the private lawyers who pressed the state’s case are about $75 million before the Johnson & Johnson award, according to a person familiar with the arrangements.

But Friday, Judge Balkman said the company was not entitled to that credit. Purdue and Teva settled without admitting fault. But after the trial, Judge Balkman ruled that Johnson & Johnson was indeed at fault.

In a statement, Johnson & Johnson said it would appeal Friday’s order, for reasons of fact and law, adding, “We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue and have deep sympathy for everyone affected.”

Estimates show that nearly 55,000 Americans die each year from a drug overdose, which has sadly become the leading cause of death of individuals under the age of 50. A majority of these deaths (60 percent) are caused by opioids. Even more shocking is that the rise in fatalities over the past 15 years more than tripled. 

The overdose epidemic has taken a devastating toll on addicts, their families, and friends. But these deaths also cost the government agencies tens of billions of dollars each year when considering public healthcare, treatment facilities, law enforcement, criminal justice, and jail expenses. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the cost is approximately $75 billion per year.

This is why thousands of government entities are suing wholesale and retail distributors and manufacturers of opioids looking to be reimbursed for government spending due to opioid addictions and overdoses.

In recent lawsuits, the defendants have included McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), Endo International, Teva Pharmaceutical, Allergan (formerly Actavis), Watson Pharmaceuticals, Covidien, Johnson & Johnson, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid.

The lawsuits claim that the companies exaggerated the benefits of the medication and knew the drugs were being overly prescribed, but did nothing to warn doctors of the extremely addictive nature of the narcotics and the need to strictly limit the dose. The second part of these lawsuits allege that the pharmaceutical companies lobbied politicians and doctors in an effort to increase the use of opioids and willfully allowed the drugs to enter the black market.

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Walmart offers grocery pickup, but they are not stopping there. 

Walmart is now teaming up with Ford to explore autonomous car delivery in what it’s calling a pilot effort.

This is part of Walmart’s strategy to innovate when it comes to serving customers, according to a blog post written by Tom Ward, Walmart U.S. senior vice president, digital operations.

“Retail is changing at a rapid pace, and what’s ‘easy’ in 2018 might feel old-fashioned in 2028. In fact, Walmart is already offering grocery delivery in nearly 100 metro areas and is continuing to innovate to find new ways to serve customers — better, faster and easier,” wrote Ward.

Walmart, he noted, just conducted a small pilot with Waymo to determine how customers will want to use self-driving vehicles when it comes to grocery shopping. The Ford pilot is taking place in Florida’s Miami-Dade County. The chain currently partners with Postmates for Miami customer delivery. Postmates is already connected to the Ford digital platform, the blog noted.

“Walmart and Ford agree autonomous vehicles have an important role to play as we consider the future of delivery. Before self-driving cars can go mainstream, we must get a better sense of how people want to interact with them. Together, we will gather crucial data to learn the best way to bring items to customers,” wrote Ward.

As with all new technological advancements, there have been a number of safety concerns regarding driverless cars. Autonomous cars are passenger vehicles equipped with various sensors, cameras, and other technologies that allow them to detect, navigate and respond to a driving environment without constant human input. The impacts that self-driving cars will have on roadway safety have yet to be seen at this point. Many companies testing out these vehicles have learned there are many flaws that must be figured out before these cars can operate safely on roads and highways. Some of these companies that are developing and testing driverless cars, like Google’s Waymo, Tesla, Argo, Cruise, and Uber, have pumped the brakes on getting these vehicles on the roads by this year as they are learning that making autonomous vehicles is harder, slower and costlier than they initially thought.

Even though autonomous cars are programmed to respond to a variety of circumstances, they are not yet up to speed on eliciting the proper response from other motorists sharing the roads. IN 2009 during a Waymo test drive, the autonomous car stopped for a passing pedestrian, but was then rear-ended by a motorist following it. This erupted some concern that blending autonomous vehicles into a world of unpredictable drivers would present more challenges. 

Moreover, the sensors, radar systems and other technology in self-driving cars can be very effective at detecting the conditions surrounding a vehicle, but only when conditions are good. So if there is any inclement weather like rain, snow or sleet, the technology can be far less effective at adapting to the driving environment. On that same note, poor road conditions like faded paint dividing lanes of traffic or potholes, etc. can trip up the technology in autonomous vehicles, which could easily lead to miscalculations, errors and possibly even accidents.

There are still very few regulations in place regarding the technology, safety testing and implementation of self-driving cars. There is also little to no legal framework regarding liability for any accidents caused by autonomous vehicles. Federal and state officials are still working to get regulations in place before self-driving cars share the roadways with the rest of the driving public. Our Florida Auto Accident Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are following the evolution of driverless cars very closely. While we fully support any technology that can decrease the number of injuries and fatalities that result from car accidents, we want these test vehicles to be glitch free before they are mixed in with the rest of the driving population. As auto defect lawyers, we will be closely watching the evolution of driverless cars. While this technology might be inevitable, we strongly believe that these test vehicles should not be put out on the roadway until all glitches are ironed out. While it is said that nearly 94 percent of traffic crashes are caused by some form of human error, and that driverless cars will prevent car accidents, reduce injuries and save lives, it is safe to say at this point driverless cars are not there yet. Despite this groundbreaking technology, we don’t think it should come at the cost of driver safety and human lives.

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Just one year ago, Detroit and Silicon Valley had visions of putting thousands of self-driving taxis on the road by 2019, thus filling may of Americans minds with thoughts of soon to be driverless cars.

Now, these vehicles have yet to arrive and it will likely be another few years before they do. 

Several carmakers and technology companies have concluded that making autonomous vehicles is going to be harder, slower and costlier than they thought.

“We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” Ford’s chief executive, Jim Hackett, said at the Detroit Economic Club in April.

In more recent news, Ford and Volkswagen said Friday that they were teaming up to tackle the self-driving challenge.

The two automakers plan to use autonomous-vehicle technology from a Pittsburgh start-up, Argo AI, in ride-sharing services in a few urban zones as early as 2021. But Argo’s chief executive, Bryan Salesky, said the industry’s bigger promise of creating driverless cars that could go anywhere was “way in the future.”

Why the delay? Human behavior.

Researchers at Argo say the cars they are testing in Pittsburgh and Miami have to navigate unexpected situations every day. Recently, one of the company’s cars encountered a bicyclist riding the wrong way down a busy street between other vehicles. Another Argo test car came across a street sweeper that suddenly turned a giant circle in an intersection, touching all four corners and crossing lanes of traffic that had the green light.

“You see all kinds of crazy things on the road, and it turns out they’re not all that infrequent, but you have to be able to handle all of them,” Salesky said. “With radar and high-resolution cameras and all the computing power we have, we can detect and identify the objects on a street. The hard part is anticipating what they’re going to do next.”

Salesky said Argo and many competitors had developed about 80 percent of the technology needed to put self-driving cars into routine use — the radar, cameras and other sensors that can identify objects far down roads and highways. But the remaining 20 percent, including developing software that can reliably anticipate what other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are going to do, will be much more difficult, he said.

A year ago, many industry executives exuded much greater certainty. They thought that their engineers had solved the most vexing technical problems and promised that self-driving cars would be shuttling people around town in at least several cities by sometime this year.

Waymo, which is owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced that it would buy up to 62,000 Chrysler minivans and 20,000 Jaguar electric cars for its ride service, which operates in the Phoenix suburbs. General Motors announced that it would also start a taxi service by the end of this year with vehicles, developed by its Cruise division, that have no steering wheels or pedals.

Honda and the Japanese tech giant SoftBank invested in Cruise. Amazon, which hopes to deliver goods to its shoppers by driverless vehicles, invested in Aurora, another start-up in this area.

Everyone was overly optimistic about self-driving cars. Companies believed all that had to be done was to throw in some sensors and artificial intelligence. 

The industry’s confidence was quickly dented when a self-driving car being tested by Uber hit and killed a woman walking a bicycle across a street last year in Tempe, Ariz. A safe driver was at the wheel of the vehicle, but was watching a TV show on her phone just before the crash, according to the Tempe Police Department.

Since that fatality, expectations were reeled back in. 

Elsewhere in the United States, three Tesla drivers have died in crashes that occurred while the company’s Autopilot driver-assistance system was engaged and both it and the drivers failed to detect and react to hazards.

Companies like Waymo and G.M. now say they still expect to roll out thousands of self-driving cars, but they are much more reluctant to say when that will happen.

Waymo operates a fleet of 600 test vehicles, which is the same number it had on the road a year ago. A portion of them are the first set of vehicles it will be buying through the agreements with Chrysler and Jaguar. The company said it expected to increase purchases as it expanded its ride service.

China, which has the world’s largest auto market and is investing heavily in electric vehicles, is trailing in development of self-driving cars, analysts say. The country allows automakers to test such cars on public roads in only a handful of cities. One leading Chinese company working on autonomous technology, Baidu, is doing much of its research at a lab in Silicon Valley.

Tesla and its chief executive, Elon Musk, are nearly alone in predicting widespread use of self-driving cars within the next year. In April, Musk said Tesla would have as many as a million autonomous “robo taxis” by the end of 2020.

Tesla believes its new self-driving system, based on a computer chip it designed, and the data it gathers from Tesla cars now on the road will enable the company to start offering fully autonomous driving next year.

But many experts are very skeptical that Tesla can pull that off.

Some companies argue that the way to get more self-driving vehicles on the road is by using them in controlled settings and situations. May Mobility operates autonomous shuttles in Detroit, Providence, R.I., and Columbus, Ohio. These are not minivans or full-size cars, but six-passenger golf carts. They travel short, defined routes at no more than 25 miles per hour. In many cases they provide public transportation where none is available.

The company has been running six shuttles between the Providence train station and Olneyville, a growing neighborhood a few miles away, since May. The trial is backed by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, which is paying May Mobility $800,000 for the first year of service. The company expects to take its service to Grand Rapids, Mich., this year, in a partnership led by the city. Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., May Mobility has raised $33 million from investors, including a $10 million round led by Toyota and BMW.

Also this year, a Boston start-up, Optimus Ride, plans to begin operating driverless shuttles at the Brooklyn Navy Yard that also travel at 25 m.p.h. or less.

At Whittel & Melton, our Florida Auto Accident Attorneys are obvious advocates for roadway safety because we see the devastating impact of serious accidents each and every day. The hope for autonomous vehicles was, and still is just possibly in the more distant future, to dramatically decrease in motor vehicle accidents. Should those hopes and visions be achieved, many innocent loves will be saved.

In recent years, car accident fatalities have been on the rise. According to data gathered by the National Safety Council, there were approximately 40,000 traffic accident fatalities in the United States in 2016. This is the highest number of deaths since 2007, when motor vehicle safety features were nowhere near as advanced as they are today.

The financial impact of personal injuries and wrongful deaths from auto accidents are huge. Motor vehicle accidents cost the U.S. well over $800 billion every year. Experts have concluded that 9 out 10 car accidents are caused by human error, so if and when autonomous vehicles are up to speed to take on all these human foibles, they just may indeed make the roadways safer.

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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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There are 200 new laws that were passed during the 2019 Florida Legislative Session and signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Some take effect July 1. Other laws will go into effect Oct. 1 and Jan. 1.

Here is what takes effect July 1, 2019: 

HB 7065 – AOB Reform

This reform provides for substantial changes in the way insurance benefits may be assigned to third parties. Defines “assignment agreement” and establishes requirements for the execution, validity, and effect of such an agreement; Transfers certain pre-lawsuit duties under the insurance contract to the assignee and shifts the burden to the assignee to prove that any failure to carry out such duties has not limited the insurer’s ability to perform under the contract; Requires each insurer to report specified data on claims paid in the prior year under assignment agreements by Jan. 30, 2022, and each year thereafter; allows an insurer to make available a policy prohibiting assignment, in whole or in part, under certain conditions; Revises the state’s one-way attorney fee statute to incorporate an attorney fee structure in determining the fee amount awarded in suits by an assignee against an insurer; requires service providers to give an insurer and the consumer prior written notice of at least 10 business days before filing suit on a claim. 

HB 301 – Insurance “Omnibus” bill

Allows insurers to provide multi-policy discounts when homeowners and auto policies are purchased through the same agent; increases the reimbursement from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund for loss adjustment expenses from 5 percent to 10 percent of reimbursed losses beginning with contracts issued after June 1, 2019; provides that workers’ compensation insurance applicants and their agents are not required to have their sworn statements notarized. Also enacts several updates for the Florida Surplus Lines industry, including eliminating a prescriptive cap on surplus lines agent policy fees (currently $35) and replacing it with a requirement that the fee be “reasonable” and separately disclosed to the customer. In addition, the residential dwelling replacement cost has been decreased to $700,000 from $1 million as it relates to “diligent effort” procedures. Makes changes to civil remedy notices and the appraisal process.

HB 617 – Flood Insurance Disclosure

Revises circumstances under which insurers issuing homeowners insurance policies must include a specified statement relating to flood insurance with policy documents at initial issuance and renewals. Fixes an oversight in previous legislation that required property insurance policies to prominently display that they don’t provide flood or other coverages, which didn’t contemplate “endorsement” of coverages onto property insurance policies. This bill requires the flood insurance portion of the notice only when the policy does not include flood coverage.

HB 107 – Hands Free Driving Requirement

Prohibits a person from operating a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner in a designated school crossing, school zone or work zone; authorizes a law enforcement officer during a specified period to stop motor vehicles to issue warnings to people who are driving while using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner in a designated school crossing, school zone or work zone; requires all law enforcement agencies to maintain such information and report it to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in a form and manner determined by the department, etc. 

HB 311 – Autonomous Vehicles

Exempts autonomous vehicles and operators from certain prohibitions; provides that human operator is not required to operate fully autonomous vehicle; authorizes fully autonomous vehicle to operate regardless of the presence of human operator; provides that automated driving system is deemed operator of autonomous vehicle operating with system engaged; provides requirements for insurance and operation of on-demand autonomous vehicle networks; revises registration requirements for autonomous vehicles; provides for uniformity of laws governing autonomous vehicles. 

SB 1024 – Blockchain Technology Task Force

Establishes the Florida Blockchain Task Force within the Florida Department of Financial Services that will develop a specified master plan specifying duties and procedures of the task force, etc. related to blockchain technology. According to CFO Jimmy Patronis, who championed the bill, blockchain technology increases the difficulty of amending transaction records and creates a “vital avenue of transparency for the state.”

HB 1393 – Modifies Areas Regulated by the Florida Department of Financial Services

Amends various licensing statutes administered by the Division of Agent and Agency services, including creating a temporary license for personal lines agents; gives DFS authority to help insurance consumers understand the mediation process; and helps to more easily return unclaimed property to Floridians. Also provides DFS the discretion to deny, suspend, revoke or refuse to continue an insurance agency license on the grounds that another jurisdiction has taken an adverse action against a professional license held by a majority owner, partner, manager, director, officer or other controlling person of the agency.

HB 7091 – Hurricane and Flood Loss Model Trade Secrets

Removes the scheduled repeal date of the public record and public meeting exemptions maintaining that the public record exemption for a trade secret used in designing and constructing a hurricane or flood loss model and provided by a private company to the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology, the Office of Insurance Regulation, or the consumer advocate; removes the public meeting exemption for any portion of a Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology meeting or of a rate proceeding on an insurer’s rate filing at which such confidential and exempt trade secret is discussed; and removes the public record exemption for the recording of an exempt meeting.

SB 426 – Firefighters Cancer Benefits

Makes firefighters who are diagnosed with certain cancers eligible to receive certain disability or death benefits. In lieu of pursuing workers’ compensation coverage, a firefighter is entitled to cancer treatment and a one-time cash payout of $25,000, upon the firefighter’s initial diagnosis of cancer.

HB 1253 – Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Gives Florida Attorney General access to information in the state’s prescription drug database to track sales of opioids. The move will help the AG’s efforts to sue drug manufacturers and pharmacies for overselling pain pills. Patient information will be protected.

SB 983 – First Responder PTSD

Ratified DFS’ rules related to workers’ compensation wage replacement benefits that are now provided in specified circumstances for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suffered by a first responder, regardless of whether the individual’s PTSD is accompanied by a physical injury requiring medical treatment. Specifies the types of third-party injuries qualifying as grievous bodily harm of a nature that shocks the conscience for the purposes of allowing wage replacement benefits for first responder PTSD.

Our Florida Personal Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton help injury victims recover financial compensation after they have been involved in accidents. This monetary compensation is needed to cover expenses associated with medical care, lost wages and all other financial damages incurred. 

Every state has specific laws, and the Sunshine State is no exception. Our Florida Injury Attorneys know every auto accident law, insurance laws, etc. and how they pertain to your case. We can also tell you the proper county and court to file your claim, what you are likely to be awarded and the odds of your case going to trial or settling out of court.

We will provide you with expert legal advice, explain your rights and represent you in court. There are many other things we do for clients, such as file motions, conduct depositions, analyze insurance policies, obtain and review medical records, conduct negotiations with the insurance company, create exhibits for trial, negotiate medical bills, and prepare any witnesses and the client for trial, just to name a few. 

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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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The parents of a 2-year-old boy who drowned in a Baker County retention pond in April are suing the owner of the property, claiming he failed to install fencing that might have protected their son.

The toddler was found in the pond April 23 after he wandered away from the apartment where he was being watched by his 18-year-old sister while their parents were at work. A neighbor tried to revive the little boy with CPR, but he died at Ed Fraser Memorial Hospital in Macclenny.

The boy died days before his 3rd birthday.

According to court documents, the property owner did not have proper fencing as required by building permits.

The property owner applied Jan. 13, 2016, to the St. Johns River Water Management District for a permit for construction of the retention pond to be used for stormwater treatment, court documents show.

The plans for the retention pond were part of a nearly four-acre storage facility.

Plans submitted to the district detailed the construction of a 6-foot fence with a self-latching gate. A permit for construction was issued two weeks later on Jan. 27, 2016.

The man subsequently built the retention pond, which was completed in March 2017. However, the property owner did not install the fence as detailed in the construction plans, according to reports.

Children are attracted to water placing them at a greater risk of being involved in a drowning or near-drowning incident. Due to this, the law recognizes additional duties that owners of ponds, pools, hot tubs, and other bodies of water must take to protect children. Private property owners as well as public entities that do not take these precautions can be liable for a child’s injuries or death that occur on the property.

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A Florida woman hacked into a man’s social media accounts and then “maliciously posted” nude photos of him, according to officials.

The 24-year-old was arrested Saturday in Port Richey after she demanded the unidentified give her money to take down the X-rated content, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.

Using the man’s old phone, the woman shared the nudes to his own social media profiles and changed his passwords, preventing him from deactivating the accounts, according to reports.

The woman allegedly sent the man a screenshot of a post she had not yet made public and then demanded the man give her money to “stop her actions,” officials said.

When someone posts unauthorized and non-consensual intimate images of you with the intent to embarrass, defame, ridicule or harass you, they are committing the act of revenge porn or sextortion. These malicious actions are a brutal means by which another person attempts to manipulate, humiliate, degrade, defame and destroy you. Our Florida Sextortion Attorneys at Whittel & Melton want you to know that you have done nothing wrong. You do not deserve to be tormented online and we can help you through this difficult time.

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A 25-year-old Jacksonville man died late Tuesday night in an ATV crash in Clay County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Troopers said the man and a 21-year-old Middleburg man were riding an ATV south on Beecher Lane in Orange Park when the vehicle flipped at Crossing Boulevard.

Both men were thrown from the ATV, and the 25-year-old died at the scene from his injuries, troopers said.

The other man on the ATV was seriously injured and was taken to Orange Park Medical Center, troopers said.

It’s unclear which of the men was driving the ATV at the time or why the vehicle overturned.

Charges could be issued pending the outcome of the investigation, according to the report.

Troopers said neither man was wearing a helmet.

ATV’s can now exceed speeds of 60 mph, so they can be extremely dangerous when not operated carefully or correctly. When racing up steep hills or turning at high speeds, ATVs have a tendency to roll over. These vehicles lack the protection of walls or a roof, so drivers can easily be crushed underneath the rolling vehicle.

If you or your loved one has been involved in an ATV accident, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Usually, these collisions are the result of poor weather conditions or human error, but sometimes they can happen because of manufacturing flaws.

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A woman was fatally shot in the parking lot of a Home Depot on Sunday around 9:15 p.m.

When deputies arrived they found a woman suffering from a single gunshot wound.

She was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead just before 7 p.m. Monday.

Investigators believe the shooting was drug-related. No arrests have been made and the Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information about the shooting to call homicide detectives at (813) 247-8200.

A number of factors can make a property unsafe. A lack of security guards, broken cameras, and poor lighting are just a few things can make a property dangerous and more susceptible to a crime.

If you or a loved one is the victim of a crime on someone else’s property, including parking lots, you may have a negligent security claim, and you may be entitled to financial compensation from the property owner, property management company or security company. When crimes occur in shopping centers, parking lots, apartment complexes, hotels, bars, etc, property managers and security companies can be held accountable if they fail to provide reasonable safety and a guest is attacked or killed.

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