Is There Really a Need for Speed? — Not While Driving

herman and wells
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Is There Really a Need for Speed? — Not While Driving

Driving a vehicle above the set speed limit allowed for a particular street or neighborhood is always a dangerous risk.  The risk is not only to the driver but also to others in his/her path.  You can never tell when a child at play or someone’s pet may dart out in front of your vehicle without looking.  Are people in that much of a hurry?  Is there really a need for speed? — Not while driving.  Is speeding, to get to their destination just a tad earlier (maybe), really worth all the potential grief that could come from a speeding ticket, injuring someone, or plowing into someone’s home?  It surely wasn’t for a recent grad-to-be on Saturday, May 20, in Lakeland, Florida.

Teen Was Speeding And Lost Control 

A 19-year-old driver lost control of his SUV, hit a fence, and went airborne into the bedroom of a mobile home Saturday, May 20.  According to BayNews9.com, he told the fireman who responded that he had been speeding and lost control of his vehicle.  According to a neighbor, who had been badly shaken believing the vehicle was going to careen into her mobile home instead, the young man wasn’t concerned about any potential injuries he might have suffered; he was worried for anyone in the mobile home that he hit.  Fortunately, no one was home at the time of the crash.  The distraught young man told the neighbor that he was to graduate this year.

Speed Busters

Last year, News Channel 8 reported that a former St. Petersburg police officer was very concerned about speeding along 9th Avenue North.  Leslee Lacey of Speed Busters was called in to help.  This area is said to have had a high incidence of speeding for almost three decades.  On 9th Avenue North, the speed limit is 35 mph and radar guns have captured almost double that speed on many separate occasions.  In one six-month period in 2016, the Saint Petersburg Police Department issued 44 speeding tickets between 41st and 49th Streets.

30 Miles Over the Speed Limit

In Florida, penalties for exceeding 30 miles over the posted speed limit can result in an offense of reckless driving, which can result in a fine of $400 or more.  No “breaks” are generally given for offenders driving 30 mph above the posted speed limit.  This level of severity calls for a mandatory court appearance, four points on your driving record, and even a possible suspension of your driver’s license.  These penalties double, of course, if a driver is caught in a construction or school zone.  Again, is it worth it?

Time for Another Speed Study? 

The last speed study for the area between 41st and 49th streets was conducted in 2003, said Mike Frederick with the St. Petersburg’s Department of Traffic Engineering.  Another study was said to be in the works in the near future.  In the meantime, Ben Kirby of the City of Saint Petersburg was going to look at the possibility of having a “solar speed pole” installed on 9th Avenue.

“Your Speed” Signs

Signs drivers see that automatically tell them what speed they are driving can be helpful in speed awareness.  Pole-mounted solar-powered signs have bright characters that are nine inches tall and can be read at a distance of 450 feet.  A great many accidents occur every year due to drivers speeding in residential neighborhoods.  If you or a loved one has been affected by someone else’s “need for speed,” contact a St. Petersburg personal injury attorney to learn what options you may have for justice in such an event.

If you have been a victim of an accident involving a speeding vehicle, contact a Saint Petersburg personal injury attorney to learn your rights.  Medical expenses, recovery time, and lost wages due to time off for such an accident can be costly.


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TRAFFIC SIGNALS AND SPEED BUMPS IN ST. PETE

The Stormwater, Pavement and Traffic Operations Department is responsible for maintaining the traffic signal systems and roadways in St. Petersburg. Traffic signals and speed bumps are for the direct purpose of helping provide a safe and smooth traffic flow on and around streets and roadways. When traffic moves in orderly fashion, everything should flow smoothly and there shouldn’t be any problems, right? In an ideal world. We do not, however, live in an ideal world, and when accidents happen, that’s the time to call a personal injury attorney.

TRAFFIC SIGNALS

More than a dozen traffic signals are getting a makeover around Saint Petersburg. The artistically-designed wraps are thanks to the efforts of the Clearwater Arts Alliance. Some of the funding has been courtesy of the City Council, while others have been the recipients of grant monies slated for this project. Local artists Liz Smith, Tim Boatright, Don Gillespie, and Ray Paul are a few of those creating the tropical and floral designs. The Traffic Operations Manager for Clearwater reviews and gives the “green light” for which signals receive the beautification process.

Watch the following intersections for more colorful traffic signals to appear: Druid Road at Hercules Avenue, Clearwater Beach near Pier 60, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street and Missouri Avenue, Fort Harrison at Jeffords, Drew Street at Osceola, Cleveland and Osceola, Sunset Point Road and Belleview Road, and State Road 580 at Countryside Blvd.

SPEED BUMPS (or SPEED HUMPS)

If you have traffic speeding through your residential area, you are likely concerned about the safety of children at play, as well as any elderly citizens that might take a little longer to cross a street. As well, pets that might untimely dart into the street are also a concern. Getting approval for a speed bump to be placed in your street can be a long process. First, neighborhood residents must circulate a petition and gather signatures to ensure a majority of the residents are in agreement. Neighborhood meetings should be held so that everyone has an opportunity to voice his/her opinion. Traffic studies will also need to be performed. Once all the proper procedures have been followed and the speed bump has been approved for installation, the process almost always goes forward and the speed bump will then be installed.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

The SeeClickFix website covering St. Petersburg and Pinellas County offers a forum where residents can report traffic issues and concerns and have them addressed and “fixed.” You can report potholes, malfunctioning traffic signals, and other community issues, such as nuisance graffiti, along with concerns about potential businesses operating without a proper license. The Mayor’s Action Center seems to be on top of addressing problems when divulged through this website so it could be a useful tool.

Will the colorful traffic signal designs help reduce speeding violations? There aren’t any statistics on that yet, but it is possible that more attention could be drawn to them. Hopefully, people will pay more attention to the colors in the middle of the traffic signal than the aesthetic theme that frames them. In the meantime, our St. Petersburg intersections look more aesthetically pleasing now, don’t you think? If you are involved in a car accident, speak with a personal injury attorney to ensure all your rights are protected.


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Personal Injury Victim: $52 Million Awarded

In the past on this blog, we have written about punitive damages. These are the sums awarded to a personal injury victim that are not representative of the damages suffered by that person. In the vast majority of tort cases, the monies awarded to the plaintiff account for lost wages, medical expenses, property damage, loss of future earnings, or, perhaps, pain and suffering. But, punitive damages are not frequently awarded. The point of punitive damages is simply to punish the negligent party and to discourage such actions by that entity or any other in the future. When the actions of the defendant are said to have reckless indifference, moral turpitude, wantonness, malice, or willfulness to the rights of others, the court might award punitive damages to the plaintiff and the sum will vary, depending on the financial status of the defendant. For instance, if that defendant was an individual, punitive damages of $5,000 would likely be a painful blow and a very effective punishment. If the defendant is a fairly successful business doing millions of dollars of business per year, punitive damages might be assessed in the hundreds of thousands. But, when the company is a multi-billion dollar business, operating in numerous countries around the world, then the figure is likely to be much larger to ensure that the punishment is significant enough to make a point.

This can explain the recent verdict read in a Colorado court. Even the personal injury attorney was likely stunned at the figure divulged at the conclusion of the case — $52 million. It was a record for the greatest personal injury victim verdict in the state. The jury decided that a punishment was in order, and this kind of money would ensure that the defendants – Honda Motor Co. and AGC Automotive (windshield manufacturer) – received the message loud and clear.

This decision came after hearing the case of a woman whose car flipped multiple times when she was hit by a vehicle crossing into her lane. The outcome was tragic. The plaintiff suffered irreversible spinal cord damage and a cervical fracture. As a result, this personal injury victim will never have use of her lower extremities and will face significant restrictions in the use of her hands for the rest of her life.

The punitive damages were undoubtedly included in the verdict of the jury due to the extreme nature of the woman’s injuries. I have not seen a verdict of this magnitude in St. Petersburg (though punitive damages have been awarded in the past). While this was a very substantial verdict in favor of the plaintiff, it is not the largest ever awarded by a personal injury court.
In 1999, the New York Times covered a story straight out of the personal injury courts because the outcome was so uncommon. In this case, the plaintiff took on automotive giant General Motors. A mother, her four children, and a family friend were on the road on Christmas Eve when a drunk driver slammed into their stopped vehicle. The impact was enough to cause the Chevy Malibu to explode. All those within the vehicle were very badly burned and lucky to survive, though all were forced to face a lifetime of disfigurement and therapy.

GM representatives were undoubtedly floored when the verdict was read — $107.6 million in compensatory damages and $4.8 billion in punitive damages. That decision made it the largest verdict in a personal injury case in the country.

Will you stand a chance of getting such an extreme verdict as seen in cases like this in your own Saint Petersburg personal injury case? Probably not. In fact, chances are slim that punitive damages will be assessed at all, but these cases do stand as proof that, in extreme situations, the courts can, and do, award large sums to the most deserving victims. If you think your case may be one of those, speak to your personal injury attorney about punitive damages.


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Rights of Undocumented Immigrants under Personal Injury Law

Among the many hot topics that have arisen lately, in large part because of the heated presidential race, is the debate about the rights of undocumented immigrants. In some cases, these are, in truth, people who fought their way across our borders to escape whatever haunted them in their original homes. In other cases, they are the children of those who did so, and have only known America as their home, but have not been able to make it their legal place of residence. Whatever the reason for their being here, living in our great nation, the courts have worked to protect certain human rights for those individuals.

This extends into the personal injury category, which means that an illegal immigrant, harmed due to the negligence of some other individual or entity can, in fact, file a tort case with the courts. There are many reasons why an undocumented immigrant might seek the assistance of a personal injury attorney in St. Petersburg. However, there will undoubtedly be concerns about filing the case. There are questions that come up over and over again. The most notable of those is “will the jury be made aware of my status?” This, of course, would be a big concern, especially in the current state of turmoil surrounding the topic of immigration. The courts in Florida have made it possible for undocumented individuals to seek compensation for injuries or other harms suffered, without forcing them to reveal their immigration status to the jury.

WHAT DAMAGES CAN BE SOUGHT WITHOUT REVEALING STATUS?

There are some exceptions to the rule, but, in most cases, the status of the plaintiff will not be revealed to the jury when seeking damages for medical expenses (past and future), personal property damage or theft, funeral expenses, pain and suffering (past or future), physical injury, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, or punitive damages. The courts in Saint Petersburg, and elsewhere in the state of Florida, will hear these cases fairly and award damages based on the facts of the case, without bias for immigration status.

WHEN WILL STATUS BE REVEALED TO THE JURY?

Based on the Immigration and Control Act, the right to lawful employment in the United States is directly impacted by immigration status. Thus, undocumented immigrants who were forced to miss work, lost a job, or will be unable to perform his or her usual duties will face a different set of obstacles when seeking damages from the negligent party. That is not to say that an illegal immigrant cannot seek compensation for loss of future earnings, but adding this to the case filed against the negligent party can change the dynamics of the case. Florida courts will probably rule that because immigration does impact legal employment, the jury shall be informed of immigration status of the plaintiff if he or she seeks damages for loss of future earnings. Some juries may be harsh in the verdict delivered in the past, with the reason cited being immigration status.

The point of this piece, though, is that it is possible for undocumented immigrants to receive compensation for the losses suffered at the hands of another individual or entity, so, if you think you may have a case, do not be afraid to consult a personal injury attorney.


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