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Goodbye Summer, Hello Snowbirds

More Snowbirds Means More Accidents

It is that time of year in Florida that we waive goodbye to summer and say hello to snow(birds). Snowbirds have been traveling to Florida to spend the winter months in our sunny state for over a century. Local businesses rely upon those escaping the harsh northern winters as the migration is great for the Florida economy. Every year, beginning in October and November, the Florida population begins to swell, particularly so in larger Florida cities where entertainment is abundant and the sunny beach nearby, such as Miami, Saint Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota, Palm Beaches, and Naples. The Florida population increases more than 5% every year during these months, with many of these snowbirds packing into few popular cities in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange, and Pinellas Counties. As you would expect, increased traffic on Florida roadways lead to an increased risk of automobile accidents throughout the state.

Though some snowbirds return each year to a specific location of Florida, many opt to explore Florida and settle in an unfamiliar location for the winter months. As a result, many of these visitors are unacquainted with the local roadways and traffic hazards. Additionally, since most of these drivers are unfamiliar with their new surroundings, they frequently rely on their phones for GPS to navigate the local roadways. Consequently, snowbirds may be predisposed to distracted driving and other moving vehicle violations.

Common Moving Violations in Florida

Failure to Yield

When a Florida law enforcement officer issues a traffic citation for failure to yield, it is often the result of one of three specific actions:

  • Failing to yield the right-of-way to a vehicle entering an intersection from another highway, or when the to a vehicle approaching so closely it creates an immediate hazard when the driver goes through the intersection
  • Failing to properly yield at a four-way stop—Florida law states the first person to arrive at the intersection should proceed first. When two or more vehicles arrive at the intersection simultaneously, drivers must yield right-of-way to the vehicle on their right.
  • Failing to comply with yield signs including failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalk or vehicles in an intersection. In the event that a driver strikes a pedestrian or a vehicle in an intersection after driving past a yield sign, Florida law considers the collision sufficient evidence of the driver’s failure to yield.
Careless Driving

Florida law defines careless driving as a violation of the legal obligation to drive “in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and other attendant circumstances, so as not to endanger life, limb, or property of any person.” Careless driving citations accounted for a little more than 10 percent of all Florida traffic law citations issued in 2018. Many different driving behaviors might fall under the broad umbrella of careless driving as the law defines it. Law enforcement officers typically issue a careless driving ticket when it’s obvious a driver wasn’t being careful, even if the driver didn’t otherwise break a traffic law. In other cases, especially those resulting in an accident and injury, officers might issue a careless driving citation in conjunction with other traffic law violations.

Speeding

Although failing to exercise due care and traveling too fast for conditions make-up some traffic citations in 2018, the vast majority of tickets issued by Florida law enforcement agencies were speeding violations. Of almost 1.9 million total violations, 35 percent were speeding tickets, while only 0.26 percent were issued for going too fast for roadway conditions. Speeding can be a direct cause of an accident when drivers lose control of their vehicle, but the damage caused by speeding is of more importance. High speeds lead to increased property damage, more severe injuries, and the increased likelihood of fatality, making it one of the most dangerous traffic law violations.

Proving Negligence Isn’t Always Necessary in a Car Accident Case

Although it is rare, some personal injury cases do not require strict, element-by-element proof of negligence for a court to rule in the plaintiff’s favor. Many of these cases occur when the plaintiff’s attorney argues the defendant’s conduct constituted negligence per sea legal concept meaning negligence is assumed because of the nature of the conduct. Negligence per se provides a shortcut when the defendant violated a law intended to keep the public from harm. Per Jury Instruction 401.8, Florida law requires that the statute violated be a non-traffic penal statute in order to trigger the shortcut. A penal statute describes an offense against the state with a corresponding punishment, in contrast to a wrong against another private party linked to a civil remedy. If the plaintiff shows that the defendant violated such a statute, that itself is proof of negligence.

Negligence per se cases can happen when the at-fault driver has committed has violated a serious traffic regulation or committed a traffic crime, such as driving under the influence of alcohol. The standard jury instructions state that violation of a public safety statute, like the prohibition against drunk driving, is evidence of negligence. In that sort of case, your attorney only needs to prove the violation happened, and that it caused your injury. In some cases, your attorney might argue both types of negligence.

Florida Insurance Requirements

As a general rule, you are required to follow the state’s insurance guidelines for the state in which your vehicle is registered. For example, if you are a snowbird, your vehicle is often registered in your northern home state, thus subjecting you to that state’s insurance coverage requirements. However, when that same vehicle is present in a different state, such as Florida, for an extended period of time (90 days in Florida) over the course of a year, the motor vehicle owner may be required to both register their vehicle and obtain an auto insurance policy in compliance with that state’s statutes. No-fault states, such as Florida, require you to have coverage for personal injury protection (PIP). This type of insurance covers medical expenses for the driver and passengers.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles specifies that “any person who has a vehicle in Florida for more than 90 days during a 365-day period must purchase personal injury protection and property damage liability insurance coverage. The 90 days do not have to be consecutive.” This means that it is of the utmost importance that you are tracking your time spent in Florida to ensure compliance with Florida law. Though your home state may not require Personal Injury Protection coverage, you are obligated to purchase it if you plan to be in Florida for more than 90 days during the year. Florida law stipulates that a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection, and a minimum of $10,000 property damage liability must be kept in order to be compliant with F.S. 627-736.

You may receive compensation for a personal injury by the filing of a personal injury lawsuit in court, or as a result of an insurance claim filed with the other party’s insurer, or in some circumstances, filed with your own insurer. To make an injury claim, you usually need to prove that the person against whom you are making a claim was somehow negligent and that their negligence led to your injuries. Most people understand what negligence means, but they may not fully understand the legal implications of negligence. The term negligence can apply to many situations in which someone acted without due care. Jurors serving on civil cases in Florida must apply the legal definition outlined in Jury Instruction 401.4, which states that:

“Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care, which is the care that a reasonably careful person would use under like circumstances. Negligence is doing something that a reasonably careful person would not do under like circumstances or failing to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under like circumstances.”

Florida is a pure comparative negligence state, which means that the injured person can still recover damages even if he or she was partially at fault for causing the accident in which they were injured. This means that you may have a valid negligence claim so long as another party is negligent, at least in part, in causing your personal injuries. However, the plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced in proportion to the amount of their fault. For example, if a jury finds that you are 40% negligent, while another driver is 60% negligent, you may only obtain 60% of the damages awarded by the jury.

Hiring an Experienced Injury Attorney 

Whether you are a Florida resident or an annual visitor trading freezing temperatures for sunshine, you may be entitled to compensation for personal injuries suffered as a result of an auto accident. At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we fight zealously for your rights to ensure that you are adequately compensated for your injuries stemming from another person’s negligence. Contact us today online or at (727) 451-6900 for your free consultation today!