Wednesday, August 15, 2018

8 Ways to Prevent Accidents at Your Vacation Rental

In the last five years, vacation rentals have taken the hospitality world by storm. As it turns out, people would rather stay in a cozy residence with all the comforts and amenities of home instead of a cramped, noisy, one-size-fits-all hotel room. This gave everyone with a spare bedroom, guest suite, or rental house an incredible new way to make money by hosting short-term renters; today there are over 47 million people renting vacation rooms or homes each year.

Unfortunately, maintaining a vacation rental isn’t always an easy task. Renter horror stories, damaged property, and even criminal activity are common concerns for rental hosts. However, one of the most debilitating events for a host can occur when a guest suffers an injury on the property. To help vacation rental hosts avoid the prospect of an injured renter or potential legal claim, we’ve put together a few best practices for ensuring the safety of your guests.

Be Clear About Safety

Your first line of defense is honesty. Only guests know if they have special safety needs due to age, disability, or medical condition; likewise, only you know how well your vacation rental can accommodate certain safety requirements. Hosts, for example, are often very clear about whether or not small children will be safe in their properties, both to protect rental property and to prevent injury to renters. Accessibility for disabled renters is also an important consideration. Be honest and thorough in your listing description, and include any potential risk points for renters.

Grab Bars for Every Step

Stair safety is an important priority, particularly if you anticipate guests who may be elderly, disabled, pregnant, or similar. At the very least, ensure banisters and railings are secure, and stairs are made or treated with a non-slip finish. Most homes don’t include grab bars, but including these precautions may prove wise. Grab bars are inexpensive; including them in and around bathrooms, showers, doorways, and steps can drastically increase the home’s safety and accessibility.

Gripping Bath Mats

Statistically, bathrooms are the number one most dangerous room in the house. Wet floors and unforgiving surfaces can make it all too easy for a single misstep to result in a bad fall. Every vacation rental property should include adequately-sized, grippy bath mats throughout bathrooms. Look for a bath mat with decent traction and a size that can cover as much of your bathroom floor as possible to reduce the chance of any accidental slips.

Driveway Salt in Winter

If your vacation rental is located in a state that experiences ice and snow in the winter, don’t forget the driveway salt! A high number of slip-and-fall cases arise from slipping on icy pavement. When there’s a risk of ice on pavement, make sure to thoroughly apply salt, sand, and/or ice melt to all driveways, sidewalks, and low-traction walkways. Make sure to provide guests with a supply of salt, sand, and/or ice melt as well, and clearly instruct guests where it is located.

Open Walkways Between Furniture

While worrying about guests tripping over the coffee table might seem needlessly paranoid, many slip-and-falls are caused by simple furniture. Make sure there are wide, open walkways between furniture, and try to avoid placing furniture too tightly together. Spacing chairs and sofas away from the wall can help prevent accidental falls, as guests with reduced mobility can use them as handholds.

No-Quirks Kitchen

Every kitchen has its own unique quirks. It could be the burner that takes a few tries to light, or the faucet that only stops dripping when you turn the handle a certain way. These may be fine for long-term residents, but can be both frustrating and potentially dangerous to short-term guests. For example, issues with gas ranges, ovens, and electrical appliances can be dangerous to uninitiated guests.

Before making your home available to vacation rental guests, consider upgrading the kitchen appliances, or at least giving them a tune-up. Ensure all fixtures are properly installed, grounded, and include GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets around wet areas like sinks and bars. Home inspectors are a great resource for uncovering any potential pitfalls around the property before opening the doors to renters.

Disability Accommodations

A few extra grab bars, soft surfaces, spacious arrangements, and clearly marked steps can make your entire listing much safer for everyone. Make sure guests know in advance how the sleeping arrangements are situated; for example, sleeping rooms on the ground floor are helpful or possibly necessary for many potential guests. Be aware of elevation disparities, such as raised seating areas, and be sure to clearly mark any potential trip hazards. If you think your property might not be a good fit for mobility-impaired guests, clearly express this in the listing or consider making upgrades to the property before listing the rental.

Liability Insurance

Finally, it’s important to realize that you are now a business owner; and with great profits, comes great responsibility. Liability insurance is something that every business needs to ensure they are protected in case of a personal injury lawsuit. Whether the injury is severe or superfluous, liability insurance will ensure you have the means to defend against potential claims. Even better, consider hiring a personal injury attorney to evaluate your property, policy, and business structure; they may be able to help you discover pitfalls you wouldn’t normally catch.

Running a vacation rental home can be both fun and profitable for savvy investors: the total US vacation rental market accounted for more than $16 million in 2017 alone. For hosts who want to hold onto their profits, making each listing as safe as possible is good for your guests, enhances your property value, and can protect you from the potential devastation of a personal injury lawsuit. To learn more about protecting your business investment, contact us at (727) 451-6900 or by email.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

Thursday, August 9, 2018

How to Handle Construction Employer Negligence

Safety is important in any workplace, but especially construction sites. Working for an employer who neglects safety rules and precautions puts you, your coworkers, and the project as a whole at risk. There are specific regulations in place concerning workplace safety in construction; it is critical for both employers and employees to understand and implement the proper precautions.

Jobs in the construction industry are extremely varied, and workers are often subjected to dangerous risks, including falls from rooftops or other heights, equipment or machinery malfunctions, electrocutions, and exposure to hazardous materials such as asbestos and silica dust. Because of these risks, it is imperative that steps are taken to ensure workers’ safety at all times while working. Occasionally, however, safety regulations are disregarded in order to increase the speed or efficiency of a project.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, it is an employer’s obligation to ensure safety regulations are upheld on any job site. Employees have the right to work with safe and properly-functioning machines and equipment, receive adequate and necessary safety gear, receive training in a language they understand, request an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection, participate in on-site inspections, and address any concerns privately with an inspector.

Any worker in the construction industry who feels that their workplace is unsafe, or that their employer is not abiding by the proper regulations, is entitled to raise their concerns with their employer or higher authorities. Employees have legal rights in situations regarding risky work environments, and it is important that unsafe practices or safety violations are addressed promptly. Every worker has the right to report safety concerns or violations to the proper authorities without the risk of retaliation from their employer. If you feel your construction employer is neglecting safety regulations, follow these steps to prevent costly, painful, or even fatal accidents.

1. Bring Your Concerns to Your Employer

The first step in dealing with construction safety violations is to discuss your concerns with your employer. On occasion, an employer may be unaware of safety issues on job sites; address any problems with your employer first, before determining if a further course of action is required.

Your employer is required to know and implement any relevant safety procedures and precautions. Even with the proper precautions in place, some employees choose to disregard established regulations. If your safety concerns are related to a coworker or coworkers, bring the issues to your employer’s attention and request that they handle the situation(s) accordingly.

2. Contact OSHA

If your employer does not address and correct the safety concerns properly, or if the issues are the result of your employer’s negligence, it is crucial to contact OSHA as soon as possible. Employers are required by law to comply with the health and safety standards set forth by the OSH Act; employees are entitled to request an OSHA inspection to ensure this compliance, and to report any unsafe working conditions. Workers are not required or expected to know every standard established by the OSH Act, so it is recommended to bring any health or safety concerns to the attention of the appropriate authorities.

OSHA retains confidentiality with their reports, meaning they will not reveal any of your information when you file a safety and health complaint or request an inspection. The OSH Act also makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for contacting OSHA with safety concerns. OSHA citations may only be issued for current violations or violations that occurred within the past six months, so it is important to file any complaints as soon as possible. There are several options available for workers to file complaints with OSHA:

Fax/Mail: OSHA provides a form to be printed, completed, and either faxed or mailed to the nearest OSHA office. If you’d like an on-site OSHA inspection performed, a written complaint signed by either you or your representative must be submitted.

Online: Workers may submit questions or complaints online regarding any issues. Any complaints submitted online are forwarded to the appropriate state authorities for further investigation.

Phone: Your local OSHA office staff is able to answer any questions you have regarding health and safety standards or violations, and to assist in filing a complaint. If there is an immediate and/or life-threatening emergency, alert your local OSHA office as soon as possible.

3. Complaint Handling Process

OSHA takes all health and safety complaints seriously. After receiving a complaint, OSHA determines the best course of action: typically, either an on-site inspection, or an off-site investigation.

Off-Site Investigations

If an off-site investigation is deemed appropriate, OSHA will contact your employer by fax or phone to explain the complaint and the alleged safety violations. Your employer will then have five days to respond, providing written record of any issues found and the steps taken or planned to correct the violation(s). If the corrective action is adequate, OSHA will not perform an on-site inspection. However, you will receive a copy of your employer’s response. If you feel more action is required, you may request an on-site inspection.

On-Site Inspections

OSHA prioritizes the need for on-site inspections as follows:

Imminent danger: Imminent danger situations are given top priority for on-site OSHA inspections. These are situations in which employees face an immediate risk of serious physical harm or death.

Fatality or catastrophe: Employers are required to report fatalities and catastrophes (events in which three or more workers are hospitalized) within eight hours. These situations receive second priority for on-site inspections.

Complaint or referral: Complaints and referrals from employees or whistleblowers are prioritized after more immediate risks. The need for an on-site inspection is determined on a case-by-case basis, prioritized by the severity of the alleged safety risk(s) and the number of workers exposed to the hazard.

Legally, OSHA must determine that reasonable grounds exist to believe an OSH Act standard has been violated, or a safety hazard exists, before conducting an on-site inspection. If these grounds exist, OSHA will contact the employer to explain the alleged issues; if the employer provides documentation to prove that adequate corrections have been made to abate the safety concerns, an on-site inspection may not be performed without further cause.

You have the right to participate in any on-site OSHA inspection. The OSH Act also allows workers to discuss any safety concerns with the inspector in private, without the risk of retaliation from their employers. Inspections are typically restricted only to the alleged violations or hazards in the relevant complaint or referral. However, the inspector may decide to widen an inspection based on hazards in plain sight, their own professional judgment, or conversations with workers during the inspection.

4. Handling Retaliation

Under federal law, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against any employee for raising concerns regarding health and safety with OSHA, requesting an on-site inspection, and/or participating in an inspection or communicating with an inspector. Unfortunately, some employees still face unfair and unlawful treatment from their employers after exercising their rights as workers under the OSH Act. OSHA defines this retaliation as “unfavorable personnel action,” which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Blacklisting
  • Demoting
  • Denying benefits, overtime, and/or promotion
  • Suspension
  • Firing or laying off
  • Intimidation
  • Reducing pay or hours

If you feel your employer has implemented any unfavorable personnel action as a result of exercising your rights protected by the OSH Act, it is important to contact OSHA immediately. Reports of retaliation must be submitted by either the affected employee(s) or their representative within a set time frame, ranging from 30 to 120 days based on the alleged unlawful action.

As a worker in the construction industry, you are legally entitled to a safe working environment, to address health and safety concerns or violations with authorities, and to request and participate in on-site OSH Act compliance inspections. These rights are all protected, and retaliation from your employer for exercising these rights is unlawful. However, filing complaints, understanding legal standards and regulations, dealing with government agencies and paperwork, and handling potential retaliation from your employer are often confusing tasks. Filing complaints or lawsuits against your employer is daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone.

If you feel your workplace is unsafe because your construction employer neglects safety rules and regulations, it is extremely beneficial to contact a legal professional to assist in understanding and properly utilizing all legal protections provided to you by the state and federal government. The Dolman Law Group is committed to personal service and accessibility. Our attorneys will work with you to ensure your construction workplace is safe, compliant with the standards set forth by the OSH Act, and that you are ready to legally prevent or eliminate any unlawful action taken against you by your employer.

Don’t subject yourself to unsafe, hazardous, and potentially fatal working conditions. Call us today at (727) 451-6900 or online for a free consultation with our dedicated and experienced legal team.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Strategies for Preventing Jet Ski Accidents on Clearwater Beach

Jet skiing is a popular activity for many beachgoers, including Clearwater Beach. It’s a great way to spend a gorgeous summer day, enjoying the wind, waves, water, and sun. Unfortunately, it can also lead to serious accidents, as in a recent fatal jet ski collision that took the lives of two individuals. If you’re planning to use a jet ski as part of your vacation fun, consider the following tips to minimize the risk of danger to both loved ones and fellow beachgoers.

Common Jet Ski Accidents and Injuries

Jet skis and other personal watercraft carry a number of risks. Traveling at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, these vehicles can cause serious injury to their operators and others nearby, including:

  • Broken bones
  • Whiplash
  • Burns
  • Injuries to the neck or back
  • Damaged eardrums
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Internal injuries

It’s important that individuals who have been injured in a jet ski accident seek medical care as soon as possible. That includes getting off the water immediately, and going to the hospital to be evaluated if there is any suspicion that an injury has occurred.

Avoiding Accidents and Injuries

While some accidents are unavoidable, there are several steps you can take to keep yourself and others safe on the water:

Complete proper maintenance on your jet ski. This is especially important at the beginning of the jet skiing season. Make sure that there is no damage to the jet ski, and that it is operating properly prior to use. Note that dry docking your jet ski when it’s not in use, including using a lift to keep it out of the water, can help reduce wear and tear on the equipment during the summer months; this also makes it easier to keep up with important maintenance tasks.

Wear the right safety gear. It’s important that anyone riding on a jet ski wear a life jacket. Even the best swimmer can be dazed or debilitated by a jet ski accident, and having a life jacket will keep users afloat should they be knocked unconscious. Make sure that life jackets are properly sized, and to pack enough for every user: too big, and the jacket can easily be lost; too small, and it may fail to provide adequate flotation. Wearing a helmet designed for watercraft use can help protect the head and spinal cord in the event of an accident. Proper eyewear can prevent injury and make it easier to spot potential collision hazards or other persons in the water.

Use your kill strap. Most jet skis come equipped with a “kill strap,” which attaches to the user’s wrist and is designed to cut the jet ski’s motor in case the user falls off. This will help prevent jet ski from colliding with the user or nearby persons in case the user loses control.

Avoid speeding. Be conscious of the area around the jet ski, including how close other riders, swimmers, or watercraft might be. Give yourself adequate time and room to stop, dodge, or otherwise avoid potential accidents. Zooming across the water might be fun, but excessive speeds also increase the risk of an accident.

Skip the alcohol. Alcohol can dull reflexes and judgment, both essential skills for jet ski operators. Jet skis should be treated like motor vehicles: save the drinks for afterward, and never operate watercraft under the influence.

Wear shoes. Many people want to enjoy the water without unnecessary or cumbersome gear. However, operating a jet ski without non-slip footwear can greatly decrease the user’s ability to maintain control of the craft.

Stay aware of your surroundings. Unlike roads, the open water doesn’t have clearly designated lanes. More importantly, it is often difficult to know who or what may be present below the surface. When operating a jet ski, make sure to maintain awareness of all surroundings. Keep an eye on the water around the craft, including what’s beneath the surface. Pay particular attention to any other fast-moving watercraft in the vicinity to help avoid potential collisions.

Check the water. Before operating a jet ski, make sure at least two feet of water is available on all sides. Don’t operate jet skis across shallow water.

Know the laws. Check local laws and regulations concerning the age of jet ski drivers, appropriate speeds, and other safety laws. In Florida, youth younger than 14 cannot operate a jet ski. Individuals under the age of 22 must have completed an appropriate water safety course, and carry both proof of completion and a photo ID when using the jet ski. Note that individuals must be at least 18 to rent a jet ski, but jet skis can be operated by individuals under 18 as long as the renting individual is responsible for the vehicle.

Supervise children carefully. Children may have plenty of experience driving a jet ski. It’s still important, however, to supervise the time teens and older children spend driving the jet ski. Parental supervision can greatly reduce the risk of an accident, and help young operators develop the proper piloting skills.

Were You Injured In a Jet Ski accident?

Unfortunately, even with proper safety precautions, the risk of serious injury is always present when using high-speed watercraft. If you or a loved one has been injured due to improper safety practices or the negligence of another, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact us today at (727) 451-6900 or online to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Injured on Vacation? Here’s What to Do Next

It’s every Clearwater-area vacationer’s nightmare. Far from home, you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence or recklessness. A slip-and-fall, a car accident, a casino boat fire. Now your vacation is in ruins and, what’s worse, you have to figure out if and how you can recover compensation for all of the ways you’ve been harmed. Insurance may cover some of your medical expenses, but what about the rest of what you’ve lost?

Here’s some good news. You don’t have to fight for justice alone. At Dolman Law Group, we’re here to help you and your loved ones understand your legal rights and to fight on your behalf to recover compensation for your expenses, suffering, and inconvenience.

In this post, we walk you through some steps you may want to take to recover from a vacation injury and protect your rights.

First Things First: Seek Medical Treatment

Obvious as it might sound, the most important thing to do when injured on vacation is to seek immediate medical attention. Don’t wait until your vacation is over. Don’t try to downplay your injury because your family members want to keep having fun in the sun. If you’re hurt, call a doctor or 911, stop in at an urgent care clinic, or if necessary, head straight to a hospital emergency department. Your health and well-being take priority, and waiting to seek care could make your injuries worse or even threaten your life.

There’s another reason that it’s important to seek medical attention immediately if you’ve been injured on vacation: the longer you wait to see a doctor, the more difficult it may be to receive insurance benefits or to recover damages from a responsible party under Florida law. The records your healthcare provider creates when you seek care serve as evidence of the nature, severity, and timing of your injury, potentially critical pieces of information down the road. So, don’t wait! Get to a doctor if you’re hurt.

Inform Your Doctor at Home

It may also be important for you to let your doctor at home know about your injury and current condition. Your doctors here in Florida may need to connect with your doctor about your medical history in order to give you the best care. If possible, you or a family member should call your primary care doctor at home and get the necessary contact information to pass on to your Florida medical team.

Preserve the Evidence (If Possible)

The accident was a shock. It interrupted your vacation and threw your family into “chaos mode.” At a time like that, it’s not easy to keep a clear head. But, if you can, it may help to preserve and collect evidence of how your injury occurred. What you gather will depend on the circumstances, of course. If you were injured in a car accident, pictures of the accident scene, of the damage to the car, of any cuts and bruises you suffered, could be helpful. If you tripped and fell at a restaurant, you could take photos of what you tripped over, and any warning signs (or their absence). You may also want to set aside and stop wearing the shoes you had on when you fell. In other words, the idea is to preserve a record of the factors that might have led to your accident, to reduce the possibility later on that someone will dispute what the conditions were in which you were injured.

In contrast, don’t worry too much about obtaining accident reports or medical records. Those are important, of course, and if you can collect them, that’s good, but they’re also the sort of evidence an attorney can track down later if necessary. It is more important to gather the sort of evidence that could change or disappear over time if it’s not preserved right away.

Keep Track of Extra Expenses

One of the many difficulties of suffering an injury on vacation is that you’re far from the comforts and support system of your home. As a result, you’re often forced to spend money you never would have needed to spend at home. For example, you or your family may have to extend the stay at your hotel (or find a new hotel) while you recover. You may need new clothes. Your family may be eating out at restaurants instead of at home. And so on.

It’s important to keep track of all of these added expenses. They may not be covered by your own insurance (possibly unless you carry travel insurance), but they could be recoverable as damages from the party at fault for your injury. So, always get receipts and/or pay with a credit or debit card instead of using cash, so that you have a record of what you spent.

Before You Leave for Home, Meet With Us

It would be understandable if you wanted to head home as soon as possible after getting injured on vacation. But, if you have the time, you and your family could help yourself significantly by meeting with the experienced personal injury lawyers in Dolman Law Group’s Clearwater office before you go.

By sitting down for a free consultation with our attorneys, you can gain the peace of mind of knowing your legal options, and (if you choose) ensuring you have a legal team in place, “on the ground,” before you leave for home. While you return to your life and recuperate, we can pursue an investigation, interview witnesses, and advise you on your rights to compensation from insurance companies and responsible parties.

At Dolman Law Group, we understand that, as a visitor to Florida, the last thing you ever imagined for your vacation would be spending part of it in a lawyer’s office. But the sooner we can meet and start working for you, the better your chance of recovering the payments and obtaining the justice you deserve. Call us today at (727) 451-6900 or contact us online to schedule a time to meet. We’ll do our best this part of your time in the Clearwater area as stress-free as possible.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

Friday, July 20, 2018

5 Common Boating Injuries, Their Causes, and How to Prevent Them This Summer

While Florida’s sunny weather makes boating a year-round activity, the arrival of summer means a drastic increase in the number of people on the water in the coming weeks. While a day on the water can be a great way to relax and enjoy the summer sun, increased congestion on Florida’s lakes, bays, and waterways means also means a greater risk of boating injuries in the coming months.

Many people do not realize that most boating injuries and incidents do not result from inclement weather. More often than not, these incidents are the result of human error and negligence. If you plan on spending time on the water this summer, it is important to take a few precautions in order to ensure the safety of you and your party. To help ensure your time on the water is both safe and fun, below we’ll provide an overview of the most common boating injuries and incidents, their causes, and what you can do to prevent them from happening.

Common Boating Injuries:


Unfortunately, drowning is a common occurrence among boating enthusiasts. In fact, the Coast Guard tracked 4,064 boating incidents in 2014, and of these incidents, 610 resulted in fatalities, 78 percent of which were the result of drowning.

While a large number of boating accidents result in drowning, there are simple steps that you can take to prevent this from occurring. One of the most common causes of boating fatalities is people not wearing life vests. According to the Coast Guard’s findings, 84 percent of drowning victims were not wearing life vests. This makes it imperative that everyone in your party wears a life vest, even if they are an experienced swimmer.

Many incidents of drowning are also often caused by passengers falling overboard, particularly when the boat is in motion. In addition to making sure that everyone in your party wears life jackets, you can also prevent drowning by taking precautions to prevent passengers from falling overboard. Make sure that no one rides on the bow of the boat, that all passengers remain in designated seats when the boat is in motion, and be sure not to overload your vehicle’s weight capacity. Additionally, taking care not to take turns too sharply and maintaining reasonable speeds can also prevent people from falling overboard.

Preventing passengers from falling overboard is critical. Even if they do not drown, passengers who fall overboard can suffer from whiplash, concussion, broken bones, or spinal trauma. Overboard passengers can also suffer from lacerations or amputations if they come into contact the propeller.

Collision Injuries

As waterways become more congested, boating collisions become more common. There is often a misconception that boating collisions do not cause as severe of injuries as automobile accidents; however, the speed at which many boats travel, combined with the fact that most boats do not have seatbelts, means that accidents on the water are often just as critical as accidents on the road. Here is an overview of two of the most common injuries that boating collisions can cause.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Traumatic brain injury is the result of the brain hitting the inside of the skull, usually as a result of a hard impact. When boats collide at high speed, passengers are often thrown out of their seats, and they may even be ejected from the boat, which can result in traumatic injury to the brain.

Spinal cord injuries: Being ejected from the boat during a collision can also result in spinal cord injuries, as hitting the water at high speeds can be as hard of an impact as hitting concrete. This can result in spinal compression, herniated disks, or even paralysis that can be temporary or permanent.

Unfortunately, boating collisions are most often caused by human negligence and usually easily prevented. The most common causes of boating accidents include:

Reckless driving: One of the most common causes of boating accidents is reckless driving. Being on a boat often causes people to get carried away and drive more recklessly than they would when driving a car. Unlike an automobile, watercraft can be much more difficult to operate, making corrective maneuvers far more challenging than by motor vehicle.

Intoxication: Perhaps the most common cause of boating collisions is intoxication. One of the most vital things to remember when driving a boat is to treat the boat like a car: under no circumstances should the operator drive while under the influence. Feel free to have a good time when you are on the water, but make sure that you retain a designated driver in order to ensure everyone’s safety.

Severe Lacerations

Severe lacerations are also a common injury that occurs on the water. While collisions and falling overboard can result in lacerations, many severe boating lacerations are caused when swimmers or overboard passengers come in contact with a boat’s propeller. For this reason, it is imperative that swimmers do not enter the water when the boat is running, and watercraft operators steer clear of smaller craft or swimmers. Wait until the boat has been turned off completely before allowing anyone to enter the water; do not restart the boat until all passengers have come back on board, and you’ve verified the water around the craft is free of other persons.

Eye Injuries

Believe it or not, eye injuries are common when boating due to the speed at which boats often travel and the wind this creates. The open construction of many boats in comparison to automobiles also means that passengers are at a higher risk of injury from foreign material traveling at high speeds. This can cause a variety of dirt and debris to enter the eye, which can potentially result in corneal scratches or abrasions. Wear sunglasses when on the water in order to protect your eyes from debris. This will also protect your eyes from sunlight that can reflect off the water and strain and injure your eyes.

Were You Injured in a Boating Accident?

If you or a loved one are injured in a boating accident, it is vital that you get immediate medical attention. Even if you feel fine, your injuries may be more serious than you realize. In particular, head injuries may not immediately show symptoms; however, serious complications can arise as time progresses.

What to do if someone is seriously injured: If someone in your party is seriously injured as the result of a boating accident, one of the first things you will need to do is to stop the bleeding if they have been cut. If you suspect a head, neck, or spinal injury, it is important that you keep the injured person immobilized and comfortable until help arrives. Help to manage their pain until you can get them medical attention, and make sure that they stay hydrated; dehydration can occur quickly when out in the sun, and can make their condition worse.

If the injuries you or a loved one acquired in a boating accident are a result of another boater’s negligence, you should seek legal counsel immediately. Contact us at (727) 451-6900 to learn how our experienced attorneys have been able to help victims of boating accidents, and what compensation you may be entitled to under the law.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Does Using Your Phone’s GPS Count as Distracted Driving?

In March of this year, the Florida legislature failed, again, to pass a law cracking down on the scourge of texting while driving on Florida roads. This is a shame, since “distracted driving” has caused a surge in accidents in Florida, and Florida has some of the weakest laws in the nation to address it.

The legislature’s inability to address the extreme danger of texting-while-driving highlights the dim prospects of there being any movement on another, less-prominent, distracted driving danger: use of GPS devices. In this article, we discuss what constitutes “distracted driving” generally, and how using GPS devices can fall into that category just as much as texting does. We also discuss what you should do if you are injured in an accident involving driver distraction with a GPS device.

What Is “Distracted Driving”?

Although “distracted driving” is not defined in current Florida statutes, the Florida Department of Transportation describes it as “anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the vital task of driving.” Described that way, a wide range of activities could potentially qualify as “distracted driving,” including texting, tuning the radio, talking on the phone, and, as discussed here, using a GPS system. However defined, distracted driving is a major problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) reports that in 2016, distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives on U.S. roads. In 2015, it caused 391,000 injuries.

Considering the widespread use of smartphones and GPS devices, perhaps these numbers aren’t surprising. What is surprising is how many Floridians do not realize the dangers of using those devices while behind the wheel. As the NHTSA points out, at 55 miles per hour, taking your eyes off the road for just five seconds to fiddle with a GPS is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

How a GPS Device Causes Dangerous Distraction

Knowing how a GPS can be dangerous is the first step in using it responsibly. According to the Florida DOT, distracted driving comes in three forms: manual (taking your hands off the wheel), visual (taking your eyes off the road), and cognitive (taking your mind off of the task of driving). Unfortunately, using a GPS device can impact all three of these.

  • Manual. Unless a GPS device has a voice command function accessible from a button on the steering wheel or an “always listening” mode (like “Hey Siri”), it usually requires you to use at least one hand to execute commands, like typing in an address or pressing “Start Route.” Even devices with voice command may require you to press a button to activate them.
  • Visual. Whether you’re typing an address into a GPS, or looking at it to see your position on a map, using a GPS requires you to divert your eyes from the road. Ideally, you should not have to do so for more than a second or two, but sometimes it’s easy to want to look longer, which can increase danger quickly.
  • Cognitive. As Time reported in 2016, cognitive function may well be the biggest area in which using a GPS can distract a driver. GPS’s demand our attention, and sometimes in surprising ways. They speak to us. They reroute us. They invite our mental engagement at times when all of our attention should be focused on the road ahead. (Just think of how quickly tension, and distraction, escalates when a GPS tells you to take a turn and you don’t see what it means.)

GPSs also erode our cognitive map-making abilities. Mental maps—that is, knowing where you’re going because you’re familiar with a route and have it pre-planned in your head—are a particularly useful human skill. They allow us to develop situational awareness of potential dangers on the road ahead by comparing our expectation of what the road should look like with how it actually looks. They also help us navigate under sub-optimal road conditions, like in rain or at night.

But GPS devices effectively replace that mental map, which over time can cause us to lose that instinct for where we are going. We become dependent on a GPS to tell us our route. And, when the GPS makes a mistake or disconnects in areas with bad reception, unprepared drivers can become stressed, distracted, or unwilling to follow their own instinct. Consider the stories of drivers following a GPS’s instructions and driving into a lake.

Finally, GPS devices can cause distracted driving even when you’re not paying visual attention to them and you can operate them hands-free. For instance, when drivers make mistakes or skip exits, the GPS alerts them with a noise or an instruction to make a radical course change. These sudden interruptions can be jarring, which makes them dangerous. Any focus on following directions instead of observing the environment for dangers can certainly count as distracted driving.

How to Reduce the Danger of Using a GPS Device

Now that you know the dangers, here are four ways use your GPS responsibly:

1. Familiarize yourself with the visual route. Before you head out to a new destination, look at the map. Familiarize yourself with the major turns and identify any spots with tricky navigation. With that bit of mental forewarning, you can reduce potential panics and mistakes. It also helps reduce your reliance on minute-by-minute instructions from a GPS.

2. It’s better to turn around than follow directions that don’t make sense. If your GPS is telling you that you have to make a split-second decision, ignore it for a moment. Focus on safely driving past the intersection or point of contention. Then you can turn into a parking lot and check the map visually. Even if you are on a deadline or are running behind, focus on safety instead of following your app’s directions.

Set your destination and preferences before you start. Get your GPS organized early. Type in the address and decide which available route you want to take before you put the car in drive. Inputting information and making choices is even more distracting than following a GPS’s instructions might be.

If you need to change your route halfway through the drive, pull over before you start. This might be frustrating, especially if you’re stuck in traffic and pulling over would add several minutes to your drive. But if you’re frustrated and tempted to modify your GPS to find a better route, other drivers are probably doing the exact same thing. That means it’s even more important to stay vigilant and keep your car safe.

4. Have your passenger handle navigation. Nobody likes a side seat driver, but your trip may be safer if you have one. A person can give you early warning about complex directions and visually inspect the map. Studies show that talking to a passenger is safer than talking over the phone, and part of that is because passengers are cognizant of the road conditions. They know when to stop talking and when to point something out. Passengers who are operating your GPS can apply the same filter and reduce potential distractions at key moments.

Injured by a Driver Distracted by GPS? Call the Dolman Law Group

Ultimately, your state and city will decide what is legally considered distracted driving with a GPS app or device. But if you drive in a gray area, use your best judgment. Only use your GPS if you can focus on the primary task of driving and can safely ignore any distractions it offers.

If you were in a collision with a driver using GPS and suspect distracted driving was to blame, contact us at Dolman Law Group. or call us at (727) 451-6900. We represent people injured in auto accidents and their families, and can help you ensure that distracted drivers are held accountable.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

Monday, July 16, 2018

2018, Year of the Backup Camera: Safety Tool or Added Distraction?

Backover crashes injure more than 12,000 persons, and kill more than 200, annually. Sadly, the majority of these incidents involve children between the ages of three and twelve. Consumer safety group cites “Bye-Bye Syndrome” as a factor in backover crashes injuring young children: Upon hearing the words “bye-bye,” children follow adults in an effort not to be left behind, with sometimes disastrous results. The statistics for backing up accidents are eye-opening:

  • Fifty children are backed over in the United States every week because a driver could not see them.
  • More than 60 percent of backing-up accidents involved a large size vehicle (SUV, van, truck).
  • Most of these accidents occur in driveways and parking lots.

In an effort to lower these statistics, Congress passed legislation, effective May 2018, requiring all new vehicles sold in the United States to have backup cameras. While backup cameras are already on the market in high-end cars and models with extra safety packages, the technology is now standard, even in cheaper vehicles.

Early estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) predict that backup cameras will save between 58 and 69 lives every year once universally deployed. Only time will tell, however, whether the mandatory federal regulation is truly effective in preventing—and reducing—backover crashes involving injury or death.

Backup Camera Mandate

Consumer safety groups have long advocated for regulation regarding better rear view visibility from vehicle manufacturers. The groups achieved limited success with the 2007 passage of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act. Congress signed the Act into law, requiring the NHTSA to set rear-visibility standards by 2011. Reasons such as conflict over how to write the standards and governmental resistance delayed the process. The perseverance and hard work of the consumer safety groups paid off, however, with the May 2018 mandate:
  • All vehicles under 10,000 pounds include a backup camera
  • Cameras must show a 10-foot-by-20-foot zone behind the vehicle
The NHTSA acknowledges that the mandate adds to the cost of vehicle construction, and that this cost is most likely to pass on to consumers. Estimated costs of backup cameras range from $40 for new vehicles already equipped with a center display, to $140 for vehicles without displays. Many experts and consumers agree that this is a small price to pay for added safety.

Blind Zone vs. Blind Spot

The push for backup camera legislation also brought about a change in terminology. For many years, drivers referred to limited or no-visibility areas around their vehicles as “blind spots.” Consumer safety groups pushed for use of the term “blind zone” instead, as “a zone represents a larger area than a spot.” The groups stated that referring to these areas as “spots” grossly underrepresented the wide range of danger possible behind a vehicle. Consumer Reports and NHTSA are just two examples of organizations using the term “blind zone.”

The average blind zone is 15-feet-by-25-feet behind the vehicle. The shorter the driver’s height, the larger the blind zone. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, backup cameras reduce blind zones by 90 percent.

Safety Concerns Regarding Backup Cameras

Nevertheless, backup cameras have critics who harbor concerns. Three top reasons critics cite as causes of concern are:

The displays distract drivers. Small screens result in squinting to see, with the driver’s focus centering on the display, and away from the road. Alternatively, the display screen may be too large, visually distracting the driver.

The new technology includes features distracting to drivers. Not all camera systems include automatic system-switching for when the car is in reverse. Some systems require manual changes to settings that can potentially distract drivers. Newer systems, however, typically include the automatic feature that turns on cameras when vehicles are placed in reverse.

Backup cameras provide a false sense of security. Backup cameras provide a larger view of what’s behind a vehicle than the standard rearview mirror. Experts warn, however, against placing all trust in the camera’s view. Looking behind the vehicle before climbing in and using side mirrors are extra safety measures, in addition to the backup cameras.

During a three year period, 2008-2011, backup cameras more than doubled in all new cars sold; concurrently, injuries fell less than 8 percent nationwide. Fatalities declined, although the comparison is small due to deaths from backover crashes being relatively rare. Improvements in reduced injuries and death statistics continue to appear, albeit slowly.

There’s little doubt that backup cameras will save lives and prevent injuries. The key to their success, however, lies in the driver’s ability to use the cameras in a responsible manner. Here are three important habits responsible drivers should always follow:

  • Stopping the vehicle before adjusting features
  • Double-checking using a pre-trip check by walking-around the vehicle
  • Using side mirrors as an added precaution

Clearwater, Florida, Personal Injury Firm

Backup crashes also involve pedestrians and bicyclists. Young children rate among the highest category of victims, due to their small stature and reduced visibility from a driver’s seat. Federal regulation requiring backup cameras in all new vehicles could take a step in the right direction for reducing backup crashes.

Like any technology, backup cameras still have the potential to fail, or to result in distracted driving. Other factors leading to backover crashes include rain, shadows, or debris reflecting on the camera’s display. Ensuring there is nothing behind a vehicle about to move is the driver’s responsibility. Failure to take every precaution to avoid striking a person and causing bodily injury is negligence. While accidents do happen, many of them are preventable with extra time and caution.

Our experienced attorneys fight for justice for residents in the Clearwater and surrounding areas. The Dolman Law Group offers a free consultation for victims of backover crashes. If you experience injury or the loss of a loved one due to a faulty backup camera or a distracted driver, call (727) 451-6900 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765