Auto Accidents on Vacations.

With this upcoming holiday season and the travels it often brings for many, I thought I’d remind travelers of the common sense precautions to take. From my own experience rushing to get places and do things seem to make me most accident prone. Do your best to make plenty of time for whatever the travel demands, a longer road trip, or a shorter quick trip for shopping. When I’m in a hurry it seems my patience for others is shorter and I get less careful. Hurrying up rarely saves more than a small amount of time and increases the risk of a ton more delay and expense. Often travel conditions are more hazardous at holiday times because of increased traffic and or inclement weather. These conditions magnify the risks associated with hurrying around. The precautions for increased traffic and inclement weather are really the same for those needed from rushing around so you get a extra measure of safety from allowing plenty of time for the travel.

If you are so unfortunate to have an accident away from your home and have to look for an attorney in Gainesville, Florida or some other city take care selecting one. We are all on the internet, and of course the internet is not a bad starting place but is only a starting point. Sit down with the attorney and discuss your situation. I have talked with many people who are unhappy after having hired someone through phone contact and mailing contracts only to learn many of these firms depend on high volume case turnover. Be selective. If you are paying 33.33% of the settlement to an attorney you should get that attorney’s time and attention. Don’t let the holiday rush that contributed to an accident cause you to rush into hiring someone who wants to rush through your case.

Be patient, go slow, take your time; the holidays will be better.

Update on Florida Power & Light Co.’s Natural Gas Pipeline

Update on Florida Power & Light Co.’s Natural Gas Pipeline

A major pipeline that will transport at least 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day across a significant portion of the Florida peninsula recently received one of the last two major regulatory approvals needed. The contracts for building the pipeline, which were awarded by Florida Power & Light Co., the utility planning the pipeline, to Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC., received State approval from the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) in late October. In 2008, the PSC found that there was a need for the pipeline, and thus, the next and final significant regulatory hurdle is obtaining federal approval.

Sabal Trail is currently studying various corridors before it determines a preferred route for the pipeline, which is actually an interstate pipeline that will originate in Alabama and travel through Georgia before reaching Florida. Sabal Trail plans to submit its preferred route, along with alternatives, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sometime in 2014. The FERC is a federal agency which has the sole authority to approve interstate natural gas pipelines. The FERC usually does approve these projects subject to a number of limiting conditions. Thus, due to both Sabal Trail’s process and the FERC approval process, the precise route of the pipeline is not yet fixed.

Once the pipeline’s final route is fixed, Sabal Trail must secure legal rights/permission to cross private parcels of land along the route. The company will obtain such permission either by negotiating voluntary contractual relationships with landowners or by forcing sales through the power of eminent domain. Eminent domain authority is explicitly conferred under Florida Statutes to certain companies constructing natural gas pipelines. However, both the Florida Constitution and Florida Statutes provide certain protections to landowners facing eminent domain, such as the right to “just compensation.”

Regardless of the company’s means of acquiring the needed property rights, it will be important for landowners whose property may be within the project area to become involved in these proceedings and, if approached by FP&L or Sabal Trail, to seek legal representation to safeguard their rights.

Warren Buffet’s remedy for congressional log jam

Winds of Change…. Warren Buffet is asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise. In three days, most people in The United States of America will have this message. This is one idea that really should be passed around. *Congressional Reform Act of 2013 1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they’re out of office. 2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose. 3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do. 4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%. 5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people. 6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people. 7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 12/31/13. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women. Congressmen/women made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work. If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message. Don’t you think it’s time? THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS! If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete.

gainesville sun staff reports on public meeting. our clients will be represented there;

If you have property along state road 20 affected by this road project you should consider talking with us, and attend this meeting. Often times road widening projects require the state’s taking property from private owners along the route. Appraisals of property are required; and “fair” compensation must be paid. You probably have heard the term “eminent domain.” The state has the power to force the sale of property under certain circumstances. Learn more about those circumstances and “fair” compensation by calling us.

Meeting on SR 20 widening set for Thursday

The Florida Department of Transportation will host a public meeting Thursday to discuss plans for widening State Road 20 from two to four lanes between Interlachen and U.S. 301 in Hawthorne.

The format will be an “open house” between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. in which those interested can drop by at any time to review the plans and speak with FDOT staff. At 6:30 p.m., a brief presentation will be made and followed by public comments.

The meeting will be at the Seventh Day Adventist Conference Center located at 1771 E. SR 20 in Hawthorne. The center is just west of County Road 21 in Putnam County.

The FDOT is finishing a project development and environmental study to determine the transportation needs and possible improvements on the 12-mile-long corridor. The FDOT is proposing widening SR 20 to four lanes and providing enhancements for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The project is currently funded for construction in Alachua County between U.S. 301 in Hawthorne and the Putnam County line in 2015-16 at an estimated cost of $16 million. The remaining segment in Putnam County, which is estimated to cost $85 million, is not yet funded for construction.


Part I: “No, you don’t own the water”

It is no secret that water is very important to all of us. Unfortunately, the fact that water supply problems are growing is no secret either these days. We all need water for drinking and other domestic/household purposes, and we need water for agriculture (the biggest consumer), industry, commerce, recreation, and other uses. Water scarcity often gives rise to significant tension among those competing for water. Moreover, it can also cause political and social instability, as well as cause environmental harm.
So, how do we currently (fairly) allocate water among the various uses that depend on water? Do our laws sufficiently safeguard the environment or protect the needs of industry? How does Florida’s framework compare to other states’?
We need to start by acknowledging a fundamental principle of Florida water law that no one “owns” any water or has a property right interest in the water itself. Practically what this means is that in order to use water for any purpose other than personal drinking, bathing, cooking, or sanitation, you may be required to have a “permit” from one of the five water management districts. For example, if you reside in the St. Johns River Water Management District, you have a permit-by-rule to irrigate your residential landscape; that permit imposes certain conditions on the manner in which you water lawn, etc. such as not allowing you to irrigate between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Water use permits merely confer the right to use water, a usufructory right, for a particular purpose, in a conditional manner, and for a specified period of time.
The water law systems currently in effect in the United States developed out of two traditional and distinct surface water doctrines – one in the eastern United States and the other in the more arid west, known respectively as Eastern Water Law and Western Water Law. Today, the core principles of these traditional common law doctrines continue to significantly influence how states regulate water use or, i.e. allocate water. With some slight federal overlay, water law is predominantly a creature of state law. Over the years, most states have taken steps to update the common law doctrines through legislation; however, in many cases, these have come in the form of narrow laws addressing specific issues. This approach has generally resulted in a disjointed approach to water management. Florida is one exception to this.
Groundwater withdrawals (from wells) in the United States were historically treated differently than surface water uses. While we now understand the connection between groundwater and surface water in the hydrologic cycle, in the not-too-distant past groundwater was quite mysterious to us. As a result, common law was historically relatively lenient when it came to regulating the use of groundwater. As our knowledge of groundwater improved, groundwater use regulations grew more stringent, but generally remained distinct from surface water regulations. In addition to regulating ground and surface water under one system, Florida’s water laws contain many other progressive features.
Florida’s current water law system was established by the Florida Water Resources Act of 1972, which was based upon the Model Water Code, and is widely viewed as one of the most progressive and comprehensive in the nation. You can read Parts II and III of this article, which will describe the two traditional common law water doctrines and Florida’s statutory system of water law, in upcoming newsletters.

Natural Gas Flowing Through North Florida’s Backyard?

Although a natural gas boom and the Keystone XL Pipeline currently dominate the national energy dialogue, a related but less-publicized project is planned for the southeast. This project consists of an interstate pipeline transmitting natural gas from a hub in Alabama through Georgia and terminating in southeast Florida’s Martin County. Florida Power & Light Company, the major utility company planning the pipeline, recently awarded Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC (a joint venture of two very large energy corporations) the contract to build and operate a major portion of the pipeline. With ever-increasing demand for natural gas and a lack of any significant natural gas production in Florida, the two major natural gas pipelines already delivering natural gas to the state are nearing capacity. Sabal Trail’s portion of the new pipeline will cost an estimated $3 billion, transport at least 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, and span 456 miles across the three states. Construction is planned to begin in the spring of 2016 and the pipeline is expected to be operational by summer of the following year. Thus, although energy companies are currently buying up land in other states in order to access natural gas deposits through techniques like hydraulic fracturing, the new pipeline serves as a reminder that the natural gas boom can affect landowners in Florida, too.

Sabal Trail has yet to announce a precise route for the pipeline; however, it is expected to affect north-central Florida counties of Ghilchrist, Alachua, and Levy. Landowners in the area need to become aware of the potential implications of this pipeline. Some landowners in these counties have already received letters from Sabal Trail indicating the potential for impacts to their land. Once Sabal Trail determines a particular route, the company will begin negotiating with landowners to purchase fee title or an easement for its use. If a landowner refuses to sell, the company may also use the power of eminent domain to force the sale. Whatever the case, the landowner will need to consider a variety of potential legal consequences.

In the case of an easement, it is important, for example, to consider tax implications, maintenance responsibility, the specific activities Sabal Trail will conduct on the land, what materials and substances might be introduced onto the land, and whether the company will remove the pipeline if it is ever abandoned. For eminent domain, Sabal Trail will file an action in court to force the sale. The landowner will appear and respond in the proceeding, and the main purpose will be to determine the amount of compensation. Nevertheless, it is important for landowners to understand that decisions related to their land and Sabal Trail’s construction of the pipeline could have a wide variety of implications.

Texting while driving prohibition effective 10.1.2013; read the law here;

Florida’s “ban” on texting and driving goes into effect October 1, 2013. Read the law here, as well other laws that were modified to account for enforcement of this new law. The potential effect has been criticized by some citing the “secondary offense” character of the law, the small fine associated with its violation, and that the prohibited activity is permitted while stopped in traffic. It goes without saying that this activity done behind the wheel of a car moving at any speed is careless, even reckless and will cause and or contribute to a lot of automobile accidents in Gainesville, Alachua county, and all around North Florida. Florida has careless and reckless driving prohibitions on the books. These are “primary” offenses. Law enforcement cannot stop a driver for a secondary offense without some other primary offense occurring. There are many primary offenses; any moving violation for instance (speeding, stop sign violation, careless driving, reckless driving, even a lane change done improperly can be a primary offense)
The bottom line is it takes a personal commitment to drive safely, the messages we read or send surely can wait. You do not want to be standing in court as a defendant where a jury from your community hears that the message caused the injury or death of someone, or where a judge sentences you to prison because that secondary offense turned into a primary criminal offense resulting in personal injury or death of someone you go to church or school with; someones wife, mother, daughter, son, husband, a road side worker, a bicyclist or pedestrian.
CHAPTER 2013-58
Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 52

An act relating to the use of wireless communications devices while driving; creating s. 316.305, F.S.; creating the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law”; providing legislative intent; prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device for certain purposes; defining the term “wireless communications device”; providing exceptions; specifying information that is admissible as evidence of a violation; providing penalties; providing for enforcement as a secondary action; amending s. 322.27, F.S.; providing for points to be assessed against a driver license for the unlawful use of a wireless communications device within a school safety zone or resulting in a crash; providing an effective date.
Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
Section 1. Section 316.305, Florida Statutes, is created to read:
316.305 Wireless communications devices; prohibition.—
(1) This section may be cited as the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law.”
(2) It is the intent of the Legislature to:
(a) Improve roadway safety for all vehicle operators, vehicle passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other road users.
(b) Prevent crashes related to the act of text messaging while driving a motor vehicle.
(c) Reduce injuries, deaths, property damage, health care costs, health insurance rates, and automobile insurance rates related to motor vehicle crashes.
(d) Authorize law enforcement officers to stop motor vehicles and issue citations as a secondary offense to persons who are texting while driving.
(3)(a) A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data in such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging. As used in this section, the term “wireless communica- tions device” means any handheld device used or capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or
Ch. 2013-58 LAWS OF FLORIDA Ch. 2013-58
any communications service as defined in s. 812.15 and that allows text communications. For the purposes of this paragraph, a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition in this paragraph.
(b) Paragraph (a) does not apply to a motor vehicle operator who is:
1. Performing official duties as an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle as defined in s. 322.01, a law enforcement or fire service professional, or an emergency medical services professional.
2. Reporting an emergency or criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities.
3. Receiving messages that are:
a. Related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle;
b. Safety-related information, including emergency, traffic, or weather
c. Data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or
d. Radio broadcasts.
4. Using a device or system for navigation purposes.
5. Conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not
require manual entry of multiple letters, numbers, or symbols, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.
6. Conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require reading text messages, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.
7. Operating an autonomous vehicle, as defined in s. 316.003, in autonomous mode.
(c) Only in the event of a crash resulting in death or personal injury, a user’s billing records for a wireless communications device or the testimony of or written statements from appropriate authorities receiving such messages may be admissible as evidence in any proceeding to determine whether a violation of paragraph (a) has been committed.
(4)(a) Any person who violates paragraph (3)(a) commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.
(b) Any person who commits a second or subsequent violation of paragraph (3)(a) within 5 years after the date of a prior conviction for a violation of paragraph (3)(a) commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.2
Ch. 2013-58 LAWS OF FLORIDA Ch. 2013-58
(5) Enforcement of this section by state or local law enforcement agencies must be accomplished only as a secondary action when an operator of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of another provision of this chapter, chapter 320, or chapter 322.
Section 2. Paragraph (d) of subsection (3) of section 322.27, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
322.27 Authority of department to suspend or revoke driver license or identification card.—
(3) There is established a point system for evaluation of convictions of violations of motor vehicle laws or ordinances, and violations of applicable provisions of s. 403.413(6)(b) when such violations involve the use of motor vehicles, for the determination of the continuing qualification of any person to operate a motor vehicle. The department is authorized to suspend the license of any person upon showing of its records or other good and sufficient evidence that the licensee has been convicted of violation of motor vehicle laws or ordinances, or applicable provisions of s. 403.413(6)(b), amounting to 12 or more points as determined by the point system. The suspension shall be for a period of not more than 1 year.
(d) The point system shall have as its basic element a graduated scale of points assigning relative values to convictions of the following violations:
1. Reckless driving, willful and wanton—4 points.
2. Leaving the scene of a crash resulting in property damage of more than
$50—6 points.
3. Unlawful speed, or unlawful use of a wireless communications device,
resulting in a crash—6 points.
4. Passing a stopped school bus—4 points.
5. Unlawful speed:
a. Not in excess of 15 miles per hour of lawful or posted speed—3 points.
b. In excess of 15 miles per hour of lawful or posted speed—4 points.
6. A violation of a traffic control signal device as provided in s. 316.074(1) or s. 316.075(1)(c)1.—4 points. However, no points shall be imposed for a violation of s. 316.074(1) or s. 316.075(1)(c)1. when a driver has failed to stop at a traffic signal and when enforced by a traffic infraction enforcement officer. In addition, a violation of s. 316.074(1) or s. 316.075(1)(c)1. when a driver has failed to stop at a traffic signal and when enforced by a traffic infraction enforcement officer may not be used for purposes of setting motor vehicle insurance rates.

Ch. 2013-58 LAWS OF FLORIDA Ch. 2013-58
7. All other moving violations (including parking on a highway outside the limits of a municipality)—3 points. However, no points shall be imposed for a violation of s. 316.0741 or s. 316.2065(11); and points shall be imposed for a violation of s. 316.1001 only when imposed by the court after a hearing pursuant to s. 318.14(5).
8. Any moving violation covered in this paragraph above, excluding unlawful speed and unlawful use of a wireless communications device, resulting in a crash—4 points.
9. Any conviction under s. 403.413(6)(b)—3 points.
10. Any conviction under s. 316.0775(2)—4 points.
11. A moving violation covered in this paragraph which is committed in conjunction with the unlawful use of a wireless communications device within a school safety zone—2 points, in addition to the points assigned for the moving violation.
Section 3. This act shall take effect October 1, 2013. Approved by the Governor May 28, 2013.
Filed in Office Secretary of State May 28, 2013.

Auto accidents; I-75; and out of town lawyers.

Driving around Gainesville today I drove under I-75. South bound traffic was at a stand still. I went north bound on the interstate and saw traffic backed up standing still for several miles. Paynes Prairie is just south of the entrance (Williston Road) I got on, so the accident was likely on the prairie. Traffic conditions were moderately heavy and the weather over cast with on and off again rain. If claims are made as is likely some will call lawyer referral services like Ask Gary or 411 PAIN. Some will call the large firms from south Florida which advertise state wide but don’t have offices in the jurisdictions where claims are litigated if unresovled pre-suit.
I realize it is self serving for me to write it, but claims handled by these lawyers whose offices are outside the cities where the case might be litigated are at a disadvantage. Insurance adjusters know when these lawyers get cases through referral services or through state wide advertising and they know those lawyers are much less likely to file the law suit to get the “fair” resolution for their client. For these firms the “business” is all about getting and settling cases not digging in and doing the hard work necessary to get the best result. I have handled several cases over the last year after the out of town lawyer fired the client who refused the settlement offer and wanted to go to court.
Let me suggest a simple test; if the lawyer you are considering hiring wants to MAIL you the contingent fee contract, rather than come meet you and explain the process in person you should think twice before hiring that lawyer and at least get a second opinion from local counsel. The insurance industry keeps track. They know which firms will see the case through. You are going to have to see the case through, get a lawyer who will too. If you’ve been injured in an accident, need help getting PIP benefits, or property damages paid, rental vehicle coverage or most importantly compensation for permanent personal injuries consult a lawyer near the accident scene. The adjusters know the local lawyer is more likely to see your case through.