DeWitt Law Firm - February 2020

The

Digest

DeWittLaw.com

FEBRUARY 2020

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THE LIMITS AND RESTRICTIONS OF RIDE-SHARE INSURANCE ARE YOU COVERED IN A RIDE-SHARE CRASH?

Services like Uber and Lyft have understandably dominated the ride-sharing market thanks to their convenience, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness. Gone are the days of thumbing it for a taxi because now, you can summon an Uber or Lyft to your location with a few keystrokes. However, if you’re in an accident while using this type of transportation, you need to know the risks associated with ride-sharing. Like any other car accident, the driver at fault holds liability. If the ride-share driver is found at fault, their personal insurance policy will not cover the damages because most insurance policies contain a business-use clause — meaning if the vehicle is being used for business rather than personal use, the insurance policy does not apply. However, the Florida legislature sought to remedy this situation back in 2017 when it passed a law requiring all ride-share drivers to carry $1 million dollars in bodily injury and wrongful death insurance. However, it is important to be aware of how these insurance laws work in order to ensure that you are properly covered while in an Uber or Lyft. First, if the driver is not logged into the ride-share app and gets into an accident, then the $1 million ride-sharing insurance policy mandated does not apply. If the driver is simply driving their vehicle for personal use, even though they sometimes use the vehicle as a ride-share, his or her personal insurance coverage would apply. Second, if the driver is logged into the ride-sharing app but has no existing ride requests, then the ride-share company can provide limited coverage — usually up to $50,000 for bodily injury per person and up to $25,000 for property damage, with a cap of $100,000 per incident. However, if the driver accepts a ride request and gets in a car accident while logged into the ride-share app, then victims may have coverage up to $1 million from the ride-share company. Whether you’re a ride-sharing driver, passenger, or another driver on the road, navigating insurance claims involving Uber, Lyft, and similar companies can be complicated. If you are traveling in a ride-share vehicle, make sure the driver is always

logged into the app. If you agree to pay him cash for a ride outside of the app, then there may not be insurance coverage should an accident occur. Further, ride-share companies gather data such as speed, hard braking, travel time, and other relevant data that may be helpful if there is an accident. If you do not complete the ride through the ride-share application, you may not be able to retrieve this data to help prove your case. Finally, if you’re ever in an accident involving a ride-share company, report the accident through the app immediately and insist that the driver wait for the police to arrive to issue a report. Without an accident report, it may be your word against the driver’s. If you find yourself in one of these situations, feel free to reach out anytime. Call us at 407-245-7723 or visit our website at DeWittLaw.com.

– Moses DeWitt

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PERSONAL INJURY - DIVORCE - REAL ESTATE

This Month on the DeWitt Law Review

The DeWitt Law Review airs every Sunday at 10 a.m. on News 96.5 WDBO. It is always our goal to bring the listeners of central Florida the latest legal news and create a forum where they can ask legal questions anonymously from the comfort of their own home without having to retain an attorney. This month, we were honored to have attorney Wayne Bilsky join us on the show to discuss workers’ compensation claims. Workers' compensation is insurance coverage purchased by an employer/ business that provides benefits for job-related employee injuries. Florida law requires all employers to purchase workers' compensation coverage (with a few exceptions). Unlike personal injury claims, fault is not a factor with workers’ compensation claims, which is often misunderstood by the public. Mr. Bilsky brought a wealth of knowledge to our listening audience and was able to assist several callers with workers’ compensation issues. We receive many legal questions from our listeners each month, and we wanted to share some of the interesting questions in hopes that they may also benefit others facing similar legal issues. Q: My former wife was arrested for murder and is currently being held in jail awaiting trial. Do I still need to continue to pay my monthly alimony obligation? A: The 4th District Court of Appeal in Craissati v. Craissati, 997 So. 2d 458 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008), held that the former wife’s incarceration for DUI manslaughter subjected her to termination of her alimony award due to cohabitation because she was residing with her cellmate. Since the former wife acknowledged that she was cohabitating with her cellmate and the marital settlement agreement provided that cohabitation would terminate the alimony obligation, the court terminated her alimony award. Ultimately, every case is different, but if there is a substantial change in circumstances that occurs after the final judgment of divorce, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible to determine whether it is appropriate to file for a modification. It is important to note that until you file the modification, the court cannot change your alimony obligation. Therefore, if a substantial change of circumstances occurs and you fail to file, you are still obligated to pay under the prior agreement or judgment. Q: I own piece of land with a pond on it, and part of the pond extends onto my neighbor’s land. Can I put a fence across the pond to block my neighbor’s access? A: The state holds for public use navigable waters and the lands under such waters. Navigable waters are those waters which, by reason of their size, depth, and other conditions, are navigable for useful public purposes. This means that if the pond were to be considered a navigable water, the land under the pond would actually be owned by the State of Florida, and you would not be permitted to construct a fence to block your neighbor’s use of the pond.

SCIENCE WANTS YOU TO STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES THE BENEFITS OF SPENDING TIME OUTSIDE

In a 2008 survey conducted by the National Trust in Britain, children were more likely to correctly identify a Dalek from “Doctor Who” than a barn owl. Likewise, a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study of 8–18-year-olds in the U.S. found that the average youth spends more than 53 hours a week engaged with entertainment media. These statistics, coupled with growing concerns that children are spending less time outdoors, are leading to terms like “nature deficit disorder” and global initiatives to get kids outside. Why is contact with the outdoors so important? Researchers are answering this question by studying the benefits of time spent in nature. One benefit is that outdoor time helps kids understand boundaries and learn how to assess risk. As naturalist, author, and broadcaster Stephen Moss puts it, “Falling out of a tree is a very good lesson in risk-reward.” Not to mention, time in nature may help improve focus for hyperactive kids. In one national study of youths by the University of Illinois, participants’ attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms were reduced after spending time in a green setting versus a more urban one. This may be due to the fact that natural environments call upon our “soft fascination,” a less exhausting type of focus than what is required by urban environments. Emotional benefits were discovered too, including reduced aggression, increased happiness, and improved self-esteem. Beyond just getting outside, the type of contact we have with nature also matters. Visits to nature centers and watching “Planet Earth” are two ways to experience the outdoors. But research points specifically to the importance of free play in the natural world: unstructured outdoor time when children can explore and engage with their natural surroundings with no curriculum, lesson, or activity to complete. Ever notice how kids are fascinated by the simplest things? A child visits a rose garden, but before they even get to the flowers, they become captivated by a leaf on the ground or an ant crawling on their shoe. Children are born naturalists. These are the moments we need to recapture. Take a page out of that kid’s book, and as the saying goes, stop and smell the roses — or leaves or ants —with no checklist and no plan, just time spent playing outside.

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With the National Latino Peace Officer Association HELMET HEADS HELPING AGAIN

If you read our last couple newsletters, you know how passionate we are about the safety of young bike riders in our community, which is why we’re always eager to donate helmets to any organization through Helmet Heads of Florida. There is one group in particular that we’ve had a lot of fun working with: the National Latino Peace Officer Association. We recently had the privilege of partnering with them for "The News Junkie’s" annual bike drive in December! If you’re unfamiliar, the National Latino Peace Officer Association is a professional organization that promotes equality and professionalism in law enforcement. While the bike drive is a fun event for everyone involved, it’s more important to the area than most people realize. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, deaths among Florida bicyclists under the age of 20 has tripled since 1975. In 2017, there were 783 fatal bicycle accidents in the U.S., and 125 of those occurred in Florida. A recent study conducted by AAA found that 36% of Florida bicyclists don’t wear a helmet when riding. While we may not be able to eliminate bicycle accidents completely, we are hopeful that we can help reduce bicycle accident deaths and traumatic brain injuries.

great event, and the kids got to see an assortment of police vehicles and divisions as well, including helicopters, firetrucks, the SWAT team, the mounted enforcement unit (commonly known as the horse unit), and the K-9 unit. If you want to help keep the young bicyclists in our community safe by donating or getting involved with Helmet Heads of Florida, visit HelmetHeadsofFlorida.org for more information.

During their Three Kings Day celebration, the National Latino Peace Officer Association gave the bike drive recipients their bikes! It was a

EASY SHRIMP SCAMPI MOE'S MUNCHIES

BREAK TAKE A

Inspired by The Blond Cook

INGREDIENTS

• • • • •

4 tbsp butter 4 tbsp olive oil

• • • •

1/2 cup dry white wine 1/4 cup lemon juice 8 oz cooked linguine

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup parsley

1/2 tsp oregano

DIRECTIONS

1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp of butter with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. 2. Add shrimp and oregano, stirring frequently until shrimp is pink. Remove shrimp from skillet. 3. Add wine and lemon juice to skillet and bring the mixture to a boil. 4. Stir in remaining butter and olive oil and cook until butter is melted. 5. Add cooked shrimp to skillet and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. 6. In a serving bowl, top cooked linguine with shrimp mixture. Garnish with parsley and serve.

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Are You Covered in a Ride-Share Crash?

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Stop and Smell the Roses

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This Month on the DeWitt Law Review

Helmet Heads Helping Again

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Easy Shrimp Scampi

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A Slippery Crime

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‘OCEAN’S 3’ ATTEMPT A HIGH-STAKES HEIST STEALING MISS HELEN

On a hot summer day in late July 2018, three people entered Miss Helen’s home, forcibly removed her, put her in a stroller, and ran toward their getaway vehicle. This might sound like a typical kidnapping story, but Miss Helen is no ordinary person. She is a 16-inch horn shark living at the San Antonio Aquarium. Fortunately, their fishy behavior didn’t go unnoticed, and someone alerted the aquarium staff. One perpetrator drove away with Miss Helen in tow, but the other two were stopped by aquarium staff, later confessing to their involvement. Thanks to some observant witnesses and aquarium surveillance, police were able to identify the third thief and obtain a warrant to search his house. As it turned out, he had an extensive aquarium in his home and possibly hoped to add Miss Helen to his collection. After being identified, Miss Helen was returned home safely.

The aquarium staff was grateful to have Miss Helen back unharmed, despite her ordeal. “She’s a tough little horn shark, I’ll tell you that,” affirmed Jamie Shank, the assistant husbandry director at the aquarium. No Minor Crime While many animal lovers might disagree, animals are considered personal property, so stealing them is a crime of theft, not kidnapping. The penalties for stealing animals vary depending on each state’s laws, and some states have specific laws regarding animal theft. In Texas, larceny law designates the theft of property valued between $1,500–$20,000 as a felony. In the case of Miss Helen, who’s valued by the aquarium at $2,000, the thieves committed a felony. Also, transporting certain animals requires special permits, which led to additional charges against the three thieves. The Animal Welfare Act, which was adopted in 1966, is the only federal law that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers. Interestingly, it only applies to warm-blooded animals, so if Miss Helen had needed further protection, she would be left out in the cold.

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