New Florida Cell Phone Law: Enforcement Issues and its Effects on Liability Claims on Construction Sites
On July 1st, 2019, a new Florida law went into effect banning the use of handheld devices in construction zones. The device usage law was just one of the many laws that went into effect on that day. With this law, Florida is one of the last few states to prohibit texting while driving. The law in question also bans the use of handheld devices while in a designated school zone.
The law prohibiting the use of handheld devices in construction zones requires a closer look. There are several questions that come to mind in relation to the enforcement of the law and how it limits or precludes the liability of contractors in case of an accident.
The question on the enforcement side is: how will law enforcement delineate between construction and non-construction sites? Many times, there are signs and cones that will alert a motorist that they are entering a construction site. These construction sites are usually permanent worksites and they are easily discernible as such. However, what is to be said about the worksites that “pop-up” without any easily discernible signs and signals alerting the motortist to a worksite. Law enforcement officers may use a hardline rule requiring that the site be permanent and marked. On the other hand, the law may apply widely where law enforcement will require that any construction site qualifies.
The next question is related to liability issues. Generally speaking, when an accident occurs on or near a construction site, the entity that usually consumes the blame is the contractor. This is the case unless the driver was negligent in some way or was engaging in reckless or criminal behavior. Therefore, contractors would be responsible for payment to the injured party. With the passing of this new law, construction site contractors have an added layer of defense. The ubiquitousness of cell phones and the usage of handheld devices have contributed to a rise in motorist accidents. Contractors can point to this potential cause when defending against claims of liability.
A first offense will be punishable by a $30.00 fine, with a second offense is punishable by a $60.00 fine. In addition, court costs and fees also will apply, and points will be added to the driver’s license. According to the law enforcement, warnings will be given until January 2020, when officers can begin writing citations.
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Brendan Sweeney is a knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale construction attorney with years of experience advising on contractor standard of care as well as accident liability. Sweeney Law is highly experienced in this area and is ready to guide you through contracting around liabilities and any litigation that may result. Contact us now for a consultation.