sheeps clothing
sheeps clothing

Yesterday on the way to work, while sitting at a red light, you were rear-ended by a car that didn’t stop, or even slow down. The next day the adjuster for the insurance company of the person who hit you calls on the telephone. All he needs before he can pay you (he says) is a brief recorded statement to understand exactly what happened. He’s very nice and you have nothing to hide, do you? So what could be wrong with answering his questions on tape? It turns out, a lot!

You should never give a recorded statement to the insurance company of the person who hit you. It will only be used against you. And you have the right to say NO to this adjuster unless they get a court order (which is extremely rare).

As a general rule, you should not give a recorded statement concerning a motor vehicle accident to anyone without the advice of an attorney. You shouldn’t give an oral statement either. To reduce claims paid, the insurance company must deny claims made. To do this, company employees will look for reasons to deny your claim. They may use your recorded statement for this purpose. How?

Insurance company employees will compare the statement you gave them with other statements you have made including statements you gave an investigating police officer or statements you made during your deposition in a lawsuit arising from the accident. Where they find inconsistencies in your multiple statements, and this is not unusual when someone tells the story of his accident more than once, sometimes weeks or months apart, the company will claim you lied. The company may deny your claim as a result.

In a lawsuit, defense counsel can use your recorded statement to cross-examine you at trial or during your deposition. You may not remember exactly what you said in your statement. As a result, you may contradict yourself in some way. Although you think the discrepancy is inconsequential, the defendant’s lawyer will stress the importance of your misstatement to a jury and use it to convince the jury that your testimony is not believable.

The bottom line is that you should never give a recorded statement to an insurance company representative without the advice and guidance of an attorney. When you turn down the representative’s request, be courteous but firm. No matter how garrulous and personable they may be when they’re talking to you, always keep in mind that they are employees of the insurance company and represent only its interests – not yours.

Questions about your rights?  Give me a call at 352-512-0444.

YOUR accident and injury attorney,

Marianne Howanitz

Posted Under: news


Kudos to the Marion County School Board for proactively making school buses safer for our kids!  The School Board has recognized the dangerous effects that Sleep Apnea has on their school bus drivers by instituting screening and treatment for their at risk drivers.

Sleep Apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. According to the National Institute for Health untreated sleep apnea can:

  • Increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes
  • Increase the risk of, or worsen, heart failure
  • Make arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, more likely
  • Increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents

Raw data suggest that sleep apnea raises the risk that a person will be involved in a motor vehicle accident. New data not only confirm this finding, but show that sleep apnea patients are at very high risk of serious, life-threatening car wrecks.

Alan Mulgrew, MD, and colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, compared the claims and accident records of 800 patients with confirmed sleep apnea with those of 800 people who did not have sleep apnea. Over the three years before their diagnosis, the sleep apnea patients were nearly five times more likely to have serious car crashes than were other drivers. Serious car crashes were defined as those with injury or head-on crashes. New evidence adds to the already compelling case that driving a car while not properly rested produces similar risks as driving drunk. The recent study was published in the journal Sleep and found people with obstructive sleep apnea were 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in an accident than people without the sleep disorder.

Insufficient sleep has been officially classified as a public health epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as nearly 40 percent of people report unintentionally falling asleep at least once in the past month. On their own, the dangers of sleep deprivation include a suppressed immune system and moderate cognitive impairment. But the risks increase even further when those setbacks are applied to a complex activity, like driving a car. In 2010, a study found 20 to 25 hours of sleep loss resulted in the same levels of depleted brainpower as a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.10.

Schools buses are commercial motor vehicles. Fatigued driving has been and remains the #1 safety hazard in the commercial motor vehicle driving statistics for decades. Understanding of the importance of recognition of sleepiness as a risk factor for safe driving and to encourage interventions to reduce risk involved in drowsy driving Congress unanimously approved a bill two years ago that required the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to establish rules that require drivers in the transportation industry to be screened for sleep apnea.

So, once again, hats off to the School Board of Marion County for working hard to keep our students safer!

Remember-be safe out there!!

Your accident and injury attorney, Marianne


Posted Under: news


Motorcycles are fun and fuel efficient. That’s not news to anyone who’s ridden one. But neither is the fact that they’re also way more dangerous than a car. The cold reality is that motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than people in a car, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). And nearly half of all motorcycle deaths are the result of single-vehicle crashes.

The numbers are even scarier for older riders, who are increasingly taking up or returning to motorcycling after many years. Because of slower reflexes, weaker eyesight, more brittle bones, and other disadvantages, riders over 60 years old are three times more likely to be hospitalized after a crash than younger ones.

Still, many enthusiasts enjoy a lifetime of riding without injury. The key to optimizing your odds is to be prepared and avoid risks. Keep in mind that 48 percent of fatalities in 2010 involved speeding, according to the IIHS, and alcohol was a factor in 42 percent. Eliminate those factors and you’ve dramatically reduced your risk.

Below are 10 Motorcycle Safety Tips for New Riders and Expert Advice for Returning Riders published in Consumer Reports.

  • Don’t buy more bike than you can handle.If you’ve been off of motorcycles for a while, you may be surprised by the performance of today’s bikes. Even models with small-displacement engines are notably faster and more powerful than they were 10 or 20 years ago.When shopping for a bike, start with one that fits you. When seated, you should easily be able to rest both feet flat on the ground without having to be on tiptoes. Handlebars and controls should be within easy reach. Choose a model that’s easy for you to get on and off the center stand; if it feels too heavy, it probably is. A smaller model with a 250- to 300-cc engine can make a great starter or commuter bike. If you plan on doing a lot of highway riding, you might want one with an engine in the 500- to 750-cc range so you can easily keep up with traffic.
  • Invest in antilock brakes. Now available on a wide array of models, antilock brakes are a proven lifesaver. IIHS data shows that motorcycles equipped with ABS brakes were 37 percent less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than bikes without it. “No matter what kind of rider you are, ABS can brake better than you,” says Bruce Biondo of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Motorcycle Safety Program. The reason is simple: Locking up the brakes in a panic stop robs the rider of any steering control. That can easily lead to a skid and crash, which can result in serious injury. ABS helps you retain steering control during an emergency stop, and it can be especially valuable in slippery conditions. This critical feature is now standard on many high-end models and adds only a few hundred dollars to the price of more basic bikes. You may be able to offset some of the cost with an insurance discount. Either way, we think it’s a worthwhile investment in your safety.
  • Hone your skills. As Honda’s Jon Seidel puts it, “There is nothing we could say or advise more than to go find a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) riding course in your area. That’s critical, absolutely critical.” An MSF course or similar class can teach you the basics, as well as advanced techniques, such as how to perform evasive emergency maneuvers. The cost ranges from free to about $350. An approved safety course may make you eligible for an insurance discount and, in some states, to skip the road-test and/or the written test part of the licensing process. Some motorcycle manufacturers offer a credit toward the cost of a new motorcycle or training if a rider signs up for an MSF course. The MSF website lists about 2,700 locations for such courses around the United States.
  • Use your head.Yes, helmets are an emotional topic for some riders. But the facts show the risk. Riders without a helmet are 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury in a crash and are three times more likely to suffer brain injuries, than those with helmets, according to government studies. When Texas and Arkansas repealed their helmet laws, they saw a 31- and 21-percent increase in motorcycle fatalities, respectively. “It is absolute insanity to repeal helmet laws,” says Orly Avitzur, M.D., a neurologist and a Consumer Reports medical adviser. “Because helmets do save lives, it is insanity to expose the skull and the brain to potential trauma that could be prevented or at least mitigated.” A full-face helmet that’s approved by the Department of Transportation is the best choice. (Look for a DOT certification sticker on the helmet.) Modern helmets are strong, light weight, and comfortable, and they cut down on wind noise and fatigue. Keep in mind that helmets deteriorate over time, and may not be safe even if they look fine. The Snell Memorial Foundation, an independent helmet testing and standards-setting organization, recommends replacing a helmet every five years or sooner if it’s been damaged or has been in a crash. Beyond potential deterioration due to aging and exposure to hair oils and chemicals, Snell points out that there is often a notable improvement over that time in helmet design and materials.
  • Wear the right gear. Jeans, a T-shirt, and sandals are recipes for a painful disaster on a bike. Instead, you want gear that will protect you from wind chill, flying bugs and debris, and, yes, lots of road rash if you should slide out. For maximum protection, go for a leather or other reinforced jacket, gloves, full pants, and over-the-ankle footwear, even in summer. Specially designed jackets with rugged padding and breathable mesh material provide protection as well as ventilation for riding in warm weather. You’ll also want effective eye protection; don’t rely on eyeglasses or a bike’s windscreen. Use a helmet visor or goggles. And keep in mind that car drivers who have hit a motorcycle rider often say they just didn’t see them, so choose gear in bright colors.
  • Be defensive. A recent study by the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research found that in collisions involving a motorcycle and a car, car drivers were at fault 60 percent of the time. So, you need to be extra alert, especially in this age of epidemic phone use and texting behind the wheel. Keep an eye out for cars suddenly changing lanes or pulling out from side streets. And don’t tailgate; keeping a safe following distance is critical, both to ensure you have enough stopping distance and so you have time to react to obstacles in the road. An object that a car might easily straddle could be a serious hazard when on a bike.
  • Avoid bad weather. Slippery conditions reduce your margin for error. Rain not only cuts your visibility but reduces your tires’ grip on the road, which can make cornering tricky. If you need to ride in the rain, remember that the most dangerous time is right after precipitation begins, as the water can cause oil residue to rise to the top. And avoid making sudden maneuvers. Be especially gentle with the brakes, throttle, and steering to avoid sliding. When riding in strong side winds, be proactive in anticipating the potential push from the side by moving to the side of the lane the wind is coming from. This will give you some leeway in the lane, should a gust nudge you.
  • Watch for road hazards. A motorcycle has less contact with the pavement than a car. Sand, wet leaves, or pebbles can cause a bike to slide unexpectedly, easily resulting in a spill. Bumps and potholes that you might barely notice in a car can pose serious danger when on a bike. If you can’t avoid them, slow down as much as possible before encountering them, with minimal steering input. Railroad tracks and other hazards should be approached as close to a right angle as possible, to reduce the chances of a skid.
  • Be ready to roll.Before each ride, do a quick walk-around to make sure your lights, horn, and directional signals are working properly. Check the chain, belt, or shaft and the brakes. And inspect the tires for wear and make sure they’re set at the proper pressure. Motorcycle mechanics we’ve spoken with say they routinely see worn-out brakes and improperly inflated tires that greatly increase safety risks. When tires are under-inflated, “handling gets really hard, steering gets hard, and the bike doesn’t want to lean,” says Mike Franklin, owner of Mike’s Garage in Los Angles.

I hope these tips have been useful to you.  But, if you or someone you know is injured while riding their motorcycles, give me a call.  And, as always, be safe out there!

Marianne Howanitz, your accident and injury attorney.



The #1 Cause of Injury to children in car accidents is head injuries.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, children over the age of one were more likely to have cuts, bruises, and fractures of the head, while children under the age of one usually sustained concussions. These types of injuries have particularly serious impacts on children because of their skeletal development, and can cause effects ranging from reading disabilities and developmental delay to paralysis and psychological disorders. Children who suffer traumatic brain injuries can experience lasting or late-appearing neuropsychological problems, highlighting the need for careful monitoring of children as they grow older. For this reason, head injuries are of particular concern when studying children injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. In children, some neurological deficits after head trauma may not manifest for many years. Frontal lobe functions, for example, develop relatively late in a child’s growth, so that injury to the frontal lobes may not become apparent until the child reaches adolescence when higher level reasoning develops. Since the frontal lobes control social interactions and interpersonal skills, early childhood brain damage may not manifest until such frontal lobe skills are called into play later in development. Likewise, injury to reading and writing centers in the brain may not become apparent until the child reaches school age and shows signs of delayed reading and writing skills.

Infants and young children with brain injuries may lack the communication skills to report headaches, sensory problems, confusion and similar symptoms. In a child with traumatic brain injury, you may observe:

  • Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
  • No loss of consciousness, but a state of being dazed, confused or disorient
  • Change in eating or nursing habits/ Nausea or vomiting
  • Persistent crying and inability to be consoled
  • Unusual or easy irritability
  • Change in ability to pay attention
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Sad or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys or activities

Always see your doctor if you or your child has received a blow to the head or body that concerns you or causes behavioral changes. Seek emergency medical care following an accident in which children are in the vehicle.

Be safe out there!!  Marianne Howanitz

This week is National Child Passenger Safety Week and I will be addressing this important issue over the next several blogs.

Stranger Danger, Crossing the Street and Pool Safety are just a few of the things we as parents are concerned about when raising our children.  However, the sad truth is, more children die every year from injuries sustained in a car accident than from any other cause. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) recently published a study analyzing the statistics surrounding children and car accidents. Some of the data you might expect: For instance, children are around ten times more likely to suffer incapacitating injuries in a rollover crash as in any other kind of accident. However, other findings were more surprising.

According to the National Highway Safety Administration head injuries were the most common type of injury suffered by children in car accidents, closely followed by damage to the chest and lungs. Children over the age of one were more likely to have cuts, bruises, and fractures of the head, while children under the age of one usually sustained concussions. These types of injuries have particularly serious impacts on children because of their skeletal development, and can cause effects ranging from reading disabilities and developmental delay to paralysis and psychological disorders.

After any collision it is vitally important to have your child checked out by a physician within the first 14 days, otherwise you may not receive the total $10,000 in PIP benefits that you pay for.

Accident or injury? Call Marianne Howanitz for your free consult to know your rights.



Well, I can.  I’m not talking babies, I’m talking staff!  I just wanted to give a great big shout out to the staff at Marianne Howanitz, PA…April, Dawn, Rachel & Stephanie….I love you ladies and appreciate what you do every day for our clients and the firm.  Everyone have a great and safe Labor Day on Monday doing whatever brings you the most joy and….be safe out there, all!  Marianne Howanitz

Posted Under: news

labor day parade
labor day parade
Ever wonder about the history of Labor Day? I’ve always thought of it as “score one for the little guy that we get to take one day off of work just for the heck of it!”  But here’s the rest of the story…
According to the US Department of Labor the first Labor Day was almost a disaster. On the very first Labor Day Parade the morning of September 5, 1882, a crowd of spectators filled the sidewalks of lower Manhattan near city hall and along Broadway. They had come early, well before the Labor Day Parade marchers, to claim the best vantage points from which to view the first Labor Day Parade. A newspaper account of the day described “…men on horseback, men wearing regalia, men with society aprons, and men with flags, musical instruments, badges, and all the other paraphernalia of a procession.”

The police, wary that a riot would break out, were out in force that morning as well. By 9 a.m., columns of police and club-wielding officers on horseback surrounded city hall. By 10 a.m., the Grand Marshall of the parade, William McCabe, his aides and their police escort were all in place for the start of the parade. There was only one problem: none of the men had moved. The few marchers that had shown up had no music. According to McCabe, the spectators began to suggest that he give up the idea of parading, but he was determined to start on time with the few marchers that had shown up. Suddenly, Mathew Maguire of the Central Labor Union of New York (and probably the father of Labor Day) ran across the lawn and told McCabe that two hundred marchers from the Jewelers Union of Newark Two had just crossed the ferry — and they had a band!

Just after 10 a.m., the marching jewelers turned onto lower Broadway — they were playing “When I First Put This Uniform On,” from Patience, an opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. The police escort then took its place in the street. When the jewelers marched past McCabe and his aides, they followed in behind. Then, spectators began to join the march. Eventually there were 700 men in line in the first of three divisions of Labor Day marchers. Final reports of the total number of marchers ranged from 10,000 to 20,000 men and women. With all of the pieces in place, the parade marched through lower Manhattan. The New York Tribune reported that, “The windows and roofs and even the lamp posts and awning frames were occupied by persons anxious to get a good view of the first parade in New York of workingmen of all trades united in one organization.”

At noon, the marchers arrived at Reservoir Park, the termination point of the parade. While some returned to work, most continued on to the post-parade party at Wendel’s Elm Park at 92nd Street and Ninth Avenue; even some unions that had not participated in the parade showed up to join in the post-parade festivities that included speeches, a picnic, an abundance of cigars and, “Lager beer kegs… mounted in every conceivable place.” (Gotta love that!)  From 1p.m. until 9 p.m. that night, nearly 25,000 union members and their families filled the park and celebrated the very first, and almost entirely disastrous, Labor Day.

Today, our nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.  Now that you know….have a great Labor Day! Be safe out there.

YOUR accident and injury attorney, Marianne Howanitz

Posted Under: news


The end of summer vacation comes too quickly for most of us in Florida. It can also be an exciting time of year for families as they prepare for the back to school season. With summer vacations wrapping up and traffic increasing as people go back to work and back to school, the end of August means different driving patterns and rules of the road.

According to a report by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHSTA), autumn is the most dangerous time of year for pedestrians, with 29 percent of pedestrian-related fatalities. Here are 5 tips below to help keep you, and your kids, safer as they head back to school. Whether you are a new or long-term driver, use these tips to set the example for others on the road.

  1. Respect the big yellow bus. Imagine being in a large car with 40 noisy 6th-graders. Could be pretty stressful. Do your part and make the bus drivers’ lives easier. Yield when they are attempting to merge, and maintain a significant distance behind them, as they often make unexpected stops.
  2. Get in the zone.Speed limits in Florida school zones typically range between 15 and 25 mph. Abide by the limits and look out for pedestrians, keeping your foot on the brake. School zones are also home to newly licensed teenagers who are largely inexperienced. Teen crashes spike in September as they head back to school and happen more often during hours when school begins and lets out. Speed limits aren’t just for during school hours either – consider after-school marching band practice, late night football games, and other events. When dropping kids off, remember that curbs are reserved for buses and emergency vehicles, so you shouldn’t loiter.
  3. Walk better.Drivers aren’t the only ones who need to obey the rules of the road. A major driving pet peeve is pedestrians who jaywalk, cross at a red light, or text while walking. More than an annoyance, this is a danger, especially in school zones. According to the Safe Routes to School Organization, 33 percent of youth pedestrian crashes are attributed to kids darting out into the road.
  4. A different kind of pool safety. If you’re part of a carpool it’s up to you to remind your children/passengers that seatbelts are a must – no matter who they are driving with. Not only are seat belts the law, they save thousands of lives a year.
  5. Go back to school yourself. Even if you’ve been driving for 30 years, make time for a refresher course in safe driving. Through your insurer, you may be eligible for a discount. Or make it a family night with your teens, and combine with quiz or lesson, such as Toyota’s Distracted Drivers Board Game, available on its website or Driving basics.

Remember that distracted driving unfortunately didn’t end with the summer either. The national report “Distracted Drivers in School Zones” offers sobering statistics about the effects, so turn off/put down your cell phone while in the car. While it’s an exciting time, getting back to school can be stressful, too. Tolerance and defensive driving will get you everywhere you need to go safely.

For a great printout from the National Safety Council click here:

When someone is exposed to a terrifying event – either experiencing it or witnessing it – like a serious car crash, they may suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (#PTSD).  It is estimated that 9% of survivors of serious traffic accidents develop significant PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD include disabling memories, flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety related to the traumatic event.  As crash victims, they have been physically AND psychologically injured and their ability to think clearly or take the appropriate action that is in their best interest may become affected.  PTSD victims often use avoidance as a coping mechanism.  They just can’t deal with it.  They don’t want to talk about it or even think about it.  One of the most positive aspects of recovering from such a traumatic event is social support from friends and family.  If your family or friends are involved in a serious crash, be on the lookout for signs of PTSD. It is important to identify the symptoms early on and seek appropriate psychological treatment.  Studies warrant that the sooner the treatment, the better the outcome. As their friend or relative, they would want you to help them in this disabling time. Another aspect of the avoidance coping mechanism related to PTSD is that many serious #accident victims do not take action to protect their legal rights.  In the event of a serious car crash, the victim should seek out legal counsel immediately to SECURE THE EVIDENCE AND PROTECT THEIR RIGHTS.  Failure to enlist the help of an experienced accident attorney in a timely matter may dramatically affect their ability to bring a successful claim in the future.   To learn more about accident induced PTSD visit  To know and protect your legal rights call Marianne Howanitz,

Posted Under: news