Articles Posted in Car Accident

Although there are many dangers a driver must confront in Florida when they operate a vehicle, left turns may be among the riskiest. Because drivers in cars that are turning right only need to focus on the right lane of the crossing route, they process far less information than drivers attempting to make a left turn at a busy intersection. In fact, drivers attempting to make a left-hand turn often process nearly four times as much information as other drivers. This means that the odds are often stacked against drivers when it comes to avoiding accidents while turning left.

According to a recent news report, a fatal left turn car accident left three young children and two adults dead. Based on an accident report from the Florida Highway Patrol, a sedan was attempting to make a left turn when it drove into the path of another vehicle. Both cars overturned and five people from the sedan were ejected from their car. The victims were pronounced dead at the scene. The other driver was wearing a seat belt and sustained only minor injuries, but authorities reported the accident scene has one of the “most horrific scenes” they had experienced in a long time. The crash remains under investigation.

In Florida, similar to other states, there are specific statutes that cover liability when it comes to drivers making left turns that result in car accidents. As a general matter, Florida law states that drivers who intend to make a left turn are expected to approach the intersection from the lane that is farthest to the left as possible. The far lane should be going in the same direction. Once the driver enters the intersection by turning left, they should follow the expected and established lane of travel. When possible, drivers should make their left-hand turns so that they are “to the left of the center of the intersection.”

Florida’s controversial no-fault insurance laws have been at issue for several years. The no-fault framework mandates that motorists carry at least $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This coverage was designed to cover the medical costs of car accident injury victims. The public policy behind this system was to ease the burden on the court system and promote efficient payment. The no-fault system presented several issues to Florida car accident victims, as it placed limitations on how much they could recover from their insurance company. Senate Bill 54 would change the state’s insurance laws, moving away from the no-fault system. Proponents of the bill argue that the no-fault system is antiquated and does not effectively meet the needs of accident victims.

Lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 54 (SB 54) in a bipartisan effort to address the no-fault system’s many flaws. The bill would address rising healthcare costs and impute liability on the party that caused the accident, instead of placing the burden on the accident victim. Under SB 54, motorists will no longer need to purchase PIP coverage, and instead will need to carry bodily injury (BI) protection. BI coverage provides critical coverage in situations where an accident results in serious injuries and hefty medical expenses. This coverage will allow claimants to pursue damages for medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, out-of-pocket losses, and most importantly, pain and suffering.

Critics of the no-fault system cite widespread fraud and inequities within the current system. They argue that the system forces older adults on Medicare and people with health insurance to purchase unnecessary costly insurance. Further, motorists who maintain bodily injury coverage are covering the costs to bail out irresponsible motorists. Finally, the coverage limit has not been updated in decades and rarely meets a victim’s needs. Many believe that the changes will reduce insurance costs and provide more options to meet a motorist’s specific needs.

In a simple dispute between two parties, one imagines that they go through one trial, the jury or judge considers the issues, and a decision is rendered. Not all cases, however, are this simple. When different types of damages determinations are involved, for example, court procedures can change in the course of a lawsuit. In a recent Florida district court of appeal decision, the court had to consider such an issue. The plaintiff was stopped at a red light when he was rear-ended by the defendant. Following the collision, the plaintiff sued the defendant for compensatory damages. The plaintiff also sued for punitive damages because the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Before trial, the parties agreed that if the plaintiff was awarded compensatory damages, then he would also be entitled to punitive damages. During the trial, the plaintiff introduced evidence of the defendant’s intoxication, which was irrelevant to the determination of compensatory damages. The jury awarded the plaintiff significant compensatory and punitive damages following trial.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court should not have allowed the plaintiff to introduce evidence of intoxication during the trial, and the court agreed and sided with the defendant. According to the court, when considering compensatory damages during the trial, the jury was not supposed to factor in whether or not the defendant was intoxicated because the parties had agreed prior to trial that punitive damages would be available only if the plaintiff received compensatory damages first. Thus, the evidence of intoxication unduly influenced the jury to take it into consideration when awarding compensatory damages and resulted in a larger award.

In Florida, bifurcation, or a judge’s ability to divide a trial into two parts to render a decision on two separate legal issues, is proper when compensatory and punitive damages are both considered in a case. For example, in a case such as this one, punitive damages were only available because the defendant was intoxicated, but the plaintiff would only be eligible for them if he was awarded compensatory damages first. The defendant claimed the introduction of the evidence unfairly influenced the jury’s ability to fairly determine compensatory damages and should have been reserved for a separate trial phase.

When a plaintiff files a lawsuit in Florida, often the dispute can be resolved before the case ever makes it to trial. Although there are various points where the issue may be resolved before going to trial, a motion for summary judgment is one of the most common ways to get a court to enter a judgment in your favor, avoiding the need to battle it out with the other party through an expensive and stressful trial.

In a recent Supreme Court of Florida decision, the court examined the role of video evidence in light of a summary judgment motion. Following a fatal rear-end car accident, the estate of the deceased sued the other party. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants after video evidence from the vehicle’s forward-facing dashboard camera contradicted the estate of the deceased’s version of events. On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s summary judgment ruling, claiming that the lower court had improperly weighed the video evidence in light of all of the facts of the case.

On appeal before the Florida Supreme Court, the court affirmed the appellate court’s decision to reverse summary judgment. Because the appellate court understood that summary judgment should not be granted in instances where evidence or the record raises even the slightest doubt that a dispute could be had over issues in the case, the Florida Supreme Court felt the appellate court considered the issue properly.

In Florida, like many other states, the legal doctrine known as res ipsa loquitur exists as a claim that can be brought against defendants in civil tort related cases. Typically, the claim is advanced when a party argues that the court can infer negligence from the accident or injury that occurred even in the absence of direct evidence. In other words, res ipsa loquitur is typically brought when the nature of how an accident or injury came about is so obviously negligent that the court does not require additional direct evidence on how a defendant behaved to assign liability.

In a recent Florida district court of appeal opinion, the court considered whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applied to a personal injury case. An attorney brought a premises liability case on behalf of his client, who was being held at a local county jail when she was injured by an interior gate that closed on her unexpectedly. At trial, the defendant argued that the officer who controlled the gate and the jail did not act negligently, but instead a sensor was tripped, or there was a malfunction, which caused the accident. However, the attorney presented testimony from jail staff explaining that the jail gates operated manually and were controlled by an officer, but did not present evidence explaining whether a malfunction could cause the gate to close unexpectedly. The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff with a res ipsa loquitur instruction, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the court sided with the defendant and reversed and remanded the case for further consideration. Because the plaintiff failed to prove that negligence by the defendant was the probable cause of her injuries, the court could not apply res ipsa loquitur to the present case. Although the plaintiff offered some evidence on how the gate was intended to operate, the lack of expert testimony on how the gate actually worked at the time of the incident or whether a malfunction could have caused an accident absent negligence meant that the plaintiff failed to meet the burden of proof necessary for the court to apply res ipsa loquitur.

When it comes to civil claims, every state has slightly different laws addressing these lawsuits. In many personal injury claims, when the at-fault party does something negligently and causes injury to another party, the injured party can often seek damages through a Florida personal injury lawsuit.

Florida, like several other states, uses comparative negligence laws to determine liability. Under general comparative negligence laws, both parties in a lawsuit could potentially be at fault if they each contributed to the injuries or damages that are in dispute. Under Florida law, courts apply pure comparative negligence laws. These laws are a bit more flexible and can allow even at-fault parties to claim some amount of compensation.

To illustrate Florida’s pure comparative negligence standard, consider this example: a man is speeding and crashes into another car on the road, and the other driver suffers significant injuries. The driver who was hit, however, was distracted while driving because he was checking his phone. If the injured party decides to bring a personal injury claim to recover damages from his injuries following the collision, the court may argue that the injured party was also partially responsible for their injuries. This may affect how much the plaintiff is able to collect from the defendant since the accident may not have occurred if he was not on his phone. If a plaintiff is found to be partially at fault for his injuries in the accident, his damages will be reduced. If the plaintiff shared responsibility for causing the collision, this would diminish any economic and non-economic damages proportionate to their level of fault. The plaintiff, however, will not be completely barred from recovering compensation.

Although waivers and terms of conditions are extremely long, people worry about signing their rights away if they do not read the waiver in its entirety. This is especially true in the context of insurance. Insurance companies may try to hide a waiver of coverage behind hyperlinks or in small font. However, when this is the case, customers in Florida can hold their insurance companies accountable and file a claim based on the ineffective waiver of coverage. An ineffective waiver of coverage claim argues that the insurance company failed to advise their clients about their coverage, as well as the coverage they were waiving by signing the form.

In a recent Florida appellate court case, the court was tasked with deciding whether an insurance company effectively informed customers they were waiving their right to uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. All of the plaintiffs rejected or lowered UM coverage through the insurance company’s online signature process; however, the process was hidden and made it nearly impossible to know what they were signing away. Because of this, the plaintiffs sued the insurance company, alleging the insurance company’s coverage rejection process failed to comply with Florida law and did not properly advise policyholders of UM coverage options.

Florida law requires insurance companies give customers the opportunity to purchase UM coverage that is at least equal to the amount of bodily injury coverage. If the customer wishes to lower their UM coverage limit or reject the coverage altogether, they must sign a form indicating they are rejecting UM coverage. This is called an M9 form. The heading of the form must state in bold and size twelve font: “You are electing not to purchase certain valuable coverage which protects you and your family or you are purchasing uninsured motorist limits less than your bodily injury liability limits when you sign this form. Please read carefully.”

When someone is injured in a car accident, they often have many thoughts racing through their head: could they have avoided the accident? Is there anything different they could have done? Who was at fault? Defendants will often try and use this thinking to convince a jury that the plaintiff was also at fault for the incident and, therefore, should be found negligent. This is called comparative fault. The comparative fault principle applies when the plaintiff’s actions contributed to their injuries. When it applies, comparative negligence reduces the defendant’s overall liability. However, many people are surprised to learn that this principle can also be applied in wrongful death cases.

According to a recent news report,  a 10-year-old girl was killed in a car crash on Interstate 75 in Sumter County. The driver of the vehicle reduced his speed for traffic – which had slowed down ahead of him – and the vehicle was struck in the rear. The force of the crash pushed the car into the center median, where it hit a guardrail and the car overturned. The driver suffered minor injuries, and the child died at the scene. The report indicates neither the child nor the driver was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.

In tragic accidents like the one above, potential defendants will likely claim comparative fault as a part of their defense, to lessen their own liability. In a wrongful death case, the jury is tasked with determining if the deceased was partially responsible for their own death; and, if so, which percentage of comparative fault is attributable to them. If the deceased is found to be partially responsible for the accident, their family’s recovery of damages will be reduced by the percentage the deceased is found liable. For instance, if the jury determines the deceased was 20% at fault for the accident that caused their death, their loved ones will only receive 80% of the awarded damages.

Recently, a state appellate court issued its opinion in a Florida premises liability lawsuit arising out of fatal injuries a hotel guest suffered after being hit by a car. The record indicates that the injury victim was staying at the hotel when he got into a hotel golf cart and asked a hotel employee to drop him off at a trading post near the hotel. Besides a shuttle service to transport guests across a major highway, the hotel provided guests with a golf cart service for transportation throughout the resort. Hotel protocol provided that golf carts could not be used on public roads, except across a smaller portion of the highway for pick up and drop off on the east side of a major highway. In this case, the hotel employee drove the plaintiff across the smaller highway, and dropped him off at the east entrance to the major highway. As the plaintiff was stepping out of the golf cart, a car struck him.

After filing a negligence lawsuit against the hotel, the plaintiff died, and his case was amended to include a wrongful death claim. The plaintiff’s representative argued that the resort was negligent; however, the defendant claimed that their conduct did not create a foreseeable risk of harm. Further, the defendant argued that they did not breach their duty to the plaintiff, and the danger of stepping out onto a busy highway was open and obvious. The primary issue on appeal was whether the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim.

In Florida, questions concerning whether a defendant owes a duty of care is a question of law. To address this threshold issue, courts will analyze whether the defendant created a “foreseeable zone of risk,” thereby establishing a duty of care to the plaintiff. Generally, Florida negligence law recognizes that in cases where a defendant argues that the danger was within a foreseeable risk zone, they must still establish that they mitigated the risk or took steps to protect others from harm.

When a witness testifies in a Floria personal injury case, they swear “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” However, if a witness contradicts themselves while on the stand, this can often be grounds for opposing counsel to discredit them and make them seem less believable in the eyes of the jury. A recent case illustrates the importance of maintaining consistency throughout a trial, as well as the boundaries of the attorney-client privilege.

In a recent Florida personal injury case, a plaintiff sued after claiming she had permanent back damage from when the defendant’s vehicle struck her from behind. During the trial, defense counsel argued that while the plaintiff was on the stand she contradicted herself, and used this contradiction to get in evidence that would otherwise have been inadmissible. Specifically, the plaintiff testified that she was referred to a treating chiropractor by the emergency room doctor. However, in reality, it was the plaintiff’s former attorney who referred her to the chiropractor. The defendant used the contradiction to admit evidence that the plaintiff’s former attorney referred her to the chiropractor.

In Florida, the attorney-client privilege protects a party from being required to disclose that her attorney referred her to a physician for treatment. In this case, the plaintiff claimed that defense counsel was not allowed to ask about the referral in front of the jury because it violated attorney-client privilege. However, the court concluded that the defendant’s attorney did not directly ask the plaintiff whether she received the referral from her attorney, but merely drew the inference. While asking the plaintiff about the referral would have been a clear violation of attorney-client privilege, the attorney was allowed to probe into the plaintiff’s contradiction in front of the jury.

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