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Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion addressing the presumption of negligence in a Florida rear-end accident. At issue was whether a defendant appropriately rebutted the presumption of negligence when he rear-ended the plaintiff’s car. The accident occurred when a driver in front of the plaintiff suddenly braked their vehicle at a green light. The plaintiff and defendant both applied their brakes. The plaintiff avoided colliding with the car in front of her, but the defendant did not stop in time and subsequently rear-ended the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant based on the damages she suffered as a result of the rear-ending. A jury ruled in the defendant’s favor finding that he was not negligent. The plaintiff appealed the court’s denial of her motion for a directed verdict.

Parties in a civil personal injury lawsuit can make a motion for a directed verdict after the close of evidence before a jury renders their ruling. This occurs when one party believes that the opposing party did not prove their case as a matter of law. Under Florida law, rear-end accidents create a rebuttable presumption that the at-fault driver was negligent.

To rebut the presumption of negligence, the rear-end driver must present evidence or explanation that refutes a fact in the case. Typically, in Florida rear-end accident cases, a defendant can rebut a presumption under four circumstances. These situations include, if the rear-end driver’s car had a mechanical failure; if the in-front driver suddenly stopped; if the in-front driver suddenly changed lanes; and if the in-front driver illegally or improperly stopped. However, presumptions based on sudden stops require additional factors because drivers have a duty to remain alert. If the defendant does not appropriately rebut the presumption, a plaintiff is entitled to a directed verdict in their favor.

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Over the past few years, and ever since the popularity of bike shares has taken off, scooter shares have begun to crop up across the country. A Florida scooter share is a system by which users can rent electric scooters on a short-term basis. Most of the scooters are electric and dockless, meaning that they can be left anywhere. Thus, the scooters can be tracked by GPS, and users looking for a nearby scooter can use an app to search for a nearby scooter. For some, electric scooters are a great way to get around and enjoy the city; however, Florida scooter accidents have dramatically increased since scooter shares have come into existence.

As of earlier this year, there were scooter shares in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa. However, the companies that operate scooter-share are constantly looking for new opportunities. Many cities are reluctant to allow scooter shares, for fear of an increase in the number of serious scooter accidents. Most of the concerns surrounding scooter shares relate to the fact that inexperienced riders are able to take motorized vehicles out on the road with no training or supervision. Some have also raised the concern that the lightweight scooters could get picked up in the heavy winds of a hurricane, turning them into “flying menaces.”

Recently, cities across Florida have started to implement scooter-share bans. In fact, in a recent state appellate court decision, Panama City, Florida passed a law prohibiting the use of overnight scooter rentals. Because the dockless nature of the scooters allowed them to be left essentially anywhere in the city, this had the effect of preventing a scooter-share from opening. The company intending on opening up the scooter-share filed an appeal, and the city’s law was upheld. The court noted that the city had the right to pass the law “when the undisputed facts demonstrate that the restriction is for the safety of the city’s citizens and visitors.”

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In many Florida personal injury cases, more than one party is to blame. Even a plaintiff may share the blame in causing an accident. In these cases, Florida law applies the doctrine of comparative negligence. Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, liability is apportioned depending on the percentage that each party is at fault, as determined by the fact finder (a judge or a jury). That means that if a jury finds that a party is 60 percent at fault and another is 40 percent at fault, each party will be liable for the plaintiff’s damages according to their respective percentage of fault.

This is true also for the plaintiff. Under the doctrine of pure comparative of negligence, and under Florida Statute 768.81(2), even if a plaintiff is found to be mostly at fault, the plaintiff can still recover compensation from other at-fault parties. That is, if a plaintiff is found partially at fault, a plaintiff’s recovery will not be barred entirely, but the compensation owed to the plaintiff will be reduced according to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault.

A defendant may also try to blame an accident on a non-party—a person or an entity that is not a party to the lawsuit. In that case, to allocate fault to a non-party, a defendant may plead the fault of the non-party, and must identify the non-party or describe the non-party as precisely as possible. A defendant must generally identify a non-party at fault by motion or in the initial responsive pleading in the lawsuit when the defendant asserts its defenses. At trial, the defendant must then prove that the non-party was at fault in causing the plaintiff’s injuries by a preponderance of the evidence. A fact finder must then apportion the negligence of the defendant and the negligence of the plaintiff and any other non-parties, ultimately calculating the defendant’s liability. Importantly, when a defendant can shift fault to a non-party, a plaintiff will not typically be able to file another complaint against that party. Thus, it is critical to investigate all potentially liable parties and name them from the outset.

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Distracted driving has become an increasing concern with the widespread use of cell phones for everything from talking to navigation to texting. There are about one thousand Florida car accidents each week caused by distracted driving. Florida is seeking to change that, in part through the state’s Wireless Communications While Driving Law, which took effect earlier this year. Under section 316.306 of Florida Statutes, drivers cannot drive while “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device” or while sending or reading information “for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication,” such as texting or emailing. Section 316.306 took effect on October 1st of this year. Under that section, drivers cannot drive while “using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner” in school zones or work zones. Drivers will be given a warning for violations under section 316.306 until the end of the year, but can be cited for violations starting on January 1, 2020.

The law was enacted in order to improve safety on Florida roads, to prevent crashes, to reduce injuries and associated costs, and to allow law enforcement officers to issue citations to drivers who are texting while driving. There are some exceptions under the law, such as when reporting an emergency and when receiving messages that are related to navigating the motor vehicle.

Florida is trying to reduce incidents of distracted driving through its campaign entitled “Put It Down: Focus on Driving.” Distracted driving can be anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road (visual), hands off the wheel (manual), or mind off driving (cognitive). However, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles notes that texting is particularly dangerous, because it requires all three types of distraction (visual, manual, and cognitive). The Department’s 2018 statistics showed there were more than 52,000 distracted driving crashes in Florida that year, which amounts to over 1,000 per week. Florida drivers have to drive carefully and prudently, and drivers who fail to do so and cause personal injuries or property damage can be held liable.

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Although most drivers do their best to drive carefully and safely to avoid accidents, automobile collisions are still unfortunately quite common. These accidents can cause incredibly costly injuries, and many times drivers rely on insurance companies to cover these costs. In Florida, drivers have the option to buy uninsured motorist coverage from their insurance provider. This coverage specifically protects drivers if they get into an accident with an uninsured driver who, because of their lack of insurance, does not have the funds to cover the resulting injuries. This coverage is optional in Florida, but many drivers choose to purchase it to protect themselves and their loved ones in the case of an accident with an uninsured driver.

In a recent case, a Florida Appellate court considered whether or not an accident occurring in a mobile gym located in the back of a truck is covered under an auto insurance policy that includes this type of uninsured motorist coverage. According to the court’s written opinion, the client was injured when she was training in a mobile gym. The owners of the gym installed workout equipment in the back of a truck, which they would drive to various locations and then use in training sessions with clients while parked. The plaintiff was training in the gym when she suffered permanent injuries, allegedly from her trainer’s negligence. She brought suit against the trainer and the gym owners, and those suits were settled.

However, the plaintiff also brought suit against her insurance company, arguing that the mobile gym was an “uninsured auto” under her policy, which provided coverage for injuries caused by accidents with the owner or operator of “an uninsured auto arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of that auto.” Her insurance company filed for summary judgment, which was granted in the lower court. The plaintiff then appealed.

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Losing a loved one in a Florida car accident is never easy, but it can be especially difficult when the accident could have easily been prevented. This is particularly true for victims of drunk or otherwise intoxicated driving. Although it is against the law to drive while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, intoxicated driving remains one of the leading causes of Florida car accidents.

Earlier this month, a tragic car accident in Key Biscayne killed one and injured another, and law enforcement officers believe that the at-fault driver had been drunk while on the road. According to a local news report covering the accident, the at-fault driver was driving on the Rickenbacker Causeway when she rear-ended another car. As a result, this second car went over the median, rolled several times, and slammed into a chain-link fence. The occupants, a husband and wife, were seriously harmed. Both were taken immediately to the nearest hospital, where the wife, who had been driving when the tragic accident occurred, died from her injuries.

The at-fault driver failed multiple sobriety tests at the scene of the crash. When, three hours after the crash, she took a Breathalyzer test, it indicated that she had been driving with twice the legal limit of alcohol in her system. As a result, she has been charged with driving under the influence, vehicular homicide, and DUI manslaughter. These charges could come with fines and jail time.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida car accident case, centered around an insurance dispute. Technically, the case was between two insurance companies, however, the issue before the court is relevant to accident victims. Specifically, the case required the court determine if the accident victim was covered under his parents’ underinsured/uninsured motorist (UIM) protection policy.

According to the court’s opinion, a young man was injured in a Florida car accident. At the time of the crash, the man lived with his mother and step-father, who had an insurance policy with Owners Insurance Company. The Owners policy provided coverage to resident relatives who did not own their own automobile.

Another insurance company, Allstate, sought a declaratory judgment clarifying that the young man was covered under the Owners policy. Allstate hoped to establish that Owners provided coverage so that an unrelated Allstate policy would not be involved in the claim. The trial court agreed with Allstate, holding that the young man was covered under his parents’ policy.

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Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion stemming from a wrongful death lawsuit against a power company. The lawsuit arose after the tragic death of a teenager who was climbing bamboo in a neighbor’s backyard. The bamboo stalk bent over into a power line, causing the young man’s electrocution and death. His mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the power company that owned and monitored the power line. The woman alleged that her son’s death was the result of the company’s negligence. She claimed that the company created a dangerous hazard because it knew of the fast-growing bamboo near the power line and failed to clear it. The trial jury awarded the woman $12.5 million in non-economic damages and $15 million in punitive damages. The power company appealed the damages award.

Florida injury victims are entitled to compensation if they suffer injuries because of another’s negligence. There are two main types of damages that Florida plaintiffs may claim in their lawsuit, compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages include economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are tangible monetary losses that a plaintiff or their representative has incurred or may face in the future. Typically, these damages are easy to prove because they include quantifiable losses, including medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages are intangible losses that a Florida injury victim or their family suffered because of the other party’s negligence. Non-economic damages are losses such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, and loss of consortium. Although most states have various damage caps on negligence lawsuits, there is no cap on economic or non-economic damages in Florida.

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Recently, the District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion stemming from a personal injury lawsuit filed by a construction worker after he sustained injuries climbing an attic ladder. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against a residential development company after a ladder he was climbing to repair a leak collapsed. The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s ruling, which granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on the ten-year statute of repose.

In Florida, injury victims are entitled to file personal injury lawsuits based on construction defects. Victims who suffered injuries because of these defects can try to recover damages from contractors, owners, builders, and developers. However, there are specific procedural requirements that injury victims should comply with to ensure that their lawsuit can proceed.

Plaintiffs must file lawsuits based on negligent construction, improvement, or design within four years of either the completion of the property or discovery of a hidden defect. Moreover, Florida’s statute of repose provides that plaintiffs must commence lawsuits based on latent defects within ten-years of a specific event. Plaintiffs can face challenges with these types of Florida accidents because the statue of repose may bar a lawsuit before the plaintiff even becomes aware of the issue.

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In addition to the physical evidence presented at a trial, the outcome of a Florida personal injury lawsuit often hinges on the testimony of the plaintiff, eyewitnesses, and expert witnesses. An expert witness is a professional who can testify and provide an opinion on a specific issue during a lawsuit. In Florida, witnesses must have specialized training, education, and experience before they can be qualified as an expert.

In many Florida motor vehicle accidents, expert witnesses may be medical professionals, accident re-constructionists, or engineers that can reliably opine on an issue in the case. Expert witnesses are crucial when no witnesses were at the scene, or there is conflicting information regarding the severity of a party’s injuries. Experts can provide the trier of fact with insight and provide conclusions regarding an accident.

For many years Florida relied on the standard provided in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. In Daubert, the Supreme Court ruled that judges are the gatekeepers when determining whether a professional meets the criteria to be an expert witness. However, more recently, Florida adopted the standard advanced in Frye v. United States.