Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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Like most other states, Florida law requires all drivers to purchase a minimum amount of auto insurance. However, the statutory minimum—$10,000 of personal injury protection and $10,000 of property damage protection—are far lower than most other states. However, unlike many other states, Florida law does not require drivers to purchase underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage – also called UIM coverage – for car or truck accidents involving those with inadequate insurance. Understanding the importance of UIM coverage can help Florida drivers make informed choices when purchasing insurance, since insurance disputes are one of the most significant barriers for victims injured in Florida car accidents.

UIM coverage protects individuals when they are hit by a driver who has no car insurance or who does not have enough insurance to pay for the resulting injuries. For example, if Driver A is driving carefully and following the rules of the road but Driver B, driving recklessly, runs a stop sign and crashes into Driver A’s vehicle, Driver B is at fault and may be liable to Driver A for damages. Let’s say that the medical bills Driver A had to pay due this particular crash totaled $30,000, making Driver B liable for $30,000. If Driver B does not have insurance, or only has enough insurance to cover $10,000, Driver A may be stuck with no legal recourse and substantial debt.

This is where UIM insurance is helpful; in this situation, Driver’s A UIM insurance coverage could kick in and cover the rest of the costs, protecting Driver A from going into debt for an accident they did not cause. This example is not just hypothetical; a Georgia appellate court considered almost the exact same situation in a recent opinion. The situation often occurs in Florida as well. In fact, Florida has the second-highest rate of uninsured or underinsured drivers in the country, according to the Insurance Research Council, as well as one of the highest accident rates. Because of this, Florida drivers are strongly encouraged to purchase UIM insurance, even though the state does not require it. Not only can the insurance cover a driver if a tragic, costly accident does occur, but purchasing the insurance can grant peace of mind to drivers unsure how they would pay for the resulting damages if an uninsured or underinsured driver hit them.

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The state’s high court recently issued an opinion in a case that arose out of a fatal Florida motorcycle accident. In this case, the motorcycle driver’s estate filed a claim with his uninsured motorist (UM) benefits under his home insurance company policy issued on a collector vehicle. The insurance company denied coverage, arguing that the policy contained a provision that limited the UM benefits to accidents involving the collector vehicle. The family appealed the ruling to Florida’s Supreme Court, arguing that the insurance policy did not comply with section 627.727, Florida Statutes, which prohibits insurance companies from placing limitations on UM coverage, such as the one at issue.

The insurance company argued that the Florida statute does not apply to specialty insurance policies. However, the plaintiffs contended that the statute provides that insurers may offer non-stacking coverage if the insurer notifies the policyholder of the limitations and executes an approved form expressly electing non-stacking coverage. Further, although the statute provides certain exceptions to the statutory limit, the law states explicitly that, “no motor vehicle liability insurance policy shall be delivered in this state unless UM vehicle coverage is provided.” Moreover, the statute allows for limited UM coverage if the policyholder did not purchase it.

Here, the court found that nothing in the statute excludes collector or antique vehicles, the limiting language in the collector vehicle policy violates the law, and the plaintiff did not reject the UM coverage, and he instead selected stacking UM coverage. Ultimately, because the insurance policy did not comply with Florida’s statutory requirements regarding UM limitations, the court found in favor of the plaintiff.

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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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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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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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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.

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It is inevitable that self-driving cars will become more and more popular as time goes on. With this increase will also come an increase in accidents. If you or someone close to you has been injured in a self-driving vehicle or believe that autopilot played a role in your accident, you need to reach out to a skilled Miami car crash attorney without delay. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we can assess the merits of your case and provide you with an honest assessment of your claim.

Earlier this month, a Tesla in California hit a highway barrier and caught fire, causing hours of closed highway lanes as firefighters tried to ascertain whether it was safe to move the automobile and its damaged lithium-ion battery packs. The driver was killed, and the automobile was badly burned.

The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will investigate the post-collision fire and the measures that are needed to make the vehicle safe to remove from the accident scene. At this time, it is unclear whether the Tesla’s partly autonomous driving system, known as Autopilot, was involved at the time of the crash.

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Damages are a crucial — yet often overlooked — element of a personal injury lawsuit. Florida personal injury victims must specifically plead and prove the damages they hope to obtain, and a failure to do so may result in a reduced verdict; even if the defendant was found to be at fault.

In a recent case, a Florida car accident victim successfully appealed a jury’s zero-dollar verdict for past non-economic damages. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was involved in an accident when a pickup truck made an illegal left turn and hit a car that collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff did not receive medical treatment or go to the hospital.

Several years later, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and owner of the pickup truck. Pretrial proceedings resolved all issues in favor of the plaintiff, and the trial jury only needed to determine damages. The jury awarded the plaintiff $50,000 for past medical bills, $200,000 for future medical expenses, and nothing for past or future non-economic damages.