Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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According to various sources, it’s dangerous to be a Florida motorist. National surveys, Florida’s Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Crash Dashboard, and insurance safety reports all indicate that Florida continues to rank as one of the most dangerous places to drive. Although, nation-wide stay-at-home orders have drastically reduced the amount of daily traffic, the rate of deadly accidents continues to increase steadily. Those who suffer injuries in a Florida car accident should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and how they can pursue a claim for compensation.

Reports from the nationwide surveys from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that risky driving behaviors and fatal accidents increased during the first several months of the COVID-19 national emergency. The researchers evaluated seat belt use, speeding, and impaired driving, ultimately concluding that many fatalities involved more than one of these risky behaviors. Further, a popular website providing the public with an objective, third-party, resource for automobile insurance information listed Florida as number nine among the top ten states with the highest number of fatal car accidents.

Florida’s Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles maintains an up-to-date public dashboard that tracks collisions throughout the state. The public can search for car accident data by vehicle type, injury, and classification. The harrowing statistics from the last full reporting year reveal that there were 339,905 crashes in Florida. Out of the total number of crashes, the database reports 3,286 fatalities, and 211,804 injuries. Of these crashes, there were 5,919 bicycle accidents and 157 fatalities; and 8,005 motorcycle crashes and 504 motorcycle fatalities. There were 8,072 pedestrian accidents in Florida and 699 pedestrian fatalities. Finally, the database shows a startling 91,824 hit and run accidents, resulting in 255 fatalities and 20,935 injuries.

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Expert witnesses are often a critical resource in Florida personal injury lawsuits. These individuals are qualified in a particular field based on their educational and occupational experience. Some common expert witnesses include medical experts, accident reconstructionists, economists, rehabilitation experts, mental health experts, and engineers. Cases often hinge on the opinion and testimony of an expert witness. An unqualified, inept, or biased expert witness may result in disqualification or impeachment based on credibility.

Recently, a Florida appeals court issued an opinion in a defendant’s appeal of a trial court’s decision to limit their ability to cross-examine two of the plaintiff’s medical experts. The case arose when the plaintiff suffered injuries after the defendant rear-ended him at a stoplight. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant and his employer. During pretrial proceedings, the defendants stipulated to the driver’s liability and the employer’s vicarious liability. However, they asked the court to bifurcate the trial and damages phase of the trial. The trial court agreed to the bifurcation but refused to exclude evidence of the driver’s intoxication.

During the trial, the plaintiff presented several medical experts, including one that was personal friends with the plaintiff’s attorney. The defendant sought to cross-examine the expert witness on his relationship with the plaintiff’s attorney; however, the trial court limited the inquiry. The court only allowed the defendant to inquire as to the length of the friendship. Amongst other issues, the defendant argued that the limitation was inappropriate as it went to the expert’s potential bias.

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A court recently issued an opinion in a Florida drunk driving accident lawsuit addressing whether evidence of intoxication is relevant to the calculation of damages. The case arose when a man consumed two alcoholic beverages at work and proceeded to walk home on the side of the highway. The man conceded that he was experiencing a “buzz” and was unfamiliar with the area. He called a friend for help, and as he was talking to his friend, a driver hit him.

The driver stated that he was not under the influence of alcohol or medications, was not tired, or otherwise distracted when the accident happened. He recounted that as he was driving, he noticed the pedestrian in the road. To provide the pedestrian with more room, he moved into the southbound lane. He shifted his gaze momentarily, and continued to drive north in the southbound lane; shortly after that, he heard a “pow.” The driver presented evidence that the pedestrian had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.18. An expert witness testified that the pedestrian was impaired, and the impairment could have compromised his motor skills, reaction times, and ability to judge speed, distance, and danger.

Under Florida law, the trial court maintains discretion in determining whether evidence is admissible. If a trial court finds that evidence is admissible, the ruling will not be reversed, unless there is a clear abuse of discretion. However, it is essential to note that trial courts have limitations when ruling on evidentiary matters. The law provides that relevant evidence is that which proves or disproves a material fact. In cases involving comparative negligence, the fact trier must evaluate each party’s “totality of fault.” Disputes regarding whether a person was impaired or to what level alcohol impaired their typical facilities is a fact question that should be determined by a jury. The question should go to the jury when there is “substantial evidence” of the fact.

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Many states have “rescue doctrines,” “volunteer protection” acts,” or “Good Samaritan” laws to encourage and protect individuals who choose to assist others in emergencies, while awaiting emergency personnel. In Florida, Statute section 768.13, the Good Samaritan Act (GSA), is a law that provides civil immunity to those that render emergency care gratuitously and in good faith. The law applies to any person, even those licensed to practice medicine. Lawmakers designed the GSA to ensure that medical professionals use their skills to assist others in emergencies, without fear of a lawsuit. It is important to note that Florida does not maintain a law that requires people to aid or assist an injury victim; however, if a person chooses to do so, they must exercise due care. Courts evaluate “due care” under the reasonable person standard, and determine whether a similarly situated person would have acted in the same way.

Despite Florida’s GSA, there are some situations where a helper may be found liable. First, the person may be liable if they do not exercise due care and increase the victim’s harm or injuries. Helpers may also be liable if the victim relied upon the helper’s assistance and suffered additional injuries due to that reliance. Moreover, healthcare workers who assist in an emergency may be held liable if their actions showed a “reckless disregard” of the foreseeable consequences. The law defines “reckless disregard” as conduct that a professional knew or should have known would result in an unreasonable risk of harm to the victim. The GSA includes a provision that allows a person to call for emergency help after an overdose without risk of criminal charges related to simple drug possession.

In addition to state and local Good Samaritan laws, the federal government maintains a similar law under the Federal Protection Act. The Volunteer Protection Act (VPA) provides immunity to nonprofit and government agencies for harm caused by their acts or omissions on behalf of their organization. The VPA does not require that an emergency declaration is in place for the immunity to apply. The protections apply to uncompensated volunteers for ordinary negligence within the scope of the volunteer’s responsibilities. However, the immunity is not applicable if the volunteer engages in willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, or with a conscious disregard for the safety of others.

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No matter how careful you are while driving, you must also trust other drivers you are sharing the road with will also exercise care and follow the rules. Sometimes, no matter how proactive you are as a driver, another person’s mistake could cause a major accident with devastating consequences. One wrong turn, especially if it’s one that positions a vehicle directly in your path by going in the wrong direction, could result in a serious Florida car accident.

For example, according to a recent news report, a 21-year-old driver was killed during a wrong-way accident. The 21-year-old was heading north in a Nissan Altima when another driver in a Hyundai heading south crashed into the Nissan head-on. The Nissan driver died at the scene, and her passenger had critical injuries. The Hyundai driver had serious injuries. According to local authorities, charges have yet to be filed, but the investigation is still ongoing.

Florida is no stranger to wrong-way accidents—but why do they keep happening on our streets? Typically, these accidents occur because a driver accidentally turns into oncoming traffic and crashes into vehicles going in the right direction. Although driver error is the most common reason why wrong-way accidents occur, they are also commonly associated with distracted driving, vehicle mechanical issues, and poorly designed roadways.

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Under Florida’s premises liability law, those who suffer injuries on another’s property because of a dangerous hazard, defect, or condition, may be able to recover compensation for their injuries. Premises liability law is based on a property owner’s duty to ensure that their property is safe for visitors. However, liability largely depends on the relationship between the visitor and the property owner. Although some states are moving towards abolishing the distinctions, Florida law maintains that visitors are either invitees, licensees, or trespassers. However, despite these classifications, there are nuances and complexities to the rules. For instance, complications often arise when a person suffers injuries while participating in a recreational activity.

Florida’s recreational use statute protects some landowners from lawsuits when they open their land to the public. In these cases, the property owner must keep the area reasonably safe for visitors and warn visitors of dangerous conditions. This generally applies to property owners who hold their land out to hunt, fish, wildlife viewing, or other similar purposes. However, generally, the recreational use statute does not apply if a landowner charges an admission to enter or use their land.

Similarly, in some cases, companies that offer recreational activities to participants may be immune from certain lawsuits. For instance, amusement parks, water parks, paintball arenas, and mini-golf courses may protect themselves by requiring participants to sign a liability waiver release. Additionally, these entities may defend against a claim by arguing that the participant assumed the risk or was non-compliant with safety rules. However, in some cases, a participant may suffer injuries that are only somewhat related to the recreational activity. This can occur because of an intervening incident or unexpected occurrence.

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After a Florida motor vehicle accident, seeking medical treatment is critical to a victim’s health, well-being, and future legal claims. Under Florida law, an at-fault party may be liable for negligent or reckless conduct. However, these claims often hinge on the victim receiving prompt and appropriate medical treatment.

Prompt medical treatment can help injury victims catch hidden symptoms and receive the correct diagnosis. In many cases, injury victims mistakenly believe that they did not suffer serious injuries because they do not experience pain or symptoms right after the accident. However, the lack of immediate pain may be attributable to adrenaline, heightened emotional responses, or the mere nature of the injury. Receiving medical treatment after the accident can drastically change the outcome of a victim’s medical prognosis.

Further, it is critical that victims continue prescribed treatment. Abiding by a medical professional’s instructions can assist in harm mitigation and quick recovery. Lastly, immediate medical attention and compliance will help a victim protect any legal claims against at-fault parties.

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Driving presents inherent risks, even if a motorist takes all steps to ensure that they abide by safety rules. Despite taking all precautions, drivers cannot protect against other negligent motorists. Many times, Florida car accidents occur during lane changing or merging. The U.S. Department of Transportation attributes about 500,000 accidents to improper lane changes and merging. Some of these accidents may only damage property; however, many result in serious injuries or death. In these cases, determining liability and apportioning fault is critical to recovery.

For example, a Florida news report recently described a fatal accident involving a 12-year-old child. A sedan was driving westbound when it tried to merge into the left lane of a highway. However, when it tried to merge, it slammed into the right side of a pickup truck. The pickup truck, which was carrying the child, overturned. The driver of the sedan suffered minor injuries, and her passenger reported no injuries. The pickup truck driver and two other passengers suffered serious injuries and remain in critical condition. State Police are continuing to investigate the collision.

Victims must be able to establish liability after a Florida merging accident to recover compensation for their damages. Florida statute 316.085(2) requires that drivers must ensure that it is safe to complete their move before changing their direct course of travel. Violating the lane-change law may result in a non-criminal moving violation.

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After someone is injured in a Florida car accident, they may pursue a claim for damages against the at-fault party by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Although, these cases may seem straightforward, defendants (and their insurance companies) will go to great lengths to avoid liability. Often, defendants who are uninsured or underinsured will try to avoid liability because they can be on the hook for substantial damages if they are found to be responsible. Florida car accident victims should consult with a personal injury attorney to help them through the various stages of collecting compensation.

The first part of a car accident claims involves investigating the accident. A Florida accident attorney will conduct a detailed, in-depth investigation to determine whether the facts support a claim for recovery. To determine whether a claim is viable, the attorney will determine who was at-fault, what injuries the victim sustained, and whether the parties involved have insurance. The central part of this step requires attorneys to review evidence such as police reports, physical evidence, eyewitness testimony, and expert witness affidavits. In some cases, defendants will encumber the plaintiff’s ability to engage in an investigation.

For example, a recent Florida news report described a situation where a driver refused to allow investigators access to her car. Police reports indicate that the driver is accused of striking and killing a 16-year-old biker. The driver was previously cited for violating the conditions of her learner’s permit and failure to use a signal. The plaintiffs, who are the deceased accident victim’s surviving loved ones, are requesting that the defendant provide access to the car so that they can retrieve information from the vehicle’s “black box.” This event data recovery device may hold significant evidence regarding the circumstances of the accident. However, the allegedly at-fault driver is failing to respond to communication requesting access. It is unclear why the traffic homicide investigators failed to download the data when they were initially investigating the accident. In these cases, it is critical to retain an attorney to ensure that the other party follows all relevant evidentiary laws and abides by their duty to preserve evidence.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit against a hospitality company. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

According to the court’s opinion, the resort provided guests with a shuttle service to take them to various locations within two miles of the lodge, including across U.S. Highway 1. Additionally, it provided guests with a golf cart service to take guests around the property; however, the golf carts were prohibited from traveling on public roads. There was an exception that allowed the golf cart to cross Old Highway 1 to pick up and drop off guests on the east side of U.S. Highway 1.

The case involved a guest at the hotel lodge who got into a golf cart and asked a staff member for a ride. The staff member agreed, but did not know the man’s destination. However, while they were in the cart, the man asked the staff member to take him to the trading post on U.S Highway 1. Following the hotel’s policy, the staff member drove the guest across Old Highway 1, about twenty feet from U.S. Highway 1. As the guest was exiting the golf cart, a vehicle hit him. He died shortly after filing a negligence lawsuit against the vehicle driver and lodge. The executor of the man’s estate amended the complaint to assert a wrongful death claim against the defendants.

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