Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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The majority of Florida car accidents involve a collision between two vehicles; however, accidents involving more than one vehicle tend to cause the most severe injuries and damages. In many cases, the force of the first impact leads to a series of additional accidents. Identifying the parties, establishing fault, and apportioning liability is often complex in these cases because the sequence of events may not be clear. It is crucial that Florida car accident victims contact an attorney if they have suffered injuries in a chain-reaction accident.

Identifying all of the individuals involved in a chain reaction accident can be difficult because the degree of injury and damage often vary. In some cases, a party that only suffered minor damages may leave the scene of the accident without providing their information. Further, in some situations, the initiating driver may flee the scene for fear of liability.

Establishing fault is a critical part of recovering after a Florida chain reaction accident. Individuals who file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against another driver will need to establish liability. This requires that the injury victim present evidence of the series of events that led to their injuries. To maximize the chances of recovery, injury victims should identify all of the parties involved, including the motorist that began the chain of events. Florida injury victims can accomplish this by collecting eyewitness accounts of other motorists, passengers, and pedestrians, reviewing police reports, and assessing vehicle damage.

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Recently a Florida appellate court issued an opinion regarding an accident arising from shoulder injuries a man suffered when he lost control of his bicycle and fell into a drainage ditch. The man filed a personal injury lawsuit against the county alleging that they had actual or constructive knowledge of the unsafe and dangerous ditch, they failed to warn the public of the hazard, and they negligently maintained the ditch.

The plaintiff presented an expert who testified that the shoulder area of the intersection did not have a recovery slope or clear zones for bicyclists to control their bikes safely. Further, during a deposition, the expert stated that the pavement was hazardous because the pavement was deteriorating and cracked. The county moved to dismiss the case, arguing that they were not liable because the plaintiff did not establish causation. They claimed that the plaintiff could not remember how the accident occurred or how he fell into the ditch.

Florida law provides that the party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate that the case presents no genuine issues of material fact, and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In the context of personal injury cases, the inquiry is not whether the plaintiff has evidence or personal knowledge of facts establishing the at-fault party’s negligence. Further, defendants moving for summary judgment do not meet their burden just by pointing to the plaintiff’s inability to prove exactly what caused their damages. Instead, it is the trier of fact’s job to answer questions regarding causation.

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Many people associate weather-related car accidents with the northeast and other areas that are more likely to experience ice, snow, and sleet. However, poor weather conditions and driver negligence are two of the leading causes of Florida car accidents. Florida’s tropical climate frequently results in unexpectedly heavy rainstorms and torrential downpours. In fact, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), over 5,000 people die, and almost 450,000 people are injured every year because of weather-related accidents.

For example, recently, a Florida news source reported that a 19-year-old woman died after losing control of her vehicle and crashing into a boulder. Police officials stated that the woman was traveling east on a Florida road when weather conditions caused her to lose control of her sedan. Her vehicle spun clockwise and then swerved off the road. Emergency personnel transported her to a local hospital where she remained in critical condition, before tragically succumbing to her injuries.

Many drivers do not possess the experience and skill necessary to navigate sudden and unexpected inclement weather. Bad weather can prevent drivers from being able to see their surroundings, and their skewed depth perception can increase the chances of a collision. Further, heavy rain makes roadways slick and unsafe, and drivers often face difficulties maneuvering their vehicles during these conditions. Florida drivers should also be sure to keep on top of vehicle maintenance, as worn or damaged tires can cause hydroplaning or sliding.

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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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