Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Accidents happen on a daily basis—some are more serious than others, but when they cause serious, lifelong injuries, the at-fault party can and should be held responsible. In Florida, however, whether a potential plaintiff is able to receive the full extent of the compensation they seek depends on the severity of their injuries and the circumstances of the accident.

According to a recent news report, the family attorney of the five-year-old girl who was injured in a car accident involving a former NFL assistant coach has suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the collision. Earlier this year, the coach’s truck collided with two cars on the side of a highway entrance ramp, which severely injured the five-year-old girl, her mother, her aunt, and a four-year-old cousin. The family was pulled over to help another relative whose car had run out of gas. The NFL coach was driving “at highway speeds” when his pickup truck struck the two vehicles. The two cars he crashed into were flattened, and his truck was totaled. According to a search warrant from the crash, the coach was reportedly slightly inebriated when the accident took place.

In Florida, potential plaintiffs who are severely injured in car accidents can file personal injury lawsuits to obtain financial compensation for their injuries and other losses. Although many of these claims are settled before they make it to trial, they often remain on the court’s calendar and can cause significant congestion in state judicial dockets. To remedy this issue, the Florida government enacted the “serious injury threshold law,” which establishes standards that potential plaintiffs must satisfy in order to sue an at-fault party for causing an accident.

Contrary to the general perception, most Florida car accident lawsuits are resolved before trial. There are many avenues of relief for Florida injury victims, but claimants should contact an experienced and skilled attorney to ensure that they recover the compensation they deserve. Depending on the accident’s facts and circumstances, many settlement agreements occur through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The two most common forms of ADR are mediation and arbitration. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they have drastically different implications that can impact an injury victim’s right to recovery.

Meditation is a form of ADR that allows parties to settle claims without going to trial. During this process, a trained “mediator” guides the victim and the other party to reach a settlement. The meditator cannot require either party to do or agree to anything; however, they facilitate discussions and make recommendations. This form of ADR only occurs if both parties agree to it. Many insurance companies refuse to go through this process. However, in some cases, a court may require the parties to go to mediation before trial.

During mediation, the individual making a claim will explain their view of the case and the extent of their damages. The mediator will then allow the opposing party to present their view of the case and settlement amount. In most cases, the parties will know within a few hours whether they will reach an agreement; however, agreements can take several sessions in some cases. If the parties agree, the settlement document will be given to a judge for review.

For nearly the last 50 years, Florida followed the no-fault insurance law framework. Under this system, Florida motor vehicle accident victims often had to pursue compensation through their insurance company rather than the at-fault driver. Proponents of the system purported that no-fault insurance laws provided injury victims with an efficient way to recover compensation. However, critics claim that the system underestimated and limited the damages that injury victims could claim after an accident. Although there have been several reforms, insurance costs have been increasing without providing significant additional coverage to policyholders. In response to these growing concerns, the Florida House voted to repeal its longstanding insurance laws.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill (SB 54) that will do away with the requirement that motorists maintain personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Instead, SB 54 mandates that policyholders carry bodily injury (BI) coverage. Similarly, the Florida Senate is working to pass SB 150, which will repeal mandatory PIP coverage and require Florida motorists to purchase BI coverage at $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident, $10,000 for property damage and $5,000 medical coverage. Supporters of the bill cite a recent study that found that Floridians could save over $80 per vehicle, or nearly $1 billion collectively.

Additionally, the bill reduces coverage limits for low-income individuals and students. However, some question the change because the bill does not require proof of eligibility to qualify for the lower-income plan. Further, the plan may potentially allow drivers to pay deductibles for windshield repairs. The windshield addition came after insurance companies criticized vehicle-glass businesses for offering incentives to get their windshields replaced. At the moment, motorists do not have to pay to get their windshields repaired. The proposal would require insurance companies to offer plans with deductibles up to $200 for windshield repairs.

After a Florida car accident, victims and their families often face a slew of financial, psychological, and medical turmoil. These accidents can leave individuals in a position where they must navigate complicated and bureaucratic processes to obtain the compensation they deserve. More often than not, a fatality exacerbates the complexity of these cases. When a family suffers the loss of a family member after a Florida accident, they may be able to seek compensation through Florida’s Wrongful Death Act.

Under Florida section 768.16, the Wrongful Death Act provides family members with recourse against negligent individuals who caused the death of their loved ones. Those wishing to evoke their statutory rights must be able to establish that the defendant’s negligence resulted in the victim’s death. The negligence may be rooted in negligence, recklessness, breach of contract, or another wrongful act. These claims often follow Florida fatal car accidents, premises liability accidents, and medical malpractice incidents.

For instance, recently, a local news report described a harrowing accident that may result in a wrongful death lawsuit. According to the article, highway patrol reported that the accident occurred when one car traveling southbound lost control and crashed into another car at an intersection. The men in the vehicle that lost control were hospitalized for critical injuries. However, sadly, the individuals in the car at the intersection died from their injuries.

Florida rear-end accidents can range from a minor fender bender to a catastrophic collision resulting in deadly injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that rear-end accidents are the most common type of collision. In some cases, liability in a rear-end accident is clear; however, the cases are much more complex in some situations. In these situations, successful resolution of a personal injury lawsuit requires the assistance of an experienced attorney.

The primary issue in a Florida rear-end car accident is determining who is at fault for the collision. Florida’s no-fault laws require motorists to file a claim with their own insurance company. At first glance, this theory may seem to make recovery easier on injury victims. However, this becomes an issue when insurance coverage does not meet the extent of the victim’s damages.

Further, although the rear driver is generally responsible for an accident, there are exceptions to this rule that may present challenges. For example, the rear driver may present evidence that the front driver stopped suddenly, reversed accidentally, or was distracted. These claims can diminish a driver’s economic recovery. Moreover, issues often arise if the front driver suddenly pulls in front of another car. When a collision occurs in this situation, the fact finder may evaluate the vehicle’s speed, road conditions, traffic signals and other similar factors to determine fault.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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