Articles Posted in Florida Personal Injury Caselaw

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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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The Florida District Court of Appeals recently released an opinion addressing whether a property owner breached its non-delegable statutory duty to a person injured on a boat dock. The case arose after a woman suffered injuries on a boat dock outside of her friends’ beach club condominium. The woman filed a lawsuit against the beach club, her friends, and the construction company that was in charge of repairing the dock. She contended that the beach club was liable for breaching its duty to maintain the dock, the construction was responsible for failing to repair the dock, and her friends should have warned her of any hazardous conditions.

In response, the beach club argued the affirmative defense of comparative negligence, alleging that third parties caused the woman’s injuries. However, the plaintiff argued that the beach club was jointly and severally liable for all of her damages, and the defense was inappropriate because the club did not identify the other parties’ negligence.

Florida premises liability law states that property owners must use reasonable care in maintaining their property, and they must warn invitees of concealed or latent dangers that are unknown to the invitee. Moreover, Florida’s Condominium Act provides that condo associations must maintain their common areas in a reasonably safe condition. In this case, the contract between the condo association and owners imposed an additional non-delegable duty, which required the beach club to maintain the dock and other communal areas.

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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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Earlier this month, a state appellate court released an opinion in a Florida truck accident case, discussing several issues that commonly arise in cases filed against trucking companies. The appeal arose after a plaintiff suffered injuries when a tire from a trailer became detached and hit the car in which she was a passenger. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against various parties, including the trucking company and the automotive company that installed the tire. The victim dropped all parties from the claim except the trucking company, alleging that the trucking company owed her a “non-delegable” duty to ensure that their trailer was safe. She argued that this duty included inspecting, maintaining, and repairing the trailer. The woman appealed after the lower court found in favor of the trucking company, holding that the trucking company was not liable for the mechanic’s faulty work.

Under Florida law, parties who hire independent contractors to do work for them may still be liable for injuries when a non-delegable duty is at issue. Challenges frequently arise in these cases because there is no specific definition or criteria for when a duty is delegable. Typically, Florida courts have found that a property owner’s duty of care toward invitees is non-delegable. In contrast, Florida courts have held that a hospital owed no non-delegable duty to a patient after a negligent independent contractor physician caused the patient injuries in the hospital’s emergency room.

In this case, the woman argued that the trucking company should have inspected the mechanic’s work. The trucking company countered that they regularly utilize the mechanic and that it is unrealistic to ask their drivers to engage in lengthy and intensive inspections that they are not trained to do. The woman relied on various Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which state that motor carriers must inspect all motor vehicles subject to their control. However, the court found that the trucking company did engage in appropriate inspections, and additional checks of the trailer were not necessary. The court, in this case, refrained from imposing blanket liability on trucking companies based on faulty repairs.

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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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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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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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If you have been injured in an accident, the last thing you want to worry about is evidence not being preserved properly. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our highly reputable Miami injury attorneys understand the specific laws surrounding preservation of evidence in Florida personal injury cases and will make sure that your rights are protected. Personal injury cases are complicated, which is why it is imperative that you work with an attorney who understands this area of law.

A very important aspect of any Florida personal injury claim is the pre-trial discovery phase. During this process, parties can ask for relevant information from the other side. If the court approves a request for discovery, it will order that the evidence is shared with the opposing party. Preserving all relevant evidence, even if it is unfavorable to you, is critical.

The Florida Supreme Court has held that all parties have a duty to preserve evidence as soon as litigation is “reasonably anticipated.” Therefore, the duty to preserve evidence may kick in prior to a lawsuit is even filed. In all Florida personal injury cases, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving each and every element of the personal injury claim by a preponderance of the evidence.  As such, failing to preserve evidence can seriously jeopardize a plaintiff’s ability to effectively prove his or her case.

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