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Florida Court Examines Admission of Prior Similar Incidents as Evidence of Negligence

A car accident can change your life in an instant. If you have been injured in a car wreck that was not your fault, you need to contact a skilled and experienced Miami auto accident attorney as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we are committed to protecting the rights of car accident victims throughout South Florida. We strongly believe that you should not have to deal with the burden of medical bills, car repair expenses and the cost of missing work because of someone else’s carelessness.

In a recent opinion, the plaintiff was driving on a dark road around 4:45 a.m. when he struck cows that were on the road. The nearby gate that enclosed the cows pastures was discovered to be open. The plaintiff sued the landowner under the Warren Act, which imposes liability on owners of livestock for injuries caused by the livestock wandering onto public roads due to the owner’s negligence. In the case at hand, the plaintiff argued that the landowner was negligent for allowing his cows to escape their enclosure and wander onto a public road. The plaintiff sought damages for pain, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish and loss of income, arguing that the accident would not have taken place had the landowner locked the pasture gate.

At trial, the lower court excluded evidence of a prior incident in which the cows escaped because the facts of the prior case were not substantially similar to this case. Rather, the trial court found that the prior breakouts were  prompted by hurricanes, hunters and fallen trees – not by an unlocked or unlatched gate. The jury found that the defendant was not liable and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the Fourth District Court of Appeal agreed with the lower court’s decision explaining that the evidence of prior accidents did not occur under similar circumstances and, thus, were not relevant to the plaintiff’s case. For example, in one of the prior accidents that the plaintiff sought to introduce at trial, he pointed to the fact that the defendant had negligently left his gate open as the cause of the accident. In that prior case, however, the defendant had not left the gate unlocked, rather, the cows had been scared by a loose dog and broke through a fence. Since the prior cases were not substantially similar to the accident in question they were properly excluded as irrelevant evidence.

Depending on its severity, a car accident has the potential to ruin your life. If you have been injured in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your harm. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our seasoned and hard-working Miami car accident attorneys will focus on protecting your rights so you can focus on what really matters – healing and moving forward. We proudly represent clients across South Florida. For more information about your legal options, please do not hesitate to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or reach us through our website.