Articles Posted in Car Accident

In many South Florida auto accident cases, there are actually several parties who can potentially be held responsible for a victim’s injuries. For example, if an employee causes an accident while on the job, both the employee as well as the employer can often be named in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit. The legal doctrine that allows this type of claim against a third party is called vicarious liability.

MotorcycleAs a general rule, under the theory of vicarious liability, when a driver causes an accident while using another person’s car, both the driver as well as the vehicle’s owner may be held liable to the accident victim for any injuries. This general rule stands true to the extent that the person driving the car had permission to use the vehicle, and their use of the vehicle did not exceed the permission given by the car’s owner. A recent Florida appellate court case involving an accident that was caused by a driver who took a car without the permission of the owner illustrates the outer bounds of vicarious liability.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding his motorcycle when he was struck by another motorist. The car that struck the plaintiff was owned by a rental car agency and was rented to a woman who was not involved in the accident. There was contradicting evidence regarding how the driver obtained the keys to the car. The driver lived with the woman who rented the car, and he claimed that he took the keys off the kitchen counter. However, the woman claimed that she kept the keys in her locked room and never gave the driver permission to use the vehicle.

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Last month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a car accident between the plaintiff and an employee with the Department of Transportation. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff’s complaint did not conform to the mandatory procedural requirements of a complaint filed against a government entity. As a result, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed by the court.

Car AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in an auto accident with an employee of the Georgia Department of Transportation. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries in the accident and filed a personal injury case against the Department under the theory of vicarious liability. Essentially, the doctrine of vicarious liability allows for a plaintiff to hold an employer responsible for the negligent acts of an employee.

Since the case named a government entity as a defendant, the plaintiff’s complaint needed to meet certain additional procedural requirements not present in cases against citizens or businesses. Generally, these additional requirements involve providing the government agency named as a defendant with appropriate notice of the lawsuit. This includes specifying the amount of damages the plaintiff is seeking.

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As a general rule, people do not have a duty to assist in the rescue efforts of another party in danger. However, if a passerby does decide to assist in rescue efforts, the party who is in need of rescue has a duty of care to the person or people who have decided to help them. As a result, if a rescuer is injured in the course of helping the in-danger party, the party in need of rescue may be held liable for the rescuer’s injuries.

Police CarIn Florida, this rule broadly applies, meaning that even firefighters who are injured in the course of their employment may be able to seek financial compensation if they sustain injuries caused by a negligent homeowner. However, a recent case out of Kansas tests the limits of the rescue doctrine.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a police officer who was involved in a high-speed accident while responding to the scene of a single-vehicle accident. Prior to the accident, the plaintiff had received a call that there was an accident on the highway and that several south-bound lanes were blocked as a result. The plaintiff was given the specific location of the accident and told which lanes were blocked.

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Kids make mistakes, and as a general rule, the law does not allow people injured by a child’s negligent actions to seek compensation from the child or from the child’s parents. However, when a child causes an injury due to willful misconduct or is engaging in certain designated dangerous activities when an accident occurs, a parent or guardian may be legally responsible for any injury or property damage caused by a child’s negligent conduct. The most common example of this is when a minor causes a traffic accident.

Broken HeadlightIn Florida, a parent or guardian who verifies a minor’s driver’s license can be held financially liable for any injuries resulting from an accident caused by the minor. There is no limit on the amount of recovery. However, in order to establish that a parent or guardian is responsible for a minor’s negligent conduct, the victim must still establish that the elements of a negligence lawsuit have been met. Specifically, this requires an accident victim to show that the minor’s negligent conduct caused the accident that resulted in the accident victim’s injuries. Importantly, there is no requirement that the parent or guardian was at all negligent in supervising the minor.

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Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case brought by a motorist who was rear-ended by another driver. The court ultimately affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant despite the fact that the defendant driver admitted that he was at fault for causing the accident. The court based its opinion on the fact that the jury was presented with conflicting evidence as to the seriousness of the collision, and therefore the jury was free to find that the collision was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

Minor AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving to the gym when he was struck from behind by the defendant, who was driving a pick-up truck. The plaintiff did not immediately go to the hospital, but went the next day. After being seen by a doctor, the plaintiff was prescribed pain medication and completed three months of physical therapy. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the defendant, seeking compensation for his medical bills as well as for his lost wages.

Both the plaintiff and the defendant testified at trial, and offered different versions of what happened on the day of the accident. The plaintiff testified he was completely stopped when the defendant rear-ended him, and that he had to “brace” himself to prevent his head from striking the steering wheel. He explained that his car suffered various types of damage as a result of the collision.

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In Florida, as in any other state, all drivers have a duty to drive in a careful and prudent manner so that they can avoid endangering others’ persons or property. If a driver breaches that duty and injures someone, the driver may be held liable for injuries and other damages. Whether a driver was operating the vehicle reasonably depends on the circumstances of each case. For example, traveling at the posted speed limit may be reasonable under good weather conditions, but it may be unreasonable in a snow storm.

Highway at NightFlorida law requires drivers to carry at least $10,000 in personal injury protection coverage. This covers medical costs up to the policy amount in the event of an accident, regardless of who was at fault. Drivers also must have a minimum of $10,000 in coverage for property damage. However, in the event of a serious accident, these minimum amounts often do not cover all of the damages an injured person incurs.

Motorist Deaths Increased by 6% in 2016

Data released by the National Safety Council showed that motor vehicle accident deaths in the U.S. rose 6% in 2016 as compared to 2015. According to one news source, the numbers increased 14% compared to data from 2014. The National Safety Council’s numbers are similar to those found by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which found an 8% rise in accident deaths in the first nine months of 2016. Motor vehicle accident deaths amounted to about 40,200 in 2016, which was the first time since 2007 that they were over 40,000.

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Sometimes proving the damages in an accident case is just as important as proving the defendant was at fault. In a recent case, one state’s supreme court upheld a jury’s award of zero dollars after a woman claimed she was injured by another driver in an auto accident. According to the court’s written opinion, the driver hit the back of the woman’s car when she was stopped at a traffic light. The driver admitted that he was at fault; however, he argued the woman did not sustain any damages in the accident. As a result, the case went to trial only on the issue of damages.

Car AccidentThe woman testified that at the time her car was hit, she did not suffer any cuts, scrapes, bruises, swelling, or other visible signs of injury. Her body did not come into contact with any part of her car. Photos taken of her car after the accident did not show any obvious damage.

After the accident, the woman was brought to a hospital at her request. She testified at trial that she had pain in her lower back and the right side of her neck. She said the hospital staff did an x-ray of her neck and back, gave her medicine, and recommended that she see an orthopedist. The woman went to an orthopedist and received physical therapy. However, she did not present any medical evidence to support her claim that her back and neck were injured. Finally, she testified that she had previously had back surgery before the accident occurred.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Ohio published an opinion upholding the reversal of a lower circuit court’s decision to dismiss a plaintiff’s claim against the city when he was involved in a car accident with another driver, who had run through a stop sign that was later determined not to be sufficiently visible. The lower court determined that the city was immune from liability for the plaintiff’s injuries because it was a municipal body that was immune under state law. The state supreme court found that an exception to municipal immunity should apply to the case, further ruling that the plaintiff’s claim against the city for allegedly failing to maintain the roadway in a safe condition should be remanded to the circuit court to proceed toward trial if a settlement was not reached.

Stop SignPlaintiff Is Struck While Driving Through an Intersection

The plaintiff in the case is an Ohio man who alleged that in May 2011, he was involved in an accident when another driver failed to yield the right of way at an intersection and crashed into the plaintiff. An investigation after the accident determined the stop sign that signaled the other driver to stop and yield at the intersection was obstructed by tree branches and was not sufficiently visible to alert approaching drivers. After the crash, the plaintiff pursued a personal injury claim against the other driver and the city where the crash occurred, alleging that the negligent failure to trim the trees around the stop sign created liability for the plaintiff’s injuries.

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The Supreme Court of Ohio recently published a decision affirming a circuit court’s ruling to dismiss the plaintiff’s case against municipal law enforcement officers after she was seriously injured when a fleeing suspect crashed into her vehicle head-on as the officers pursued him in a high-speed chase. The woman claimed that the officers’ conduct was reckless and wanton and that they should not be entitled to immunity from her claim because of the unacceptable nature of their actions. The final ruling, while affirming the rejection of the plaintiff’s claim, serves to reduce the immunity granted to police officers from that given to them by the circuit court and the Ohio Court of Appeals by rejecting any immunity for officer conduct that is deemed reckless.

Police SirensFleeing Suspect Slams Head-On into Plaintiff’s Vehicle

The plaintiff in this case is a woman who alleged that she was innocently driving her car, following all of the traffic laws, when a speeding car driving on the wrong side of the road crashed into the front of her vehicle head-on. The speeding car was being driven by a man who was fleeing from the police, who had been pursuing him in a high-speed chase through the city on roads containing significant pedestrian traffic.

The plaintiff alleged that the act of pursuing the suspect through crowded city streets was done maliciously, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner, since it resulted in the suspect driving as fast as possible with disregard for civilian safety.

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The New York Court of Appeals recently published an opinion that reversed a state lower court’s ruling on an issue arising within a case filed by a woman whose son was seriously injured when he was struck by a car while walking to school. The plaintiff’s claim against the defendant school district was initially dismissed because the plaintiff did not serve that defendant with a notice of claim within 90 days of the accident, as required by law. The plaintiff had reasons for missing the deadline and requested an extension, which was denied by the trial court. With the court’s finding earlier this year that the trial judge abused his discretion by refusing to extend the deadline, the plaintiff’s claim against the school district will return to the trial court and proceed toward a settlement or trial.

SchoolThe Plaintiff’s Son Is Injured in a Devastating Accident

The plaintiff in the case of Newcomb v. Middle Country Central School District is a woman whose son was struck by a car as he walked to school one morning. The plaintiff pursued a negligence claim against the school and the city, as well as the state where the crash occurred. After the 90-day notice deadline had expired, the plaintiff discovered information that the school district had placed a sign near the scene of the accident that blocked visibility and may have been the cause of the accident, and the sign was removed shortly after the crash. Since the materials reasonably available to the plaintiff for the first 90 days following the accident did not include any reference to the sign, the plaintiff requested that she be allowed to add the school district to her complaint.

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