Articles Posted in Car Accident

The judge’s primary function in a Florida personal injury case is to make sure that the trial follows all of the applicable rules, both substantive and procedural. One of the most important tasks a judge performs is determining which evidence is admissible and may be considered by the jury. Indeed, in many cases, powerful evidence that could change the outcome of a case is not admitted for a variety of reasons.

MotorcycleEvidentiary issues are normally handled in pre-trial motions, before the jury is empaneled. This way, the jury is not at risk of hearing any of the contested evidence, should the judge determine that it is not admissible. These pre-trial motion hearings can be critical to a Florida personal injury case, since they often determine the path a case will take. For example, if a plaintiff is able to get a pre-trial ruling admitting favorable evidence, the defense may consider settling the case rather than taking the chance of proceeding to trial.

In a recent Florida appellate opinion, the court discussed which evidence should have been admitted in a car accident case.

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Florida personal injury cases are routinely decided by a jury, unless both parties agree that a judge should hear the case. When a jury is empaneled, it should be representative of the community where the case will be heard. Almost always, juries consist of laypeople, meaning that the individual jurors have not been schooled on the law or how it applies to a given case. The judge’s job is to assist the jury by providing instructions on what the ultimate question in the case is and what the jurors should consider in making their determination.

Car AccidentIn some Florida personal injury cases, confusing scientific or medical issues arise. In such cases, an expert witness may be required to explain to the jury certain principles or concepts. An expert witness is usually a professional in the field at issue who has specialized knowledge through experience or education. In many Florida personal injury cases, each side presents their own expert witness in hopes of persuading the jury. There are complex rules regarding the admissibility of expert testimony; however, once testimony is admitted, it is up to the fact-finder to determine how convincing the testimony is. A recent case illustrates the difference between admitting evidence and assigning the evidence weight.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving along the highway, about to pass a Department of Transportation vehicle that was pulled off to the side of the road. As she passed, she heard a loud noise. The next thing she knew, her car was upside down and sliding along the roadway. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the accident, and she filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Department of Transportation, as the employer of the driver who was alleged to have pulled out in front of her.

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Anyone who has been injured in a South Florida car accident knows how difficult it can be dealing with insurance companies. In many cases, insurance companies will seek out ways to settle claims for as little as possible or deny claims outright. Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a car accident case involving a passenger’s claim against the driver’s uninsured motorist protection policy. The court concluded that the insurance company improperly denied coverage because the woman was “occupying” the vehicle at the time of the accident, and her claim should have been approved.

Rear-EndedThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the passenger in a friend’s car. The two were on their way to the grocery store and had pulled into the parking lot when they began talking in the car. As they were talking, the plaintiff heard a loud bang and turned her head to see that two cars had collided on an adjacent road.

The plaintiff exited her friend’s vehicle and approached the scene of the accident. She walked around the back of one of the vehicles involved in the accident to get its license plate number. As she was looking down at the license plate, another vehicle crashed into one of the cars involved in the initial accident. The plaintiff was struck by one of the cars and was injured as a result.

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When someone is injured due to a negligently designed or defectively manufactured product, they may be able to pursue compensation for their injuries from several parties, including the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer. These product liability lawsuits often are brought under a theory of strict liability, which does not require a plaintiff to prove that the defendant was negligent. However, it may benefit a plaintiff to establish that a defendant did know about the alleged defect because this may increase the damages that they are entitled to obtain.

Disc BrakesOne way that product liability plaintiffs can establish a defendant’s knowledge of an alleged defect is through “other similar incident” (OSI) evidence. OSI evidence, often presented through an expert witness, tells of other incidents in which the same product caused an injury or was defective in a manner which is similar to that which the plaintiff alleges. A recent case issued by a federal appellate court discusses OSI evidence and when it may be appropriate.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were stopped at a red light at the end of a highway off-ramp when a 1996 Toyota Camry traveling at 75 miles per hour rear-ended them. At the time, the driver explained that he tried to brake, but the car instead began to accelerate. It was not until several years later that Toyota announced a recall of 1996 Toyota Camrys, based on several other reports that the vehicles were randomly accelerating and could not be stopped by applying the brakes.

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Last year, a Florida motorist was killed in a traffic accident when the Tesla car he was operating crashed into the side of a semi-truck. Evidently, the Tesla was traveling at highway speeds when a semi-truck pulled in front of the car. At the time, the Tesla was in auto-pilot mode and did not stop in time to avoid a collision with the side of the truck.

Semi-TruckSince this fatal accident was the first involving a vehicle with the new auto-pilot technology, it raised many practical and legal questions. For example, which parties should be responsible when a self-driving car is involved in a serious accident?

In a recently released report by the National Transportation Safety Bureau, it was revealed that the driver of the Tesla was given numerous warnings to retake control of the vehicle prior to the fatal collision. According to an article detailing the report’s findings, the driver was heavily relying on the vehicle’s auto-pilot technology. In fact, of the 41 minutes leading up to the accident, the vehicle was in auto-pilot mode for over 37 minutes. Of those 37 minutes, the driver’s hands were only on the wheel for about 30 seconds. The report also explained that the vehicle’s warning system recommended that the driver place his hands back on the wheel seven times in the moments leading up to the accident.

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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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