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Articles Posted in Car Accident

Recently, the Supreme Court of Florida answered a certified question regarding the state’s current summary judgment standard. The lower court certified a question asking the court whether there should be an exception to the summary judgment standard when the moving party has video evidence that refutes any evidence that the non-moving party presents.

The case arose after a fatal Florida rear-end car accident. The decedent’s estate filed a lawsuit against the front-car driver and the driver’s employer. At trial, the court relied on the front-car driver’s video evidence showing that the driver was not negligent. However, the appellate court reversed, stating that the trial court “improperly weighed’ conflicting evidence, leading to the certified question.

In the last year, the Florida Supreme Court advised the public of its intention to adopt the summary judgment standard explained by the United States Supreme Court. The court explained that despite the similarities, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure had not been aligned. The first difference stems from Florida courts’ refusal to recognize the similarities between summary judgment standards and directed verdicts. Next, Florida courts place the burden on the moving party to disprove the other party’s case theory, to successfully eliminate any issue of fact. Federal courts discharge the moving party’s burden when there is an absence of evidence to support the other party’s case. Finally, Florida courts permit a broad understanding of what amounts to a “genuine issue of material fact”, where the “slightest doubt” is enough to preclude summary judgment. Florida courts have announced that the federal standard best serves the civil procedure rules, and the change will take place in May 2021.

A federal district court recently issued an opinion in a plaintiffs’ appeal in a case involving their daughter’s death. The case arose from a tragic Florida car accident that occurred on New Year’s Day.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was driving his mother’s sports car with the plaintiffs’ teenage daughter and another passenger. The driver accelerated to above the speed limit, losing control, and slamming into trees and a lamppost. The driver and another passenger survived the collision, but the plaintiffs’ daughter died at the scene. The state pursued criminal charges against the driver, and the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death suit against the driver, his mother, and the other passenger. However, they could not obtain service on the passenger and dropped him from the lawsuit.

The driver claimed he did not obtain his mother’s consent to drive any of her vehicles, including her golf cart or Porsche sports car. Moreover, the mother testified that she was aware that her son did not have a driver’s license, and she did not permit him to drive her Porsche. The mother moved for summary judgment based on her affidavit and her son’s deposition. In response, the plaintiff presented evidence that the mother permitted her son to drive her golf cart. Further, the plaintiffs contended that the mother presented conflicting evidence regarding whether she ever expressly told her son not to drive her vehicles. The plaintiffs also asked the court to continue the summary judgment motion because they were facing challenges deposing the other passenger. The mother argued that the plaintiffs were causing the delay.

We’ve all driven by car accidents on the road, usually during a slow down or while authorities are still clearing a crash. How often, however, do you see people stopping to help who aren’t local law enforcement or emergency personnel? Do Florida residents have an obligation or responsibility to stop and help when they witness a major accident?

According to a recent news report, a young man was killed while assisting others involved in a significant car accident. After a crash between two vehicles in front of the young man, he pulled onto the shoulder of the road and ran across the interstate to see if he could help. While the young man was assisting the individuals involved in the crash, another pickup truck veered off the road and crashed into him and the other two cars involved in the initial accident. The pickup truck driver was not injured, but the young man who was assisting was killed on impact.

Although there is no legal obligation to rescue someone in the event of an accident in Florida, if someone is injured in the process of voluntarily rescuing someone, they may be able to recover compensation. In Florida, the rescue doctrine is available to rescuers injured while involved in a reasonable and necessary rescue effort. This law allows the rescuer to potentially recover damages from the party or parties who caused the rescue situation. Florida law holds the at-fault party responsible not only for the damage caused to the victim in the initial accident, but also to any individuals who get involved in the rescue effort.

Recently, a news report described a harrowing Florida rear-end car accident that took the life of a 19-year-old woman. The woman was driving south on the Florida Turnpike when an SUV driver failed to slow his vehicle and slammed into the woman’s car. The woman’s vehicle veered into the barrier wall, and she was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

After a Florida rear-end accident, those who suffer injuries or damages are entitled to pursue a claim for compensation for their losses and damages. Under state law, there is a “rebuttable presumption” of negligence doctrine in rear-end accidents. The presumption serves as a valuable tool for plaintiffs wishing to recover damages; however, it is important to note that, as the name suggests, defendants can rebut the presumption.

In typical Florida car accident lawsuits, plaintiffs maintain the burden of establishing all four elements of a negligence claim: duty, breach of the duty, causation, and damages. A rebuttable presumption is an evidentiary tool that provides that the rear vehicle driver bears the burden of providing evidence to refute their presumed negligence, or explain their failure to avoid the crash.

Under and Uninsured Motorist (UIM) coverage protects individuals if they are involved in an accident with someone who does not have adequate amounts of insurance coverage. In Florida, many insurance companies allow customers to purchase “full coverage” insurance. Despite the name, full coverage insurance does not typically cover UIM coverage; instead, it refers to Florida’s minimum requirements. Moreover, Florida law does not require drivers to purchase bodily injury insurance coverage, which leads to a significant number of motorists operating their vehicles with insufficient insurance. UIM coverage works to protect drivers from having to pay substantial out of pocket costs after an accident.

The law requires Florida insurance companies to provide a UIM coverage option to policyholders. Customers who wish to reject the coverage must provide a waiver in writing. However, in many cases, insurance brokers do not express the necessity of the coverage and are quick to allow a policyholder to proceed with a waiver. As such, many people end up opting out of the coverage without understanding the significant financial repercussions they may encounter.

For example, recently, an appellate court in Florida issued an opinion stemming from a class-action lawsuit against Geico General Insurance Company. The plaintiffs in the class were comprised of Geico policyholders who rejected UIM coverage. The policyholders argued that Geico violated Florida’s UIM rejection coverage process. In Florida, the rejection must be in writing and fully advise the policyholder of the ramifications of opting out of the coverage. Further, policyholders may reject stacked coverage by signing the appropriate form. Here, before 2013, Geico’s online signature process required policyholders to click through screens to get to the electronic signature page. From 2013-2016 the insurance company required customers to view the form two times before signing; however, the form did not comply with state requirements. Finally, in 2016, Geico began displaying the form but did not require policyholders to click any links. In this case, the policyholders all waived UIM coverage during different periods and manner. The court held that the parties did not meet a class-action lawsuit’s requirements because they failed to establish commonality and typicality.

Every driver knows that to maximize safety while operating a vehicle, you must look both ways and double-check before pulling out of a driveway or parking spot from a stationary position. When the roadway you’re pulling into is especially busy, it can be even more dangerous. Thus, in these situations, drivers must execute the highest degree of care to avoid a Florida car accident.

Sometimes, however, when operating a larger vehicle like a tow truck, it can be hard to see every angle and vantage point while backing up. Larger vehicles often need significantly more space to pull into a busy roadway or execute large turns when pulling out of spaces than regular pedestrian vehicles, so the dangers are elevated further. Unfortunately, accidents involving tow trucks and pulling out of stationary positions into a busy road can make for a deadly combination when it also involves drivers who are not fully present or paying attention to their surroundings.

According to a recent news report, a 15-year-old girl tragically died in a crash after a tow truck collided with the car she was riding in. According to Florida Highway Patrol troopers, the girl was riding as a passenger in a convertible when the tow truck reversed from a driveway into the street, and the convertible hit its flatbed. Based on reports from local authorities, the girl died at the scene, but neither driver was injured.

Florida car accidents have the potential to cause long-term severe injuries and damages; however, head-on accidents tend to carry the most significant risk of serious harm. Florida head-on accidents often occur when one motorist crosses a median and enters the path of oncoming traffic. In other cases, a head-on collision occurs when a driver fails to obey traffic rules and veers into another car. The majority of these accidents happen on two-lane highways or roads or bridges. Further, these accidents tend to occur during low-visibility conditions, such as during the night or periods of heavy rain or fog. Moreover, certain poorly maintained or designed roadways make a head-on collision more likely to occur. Regardless, of the specific circumstances, individuals who suffer injuries in a head-on collision because of a negligent motorist or government entity, should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

According to state reports, Florida has one of the highest rates of accidents in the United States. Nearly 400,000 traffic accidents occur each year in Florida, and the most recent data indicates that as the population grows, so does the rate of accidents. Close to 10% of these accidents are head-on collisions. Although each accident possesses its own unique set of leading causes and circumstances, many head-on collisions share similar fact patterns. The majority of head-on collisions occur because of speeding, distracted driving, passing in a no-passing zone, a driver’s failure to modify driving during inclement weather, impaired driving, and fatigued driving. Most drivers understand that they must abide by traffic laws and operate their vehicles safely, but it is also critical to pay attention to others’ driving behavior. Although this is burdensome, it can save a person from an accident and the ensuing damages.

Although only about 1 percent of Florida accidents are fatal, non-fatal accidents can have devastating consequences. Many head-on collisions result in broken bones, fractures, traumatic brain injuries, and internal bleeding. Additionally, these accidents can cause drivers and passengers to experience psychological issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and similar mental health issues related to their injuries.

Under Florida Statute § 627.428, a party may be eligible to recover attorneys’ fees when a policyholder prevails and recovers actual insurance proceeds. However, not every insurance dispute or coverage lawsuit results in an award of attorneys’ fees. Typically, Florida courts authorize recovery of attorneys’ fees when the insurer has “wrongly withheld payment of the proceeds” of a policy. The law does not permit recovery of attorneys’ fees if the insured does not recover money or benefits, or if the court determines that the insurance company never wrongfully withheld payments.

Recently, the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida issued an opinion addressing whether attorneys’ fees were appropriate. In this case, the plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against an at-fault driver. The defendant passed away during the proceedings, and the plaintiff substituted his estate as a party defendant. While awaiting the case’s status, the trial court ordered the plaintiff to set up the estate for the defendant and substitute the defendant’s estate for his name. During this time, an estate was created for the defendant in probate court. The court did not name a personal representative, and the plaintiff substituted “John Doe” for the defendant in his complaint. After that, the probate court appointed a representative, however, the plaintiff failed to amend his complaint to include this update.

The plaintiff proposed a settlement agreement, and the defendants moved to dismiss the claim, arguing that the complaint named “John Doe” as the personal representative. The trial court ordered the plaintiff to amend his complaint, and a jury found in favor of the plaintiff. The plaintiff argued that he was entitled to attorneys’ fees, because the defendants rejected his initial settlement offer.

Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in a plaintiff’s appeal of several issues in a car accident lawsuit against their uninsured motorist carrier (UM). The case stemmed from a chain-reaction three-car accident. According to the court’s opinion, the driver of the first car made a sudden lane change and abruptly slammed on their brakes. This resulted in the second-car rear-ending the first car, and the third car, driven by the plaintiff, slammed into the second car. The driver of the first car received a citation and assumed liability.

Shortly after the accident, the plaintiffs sent a demand letter to their UM carrier. They requested full policy coverage but failed to include the husband’s medical records. After the UM requested additional information, the plaintiffs asserted their rights again, and included medical documentation. The UM carrier denied coverage, and requested several other pieces of information, including confirmation of the host vehicle’s coverage, tender of available coverage, and additional hospital records. Certain information indicated that the husband might have been mostly at fault for the accident. However, the plaintiffs advised the company that they would sue if the company did not pay the full benefits. The husband filed a Civil Remedy Notice (CRN), and a jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, apportioning 90% fault on the first driver, and 10% on the husband. However, the court reversed jurisdiction to conduct a bad faith trial.

After an initial mistrial, both parties filed motions to preclude the admission of certain documents. The court granted the defendant’s motion to admit the parties’ mediation activity log. The defendants used the log to show that the plaintiffs initially wanted a $50,000 settlement instead of their current demand of $500,000. The husband argued that the log was inadmissible because it was confidential, irrelevant, violated the trial court’s orders, and would only inflame the passions of the jury.

The First District Court of the State of Florida recently issued an opinion in response to a defendant’s petition for certiorari review of a punitive damages claim. The case arose following an incident where the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant ran his car into the plaintiff and several other pedestrians. The defendant pled guilty to the claims, and the plaintiff amended his complaint to add a claim for punitive damages. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint, and the defendant appealed.

Under Florida law, a party may ask the court for certiorari relief if the party believes that the trial court failed to comply with appropriate procedural requirements. The party must establish that the trial court departed from the law’s requirements, which resulted in a material injury to the case, and the error cannot be corrected on appeal.

In this case, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in allowing the plaintiff to claim punitive damages. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff did not abide by the evidentiary requirements of a punitive damages claim. Further, the defendant argued that the court failed to make the appropriate findings that the plaintiff met the punitive damages evidentiary standard.

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