Articles Posted in Car Accident

Florida product liability law is primarily based on strict liability. Strict product liability refers to a claim in which the plaintiff alleges that the product at issue was defective or unreasonably dangerous. The focus of these claims is on the product itself, and these claims do not require a plaintiff to show that the defendant was negligent in any way.

While strict product liability may seem like a straightforward doctrine to apply, determining which parties are subject to strict liability can actually be quite complicated. A recent state appellate decision illustrates the concept of successor liability as it pertains to the plaintiff’s strict liability claim against a rental car company.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was seriously injured when the rental car she was riding in was involved in a head-on collision. The vehicle was previously rented through National Car Rental Systems (NCRS); however, NCRS sold the vehicle to a private party years before the plaintiff’s accident. The plaintiff filed her claim against Enterprise rental car company because Enterprise eventually acquired NCRS’s rental car business after the NCRS assets were transferred several times through various companies in a complex series of transactions.

Under Florida law, all motorists carrying any load must make sure that the load is secure. This law makes driving on Florida roads safer by ensuring that a motorist’s cargo does not shift during transport, fall onto the road, and cause a serious Florida car accident. However, not all drivers follow the rule, and some who try to tie down their cargo do not do a very good job. The result is hazardous. A recent case illustrates the risks unsecured cargo can pose, as well as the legal issues that may arise in a lawsuit against a motorist who fails to ensure they are transporting cargo safely.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving when, suddenly, she looked up and saw a mattress flying towards her vehicle. The plaintiff did what she could to avoid the mattress, but ended up crashing into a nearby barrier. Witnesses to the accident tracked down the truck that was carrying the mattress, and provided the truck’s information to law enforcement. The truck was towing a trailer with seven-foot sides.

Police officers stopped the truck and talked to the driver. The driver told police that he was not aware of any mattress in the trailer, but that there may have been a mattress back there. The motorist told police that he wasn’t sure about whether there was a mattress in the trailer because co-workers were responsible for loading and unloading the trailer.

In a Florida personal injury case, the jury consists of six average citizens. Because of this, in some cases, the issues raised in the case may be beyond the common understanding of the jurors. In these cases, courts allow parties to call on expert witnesses to testify as to their opinions.

While not every case requires an expert witness, many personal injury cases can be made stronger with the presentation of an expert witness. In some cases, such as Florida medical malpractice cases, expert witnesses are almost always required due to statutory requirements. Regardless of the type of claim, expert witnesses can be extremely important, as is the decision on which expert to select in any given case. A recent state appellate opinion discusses why it is crucial for personal injury victims to thoroughly vet and interview all potential expert witnesses.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was sitting in her vehicle at a stop sign when the defendant crashed into the back of her. The plaintiff immediately began to experience pain in her head and neck, and was went to the hospital later that day. The plaintiff tried various treatments for her pain, but none were effective. Eventually, the plaintiff saw a doctor who told her that she had reached maximum improvement and that her symptoms were likely to continue for the rest of her life.

In most Florida personal injury cases, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant violated a duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff, and that the defendant’s breach of this duty resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. However, in some situations, Florida accident victims can utilize the doctrine of negligence per se to prove the first two elements of a negligence claim: duty and breach.

Negligence per se is a legal doctrine that results in a legal finding that the defendant acted negligently. For negligence per se to apply, a plaintiff must present evidence that the defendant violated a regulation, law, or statute that was passed to protect people in the plaintiff’s position. If a plaintiff is able to establish that negligence per se applies, the plaintiff must only prove that the defendant’s actions were the cause of their injuries. A recent state appellate decision illustrates a situation in which the court determined negligence per se applied.

The court explained the facts as follows: the plaintiff was driving when she looked up to see a mattress flying towards her car. The plaintiff tried to avoid the mattress, but in so doing crashed into a cement barrier. Witnesses to the accident were able to obtain the other vehicle’s license plate number, and police officers eventually caught up with that driver, who was towing a trailer.

One of the most important legal doctrines that all accident victims should understand is the concept of comparative fault. While some Florida personal injury accidents are solely the fault of one party, many accidents involve a situation where the parties share responsibility for that accident. The doctrine of comparative fault determines which parties involved in an accident can recover for their injuries.

Under Florida Statutes section 768.81, any “contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.” This means that an accident victim’s negligence will be considered by the jury, and will be used to reduce the victim’s overall recovery amount, but will not completely prevent them from recovering for their injuries from any at-fault parties.

While some states prohibit an accident victim who is more than 50% at fault from pursuing a claim, Florida law employs the “pure” comparative negligence model, meaning a plaintiff can bring a claim even if they are found to be more than 50% at fault. For example, assume a Florida car accident victim is found to be 30% liable for causing the collision, and the only other driver involved is determined to be 70% at fault. If the plaintiff’s damages were $500,000, then the plaintiff would be entitled to recover $500,000 less 30%, or $350,000.

While juries can determine the appropriate amount of compensation to award a plaintiff, a jury’s award must be consistent. On May 29, 2019, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida car accident case holding that the jury’s zero-dollar award for the plaintiff’s claim of past non-economic damages was legally insufficient because it was inconsistent with the jury’s determination that the plaintiff suffered injuries that required medical treatment.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was stopped at a red light when he was struck by another car. Evidently, the defendant made an illegal left turn into the intersection and hit a vehicle that then struck the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff did not receive medical care at the scene and did not go to the hospital after the accident.

Nearly four years after the accident, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the car as well as the owner of the car. The plaintiff claimed that the driver was negligent in causing the accident and that the owner of the vehicle was negligent in entrusting her vehicle to the driver. The defendant acknowledged that the defendant driver was responsible for causing the accident, and so the trial proceeded only on the issue of damages.

When a Florida car accident is caused by someone who was working at the time of the accident, anyone injured as a result of the employee’s negligence may be able to pursue a claim against both the employee and the employer through the doctrine of vicarious liability. The doctrine of vicarious liability allows accident victims to hold one party liable for the negligent acts of another party, even if the employer was not alleged to be directly at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries.

In the case of employer liability, a Florida accident victim must be able to establish that the employee’s actions that are the basis of the plaintiff’s claim were:  1.) within the scope of their employment, and 2.) during the course of employment and to further a purpose or interest of the employer. If these elements are met, the plaintiff can name the at-fault party as well as their employer as defendants, regardless of whether the employer had any reason to know that the employee presented a danger to others.

Florida accident victims can also pursue a claim of primary negligence against an at-fault party’s employer based on the employer’s own negligence. Unlike claims alleging vicarious liability, these claims require the plaintiff to establish that an employer was somehow negligent. Examples of primary liability claims against an employer are negligent hiring and negligent retention claims. A recent case illustrates one way an accident victim can pursue a claim against an at-fault driver’s employer.

One of the most important aspects of a Florida personal injury case is the credibility of the witnesses that a party plans to call at trial. Indeed, in many Florida car accident claims, the case comes down to a “he said, she said” situation where one witness’ testimony is directly contradicted by another’s. When this is the case, ultimately, the jury must determine which party’s witnesses were more credible.

Before a Florida personal injury case ever reaches trial, the defendant will likely file a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s case is insufficient as a matter of law. Essentially, when a defendant files a summary judgment motion, they are claiming that the important factual issues necessary to decide the case are not contested, and when the court applies the law to these facts, a defense verdict is warranted.

Importantly, summary judgment is appropriate only if the defendant can show there are no issues of material fact that must be resolved by the jury, and the defendant is entitled judgment as a matter of law. Thus, there are two ways to defeat a motion for summary judgment. First, the plaintiff can show that there is at least one issue of material fact that is not resolved by the evidence presented thus far. Second, the plaintiff can argue that when the law is applied to the uncontested facts, a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor is appropriate. So, while a witness’ credibility is of critical importance at trial, it is almost irrelevant in a motion for summary judgment. A recent state appellate decision illustrates this concept.

In March 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a golf cart accident that occurred on the defendant’s property. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant was more appropriately characterized as a premises liability case or a motor vehicle accident.

The case is important for Florida personal injury victims because it illustrates that there are often multiple theories of liability a plaintiff may be able to pursue against a defendant. In addition, the case shows that the outcome of a plaintiff’s claim may depend on the theory of liability they choose to pursue.

According to the facts section of the appellate court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a golf cart accident. At the time of the crash, the defendant was driving the golf cart, and the accident occurred on the defendant’s land. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the accident, and filed a personal injury case against the defendant. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant negligently operated the golf cart, resulting in her injuries.

While insurance is supposed to provide a motorist with peace of mind after a Florida car accident, in reality, the opposite is often true. Because insurance companies are for-profit corporations, they rely on taking in more money each month in premiums than they pay out in claims. Thus, insurance companies approach each claim with the same goal: expending as little money as possible to resolve the claim.

In some cases, insurance adjusters will offer low-ball settlement agreements knowing the claim is worth much more in hopes of catching an accident victim in a moment of desperation. In other situations, insurance companies will outright deny a claim based on their interpretation of the policy language. For this reason, it is critical that Florida motorists take care to ensure that they understand their insurance coverage and that it meets their needs. A recent opinion issued by a state appellate court illustrates just one type of issue that may arise after a Florida car accident.

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was killed in a traffic accident when he was struck while riding a moped. The moped was powered by a small 49cc motor, similar to that which would power a scooter. The motorist’s family initially filed a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. However, because that policy only provided $100,000 in benefits, the family then filed a claim with their insurance company under the underinsured motorist (UIM) provision of the policy.

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