Articles Posted in Car Accident

Insurance coverage is a critical resource to motorists and provides many financial protections to those who suffer injuries in a Florida car accident. While insurance companies tout the benefits of their plans to consumers, they simultaneously operate to protect their own financial interests. These for-profit companies have a vested interest in maintaining their financial standing, and they often do so by wrongfully denying personal injury claims. Florida accident victims may face an uphill battle with their dealings with insurance companies. Attorneys play a crucial role in ensuring that injury victims overcome these hurdles and recover the damages they deserve.

There are many ways that insurance companies avoid paying out rightfully due payments to consumers. Although Florida is a no-fault state and injury victims submit claims to their own insurance company, the payments rarely cover the extent of a policyholder’s losses. Typically, claimants only receive around 80% of the total cost of their medical expenses, and the coverage does not include pain and suffering damages. Further, insurance companies may focus on a victim’s pre-existing medical condition to show that the accident is not responsible for the claimant’s injuries. Insurance companies contesting coverage will go as far as to question the claimant’s credibility and elicit evidence to show that the victim is not suffering as much as they say they are.

Although all of these tactics pose issues to clients, the most complex issues arise when insurance companies establish procedural mistakes that may reduce or eliminate a claimant’s damages. Florida Rules of Civil Procedure are a complicated set of procedural and substantive rules that require a thorough understanding of the law. Insurance companies may deny liability by pointing to the statute of limitations, jurisdiction and venue issues, and insufficient notice and pleadings. Courts may dismiss all or part of a victim’s claims because of a single error with any of these requirements.

After an accident, the at-fault party may be held liable for their role in the victim’s damages and losses. In many cases, these claims do not proceed to trial and instead get resolved through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods. Some common forms of ADR are arbitration, mediation, and settlement discussions. Although similar to a trial, victims can proceed without counsel, the results in these situations tend to be less favorable towards claimants. Attorneys play a critical role during every stage of a Florida personal injury lawsuit and can help claimants recover the damages they deserve.

Settlement agreements occur when the claimant and opposing party agree to settle the claims for payment. These agreements usually require the claimant to halt all legal proceedings related to the incident in exchange for the opposing party’s payment. These agreements release the opposing party without the requirement that they admit fault. However, it is essential to note that a court may overturn the settlement agreement if it is defective. A defective settlement agreement is made under duress, fraud, mutual mistake, or misrepresentation. Further, in some situations, a judge may not accept a settlement agreement.

The binding and complex nature of these agreements elucidates the importance of a skilled and experienced attorney during settlement proceedings. In many situations, insurance companies draft and present settlement agreements. As such, these agreements inherently protect the opposing party or insurance company over the claimant. Additionally, the terms of the agreement may include clauses that prohibit the claimant from pursuing claims against third-parties. Settlement agreements require a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the interplay between various areas of the law.

Sometimes, when you are in a rush, you may find yourself impatiently following the car ahead of you closer than what you know is safe. In some states, such as Florida, this could get you a traffic citation if an accident takes place or you disrupt traffic. In Florida, it is recommended that drivers keep at least a two-vehicle length between their car and the vehicles ahead of them. This is to ensure that should the vehicles ahead of you stop suddenly or if debris falls onto the roadway and obscures your path, that you have ample time to avoid an auto accident.

For a somewhat harsh application of this rule, consider a recent article in which a couple who barely survived a terrifying accident on the freeway was issued a traffic ticket following the incident. While driving down the freeway, the couple was behind a truck when a couch fell off the truck and tumbled into their lane. When the couple swerved to avoid hitting the couch, they crashed into the median and their car flipped over. The vehicle was totaled and both individuals were transported to a local hospital. A Florida Highway Patrol trooper showed up to present them with a $166 traffic ticket for “failing to drive in a single lane.” Although it was a tough break for the couple, the Florida Highway Patrol claimed that troopers have discretion when issuing traffic citations. Fortunately, the couple walked away with only minor injuries, and a ticket—which some would argue is a small price to pay for surviving what could have been a tragic accident.

In Florida, the “Following Too Closely” statute states that drivers cannot follow vehicles ahead of them more closely than is “reasonable and prudent” and must keep the speed of other vehicles and the traffic and conditions of the highway in mind while operating their vehicles.

Currently, Florida follows the no-fault insurance system, requiring motorists to maintain personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage. However, Florida lawmakers proposed Senate Bill 54, which would eliminate the state’s no-fault insurance requirement. The current system allows a claimant’s insurance company to pay the insured’s bills, regardless of their fault. Critics of the no-fault system argue that the current framework evokes many fraudulent claims and the coverage limit is insufficient. On the other hand, critics of the change contend that the new system may leave injury victims in a precarious financial position, as insurance companies will not automatically pay out claims.

The new law would require motorists to carry bodily injury liability coverage, which would allow insurance companies to pay up to $25,000 for collision-related injuries or death or up to $50,000 for crashes involving two or more individuals. The new system would retain the current $10,000 financial responsibility requirement for property damage. However, it modifies the coverage limits for commercial motor vehicle coverage and garage liability. A critical change that may impact injury victims is that the repeal will eliminate the pain and suffering damage limitations.

In many cases, Florida accident victims need to seek compensation outside of the no-fault insurance system because their damages exceed policy limits. The change will have a more considerable impact on bad faith claims against Florida insurance companies. The new framework will include best practices standards for insurance companies to settle disputes. However, the bill also includes the condition precedents an insured must meet before asserting a claim.

Florida leads the country in one of the highest rates of serious car accidents. Recent reports by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) indicated nearly 400,000 Florida motor vehicle accidents occurred in one year. In addition to about 3,000 fatal injuries, over 40% of the accidents resulted in non-deadly severe injuries. These injuries and fatalities often leave the victim and their families with high medical costs. The financial repercussions of these accidents can present lifelong burdens for victims. Car accident victims can recover compensation from different avenues.

Under Florida’s no-fault insurance rules, all insured drivers may recover damages for medical bills regardless of fault. The law requires motorists to obtain at least 10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. PIP is intended to compensate injury victims for their medical expenses after an accident. However, this coverage typically only covers 80% of a victim’s medical costs. Further, injury victims must meet the strictest rules regarding medical treatment. Victims must receive treatment from a qualified medical professional within 14 days of the collision. If a victim’s injuries or medical conditions do not meet a qualifying condition, the insured may not be able to draw the entire amount of coverage.

In situations where a victim does not maintain PIP coverage or exhausts the limits, they must make a claim through their private insurer. However, patients must still pay their co-pays and deductibles. These amounts may be high in many cases, especially if the victim requires significant inpatient or recurring outpatient treatment.

Motorists in Florida rarely encounter winter-weather driving conditions; however, the current weather episodes throughout the southern United States highlight the importance of being prepared for all driving conditions. Florida leads the nation with one of the highest rates of car accidents in the country. These accidents can result in serious and fatal injuries to drivers, passengers, and bystanders. Drivers should take steps to understand how weather can affect road and driving conditions.

Ice storms and accumulation presents drivers with some of the worst driving conditions. Icy roads tend to occur after snow accumulation or freezing rain. The snow that is not cleared can melt and refreeze, resulting in patches of black ice. Motorists approaching ice or potential black ice should refrain from slamming on their brakes. Instead, if a driver finds themselves skidding or sliding on ice, they should steer in the same direction as their front tires. After regaining control, the driver can slowly steer the car in the direction they want to go in. Quickly jerking the steering wheel can cause the vehicle to spin and veer off the road.

Snow and slush can also cause drivers to experience dangerous road conditions. The dangers are heightened when city officials have not cleared and treated the road. Many southern states, including Florida, are not equipped with proper snow removal equipment. The lack of prompt removal can cause the snow to become heavy and wet, causing drivers to experience additional hazards.

A district court of appeal recently issued an opinion in a Florida car accident lawsuit against a driver and his employer. The case stems from injuries the plaintiff suffered when the defendant rear-ended him at a red light. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the driver and a vicarious liability claim against the driver’s employer. The trial court bifurcated the defendant’s trials and declined to exclude evidence of the employee’s intoxication during the compensatory damages phase. As such, the plaintiff’s attorney addressed the employee’s intoxication during his opening and closing statements. Further, during the trial, the plaintiff presented several medical experts.

At issue is the plaintiff’s attorney’s friendship with one of the medical experts he presented. On appeal, the defendants allege that the trial court erred in allowing the employee’s intoxication and the court’s limitation on their cross-examination of the relationship between the medical expert and attorney. The court ordered a new trial based on the trial court’s error in allowing evidence of the defendant’s intoxication. They found that the inquiry was substantially prejudicial and lacked relevancy. As such, they addressed the trial court’s decision to limit the defense’s examination of the plaintiff’s experts.

The trial court did not permit the presentation of some of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses because of an untimely designation issue. However, the issue occurred because the plaintiff waited until the day before the trial to make the expert’s initial designations. The appeals court reasoned that this action placed the defendant at a disadvantage because they could not present certain parts of the deposition. Further, the court found that in situations where attorneys elect to use their personal friends as experts, they should expect inquiries into their relationship. Therefore, the court should permit the defense to question the relationship and address any issues of bias.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), recently provided an update on traffic safety during the national health crisis. The research team collected data from five locations, including Jacksonville, Florida, and Miami, Florida. The findings reported first-quarter data regarding Florida motor vehicle fatality rates. The data found that car accident fatality rates increased, even though the overall number of traffic accidents decreased during the past several years. Additionally, statistics showed an increased prevalence of drug and alcohol use among those who suffered serious or fatal injuries in accidents.

During the beginning of the COVID-19 public health emergency, driving patterns changed drastically, as many people lost their jobs or began working from home. The figures demonstrated that those who remained on the road during the crisis were engaged in riskier behavior. Some of the behavior included speeding, failure to wear seat belts, and driving while impaired. Compared to the previous six months, the proportion of those who tested positive for opioids or marijuana significantly increased during this time.

The NHTSA stressed the importance of seat belt use, as seat belts are one of the most critical safety features in vehicles. Ejection data shows that seat-belted occupants are far less likely to be thrown from a vehicle. The study indicated a decrease in seat belt use during the first period of the public health crisis. Although seat belt use increased slightly later on during the crisis, the overall number was below the level before the emergency.

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.

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