Articles Posted in Car Accident

An important consideration in any Florida personal injury case is whether a plaintiff will be able to collect on a judgment if they are successful at trial. For example, the financial and emotional expense of taking a case to trial against a defendant who does not have sufficient assets to cover a judgment may not make sense. Thus, it is essential that Florida personal injury victims name all potentially liable parties.

In many cases, this means naming the employer of the at-fault party as a defendant. Generally speaking, employers have more substantial assets than employees, and they may also have higher-limit insurance policies making collecting on a judgment much less of a headache for a successful plaintiff.

In Florida, an employer may be liable for the negligent acts of an employee, even if the employer was not negligent in causing the accident. This is referred to as vicarious liability. Of course, employers cannot be named in every Florida personal injury accident. In Florida, to establish that an employer is liable for the negligent acts of an employee, the plaintiff must show that the at-fault employee was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident and that he was “engaged in his master’s business.” A recent state appellate decision illustrates how courts view vicarious liability claims.

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One of the most common concerns among Florida personal injury victims is when they must file their claim. Typically, all personal injury claims must be brought within a certain amount of time, which is outlined in the statute of limitations. However, the rules differ when cases name state or federal government entities. Recently, a federal appellate issued a written opinion discussing whether a claim brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act is tolled while the plaintiff is a minor.

The Accident

According to the court’s opinion, when the plaintiff was five years old, his father was killed in a car accident on an interstate highway. The plaintiff’s mother filed a timely administrative claim with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) claiming that a highway barrier that had failed during the accident was not adequately tested or approved for use. Five years after the accident, and while the plaintiff was still a minor, the plaintiff’s mother filed a personal injury case against the FHWA in federal district court on behalf of the plaintiff.

The Federal Tort Claims Act

Generally, the federal and state governments are immune from tort liability. However, under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), specific lawsuits can be brought against the U.S. government and its subdivisions. To bring such a lawsuit, plaintiffs must comply with strict procedural requirements. Among these requirements is a two-year statute of limitations.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida car accident case discussing whether a private residential community could be held liable for the injuries sustained by motorists who were involved in a collision within the community. Ultimately, the court concluded that any alleged negligence of the community was not the proximate cause of the car accident, and thus the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiffs were driving through a residential community when another motorist rear-ended them. Evidently, the plaintiffs’ vehicle had come to a stop to allow oncoming trucks to pass through a narrow area of the road where there were cars parked on both sides of the street. As the plaintiffs waited for the vehicles to pass, they were rear-ended.

The plaintiffs filed a Florida personal injury lawsuit against the motorist that struck their vehicle as well as the residential community. In support of their claim against the residential community, the plaintiffs cited a city code that prohibited parking on both sides of the street. Apparently, when the community was first created parking was only permitted in the driveways of residents’ homes; however, after discovering that this policy resulted in a severe parking shortage, the community allowed parking on both sides of the street. The plaintiffs claimed that by allowing residents to park on both sides of the road in violation of the city ordinance, the residential community was partially responsible for the accident.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida car accident case requiring the court to determine if a liability release waiver signed by the plaintiff prevented her from pursuing a case against the defendant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the scope of the release waiver did not include the specific type of claim brought by the plaintiff.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was run over by a pick-up truck while she was attending a race at the Daytona International Speedway. Evidently, before the accident, employees of the speedway instructed the tow-truck driver to back the truck up into the area where the plaintiff was standing.

As a condition of allowing the plaintiff into the raceway, the racetrack asked that she sign a release of liability waiver. In essence, that waiver stated that the plaintiff acknowledged that there were dangers associated with standing on or near the raceway and that she agreed not to pursue any claims if she was injured due to “any negligent” actions of the defendant.

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In a recent state appellate decision, a Florida court upheld a jury’s verdict in favor of a plaintiff who was seriously injured after being rear-ended by a van while stopped in traffic on the Buckman Bridge. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s case improperly relied upon the stacking of multiple inferences in light of the fact that the plaintiff’s evidence was circumstantial in nature. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff’s claim was not reliant upon the improper stacking of inferences and affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

Circumstantial Evidence

There are two types of evidence: direct and circumstantial. Direct evidence is evidence that tends to prove a conclusion without the need for any inference. For example, eyewitness testimony that a driver made a lane change without signaling would be considered direct evidence that the driver changed lanes and did not signal.

On the other hand, circumstantial evidence requires at least one inference to be made before reaching a conclusion. Circumstantial evidence is also known as “smoking gun” evidence. For example, if a man is shot and turns around only to see a woman with a smoking gun in her hand, the man’s observations are circumstantial evidence that the woman shot him. It is not direct evidence because he did not see the woman pull the trigger. However, it can be inferred that the fact the gun was smoking means that it was recently fired.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating the importance of taking all steps to properly preserve any issues a party believes a judge decided wrongly in a Florida personal injury case. In this case, the court ultimately dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal because she failed to make a timely objection.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was rear-ended by the defendant and subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. Before trial, the plaintiff filed several proposed jury instructions, including an instruction on the doctrine of negligence per se. The case proceeded to trial, and before sending the jury back to deliberate, the judge held a charging conference where the judge discussed how he would instruct the jury and hear arguments from counsel about proposed charges.

Evidently, the charging conference was not memorialized. At the conclusion of the conference, the judge determined the instructions would not include the plaintiff’s proposed instruction on negligence per se. The judge asked the parties if they had anything to add, to which the plaintiff’s attorney responded: “I have no issues with the charge, Your Honor.” The jury was instructed accordingly, and then returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.

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In a recent personal injury opinion, a state appellate court rejected a plaintiff’s claim against the defendant landowner that was based on the landowner’s failure to trim trees that the plaintiff claimed blocked the view of oncoming traffic. The case presents an interesting issue for Florida car accident plaintiffs because it illustrates the concept of landowner liability in a Florida personal injury case. Additionally, given the court’s unique concerns that may not apply in Florida, it is possible that the case may have been decided differently by a Florida court.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the case arose from a fatal accident that occurred at a rural intersection of two gravel roads. There were no road signs at the intersection. The plaintiff approached the intersection at the same time as another motorist, and the two vehicles collided.

Evidently, a post-accident investigation by law enforcement determined that neither of the drivers had applied the brakes or attempted to avoid the collision. Also, one law enforcement officer explained that it would have been impossible for the motorists to see the other approaching because the trees on the southeast corner of the intersection obscured the motorists’ vision.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case rejecting the defendant’s claim that the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed based on the plaintiff’s failure to preserve relevant evidence. The case is important for Florida personal injury plaintiffs because it illustrates both the importance of preserving evidence that is in the plaintiff’s control, as well as taking expedient action to ensure potential defendants also preserve necessary evidence.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s wife was killed in a car accident. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s wife was driving on a highway when her car hydroplaned after encountering a puddle of water. Evidently, the storm drain that should have drained the water from the road was clogged with debris. The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city responsible for maintaining the road.

After the accident, the plaintiff’s car was taken to a scrap yard. The owner of the scrap yard sent a letter to the plaintiff’s mother’s home, demanding payment of a daily storage fee. The plaintiff later retained counsel, who contacted the scrap yard and asked the vehicle be preserved. The plaintiff’s counsel also requested that all future communication be directed to him, rather than to the plaintiff.

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In a recent personal injury case, a state appellate court issued a written opinion discussing whether a police department could be held liable under the state’s tort claims act for injuries caused while the officer was responding to an emergency call. The case presents an important issue for Florida car accident victims who have been injured due to the negligence of a police officer or other government employee.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident when a police officer made a left-hand turn against a red light while responding to an emergency call. There was some evidence suggesting that the police car’s emergency lights were activated at the time the vehicle entered the intersection but that siren was not engaged. A subsequent investigation revealed that the plaintiff was not speeding at the time of the accident, and given the nature of the intersection the plaintiff would not have been able to see the officer’s vehicle approaching.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city that employed the officer, claiming that the officer was negligent and that the city was vicariously responsible for the officer’s negligent actions. The city responded that the officer was exercising discretion in responding to the emergency call, and that the discretionary acts of a government employee are entitled to immunity.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a plaintiff could pursue a respondeat superior claim as well as a negligent entrustment claim against an employer based on an employee’s negligent conduct. The case is important to Florida car accident victims because it elucidates the differences between two common claims that are often believed to be identical but are, in fact, different.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was riding a motorcycle when he was struck by a truck that made an improper left turn in front of the plaintiff. The plaintiff died as a result of the collision. The truck driver was later found to have been under the influence of a prescription narcotic that was banned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

The plaintiff filed a multi-claim wrongful death case against the truck driver’s employer. The plaintiff claimed that the employer was liable for the truck driver’s negligence under the theory of vicarious liability. In addition, the plaintiff contended that the employer was liable under the doctrine of negligent entrustment.

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