Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a car accident case that will be of interest to South Florida car accident victims because it illustrates the limits of the doctrine of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that allows a plaintiff to hold a third party responsible for the negligent acts of another party. The classic example of vicarious liability is when an employee causes an accident while working for his employer, and the accident victim seeks to hold the employer liable for the employee’s negligence.

CollisionIn some cases, if an employee negligently causes an accident while acting within the scope of his employment, anyone injured in that accident may seek compensation not just from the employee but also from the employer. However, the burden rests with the accident victim to prove that the relationship between the parties is sufficient to establish legal liability. Generally speaking, this means showing that the person who caused the accident was actually an employee and was acting within the scope of their employment. The case mentioned above illustrates how courts analyze these claims and which types of evidence courts may consider when determining if a person is an employee.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a car accident with a delivery driver who was working for the defendant. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the driver of the vehicle as well as the company that hired him.

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When someone is injured due to the negligence of a Florida government employee or entity, they may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. However, lawsuits that are filed against government defendants in Florida have certain additional requirements that must be met, or the accident victim risks the court dismissing their case before it is heard.

Drain CoverIn Florida, accident victims must file a pre-suit notice to the government agency that they are naming as a defendant. According to Florida Statutes section 768.28, state and local governments in Florida must be served with a pre-suit notice of a claim within three years of the accident. This notice must contain information about the accident, such as where it occurred, who was involved, the alleged acts of negligence, and what is being requested. If a pre-suit notice is not filed or is insufficient, a court may dismiss any subsequent lawsuit. A recent appellate court opinion out of Georgia details one plaintiff’s experience with an inaccurately drafted pre-suit notice.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when he stepped in an uncovered manhole while walking on a paved street in the defendant city. Initially, the plaintiff reported the hazard to the police department and provided the department with the address of 425 Chappell Road. The plaintiff explained to the police that the uncovered manhole was at the intersection of Chappell Road and Mayson Turner Road.

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There are several elements that a plaintiff must establish before they are able to recover financially after a South Florida car accident. One of these key elements is causation. Simply stated, the causation element requires a plaintiff to prove that the defendant’s conduct was the legal cause of their injuries, or, to use the legal terminology, the “proximate cause.”

Traffic JamThere is not an exact definition of the term proximate cause, and determining whether a defendant’s actions constitute proximate cause is normally left up to a jury. However, in some situations, a court may determine whether proximate cause exists as a matter of law through a summary judgment proceeding. Whether being decided by a judge or jury, the question is whether the defendant’s actions more likely than not “foreseeably and substantially contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries.” Importantly, proximate cause does not need to be the only cause of an accident.

A recent personal injury case illustrates how one state court’s causation analysis resulted in the dismissal of a car accident victim’s case.

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Workplace injuries occur frequently in many professions, and this is especially the case for jobs in the construction and manufacturing industries. When a worker is injured on the job, there are several potential avenues that the worker can pursue to obtain compensation for their injuries.

Chemical PlantThe first option is a workers’ compensation claim. Florida workers’ compensation claims are filed by an injured employee against an employer for an injury that occurred on the job while they were acting within the scope of their employment. If they are successful in a workers’ compensation claim, an injured worker can obtain temporary or permanent benefits while they are unable to return to work. However, once a worker is able to return to work, the benefits cease. Additionally, compensation for pain and suffering due to the accident will not be available through a Florida workers’ compensation claim. However, if a workers’ compensation claim is available to an injured worker, that will be his sole remedy, meaning that he will not be able to pursue compensation through a Florida personal injury case.

Workers who are injured due to the fault of a third party (i.e., not their employer) can seek benefits through a Florida personal injury claim against that negligent third party. If they are successful in a Florida personal injury case, an injured worker can recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and any pain and suffering they endured as a result of the accident. A recent case illustrates how an injured employee unsuccessfully attempted to hold a third party liable for his workplace injuries.

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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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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a tragic Florida car accident case that claimed the life of the plaintiff’s pregnant wife. The case involved the question of whether a road-side hotel had a duty to prevent traffic from a nearby road from entering the hotel’s pool area in the event of an out-of-control vehicle. Ultimately, the court concluded that the hotel did not have a duty to prevent this type of accident, and it dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

Florida CoastThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and his pregnant wife were sitting poolside under a cabana while staying at the defendant hotel. While the couple was under the cabana, a drunk driver lost control of her vehicle, jumped a curb, and came careening into the hotel’s pool area. The car crashed into the cabana, killing the plaintiff’s wife and injuring the plaintiff.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the driver of the car as well as the hotel. The plaintiff presented evidence that it was common for motorists to speed on the road on which the hotel was located. An engineer testified that, due to a curve in the road, at some point, vehicles traveling along the road are directly facing the pool area. The plaintiff argued that, given these facts, the hotel should have taken additional precautions to prevent this type of accident.

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Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida personal injury lawsuit brought by a woman who developed lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after smoking cigarettes manufactured by the defendant. The jury was tasked with answering:  “Was [Plaintiff] addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine and, if so, was her addiction a legal cause of her lung cancer and/or COPD?”

Cigarette SmokeDuring the trial, the plaintiff called her treating pulmonologist. The plaintiff’s attorney attempted to ask the pulmonologist if the plaintiff was addicted to cigarettes; however, the defense objected. The court sustained the objection, preventing the pulmonologist from answering the question.

When it was the defendant’s turn to cross-examine the witness, the defense attorney asked the pulmonologist if he thought that the plaintiff would have been able to quit smoking once she was “sufficiently motivated to do so.” The plaintiff objected, but the court overruled the objection, and the pulmonologist was allowed to respond. He agreed that the plaintiff was able to quit when she was sufficiently motivated to do so.

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After a 38-year-old man was shot and killed, his mother and his five-year-old son filed survival and wrongful death claims against the shooter. The man was killed in August 2009, and on June 9, 2015, the man’s mother and the man’s then five-year-old son filed a complaint against the shooter. They alleged wrongful death based on negligence, a survival action based on negligence, wrongful death based on gross negligence, a survival action based on gross negligence, wrongful death based on battery, a survival action based on battery, and fraudulent conveyance.

HourglassThe defendant moved to dismiss the case, and the court granted the motion to dismiss as to the wrongful death claims because the court said they were filed too late. The plaintiff appealed the decision, and in a recent decision, a state court of appeals reinstated the claims.

Under that state’s laws, a wrongful death claim had to be filed within three years of the date of death. However, the state provided exceptions under certain circumstances. One statute provided that a wrongful death claim filed by a minor plaintiff was tolled during the period of minority. Another statute stated that if a plaintiff did not know about a claim due to an adverse party’s fraud, the time period for the claim began to run when the party discovered or should have discovered the fraud through ordinary diligence.

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In all Florida personal injury cases, the plaintiff must prove certain facts before they will be entitled to receive compensation for their injuries. The specific elements that must be proven depend largely on the type of case, but some elements are almost universally required across all Florida personal injury cases.

Desert HighwayOne of the most common – and most contested – elements in a Florida personal injury case is the element of causation. Simply stated, the element of causation requires that a plaintiff prove that the defendant’s actions were the cause of their injuries. While this sounds simple in theory, a recent case illustrates how establishing causation may not be as straightforward as it initially seems.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding his motorcycle on the highway. When he rounded a curve, he approached another accident without warning, and he was unable to safely stop in time to avoid an accident. He ended up sustaining serious injuries as a result of the motorcycle accident.

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