Articles Posted in Truck Accident

semitruckRecently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing the admissibility of the plaintiff’s proposed expert-witness testimony. The case raised an important issue that many Florida personal injury plaintiffs face when dealing with concepts that are beyond the scope of the common understanding of jurors and require an expert’s testimony.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and her infant son were involved in an accident when a northbound semi-truck made a left in front of the plaintiff’s southbound vehicle. The plaintiff’s car crashed into the side of the semi-truck, and became wedged underneath the truck. The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the trailer, arguing that her injuries were made worse by the fact that the truck did not have a side-underride guard. One of the elements the plaintiffs needed to establish to prove their case was whether there was “an alternative safer design” that was “practical under the circumstances.”

The plaintiff arranged to have two experts testify that, had the manufacturer installed telescoping side-underride guards, her vehicle would not likely have been wedged underneath the truck. While side-underride guards have existed for some time, telescoping side-underride guards have not yet been manufactured and have only been tested through computer simulations. Notably, due to the nature of the accident, the opinion of the plaintiff’s experts was that only a telescoping side-underride guard would have prevented or reduced the plaintiff’s injuries. This was due to the positioning of the truck’s rear axle at the time of the accident.

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Under Florida’s dangerous-instrumentality doctrine, a vehicle owner who entrusts his or her vehicle to another person who negligently causes an accident can be held liable for any injuries. Essentially, this doctrine holds the owners of dangerous instrumentalities – including motor vehicles – liable when they loan the vehicle to another person who causes an accident. Importantly, there does not need to be any showing that the vehicle owner was negligent in loaning the vehicle to the at-fault driver.

Legal News GavelFlorida law limits an owner’s liability under the dangerous-instrumentality doctrine to $100,000. A recent case in front of a Florida appellate court illustrates how a non-negligent owner can be held liable for injuries, up to the statutory maximum, under the dangerous-instrumentality doctrine.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a woman who was killed when she was rear-ended by a truck that was driven by one defendant and owned by another defendant. Both of the defendants were present in the truck at the time of the accident. The owner of the truck had previously been driving but asked his passenger to take over control of the truck while he took a nap in the back.

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Earlier this month, a Georgia jury awarded a woman $15 million in financial compensation for the injuries she received in an April 2015 truck accident. According to a news report covering the recent verdict, the case proceeded to trial after the accident victim and the trucking company were unable to reach a mutually acceptable result in pre-trial negotiations.

Legal News GavelThe accident giving rise to the case occurred on a Georgia highway. A car full of six Louisiana nursing students was on their way to their final day of clinical training in a Savannah hospital. Along their way, a traffic jam formed, requiring they come to a complete stop on the highway. After a few seconds of being stopped on the highway, a semi-truck came from behind, ramming into the rear of the students’ vehicle. The truck was traveling at approximately 70 miles per hour. Five of the six students in the car were killed.

A subsequent investigation discovered that the truck driver did not apply the brakes at all in the moments leading up to the accident. The driver later pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree vehicular manslaughter and received a sentence of five years’ incarceration followed by five years’ probation. The families of the deceased students filed wrongful death cases against the truck driver’s employer. These lawsuits were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts. However, the lone survivor in the car was unable to reach an agreement with the trucking company, which initially only offered to pay her medical expenses.

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