Court Ruling Favors Accident Plaintiff Who Initially Sued the Wrong Defendant

One state’s supreme court recently published a decision reversing two lower court rulings that had thrown out a car accident case initially filed against the wrong defendant and later amended by the plaintiff to include the actual driver of the other vehicle, but only after the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim had expired. The most recent appellate opinion interpreted the state procedural rules to allow the plaintiff’s claim to proceed against the actual driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident because the plaintiff was reasonably mistaken as to who was in control of the vehicle at the time of the crash. Since the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case has been reversed, the plaintiff’s negligence claim against the driver of the other vehicle will proceed toward a trial or the settlement of the plaintiff’s claim.

The Plaintiff Suffered Injuries After Being Rear-Ended by a Vehicle with Several Occupants

The plaintiff in the case of Sellers v. Kurdilla is a woman who was injured after her vehicle was rear-ended by a pickup truck in January 2010. According to the facts discussed in the recent appellate opinion, the truck contained at least three occupants when the accident occurred. Based on the identification and insurance information that the vehicle’s driver furnished to the plaintiff after the accident, an attorney filed a personal injury claim on her behalf against the vehicle’s owner shortly before the statute of limitations for such a claim expired.

In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the truck’s owner claimed that he was not driving when the accident occurred, although he was riding in the truck. The plaintiff then amended her claim to add the man who was driving the truck as a defendant to her lawsuit, although the amended claim was not filed until after the statute of limitations had expired.

The Trial Court and Intermediate Appellate Court Rejected Plaintiff’s Amended Claim As Time-Barred

After the plaintiff amended her claim to include the driver of the truck as a defendant, the driver succeeded in having the case against him dismissed because the plaintiff’s claim wasn’t amended to include him until after the statute of limitations had expired. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the state appellate division, who agreed with the trial court that the statute of limitations applied to prevent the plaintiff from seeking relief from the allegedly negligent driver of the truck. The plaintiff’s argument that the actual driver should have been on notice of the claim against the car’s owner within the statute of limitations was rejected by the court, which found that the plaintiff should have substituted the actual driver for the initial defendant, instead of adding the driver as an additional defendant, for the late filing to have been excused.

The State High Court Rejected the Reasoning of the Lower Courts and Allowed the Plaintiff’s Claim to Proceed

The plaintiff appealed the lower rulings to the state’s highest court, which accepted the plaintiff’s arguments and clarified the state’s procedural requirements for adding or substituting a party to a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired. The state high court rejected the lower courts’ decisions distinguishing the substitution of a party from the addition of a party who had been misidentified in a plaintiff’s initial complaint. Since the plaintiff was found to have made a true mistake as to the identity of the party driving the truck, her subsequent amended complaint that added the actual driver should have been accepted by the district court. As a result of the state high court ruling, the plaintiff will be allowed to proceed with her claim against the driver of the truck who allegedly caused her injuries.

Florida Statute of Limitations in Car Accident Cases

According to Florida Statutes, Section 95.11, Florida auto accident victims have four years from the date of an accident to file a personal injury claim against another driver. Although certain factors like those ultimately considered in the Sellers case may work to extend the statute of limitations in the case of a mistaken identity or another reasonable mistake by a plaintiff, the easiest and safest way for a plaintiff to make a successful personal injury claim without making an appeal is to file a claim and serve the correct defendant before the statute of limitations expires. A skilled Florida accident attorney can ensure that the plaintiff meets the procedural deadlines for recovery before they expire.

Have You Been Injured in a Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a Florida auto accident, contacting a qualified Florida personal injury attorney as quickly as possible after the crash will improve your ability to receive compensation for your injuries. The Miami personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank can assist you with every aspect of your case and fight to get you the compensation that you deserve. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we represent clients in car accidents and other negligence cases in the Miami area and throughout South Florida. Contact us and schedule a free consultation today. Call us toll-free at 877-448-8585 or use our web-based form to be put in touch with a skilled attorney and discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Court Awards Additional Damages to Plaintiff Based On Insurance Company’s Bad Faith, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 9, 2016.

Blatant Surgical Errors Remain Startlingly Common Despite Technological Advances in Medicine, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published August 18, 2016.

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