Under Florida law, all motorists carrying any load must make sure that the load is secure. This law makes driving on Florida roads safer by ensuring that a motorist’s cargo does not shift during transport, fall onto the road, and cause a serious Florida car accident. However, not all drivers follow the rule, and some who try to tie down their cargo do not do a very good job. The result is hazardous. A recent case illustrates the risks unsecured cargo can pose, as well as the legal issues that may arise in a lawsuit against a motorist who fails to ensure they are transporting cargo safely.
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving when, suddenly, she looked up and saw a mattress flying towards her vehicle. The plaintiff did what she could to avoid the mattress, but ended up crashing into a nearby barrier. Witnesses to the accident tracked down the truck that was carrying the mattress, and provided the truck’s information to law enforcement. The truck was towing a trailer with seven-foot sides.
Police officers stopped the truck and talked to the driver. The driver told police that he was not aware of any mattress in the trailer, but that there may have been a mattress back there. The motorist told police that he wasn’t sure about whether there was a mattress in the trailer because co-workers were responsible for loading and unloading the trailer.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the driver, claiming that he was legally negligent for failing to secure the cargo. The plaintiff cited a specific vehicle code provision requiring motorists safely secure cargo when trailering, asking the court to instruct the jury that the defendant was legally negligent for violating the rule.
At trial, the defendant unequivocally denied that there was a mattress in the trailer, stating that the trailer was “empty for sure.” However, he also admitted that he previously told police that there might have been a mattress in the trailer.
At the end of the trial, the court instructed the jury on the provision of the vehicle code cited by the plaintiff. In addition, the court gave an “excuse” instruction, explaining that if the jury found that the defendant used reasonable care but was not able to obey the law, the defendant’s violation of was excused. The jury found for the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the case was reversed based on the jury instruction provided by the trial judge. The court explained that the trial judge should not have included the excuse instruction because there was no evidence to support it. The court explained that the defendant presented no evidence suggesting he took any effort to secure the mattress to the trailer, and instead denied that the mattress was in the trailer altogether. For this reason, the court reversed the lower court’s decision and allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Car Accident?
If you have recently been injured in a Florida car accident, the knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyers at Friedman Rodman & Frank can help. At Friedman Rodman & Frank, we have extensive experience handling all types of Florida injury claims, including car accidents, truck crashes, and other types of motor vehicle collisions. To learn more about how we can help you with your situation, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.