Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accident

car accidentSome parties try to get away with lying or concealing information relevant to a legal claim. However, the consequences of failing to provide honest and complete testimony can be dire. In a recent case before a Florida appeals court, the court dismissed a personal injury claim after the plaintiff concealed a history of low back injury.

In that case, the plaintiff was riding in a car owned by his girlfriend when they were hit by a truck that fled the scene. The plaintiff alleged that the girlfriend was negligent and that he suffered permanent injuries to his neck and lower back as a result.

The parties engaged in discovery and the plaintiff admitted that he injured his lower back about 30 years prior, but testified that it had healed and he had not had any problems since that time. However, a review of the plaintiff’s medical records later showed that he hurt his lower back several months before the incident when he slipped on a stepladder. His records also revealed that he reported having a “chronic” history of similar episodes as well as a herniated disc. Additionally, when he went to the emergency room after the most recent accident, he reported that his back pain started “a long time ago.”

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In most Florida personal injury cases, once a jury comes to a decision and enters a verdict, the case is over. Generally speaking, the jury’s decision regarding whether the defendant should be held liable to the plaintiff is fairly insulated from review and can only be overturned in the rarest of circumstances.

Gavel and BooksThere are some situations, however, in which a jury’s decision regarding an award amount is subject to a judge’s review. Thus, if a jury finds that the defendant is liable to the plaintiff, enters judgment in the plaintiff’s favor, and then enters an award too large or too small, the judge can review the jury’s award. Under Florida Statute section 768.74, if the judge determines that the award was not appropriate, the judge can then order a remittur (reduction) or an additur (increase) in the award amount.

Section 768.74 lays out several considerations that a judge should take into account when asked to review a jury’s award. These include:

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida personal injury case involving a pedestrian who was struck by a golf cart and sustained serious injuries. The case illustrates the difficulties that are common when dealing with an insurance company in the wake of a serious accident.

Golf CartUnfortunately, the operator of the golf cart responsible for causing the accident did not have sufficient insurance coverage to fully compensate the victim for her injuries. Thus, the victim was forced to file a claim with her own insurance company, under the underinsured motorist provision. The case required the court to determine if the accident victim’s policy covered the accident.

The Plaintiff’s Insurance Policy

The plaintiff’s insurance policy provided for both liability protection as well as underinsured motorist protection. The language describing the policy’s liability protection included coverage for all accidents involving cars and trailers. However, the policy contained an exclusion for vehicles that were not generally used for public roads. That being said, the exclusion specifically excepted accidents involving non-owned golf carts from the exclusion.

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Cases that go to trial are generally left in the hands of the jury. However, in some cases, judges can take the decision out of juries’ hands and make a decision on their own. In one recent case, a Florida appellate court considered the limits of a trial judge’s ability to take the decision away from the jury, even when only one side presented testimony on an issue.

CourtroomIn this Florida car accident case, a woman and her husband brought a claim against the insurance company for uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage after the woman was injured in a car accident. The case proceeded to trial, but before the trial began, the court prohibited three of the insurance company’s experts from testifying, leaving only the plaintiff and her surgeon to testify on the issues of causation and whether she sustained a permanent injury.

The jury found the accident caused the plaintiff’s injuries but did not find that she had suffered a permanent injury. However, the plaintiffs moved for a directed verdict, and despite the jury’s verdict, the court found in the plaintiffs’ favor on the issues of causation and permanency. The insurance company appealed, arguing that even though their experts were barred from testifying, the court should have allowed the jury’s verdict to stand.

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As a general rule, litigants in Florida car accident cases must raise any issues they have with the trial court’s decisions at the moment a decision is made. Similarly, when responding to a claim or allegation, a party should be sure to make all relevant arguments at that time. Otherwise, a court may consider the argument waived.

Car WreckThe purpose of the waiver rule is to encourage efficient resolution of cases. If, for example, a party were able to raise any issue at any time, courts would find themselves dealing with a never-ending series of motions and requests as the parties came up with new versions of old arguments. Instead, Florida court rules require that parties bring everything they have upfront so that the judge can make one informed decision that will not need to be revisited, absent a legal error. A recent Florida personal injury case illustrates this concept.

The Facts

The plaintiff was injured when another motorist struck her vehicle. The other motorist did not have sufficient insurance coverage to fully compensate the plaintiff for the injuries she sustained. The plaintiff, however, was covered under two other insurance policies:  an Allstate policy in her mother’s name and a Geico policy in her father’s name. The Allstate policy provided $5,000 more in coverage than the Geico policy.

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HD-Image-7-1024x683-300x200I was twelve when I first rode a motorcycle. It was just a small dirt bike that belonged to an acquaintance, but riding it gave me an incredible sense of freedom. Like many people, I wistfully remember that bike and the joy it gave me.

I still have numerous friends with motorcycles, and I frequently warn them about the dangers they face on the roadways. As an attorney, I know that that danger doesn’t come from road debris or from faulty bikes. Most accidents involving motorcycles happen not because of any fault of the driver of the motorcycle, but because the drivers of cars don’t see the motorcycle. These drivers change lanes into them, stop suddenly, or take other actions that leave the motorcycle driver unable to avoid an accident.

These are riders doing nothing wrong, but who end up with medical bills, damaged property, and even lost wages thanks to negligence by a driver of a car who simply failed to take due care on the roadway. These drivers need to be held accountable for their actions, and they need to compensate victims for the damage they caused.

Earlier this month, one Florida teen was killed and four others injured when they were struck by an allegedly drunk driver as they crossed the street after exiting the school bus. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the collision occurred in Polk County.

Blurred TunnelEvidently, the driver of a Kia Rio was driving near Poinciana when he started to learn forward onto the steering wheel. As he did so, the car drifted off the right shoulder and struck the students, who had just recently gotten off the school bus and were walking home. After the initial collision, the driver regained awareness and then left the scene. A motorist who witnessed the accident followed the driver, who eventually crashed into an SUV before coming to a stop.

Authorities arrived on the scene a short time later and believed the man to be under the influence of alcohol. They administered an alcohol-content test, which revealed that the driver’s blood-alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit. Sadly, one of the boys who was struck by the driver passed away in the hospital later that day. Another teen was admitted to the intensive care unit with a broken orbital bone.

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car accidentUnder Florida law, it is presumed in rear-end collision cases that the driver of the rear vehicle was negligent. Although this presumption can be a useful tool for litigants, the presumption is not absolute, and those seeking to make recourse to this presumption must be able to show that no possible negligence on their part contributed to the collision. Questions regarding the application of this rear-end collision presumption were at the core of a recent decision from the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Padilla v. Schwartz, involving a rear-end collision on the Florida Turnpike.

As stated above, the accident at issue occurred along a stretch of the Florida Turnpike where construction was taking place. The plaintiff was driving on the turnpike when he struck the back of a vehicle being operated by the defendant. At his deposition, the plaintiff testified that he was driving within the speed limit and that he did not observe any vehicles near him until immediately before the collision. The plaintiff further testified that only shortly before the accident did he see the defendant’s vehicle, which he asserted appeared suddenly before him, and that although he applied his brakes, it was not enough to avoid striking the rear of the defendant’s vehicle. Following the accident, the plaintiff brought a negligence lawsuit against the defendant. At the conclusion of discovery, the defendant moved for summary judgment, asserting that he was entitled to the rear-end collision presumption and that the plaintiff had failed to adduce evidence to rebut the presumption that his negligence, rather than the defendant’s, caused the accident. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

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Traffic Cone In American legal culture, the determinations of juries are afforded considerable deference. Nevertheless, juries do make mistakes, and courts then must step in and order new trials in the interest of justice. However, those who benefit from an initial jury’s ruling are generally not amenable to a trial court ordering a new trial. Indeed, the propriety of a trial court order directing that there be a new trial was at the center of Botta v. Florida Power & Light Co., a recent decision from Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal that involved a collision between an FPL truck and the vehicle of another motorist.

The events at issue in Botta were set in course by a nighttime power outage. After receiving a report of the outage, FPL sent out a truck to investigate. The technician sent to investigate the outage parked his truck along the side of a road but did not set up any reflective markers behind the truck to indicate its presence. In addition, there was disputed evidence as to whether the truck’s warning lights had been activated. Some time after the technician parked, a car being operated by the plaintiff in this case collided with the truck. The plaintiff testified that he believed the truck was in motion at the time of the accident and that he attempted to brake prior to the collision. However, a witness to the accident testified that he did not see the car decelerate before the collision. In addition, there was a dispute of fact regarding whether the headlights of the plaintiff’s vehicle were illuminated at the time of the accident. The plaintiff was severely injured as a result of the crash and needed to have his arm amputated.

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car-accident-1-1449299-1-300x199In a recent decision from Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal, Manfre v. Shinkle, the court examined whether a jury correctly found that the defendant, a local sheriff, was liable for injuries arising from a motor vehicle accident. Although the accident at issue occurred at night on an unlit, rural road, the lack of light only played a marginal role. Instead, the crash was principally caused by the plaintiff’s collision with a dead horse, which the plaintiff claimed was in her path because of a local deputy’s negligent investigation of a report of roaming animals.

The accident at the heart of Manfre occurred shortly before sunrise on a dark road in rural Flagler County. The plaintiff was traveling at about 45 miles per hour when her vehicle struck a dead horse and flipped. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered a variety of physical injuries. About an hour and a half before this accident, the county’s Sheriff’s Office received a call that reported two horses were roaming on the side of the road where the accident occurred. A deputy responded to the scene, where he saw the horses returning to the pasture. Evidence presented at trial indicated that the horses may have been spooked by the sheriff’s headlights. Satisfied that the horses’ return to the pasture settled the issue, the deputy cleared the call and left the scene without either ensuring that the horses were now safely enclosed or contacting the property owner. Following the deputy’s departure, at least one of the horses returned to the road, where it was struck by a vehicle and killed. It was the dead horse with which the plaintiff’s vehicle collided.

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