Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog
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It was supposed to be one of the most joyous times in the young couple’s lives. They were recently married and had won a trip through their church to attend a marriage retreat in Fort Lauderdale. They were also expecting their first child, a boy, who was due within two months.gavel21

But they would never see that day. While standing outside the hotel cabana, located at the corner of a sharp curve with lots of fast-moving traffic, the pregnant wife was struck by a drunk driver. Both she and her unborn son were killed. Her husband, who had been in a nearby restroom, sustained only minor injuries. But his life would never be the same.

Jurors in the civil lawsuit against the drunk driver and the hotel determined husband/plaintiff should be awarded $24 million for his losses. In apportioning fault, jurors determined the drunk driver was 85 percent to blame, while the hotel was 15 percent responsible. If the verdict withstands an appeal (to which the hotel as alluded), it will owe $3.6 million.

Although $24 million sounds like a lot of money, consider plaintiff is not likely to collect most of it. With the lion’s share of the liability falling on the shoulders of the drunk driver, and with her in prison for the next 15 years after pleading guilty to two counts of DUI manslaughter, it isn’t likely plaintiff will receive much from her. He may collect some from her insurance company. He may be able to seize whatever assets she may have had. And if she filed for bankruptcy, judgments for DUI-related accidents and injuries are non-dischargable.

Still, realistically speaking, there may not be much to gain.

It’s the case against the hotel that will be the most beneficial – not only monetarily, but in terms of preventing future incidents.

Drunk driving remains a scourge in the U.S., accounting for a third of all fatal crashes. This is true even though prison penalties, fines and civil damages are hefty. People continue to engage in this reckless and careless behavior.

But there are other entities that can be held liable when DUI crashes occur. For example, a bar that serves alcohol to a minor who later gets in the car and causes a crash may be found responsible for damages under Florida’s dram shop law. The owner of the vehicle driven by a drunk driver may be liable. A victim’s own insurance company may be compelled to pay underinsured/uninsured motorist benefits if the at-fault party lacked adequate insurance coverage.

In this case, the issue was the hotel’s alleged inaction despite knowing about the potential hazard. The cabana, which was open to guests, was situated on a sharp curve with no barrier between guests and the traffic that rounded that bend. A traffic study entered into evidence revealed vehicles routinely went around the curve at speeds in excess of 50 mph, and some even went as fast as 75 mph.

Staffers were aware of the danger, evidence showed. In fact, they one had written to city council about the problem, calling that stretch of road a “race track.” The problem had also been discussed at staff meetings. At one point, staffers illegally erected a stop sign on the city road, though that was later removed.

At no point did the hotel erect a barrier and neither did it warn guests of the potential for danger or keep them from entering the hazardous area.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Jury Awards $24 Million to Widower in Fatal Cabana Crash, June 24, 2015, By Emily Miller, Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

Mathis v. Huff & Puff Trucking – Proving Injuries and Causation, June 30, 2015, Broward County Car Accident Attorney Blog

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In any car accident lawsuit, there are a number of elements that must be proven in order for the case to be successful. Those elements include:

  • Defendant owed plaintiff duty of care;
  • That duty of care was breached;
  • That breach resulted in injury to plaintiff;
  • Plaintiff suffered damages as a result.

While many cases often focus on the duty that was breached – i.e., who was at fault in the crash – it is essential to make sure the causation and extent of damages is not overlooked in proving the case. trucksassorted

A failure to do this may result in an empty win. That is, the court may find in favor of plaintiff or defense might even concede total liability for the crash, but the damages awarded plaintiff will be minimal if non-existent if causation and damages aren’t proven.

Causation can be especially tricky where a plaintiff may have suffered a previous, unrelated injury. Defense may attempt to attack plaintiff’s purported cause or extent of injuries in an attempt to significantly limit damages.

Plaintiffs must be prepared for this by working with a highly experienced legal team. Even where pre-existing conditions may exist, if the condition was aggravated as a result of the crash, plaintiffs are still entitled to damages.

In he case of Mathis v. Huff & Puff Trucking, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, it was these type of issues that caused problems for plaintiff.

The case stemmed from a 2008 trucking accident in which a tow truck driver slammed into a semi-tractor trailer, injuring the semi driver.

It was later determined the tow truck driver was at-fault for the crash. He was traveling too fast for the icy conditions of the road (the crash happened in Wyoming) and he should not have been driving in the far left lane.

Plaintiff contacted 911 from the scene and was transported for emergency treatment, where the physician diagnosed him with a strained neck and back. He was released later in the evening.

Prior to the crash, plaintiff had suffered back injuries. He had undergone spinal surgery in 1989 and again in 1993. The day after the crash, he followed up with his own physician, who reviewed the X-rays and ordered an MRI. Doctor noted numerous areas of sprain to the spine, which were attributed to the collision.

Plaintiff was referred to a neurosurgeon, who again diagnosed him with sprains and aggravation of a pre-existing degenerative condition. He prescribed conservative treatments, which included massage and physical therapy.

Recovery went well after that point, and work restrictions were removed, with plaintiff continuing to work a physically demanding job, though he did still receive occasional treatments.

In his lawsuit, plaintiff sought $1 million in damages.

At trial, however, expert witnesses for the defense characterized his spinal injuries suffered in the crash as temporary. Expert witnesses for plaintiff testified the injuries to the spine and head were permanent and had reduced his future earning capacity.

Although jurors determined the tow truck driver was 100 percent at fault, it awarded him only $145,000.

Plaintiff appealed. He argued the award was clearly erroneous, and further, the judge’s law clerk had a conflict of interest because her husband worked for the law firm representing the defense.

The appellate court affirmed, finding the conflict was a harmless error. The judge had been aware of the potential conflict, but noted the clerk was not a visible presence in the courtroom and neither did the clerk’s husband present in trial for the case, though he was assigned to monitor it.

Justices further found sufficient evidence to support the jury’s conclusion and damage award based on defense assertion the injuries sustained were temporary and not permanent.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Mathis v. Huff & Puff Trucking, June 2, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Social Media Posts Examined in Personal Injury Cases, May 19, 2015, Hollywood Car Accident Attorney Blog

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Emergency responders – including police officers – are given an enormous responsibility to make it to emergencies quickly. However, there is also an expectation that they will do so as safely as possible. accident

These government workers are given a great deal of latitude in terms of liability, but only so long as they are acting within the scope of their employment and only as long as they are behaving reasonably under the circumstances.

Still, when the public is placed in jeopardy as a result of these actions, there may be grounds for litigation. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates there are approximately 250,000 high speed chases annually. Of those, between 6,000 and 8,000 end in crashes, claiming the lives of 500 people and injuring some 5,000.

Courts have grappled over the years with how to handle claims that arise from such instances. For example, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in the 1986 case of Cannon v. Taylor a person injured by a negligent police officer is not necessarily entitled to compensation for a constitutional violation. However, in another 1986 case before the U.S. Supreme Court, the court reasoned actions like vehicle ramming, roadblocks and intentional actions can rise to the level of a constitutional violation.

But again, any sovereign immunity protection conferred onto the government employee arises from the fact that his or her actions were in the course and scope of employment.

In the case of Browder v. City of Albuquerque, this was not the case. Here, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled the off-duty police officer who allegedly caused a fatal car crash on the way home from his shift was not entitled to qualified immunity.

According to court records, the sergeant had just finished his shift and was, in the words of the justices, “On one one’s business but his own.” He was on his way home, and apparently wanted to get there quickly. He turned on his emergency lights, drove at speeds exceeding 65 mph on city roads through 10 intersections and, at the eleventh, ignored the red traffic light and pressed on the gas.

He struck a vehicle. The result was one woman died while her sister was gravely injured.

The sergeant was charged criminally with reckless vehicular homicide.

Decedent’s parents then filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, seeking civil damages. The sergeant requested the court dismiss the complaint on grounds of qualified immunity. However, trial court denied this request, as did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

The parents sued under, among other provisions, the 14th Amendment, which guarantees individuals will not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process. The U.S. Supreme Court has taken this to mean these actions won’t be taken without procedural due process or without sufficient justification (substantive due process).

High court justices warned against applying this exception broadly, but in this case, the appellate court held, it was appropriate. The officer in this case, the court ruled, was not engaging in an action that bore a reasonable justification in the service of legitimate government business or objectives.

Instead, the court determined, the actions of the officer were “arbitrary” and “conscience shocking.”

As such, the officer was not entitled to statutory protections under qualified immunity.

Any civil case in which defendant is a government worker should only be handled by an experienced legal team, as there are often a host of special procedural requirements and proof burdens that must be met in order for the case to go to trial.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Browder v. City of Albuquerque, June 2, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Tire Blow-Out Precedes Man’s Fall From Florida Bridge, May 25, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog

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A 4-year-old boy was killed and his 2-year-old sister severely injured after a box truck driven by an 18-year-old plowed into the back of their father’s vehicle early one Saturday morning.rearview

The 4-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene in Davenport by emergency workers, while his sister was flown to a nearby hospital and listed in serious condition.

Authorities say the father was moving at a slow roll on U.S. 27 approaching a traffic light when the box truck, traveling at highway speed, braked just seconds before impact. The force of that crash sent the vehicle with the children forward into a pickup truck just ahead of them.

The violent crash resulted in the back of the box truck impaling the back seat where the children were located in their car seats.

The child’s father was injured but is expected to recover. The truck driver was treated and released for a hand injury, after he allegedly attempted to break the window of the car with his bare hands to assist the family after the crash.

Authorities say criminal charges are not expected to be filed, as the truck driver was not distracted or drunk or excessively speeding. However, it is still possible a traffic citation may be issued, and it’s also likely the family may have ample grounds on which to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the trucker individually as well as against the trucker’s employer.

This type of action of course does not bring back the precious life that was lost. No amount of litigation can totally make a family whole again after such a devastating loss.

But compensation can help a family begin to heal. Beyond the monetary, though, there is the goal of preventing other similar accidents in the future through accountability. Trucking companies that hire unsafe or inexperienced drivers and fail to properly train or monitor them can be found negligent.

Similarly, theories of vicarious liability hold the employer accountable for the negligence of the employee, even if the company itself was not negligent.

The trucking industry is notoriously fragmented for this very reason. The designated motor carriers are often different entities from those that own the trailer and from those whose haul is being loaded. Additionally complicating matters is the fact that many drivers aren’t directly employed by the trucking company, but are instead independent contractors. This can throw the whole vicarious liability theory for a loop, though just because a driver is labeled “independent” doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is. Courts will closely examine the working relationship between the driver and the company to determine the level of control the firm had over the driver’s work. That is ultimately the deciding factor in many vicarious liability cases.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there were more than 3,960 people killed in traffic accidents involving large trucks in 2013. Additionally, another 95,000 people were injured.

The majority of those killed and injured in these collisions were not the truck drivers, but rather the occupants of other vehicles or non-occupants, such as bicyclists and pedestrians.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Boy, 4, Killed in U.S. 27 Crash, June 6, 2015, By Tori Walker, The Ledger

More Blog Entries:

Text-and-Drive Crashes Inspire Florida-Born Technology, May 30, 2015, Orlando Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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One was a 17-year-old, just graduated from high school, on her way to the University of Miami in the fall. The other was a 29-year-old medical student, preparing to begin his clinical rotation this summer. Now, both are gone.semitruck1

It happened on I-75 through Pembroke Pines, when a construction truck hauling concrete barriers pulled out into traffic on the fast-paced highway and into the path of the medical student. The truck was then struck by the vehicle driven by the 17-year-old, as concrete barriers flew out of the bed of the truck and onto her vehicle. Another large truck then barreled into the wreckage as well.

Authorities are investigating whether the concrete barrier truck, driven by a man whose commercial license had just been suspended and then reinstated days before the crash, was properly loaded and whether the driver followed proper procedure in exiting the construction site, located in the highway median.

New data released in May from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals there were nearly 4,000 people killed in crashes involving large trucks in 2013. That’s slightly more than the number of people killed in large truck crashes the previous year. Also in 2013, there were 95,000 people injured in these crashes.

As our Palm Beach County truck accident lawyers know, those injured in these types of collisions tend to sustain far more serious and lasting complications. The sheer size of these large trucks compared to the average motor vehicle puts non-commercial drivers at a distinct disadvantage in a wreck. That is no doubt why 71 percent of those killed in large truck crashes were the occupants of other vehicles, while another 11 percent were non-occupants (i.e., pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.).

The NHTSA also reports there were was a troubling 13 percent increase in the number of non-occupants killed. Researchers did not expound on why this might be.

While large trucks accounted for just 4 percent of all registered vehicles on the road, they were involved in 9 percent of vehicles involved in fatal crashes. The vast majority of fatal truck crashes – 80 percent – involved multiple vehicles. Compare that to the rate for passenger vehicles, which was 58 percent.

The one sliver of good news was that commercial truck drivers involved in serious and fatal crashes tended to have low rates of impaired driving – just 2 percent compared to about 23 percent for those in passenger cars and 27 percent for those on motorcycles.

That does not mean, however, truck drivers are inherently safer. It just means the underlying problems are different. Most notably for the industry is driver fatigue. Truckers are often required to work long hours with little sleep. Federal laws have attempted to curb that, but the problem persists.

Further, 15 percent of truck drivers have previously-recorded crashes, as compared to 13 percent of those in passenger cars. Nearly a quarter of those involved in fatal crashes have at least one prior speeding conviction.

In Florida, there were 187 fatal crashes involving large trucks, with a total of 3,358 vehicles involved in those incidents.

The recent tragedy on I-75 underscores the need for extensive trucker training and oversight.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Promising young lives end in tragic crash on I-75, May 29, 2015, By Erica Pesantes and Wayne K. Roustan, Sun-Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

Text-and-Drive Crashes Inspire Florida-Born Technology, May 30, 2015, Palm Beach Truck Accident Lawyer Blog

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Defendants in personal injury cases are tenacious when it comes to rooting through the records of the plaintiff.

Of course, there are often legitimate purposes served in these efforts, primarily in determining whether the causation and extent of injury are as claimed by plaintiff. But many of these efforts go too far.files

Luckily, we do have the court system to keep it in check. Still, you can’t count on the judge to fight for your best interests and privacy concerns. That’s the job of your attorney.

Our injury lawyers know it’s not just about what’s good for the case. It’s about your dignity and your future and your right not to have every irrelevant and potentially embarrassing detail in your past dragged out into public view just because you seek to hold a negligent party responsible for causing injury.

Florida provides for broad protections when it comes to privacy. Article 1, Section 23 of the Florida Constitution details these rights. A policy that compels disclosure through the discovery phase of civil litigation must be limited to that which is necessary for the court to make a determination on a contested issue.

Typically the standard procedure when it is alleged a defense request for information or records is overly-broad is for the judge to conduct an in-camera review of those records. That is, the judge will privately look through the records to determine whether the information is relevant, whether there is a violation of privacy and whether the risk of that violation outweighs the value of the information to the case.

In the recent case of Muller v. Wal-Mart, the Florida Second District Court of Appeal weighed a grant of disclosure of plaintiff military records to a defendant in a truck accident case. This request was approved despite a lack of in camera inspection.

According to court records, plaintiff sustained injury at a distribution center when he was allegedly struck by a truck owned by a large box store company and driven by that store’s employee. As a result of that crash, he alleged, he has sustained permanent injury, pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability, mental anguish, loss of life enjoyment and aggravation of a pre-existing condition. He’s also seeking compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and loss of earning capacity.

In the course of discovery, the defense learned plaintiff had served in the U.S. Army for nearly a dozen years in three different countries – incurring three separate injuries in that time.

Plaintiff contends it is not aggravation of those injuries for which he is seeking damages. Still, defendant demanded he turn over all his military records – personnel file, medical records and anything else on file. Plaintiff argued those records were irrelevant.

Trial court granted defense request, but appellate court reversed.

The court noted in all likelihood, there were documents in those records that could help the defense, and they probably were relevant. However, there were also likely records in those files that would not be relevant and that would cause an unreasonable breach of privacy.

Without an in-camera inspection, it would be impossible to know which documents were which. Therefore, appellate court remanded the case with orders to conduct an in-camera inspection before determining the scope of plaintiff military records that could be released to defendant.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Muller v. Wal-Mart, May 22, 2015, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal

More Blog Entries:

Social Media Posts Examined in Personal Injury Cases, May 19, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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Distraction among those behind the wheel is a serious problem in Florida. Officials with the Florida Department of Transportation calculate some 42,000 crashes in the Sunshine State were attributable to distraction. That’s almost certainly a low estimate because distraction is not as easy to to track or quantify as, say, drunken driving.accident2

The most recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study indicated nearly 60 percent of all crashes involving teen drivers are the result of distraction.

In recent years, this has driven a flurry of legislative action and advocacy around the issue, most commonly focused on sending and receiving text messages. But many view these laws -and Florida’s in particular – to be lax and difficult to enforce.

Seeing the persistence of the problem, Florida Atlantic University engineering professor Daniel Raviv has devised a solution. He has invented a software program that works to block text messages for drivers of motor vehicles. While the cell phones of passengers will remain unaffected, the person holding a phone in the driver’s seat will find the text message feature useless. The device will not send or receive messages while the vehicle is in motion.

Not only has Raviv successfully created this device, the university has purchased the patent and it’s likely to be available to a limited market within two months.

With the aid of cellular service providers, the technology works by tracking single signals or clusters of phone signals moving at the same pace. Once these signals are picked up, the software then pinpoints the device in the top left corner of the vehicle (based on a chip placed on the windshield of the vehicle, and the location of the other devices). The technology then disables texting features for that phone only.

Passengers are still free to send and receive messages.

That aspect is something likely to strongly appeal to Floridians, who have historically been very reticent to impose any kind of significant legislation on the matter.

The state does have an anti-texting law, but it has no real teeth. To start, it’s considered a secondary offense, which means police can’t stop drivers for violating the texting ban. The driver would also have had to commit some other infraction. Beyond that, even when tickets are issued, the total fine for a first-time offense is just $30.

Considering the devastation this action causes so many people, it seems an insult.

There are some ongoing efforts for change. For example, a bill has been introduced by a Congressman from South Florida into the U.S. House would create incentives for states like Florida to make texting behind the wheel a primary offense. By doing so, they would get a cut of $23 million in highway safety grants.

Additionally, there is another measure pending in the Florida senate that would make the offense a primary one, and double the applicable fines.

Although Raviv is encouraged by these measures, he’s also not expecting they will drastically change individual behavior anytime soon. That’s why technology like his is so important.

The product will be initially marketed to businesses and within certain geographic areas, but it’s likely to expand quickly. Raviv hopes the devices will soon come standard with all smartphones, rather than simply as an add-on feature.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

FAU prof invents a way to block texting while driving, May 11, 2015, By William E. Gibson, Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

UIM Policy for Pedestrians in Back-Over Accident Offset by Driver’s Insurance, May 10, 2015, Broward Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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A 43-year-old man was lucky to be alive, let alone escape with only minor injuries, after he lost his balance on the Sunshine Skyway bridge while changing a tire, sending him plunging over a railway and down about 30 feet to the water below. newtires

Authorities say the man stopped on I-275 after the a tire blow-out on his sport utility vehicle caused him to lose control of the vehicle temporarily. The two passengers inside his vehicle at the time were not injured.

However, officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were called to rescue the man, who was then taken to a nearby hospital. The Florida Highway Patrol has launched an investigation.

Although it doesn’t appear based on known facts the tire blow-out directly caused the man’s injuries in this case, we do know that but for the tire blow-out, he would not have been stopped outside his vehicle at the edge of a bridge.

According to a detailed report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2012, tire deficiencies are a major cause of traffic collisions in Fort Lauderdale and throughout the country.

The term “tire deficiency” refers to not just tire blowouts (flat tires), but wheel or tire deficiencies, wheel or tire failure and tire degradation.

In analyzing crash data from 2005 through 2007, researchers uncovered a number of factors that increased the likelihood that deficient tires would cause a wreck. Specifically, it was more likely a crash would occur if one or more tires was underinflated or if the vehicle was running on tires that lacked an adequate tread depth.

These factors were further exacerbated when the driver was either inexperienced or not familiar with that vehicle in particular.

Tires that are underinflated result in sluggish handling, increased stress to other tire components, heat buildup and the need for longer stopping distances. All of this can result in the “catastrophic failure” of a tire, i.e., a blowout.

The NHTSA further gleaned information indicating approximately 12 percent of all U.S. passenger vehicles on the road today have at least one tire that’s underinflated by 25 percent or more.

Another issue that can diminish the quality of a tire is simply age. Tires are made of rubber, and they tend to break down over time. These happens even faster in Florida, particularly in the summer, because heat accelerates the process.

So even if a tire looks like it has a decent amount of tread left on it, if the tire is aged, its integrity is still probably compromised. The scary part about this is a tire’s age isn’t often physically detectable. It should be noted that tires can age even if they aren’t driven on frequently. So it’s still a concern for spare tires and those on vehicles not frequently used.

It’s estimated that during the two-year study time frame, 90 people died and an additional 3,200 are injured every year in crashes where aging tires were a factor.

In a sense, the man who stumbled over the bridge that day was lucky because injuries sustained in a crash resulting from a tire blow-out could have been far worse.

Drivers and vehicle owners are encouraged to follow the recommended tire pressure for the vehicle (located in the owner’s manual), understanding you are likely to lose 1 psi every single month. Check the inflation and tread of tires on infrequently-used vehicles as well. Also, monitor the tread all tires. Anything less than 2/32 is too low.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Bradenton man falls 30 feet from Sunshine Skyway into water while changing tire on bridge, May 4, 2015, Bay News

More Blog Entries:

Towe v. Sacagawea Inc. – Motorcycle Accident Liability on Private Property, April 10, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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Car accident victims – those who are able and well enough to engage in social media after the accident – must be cautious about the things they post after the accident. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to go over some ground rules with your attorney, once you’ve secured representation. computer1

At first, many clients are puzzled by this. After all, why would it matter? The facts of the case won’t be altered by a few posted photographs or smiley faces, right?

Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. Of course, what happened at the crash site won’t change. But what’s really at issue is proof of the injuries suffered, which can directly affect how much compensation you receive in the event you win your case.

The most obvious example is someone who claims to have suffered diminished use of an arm, only to post photos of themselves kayaking or bowling. That damages one’s credibility and also suggests their injuries aren’t nearly as severe as what they have indicated in their original complaint.

But beyond that, and what was primarily the topic of exploration by a recent Slate.com article by Reporter Amanda Hess, is that such postings can directly impact compensation by diminishing the perceived level of mental anguish and pain and suffering.

One of the cases cited as a personal injury lawsuit was that of Romano v. Steelcase, which involves a woman in New York who allegedly suffered serious injury to her back when a purportedly defective work chair collapsed while she was sitting in it. In the product liability lawsuit she filed soon after, she alleged the injury left her largely confined to her home, isolated from friends. Seeking to dispute these assertions, defendants dug around on social media. They found a few photos of her outside her home. They also noted several of her recent posts were marked with “smiley-face” emoticons. They noted the number of friends she had on social media. Based on this, they successfully made a request for access to more of her profile, which had been set to private.

And this is something else too many clients fail to consider: Your private page is not private, no matter what your settings. One must consider that anything posted on these pages can potentially be dragged out to be used later in court. In some cases, even deleted posts or images can come back to haunt.

That’s why these cases require strong representation. The fact is, most people tend to project a sunnier disposition on social media sites than may actually exist. That’s a normal extension of the fact that humans tend to “put on a happy face” in public. It doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t truly suffering or unhappy.

A 2012 paper published in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law noted people are more likely to selectively screen photographs on social media in a way that allows them to seem socially desirable. They are less likely to capture moments on camera that show loneliness, embarrassment and sadness in the first place. But even when they do, they are less likely to post it.

So the value of the information gleaned from social media can be called into question. The problem is, jurors tend to give it a lot of weight because the direct source is the plaintiff. And it’s not that these projections are false, but rather they don’t show the whole picture.

Having an experienced lawyer by your side not only to guide you through these thorny issues pre-trial, but also to make these points to a judge and jury in a courtroom puts you at a key advantage.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Evidence of Life on Facebook, April 29, 2015, By Amanda Hess, Slate.com

More Blog Entries:

Jones v. Alayon – Challenging the Seat Belt Defense, April 25, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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A husband and wife out for a leisurely stroll in their neighborhood would never return home the same again. It was a summer day in Maryland in 2009. As they passed a residential driveway, a driver in his 20s backed out of the driveway without looking. crashedbumper

In so doing, the driver struck the couple. The wife screamed and, as she would later allege in her complaint, hit the vehicle with her hand to alert the driver and make it stop. She reportedly then made eye contact with the driver, who stopped momentarily and then nevertheless seeing what had happened, continued moving his car, backing over her husband in an attempt to flee the scene.

Both husband and wife sustained serious injuries, though the husband had the worst of it. His injuries included a traumatic brain injury and other severe head injuries, as well as injuries to his neck, body and limbs. He was transported to a local hospital and then, later to a rehabilitation center, where he died two years later.

The wife, meanwhile, sustained injuries to her back, neck, arm and leg. She also suffered the emotional trauma of watching her husband be run over by a vehicle.

The subject of a lawsuit recently before the Maryland Court of Appeals, Connor v. GEICO, deals with the amount of coverage the couple’s own insurance company should have to pay after they had reached the maximum limit of compensation with the driver’s insurance company.

Pedestrians who are struck by a vehicle often do not realize that their own insurance company is probably responsible to pay some of the damages, if the at-fault driver’s insurer does not. That’s because even though the pedestrian wasn’t driving at the time of the accident, it’s still considered an “auto accident” worthy of coverage. Typically, we’d be dealing with uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage in these instances.

This type of coverage, which comes standard in most auto insurance policies, allows for the policy holder and others covered under the policy to receive the difference between their damages and what the at-fault driver’s insurance company paid. So if the at-fault driver had no insurance, the injured pedestrian would receive the full UIM coverage amount (assuming his or her damages met that threshold or more). If an at-fault driver’s insurance company only paid $20,000, but damages were at $50,000, the insured should receive $30,000 from his or her own insurance company, assuming the policy allowed for at least $30,000 in coverage.

The Connor case dealt with whether the insureds should receive the total UIM policy amount of $300,000, even though the at-fault driver’s insurance company paid $100,000 to each individual.

In an auto accident lawsuit like this one, what is going to be key is the unambiguous language of the individual policy.

Here, plaintiffs argued that in addition to the $200,000 they had received total from the at-fault driver’s insurer, they should also receive $300,000 from their own insurer per the terms of the UIM policy.

The insurer instead paid them $100,000 – the remaining amount left on the UIM policy, minus the $200,000 already paid by the other insurance company. Plaintiffs sued to collect the remaining $200,000.

However, the trial court ruled and the appellate court recently affirmed, that the clear terms of the policy indicated the couple’s damages were capped at $300,000, and that because $200,000 had already been paid by the other insurer, that amount offset the total they could receive from their own insurer.

Not every case with similar circumstances is going to have this exact outcome. Again, it highly depends on the individual facts and the policy language in the insurance documents.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Connor v. GEICO, April 17, 2015, Maryland Court of Appeals

More Blog Entries:

Jones v. Alayon – Challenging the Seat Belt Defense, April 25, 2015, West Palm Beach Car Accident Attorney Blog

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