Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog
Published on:

Umbrella insurance policies can provide great relief, both to policyholders and those injured as a result of negligence by policyholders. colorfulumbrella

While Florida law requires drivers to retain a minimal level of auto insurance, umbrella insurance policies aren’t mandated, but they can cover liability damages stemming from a crash. So if one’s auto insurance maximum isn’t enough to fully compensate injured parties for wreck-related costs, the next move would be to see if any other applicable insurance policies may be in place.

Because many people don’t carry umbrella insurance, injured parties usually go straight to their own carrier for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, which is supposed to cover the difference between the at-fault driver’s coverage and actual damages, up to the policy limit. But, when the negligent party does have an umbrella policy, your own carrier may require that you make a claim under that policy first, before pursuing UM coverage.

Our Hollywood accident lawyers understand this can create confusion and uncertainty for those grappling with long-term recovery and debilitating injuries. That’s why we work tirelessly to shield you from the stress as much as possible, while fighting tenaciously to ensure you receive the full compensation you deserve.

One recent example of an injured plaintiff seeking coverage under an umbrella policy carrier is Allstate v. Manzo-Pianelli, before Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal. Had the at-fault driver also been the named insured on the umbrella policy, this case would likely not have made it to the appellate level. However, the at-fault driver was a permissive user of the vehicle, while the policyholder was the owner of the vehicle.

The crash giving rise to the case occurred in 2007, when a driver of a vehicle owned by someone else was involved in a crash, resulting in serious injury to the driver of another vehicle. The vehicle itself was insured under the owner’s auto insurance policy for $100,000. The full policy amount was tendered, and allowed a partial release of liability against the vehicle owner.

However, the vehicle owner also had an umbrella insurance policy that provided $1 million in coverage. But the umbrella policy carrier denied coverage on the grounds the driver of the vehicle wasn’t covered.

Injured plaintiff then sought underinsured motorist benefits from her own carrier. But her carrier filed a third-party complaint against the umbrella policy carrier, asking the court to issue a determination as to priority of coverage.

Initially, the trial court refused motion for dismissal, finding incidents arising out of permissive use of a motor vehicle were covered under the policy. Instead, trial court issued a summary judgment in favor of plaintiff.

However, on appeal, the 4th DCA found genuine issues of fact were raised with regard to whether the policy provided coverage, specifically because the policy excluded coverage in cases where the insured would not be legally obligated to pay. Here, the permissive user was not a named insured, neither was she a resident relative. Beyond that, the named insured/vehicle owner could not be legally obligated to pay, according to the insurer, because he wasn’t listed a defendant in the case. Further, he couldn’t be added as a defendant because, by that point, the statute of limitations had run out on the claim.

The insurance company argued that because there was no chance the named insured could be held liable in the case, it was not obligated to pay the claim. The appellate panel decided the insurer had a point, reversed the earlier summary judgment favoring the plaintiff and remanding the case to the trial court for further consideration on this issue.

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

Additional Resources:

Allstate v. Manzo-Pianelli, Nov. 5, 2014, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal

More Blog Entries:

Bolding v. Kindel Concrete – Proving Crash Injury Causation and Damages, Nov. 10, 2014, Hollywood Crash Lawyer Blog

Published on:

A car accident that results in one or more vehicles being submerged in water can be terrifying for victims, and deadly. According to recent reports, Florida has the highest rate of car accident drowning deaths in the nation. Even in a minor accident, a passenger may struggle inside the vehicle to escape and thereby drown. In an Orlando case this year, witnesses saw a woman alive in her car as it sank in a lake. Authorities were not able to find the vehicle for weeks, despite witnesses who reported where it went down. This is only one example of a real threat in Florida — as the state that leads the nation in the number of individuals who drown in their cars every year.

car-waterAccording to reports, there were 49 victims of crash drowning in Florida between 2008 and 2012. Texas, holding the number two spot for fatality rates, had 18 crash drownings reported during the same period of time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that these numbers may actually understate the reality of the problem. According to the NHTSA, Florida had an average of 57 deaths per year, and a total of 384 nationwide. The federal studies have a higher number of incidences reported because they also incorporate death certificates in addition to crash record. The federal agency incorporates death records that are not on public record. According to an analysis of all the documentation, Florida is leading the nation in car accident drownings, and most of the deaths are concentrated in the South Florida region. The highest rate of accidents occurred in Palm Beach County, Broward and Miami-Dade.

There are a number of reasons why Florida has the highest rate of car accident drownings. For one, the state has hundreds more mile of roads with water frontage than in other states. This includes natural waters, such as lakes, as well as man-made retention ponds that road builders are required to dig in accordance with state and local environmental laws. Experts who have studied the high rate of crash drowning accidents blame the Florida roadside canals. Critics and safety advocates also suggest that there aren’t enough guard rails and that state highways are not build to federal safety standards.

In a recent case a 27-year-old woman drowned when her car plowed into a retention pond. Many times, a driver is not able to open the door because the force of the water is too strong. If a driver cannot open the door or escape from the window, they only have mere minutes, even seconds before the vehicle is totally submerged. Every year, there are 1,200 to 1,500 vehicles that end up in the water. For victims, the fight to escape is terrifying and tragic. Our Miami car accident attorneys are dedicated to helping victims and their families after an accident. We will review the facts of your case, identify responsible individuals and entities, and aggressively pursue your rights to just compensation.

Contact Freeman Injury Law for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-561-7777.

More Blog Entries:

Speed Blamed for Fatal Coral Springs Traffic Collision, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, January 4, 2014

South Florida Brain Injuries: Concussions No Minor Matter, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, December 13, 2013

 

Published on:

Consumers who suffer from an injury as a result of a manufacturing defect have the right to take legal action against the automobile maker or other companies responsible for the defect. In a recent South Florida case, a woman was in a minor accident when her air bag deployed. A piece of metal shot out of the airbag and struck the woman in the forehead, leaving her permanently scarred. She has brought a lawsuit against the airbag company responsible for the defective product installed in her 2001 Honda Civic.

adriverThe airbag company is currently to blame for a nationwide recall of several vehicle models that have installed the defective product. Unfortunately, for many consumers, they will not realize that they are in danger until it is too late. In this case, the woman did not realize her airbag was defective until she was involved in a collision which resulted in serious injuries caused by the defective airbag. Victims of accidents will often suffer from physical, as well as emotional trauma. In this case, the victim says she is still in shock, sad, and afraid to get behind the wheel.

The victim’s Honda Civic was one of eight million cars that are part of the recall over air bags produced by Takata Corporation. According to victims, police reports, and a growing amount of evidence against the company, the inflators in the air bag have been known to rupture and eject shrapnel in the event of a crash. The list of vehicles that have been recalled include cars from Honda, General Motors, approximately 25 million vehicles in the U.S., as well as recalls in other countries, including China, Japan, and throughout Europe.

In this case, the airbag left the victim permanently disfigured. Had the shrapnel struck her in the eye, she could have been blinded. If struck in another part of her head, she could have been killed. Tragically, defective automobile parts can leave consumers with catastrophic injuries, even in the event of a minor accident. Our Miami car accident attorneys are experienced with the investigation of collisions and defective parts. If you or someone you love has been injured, we can take a strategic approach to collect relevant evidence and pursue a lawsuit against negligent manufacturers or automobile parts companies.

The recent South Florida lawsuit is one of many mounting against Takata. According to representatives from the company, it is working with the federal government and automobile manufacturers to see that cars are safety recalled and repaired. According to the victim in this case, the deployed airbag and subsequent injury should offer a warning to other drivers. If your vehicle matches the make and model of recalled vehicles, you should have it inspected as soon as possible. Additional lawsuits are currently being filed in South Florida for similar accidents and injuries. Our legal team is prepared to investigate any accident claim to determine the cause of the injury, identify responsible parties, and pursue just compensation on your behalf.

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

More Blog Entries:
Enforcing Coblentz Agreement Requires Experienced Lawyer, May 23, 2014, Deerfield Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog

Broward Pedestrian Accidents a Serious, Ongoing Safety Threat
, April 15, 2014, Broward Pedestrian Accident Attorney Blog

 

Published on:

Last year, a 20-year-old Coral Springs woman Tweeted she was “2 Drunk 2 Care” shortly before leaving a work-related party at a restaurant where alcohol was served. She then got behind the wheel of her vehicle and drove the wrong way on the Saw Grass Expressway, killing two other young women, both 21, who were headed in the proper direction. dangerturnbackwrongway

One wonders if the 20-year-old cares now. Her ex-employer likely does, after learning it has been named as a defendant in a dram shop liability lawsuit. Already named in the litigation are the driver, a friend who loaned her the vehicle and the restaurant. Now, it is asserted the employer, too, was responsible for hosting a party and allowing underage consumption of alcohol, resulting in injury and/or death.

The now-21-year-old driver is being held in Broward County Jail on $600,000 bail, where she faces DUI manslaughter charges, as well as charges of vehicular homicide, and driving without a license causing death.

Our Coral Springs car accident lawyers know the civil lawsuit is rooted in provisions of F.S. 768.125, which indicates a person who “sells or furnishes” alcoholic beverages to a person not of lawful drinking age can be therefore held liable for damages resulting form the intoxication of that minor.

According to a defense attorney for the driver, she too suffered significant injuries and has no recollection of the crash or that night.

Wrong-way crashes of this nature are an increasing problem throughout Florida, and officials in several areas throughout the state are taking proactive measures to hopefully reduce the risk.

On the Sawgrass Expressway in Broward, officials are installing wrong-way signs with larger letters and flashing warning lights at five separate interchanges. They will be doing the same on 10 ramps along the turnpike between Doral and Miramar on the Homestead Extension.

In addition to the attention-grabbing alerts, the signs will be affixed with sensors that will send a message to authorities if a driver enters those locations from the wrong direction. The message will include a photo image of the vehicle, which will be sent to the command center of the Florida Highway Patrol and the traffic management center in Pompano Beach. That way, they can respond quickly and hopefully mitigate the damage.

Officials in Texas, which has been using this technology for several years now, say wrong-way crashes there have been reduced by a third. Florida researchers say they will study the new signs here over the next year to determine the effectiveness, and if warranted, expand the program.

Officials say between 2003 and 2012, there were nearly 1,200 wrong-way crashes in the state, causing more than 1,300 injuries and 164 deaths. Of those crashes, 224 occurred on the local turnpikes, and resulted in 22 deaths during that time.

Although this initial safety project did not include the Sawgrass interchanges, officials changed their minds after double fatal crash last year that prompted the pending civil case.

Additionally, the emergency response to that incident was found lacking after investigation, prompting a policy change by Coral Springs Police Department and Florida Highway Patrol. Two dispatchers were disciplined after telling several callers who dialed 911 to alert of a wrong-way driver to hang up and call the Florida Highway Patrol. This did not meet standard operating protocol.

Still, the first 911 call was directly transferred to the FHP, as were several others. The incident prompted police to change their policy, now responding to every reckless driving call on the turnpike (rather than leaving it solely to the FHP), and then canceling if officers are not needed.

Hopefully, these efforts combined will reduce wrong-way driving incidents and response times.

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

Additional Resources:

Survivors of Sawgrass wrong-way crash victims sue driver’s ex-employer, Oct. 29, 2014, By Linda Trischitta, Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

Celebrated Miami Artist Killed in Motorcycle Accident, Oct. 27, 2014, Coral Springs Car Accident Lawyer Blog

Published on:

In the recent case of Bolding v. Kindel Concrete, LLC, there was no question plaintiff had been hit by a truck driven negligently by a concrete firm. She eventually settled the case against the driver. However, her claim against the driver’s employer failed because the Wyoming Supreme Court found she had not adequately proven causation and future medical damages. carcrash4

Although this is an out-of-state case, the same general principles are applicable to truck accident victims in Florida. It’s not enough to show the accident occurred and evidence of injuries. There must be significant evidence that one is related to the other.

Additionally, the burden of proof regarding damages is also on the back of the plaintiff. It’s not enough to simply assert a given figure. For example, to assert damages for medical expenses, one must provide concrete evidence of necessary medical treatments, bills, physician testimony regarding future treatment and therapies and cost estimates for each.

Our Broward County car accident attorneys understand that in this case, failings by plaintiff’s attorney reportedly occurred at several turns. At one point, the trial court had to remind the lawyer it could not help him in presenting his case. He failed to provide evidence proving that the trucking company held 50 percent comparative fault, as alleged, and did not submit evidence to support the assertion that future therapies or treatment were medically necessarily, let alone indicate how much they would cost.

This is a good example of why it’s so important to choose your injury lawyer carefully. While no attorney can promise a positive outcome, you need to know you attorney is familiar with personal injury case law, knows the judges and has trial experience.

In this case, plaintiff was rear-ended in 2002 by a driver operating a concrete truck owned by defendant. Two years later, plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver for negligence and the truck owner for negligent entrustment. The at-fault commercial driver reportedly had a poor driving record, and the company hired him anyway.

This should have been the grounds for a strong personal injury case.

Here, defendant company failed to enter a timely response to the original complaint, and a default hearing was ordered. At the hearing, plaintiff testified on her own behalf and a total of five exhibits were submitted.

The testimony she provided included details of the crash and her injuries. She requested $339,000 in damages, with 50 percent of that payable by defendant. However, the district court would later note she presented no evidence the company knew or should have know about the driver’s prior record, thus establishing a necessary foundation for a charge of negligent entrustment. She also presented no evidence of alleged comparative fault, or how she reached the 50 percent figure. The amount of damages she requested was reportedly based on her weekly calculation for physical therapy damages, but she did not present any evidence from a physician that she needed weekly therapy for the rest of her life. (Even her own therapist testified she probably only needed to visit once every other week, and there was no testimony as to how long this would need to go on.) She did not present any evidence regarding life expectancy. While she also requested nearly $70,000 from defendant for loss of enjoyment and pain and suffering, she presented no evidence that would support that request.

As to why this information was not provided, the trial court said, “It remains a mystery.”

Either way, she failed to meet the proof burden, and the state supreme court affirmed this finding.

This case is a stark reminder that the courtroom is an unforgiving atmosphere, and you will need a articulate, knowledgeable advocate on your side.

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

Additional Resources:

Bolding v. Kindel Concrete, LLC, Oct. 27, 2014, Wyoming Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Antico v. Sindt Trucking – Evidence of Distraction Sought in Florida Trucking Crash Case, Oct. 30, 2014, Broward County Car Accident Lawyer

Published on:

Driver distraction is a major problem in Florida. Although texting-while-driving became illegal on state roads last year (making the Sunshine state one of the last to adopt such a measure), the law has little muscle as a secondary offense that garners only a $30 fine for the first infraction.communication4

Meanwhile, the effects of texting or using social media or e-mailing while behind the wheel are stark, resulting in thousands of fatal crashes across the country each year.

Although there are many different types of distraction that don’t include electronic devices (i.e., fatigue, eating or drinking, adjusting the radio, etc.) those aren’t as easy to trace after-the-fact as cell phone use.

What our West Palm Beach truck accident lawyers want to stress is that just as this information can be invaluable to a personal injury lawsuit, it can also damage the case if there is evidence the plaintiff was engaged in some form of phone-related distraction.

Because Florida adheres to a system of pure comparative negligence, this fact alone will not sink a claim. State law allows recovery of damages minus plaintiff’s degree of fault. So if a plaintiff’s talking on the phone is determined to have contributed to the crash by 65 percent, plaintiff can still recover 35 percent of total damages from defendant.

Of course, the goal is to eliminate the possibility of the jury finding any degree of comparative fault, or alternatively, lessening it to the greatest extent possible.

That is what plaintiffs in the recent case of Antico v. Sindt Trucking Inc. were fighting in their wrongful death action after defendants asserted comparative fault of decedent for a trucking accident. Defendants claim decedent was comparatively if not totally negligent for her own death because she was communicating on her cell phone at the time of the crash.

Witnesses reportedly saw her on her phone in the minutes before the crash, and the deputies responding to the scene found evidence consistent with that assertion (i.e., no skid marks, etc.).

However, plaintiffs – representatives of decedent’s estate – argued that access to her cell phone history would amount to an egregious violation of her privacy. Plaintiffs referred to the requested inspection as a digital “fishing expedition.” When the trial court disagreed, plaintiffs appealed to Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.

However, appellate court ruled trial court’s order granting a defense motion to have an expert search the phone’s data from a nine-hour stretch the day of the crash was not a violation of law and didn’t depart from acceptable civil rules.

Defendants wanted to access decedent’s Internet website history, email messages, social and photo media that was posted during that time, as well as determine the location where that information was accessed.

The appellate court ruled the trial court appropriately considered decedent’s privacy by setting strict parameters for defense expert’s confidential inspection of the device, and allowed for the inspection to be videoed to ensure all parameters were followed.

The bottom line is plaintiffs need to recognize in these situations that phone data is potentially accessible by both sides. An experienced lawyer can help formulate the best strategy to reduce the negative impact your own cell phone data can have on your case.

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

Additional Resources:

Antico v. Sindt Trucking Inc. , Oct. 13, 2014, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal

More Blog Entries:

GEICO v. Paton – Proof of Damages in UM Trial Sufficient in Bad Faith Action, Oct. 5, 2014, West Palm Beach Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog

Published on:

Motor vehicle accidents are often the cause of lives lost too young. In another tragic case, a celebrated Miami artist was killed in a motorcycle accident last month. Edward Crowell II was killed on September 25 at an intersection when a car failed to stop. According to local reports, his death sent shock waves through the Miami art scene. The self-taught artist originally hailed from Alabama and paved his way as a painter, creating nearly 20 years of work inspired by the civil rights movement, pop art, and poetry. He was also recognized in the Miami nightclub scene and for his music and poetry. The accident is a reminder for drivers and riders alike, that lives can be lost too soon.

msDc7u8Warm climates make motorcycle riding a popular form of transport in Miami and throughout South Florida. Unfortunately, the high rate of motorcyclists, combined with traffic, negligent drivers, and other risks, put riders at a significant risk of collision or injury. In the event of a collision, riders are also more likely to suffer serious injuries. According to Ride Smart Florida, 17% of road fatalities involve motorcyclists. For those who do survive a motorcycle accident, permanent injuries may significantly reduce quality of life and require extensive around-the-clock care.

Victims of motorcycle accidents and their loved ones should consult with an experienced advocate in the event of an accident that results in injury or death. Our Fort Lauderdale motorcycle accident attorneys are experienced in the investigation of accidents and can review evidence, identify responsible parties, and pursue just compensation for victims. Remember that juries are often bias against motorcycle riders and can buy into myths about “reckless motorcycle riders” who speed or bring on injuries themselves. We know that riders are often victims of accidents because of negligent drivers, low visibility, or dangerous road conditions.

The Miami artist was remembered on social media platforms, including Facebook, where friends and family notified the public that he was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. Throughout his career, his work was shown and recognized locally and nationally. His paintings were exhibited at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2011 and received international acclaim. Mr. Crowell also had exhibits throughout the U.S. in Los Angeles and New York, and internationally, in Milan and London. In addition to his visual art which was featured in Details Magazine and other well-known platforms and advertisements, he was a musician who created hip-hop in the Miami arts scene.

Any loss of life is tragic, especially when it involves an act of negligence. Though a lawsuit cannot reverse the accident, financially recover can help victims and their families get justice and move forward. With strategic counsel and advocacy, victims may be able to recover compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, long term care needs, funeral expenses, and other costs related to the injury or wrongful death. Mr. Crowell was an avid motorcyclist whose life was lost too soon. In the event of a collision, motorcycle victims have the right take legal action to achieve justice and to prevent future injuries and fatalities.

Contact Freeman Injury Law for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-561-7777.

More Blog Entries:

Speed Blamed for Fatal Coral Springs Traffic Collision, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, January 4, 2014

South Florida Brain Injuries: Concussions No Minor Matter, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, December 13, 2013

 

Published on:

A Fort Lauderdale firefighter was killed after he stopped on the side of the road to change a flat and was struck by an oncoming vehicle on Interstate 95. The case is a reminder to drivers not to text and drive and to avoid other distractions while driving to prevent similar accidents. Drivers who must pull over to change a flat, handle maintenance, or in the event of an emergency should also remember the danger of pulling onto the shoulder. According to media and accident reports, a 48-year-old driver struck the SUV in her Hyundai Sonata in the southbound lane just north of Yamoto Road in Boca Raton.

self-driving-google-car-2A 911 call detailing the scene of the accident was made available to the media. In the recording, it is clear that the driver was overwhelmed with grief and shock as she begged the dispatcher for help. Immediately, the driver recognized that she veered off the road and “hit a man.” When the emergency rescue team arrived, the driver was standing over the victim, who was still breathing but unresponsive. Throughout the six-minute 911 call, the driver begged the dispatchers for help while they tried to keep her calm.

Police stated that the driver tried to avoid hitting the victim by veering to the right, but drove into the victim who was next to his car. The driver went to aid the victim as she called 911 and though he tried to speak, she could not understand what he was saying. When other eyewitnesses pulled onto the scene, many called 911 to report the tragedy. All of these reports will be relevant in a criminal or civil matter. At least one eyewitness said the driver “panicked” and hit the victim. No charges have been filed, but the case remains under investigation.

According to a representative from the Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue team, the victim was 48 years old and a 29-year-veteran. He was pronounced dead at Delray Medical Center. After hearing news of their loss, members of the family, his firefighting squad, and the community joined for a procession from the hospital to the medical examiner’s office. He is survived by a wife, three children, and one grandchild.

Taking your eyes off the road, even for a few seconds can have deadly consequences. According to the 911 recording, the driver veered off the road after the car in front of her suddenly slowed down. She veered to avoid the car in front of her, and the victim’s vehicle, but didn’t see him standing next to it. Police reports indicated that he was thrown onto her windshield. As with any case involving a fatal accident, there is an ongoing investigation being conducted by authorities. The victims’ family should also consult with an experienced representative who can help protect their rights. Our Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys are experienced with wrongful death accident cases and can perform a thorough and effective investigation.

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

More Blog Entries:
Enforcing Coblentz Agreement Requires Experienced Lawyer, May 23, 2014, Deerfield Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog

Broward Pedestrian Accidents a Serious, Ongoing Safety Threat
, April 15, 2014, Broward Pedestrian Accident Attorney Blog

Published on:

When searching for a car accident lawyer, it’s important to understand how someone with extensive experience in different realms of law can further your interests tremendously. That’s because so many cases have factual elements that cause the central arguments to veer off into other areas of law. For example, a trucking crash lawsuit against a carrier could result in disputes over the employment status of the driver. In other situations, a crash in private driveway or parking lot could result in a premises liability lawsuit.
adriver
That was the case recently in Cheeks v. AutoZone, Inc., where a pedestrian accident in Mississippi became a premises liability claim against the owner/operator of the store parking lot where the crash happened.

According to court records, plaintiff and a friend went to an auto parts store to buy parts to finish working on several vehicles, as they had been commissioned to do.The store had parking on either side of the building, with an angled storefront glass entryway. The main entrance had a raised sidewalk and several bollards (or thick posts) blocking the glass doorway.

Our Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers understand where plaintiff parked and exited vehicle, there was no raised sidewalk or bollards. As plaintiff walked toward the doorway, he heard his friend shout a warning to “watch out!” He turned to see a vehicle just feet away, about to strike him. He had less than two seconds to react, and was unable to make it behind one of the concrete posts before he was struck by the vehicle. He suffered significant injuries.

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against both the driver and the store. In deposition, store representatives described the bollards as “safety measures,” and indicated they, the elevated walkway and/or tire stops and curb stops were designed to protected pedestrians on the walkway immediately in front of the entrance.

The driver (who alleged he suffered a seizure) was dismissed from the lawsuit. (He had testified he was instructed by staffers to drive up under the store canopy for installation of windshield wipers when he lost control of the car, but store staffers denied giving him this instruction.)

Video of the incident showed plaintiff turning around and trying to jump behind a concrete post. A liability expert testifying on behalf of plaintiff opined that when people see those concrete posts, they interpret them as a safety feature, and further, plaintiff had no time to make any decision other than the one he did. Another expert witness for the plaintiff, a traffic and transportation engineer, testified that when bollards are put in one area, it must be done in all areas of an entrance because people who see them have an increased expectation of safety. That expert further asserted the store breached pedestrian safety by having a ramp up to the store entrance that was wide enough for cars to drive through. Had a bollard been in place there, the expert said, the vehicle, traveling at about 11-miles-per-hour, would have been stopped and the collision with plaintiff avoided.

However, an architect for the store testified the bollards were not designed to protect pedestrians, but rather in response to numerous “crash and grab” thefts this store and others similarly situated had experienced. Another purpose was to prevent cars from accidentally ramming the glass in the entryway, which he testified cost the chain about $2,000 weekly. He further asserted the store was in compliance with federal, state and municipal laws and codes, but did acknowledge a straight, unimpeded ramp through the entrance gap from the parking area.

A jury handed down a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, granting him $2.6 million in damages, with 45 percent of the liability apportioned to the store (and 55 percent to the non-party at-fault driver). That meant the store was responsible to pay $1.16 million.

The store filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding verdict, arguing the jury’s finding was erroneous. The trial court granted this motion in favor of the defendant, finding business owners are not required to put up protective and impassible barriers around their store.

Plaintiff appealed, and the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed, finding the jury had credible evidence to find the injury to plaintiff was reasonably foreseeable, and defendant had a duty to ensure the property was in reasonably safe condition for business invitees.

Therefore, the case was remanded for a new trial.

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

Additional Resources:
Cheeks v. AutoZone, Inc., Sept. 25, 2014, Car Accident Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale

More Blog Entries:
Williams v. GEICO – Challenging Step-Down Provisions in Auto Insurance Plans, Sept. 1, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

Published on:

Auto insurance companies have an obligation to act reasonably in paying legitimate claims in a timely manner. When they do not, the courts may find they have acted in “bad faith.” car1

For the policy holder (or other injured party), a finding of bad faith can result in compensation that far exceeds the original policy amount. Both the courts and the legislature have authorized these severe sanctions as a means to compel insurers to act in good faith. But inevitably, examples of insurers acting in bad faith persist.

Recently, in GEICO v. Paton, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal held the policy holder was not required to prove damages twice in two separate trials relating to the same injury – once in the underinsured motorist trial and the second in the bad faith trial. Rather, the court held, the jury’s finding of excess damages in the first trial would be sufficient proof of damages in the subsequent bad faith insurance action.

As our Coral Springs car accident attorneys understand it, the court found the insurer’s assertion that damages should be twice-proven by the plaintiff to be “such bad policy that we do not glean even a hint of its existence in any case the Supreme Court has decided in this area.”

According to court records, plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle struck by an underinsured motorist, who was covered for the minimum amount of $10,000. The at-fault driver’s insurer promptly paid that amount in full. This, however, did not cover all damages incurred as a result of the crash.

Plaintiff’s mother had an uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage policy with defendant insurer which covered plaintiff too in this case. The policy limit on that was $100,000. The insurer offered the plaintiff a settlement of just $1,000. At one point, the insurer offered $5,000, but never any more. It never even responded to plaintiff’s counter-offer (made against her lawyer’s advice) of $22,500.

Thus, the case went to trial. A jury decided in plaintiff’s favor, awarding her the full policy limit of $100, plus an excess verdict of $369,250 for damages. The trial court later curtailed the excess verdict amount to the policy limit, citing the Eighth Amendment.

The insurer did not appeal that judgment, and paid the $100,000.

Subsequently, plaintiff filed a bad faith insurance lawsuit against defendant. Prior to trial, plaintiff sought to allow the excess $370,000 verdict reached by the previous jury, plus prejudgment interest, to be what she could recover under her bad faith claim. Insurer sought to exclude all evidence from the underinsured motorist trial, and require plaintiff to prove damages anew in the bad faith trial. The court sided with the plaintiff and denied the insurer’s motions.

A jury again found in the plaintiff’s favor, awarding her the $370,000 excess verdict.

Insurer appealed, arguing the finding of damages at the first trial should not have been taken as conclusive evidence in the second.

The 4th DCA disagreed, ruling the damage findings at the first trial were sufficient. Further, the insurer’s argument was weak based on state law and legal precedent, but also because the insurer failed to appeal the first verdict.

When you’re fighting for rightful auto insurance coverage, it’s imperative you have an experienced lawyer on your side.

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

Additional Resources:
GEICO v. Paton, Sept. 17, 2014, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal

More Blog Entries:
Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mut. Ins. Co. – Multiple UM Policies and Partial Exclusions, Aug. 25, 2014, Coral Springs Car Accident Lawyer Blog

Contact Information