Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog
Published on:

A car accident that resulted in severe head injuries to one man resulted in a liability verdict of $25 million at trial. biker

However, because of comparative negligence, collateral source set-offs and taxable costs, the final judgment was for about half that – $12.8 million. Now on appeal, the liability of one of those two defendants – who was found to be vicariously liable for loaning the vehicle to the driver who caused the crash – has been further reduced.

Per F.S. 324.021(9)(b)3, an owner of a vehicle who is a “natural person” (as opposed to a business) and loans a motor vehicle to a permissive user and that user causes a crash, the owner can be liable for up to $100,000 per person or $300,000 per incident for bodily injury and $50,000 for property damage. However, if that permissive user is uninsured or underinsured, the owner can be liable for an additional maximum $500,000 in economic damages arising from use of that motor vehicle.

According to records in the Orlando-area case of De Los Santos v. Brink, plaintiff was a 26-year-old student who was operating a motorcycle and was stopped at a red light near an intersection. Meanwhile, one of defendants was directly behind him in a passenger vehicle.

When the motorcyclist and the driver proceeded through the intersection when the light turned green, the two vehicles collided. Plaintiff was thrown from the bike and sustained a serious head injury.

Plaintiff sued the driver, alleging negligent operation of the vehicle. He additionally named the owner of the vehicle, claiming vicarious liability for the action of the driver.

Testimony and evidence from plaintiff indicated the passenger vehicle clipped the motorcycle as the two vehicles proceeded through the intersection. An attorney for plaintiff asserted defendant fled the scene, though he was stopped less than a mile away by a police officer who was witness to the crash.

Defense countered plaintiff was comparatively negligent because he engaged in “road rage” and he wasn’t wearing a helmet (even though wearing a helmet is not required by adult motorcycle riders under Florida law). Defendant claimed plaintiff was upset with him for honking his horn when the motorcyclist didn’t accelerate immediately after the light turned green. He asserted plaintiff was operating the motorcycle close to the passenger side of his car and yelling at him.

Plaintiff had remained hospitalized for a full month after the crash, with doctors determining he had suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was in a coma for weeks, and eventually had to undergo speech, occupational and physical therapy to learn how to walk, talk and eat again. Experts testified his cognitive function is severely impaired. He was forced to drop out of school and remains living with his parents, as it is unlikely he will ever again be an independent member of society.

With the latest ruling from the Florida 5th District Court of Appeals, it’s not immediately clear by exactly how much plaintiff’s award will be reduced because it is not stated in appellate court records the apportionment of fault vehicle owner received.

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

Additional Resources:

De Los Santos v. Brink, July 2, 2015, Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeal

More Blog Entries:

Browder v. City of Albuquerque – Suing Government for Traffic Injuries, June 25, 2015, Orlando Car Accident Attorney Blog

Published on:

Ignition interlock technology has rapidly gained popularity within court systems nationwide as a way to hold convicted drunk drivers accountable when they are once again granted driving privileges.beerhand1

But government researchers want to take it a step further. They are looking to implement alcohol detection systems that would be available in vehicles for an added upfront fee. While it wouldn’t be mandatory (yet) and drivers would have to pay extra, researchers say many drivers would welcome the opportunity to purchase technology that could save them a lot of heartache – and money.

The two systems being developed by the government-funded Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADDS) focuses on detection of a driver’s blood-alcohol concentration through either breath or touch.

The breath system would analyze a driver’s impairment level by measuring the driver’s breath through sensors mounted somewhere in front of the driver. The motorist would never have to blow into a device or have a clunky piece of equipment taking up space on the dash board. The system would halt ignition of the vehicle or, alternately, alert the driver if his or her blood-alcohol level was deemed too high.

The standard level would likely be set somewhere under the legal limit of 0.08.

Another possible system users could purchase in newer model vehicles would be touch detection. This system would screen for a driver’s alcohol impairment by measuring the amount of alcohol apparent through the skin. Motorist would need only to touch some designated surface in the vehicle, and his or her blood-alcohol levels would be determined with an infrared light scanner.

Researchers say release of this technology to the market could take between five and eight years. They are focusing on making it not only fast and user-friendly, but also durable. It needs to be functional and accurate throughout the life of the vehicle.

That could be a challenge, considering current breathalyzer models – those used by police as well as the ignition interlock systems – have to be calibrated regularly in order to maintain their accuracy.

Developers are confident they will be able to achieve this goal.

Driving safety advocates with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and others are highly supportive of the technology, and hope one day it will come standard in all vehicles – not just as a special feature for those that choose to pay for it.

Most government estimates put the number of drunk driving victims at approximately 10,000 annually. That figure has remained stubborn over the last decade, even while the overall number of traffic deaths has dropped significantly.

The CEO of the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety was quoted in USA Today as stating this kind of technology represents the beginning of a world where drunk driving is no longer a major concern.

It still seems a long way off.

In Florida, MADD reports in 2014, there were 40,700 drunk driving arrests, but only 26,300 convictions. That same year, nearly 700 people were killed in drunk driving wrecks. Among those nearly 41,000 arrested, nearly 12,000 were five-time repeat offenders.

These are the drivers that are rarely deterred by other methods of curbing drunk driving – the license suspension, the fines, the jail time, etc. By making drunk driving a virtual impossibility, we deprive them of the choice to put others lives and well-being at risk.

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

Additional Resources:

New car tech could stop drunk drivers, July 6, 2015, By Becca Smouse, USA Today

More Blog Entries:

Mathis v. Huff & Puff Trucking – Proving Injuries and Causation, June 30, 2015, Broward Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog

 

Published on:

The recent case of Zaldivar v. Prickett, before the Georgia Supreme Court, dealt with issues of vicarious liability and negligent entrustment as they relate to car accident litigation. cardriving

Vicarious liability is a kind of strict, secondary liability that originates from the doctrine of respondeat superior. That isthe responsibility of a superior for the tortious acts of a subordinate. A person or business can be vicariously liable even if they haven’t actually engaged directly in any negligent behavior.

Negligent entrustment, meanwhile, is a direct form of liability that asserts one party negligently provided another with a dangerous instrumentality, and the person entrusted with that dangerous instrumentality caused injury to a third party with that instrumentality.

Most commonly, we see these issues arise in car accidents that involve a person who is driving a vehicle for business purposes. So for example, a truck driver hauling oranges crashes into a passenger car on a Florida highway and injures the car occupants. Those individuals could sue the driver’s employer for vicarious liability. If plaintiff could show grounds for negligent entrustment also, that could be a separate cause of action within the same lawsuit.

The Zaldivar case was a bit different because it involved the defendant asserting negligent entrustment and vicarious liability by the plaintiff’s employer in a car accident lawsuit. Defendant’s goal was to reduce her own apportionment of fault by placing at least some of the blame on plaintiff’s employer.

According to court records, there is dispute about how the collision in question occurred. Plaintiff alleges he was lawfully turning left in an intersection, and in so doing, defendant drove into that intersection against the traffic signal and hit him. However, defendant asserts she entered the intersection lawfully, and plaintiff failed to yield the right of way when he turned into her path.

Plaintiff sued defendant in order to recover damages for his injuries.

At the time of the crash, plaintiff was driving a truck his employer provided to him as part of his employment. (As such, he likely could explore workers’ compensation as well.)

Defendant countered plaintiff’s employer was at least partially responsible for plaintiff’s injuries, based on principles of vicarious liability and negligent entrustment. The company was not a party to the lawsuit. (This meant if any apportionment of fault was attributed to the company, plaintiff could not collect on it. If he collected workers’ compensation, he would not have been able to do so anyway, per the exclusive remedy provisions of workers’ compensation law that bar litigation by a worker against an employer.)

Plaintiff responded the state’s “apportionment statute,” which grants the ability to apportion fault to separate entities based on their role in causing the accident/injuries, was not applicable here because his employer hadn’t committed a tort resulting in proximate injury to plaintiff. He also argued negligent entrustment couldn’t be the proximate cause of injury to the person to whom the instrumentality was entrusted.

Defendant shot back that the statute does allow apportionment of fault to non-parties absent liability to plaintiff in a tort action.

Trial court agreed with plaintiff’s interpretation of the law, as did the appellate court. However, the state supreme court reversed. The court ruled “fault” can be applied to nonparty tortfeasors who are not necessarily liable for their actions. That is, the company may not necessarily be made to pay, but they could still be found negligent, and thus the overall damage award – if granted – would be reduced by that percentage.

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

Additional Resources:

Zaldivar v. Prickett, July 6, 2015, Georgia Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Jury Awards $24M in Fatal Fort Lauderdale Crash, July 5, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Accident Attorney Blog

Published on:

Two vehicles crashed at an intersection in January 2012, with the impact sending one of those vehicles careening toward the sidewalk, where it struck a bicyclist. bicycle1

The cyclist was seriously injured.

Subsequently, he sued both drivers, whom we will refer to here as V1 and V2. He alleged both had been negligent in their operation of motor vehicles, causing him to suffer injury.

Jurors weighing the case of Bermudez v. Ciolek determined that while both drivers were negligent, only V1 was substantially responsible for the cyclist injuries. Thus, V1 was liable for the 100 percent of bicyclist’s $3.7 million in damages.

V1 defendant appealed, arguing the verdict was inconsistent. After all, how could both parties be negligent, but only one liable to pay damages?

The California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, affirmed the verdict, reasoning it’s actually quite simple. There are four basic elements of any negligence case. Those are:

  • A duty of care
  • A breach of duty
  • Breach of duty caused injury
  • There were damages resulting from injury

Here, duty of care was established by both drivers. (That’s usually a given in car accident cases, as all drivers owe a duty of care to others with whom they share the road to operate in a lawful and reasonably safe manner.)

The second is a breach of duty.

In this case, V1 is alleged to have made a left turn through an intersection in front of the path of V2, who was traveling straight in the opposite direction. There was some dispute about the color of the light at the time she made this move. V2 defendant asserts his light was green, which would mean V1’s light was red. V2 defendant insisted it was green.

There was evidence to back both assertions, but jurors ultimately concluded the V1’s light was red.

With regard to V2’s breach of duty, he did admit he was speeding. The speed limit on that stretch of road is 45 mph. He estimated he was traveling probably at 55 mph. V1 insisted it was more like 65. But when he saw V1 turn in front of him, he hit the brakes, and estimated by the time the two vehicles impacted, he was traveling about 45 mph.

That assertion was supported by three different expert witnesses, including V1’s own.

While jurors determined V2 was negligent for traveling too fast for conditions, they did not find that this was a substantial proximate cause of cyclist’s injuries – even though he was the one to strike the cyclist, not V1.

What that meant is that the causation element of this negligence claim, as it pertained to V2, was not met. Therefore, that defendant could not be held liable for damages. In fact, jurors had determined that although he was going slightly over the speed limit, he could not have avoided collision even if he had exercised due care.

But V1 could.

The court did slightly alter the trial court’s verdict though. The original award amount was for $3,751,969. However, the court reduced that amount by $46,000 after it found that amount in medical expenses was not substantially supported by the evidence.

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

Additional Resources:

Bermudez v. Ciolek , June 22, 2015, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three

More Blog Entries:

Browder v. City of Albuquerque – Suing Government for Traffic Injuries, June 25, 2015, Hollywood Bicycle Injury Lawyer

Published on:

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

Published on:

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

Published on:

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

Published on:

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

Published on:

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

Published on:

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

Contact Information