Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog
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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.
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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

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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

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Negligent drivers pose a serious hazard to other motorists, their passengers, as well as pedestrians and bystanders. In a recent collision, a woman crashed into a restaurant in Pinecrest and struck a man who was sitting on a bench. According to police reports, the victim was sitting in front of the restaurant when witnesses saw a car come barreling through the parking lot. The vehicle jumped a curb and struck the man before coming to a stop. Investigators reported that both of the man’s legs were broken as he was thrown backwards into a window.

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Victims of negligent driving will often suffer serious or catastrophic injuries. These injuries can be debilitating, resulting in lost wages, medical expenses, and long-term care needs. Our Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys are experienced in helping victims and their families who have suffered losses related to car accidents. We will take the time to review your case, identify your losses, and pursue maximum compensation on your behalf. For those who are involved in a car accident or collision, it is important to work with an advocate who can perform an independent investigation and protect your rights through settlement negotiation or trial.
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Technological advancements can improve safety for drivers, passengers, and other motorists sharing the road. A California entrepreneur is designing and marketing new lighting technologies for vehicles to improve safety on the road. According to a USA Today report, the entrepreneur is pitching new LED light systems to automakers, hoping that they become a standard safety feature for future vehicles. Improved lighting can make your vehicle more visible to other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to prevent future accidents and injuries.

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One of the problems with existing lighting designs is that there are blinds spots on both sides of the car. If you are in a blind spot, you may miss that another driver has turned on their blinker. His lighting system helps to mitigate this issue through LED lights that wrap around the vehicle. Our Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys are dedicated to raising awareness to prevent future accidents and injuries. We are also abreast of recent developments and technological advancements that can improve motorist safety.
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Florida is known for its boating culture and any driver knows the importance of proper hitching. A boat that becomes unhitched can be deadly, causing serious risk of injury and fatality to other motorists sharing the road. In a recent case, a driver stopped in the middle of the roadway to check his hitch and the back of the boat was struck by an oncoming vehicle. The boat came off the trailer and ended up on the opposite side of A1A near the Rick Air Force Base. The accident is a reminder to all drivers to make sure boats are properly hitched before getting on the road. Drivers who stop on the shoulder are also in serious danger of accident or injury.

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Authorities report the driver was headed south in a 2006 Dodge truck when he stopped on the road to check the trailer connection to his boat. The passenger in his truck got out and attempted to direct traffic around the truck, trailer and boat. Another driver was distracted, also heading south on A1A and struck the rear of the boat. When the boat came unhinged, the trailer was hurled across the road and hit the fence. Passengers in both vehicles suffered injuries and both drivers were cited, one for improper stopping, and the other for distracted driving. Our Fort Lauderdale car accidents attorneys are dedicated to helping victims recover compensation and in preventing future accidents and injuries.
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There are many situations in which a worker’s operation of an employer-owned vehicle will automatically place the company in a position of liability. This is especially true in Florida, where motor vehicles are considered “dangerous instruments,” and merely entrusting it to another who acts negligently can mean some degree of responsibility.
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However, the recent case of Travelers Property Casualty Co. v. Moore, et al. illustrates that this extension of liability is not limitless. While our Broward County car accident attorneys would point out the circumstances in this situation were exceptional, and involved an alleged intentional tort, the case does show how the details of employment law can factor in to an injury case.

Here, the case started with two vehicles, side-by-side in a driveway. One was the personal vehicle of the resident, and the other was a van owned by his employer that he used for work. On the day in question, two tow truck operators arrived at the man’s residence to repossess his personal vehicle. The man was upset. After speaking to him briefly, the two truck workers began to hitch up the personal vehicle to the tow apparatus.
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The South Carolina Supreme Court recently in the case of Williams v. GEICO ruled that step-down provisions in auto insurance policies are contrary to the public well-being, and are therefore void.
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Why does this matter for those of us here in Florida?

Because, as our Hollywood car accident lawyers know, South Carolina had been one of a handful of states – Florida included – that allows insurers to contain a clause in their policy that lowers limits to state minimums for permissive drivers.

When certain users are granted only the state minimum coverage, as opposed to the full policy limits to which they would normally be entitled, this is called a “step-down provision.” Usually, these clauses indicate that for an insured person other than you (a relative, resident of your home, etc.), the insurer will only provide limits of up to the financial responsibility of the law in which the crash occurs.
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Uninsured motorist coverage is a smart way for drivers to protect themselves in the event they are involved in a crash with a driver who lacks insurance. This is especially important here in Florida because this is the fifth-highest state for uninsured motorists, with one out of ever four drivers lacking coverage, according to the Insurance Research Council.
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Even those who do have coverage may only be carrying the bare minimum, which means it won’t be enough to cover your medical expenses and other costs. This is the purpose of UM/UIM coverage. Your insurer steps in to help cover the difference.

But of course, as our Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys know well, insurers have many ways of mitigating their losses, including outright denial of legitimate claims and numerous provisions that limit the total payout you can receive. This is coverage for which you pay and to which you are entitled. More often than not, however, motorists are going to need the help of an experienced attorney if they have any hope of collecting.
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Wrong-way accidents continue to be a threatening and fatal phenomenon in South Florida and nationwide. While some of these accidents are caused by drunk driving or negligence, others are related to improper signage and confusing on or off ramps. Wrong-way accidents pose a significant threat to drivers and other motorists because they often result in fatalities. In another tragic case, a fatal wrong-way accident on I-95 resulted in the death of a motorcycle. A recent report published the 911 calls that came in after the accident. The details of the collision demonstrate the devastation caused by wrong-way collisions and the high-risk of fatalities.

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According to witnesses, a 41-year-old motorcyclist was struck head-on by a 20-year-old in an Acura Integra who was driving the wrong-way. The motorcyclist was killed in the accident but the driver survived. Our Fort Lauderdale motorcycle injury attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of victims and their families. Understanding the trends in highway accidents can help to prevent future collisions and injuries. This case highlights the frequency and danger of wrong-way accidents and is a reminder to all drivers on the road to be wary of signage when entering the freeway.
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Accidents involving public transportation can result in significant injuries, wrongful death, and complex litigation involving multiple plaintiffs and defendants. In a recent South Florida case, a bus crash near Fort Lauderdale sent six victims to the hospital. According to reports, the accident involved a city bus as well as a four-door Jeep. In addition to the number of injuries arising from the accident, the crash left the Jeep heavily damaged. This case is a reminder of the potential dangers of bus accidents, as well as the complications that may arise in personal injury litigation.

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Nationwide, public transportation companies, as well as city buses, have been the target of lawsuits for serious injury or accidental death. These cases can be complicated as they often involve multiple plaintiffs and formidable defendants. Our Fort Lauderdale bus accident attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of victims and maximizing compensation for pain and suffering, medical costs, lost wages, long-term care needs, funeral expenses, and other personal losses or property damage rising from a collision. We will take the time to review the facts of every case and identify all responsible parties.
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