Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog
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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

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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

 

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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

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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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