Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog
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There is an erroneous stereotype that holds old drivers are bad drivers.carcrash9

The reality, however, is quite the opposite. A new report issued by the Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety indicates drivers over the age of 65, when compared to other age groups, are less likely to text and drive, more likely wear to their seat belts and rarely drink and drive.

That makes them among the safest drivers on the road. However, they are more likely to be killed if involved in a crash. The reasons for that are nuanced and individual circumstances often have much to do with it. It’s worth analyzing though, particularly as we consider that within the next decade, 25 percent of all drivers in the U.S. will be 65 or older.

Elder safety advocates note that not only are people living longer, they are healthier, more mobile and we can expect to see the number of aging drivers increase steadily in the coming years. That means we need to have a better understanding of the challenges they face, the benefits they pose and how we can best protect them and others who share the road.

In the next few months, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is kicking off one of the biggest interdisciplinary studies on aging drivers every conducted in the U.S. A collaborative effort with five universities across the country, the study is going to track 3,000 older motorists (between the ages of 65 and 79) over the course of five years.

The foundation is investing $12 million for the unprecedented project in an effort to better grasp the transportation needs of older Americans.

It’s the most recent phase of the organizations Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project. Some of the risk factors researchers will explore include:

  • Deteriorating vision and hearing
  • Prescription drug use
  • Decreased strength and physical mobility

The five study sites are in New York, Michigan, Maryland, Colorado and California. Those sites will begin recruiting drivers, whose vehicles will be outfitted with devices that will allow study authors to assess driving patterns in real time. The data will include information on where and when seniors drive, what kind of maneuvers they make, how fast or slow they travel and what kinds of traffic accidents they are most likely to be involved in. Those who participate will agree to undergo annual medical exams that will weigh cognitive and physical functions.

One of the goals of the study is to get a better sense of when it may be time for drivers to retire the keys. Right now, there isn’t much information on the relationship between driving safety and old age. Many family members and doctors tend to rely largely on anecdotal evidence when considering whether to urge a loved one or patient to limit or stop driving.

Another important aspect is determining how certain technologies can benefit aging drivers. Things like crash warning signals, navigation systems and cameras can all potentially help protect older drivers – but to what extent? This is key because the reason older drivers are more likely to die in a crash is because their bodies are more fragile. They need to be better shielded.

Additionally, it will be important to weigh the impact of certain medications on driving ability.

Researchers say they want to help seniors remain mobile for longer periods of time. In the U.S., mobility means independence, and that’s something seniors both want and deserve.

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

Additional Resources:

AAA invests $12 million in study of older drivers’ needs, Jan. 20, 2015, By Randi Belisomo, Reuters

More Blog Entries:

Smith v. Maryland Casualty Co. – Auto Insurance Carrier Fights Coverage Claim, Feb. 6, 2015, Boca Raton Car Accident Lawyer Blog

 

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Car manufacturers have been under fire in recent months, for everything from faulty ignition switches to exploding air bags to malfunctioning accelerators. In fact, 2014 had the most auto industry recalls in history. This indicates firstly there are many problems with vehicle design resulting in injury. Secondly, it tell us regulators are getting better at calling the industry out. airbag1

But a mere allegation of product liability is not enough to prove causation. Of course, it is easier if there are a host of prior similar cases, but even then, success isn’t a given. What will be necessary in almost each of these cases is expert witness testimony.

Usually, expert witness testimony isn’t necessary in car accident claims. But every case is different, and when a crash is the result of a dangerous or defective vehicle part, expert witness testimony bolsters the claim of causation and can help a case get passed the summary judgment phase and on to trial.

The imperative nature of expert witness testimony in certain cases became apparent in the recent defective airbag claim made by plaintiffs in Piltch v. Ford Motor Co., et al., before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

According to court records, plaintiffs were involved in a car accident in 2007 while driving a vehicle manufactured by defendant(s). The couple reportedly hit a patch of black ice (this was in Indiana) and even though the vehicle slid off the road and into a wall, none of the vehicle’s airbags deployed. As a result, plaintiffs sustained severe injuries. Husband sustained several broken vertebrae and wife suffered neurological injuries.

It’s necessary to note that one year prior to this, the couple was involved in a different crash and, in that case too, the vehicle’s air bags did not deploy. When they had the vehicle repaired, they did not make sure the restraint control module, which monitors a crash and determines whether airbags need to be deployed, were reset after the repairs. However, plaintiffs explained it was there understanding whatever needed to be reset was reset.

After the second crash, the couple had the vehicle repaired at the same shop as before and then sold the vehicle and the black box data on the vehicle was erased.

The following year, the couple filed an action against the vehicle manufacturer, alleging the vehicle was defective under state law. Defendant removed the action to federal court and then sought summary judgment.Defense asserted without expert testimony, plaintiffs could not prove their injuries were more severe than they would have been had the alleged defect not existed. Plaintiffs countered the circumstantial evidence was sufficient, and no expert witness testimony was necessary.

District court granted the summary judgment motion on grounds plaintiffs had not submitted expert witness testimony necessary for them to create an issue of fact regarding proximate cause.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Essentially, the only witnesses to the crash plaintiffs presented were themselves. They did not have the information contained in the black box of the vehicle that would have backed their allegations. They did not have any accident reconstructionist or other skilled witness that would have been able to assert the circumstances of the crash should have resulted in the air bags being deployed. Without that, the claim of causation was merely speculative.

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

Additional Resources:

Piltch v. Ford Motor Co., et al., Feb. 11, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Robinson v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. – Bus Injury Litigated, Jan. 20, 2015, West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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Errors in roadway design and construction can result in serious injuries to motorists. Because the costs incurred by injured victims is so significant, it often becomes necessary to pursue litigation in order to be compensated for those damages. roadsign

When a road or intersection is poorly designed or constructed, victims may have limited options for compensation per the Slavin doctrine. The doctrine holds that if the road owner (i.e., city, county or state) accepts the designs or construction work of the contractor, the contractor can no longer be held liable – even if the design or construction contained clear errors. Victims still have the option of taking action against the owner/overseer of the site.

In some cases, though, when injury occurs while the work is pending or underway – i.e., before it has been “accepted” – claims may still potentially be brought successfully against the contractor as well. This is what is at issue in Villaneuva v. RS&H Inc., before the Fla. 5th DCA.

According to court records, a Florida car accident at a rural intersection resulted in the death of decedent. The crash occurred in 2007, and it was the site of a county project for roadway expansion.

In 1999, defendant engineer firm RS&H entered into an agreement with county to perform the engineering design services for the project. Within in one year, the company turned over a set of design plans to the county, and all the paperwork bore the insignia of defendant as the professional engineer. Those plans included a provision for a 55-mph speed limit throughout the accident scene and approaching the intersection.

The county reviewed those plans and decided some modifications were necessary, and undertook those without the aid of defendant. In the meantime, there was some preliminary surveying and construction that took place in the meantime. County still used the original plans and tweaked some aspects of them. The suggested speed limit was one of those aspects altered, though the placement of advanced warning of the upcoming intersection was not altered. In 2002, county engineers submitted a final plan that was very similar to the one submitted by RS&H, and that plan bore the county engineer’s insignia.

It was never clear exactly how much work was conducted before the county submitted and accepted those final plans,and that became a primary question before the trial court. One witness testified the advance warning signs (a key issue in the crash case) likely weren’t installed until after the county submitted its final plan because that is generally one of the last things installed. A witness for plaintiff countered.

The lawsuit against RS&H alleged negligence design of the road based on improper placement of the advanced warning signs. RS&H sought summary judgment on grounds the plans it created were not the ones the county used, the county assumed full liability when created its own subsequent plans and further, the county assumed full liability under Slavin.

Trial court did not weigh on the Slavin issue, but instead ruled plaintiff had not presented enough substantial evidence to prove the advance warning signs were installed prior to the county’s submission of the final plan. Summary judgment was granted to defendant.

This was error, the 5th DCA ruled, not necessarily because there was enough evidence to prove plaintiff’s case, but because the judge took it upon himself to rule on a matter of fact, whereas only matter of law can pave the way for summary judgment. Matters of fact must be weighed and decided at trial.

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

Additional Resources:

Villaneuva v. RS&H Inc., Feb. 13, 2015, Fla. 5th DCA

More Blog Entries:

Analysis: Florida Worst State for Crash Victims, Jan. 30, 2015, Port St. Lucie Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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A woman who suffered serious injuries after a patrol car driven by an on-duty Delray Beach police officer slammed into her sedan at an intersection will receive nearly $540,000 in damages, per a South Florida jury’s recent decision. policecar1

According to reports, the 56-year-old victim, a fast-food worker, suffered a head injury, compression fracture of her spine and numerous other injuries when the officer struck her at the intersection of Federal Highway and Southeast 10th Street. She nearly died.

At the time, the officer was responding to a burglary-in-progress call. Problem was, he didn’t have his emergency lights or sirens activated when he sailed through a red light – and right into plaintiff’s car.

The officer would later claim the emergency lights were on, but his siren was not because he did not want to alert the alleged burglar at the scene to which he was responding. An agency internal investigation noted there were no other witnesses to the collision, but concluded the officer’s lights were in fact off.

Plaintiff in Miley v. City of Delray Beach might have been awarded a higher amount, but jury only found the officer to be 65 percent at fault.

Our Palm Beach accident lawyers know cases like this are tough because they involve making claims against the government. Emergency responders and police officers in particular are granted a wide degree of protection from liability when they are carrying out essential functions of the job. In certain cases, police agencies and officers are immune from liability. However, there is still a general expectation that officers will use a reasonable amount of care.

Still, it’s important for victims to explore their options for compensation because the cost for medical expenses, lost wages and diminished earning capacity can be significant.

A recent report by The Boston Globe indicates 100 people a year in that state were injured in accidents caused by state troopers over the last 10 years, resulting in more than $3 million in settlements. That amount would likely be much larger if it weren’t for the fact that state caps damages for negligence claims against the government at $100,000. (The state of Florida  set at $200,000 per person and $300,000 cap per tort claim, effective Oct. 1, 2011. That amount would be applicable in the Miley case, as the police department is an agency under state jurisdiction.)

In Massachusetts, the Globe reported the total number of accidents involving officers to be roughly 1,800 over the course of the last five years. In Florida, which has a much higher population and many more officers, that figure is likely to be much higher.

For the officer in the Miley case, that crash represented his third on-duty accident in less than one year, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Following an internal investigation, the officer was found to have been in violation of a number of motor vehicle laws, obedience to laws, ordinances and standards. Investigators noted the burglary call to which he responded did not include reported violence or threats of violence and there was no indication a suspect had entered an occupied home – calling into question his decision to speed through a red light without lights or sirens. The final report indicated the officer’s emergency response “was not necessary.” He was suspended without pay for just 72 hours.

The city has not indicated whether it plans to appeal the Miley verdict.

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

Additional Resources:

Jury Awards Delray Beach worker $540k after crash with officer, Jan. 28, 2015, Daily Business Review

More Blog Entries:

Robinson v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. – Bus Injury Litigated, Jan. 20, 2015, West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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Auto insurance carriers are some of the most notoriously difficult to negotiate with following a crash resulting in injury. Often, they will extend low-ball settlement offers in lieu of policy limits, even when it seems clear full coverage is warranted.That’s if the carrier doesn’t deny the claim outright. road1

Policies are often drafted with many contingencies and exemptions, and the language can be extremely confusing to someone unfamiliar with contract and insurance law. Insurers bank on your lack of knowledge, which is why it’s so important to have an experienced lawyer advocating for you at the start.

In the recent case of Smith v. Maryland Casualty Co., before an appellate court in Missouri, an insurer dug in their heels to deny coverage to a crash victim under a commercial liability policy.

According to court records, plaintiff was a passenger in a commercial vehicle driven by an employee of a door-to-door sales company, insured by defendant carrier, when that vehicle was involved in an accident. Plaintiff alleged employee was acting as the sales company’s agent at the time of the crash.

The sales company had two auto insurance policies with defendant at the time of the crash: A commercial auto insurance policy worth $1 million and another commercial umbrella policy also with a limit of $1 million.

After plaintiff filed his lawsuit, a representative for the insurer sent employee driver a letter offering to defend him in the litigation (in which he was a named defendant). The company indicated it was not foregoing its right to later deny payment for any judgment against him. The insurer retained an attorney to represent employee defendant in that case.

That first lawsuit was later dismissed for failure to prosecute, but plaintiff soon filed a second lawsuit, this time naming employee as sole defendant. The attorney representing employee in the first case sent a letter to insurer indicating employee had authorized him to accept service of the case on his behalf, and seeking the insurer’s permission to accept. However, employee later indicated he believed the lawsuit was one continuous action, rather than a second separate lawsuit. While insurer told the attorney the defense would be provided in the second case under the same terms as the first, the insurer did not send a second reservation of rights letter directly to employee defendant.

Insurer then filed a petition for declaratory judgment in federal court, seeking a judgment regarding whether there was coverage for defendant employee under the policy issued to the sales company.

While that decision was pending, plaintiff and defendant employee reached a settlement agreement, which included a demand from defendant for insurer to indemnify him for defense and damages. Insurer refused, and defendant proceeded with a new lawyer. Trial court entered a judgment against defendant employee for $1.8 million in damages.

Plaintiff then filed a petition seeking to collect that money from the insurer. However, insurer countered defendant employee was not an insured under its policy exclusions and therefore refused to pay. Defendant employee then filed a cross-motion for bad faith refusal to settle within policy limits. Both plaintiff and defendant filed a motion for summary judgment against the insurer in which they noted the defense provided in the second case was done so without a formal reservation of rights. Further, they argued the vehicle driven by defendant employee was owned by the sales company and thus insured by the carrier.

Insurer denied these statements, but trial court granted summary judgment against the insurer, ordering it to pay the $1.8 million in compensation. No ruling was made on the bad faith claim.

However, the Missouri Court of Appeals later reversed the summary judgment order, reasoning that coverage is not created with the absence of a waiver (in this case, the reservation of rights letter).

This does not mean the insurer won’t have to pay. However, summary judgment as a matter of law was not deemed appropriate. Instead, plaintiff and defendant employee will have to seek a decision through a finding of fact at trial.

Our West Palm Beach accident attorneys recognize this kind of back-and-forth with an insurer is not uncommon, particularly when compensation is likely to reach in excess of six figures. In these situations, experienced legal counsel for victims is paramount.

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

Additional Resources:

Smith v. Maryland Casualty Co., Jan. 23, 2015, Missouri Court of appeals, Southern District Division Two

More Blog Entries:

Gonsalves v. Li – Test Drive Crash Injury, Jan. 25, 2015, West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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It’s never desirable to be in a car accident, no matter where you are. But if it were going to happen anyway, drivers might want to avoid Florida, if WalletHub.com’s latest report is any indication. carsports

Researchers with the financial news source rated Florida dead last in terms of the economic damage a crash victim is likely to sustain.

It’s not so much that Florida crashes are comparatively worse than those occurring anywhere else.

Rather, the problem has to do with the huge number of uninsured drivers, combined with the state’s puny minimum liability coverage insurance requirements and limited additional coverage, such as medical payments and personal injury protection.

While Florida does require personal injury protection insurance for all drivers – something not every state demands – that’s about the only thing it has going for it. The minimum liability coverage is lower than the vast majority of states. It requires $10,000 in coverage for individuals hurt in a crash, $20,000 is the minimum per-crash coverage for all injured parties and $10,000 is the total amount needed to cover property damage.

As anyone who has ever been involved in a Fort Lauderdale car accident will tell you, this is nowhere near enough. Medical bills alone can easily tally tens of thousands of dollars, particularly if the injuries are longer-lasting.

By comparison, Alaska requires its drivers to carry $50,000 in minimum coverage for individuals injured, a minimum $100,000 in per-crash coverage and at least $25,000 to cover property damage.

Drivers can always elect to carry more coverage, though there is evidence to suggest many in Florida do not.

That’s because the number of uninsured drivers in this state is astronomical – nearly 24 percent. That is one out of every four drivers on the roadway who does not have any insurance whatsoever.

If those drivers or those with minimal insurance are involved in a crash, injured parties or decedent survivors are tasked with pursuing a claim against their own auto insurer through uninsured motorist/ underinsured motorist coverage. It allows accident victims the ability to at least have some recourse in the event a crash is caused by a driver without adequate coverage.

But here’s another problem: While many states require drivers to carry UM/UIM coverage for this very reason, Florida does not. The state does require auto insurers to offer the coverage. But consumers have the choice of turning it down with a signed release, usually in exchange for a lower premium.

As this data underscores, however, doing so comes at a tremendous risk to drivers and their loved ones.

All of this points to the fact that one of the biggest issues is the cost of auto insurance. Presumably, more people would secure insurance or increase their policy protections if it was more affordable.

It should perhaps come as little surprise Florida ranks among the 10 most expensive states for car insurance, according to research by CarInsuranceQuotes.com (an affiliate of financial news source Bankrate.com). With the requirement for personal injury protection, typical residents pay twice for medical coverage – once through health insurance and again through their car insurance.

In a typical year, the average Florida resident is going to spend about $1,800 in car insurance. That represents 3.6 percent of families’ collective household incomes.

PIP reforms initiated by Gov. Rick Scott took effect in 2012 and were intended to reduce fraud and bring down costs over time. That has yet to happen. In fact, is only placed further limits on the rights of victims to recover in the wake of a serious collision. WalletHub’s most recent statistics reveal the true cost we pay for unaffordable car insurance.

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

Additional Resources:

2015’s Most and Least Risky States for Drivers’ Wallets, Jan. 15, 2015, By Richie Bernardo, WalletHub.com

More Blog Entries:

South Florida Report: 3 Killed, 4 Injured in 5-Car Chain Reaction Crash, Dec. 19, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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A luxury car test drive went horribly wrong for a salesman along for the ride with the son of a prospective buyer. sportscar

Although there are conflicting accounts presented in Gonsalves v. Li, what is undisputed is that the son of a man interested in buying a high-end, high-powered BMW crashed the vehicle while taking it on a test drive.

The salesman, who was in the passenger seat, asserted significant back injuries were proximately caused by the crash.

The wreck reportedly occurred after the salesman, against his better judgment, allowed both the prospective buyer of the car as well as his son to test-drive the vehicle without a sales price agreement and confirmation of the customer’s ability to pay, as was typical for this particular kind of vehicle, which most owners want to purchase with zero mileage.

Salesman said he worried he had insulted the customer by requesting this information after customer insisted he had the money to pay, was very interested in buying the car – for his son’s use – and insisted his son had a clean driving record (a fact later disproven).

After the son got behind the wheel, salesman said he drove recklessly at several points during the test drive, at one point reaching speeds of up to 120 miles-per-hour while weaving dangerously through traffic.

The son exited the highway to return to dealership at salesman’s insistence, but then said he wanted to try one more thing and attempted to re-enter the highway. However, while on the ramp, he quickly accelerated and pressed the “M” button, causing him to lose control of the vehicle and crash the luxury car.

There are disputes about how fast the driver was traveling at that point.

Salesman later filed a car accident lawsuit against the prospective buyer and his son, though prospective buyer was later dropped as defendant and the case proceeded solely against the son.

Plaintiff requested $2 million in damages for medical expenses and pain and suffering. Defendant argued he had not acted negligently and plaintiff’s damages were significantly overstated.

Jury found defendant negligent, and awarded plaintiff $1.2 million in compensation for damages.

On appeal, defendant argued trial court erred in admitting certain evidence and in allowing plaintiff to examine certain subjects. Specifically, defendant objected to the court allowing his refusal to answer certain potentially incriminating statements as evidence against him. Appellate court agreed this was error. Additionally, appellate court found consideration of defendant’s prior speeding tickets was improper. The court also found plaintiff’s counsel committed misconduct in at least two instances: In bringing up information about a former client/paralyzed child and secondly by talking about plaintiff’s workers’ compensation coverage.

On the latter point, frequent references were reportedly made regarding plaintiff’s receipt of workers’ compensation. Appellate court stated the issue of whether there is secondary insurance to collect and the amount of that insurance is “none of their business, basically.”

The court ruled that collectively, these errors warranted a remand for a new trial, as they had unduly prejudiced defendant.

This does not mean defense has won, but plaintiff will have to press through another trial to secure recovery of damages.

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

Additional Resources:

Gonsalves v. Li, Jan. 13, 2015, California Court of Appeals, First Appellate District, Division Five

More Blog Entries:

December National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, Dec. 23, 2014, Hollywood Crash Lawyer Blog

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The Broward County Transit has been operating for years, deploying 300 buses to cover more than 400 square miles with connections to both Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, as well as the Tri-Rail. busdriver

This is a lot of area to cover daily, and for the most part, drivers do a good job of getting passengers safely to their destination.

However, sometimes accidents occur. In 2013, a 14-year-old boy trying to get to school was left permanently brain damaged when he was trying to board and the bus accelerated before the doors had completely closed and prior to all passengers taking their seats. While prosecutors did not find the action rose to the level of culpable negligence or recklessness (as required for a criminal prosecution), there was evidence to support findings of inattentiveness and carelessness – violations of the Bus Driver Administrative Code.

When injuries occur as a result of bus driver negligence, victims need to consult with an experienced accident lawyer in Fort Lauderdale to ensure their rights are protected.

Recently, the case of Robinson v. Wash. Metro. Area Trans. Auth. showed how simple injury on a bus or even caused by a bus driver may not be enough to secure compensation. (Every case is different, which is why an immediate consultation is recommended.)

In Robinson, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a passenger on a metro transit bus was injured when the vehicle suddenly stopped while the rider was still standing. According to court records, rider boarded the bus and proceeded down the aisle, holding the seat-back handrails as she walked.

The driver closed the doors and continued forward before passenger had reached her seat. He soon approached a stop sign and “hit the brakes.” The deceleration of the large vehicle caused the rider, who was still standing, facing the rear of the bus, to fall in a twisting motion on her behind. In falling, she broke her left leg.

Rider later sued the metro transit authority, alleging the bus drivers’ negligent operation of the bus resulted in her injury.

She sought to prove negligence on two theories: Driver violated the authority’s standard operating procedures and secondly, the “jerk” occurred with such extraordinary force, negligence was inferred.

Driver admitted at trial he did not check his mirror prior to leaving the stop, though he assumed plaintiff was already seated.

A jury awarded plaintiff $405,000 in damages. However, trial court soon after granted a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law in favor of defendant, holding plaintiff failed to adequately prove causation.

Specifically, plaintiff’s expert witness did not show the standard operating procedure cited was a reflection of national care standards, and there was no evidence causally of the driver’s failure to check the center mirror (the SOP violation) and plaintiff’s injury. Court also found plaintiff’s evidence insufficient to show the “jerk” in question was indeed extraordinary.

The appellate court affirmed. The appellate court did note an expert witness might not be needed to show a failure to check one’s mirrors could result in injury to a passenger, as this is within the realm of understanding of the average layperson. However, plaintiff failed to adequately preserve this argument because when trial court denied defendant’s first summary judgment motion, it indicated an expert witness was required to establish the national standard of care – and plaintiff did not object or argue against this point.

Because these cases can be more complex than they may initially appear, it’s important to contact an injury lawyer with experience.

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

Additional Resources:

Robinson v. Wash. Metro. Area Trans. Auth. , Dec. 19, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia

More Blog Entries:

Montgomery v. Potter – Uninsured Driver Struck by Insured Motorist, Jan. 7, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Accident Lawyer Blog

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High-speed driving and even pursuits are an especially dangerous part of police work. This is why many states, including Florida, have laws barring officers from acting with reckless disregard for the safety of others – regardless of the circumstances (F.S. 316.072(5)(c)). policelight1

That said, establishing liability for injuries or death resulting from a police pursuit may prove challenging. It will depend on the circumstances. When innocent civilian drivers or pedestrians suffer personal injury or are killed as a result of a reckless or ill-advised high-speed pursuit, the chances of securing compensation are optimum.

However, if plaintiff or decedent was in any way involved in the pursuit, the case may prove more difficult.

In the recent case of Sellers v. Twp. of Abington, the issue was whether officers owed a duty of care to passengers inside a fleeing vehicle when officers may not be aware of either passengers’ existence or potential involvement in eluding.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled officers do not owe a duty of care to passengers of a fleeing vehicle in these circumstances.

According to court records, this case stemmed from a tragic drunk driving accident following a police pursuit. A man spend Christmas Even drinking with a group of friends before two asked if he could drive them home.

One passenger sat in front, another in back. None wore seat belts. Driver admitted he was drunk when he left the gathering, and even conceded it was not the first time he had driven friends home drunk.

Driver stated while he was speeding 15-mph over the limit, he noticed a police cruiser pass him in the other direction. The police vehicle made a U-turn, began following him and activated lights and sirens.

Instead of pulling over, the “scared” drunk driver fled. He “floored” the gas pedal, reaching speeds of over 100 mph.

They seemingly lost the cruiser and made it to the home of one of the passengers. However, as they began to say their good-byes, driver noticed police lights reflected in the windows of nearby homes. Before the passenger could get out, driver shut off his headlights and “floored it” out of the driveway down the road.

Both passengers urged the driver to slow down because there was an upcoming dip in the road. Driver did not slow down. He hit the dip, lost control of the vehicle, the vehicle went airborne and crashed into a cluster of trees and a truck. One of the passengers was ejected and later died from his injuries.

Decedent’s parents filed a wrongful death action against the township for negligence of officers and seeking punitive damages. They accused officers of negligently, recklessly and willfully initiating and failing to terminate a high-speed pursuit of a vehicle.

After the discovery phase, defendant township sought summary judgment, which trial court granted. Trial court reasoned the township was immune from such action per the principle of sovereign immunity. Additionally, the court ruled the responding officer acted reasonably throughout the incident.

An appellate court affirmed.

The state supreme court held that while police owe a duty of care to innocent third parties in such situations, this same duty of care does not extend to “unknown passengers” of a fleeing vehicle.

With no duty of care, negligence cannot be established and thus, plaintiff’s case was dismissed.

A dissenting opinion did reason summary judgment in this instance was inappropriate where there had been no factual finding as to the officer’s awareness of the passengers.

The bottom line is these cases may generally be weighed on a case-by-case basis.

Consult with an experienced injury lawyer before determining your course of action.

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

Additional Resources:

Sellers v. Twp. of Abington, Dec. 29, 2014, Pennsylvania Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Giles v. Eagle Farms, Inc. – Intoxication as Bar to Recovery in On-the-Job Crash, Dec. 15, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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Florida has one of the highest rates of drivers without auto insurance in the country – nearly one in four, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That doesn’t include the significant portion of drivers who are also woefully underinsured, meaning they don’t carry enough coverage to pay for damages in the event of a significant collision.airbag2

We often talk about this problem in terms of what it means when an insured driver is struck by an uninsured driver. In these cases, insured drivers must often rely on uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage from their own insurer.

However, when an uninsured driver is struck by an insured driver, the process is slightly less complicated, so long as the uninsured driver is not at-fault. He or she may receive a citation for driving without insurance. After all, it is against the law. But in these instances, the insured, at-fault driver’s coverage should kick in to pay for coverages of injury and property damage.

The major disadvantage would be if the at-fault driver in a Broward car accident didn’t have insurance either or didn’t have adequate insurance. In that case, the uninsured victim would not be able to seek uninsured motorist benefits. It would be possible to hold the at-fault driver personally liable, but the chances of collecting vary depending on the circumstances.

The issue is handled the same way in most other states. However in Oklahoma, prior to the recent state supreme court decision in Montgomery v. Potter, uninsured drivers were barred from recovering certain non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has now declared this law unconstitutional.

According to court records, plaintiffs filed a negligence action against defendant following a crash in which plaintiff was rear-ended by defendant vehicle. Plaintiff and her 3-year-old son were injured as a result of the crash.

In her lawsuit, plaintiff sought damages for medical expenses, personal injury and pain and suffering.

However, at the time of the wreck, plaintiff was an uninsured driver. She reportedly allowed it to lapse just two months earlier. Just like in Florida, driving without insurance is against the law.

Unlike Florida, a state law specifically barred uninsured motorist from collecting certain kinds of non-economic damages – pain and suffering included. It’s called a “No Pay, No Play” law, which only allows collection of certain non-economic damages under special circumstances – none of which applied in this case. (Other states with similar laws include: Alaska, California, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, North Dakota and Oregon.)

When the case went to trial, plaintiff argued the state law was in violation of the state constitution, and filed a motion for declaratory relief. Trial court ruled in plaintiff’s favor, finding the measure improper.

Defendant appealed, and the trial court certified its ruling for review by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which accepted.

Ultimately, the court ruled the “No Pay, No Play” law was unconstitutional. Essentially, the legal foundation for the ruling was based on the fact a subset of negligence plaintiffs were set aside for different treatment. Here, it was on the basis of lack of insurance coverage. But this restricted damages for victim who would have otherwise been entitled to collect greater compensation.

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

Additional Resources:

Montgomery v. Potter, Dec. 16, 2014, Oklahoma Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

December National Impaired Driving Month, Dec. 23, 2014, Broward County Accident Lawyer Blog

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