Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog
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A 6-year-old boy is the only survivor in a two-car auto accident in Florida that claimed the lives of three sisters, their friend and the child’s mother. rainyday

Although the cause of the crash, which occurred on State Road 70, just east of Arcadia, is still under investigation, officials have said the pickup truck driven by the boy’s mother was hydroplaning across the highway when it rotated and crossed the center line, slamming head-on into the vehicle carrying the three sisters and their friend. One of the sisters, who was driving, tried to avoid a crash by steering into the grass shoulder, but the truck still struck the back of her vehicle.

The sisters and their friend had been returning from a faith convention in Fort Pierce to their home in St. Petersburg. Their father, a pastor, and their mother had attended the same convention, but were returning home separately. Continue reading →

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Defendants in car accident lawsuits aren’t always other drivers and their insurance companies. roadsigns

There are many entities – both on and off the road – that can play a role in causing a crash. For example, a bar that serves alcohol to a minor driver can be named a defendant under Florida’s dram shop laws. A manufacturer of a vehicle or vehicle equipment can be named for defective design resulting in a critical failure resulting in either a crash or exacerbated injuries in the crash. The owner of a vehicle can be named even if he or she wasn’t driving at the time of the wreck, per a theory of negligence known as vicarious liability.

The list goes on. Continue reading →

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A man who suffered significant injuries as a result of a Florida car accident prevailed recently in 5th District Court of Appeals. carcrash5

Appellate justices in Bodiford v. Rollins ruled that not only were the $1 million in damages appropriate, but the finding that plaintiff was 30 percent comparatively at-fault was erroneous.

That means plaintiff is likely to collect the full amount in damages. Continue reading →

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A truck driver who logged 50 straight hours driving from Kentucky to Florida has been charged for a crash that occurred on the return trip, in which six people were killed and several others injured. It was also after the truck itself had two mechanical failures early on in the trip – one with the brakes, and another with the fuel delivery system.trucksontheroad

The fatal crash occurred on I-75 in Tennessee – and this was after the trucker allegedly sideswiped another commercial truck while on that illegally long haul in Florida. He was purportedly high on crystal meth at the time of the second crash, authorities say.

Investigators say on the day of the fatal crash, the driver had only logged off work for 12 hours after his 50-hour shift and returned to the road. At that point, he’d been driving for 15 hours when, at 77-miles-per-hour in a 55-mile-per-hour zone, he slammed into traffic that had slowed ahead of a heavy construction zone. The truck driver struck numerous vehicles with his tractor-trailer. Ultimately, six people lost their lives and four others were seriously injured. Continue reading →

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Emergency crews are the first responders on scene to aid those who are seriously injured, ill or in trouble. However, some of those same workers may be imperiling innocent people by engaging in actions that do little to promote public safety. policelights

Specifically, we’re talking about police and high-speed chases.

A recent report from USA Today found that from 1979 through 2013, nearly 5,100 innocent bystanders and passengers have been killed as a result of high-speed chases. Tens of thousands more have been seriously injured. Those figures do not include the number of officers killed, nor do they include the number of suspects who eluded authorities, initiating the chase. Continue reading →

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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

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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

 

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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

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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

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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

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