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Three years ago, Florida lawmakers altered the standards for admissibility of expert witness testimony in the courtroom. We went from being a “Frye” state (based on the 1923 precedent in Frye v. U.S.) to a “Daubert” state (based on the 1993 case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.). science

The latter is a more stringent standard of weighing scientific methodology. This change has had a profound impact on civil litigation in Florida, requiring that expert witness testimony (needed in so many cases, from medical malpractice claims to car accident injury lawsuits) be thoroughly vetted. The Frye test required that the methodology or theory from which a scientific deduction was made had to have gained acceptance in that particular field. Daubert, meanwhile, the judge is responsible for being the gatekeeper of the expert witness’s qualifications and also ensuring that the testimony is both relevant and reliable. With regard to methodology, this generally means the court has to consider whether the theory or technique has been or can be tested, whether it has been subject to peer review, what the known or potential rate of error is and whether the theory is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community.

In a recent product liability case considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, justices reversed a $3 million award in favor of the plaintiff after finding the trial court judge failed to perform the proper gatekeeping duties with regard to plaintiff’s expert witness. Further, without that testimony, plaintiff did not have enough evidence to prove his claim, and therefore justices issued an order remanding the case for entry of a judgment in defendant car manufacturer’s favor. Continue reading →

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A 37-year-old man on a bicycle was killed in a hit-and-run accident in Rockledge, about an hour east of Orlando. bicycle

WESH NBC-2 reports an alleged wrong-way driver was traveling west bound in an eastbound lane when he struck the bicyclist. He then exited the vehicle briefly, then got back in and drove away, according to a witness. He then came back a short time later, with police at the scene. He was reportedly very emotional and apologetic, but his apologies could not save the life of the man he’d struck. The cyclist was soon thereafter pronounced dead.

While the driver faces serious felony charges, the question of what legal options the family may have in this case still lingers. We don’t know much about the victim, other than his age and gender. However, we do know that bicyclists in general are at great risk in Florida. The most recent Dangerous by Design report indicates 8 of the top 10 most dangerous metro regions for pedestrians and bicyclists are in Florida. The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area ranks No. 3.  Continue reading →

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Back in the 1970s, lawmakers in Florida sought to reduce the burden that constant car accident lawsuits imposed on the courts. That’s when they devised a system of no-fault benefits that every driver was required to purchase, called personal injury protection benefits, or PIP insurance. It’s intended to serve as a basic level of medical coverage for individuals who are injured in car crashes – no matter who is at-fault. cars

The law requires drivers to buy a minimum of $10,000 in PIP protection, and only if their damages exceed that amount or if the injuries are debilitating, permanent or scarring can those injured seek compensation outside of that system, per F.S. 627.736. Drivers here also aren’t required to buy bodily injury liability insurance (though it’s usually a good idea).

But now, legislators say they are going to be rethinking Florida’s PIP no-fault auto insurance this spring. A study commissioned by state leaders shows that if the PIP system were tossed, drivers would save an average of $80 on their policies. That doesn’t sound like a ton, but of course Florida has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country and we’ve also got one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers – 1 in 4. Meanwhile, the cost of PIP benefits has soared in recent years, climbing 14.4 percent between 2013 and 2014 and then again by 25.7 percent between 2015 and 2016.  Continue reading →

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In the first nine months of 2016, traffic deaths rose 8 percent compared to the same period from 2015. During that time, nearly 28,000 people were killed in car accidents. In the first three quarters of 2015, there were 25,800 people who died. caraccident

Many people have looked for an explanation for what’s happening, and there are several. One of the most popular theories is that more people are traveling the roads and for longer distances, thanks to the economic recovery. Certainly, there is some truth to this. We do know that people are traveling more. But when we look more closely at the data, that doesn’t account for the entire trend. That’s because, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points out, vehicle miles traveled from Jan. 1, 2016 through Sept. 30, 2016 were up 3 percent as compared to that same time frame the year before. So we have a 3 percent uptick in vehicle miles traveled and an 8 percent increase in the number of people dying in car accidents.

Something more is going on, and it’s especially concerning when you consider that cars manufactured today are safer than ever. While it’s true we’ve seen record-setting auto recalls in recent years, much of that involves the auto industry catching up with years of failing to recall vehicles with serious defects they should have set straight many years earlier. Meanwhile, we have cars that come standard-equipped with rearview cameras, electronic stability control, blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. All of this to say: Driving should be safer than ever, yet it’s not.  Continue reading →

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Car insurance is essential. It’s mandated in all states, to varying degrees, but it ensures that when we are involved in a car accident, those damages will be covered, whether that is through no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) benefits or through bodily injury liability coverage from the at-fault driver’s insurer. Other times, it’s derived from uninsured/ underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, which protects those who are insured in case they are struck by someone who lacks insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the full extent of the damages. car

Previous reports in Florida show that 1 in 4 drivers in the Sunshine State are driving without any insurance at all. A far greater number are driving on only the minimum amount of coverage mandated by law.

Now, a recent study by the Federal Insurance Office reports that millions of Americans live in regions where car insurance is not affordable. The agency looked at auto insurance premiums for basic liability coverage of motor vehicles in some 9,000 zip codes that have a high number of “under-served” consumers – including those with low to moderate incomes and those who are minorities. What they discovered was that the rates were not affordable in 845 of those zip codes analyzed. That’s approximately 9 percent of those areas, which equates to about 19 million people nationally.  Continue reading →

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The Sunshine State has a vast number of amazing qualities – but the safety of its roads apparently isn’t one of them. cross walk sign

The newest report from SmartGrowth Design, Dangerous by Design 2016, details Florida’s abysmal rates of pedestrian deaths, relative to the number of people who walk to work. This year, researchers combed through data of 104 cities across the countries. Eight of the nation’s top 10 most dangerous cities are in Florida, as is No. 11. While the national average rate is 52.4, the top metro area in Florida – the Cape Coral/ Fort Myers region – had a rate of 283.1. Orlando-Kissimmee-Standford metro region ranked at No. 3 with a rate of 235.2.

What that means is when it comes to pedestrian deaths in Orlando, our ranking is 350 percent higher than the country’s average.  Continue reading →

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There simply aren’t enough truck drivers in the U.S. to meet the increasing demands of the transportation and shipping industry. By some accounts, there is a shortage of nearly 50,000 drivers. In an attempt to fill the void, many trucking companies are actively recruiting retirees. trucking

At first glance, this seems like a great solution, particularly as Baby Boomers are living longer than in generations’ past and have ample knowledge and experience in a wide range of fields. The problem is that driving – particularly operation of a big rig – requires a certain degree of physical and mental stamina that may be challenging to those over a certain age. Older drivers may struggle with worsening vision (particularly at night), reduced reflexes, waning hearing and in some cases cognitive decline. All of these could prove disastrous for a trucker.

CBS News launched a study that looked at truck accidents involving drivers over the age of 65. What they found was that between 2013 and 2015, more than 6,630 trucking accidents were caused by truck drivers who were at or past the retirement age. It should be noted that this figure only tallied crash reports from 12 states, so the actual number is much, much higher. The study also showed that in the last couple years, the percentage of crashes involving drivers in their 70s and older spiked by nearly 20 percent. That includes both commercial truck and bus drivers, and should be cause for concern and further analysis.  Continue reading →

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Florida has the most senior driver traffic fatalities in the country, according to a report released a few years ago by TRIP, a national transportation research group. The study showed that in a single year, 271 drivers over 65 were killed in auto accidents that year, and more than 500 traffic deaths of all ages involved at least one senior driver. Those totals are higher than any other state, including California, which has the most over-65 drivers in the nation (3.1 million, which is about half a million more than here in the Sunshine State). old woman

We can only expect these figures have increased as not only has the number of overall auto accidents and fatalities spiked in recent years, but so too have the number of over-65 drivers. Back in the 1970s, roughly half of all American seniors had a driver’s license. Today, 84 percent of them do.

Recently, a study by Pew Charitable Trusts highlighted the fact that by 2030, more than 60 million senior drivers are going to be on our nation’s roadways. Many states – including Florida – have laws already on the books that seek to restrict the licenses of elderly drivers, either through required vision tests or more frequent renewals. However, in the last few years, researchers noted, there has been reticence in state legislatures to enact additional measures – despite the growing number of older drivers. In fact, some states have even been rolling back these restrictions.  Continue reading →

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Winning a favorable verdict in a Florida auto accident lawsuit isn’t necessarily the last word in the matter. This can be good or bad, depending on which side of the courtroom you’re sitting. A series of post-trial motions can alter the verdict, resulting in less compensation, more compensation or a new trial altogether. cars

When a defendant asks that the amount of damages be lowered, this is known as a remittitur. When a plaintiff asks for higher damages, this is known as an additur. Trial court judges usually will not disturb a verdict unless there is credible evidence that the jury’s award is grossly excessive or that there has been some gross error in awarding damages. Trial courts have a lot of discretion when it comes to these matters, but of course, it’s not without limit.

In the recent case of GEICO v. Isaacs, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling not to disturb the jury’s damage award, finding a remittitur request from the defendant should have been granted.  Continue reading →

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With the vast majority of car accidents caused by error of the drivers involved, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seeks to give motorists more automated features to increase their awareness of potential hazards. The latest effort involves the advancement of Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication systems, which the NHTSA wants to make mandatory for all cars and light trucks in the U.S. driving

The agency issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on the technology, which gives cars – and other devices – the ability to transmit their location, speed, direction and other information at a rate of 10 times per second. That lets other cars (and drivers) nearby know when a vehicle ahead is braking hard or about to run a red light or changing lanes or barreling fast around a blind curve. These alerts would give drivers enough time to react and prevent a collision.

Officials with NHTSA believe this technology has the potential to mitigate or prevent the severity of 8 out of 10 crashes that don’t involve drugs or alcohol (which is about two-thirds of the total 13 million accidents that happen every year). In essence, V2V has the ability to give drivers a total 360-degree awareness of what’s happening on the road.  Continue reading →

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