Articles Posted in Automobile Accidents

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Despite the millions of dollars spent by the federal and state governments on drunk driving prevention programs, as well as the harsh criminal penalties that drunk drivers face when convicted, Florida drunk driving accidents are still commonplace. In fact, Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that there are nearly 800 drunk driving deaths in Florida each year. This represents over a quarter of all traffic fatalities. Sadly, this number represents a 15% increase over previous years.

car keysDrunk drivers place the safety of everyone on the road in jeopardy when they get behind the wheel. In too many cases, South Florida drunk drivers cause otherwise preventable traffic accidents that result in serious injuries or death.

Due to the prevalence of drunk driving and the danger that drunk driving presents, Florida lawmakers have enacted several laws that the victims of a South Florida drunk driving accident can use to seek compensation for their injuries. For example, under Florida law, the fact that a driver was intoxicated at the time of an accident can be evidence of that driver’s negligence in a subsequent South Florida personal injury lawsuit. Additionally, under the state’s Dram Shop Act, some accident victims may be able to hold the establishment that served the drunk driver responsible for their injuries as well as the driver.

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All drivers have a duty to operate their motor vehicles in Florida in a careful and prudent manner under the circumstances. This duty extends to everyone, including to police officers driving police cars, whether or not they are responding to an emergency and whether or not the emergency lights are activated. A police officer’s failure to take the necessary precautions when operating a patrol car may result in the officer, the department, or the city being liable for a victim’s injuries through a South Florida personal injury lawsuit.

Police SirensDuty of Reasonable Care

To establish a negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, that the defendant breached that duty, that the breach of that duty caused the plaintiff’s damages, and that the plaintiff has quantifiable damages. A defendant’s “duty of care” in favor of a plaintiff can arise from four sources:  state laws and regulations, judicial interpretations of laws or regulations, other judicial decisions, or a duty arising out of the specific facts of the case.

Police officers must drive carefully and prudently while operating police vehicles, even when responding to emergencies. In fact, if a police officer is driving in a more dangerous situation, like driving through red lights, the officer may have a heightened duty because, as the risk of harm grows to others, a driver’s duty of care is heightened. Police officers owe a duty to exercise reasonable care in carrying out their duties, including a duty to protect innocent bystanders if their police duties create a foreseeable zone of risk. For example, police officers in Florida have been found to have a duty when police were engaged in a high-speed chase and killed innocent motorists, as well as when police were chasing someone on foot and injured a pedestrian. Florida courts have also determined that police do not have to have a person “in custody” to owe the person a duty of care.

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If an individual suffers damages due to the actions of another person, the individual may be entitled to compensation for injuries and other damages. This is regardless of whether the at-fault person was acting with the intent to cause harm or was merely negligent under the circumstances. Most motor vehicle collisions are results of negligent conduct rather than intentional conduct.

OverpassNegligence Claims Arising after Motor Vehicle Crashes

A Florida personal injury claim requires a plaintiff to prove the following:  a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff to conform to a certain standard of conduct; a breach of the duty by the defendant; a causal connection between the conduct and the plaintiff’s injuries; and damages.

Under Fla. Stat. 316.1925, any person who operates a motor vehicle in Florida must drive in a careful and prudent manner, in light of the circumstances, to avoid endangering other people and property. Circumstances to consider in evaluating a motorist’s driving include the weather, the width of the road, the presence of curves, the speed limit, and the amount of traffic. A driver is also responsible for maintaining attention at all times in preparation for the demands of an emergency.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida drunk driving case requiring the court to interpret the state’s reverse dram shop liability statute. The court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to survive the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s evidence was sufficient, and it ordered the case to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

golf cartFlorida’s Reverse Dram Shop Statute

In Florida, establishments that serve alcoholic beverages are generally not liable for any accidents caused by their customers once they leave the premises. However, under the Reverse Dram Shop Liability statute, a plaintiff may proceed with a case against the serving establishment if they can show that the establishment served alcohol to a patron whom they knew to be “habitually addicted to alcohol.”

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving family member of a woman who was killed by a drunk driver. At the time of the accident, the driver’s blood-alcohol content was .302, which is nearly four times the legal limit of .08. Prior to getting into the car, the driver was at the defendant country club.

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Last year, a Tesla car equipped with auto-pilot technology was involved in a fatal accident with a semi-truck. According to news reports released shortly after the accident, the car was traveling straight on the highway when a semi-truck pulled out in front of the car. Both the driver of the vehicle as well as the vehicle’s auto-pilot system failed to detect the bright-white side of the semi-truck, and the car collided with the side of the truck at full speed.

Car AccidentIn the wake of the accident, many questions arose not just about the safety of self-driving cars but also regarding the many legal issues that the use of self-driving cars brings up. For example, when a person is operating a self-driving car in auto-pilot mode and a collision occurs, is the manufacturer liable for any injuries to a third party? What about the “driver” of the self-driving car?

These questions are no closer to being answered today than they were at the time of last year’s accident; however, as cases involving self-driving cars work their way through the court system, eventually courts will have to come up with answers to these questions.

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Mike-200x300A Miami-Dade jury awarded this week a $9.3 million verdict to a 24 year-old man involved in a motorcycle accident that resulted in a skull fracture and traumatic brain injury.

On the morning of March 16, 2014 Dylan Machado, who was represented by attorney Michael Cecere from Cecere Santana, PA, was traveling on his motorcycle near SW 67 Ave and 32 Terrace in Miami, when the defendant, Maria Rodriguez, changed into his lane, crashing into his motorcycle. The force of the impact caused Mr. Machado to fly off his motorcycle onto the pavement. Mr. Machado’s injuries resulted in him spending more than two months in the hospital and several months of rehabilitation.

During the one week trial, the attorney representing the defendant argued that Mr. Machado was negligent for not seeing Ms. Rodriguez and was negligent for not wearing his helmet. Mr. Cecere, along with attorney Henry Seiden, argued that Mr. Machado was indeed wearing his helmet and he did not contribute to the accident. In addition, Mr. Cecere contended, the defendant’s negligence had caused Mr. Machado’s severe and irreversible injuries that resulted in a lifetime of challenges and limitations for him.  The Miami-Dade jury only attributed 12% fault to Mr. Machado resulting in the multimillion dollar verdict.

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Last month, an appellate court in New York issued a written opinion in a case brought by the surviving spouse of a motorist who was killed while attempting to assist an escaped farm animal that had wandered onto the highway. In the case, Hain v. Jamison, the court determined that a sufficient link existed between the defendant farm owner’s negligence and the motorist’s death to fulfill the causation requirement. As a result, the plaintiff’s wrongful death lawsuit will be permitted to proceed toward settlement negotiations or trial.

CowThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case is the surviving husband of a woman who was killed by a passing motorist as she tried to assist an escaped calf that belonged to the defendant. Evidently, the plaintiff’s late wife was driving on a road near the defendant’s farm late one evening when she saw a calf in the middle of the road. She safely pulled over, exited the vehicle, and entered the roadway to assist the calf. Sadly, as she was assisting the calf, another motorist fatally struck her.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the farm owner as well as the motorist. The farm owner explained that the calf had been born earlier that day, and he had not known of its escape until moments before the fatal accident. However, as soon as he became aware of the missing calf, he immediately left the house in search of the escaped animal. Sadly, he was unable to locate the animal before the accident.

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Most people are familiar with the term “statute of limitations,” which refers to the amount of time that an accident victim has to file a lawsuit. Cases filed after the statute of limitations has expired will not be heard by a court, barring some extraordinary exception. In some cases, when a government or public entity is named as a defendant, an accident victim must also provide notice of the lawsuit to the state.

CrosswalkIn Florida, victims seeking financial recovery from a government entity must follow strict guidelines, or their claims will not be heard. Specifically, notice of the claim must be provided to both the entity being sued as well as the Department of Financial Services within three years of the accident’s occurrence. An accident victim’s failure to comply with these requirements can result in the dismissal of an otherwise meritorious claim. A recent case in front of a New York appellate court illustrates how, even if a plaintiff’s late-filed case is ultimately allowed to proceed, it can still result in lengthy delays and unnecessary expenses.

Newcomb v. Middle Country School District

Newcomb, a 16-year-old boy, was struck by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the street near his school. Within a few days of the accident, Newcomb’s parents provided the school with the details of the accident. Shortly after the accident, police arrested the driver and began proceedings to criminally prosecute him.

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Earlier this fall, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a chain-reaction truck accident case brought by a man who was injured not in the original accident but in a subsequent accident caused by backed up traffic. In the case, Ready v. RWI Transportation, the court determined that the accident injuring the plaintiff was too far removed in both time and physical distance to be considered a foreseeable result of the defendant truck driver’s alleged negligence.

Front-End DamageThe Plaintiff Rear-Ends a Stopped Vehicle

The defendant truck driver caused an accident on the highway when he negligently changed lanes and struck another vehicle. As a result of the initial accident, traffic was slowed as emergency crews cleared the scene. This caused a significant back-up of traffic leading up to the accident.

The plaintiff was driving on the highway toward the accident, traveling at approximately 65-70 miles per hour, when he came upon the stopped traffic. The plaintiff failed to stop in time and ended up rear-ending a vehicle in the far right lane of travel. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the accident, and he filed a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver who allegedly caused the first accident, as well as that driver’s employer.

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Erick Santana & Michael CecereAccording to an October 12, 2016 CBS News article, the number of teenagers involved in deadly car crashes is rising for the first time in nearly a decade. In 2015, there was a 10-percent increase in teen driving deaths. “In fact, teenage drivers are more than one-and-a-half times more likely than adults to be involved in a deadly crash,” said personal injury attorney Erick Santana, a founding partner at Cecere Santana.

To help prevent fatal accidents involving teens, Santana and Cecere Santana co-founder Michael Cecere share the following three tips:

No. 1: Always wear your seat belt. “Of the teens who died in passenger vehicle crashes, approximately 55% were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash,” said Cecere. “Research shows that seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half.”

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