Articles Posted in Automobile Accidents

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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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Under Florida law, all personal injury cases must be brought within a certain amount of time. Normally, this time frame is called the statute of limitations, and while there are some exceptions, the general rule is that a late-filed case cannot be heard by the courts, and the plaintiff will be without recourse for their injuries. While this concept is a straightforward one, determining which statute of limitations applies in a specific case is not always an easy task.

AmbulanceDifferent types of cases have different statutes of limitations. One of the strictest statutes of limitations is for medical malpractice cases. In many states, including in Florida, the statute of limitations in a medical malpractice case is two years. Compare that with the statute of limitations for general negligence cases, which is four years, and it is clear why it is important to determine at the outset which statute of limitations applies. Below is an example of one plaintiff’s experience bringing a traditional negligence case against a paramedic that initially was classified as a medical malpractice case.

Aldana v. Stillwagon:  The Facts

Stillwagon, an on-duty paramedic, caused an accident when he struck Aldana’s vehicle after running a red light. At the time, Stillwater was on his way to the medical emergency. Aldana filed a personal injury lawsuit against Stillwater 17 months after the accident, arguing that his negligence in running the red light caused his injuries.

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The United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals recently released an opinion affirming a federal district court’s decision to award a Colorado accident victim a $2.25 million verdict against his auto insurance company. The plaintiff had initially sought only the $750,000 policy limit for the uninsured motorist coverage purchased from the defendant, but his successful claim that the defendant unreasonably denied his initial claim resulted in a judgment three times that amount. With the Tenth Circuit’s decision to affirm the lower court’s rulings, the plaintiff will receive the $2,250,000 he was awarded by the trial judge.

Damaged Front EndThe Plaintiff Suffered a Serious Back Injury after He Was Rear-Ended by an Underinsured Driver

The plaintiff in the case of Etherton v. Owners Insurance Company was injured in a rear-end collision in December 2007. Although the damage to his vehicle was relatively minor, he suffered a back injury in the accident and underwent three back surgeries to repair disc damage in his spine. The plaintiff initially sought damages from the driver at fault for the accident and received the policy limit amount of $250,000 in compensation from the other driver’s insurance company.

The Plaintiff’s Initial Insurance Claim with the Defendant

The plaintiff’s insurance coverage with the defendant included uninsured/underinsured motorist protection and covered additional uncompensated expenses from an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver up to a maximum of $1,000,000 (including any amount received from an underinsured motorist). The plaintiff made a claim under this coverage and requested $750,000, his policy limit minus the amount he’d received from the other driver. The defendant denied the plaintiff’s claim, offering only to pay $150,000, one-fifth of his requested amount. After negotiations stalled, the plaintiff filed a breach of contract lawsuit, seeking damages in the amount of his policy limits.

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When an accident victim files a case against another motorist, the law requires that certain information be passed through what is called “pre-trial discovery.” This allows both sides to have an idea of the evidence the other party will use to prove or defend their claim. While not every piece of harmful or beneficial information must be passed in pre-trial discovery, generally all relevant evidence should be passed. If a court determines that a party is hiding evidence, or is otherwise not complying with the discovery process, the court can implement sanctions against that party.

speed-1187851Defense Verdict Reversed on Appeal, Based on Failure to Comply with Discovery Requirements

Earlier last month, an appellate court in West Virginia issued an opinion in a case that reversed a jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant after it came out that the defense failed to comply with pre-trial discovery rules. In the case, Phillips v. Stear, the court determined that the plaintiff was denied a fair opportunity to present his case when the defendant failed to disclose previously issued traffic citations and then denied knowledge of the citations at trial.

The accident giving rise to the case occurred when the plaintiff, a truck driver, was cut off by the defendant. According to the court documents, the defendant swerved in front of the plaintiff, made an obscene hand gesture, and then quickly applied the brakes. In response, the plaintiff tried to slow down as well, but he ended up losing control of the truck and crashing it off the side of the road.

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Determining fault in Miami vehicle accidents is not always as straightforward as it may seem. In some cases, the nature of the injuries sustained prevents those involved from accurately remembering what happened in the moments leading up to the accident. In other cases, so many vehicles are involved in an accident that it is difficult for authorities to determine who was at fault and who was merely an innocent victim of another’s negligent or reckless driving.

tipper-417151_960_720In most accidents involving serious injury or death, an accident reconstructionist is called in to help recreate the accident so that authorities have a better idea of what caused the accident. This can be very important for insurance issues as well as to help determine if any of the parties involved should face criminal charges for their role in the accident. While this is not a primary function of an accident reconstruction, it may also be used to help those injured in the accident obtain compensation for their injuries through a personal injury lawsuit.

After a serious accident, people injured as a result are left with more than just their physical injuries. They must also deal with the emotional aftermath. Add to the mix mounting medical expenses and time away from work, and it can be overwhelming. Thankfully, Florida law allows for those who suffer a serious injury in the wake of an accident to seek compensation though a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

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In a case decided earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Florida upheld a jury’s $1 million verdict against an insurance company after it was determined that the insurance company acted in bad faith in not paying out on the plaintiff’s meritorious claim.

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Fridman v. Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois:  The Facts of the Case

The case arose after a 2007 accident involving the plaintiff and an uninsured motorist. In the wake of the accident, the plaintiff discovered that the other driver did not have insurance and sought to collect reimbursement for medical expenses and property damage from his own insurance company, Safeco. However, Safeco initially denied the claim and then failed to respond to any of the plaintiff’s attempts to follow up with the claim.

Eventually, the plaintiff filed a case against Safeco, citing the company’s bad faith in failing to settle the claim. Once that claim was filed, Safeco issued the plaintiff a payment of $50,000, which was the upper policy limit of the plaintiff’s uninsured motorist coverage. The plaintiff refused the settlement and opted to let the jury decide what the claim was worth. After a jury trial, the plaintiff was awarded an amount of $1 million.

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