Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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The technology being used in vehicles is evolving quickly, and self-driving cars have started to hit the roads in increasing numbers. These cars present new risks and new legal issues that can complicate the issue of liability in Florida car crashes. For example, there is the question of who is controlling the car in a self-driving car—the driver or the self-driving system?

Generally, existing laws only consider the driver for liability purposes, but in some cases, a manufacturer may be to blame. As self-driving cars continue to expand, many are pushing for legislative changes that consider the use of automated cars. Until then, it may be up to the courts to sort out the legal issues.

Shattered WindowInvestigation Finds Tesla Automated Car to Blame in 2016 Fatal Florida Crash

Accident investigators determined that Tesla’s autopilot system contributed to a 2016 Florida crash. According to one news source, in May 2016, a former Navy SEAL died after his Model S hit a truck that was crossing the highway in front of him. The accident victim was driving at 74 miles per hour when the truck made a left turn. The driver apparently did not try to brake or steer the car to get out of the way, and investigators later determined that the car had been on autopilot.

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Often at the heart of Florida personal injury claims is the issue of who is at fault for an accident. This is especially true when there are several parties involved, or when a party claims that a victim was partly at fault. For example, even in a situation in which one driver is at fault for failing to obey traffic laws, another driver may be at fault for driving too fast to respond appropriately.

CrosswalkComparative Negligence in Personal Injury Claims

In 1973, the Florida Supreme Court established the rule of comparative negligence in all tort cases. Comparative negligence considers the fault of the plaintiff in determining the plaintiff’s compensation. Under Florida’s pure comparative negligence standard, the plaintiff’s total damages award will be reduced by their own percentage of fault. For example, if a jury determines the defendant was 70% at fault, and the plaintiff was 30% at fault, the plaintiff will receive 70% of their damages.

If there are multiple defendants, a jury can assign each party a percentage of fault. Even if a jury finds a plaintiff was mostly at fault, the plaintiff can still recover compensation. The idea behind comparative negligence is that often multiple parties are at fault, and thus, each party should share in the blame. Now, Florida Statute 768.81(2) states that any contributory fault chargeable to the claimant is reduced according to the amount awarded for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but this does not bar recovery.

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Like any other activity, safely driving a motor vehicle is something that requires practice. Whether it be remembering the rules of the road, or the muscle memory needed to safely operate the gas and brake pedals, operating a motor vehicle requires a certain amount of knowledge and coordination. In Florida, before someone is provided with a driver’s license, they must meet certain criteria. These include passing both a written and a practical driving test. However, despite these requirements, it still remains true that new and inexperienced drivers are responsible for a disproportionate number of serious and fatal car accidents each year.

Car AccidentIt should not come as a surprise that newer drivers cause more accidents than more experienced drivers. However, under the laws of Florida, when it comes to determining who is at fault for causing a car accident, it is irrelevant how long a driver has had their license. In other words, all drivers have the same obligation to safely operate their vehicle while on public roads. This means that if a new driver causes an accident resulting in serious injuries or death, they may be held financially liable to the victims of that accident and potentially the victim’s family members as well through a South Florida personal injury lawsuit.

In order to be successful in a personal injury claim, an accident victim must be able to show that some negligent act of the other driver resulted in their injuries. A driver’s negligence can be proven through evidence showing that the other driver committed a traffic violation, was intoxicated at the time of the accident, was distracted by their cell phone, or was careless in a variety of other ways.

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Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a man who was rear-ended by a truck while he was stopped on the highway. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s potentially inconsistent statements rose to the level of fraud on the court. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff disclosed all of the necessary information; however, the fact that some of the information he provided was contradictory was relevant to his credibility, which should be weighed by a jury.

GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in an accident while he was stopped on the highway. The driver of the truck that struck him was later determined to be drunk. About four years later, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver, as well as the driver’s employer.

Two months after the plaintiff filed this case, he was involved in another rear-end collision. This case involves the differences in how the plaintiff described the second accident. When he filed an insurance claim after the second accident, he described it as “hard impact very fast.” He also explained that the rear bumper was heavily damaged. However, the plaintiff’s testimony in this case characterized the accident as a minor one that only involved a “few dollars” worth of damage. In fact, the plaintiff initially did not even disclose the second accident when he was asked whether he was involved in any other accidents.

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Late last month, a suspected drunk driver hit and killed one Florida teen and injured several others in a hit-and-run accident. According to a local news report, the accident occurred in Polk County, near the intersection of Allegheny Road and Athbasca Drive.

Brandy GlassesEvidently, the motorist was operating a Kia Rio when witnesses say he leaned forward in the driver’s seat, losing control of the vehicle and driving off the road’s right shoulder. A few moments later, several children who had recently exited the bus at their designated bus stop were struck. An investigation after the accident indicated that there was no pre-collision braking, and the children all seemed to be off the road at the time of the collision.

After the car struck the children, the driver apparently regained awareness and proceeded to flee the scene. A witness to the accident followed the driver, who later crashed into another vehicle before coming to a stop. Police arrived on the scene and arrested the driver, whose blood-alcohol content was approximately twice the legal limit. The driver was charged with several offenses, including DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.

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In general, a child’s actions are not judged by the same standard as an adult. The liability a minor may face varies from state to state. In fact, some states define liability based on a child’s age. Under Florida law, however, there is not a defined age at which a minor will be judged at a lower standard than an adult.

SUV on HighwayIn Florida, the question is which standard is expected of a child of a similar age, intelligence, experience, and training. Whether a child acted reasonably under the circumstances is normally an issue to be decided by a jury. However, some cases have used a lower standard in cases involving children under 10, although there is no clear line. The nature of the activity may also be a consideration. For example, a minor who engages in an adult activity may be held to a higher standard.

Parental Responsibility

In addition, parents may be held liable in some circumstances for failing to supervise or care for their children to protect them and others. This is also true for others who are supervising minors who are not their children. Parents and other guardians must exercise reasonable care to prevent children from engaging in activities that are likely to cause injuries. Thus, a particularly dangerous activity may require close supervision.

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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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Earlier this month, a Delaware appellate court issued a written opinion affirming a jury’s decision to award a personal injury plaintiff a zero-dollar award despite determining that the defendant caused the accident that the plaintiff claimed caused her injuries. In the case, Rash v. Moczulski, the court determined that the jury’s award was reasonable, given the circumstances and the evidence presented at trial.

Wrecked CarThe Facts

The Rashes were involved in a car accident that they alleged was caused by Moczulski. After a personal injury case was filed, and a jury heard the case, the jury determined that the Rashes “sustained one or more injuries proximately caused by” the Moczulski. However, the jury awarded the Rashes zero dollars for their injuries. According to the court’s written opinion, the defense presented evidence suggesting the “nature and extent” of the Rashes’ injuries were exaggerated, and the plaintiffs failed to mitigate their damages while the trial was pending.

After the verdict was issued, the plaintiff asked the judge for a new trial, arguing that the jury’s verdict was inadequate. The judge denied the motion, explaining that “the exact nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injury and plaintiff’s failure to mitigate his injuries through treatment made identifying and compensating the injury quite problematic.” However, the judge amended the jury’s award to provide $10,000 to the Rashes. Both the plaintiffs and the defendant appealed.

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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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Although it may come as a surprise to cautious and safe drivers in the state, a recent auto insurance industry report claims that Florida drivers are the worst in the country. The report was based on a review of various data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and it considered the percentage of insured drivers in each state, the number of DUI arrests and vehicle-related deaths per 1,000 drivers, and other data. Based on their research, the authors put Florida at the top of the list of states with the worst drivers, followed by Mississippi, Oklahoma, and New Jersey.

Wrecked CarHow the Findings Correspond with Auto Insurance Costs and Coverage across the Country

The findings that Florida drivers are the worst in the nation would suggest that the chances of being in a dangerous accident are greater in Florida than in other states. Although insurance rates are not determined entirely by the state-by-state accident risk or the presence of poor drivers, the article notes that auto insurance premiums in Florida are the fifth-highest in the nation, significantly more expensive than the national average. As noted in the article, the expensive rates and other factors have resulted in Florida having the second-highest rate of uninsured drivers in the country. Concerned South Florida drivers should ensure that they are adequately protected in the event of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.

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