Articles Posted in Automobile Accidents

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Before a court can rule on the issues presented by a lawsuit, the court must first determine that it has jurisdiction over both the parties and the subject matter of the suit. If either is found lacking, the court does not have the power to adjudicate the case.

“Subject matter jurisdiction” refers to a court’s competence to hear a case in a particular category (regardless of the parties thereto), while “personal jurisdiction” means that the court has authority over a particular person or business.

In the recent case of Krisztian v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida for the Fourth District was called upon to determine whether the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach County had personal jurisdiction over a defendant in a subrogation case arising from a car accident.

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calculator 2Generally speaking, civil courts in Florida follow what is referred to as the “American rule,” under which each party is responsible for his or her own attorney fees. There are, of course, certain exceptions to the rule. One of the most important exceptions for personal injury litigants is the Florida Settlement Rule.

Set forth in Florida R. Civ. Prov. 1.442 and Florida Statutes § 768.79, the rule allows a court to award attorney fees and costs in limited situations. Although the amount that a court may order under the rule is typically less than the amount that the litigant owes his or her attorney under the contract between them, it does help offset some of these fees.

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A femal doctor or nurse checking the blood pressure of a patientAfter an injured person has finished his or her medical treatment following a car accident, he or she may be asked to submit to further examination by a so-called “independent” medical examiner.

A recent appellate case explored the rules of discovery as they pertain to an injured person’s inquiry into how often a particular doctor sees patients at the request of the plaintiff’s insurance company or the law firm that represents the insurer.

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car crash2It is often said that there are two sides to every story. One of the reasons that we have jury trials is to determine which side is correct. The rules of evidence determine which evidence the jury gets to hear and which is excluded. The trial judgment makes these determinations based on motions filed by each party in a lawsuit. If a party is dissatisfied with the trial judge’s decision, he or she may appeal the decision to the court of appeals.

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coinsFlorida is what is known as a “pure comparative negligence” state. This means that a party’s recovery in a lawsuit can be reduced in proportion to the party’s own fault. This and other issues were discussed in a recent case handed down by the District Court of Appeal for the Fourth District of Florida.

In the case of Jones v. Alayon, the plaintiff was the daughter and personal representative of the estate of a man who had died in a car accident. In the accident, the man’s car was struck from behind, causing him to hit a guardrail, overturn his car, and be ejected. It was unclear whether the man was killed when he initially hit the pavement or when he was hit by other cars shortly thereafter. The defendant in the case was an off-duty policeman who fled the scene and told authorities that his car had been stolen. He later admitted that he had been dishonest and, at the time of trial, was in jail on charges pertaining to the accident.

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traffic lightIn a recent case, the District Court of Appeal for the Fourth District was called upon to determine whether a company that negligently designed a traffic signal, thereby causing a man’s death, could rely upon the 1959 case of Slavin v. Kay, which held that a contractor is not liable for patent defects after acceptance of a construction project by the owner.

Facts of the Case

In the case of McIntosh v. Progressive Design and Engineering, Inc., the plaintiff’s father was killed in an automobile accident. According to the plaintiff, the accident happened because the father was relying on a traffic signal that indicated it was safe for him to exit a mobile home park, even though a truck was approaching from a cross-street. The plaintiff sued the company that designed the traffic signals for the intersection, alleging that it had negligently designed the signals in a manner that caused his father to overlook the traffic control signal meant for the mobile home park and, instead, rely on a signal that was meant for traffic farther down the street.

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settlement propIf you have been involved in an automobile accident, you would prefer to settle your case outside court rather than proceed to trial. This is a common sentiment because, of course, a settlement puts money into the hands of a crash victim considerably faster than a jury verdict does.

There are several reasons for this. First of all, it takes a lot of time to prepare a case for trial. Discovery and pre-trial procedures can take months or, in complex cases involving multiple parties, even years. Also, there can be a long wait for a trial date if the court has a backlog of pending cases. There is also the chance that the opposing party may file an appeal, prolonging the case even longer.

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LawPurchasing automobile accident insurance can be complicated, especially for drivers who may not be familiar with the terminology that insurers use to describe the various types of coverage available or the laws that apply to the insurance industry. For instance, drivers may not realize that, absent an intentional waiver of rights, an insurance company must provide the same amount of “uninsured motorist” coverage as the amount of “bodily injury liability” that the insured purchases.

In the case of Chase v. Horace Mann Insurance Company, the Florida Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether removing the sole named insured from an auto insurance policy and then listing a separate individual as the named insured on that policy for the first time created a new policy for purposes of Fla. Stat. sect. 627.727.

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Reckless Driver in Coral Gables Crashes into Fountain

Early on June 1, 2014, a driver in Coral Gables parked his car improperly, garnering him attention in the media. More more specifically he drove over an embankment and into a large fountain.  The driver, who fled the scene of the accident when it occurred at about 2 a.m., hit a curb in his Nissan Pathfinder with such force that the SUV was launched into the air and landed into the fountain at the entrance of the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables.  Residents throughout south Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, should be aware of the danger of reckless drivers, and be aware of the civil protections victims have if injured.

Damage to the Fountain

Thankfully there were no injuries to any bystanders due to the reckless driving of the SUV.  However, the operations supervisor at the shopping center said that the center has suffered well over $100,000 in damage to the fountain at the entrance of the mall.  The center featured a beautiful entrance fountain which, according to the operations supervisor, was made out of custom-made tiles imported from Spain.  The mall had to bring in a crane to pull out the SUV from the fountain.  The SUV was not able to be removed until mid-morning June 1, giving early morning shoppers a head-turning surprise in what they likely thought would be a regular visit to the shopping center.

Driver is Missing

As noted above, the driver of the Pathfinder left the scene by the time the police arrived early on June 1.  When the police arrived they noticed several open Heineken bottles in the passenger area.  The fact that the police found open beer bottles in the vehicle makes it appear that the drive may have been driving while intoxicated.

Given that the driver may have been drinking, it may be fortunate that there was only property damage, instead of injuries to people.

If there were in fact personal injuries, then the driver would likely be facing both criminal and civil charges for the damages he caused.

DUI Drivers as Causes for Personal Injuries

Sadly, DUI drivers are all too often the cause of severe personal injuries in Fort Lauderdale and other places throughout the U.S.  While intoxicated drivers may face criminal charges for drunk driving or other traffic infractions such as reckless driving, the intoxicated drivers may also be civilly liable to the individuals whom they injure or for the property that they damage.

Victims of drunk drivers may be other drivers, pedestrians, or even bystanders in street-facing homes and businesses.  Individuals who are victims of drunk drivers may suffer any number of injuries.  These injuries can include everything from broken bones, whiplash, as well as very serious and permanent injuries that may leave the victim disabled for life.

Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer

To help answer more questions about car accidents and personal injury law in Fort Lauderdale, contact Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer, the Law Office of Cohn & Smith at (954)-213-6914.

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Car Accident Injury Leads to Potential DOT Reform

On Thursday, January 2, 2014, a reckless driver hit Critical Mass bike ride leader Ray Strack while he was riding his bike home from the store. Strack suffered serious and painful injuries from the car accident that have left him bedridden.

According to Strack’s Facebook page, he went to the store on his bike to get a loaf of bread. Christian Alexander Stewart of Fort Lauderdale was driving a red Mazda down Oakland Park Boulevard across the Intracoastal Waterway. When the vehicle in front of Stewart switched lanes suddenly, Stewart glanced away for a second. When he looked back up, he saw Strack and immediately hit him from behind. Stewart was driving around 30 mph at the time and was ticketed by police for not exercising due care.

While Stewart was fine following the accident, Strack was transported to the emergency room. He suffered a spinal vertebra fracture, as well as a deep cut on his head. Strack is now at home and is recuperating in bed.

Critical Mass is a worldwide bike riding coalition in which cyclists gather for a group bike ride weekly. Fort Lauderdale’s Critical Mass chapter has several hundred active cyclists, and Ray Strack has taken the role of impromptu leader, organizing rides and setting routes.

Bike Accident Risks in Florida

The state of Florida has long been known as a leader in car accidents, but the state is even better known for pedestrian accidents and bike accidents involving car driver negligence. In fact, Green Mobility Network labeled South Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, “one of the most dangerous places in the country for bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Strack had long criticized Oakland Park Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale as one of the city’s most dangerous roads. While his car accident injuries are truly unfortunate, the accident has brought attention to pedestrian and bike safety issues in the aggressive southern corridor. Like in this incident, many drivers who are negligent and hit cyclists receive non-criminal citations and are never prosecuted. Many victims’ only hope for justice is to seek restitution by filing a car accident negligence claim.

Unlike other bike-friendly cities, Fort Lauderdale has a surprising lack of bike lanes. When criticized on the lack of bike lanes, James Wolf, District Secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation, stated that there simply isn’t enough room for bike lanes. Cars require certain lane widths, and it’s often too hard to squeeze in bike lanes. To add bike lanes, DOT would have to buy property and convert it into roadway.

Currently, Florida law requires four feet for a bike lane, which creates a challenge on slimmer roadways. When streets are resurfaced and cyclists request a bike lane, DOT often opts instead to create additional driving lanes. When it can, it will add a bike lane and include painted cyclist signs on the roadway to inform drivers that they must share the road with cyclists.

Many cyclists opine that bike lanes themselves don’t even decrease the frequency of car accidents. They argue instead that it is a matter of driver education and willingness to share the road with cyclists.

Wolf of the DOT shared that the DOT was currently discussing revising the bike lanes requirement from 4 feet width to five feet. DOT will be investigating engineering, safety data, and practicalities. Should the law change, the rate of Fort Lauderdale car accidents and bike accidents will hopefully decrease.

If you or a loved one has been in a car accident in Fort Lauderdale, seek the expert legal advice of Cohn & Smith, Fort Lauderdale’s premier auto accident lawyers.

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