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Liability for Collisions With Stationary Objects

In a tragic turn of events, a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputy lost her life when her patrol car crashed into a parked truck on a local crane company’s private property. The deputy suddenly swerved to avoid colliding with a motorist whose illegal right-hand turn set her on a collision course that took her life. Attorneys for the deputy’s bereaved family argued that the orientation of the parked truck contributed to the deputy’s accident, making the crane company liable for what they argued was an avoidable death. The crane company, however, persuaded the court that Florida law does not generally give rise to liability against property owners when drivers collide with stationary objects on private property after exiting public roads.

Middle of the road

One of the factors in the Monroe County decision was the fact that the deputy collided with a stationary object on private property. As a result, the judge was probably reluctant to ascribe liability to a property owner who was engaging in a completely lawful use of its own property when an unforeseen circumstance resulted in death. Had the stationary object been on a public thoroughfare, the outcome may have been different.

Florida law dictates that when a stationary object is the cause of a car accident, the question of liability generally turns on the issue of fault and whose negligence caused the accident. Stalled cars and improperly parked cars are common stationary objects that may cause accidents, leading to liability on behalf of the driver of the car into which the moving vehicle collided. Road defects and debris that has fallen off a truck or other cargo vehicle are other sources of single-car accidents. The culprits of such unsafe conditions may also be liable for damages.

High-profile crash

In the summer of 2013, renowned journalist and investigative reporter Michael Hastings lost his life in a single-vehicle collision with a stationary object, the tree around which Hastings’ C-class Mercedes Benz collided with before erupting in flames. Hastings shot to fame after his controversial reports about a top U.S. Army general’s insubordination to the commander in chief took the nation by storm, and the events surrounding his deadly collision were classified as mysterious by some. Car-accident experts saw much less sinister forces at play, agreeing that when drivers collide with objects at high speeds, serious injuries and even death are inevitable.

In such unfortunate cases, it’s important that one of the first calls that survivors or the loved ones of the deceased make is to an accident attorney, who can help them start putting the pieces back together.

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