Articles Posted in Automobile Accidents

Although it is now the “off-season” in Florida, we are a Mecca for tourists who often rent cars. Unfamiliarity with the vehicle and the local roads sometimes results in these tourists causing accidents. Unfortunately, if this occurs, recovery from the rental car company may be limited or nonexistent.

Generally speaking, when the owner of a motor vehicle allows someone else to use their vehicle, the owner is responsible for the negligence of the driver of the vehicle. This principle is called “vicarious liability.” The idea behind this legal theory is that a motor vehicle can be extremely dangerous if operated by someone who is an irresponsible driver, and by holding the owner responsible hopefully the owner will use good judgment in deciding who to allow to use their vehicle. When I first started practicing law over 30 years ago, this principle applied to rental car companies and rental car companies could be held responsible for the negligence of the driver of one of its vehicles.

This all changed, however, in 2005 when a law known as the “Graves Amendment” was passed by Congress. In a nutshell, this law did away with vicarious liability for rental cars. Lawyers representing injury victims in Florida raised challenges to the new law, claiming that it conflicted with existing Florida law. When the dust finally settled, after about eight years of litigation, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that rental car companies were entitled to the benefit of the Graves Amendment. Thus, anyone injured in Florida by a negligent driver of a rental car can no longer effectively pursue the claim against the rental car company and is often left with a claim against an uninsured or underinsured driver. Rental car companies will usually provide some minimal level of coverage, usually $10,000, which is often all that can be recovered unless the driver has a personal policy with additional coverage, or the driver has significant assets which makes the case worthwhile to pursue against the driver. The Graves Amendment is another reason why you should have adequate uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage under your own automobile vehicle policy. This coverage allows you to pursue a claim under your own policy for your injuries if the coverage available from the rental car company or the driver of the rental car is insufficient to fully satisfy your claim.

Although it is now the “off-season” in Florida, we are a Mecca for tourists who often rent cars. Unfamiliarity with the vehicle and the local roads sometimes results in these tourists causing accidents. Unfortunately, if this occurs, recovery from the rental car company may be limited or nonexistent. Continue reading

Every car registered in Florida must carry No-Fault insurance. This coverage is also known as PIP, or personal injury protection coverage. No-fault pays 80% of your reasonable medical expenses and it also pays 60% of your lost wages if you are unable to work due to injuries suffered in the accident. The maximum amount payable, for both medical bills and lost wages, is $10,000. Continue reading

If you were involved in a car accident, of course you want to recover the maximum amount of compensation possible for your losses, injuries and expenses, including medical bills, lost income, automobile and property damage and more. Florida’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance laws limit recovery to 80% of injuries and 60% of lost income, regardless of who was at fault.

However, if serious injuries occurred, additional compensation may be pursued. Delray Beach Personal Injury Attorney Eric Luckman has more than 31 years of experience serving injury victims and offers a complimentary consultation to discuss your case.

Florida’s Extreme Accident Statistics Continue reading

Golf carts are a popular transportation device throughout the area. The convenience of being able to quickly load up supplies and visit the beach or a neighbor without getting into a car has lead more and more families to purchase a golf cart. Yet, while these machines do not travel as fast as cars, it is unwise to assume the risk of harm is lessened. Florida golf cart accidents strike all the time, and the results are sometimes serious.

Unlike cars, which have various safety features built in (crashworthiness standards, seat belts, air bags, and more), golf carts come with far less security. Collisions which might not cause any personal injury in cars might have serious consequences for those in a golf cart. Golf cart travelers are rarely strapped in and often ride on the back or hang onto the side. When thrown from the machine the potential for serious harm rises exponentially. In many ways, the increased risks are similar to motorcycles in that the lack of physical protection means accidents often result in more serious injuries.golf cart (navets).jpg

For example, the Monitor reported last week on a golf cart accident case that just went to trial, filed by a man who suffered a serious traumatic brain injury after falling out of the back of the machine. According to the report the man was volunteering at a local speedway when he was riding in the back of an E-Z-GO golf cart. While riding on the back the man fell out of the cart and hit his head. His head injury was very severe and he spent over a year in hospitals and rehab facilities. The injury has not fully healed, and his still requires help with basic tasks. He was unable to go back to work following the incident.

After being denied worker’s compensation for the injury–because they were volunteering at the track–the family filed civil lawsuits against various parties, including the speedway, driver, and manufacturer of the golf cart. The case settled with all parties except the golf cart manufacturer. The case went to trial last week.

Product Liability

The specific claim against the golf cart manufacturer is that they failed to place an adequate warning label on the back of the cart letting consumers know that riding in that space can lead to death or serious injury.

Our Palm Beach product liability attorney understand that arguments about improper warning labels are a common form of product liability suit. When an individual in injured by a consumer products–anything from a golf cart to a toaster–the injured party may have a right to seek compensation for their losses. These suits can be based on inadequate warnings, manufacturing defects (i.e. a part was missing), or a design defect (i.e. the product was inherently made dangerously).

Beyond claims of a lack of proper warning, the plaintiff in this case is also arguing that the manufacturing company tried to “obfuscate” an investigation into the safety of the product by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The interfering with the investigation, the plaintiffs argue, led to the warning label being absent.

For their part, the golf cart company in this case is expected to argue that the man contributed to his own injury by riding in the golf cart in an inappropriate manner. In addition, the company will argue that the racetrack (via its employees) did not drive the cart properly.

See Related Blog Posts:
Jury Awards $1.26 Million to Florida Dog Bite Victim
Florida Car Accident Attorney Explains Importance of Proper Investigations

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Several were injured in a police pursuit that ended in a serious collision on Monday evening in St. Petersburg. According to an article in The Tampa Bay Times, the Gulfport police officers were chasing a stolen car into St. Petersburg, where the stolen car collided with a bus that then crashed into an apartment building. As our experienced Palm Beach accident attorney knows, the probability of the occurrence of automobile accidents is severely increased during dangerous police pursuits.

car side (chris meller).jpgMiraculously, there were no deaths resulting from this accident. However, at least two people from the stolen vehicle suffered injuries, as well as several bus passengers. According to Gulfport police Chief Robert Vincent, the incident started at 5:50 p.m. when Gulfport police Officer Jesse Kellington saw a 2012 silver Toyota Venza on the road during his routine patrol. Officer Kellington’s alerts were triggered after he checked the license plate of the vehicle and discovered that the vehicle was listed as stolen. The St. Petersburg police department revealed that the car was an Avis rental and had been stolen on Sunday after a woman had left her keys in the ignition.

Upon discovery of the stolen status of the vehicle, Officer Kellington began pursuing the car at S. Newton Avenue and 51st Street in Gulfport. Kellington reported that there were three men in the car. He was not aware of the toddler in the back seat.

A terrible motor vehicle accident that occurred in 2009 was finally resolved this week. According to an article in The Palm Beach Post, Leslie Opper, the victim in the accident who suffered severe injuries, was awarded a $9.3 million verdict by an Indian River County civil court jury.

courthouse.jpgOur Palm Beach County personal injury attorney understands that several factors are taken into consideration when a jury determines the amount of compensation that should be given to the injured party in his/her recovery. For example, whether the injuries are permanent and whether the victim is unable to work due to the nature of the injuries sustained are a few of many different critical factors that the jury must consider in making its determination. While verdicts of this size garner headlines, it is important to remember that each case is decided on very specific individual factors.

This Case

Similar to the plane crash that was reported in our previous post, an unusual accident occurred at a Central Florida supermarket, injuring ten Palm Beach residents. Thelma Wagenhoffer, a 76-year-old woman, crashed into a Publix supermarket. According to an article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, an investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol reveals that Wagenhoffer’s 2004 Toyota Camry “accelerated rapidly as it crossed the parking lot” and crashed into the Publix. After crashing through the glass doors, the vehicle continued to travel for at least another 40-50 feet. The incident occurred early in the afternoon on Saturday. Our Palm Beach County automobile crash attorney understands that these sorts of bizarre accidents happen more frequently than some might suspect. Innocent bystanders are often hurt in the process

Three of the injured remained hospitalized on Tuesday. Lupo Mario Hernandez, age 83, suffered the most serious injuries after being pinned beneath the car. He was rushed to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach and was reported to be in serious condition on Tuesday. The situation could have been worse for Hernandez had it not been for the incredible feat by a group of heroes who lifted the car off of him.

The victims who suffered minor injuries were treated and released from Florida Hospital Flagler over the weekend. Other injured parties who required more medical attention continued to recover at home on Tuesday, including Lasaunda Hampton. Hampton was one of the four people who took the first impact at the entrance of the supermarket. She had been sitting on the bench with her 3-month-old baby, Tyshawn Davis, who was strapped into his stroller. Miraculously, Hampton’s baby escaped the accident with just a minor bump on the head. car accident.jpg

The Palm Beach Post reports that a helicopter fell from the sky, hit the roof of a West Palm Beach, Florida home before crushing part of a car and crashing into a yard, officials say. When the helicopter was finally hauled out of the unsuspecting homeowner’s yard a sliced palm tree remained in its place.

Nedra Obradovich’s roof had a run-in with a small, rented helicopter that landed in her front yard Saturday afternoon. Thankfully no one was seriously injured as a result of the West Palm Beach accident. Obradovich, the pilot and a passenger of the helicopter were able to walk away from the crash, although the pilot and passenger, whose names have not been released, were taken to a nearby hospital as a precaution.

Obradovich expressed enormous relief at her good luck, “I’ve said it a thousand times, I’m so grateful.” The homeowner added that if the helicopter had crashed a few feet in the wrong direction, it would have landed squarely on her house.

Officials in Palm Beach County are hoping to see a decline in traffic accident deaths this year as they have begun a series of new and improved safety measures designed to make the roads safer for travelers. These measures include placing guardrails along State Road 80, where more than a dozen car accidents have resulted in drownings in nearby waters over the past decade. Local law enforcement officers have also been cracking down on drunk drivers, especially in locations that have historically had high crash rates. Also, high gas prices have contributed to fewer drivers on the road, which in turn has resulted in fewer crashes.

In spite of these new developments, however, authorities say that the current year’s traffic fatalities are keeping pace with those of last year. Among the top reasons that Palm Beach car crashes continue to occur is the high occurrence of a category of activities that is often labeled as “distracted driving.” Distracted driving is a broad term used to describe any situation where the driver is not giving his or her full attention to the road. Common types of distracted driving include texting, talking on a cell phone, eating, applying makeup, changing radio stations, or even talking to passengers while driving.

Our West Palm Beach accident attorney knows that distracted driving occurs all the time in this area and throughout the rest of the state. Unlike many other states, Florida does not have a law that prohibits talking on a cell phone or sending text messages while driving. One need only take a quick look around to see how many drivers are chatting away on their phones while driving, or even worse, repeatedly taking their eyes off the road to type a text message. Drivers like these are the cause of many of the West Palm Beach car crashes that occur every year.

One of the best ways that all drivers can improve safety on the roads is by knowing the dangers and taking them seriously. All too often, there is an attitude of “it won’t happen to me,” and that attitude leads people to downplay the risks involved in their behavior. Only by recognizing that the risks of distracted driving are real for everyone can we really start to reduce the number of accidents that occur every year as a result.

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