Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

Published on:

Fort Myers car accident lawyerRecent changes to Florida’s tort laws have made it a bit tougher to successfully sue for crash-related injuries if you were partly at-fault. That said, you shouldn’t presume it’s pointless until you talk to a Fort Myers car accident lawyer – especially if your injuries were serious enough to require hospitalization or time off work.  While the new comparative fault law certainly creates legal challenges, rarely are matters of personal injury entirely black-and-white.

The vast majority of Florida car accidents are caused by human error. Common causes include inattention, speeding, failure to yield, intoxication, etc. However, there’s a tendency to think of fault in car accident cases as a binary: One person was at-fault, another was hurt because of it. And sometimes that’s true. But it’s also frequently true that more than one person’s actions contributed either to the cause of the crash or the severity of injuries. One driver may have been speeding, but the other wasn’t paying attention. One person ran a red light, but the other wasn’t wearing a seat belt. So then the question for insurers (and possibly the courts) becomes, “To what extent is each person at-fault – for the crash and resulting injuries?”

As a Fort Myers car accident lawyer, I can tell you the answers aren’t always perfectly obvious. In fact, they can often be a bit subjective. Even if you know you made some missteps, an experienced injury attorney will know what evidence is needed to make a compelling case that you are still entitled to compensation. Continue reading

Published on:

woman driving a car in Florida auto insurance breakdown from Cape Coral injury lawyersCar insurance is more expensive in Florida than any other state. Insurance Business Magazine reports the average annual auto insurance premium in Florida is $2,560 – which is 52% (or nearly $1,000) higher than the national average. (And that is based on rates for a hypothetical 40-year-old male driver with a good driving record. Rates can get much higher for teens or those with a poor driving record.) Such significant costs have some motorists wondering whether there’s certain coverage they can forego. Here, our Southwest Florida injury lawyers provide a Florida auto insurance breakdown from a civil claims perspective.

Why is Car Insurance So Much Pricier in Florida?

Although one could reasonably argue that insurance companies have never needed a good reason to impose sky-high rates on customers, there are a few factors that result in Florida car insurance being so much higher than the national average.

A couple of these reasons include:

  • Florida is prone to more extreme weather. Hurricanes, tropical storms, flooding, tornadoes, lightning, brush fires, heavy fog – all of these things can increase the risk of vehicles being damaged, either directly or in a related crash.
  • Florida’s high number of uninsured drivers. In Florida, 1 in 5 drivers does not have the required auto insurance. This makes the claims process tough, and lawsuits tend to be more likely. With two insured drivers, a lawsuit may be wholly unnecessary, as Cape Coral Car Accident lawyers can often simply negotiate fair terms directly with insurers. But if the other party had no insurance, you’re usually left with pursuing a claim against that individual personally, filing third-party liability claims, or seeking uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) claims from your own insurer. And if you’re the driver who is not insured, it doesn’t mean you can’t recover damages from the other at-fault party, but you will lose out on the claims for personal injury protection (PIP) as well as UM/UIM.

You might also expect to pay more if you:

  • Have poor credit. Florida does not prohibit use of this factor in premium rates the way some other states do.
  • Are male. Florida does not prohibit the use of this factor in premium rates the way some other states do.
  • Live in an urban area. Cities are packed with tight streets, loads of traffic, and a higher concentration of pedestrians, bicyclists, and large vehicles. The risk of vehicle damage is much higher.
  • Live in an area with high crime rates. The heightened risk of theft and vandalism will hike up rates.
  • Have an expensive or highly desirable car. Vehicles that are more costly to repair or particularly prone to theft will be pricier to insure.

What Coverage is Required for Florida Drivers

As longtime injury lawyers in Southwest Florida, we’ve seen a lot of crash victims put at a significant disadvantage because of lacking car insurance coverage. While it’s true that this is a no-fault state for crash claims, meaning your own insurer will cover damages regardless of fault, you must keep in mind that this coverage (PIP) only goes so far – $10,000, to be exact. And even then, it only covers PART of your losses – 80 percent of medical bills and 60 percent of lost wages.

If you’re seriously hurt and the other driver was at-fault, you’ll need to step outside the no-fault system to pursue a claim against that driver, your Underinsured Motorist Carrier (or other liable third parties).

But let’s start with what is required minimum car insurance coverage for registered vehicles Florida: Continue reading

Published on:

Fort Myers crash injuries lawyerIn a win for people seeking fair compensation for Florida car crash injuries, the Florida Supreme Court recently ruled against an auto insurer trying to minimize a claimant’s rightful payout.

The case of Ellison v. Willoughby started with a South Florida car accident. A truck driver t-boned another vehicle, causing serious car crash injuries. The plaintiff, a passenger in the car, sued both the truck driver and his wife, who co-owned the truck. (Florida allows vicarious liability lawsuits against vehicle owners under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine.)

The plaintiff also filed a claim with his own auto insurance company for uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. As our Fort Myers car accident lawyers can explain, UM/UIM coverage is paid by your own insurer when the at-fault driver either doesn’t have any insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your losses. Such coverage isn’t mandatory for Florida auto insurance policies, but most offer it standard.

In this case the plaintiff then successfully pursued a claim for bad faith damages against his UM/UIM carrier. We don’t know the exact details of this particular bad faith claim, but most Florida bad faith insurance claims are initiated when insurers try to evade their obligations to policyholders. Examples include failure to properly investigate a claim or settle reasonable claims in a timely manner for a fair sum. Bad faith damages can be incredibly costly for insurers, but that’s intentional. Insurers have the upper hand in negotiations after a car crash as the insurance contract says that the insured gives up their right to negotiate their claim to the insurance carrier. Heavy penalties for acting in bad faith are intended to serve as a powerful incentive to treat injured claimants and policy holders fairly. In this case, the UM/UIM policy limit was a maximum of $10,000. But the bad faith claim ultimately led to a $4 million settlement between the UM/UIM insurer and the plaintiff. This was all before the trial against the truck driver and his wife/co-owner of the truck.

The negligence trial then proceeded, and plaintiff won a $30 million verdict. The defendant then filed to offset that verdict by $4 million, citing the bad faith insurance settlement. The trial court denied the request, as did Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal upon review. In so doing, the Fla. 2nd DCA certified a two-part question to the Florida Supreme Court:

  • Is a settlement made by a UM/UIM insurer to settle a first-party bad-faith insurance claim subject to setoff under F.S. 768.041(2)?
  • Can an insurer claim a setoff of such a settlement under F.S. 768.76 by citing it as a collateral source?

The Florida Supreme Court quashed the first part of the question/answer (it hadn’t been properly preserved for appeal). As to the second question, justices answered: No. Continue reading

Published on:

Cape Coral car accident settlement FloridaA central part of resolving any Florida car accident case is negotiation with insurers. You may not need to go to trial or even file a lawsuit. But you will almost certainly be negotiating with at least one insurer at some point. Some folks feel comfortable handling this themselves, but for reasons laid out in this blog post, they might want to think twice. If you botch the negotiation by turning down a fair car accident settlement offer from the insurer, you could lose everything – even with a winning case.

For one thing, it’s common for auto insurance companies to lowball claimants. If you accept that initial offer, you will forgo any chance of collecting more in the future, even if you later realize your damages are much greater.

For another thing, Florida statute explicitly incentivizes parties to accept a fair car accident settlement offers. It also penalizes those who don’t. F.S. 768.79 says that in any civil action for damages filed in state court, if one side offers the other a settlement that isn’t accepted and the subsequent final judgment of the court is within 25% of that earlier settlement amount, the side that rejected the settlement has to pay the other’s court costs and attorney’s fees.

For example, let’s say you’re suing for $100,000, and the defendant extends a Florida car accident settlement offer of $80,000. You reject it, take the case to court, and the final judgment is for $90,000. That is within 25% of what you were offered to settle. Even though you won, you now have to pay the defense attorney’s fees (as well as your own) out of your winnings. If costs and attorney’s fees amount to more than the final judgment, the court will enter a judgement in favor of the defendant and you’ll owe them.

The trickiest part of all is that without an experienced car accident lawyer, you won’t have a strong sense of what is truly fair and what isn’t. If you aren’t confident about what your case is really worth, you could end up with far less than you deserve – either by accepting far too little and forgoing your right to ask for more OR refusing a settlement that’s totally fair based on the facts.

By working with a knowledgeable Cape Coral car accident attorney, you get the assurance of knowing when an insurance settlement offer is reasonable and when it isn’t.

Proper Valuation of Florida Crash Cases

Proper valuation of a crash case for purposes of determining a fair car accident settlement isn’t simple math. Some of the factors that weigh into what a case is worth include: Continue reading

Published on:

E-bike-Pic-300x201Electric bicycles, aka “e-bikes,” have become incredibly popular here in the Sunshine State. If you’re unfamiliar, these are pedal-operated bicycles equipped with an electric bike motor to assist. U.S. sales of e-bikes topped $1.3 billion in 2022, and Floridians love them, as they’re allowed on most roads, bike paths, and trails where traditional bikes can operate.

That said, a Key West injury lawyer can tell you their introduction hasn’t been a super-smooth ride. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that micromobility device injuries treated at hospital emergency rooms nationwide have increased 23 percent every year since 2017. (This includes not only e-bike injuries, but those involving hoverboards and e-scooters.)

But such increases do make sense for the simple fact that these devices didn’t even exist a few years ago. The risks they pose are worth knowing, but none of it really changes the fact that the bigger safety threats on South Florida roads are:

  • Infrastructure that wasn’t designed to safely accommodate alternative modes of transportation (i.e., wide roads, high speed limits, no sidewalks, etc.).
  • Reckless motor vehicle drivers.

If you’re injured in a Florida e-bike accident, a Key West injury lawyer can explore all avenues of compensation (i.e., defective helmets, rental bike agency liability, product liability claims against the e-bike manufacturer, etc.). But such cases are probably going to closely mirror conventional Florida bicycle accident claims than anything else – and those are most typically against motor vehicle drivers.

E-Bike Injuries Often Resemble Conventional Bike Injuries

Questions have been raised about whether e-bikes are better classified as “motor vehicles” – more aligned with motorcycles than traditional bicycles.

But in one study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, researchers looked at injury patterns involving e-bike operators, bicyclists, and motorcycle operators. They found that the injury patterns of e-bikers resembled that of bicyclists “much more” than that of motorcyclists. Continue reading

Published on:

Snowman-Steering-Wheels-300x220Sparkling decor is part of the magic of the holiday season. But as a Fort Myers injury lawyer, I’d strongly advise you to keep it away from your steering wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety administration (NHTSA) just issued a warning not long ago about the dangers of aftermarket, gem-studded decals that can cause serious injury in a crash. In one documented case, a driver lost sight in one eye after a rhinestone-emblazoned decal dislodged from the wheel during a crash and struck her in the face.

Aftermarket Vehicle Parts Can Complicate Product Liability Case

Published on:

South Florida school zone crash lawyerSchool zone or zoo? Anyone who’s traversed a school zone South Florida at busy pickup or drop-off times might have a tough time discerning. For all school officials and traffic safety engineers prioritize keeping kids safe, the Florida school zone crash risk is still high : Speeding drivers, school bus drivers with big blind spots, distracted walkers and cyclists (especially those with noise-canceling headphones), jaywalkers, and unsafe pickup/drop off behaviors in among 1/3 drivers (double-parking, stopping in the middle of the crosswalk, etc.).

There are an estimated 3.2 million schoolchildren in the U.S. (public and private). According to the Florida Department of Education, about 500,000 students ride a bus. In Lee, Collier, and Charlotte Counties, about 25%-35% of kids take the bus. The rest walk, ride a bike, or are car riders. In Lee County alone, 1,300 students are classified as facing “hazardous walking conditions” on their way to school (about 12,300 statewide).

According to the Transportation Research Board, an estimated 25,000 kids are injured and 100 are killed each year while walking to or from school. Not all of those happen in school zones, though most do involve speeding vehicles. About 30 percent of school zones do not have crosswalks.

As longtime Fort Myers personal injury lawyers, we know that unfortunately, Florida has the third-highest number of annual child traffic deaths, and consistently ranks at the top of the list for child pedestrian and bicycle deaths. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the most dangerous time for child pedestrians is between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. – after school hours.

Traffic Rules in Florida School Zones

The posted speed limit in most Florida school zones is 20 mph, though some cities and counties have lowered it even further to 15 mph. Going even 1 mph over that limit can result in a $50 fine – without any prior warnings. Anything above that, and you’re facing a fine of between $200 and $500 (depending on how fast you’re going), plus 3 points on your license (both of which can be waived if the prosecutor allows you to take a traffic safety course). Flashing yellow lights are drivers’ main indicator upon entering and exiting. Enforcement times are typically posted on road signage, though it’s usually 30 minutes prior to the start of school, during school hours, and 30 minutes after school hours have concluded. And in case you didn’t know: It’s illegal to obstruct a crosswalk in a school zone, even if you’re picking up or dropping off a child. If there’s a crossing guard, drivers must obey all their instructions.school zone crash lawyer Florida

In an effort to bolster student safety near schools, a new Florida law went into effect July 1, 2023 to heighten enforcement of school zone speed limits. The law authorizes city or county governments to enforce speed limits in school zones with speed detection systems (similar to red light cameras). Although the idea of speed cameras isn’t especially popular with motorists, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports their presence can reduce the total crash risk from 8  to 49 percent.

Some say it doesn’t go far enough, though, because violators won’t incur points on their license, and their infractions won’t result in higher auto insurance rates.

Existing law outlined in F.S. 316.306 prohibits the use of handheld wireless communication devices (cell phones, mainly) while driving through a designated school crossing or in a school zone. To do so is considered a primary offense (for which police can initiate a traffic stop).

Reduce Florida School Zone Crash Risk

Continue reading

Published on:

Florida bicycle head injury risk defective bike helmetMany serious and recreational cyclists know they can reduce their risk of a Florida bicycle head injury by 60%-90% just by wearing a bicycle helmet. But what if the helmet you’re wearing is defective and provides inadequate protection?

Bicycling has never been more popular in Florida than it is now. With its flat terrain, year-round sunshine, and an abundance of nature trails, beaches, and scenic roads to ride, Florida has residents and tourists alike increasingly partaking. But the risk of Florida bicycle head injury is higher than you think – and defective bicycle helmets certainly don’t help.

In the first seven months of 2023, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced at least eight bicycle helmet recalls. These include:

  • Giro Merit Bicycle Helmet. Does not meet CPSC federal safety standards for bicycle helmets, and would fail to protect in the event of a crash, posing a heightened risk of head injury.
  • Xinerter Teal Adult Bicycle Helmet. Sold exclusively on Amazon from 2020 to 2023, the helmets don’t comply with positional stability and certification requirements of the mandatory federal safety standard for bike helmets, and would fail to protect riders from head injury in the event of a crash. The CPSC has warned consumers to immediately stop using them, cut the straps, and dispose of them so no one else can use them either.
  • SQM Bicycle Helmet. Sold on Amazon from 2022 to 2023, the single-sized helmet doesn’t comply with positional stability and certification requirements of federal safety standards. It would fail to protect the head in a bicycle accident or car accident.
  • Ventura Adult Bike Helmets. Roughly 1,750 of these helmets have been sold in the U.S., but they don’t provide adequate protection against Florida bicycle head injury risk.
  • Hurtle Multi-Purpose Children’s Helmet. About 1,800 of these bicycle helmets for kids were sold – despite failing to meet federal safety standards to ensure protection against brain injuries in the event of a crash.
  • Lelinta Multi-Purpose Kids Helmets. These kids’ bicycle helmets, manufactured by Lucky Global and sold exclusively at Walmart.com, don’t comply with federal safety standards and won’t adequately protect a child from the possibility of a serious head injury in the event of a Cape Coral bicycle accident.
  • TureClose Bicycle Helmets. These bike helmets don’t comply with federal safety requirements for positional stability, retention system, impact attenuation, or labeling requirements. Although the Chinese seller has refused to issue a recall, the CPSC is continuing to pursue a recall because if a rider crashes, they will not be adequately protected from a head injury.
  • Multi-Purpose Kids Bike Helmets, size medium. Sold on Amazon by Ouwoer Direct, these kids’ helmets don’t meet the standards for positional stability and impact attenuation required to ensure prevention of a child head injury.

What Legal Options Do I Have if a Defective Helmet Causes a Florida Bicycle Head Injury?

Continue reading

Published on:

Cape Coral car accident attorney on speeding dangersExcessive speed is a factor in approximately one-third of all fatal crashes, according to the NHTSA. As Cape Coral car accident lawyers, we’ve seen far too many cases where rushed drivers recklessly put others’ lives at risk just so they could get to where they’re going a bit sooner.

Most drivers recognize speeding as risky, according to a recent AAA survey, and yet more than 50 percent admit driving 15 mph or more over the designated limit on the freeway at least once in the last 30 days.

What many people don’t realize is that even if they’re careful and attentive while sneaking past that speed limit, such violations have the potential to significantly curb the amount of financial compensation they can collect if they’re injured in a Cape Coral car accident – even if they weren’t the primary cause of it. This is especially true given the recently-passed state legislation introducing modified comparative negligence rules, limiting the right to any compensation whatsoever to drivers deemed more than 50 percent at-fault for a crash. (It used to be that a driver who was 99 percent liable could still collect on the other 1 percent in damages from the other at-fault driver, though obviously such a disparity wouldn’t be a desirable outcome.) Speeding can be considered in determining comparative fault behind the wheel.

What is Comparative Fault?

Comparative fault is defined in Florida Statute 768.81. It’s the recognition that there can be multiple factors that contribute to an injurious accident, and that each party should only have to pay their fair share.

As our Cape Coral car accident lawyers can explain, it’s the contributory fault of the plaintiff in a negligence action that proportionately diminishes the amount of money (economic and non-economic damages) one can collect for an injury. While it proportionately reduces the amount a person can collect, contributory fault won’t entirely bar recovery of damages – so long as their share doesn’t exceed half.

Every state has their own rules about contributory fault standards. Some hold that if you are even 1 percent responsible for the crash, you walk home with $0. Others set the cutoff bar at somewhere between 49 and 50 percent. Florida was one of the few pure comparative fault states that had no bar for recovery. That changed this spring with a slew of state tort reform measures.

Comparative fault is sometimes referred to as “the claim killer” because if proven, it can erode the monetary value of your case. An experienced personal injury lawyer can work to push back against comparative fault claims – but clear evidence of speeding is unquestionably going to count against any plaintiff in such an analysis. You may not have made the wrong left turn, but if you were going 15mph over the speed limit, the severity of the crash was likely amplified – and that factors into the comparative fault analysis.  Continue reading

Published on:

Fort Myers teen car accidentsFor a teenager, that first set of car keys feels like freedom – at last! Parents, of course, usually have a different perspective. There’s often a great deal of apprehension around those first few driving years. Unfortunately, those concerns are well-founded, as the risk of Fort Myers teen car accidents is especially high for new drivers.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, car crashes are a leading cause of death for teens. In a single recent year, 3,058 teens ages 13 to 19 were killed in car accidents and another 227,000 were injured. Not all of those involved teen drivers of course, but the risk of fatal Fort Myers teen car accidents is three times higher for those 16 to 19 than in any other driving age group (per miles driven). Drivers aged 16 and 17 were at higher risk than those 18 and 19.

The good news is that since the mid-1990s and early 2000s, more states started adopting graduated licensing systems for young motorists. The purpose is to phase in driving privileges, rather than simply hand over the keys and hope for the best.

In Florida, graduated driver licensing laws outline limits and restrictions for drivers 15 to 17. For instance, teens with a learner’s permit (which they hold for at least 12 months or until they turn 18, whichever comes first) are only permitted to operate a car during daylight hours for the first three months. They’re restricted from driving after 10 p.m. They must always be accompanied by a licensed driver over the age of 21, and they need at least 50 hours of supervised driving – including 10 nighttime hours. Once they earn their driver’s license, 16-year-olds aren’t permitted to drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., and must always be accompanied by an over-21 licensed driver – unless they’re driving to or from work. Once they turn 17, they are given a bit more freedom with nighttime driving, but still can’t be on the road between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. They also must be accompanied by an over-21 licensed driver unless they’re driving to and from work.

So, Who Pays For Fort Myers Teen Car Accidents?

Continue reading

Justia Lawyer Rating for Jeffrey R. Garvin
Florida Legal Elite 2016
Super Lawyers
Million Dollar Advocates Forum
The Best Lawyers in America
Martindale-Hubbell
American Association for Justice
Florida Justice Association
Contact Information