Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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Fort Myers crash lawyerCar fires aren’t anywhere near as common as they used to be a few decades ago. However, as a Fort Myers crash lawyer, I’ve seen more than a few lead to serious injuries.

Thousands of vehicles have caught fire over the last decade – including at least a half a dozen electric vehicles that went up in flames in Southwest Florida following Hurricane Ian-related flooding. (Similar issues were also reported with golf carts and scooters post-storm – especially dangerous because unlike car fires caused by engine combustion, those involving compromised batteries can keep reigniting.)

Are Florida Vehicle Fires Truly That Big of a Problem?

Overall occurrences of vehicle fires have dropped by 60 percent since the 1980s, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). But whether the car is powered by gasoline, lithium-ion batteries, hybrid powertrains, or electricity – car fires are always a possibility after a crash. In a single recent year, the NFPA estimates there were more than 212,000 vehicle fires in the U.S., resulting in 1,500 injuries, 560 deaths, and nearly $2 billion in property damage. It breaks down to about 400 vehicle fires daily. Vehicle fires resulted in 4.5 times the number of deaths as non-residential structure fires and 1.6 times the number of apartment fire deaths. Fires involving vehicles account for 16 percent of the 1.3 million fires that get reported to fire departments annually, as well as 15 percent of fire-related deaths and 10 percent of fire-related injuries.

The vast majority of these are highway vehicle fires, the most common causes are:

  • Mechanical failures & malfunctions
  • Electrical failures & malfunctions
  • Misuse of certain products or materials, such as spilling caustic liquids too close to the car

Older vehicles are especially prone to issues with flammability. When larger trucks are involved in a crash-related fire, the potential injury or death rate soars.

In some cases, vehicle manufacturers may be responsible for vehicle fires. For example, more than 7 million Kia and Hyundai vehicles have been recalled for vehicle fire risk, with more than 3,100 such fires (and 103 deaths) reported since 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It’s thought that perhaps these fires are related to the type of engine used by both car makers (they use many of the same parts suppliers), but it’s also possible faulty brake systems, wiring, and battery issues may be to blame. Where manufacturers haven’t been able to fix the fire risk right away, they’ve urged drivers to park the vehicles both outside and away from structures to minimize the odds of property damage if the vehicles do catch fire.

What Should I Do if My Car Catches Fire?

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Cape Coral injury lawyers summer driving risks

Cape Coral injury lawyers talk summer driving risks

People tend to think of winter as the most dangerous time for drivers. To be sure, there are unique, cold-weather road hazards like ice, snow, and an increased likelihood of engine trouble. That’s not so much of an issue here in Lee, Collier, and Charlotte Counties Florida. But summertime driving dangers actually lead to more crashes – and Cape Coral injury lawyers know South Florida isn’t immune to those like we are those wintry road risks.

A number of highway hazards are heightened from late May to early September.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), August is one of the deadliest months for Florida drivers. Cape Coral injury lawyers know it’s not a coincidence this is also around the same time there’s an uptick in heavy rains/flooding, increased traffic, higher temperatures (causing heat-impacted vehicle damage), holiday parties/vacations, and no school.

The “Summer Scaries” on SWFL Roads

Maintaining safety on the roads means anticipating what hazards you are likely to encounter. For South Florida in the summertime, those include: Continue reading

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Florida yellow light car accidentsWe all know red-lighting running is unequivocally illegal – not to mention incredibly dangerous. But what about Florida yellow light car accidents?

Determining fault in a yellow light crash can be more complicated than identifying negligence in a red light crash. That’s because with yellow lights, the law allows room for driver discretion. When a traffic light is red, we all know that means stop. When it’s green, we know that means go. But yellow is that brief in-between window where drivers have to decide whether they have enough time to safely proceed through the intersection before the light turns red or if they need to stop. Not all drivers are going to make the same call. And whether the call was reasonable may factor into the question of fault if someone is injured in a yellow light crash.

There are two basic approaches to traffic law on yellow light signals: Permissive yellow light law and restrictive yellow light law. It depends what state you’re in. Permissive yellow light law allows a driver to enter the intersection at any point during the entire yellow light interval and be in the intersection/proceed through it when the light turns red, so long as they entered the intersection while the light was still yellow. A restrictive yellow light law is one wherein a vehicle can’t enter the intersection if the light is yellow, unless the vehicle is able to clear the intersection before it turns red OR the vehicle can’t enter an intersection with the light is yellow unless it’s impossible or unsafe to stop.

As our Fort Myers car accident lawyers can explain, Florida has a permissive yellow light law.

All Florida traffic signal devices must use a yellow “caution” light between the green and red lights. F.S. 316.075 explains that with respect to a steady yellow light (as opposed to a flashing one):

  • Vehicle traffic facing the yellow light is considered warned that the green light is being terminated and the red indication – when vehicles should not enter the intersection – will be displayed immediately after.
  • Pedestrians facing a yellow light are advised there isn’t enough time to cross the road before a red light is shown and no pedestrian should start to cross the road at that point.

With respect to flashing yellow lights at Florida intersections, these warn approaching drivers to proceed through the intersection with caution, yielding the right-of-way to vehicles that are already in or approaching the intersection first.

Types of Florida Yellow Light Car Accidents

So what goes wrong in Florida yellow light car accidents? There are a few common scenarios. These include:

  • Drivers who stop at an intersection upon approaching a yellow light are rear-ended by another driver who fails to stop.
  • A driver making a left turn at an intersection yellow light fails to yield the right-of-way to another driver traveling straight in the opposite direction.
  • A pedestrian is struck by a vehicle while making their way across the street at an intersection when the light is yellow – or just after it’s turned red (assuming they didn’t start to cross the street when the light was yellow, but rather the light turned yellow before they finished crossing the road).
  • A driver accelerates through a yellow light, trying to “beat” the red light, and in turn end up crashing into slowing or stopped traffic ahead, a pedestrian, or another vehicle coming from the opposite direction.

How Do Courts Determine Fault for Yellow Light Crashes?

A driver may or may not be liable for a crash at a yellow light. It all comes down to the fact pattern, and whether the driver’s judgment was reasonable and justified based on the circumstances. Continue reading

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Fort Myers car accidents attorneyThere are a number of situations where employers in Florida can be held legally responsible for the damage caused by negligent employees – even if the employer didn’t directly cause the damage. This is what is referred to in civil injury law under the concepts of  “vicarious liability” and “respondeat superior”. Essentially, it’s an imputed liability for the actions of a subordinate third party, typically an employee or child. It usually comes down to the level of control the supervisory party has over the negligent party.

Vicarious liability comes up a fair amount in Fort Myers car accidents that involve working drivers. Usually, a company isn’t responsible for crashes that occur during a worker’s commute to-and-from work. However, if the crash occurred while the employee was acting in the course and scope of employment (i.e., making a delivery, running a work errand, going from one job site to the other, etc.), the employer can be held vicariously liable. (Specifically with respect to employers, there is a legal doctrine known as “respondeat superior,” which is Latin for, “let the master answer.”)

Also in Florida, vehicle owners can be held vicariously liable without any need to prove direct negligence. That’s because long-standing legal precedent in Florida considers motor vehicles to be inherently dangerous instrumentalities. If a vehicle owner entrusts someone else to operate a vehicle they own, the owner can be held vicariously liable for the negligent operation of it that leads to someone else getting hurt. So, in Fort Myers car accidents that involve someone using a company vehicle – even if they weren’t technically on the job – the employer might be held legally responsible as the vehicle owner.

In a recent crash case before Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals, the question was whether claims of direct negligence against two supervisors of an allegedly negligent employee driver were valid. According to the written opinion in Jones v. Vasilias et al., the underlying action arose from injuries sustained by the plaintiff when he was riding his bicycle along a busy street in front of an auto dealership in Palm Beach County. Just as he passed the driveway, an employee of the dealership was leaving in a van to make a delivery. The two collided. Continue reading

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Fort Myers personal injury lawyerThe plan was a sun-soaked, fun-filled getaway in sublime Southwest Florida. What happened was a Florida car accident. As longtime Fort Myers personal injury lawyers, we recognize there are unique concerns when visitors and vacationers from out-of-town are involved in a Florida crash. There are logistical challenges, often higher expenses, insurance questions, and uncertainty as to the full scope of your rights.

It’s important for injured tourists and vacationers to seek legal advice and representation from a local injury attorney. While there are many factors that can play into the question of jurisdiction in civil cases, personal injury claims stemming from car accidents are most often handled in the court system where the crash occurred, also known as “venue”. So if the collision happened in Fort Myers, it’s probably going to be a Fort Myers personal injury lawyer who will be the best qualified to act as your advocate – particularly if the matter gets to the point of needing to file a lawsuit.

Many civil claims stemming from Florida car accidents can be resolved without litigation. But there are complications when one of those involved isn’t a Florida resident because the Sunshine State has unique statutes pertaining to auto insurance. Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to crashes, which means all motorists (save for motorcyclists) should be covered by their own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage up to $10,000. It’s only if crash victims’ injuries meet the statutory threshold of severity outlined in F.S. 627.737 that they can step outside that no-fault system and pursue damages from at-fault parties. But tourists from other states or countries may not be required to carry PIP. What happens to them?

Questions like this are why it’s important to work with a local Fort Myers personal injury lawyer post-crash – even if you weren’t seriously hurt. It can help make for much smoother negotiations with insurers.

Notable Florida Car Accident Statistics

Florida is known for being a tourism hot spot. The University of Central Florida reports there were nearly 138 million total visitors to Florida in 2022 – a 13 percent increase from the year before. Most of those are from other states, but about 7 million are from overseas and 2.8 million from Canada. Not every single tourist is driving, but many are – and this contributes not only to the number of annual car accidents, but also the complications that can arise when non-residents are involved in crashes.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports there were nearly 392,000 total Florida car accidents last year, resulting in nearly 3,500 deaths and 250,000 injuries.

Just in Lee County alone in 2022, there were:

  • 15,282 reported crashes
  • 135 fatal accidents, resulting in 125 deaths
  • 8,847 crash-related injuries reported in 5,831 accidents
  • 319 bicycle accidents reported, 0 of which resulted in deaths
  • 333 motorcycle accidents, in which 29 people on motorcycles died
  • 334 pedestrian accidents reported, with 33 people killed in those
  • 4,191 hit-and-run crashes reported – in which 11 people died and nearly 800 were injured

The first thing anyone – Florida resident or not – should do after a Florida car accident is seek medical attention. If you’re in a position to do so, exchange contact and insurance information with the other motorist. Take their name, phone number, address, license plate number, insurance policy number and carrier, and jot down the make/model/color of their vehicle. Take photographs of your vehicles, the scene, any injuries. Report the accident to authorities, as well as your own auto insurer. If your injuries require a trip to the hospital (or worse), it’s a good idea to reach out to a local injury lawyer. At the very least, this will give you an idea of what to expect and on what issues specific to your case local legal advice may be beneficial.

Challenges for Non-Residents Injured in Florida Crashes

Common questions relating to challenges of non-Floridians injured in a car accident in Florida: Continue reading

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Naples car accident lawyerYes, a past injury or illness can absolutely impact a Florida personal injury claim. As our Naples car accident lawyer can explain, a preexisting condition complicates the claims process because the burden is on the plaintiff to prove the injury at issue was either caused or aggravated by the negligent act.

For instance, if you’ve been seeing a chiropractor for years for back pain – and then are in a crash that you claim resulted in back injuries – it’s up to you to prove that your injuries are new or that old injury were exacerbated by the crash.

To do all this effectively requires that you’re upfront with your Naples car accident lawyer about your pre-existing conditions. It is also important that you are upfront with your medical providers about your old injuries and are able to distinguish and describe the new injuries or at a minimum explain that they have been made worse. Your attorney is then responsible to be sure the aggravation of a pre-existing condition is properly pleaded and supported in the special damages portion of the lawsuit. Special damages for the aggravation of a preexisting condition must be expressly stated in the claim and supported by the evidence. It’s not assumed.

We saw this play out in the recent case of State Farm v. Davis, decided by a panel of judges for Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeal. In this case, insurance company State Farm appealed a $500,000 verdict, which included compensation for future medical expenses and future non-economic damages, including for aggravation of a preexisting condition.

The case stemmed from a 2016 Florida car accident between the plaintiff and another driver, an uninsured/underinsured motorist accused of negligence. As such, the plaintiff filed a claim for damages with her own UM/UIM car insurance company. The insurer conceded the other driver was at-fault, but contested the causation, nature, extent, and consequences of her injuries. Basically, the insurance company didn’t believe her injuries (or not all of them) resulted from the crash or as serious as she claimed. During the discovery process, it was revealed plaintiff had been receiving chiropractic care for pain and limited movement in her neck and lower back for 14 years prior to the crash. In the previous 6 years before the car accident, the plaintiff had seen a physician nearly 50 times for neck and lower back pain – one of those just three days before the crash. The doctor who treated her would later testify that the injuries he’d been treating her for weren’t the same as the injuries she’d suffered in the crash. An orthopedic surgeon she began seeing after the crash testified that two herniated discs and joint/neck pain were a result of the crash – for which she’d need future surgeries. However, no medical testimony or other evidence was presented by the plaintiff to indicate that the car accident resulted in an aggravation of her preexisting injuries or conditions.

A Naples car accident lawyer can explain that people injured in crashes might or might not have preexisting conditions, and those might or might not be aggravated in the crash. But even if the same general part of the body that has a preexisting condition is injured in the crash, and even though this might naturally and proximately result in aggravation, it is not necessarily the case. This must be specifically alleged, pleaded, and supported. Continue reading

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Florida personal injury settlement releaseIt’s completely understandable – smart, actually – to be wary of signing any sort of a Florida personal injury settlement release form following a car accident. As our Cape Coral personal injury lawyers can explain, signing that release is typically required if you want to be paid the settlement amount. And settlements are how 95 percent of Florida injury lawsuits are resolved. But you absolutely should never rush into signing anything without having it first reviewed by a lawyer. This is especially true if the injuries you and/or your loved ones suffered were serious.

Understand that insurance companies are strategic in pressing people to sign Florida personal injury settlement release forms while they’re still recovering. They take advantage of the urgency and vulnerability many accident victims feel in the wake of an accident. They’re in pain, unable to work, the hospital bills are piling up, and they’re leaning on loved ones to help them manage basic household tasks/childcare/caregiving duties. In other words: They’re dealing with a lot, and could really use the money. Insurers often take that opportunity to dangle a “take-it-or-leave-it” carrot. They extend a settlement offer that can be much lower than what one is actually entitled to – hoping they’ll sign it quickly and give up the right to ask for anything more. We’ve seen far too many situations where accident victims find out too late that they unwittingly signed away their right to more money – sometimes a lot more.

Among the risks you’re running if you haven’t carefully considered all the implications of your signature on that document:

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Cape Coral bicycle accident injuries insuranceSecuring an insurance payout while recovering from Florida bicycle accident injuries isn’t always a simple matter.

Whether it’s possible at all depends a lot on the underlying facts. But in many cases, you might have several insurance claim options.

Our longtime local injury lawyers can help answer your questions about the types of crash coverage that might be available and how best to go about filing a claim.

Florida’s Ongoing Struggle to Make Biking Safer

A lot has changed in Florida in recent years. One of the things that hasn’t changed much (unfortunately) is the state’s position near the front of the pack when it comes to bike crashes.

Just recently, a 71-year-old lost his life after suffering Cape Coral bicycle accident injuries. He was struck and killed by a pickup truck driver on Country Club Boulevard. The man had been pedaling on the sidewalk when a section of it closed, forcing him to continue his journey on the outside right lane. The driver who struck him was towing a dump trailer and reportedly swerved to avoid a collision with vehicles in the left lane. Nearby residents told WINK News there was really “no way for (the bicyclist) to go anywhere else, and he was traveling with the direction of travel.”

Road design in the U.S. – particularly in the South – has long made foot and bicycle traffic an afterthought. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 985 bicyclists died in U.S. road accidents last year, up 5 percent from the year before. Analysis by Smart Growth America (which releases an annual “Dangerous By Design” report on the safety of vulnerable road users) has concluded that systemic oversights with traffic engineering contribute to the high number of fatal pedestrian and bicycle accidents in Florida and beyond. Solutions like median islands, traffic signals with exclusive pedestrian & bicycle phases, giving cyclists and walkers a head start before green lights, and lowering speed limits can go a long way. Some cities have committed to adopting these measures with some success, but it’s been slow-going.

Other issues to tackle include driver distraction, visibility impairments, and drivers just generally not watching for or failing to use reasonable care around bicyclists.

Will Insurance Cover My Cape Coral Bicycle Accident Injuries?

Insurance coverage available to cover the fall out from your Florida bike crash injuries will depend on several factors (i.e., how badly you’re hurt, what you were doing at the time, where the crash occurred, who was involved, what type of vehicles were involved, who was at-fault, how much/what type of insurance each person has, etc.).

As Cape Coral injury lawyers, some of the possibilities for financial compensation following a cycling accident may include: Continue reading

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Fort Myers car accident lawyerEvery single day, there are an average of 1,050 Florida car accidents, according to the Florida Department Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Almost always, the cause(s) of a crash can be traced to driver error. Common Fort Myers car accident catalysts include things like speeding, failure to yield, improper turning, following too closely, driving carelessly or recklessly, disregarding traffic signs or signals, failure to maintain proper lane, and driving while distracted or impaired.

But what if both drivers were at-fault in a crash?

As longtime Fort Myers car accident lawyers, we know it’s fairly common that both drivers shoulder some degree of responsibility for the collision. But what truly influences the dollar amount outcome in a Florida car accident case is not so much whether the injured plaintiff (the person filing the claim) shares any blame at all, but rather: How much?

This is because Florida follows a system of pure comparative negligence (referred to in F.S. 768.81 as comparative fault).

What is Pure Comparative Fault – and Why Does it Matter in Fort Myers Car Accident Cases?

Pure comparative fault means that in any negligence action – including car crash claims – the at-fault parties are only responsible to pay for their own portion of the blame. So in a two-car crash with both parties sharing some measure of fault, the damage award (legalese for financial compensation aka money) that is available to the plaintiff will be proportionally reduced by how much of the blame they share.

For example, if Driver 1 was 30 percent at-fault, Driver 2 was 70 percent at-fault, and total damages topped $100,000, the most that Driver 1 could collect as a Florida plaintiff would be $70,000. Conversely, the most Driver 2 could collect as a plaintiff would be $30,000.

“Pure comparative fault” means that even a person who is 99 percent at-fault for a Fort Myers car accident could still collect on 1 percent of their total damages from the other at-fault driver. That said, collecting only 1 percent of damages (ex: $1,000 on a $100,000 claim) isn’t a desirable outcome for any plaintiff. Skilled South Florida injury lawyers know how to make effective legal arguments to help minimize assertions of comparative fault – with the end goal of maximizing your damage award payout.

It should be noted that Florida is in the minority of states for its pure comparative fault law. Most other states with comparative fault laws impose a 50 percent or 51 percent “bar.” That means each person or entity is only financially responsible to cover their own percentage of fault. BUT if the plaintiff is 50+ percent to blame, they will be barred from collecting anything at all. Some states take it even further, holding that if a plaintiff shares just 1 percent of fault, they are barred from collecting anything at all.

So Florida is actually one of the most plaintiff-favorable states in this regard. However, that doesn’t mean your car accident case will be easy or that you should cede much ground on this issue if you can help it.

Wait – Isn’t Florida a No-Fault Car Accident State?

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South Florida truck accident lawyerLarge truck accidents, frequently resulting in substantial property damage, serious injuries, and fatalities, have a unique set of complicated insurance and liability issues. In fact, collecting financial damages following a Florida truck accident can be much more complicated than a basic car crash crash.

In a single recent year, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported more than 4,100 people died in large truck crashes nationally. Of those, nearly 70 percent were people in other vehicles. Another 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. The number of people killed in large truck crashes rose more than 30 percent just from 2009 to 2019.

After a commercial truck accident, it’s imperative to work with an injury lawyer who has extensive experience handling these types of claims. The reality is that pursuing any claim for personal injuries can become complicated rather quickly, but crashes involving commercial vehicles are often even more complex. Continue reading

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