Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Most Palm Beach car accident injury claims do not go to trial. Palm Beach car accident lawyer

Of course, every case is different. If your Palm Beach car accident lawyer has taken the step of filing a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf, there’s always a chance it will wind up before a jury. But even then, it’s unlikely.

Most Florida car accident cases are actually resolved without the need for litigation (filing a lawsuit) at all. Hiring a South Florida personal injury lawyer doesn’t make the prospect of a lawsuit or trial any more likely. Actually, we may be able to minimize the chance of a courtroom confrontation because we’re adept at negotiating effectively with insurance companies to fight for fair outcomes for our clients. Often the sooner we are brought onto a car accident case, the better the odds we can resolve it without going to court.

Still, we approach every case as if that’s a possibility. From the very outset, we’re meticulous in our investigation, evidence-gathering, researching, interviewing eyewitnesses and consulting with expert witnesses. We’re never bluffing to insurers about our preparedness to escalate to the next level if necessary. But trial is not a common – or even preferable – outcome for most parties involved, usually. If we can settle car accident claims fairly without filing a lawsuit – and especially without going to trial – that’s typically our aim.

Why Palm Beach Car Accident Cases So Rarely Make it to Trial

Some of the reasons why your Palm Beach car accident case is unlikely to go before a judge and jury: Continue reading

Millions of residents, vacationers, and business visitors in Florida rely on ridesharing services like Uber. The company itself reports contributing $1.1 billion in gross state product to Florida’s economy – and that doesn’t even include the UbeEATS branch of the business. But those who rely on Uber and other rideshare services should understand how the state’s new comparative fault standard may impact their Palm Beach personal injury claims.

Let’s start by explaining what comparative fault is, and how it’s changed in Florida in the last year.Florida Uber accident lawyer Palm Beach

Comparative fault in principle is the idea that everyone should be responsible for his or her own wrongdoing. So if you’re injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver but your injuries were exacerbated by the fact that you were speeding, the drunk driver would not necessarily be 100% liable to pay for your damages. A finding of comparative fault proportionally reduces damage awards to whatever extent the plaintiff is responsible for their own injuries. So if there is a finding of 20% comparative fault due to your speeding, you can only collect up to 80% of your total damage awards.

Different states have different rules about how comparative fault is applied. Prior to last year, Florida followed a pure comparative fault model. That means that even if you were 99% at fault for your own injuries, you could still collect the remaining 1% of damages from the other at-fault party. Obviously that wouldn’t be an ideal scenario, as it would dramatically reduce your damage award. But the idea with a pure comparative fault model is that a person who is 45% responsible for causing an accident shouldn’t be off the hook completely simply because the person hurt was 55% responsible. Continue reading

Reckless drivers have caused damage and death on our roads as long as there have been motor vehicles. Although Palm Beach car accident lawyers can attest it had been getting safer in recent decades, we’re now in the midst of one of three historically huge spikes in U.S. traffic deaths. Palm Beach car accident lawyers Florida roads getting deadlier

As detailed in a recent analysis by The New York Times, the first uptick occurred early in the 20th century, when cities were first flooded with large numbers of new, unskilled drivers. The second occurred at the midcentury mark, with the unveiling of the freeway system and powerful vehicles that could go from 0 to 60 mph in mere seconds. Nearly 51,000 traffic deaths were reported in a single year in the 1960s, rivaling the number of U.S. soldiers killed in combat during the entirety of the Vietnam War.

From 1972 to 2011, traffic deaths started declining. Vehicles got safer. The government began requiring stronger roofs and doors. Seat belt laws were passed. Airbags became standard. Medical advances were made. Crashes that would have killed people in the 1960s now only result in a broken leg. Accountability for bad driving behavior, like DUIs and later cell phone use, got more stringent. Young drivers were required not only to pass driver’s education courses, but also to complete graduated driver’s license schedules before being granted a full license.

Dealing with insurance companies can be a pain, as anyone who’s ever been in a South Florida car accident knows. Lawmakers recognize it too. That’s why there are legal protections in place to ensure fair play. Insurers are legally bound to act in good faith when handling claims. When they don’t, courts can impose financial sanctions. hands of attorneys, seated at a table with hands on documents as they negotiate; a gavel and justice scales are on the table

One example of bad faith insurance is when an auto insurer rejects a fair settlement offer in a pending lawsuit. As our West Palm Beach car accident attorneys can explain, if the case proceeds and the plaintiff wins a judgment totaling 25 percent or more than the settlement offer, the court can order the insurer to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.

Few things to note: Plaintiffs don’t pay West Palm Beach car accident attorneys’ fees upfront. These services are provided on a contingency fee basis, meaning we aren’t paid unless or until you win. Our fee is derived as a percentage of the amount you win. But when a defendant is required to pay attorney’s fees, it means the plaintiff keeps the entire damage award and the defendant covers our fees. Insurers would obviously rather avoid that outcome.

In a recent case dealing with this issue, Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal held that an auto insurer’s long-delayed payment of UM policy limits – after rejecting an earlier lower settlement offer by the plaintiff – amounted to a “confession of judgment” that can be used as grounds to justify an order for the insurer to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees. Continue reading

In the aftermath of a Southeast Florida car accident, there’s no requirement that you MUST hire a Palm Beach personal injury lawyer with a claim for damages. But there is strong statistical evidence that doing so will significantly improve your odds of prevailing with full and fair damages. Palm Beach injury lawyer

One analysis published by the Insurance Research Council a few years ago revealed lawyer-represented crash victims received damage awards that were on average 3.5 times higher compared to those who didn’t hire a lawyer.

This supports much of the previously-established data on this issue.

In a 2010 empirical evidence study published in the peer-reviewed Seattle Journal for Social Justice, researchers conducted meta analysis of other studies dating back decades on how access to a lawyer impacts the outcomes of civil cases – including personal injury claims. What they found was:

  • In every study reviewed, “lawyered-up” claimants were far more likely to win. (Exactly how much more likely varied from study-to-study, with most ranging somewhere from 20 percent higher to 4 times higher.) Part of this might be explained by the fact that civil lawyers tend to take on more meritorious cases. But then again, that’s one of the many benefits you get with hiring a Palm Beach injury lawyer: Confidence that you aren’t wasting your time because you’ve got a case worth pursuing.
  • To minimize the influence of the merit-based argument, another study involved civil lawyers providing their services at random to a group of sample litigants. The outcomes in their cases were then compared to those of similarly-situated (but non-represented) litigants. Those who had lawyers were 4.4 times more likely to win than those who represented themselves.
  • Another analysis concluded that in higher complexity civil cases (including serious personal injuries, medical malpractice, and wrongful death), plaintiffs represented by attorneys were 40 percent more likely to win.

Why Does Hiring a Palm Beach Injury Lawyer Make Such a Difference?

Some of the researchers’ theories about why hiring a lawyer makes such a difference in case outcomes: Continue reading

 If you’ve ever been involved in a South Florida car accident, you know the incident must be reported right away to the insurer. It’s not uncommon for insurers to request you provide a recorded statement. In some cases, they’ll insist they can’t process a claim until you do so. However, if your injuries were serious enough to require a hospital stay and time off work, it’s a good idea to hold off on this “requirement” until you’ve spoken to a West Palm Beach injury lawyer.West Palm Beach injury lawyer
There are two main reasons for this:
  1. Anything you say has the potential to be used against you. A recorded statement locks you into a specific narrative. This is not to say you need time to cook up a story or lie (you absolutely should not). However, moments of high-stress and pain could cloud your memory. If the recorded statement you give doesn’t match precisely with testimony given during deposition and/or trial, the insurer can use this to attack your credibility – which is exactly what they want.
  2. You may not be required to. If you’re dealing with a third-party insurer, you are likely under no obligation to provide a recorded statement. If your car accident injuries are serious enough that you’re engaging with a third-party insurer outside Florida’s no-fault system, you should probably be working with a lawyer who can advise you of this anyway. If you’re negotiating with your own insurer for personal injury protection or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (the latter of which you should definitely have a lawyer for), you might be contractually obligated to provide a recorded statement to the insurer. But it really depends on the details of the policy language. Don’t just trust vague assertions like, “we can’t process the claim until you give a recorded statement.” Such claims don’t prove you are required, and they’re intended to intimidate you into voluntarily providing recorded evidence. These questions may be designed to trip you up, and the way you answer can determine whether your claim is approved or denied. Talk to a Palm Beach car accident lawyer first.

This and similar issues have arisen before in Florida courts. In late 2006, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal sided with a crash survivor who argued he wasn’t required to give a recorded statement to the insurer – despite the insurer’s firm insistence.

According to court records in Arias v. Affirmative Insurance Company, plaintiff was injured in a West Palm Beach car accident and required medical care as a result. He notified his own insurer so that he could obtain personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, pursuant to F.S. 627.736. The insurance company requested the claimant appear in person for an examination under oath, with statements to be transcribed by a court reporter. The claimant was smart and contacted his lawyer before deciding what to do. Continue reading

In many ways, the true impact of Florida car accident losses is immeasurable. After all, how can one possibly quantify the death of a loved one? Or the crushing reality that permanent injuries have forever foreclosed on the possibility of doing things that once gave you so much joy? Palm Beach car accident lawyer

But when we do look strictly at those black-and-white numbers, the staggering ripple effect of Florida car accident losses is thrown into stark relief.

Almost 3,400 people die in Florida car accidents annually, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Another 250,000 are injured. If we’re solely focused on medical costs incurred as a direct result of Florida car accidents, it’s a $46 million price tag every year (per the CDC). Work loss costs? $4.35 billion.

Broadening that scope, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) just released a new 300-page report that examined the full scope of costs for traffic crashes across the U.S. in a single year.

Among their findings:

  • 36,500+ people died.
  • 4.5 million+ people were injured.
  • 23 million+ vehicles were damaged.
  • $340 billion+ is the cost America as a whole pays for motor vehicle crashes. This includes medical bills and work loss, but also taxes, congestion-related costs, excess fuel consumption, insurance premiums, emergency services costs, legal and court costs, lost productivity. $55 billion of that is in medical bills and lost wages alone.
  • That $340 billion breaks down to $1,035 for every person currently living in this country.
  • $1.4 trillion+ is the cost America pays for motor vehicle crashes when quality of life valuations are considered.

Quality of life valuations are the consideration of the cost when a serious injury or death means that no amount of medical care is going to fully restore the victim. Those who have died – they’re robbed of the entire rest of their lives. Their surviving loved ones will be impacted the rest of their lives as well. Even for those who survive, sometimes there can be lifelong disabilities, physical pain, disfigurement that sometimes prevents them from being independent in even the most basic life functions. Continue reading

No one sets about their day intending to be involved in a car accident – which is why those involved often appear shell-shocked at the scene. Unfortunately when you’re not thinking clearly, it can lead to mistakes that have larger consequences. One such possibility in Broward car accident cases is accepting money on-the-spot from the at-fault driver. Broward car accident lawyer

There are many reasons why this is bad idea.

Our South Florida personal injury lawyers understand it can be tempting, especially if you don’t think you’re hurt badly and your car seems mostly fine. But it’s important to think about why someone would offer you cash or try to arrange for private payment on-the-spot. There are several possibilities – none of them beneficial to the injured or wronged party.

Why Would a Driver At-Fault Offer Cash at a Broward Car Accident Scene?

If someone offers you cash at a crash scene, that should immediately raise some red flags. To be fair, there is nothing illegal about a driver offering you a cash settlement right away, but it’s highly suspicious.

Among the reasons a negligent driver might be eager to settle matters immediately:

  • They don’t want their insurance premiums to spike. This is understandable, and all of us can empathize. After all, even the driver who’s not at-fault may see a slight uptick in their premiums after a claim. But the main problem with this is that you simply do not know the full scope of your property damages and/or injuries in the middle of that moment. If you accept a cash offer in exchange for not reporting the incident or exchanging information, you could be effectively foregoing whatever chance you may have had to be fully compensated.
  • They are uninsured or underinsured. In these situations, the at-fault driver may be concerned about statutory penalties, as Florida imposes a fine of between $150 to $500 for driving  uninsured. Or they may be concerned that legal action could result in direct legal action against them that could lead to wage garnishment, etc.
  • They want to avoid the accident becoming part of their driving record. This may be understandable, but consider that if their existing driving record has them so concerned about a few more points, it may be in the best interests of all road users if they’re held to account.
  • They have a suspended license. In Florida, per F.S. 322.34, driving with a suspended license – or one that is revoked, canceled, or disqualified – is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Penalties can be even more serious if it’s a repeat offense. Not only that, but if their license is suspended, they also are likely not insured.
  • They are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Driving under the influence (DUI) is a crime on its own, but the punishment increases if they’re impaired and cause an accident – especially if someone is injured. They may make a compelling case in the moment about what they have to lose if you summon authorities, etc. But consider that statistically speaking, the average drunk driver has driven impaired 80 times before their first arrest, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They are a danger not only to themselves but to others with whom they share the road, and even if you’re physically Ok, the next person who encounters them may not be so fortunate.
  • They want to avoid paying more in a legal claim. As mentioned before, it’s almost impossible for crash victims at the scene to accurately tally the full scope of damages. But there is a good chance that whatever they are offering upfront in cash is less than what you’d likely receive if you’re filing a claim.

Risks You Run Accepting Cash at a Florida Crash Scene

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We all know distracted driving is deadly, claiming more than 3,100 lives a year, according to the NHTSA. And yet, rideshare drivers have something of a built-in distraction with the need to multitask on the road. They rely on a driver app that must be checked constantly for customers, directions, mileage, and payments.West Palm Beach car accident lawyer

A precedential South Florida product liability lawsuit slated for an upcoming trial alleges a ridesharing app creates an unreasonable danger that puts the public at risk of injuries. Although the case stemmed from a South Florida car accident, it’s filed as a product liability lawsuit on the basis of strict liability. In the legal world, a personal injury lawsuit alleging strict liability allows a defendant to be held legally responsible for the outcomes of their actions – regardless of whether the person was at-fault or negligent.

The upcoming Florida rideshare injury lawsuit, pending in the Palm Beach Circuit Court, accuses Lyft, a California company, and its Florida subsidiary, of creating/using an app is unreasonably dangerous and distracts drivers to the extent it causes crashes. In this particular case, the January 2019 crash on State Road A1A resulted in another driver suffering substantial and lasting brain injuries.  The victim was leaving work at a local resort when the Lyft driver allegedly struck her at an intersection. She spent more than a month in the hospital after the crash, and for a time after that, required 24-aid and attendant care. She also underwent extensive occupational therapy, physical therapy, and other specialty care.

Hertz is also named in the injury lawsuit, as a partnership between Lyft and Hertz allows rideshare drivers to rent Hertz rental cars for their rides.

The original complaint notes that drivers are required to constantly monitor their apps for financial gain (obtaining rides that generate revenue). In addition to a claim of strict liability defective design, plaintiffs allege direct negligence in hiring an independent contractor.

Are Florida Rideshare Drivers Inherently More Distracted?

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As Palm Beach personal injury lawyers, our clients are those who have been impacted by the negligence or wrongdoing of others. However, we have occasionally heard of incredulous third-party defendants who wonder how they could possibly be held liable for someone else’s misdeeds. But there are quite a few instances in Florida injury law wherein statute allows for vicarious and third-party liability. Car accident cases may be among these. West Palm Beach injury lawyer

In general, there are three ways third parties can be liable for Florida car accidents:

  • Drunk driving accidents. In drunk driving accidents, third parties, such as bars or social hosts, can be held legally responsible per F.S. 768.125, if they either served alcohol to the impaired driver prior to the crash – knowing they were either under the age of 21 or habitually addicted to alcohol. This is called “dram shop liability.”
  • Employers of negligent drivers. If a tow truck driver is on the job and runs a red light, crashing into another car and causing serious injuries, the tow truck driver’s employer may be held liable – even if the company technically did nothing wrong. Employers can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees if the workers were acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the incident. This is based on a legal doctrine called respondeat superior, which is Latin for “let the master answer.”
  • Vehicle owners. This is where we sometimes hear the question, “Can I be sued in South Florida if someone else wrecks my car?” And the answer is: Yes. Florida is a little unique in this because of its recognition of the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. Basically, it was established in the 1920s by the Florida Supreme Court that motor vehicles are recognized as inherently dangerous instruments. As such, if you own one and you allow someone to use it (with express or implied permission) and that person goes on to operate it in a way that is negligent and causes harm to others, YOU can be held legally responsible. This is another example of vicarious liability for someone else’s negligence. However, it only applies if you have given that driver permission. If someone steals your car and then wrecks it, you would not be vicariously liable in that instance.

Sometimes, vehicle owners can be found directly negligent too – even if they weren’t operating the vehicle. As our Palm Beach personal injury lawyers can explain, there may also be grounds for negligence as well. Continue reading

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