The most recent statistics compiled by the state should make you concerned about the chances of being involved in a motor vehicle accident in Florida. More 402,000 collisions on state roadways accounted for 254,310 injuries and 3,116 deaths, including 659 pedestrians killed by motor vehicles. If you are injured or a loved one is killed in a Florida traffic accident, you could be entitled to compensation. However, you first must establish who was at fault. Determining who is at fault in a traffic accident depends on the vehicle and the circumstances of the incident.
Negligence and proving fault in a traffic accident
In any claim for personal injuries, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted negligently and caused the crash. The four elements that must be proven to demonstrate negligence include the following:
- Duty owed to the plaintiff: The defendant must owe a duty of care toward the plaintiff. Someone operating a motor vehicle has a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care. This includes keeping the car under control at all times and obeying the traffic laws. They must also watch for other vehicles and pedestrians.
- Breach of the duty owed to plaintiff: The defendant breaches the duty of care if a prudent person would not have engaged in the same type of conduct, or the defendant failed to do something that a reasonably prudent individual would have done. For example, a reasonably prudent driver would be expected to slow down and come to a stop upon seeing another vehicle stopping up ahead.
- The conduct engaged in by the defendant caused the accident and the plaintiff’s injuries: Causation means that a defendant’s breach of the duty owed to others was the cause of the accident.
- The plaintiff suffered damages: Even if a plaintiff proves another driver was negligent in causing an accident, the recovery of compensation requires proof of injuries or damages sustained by the plaintiff. Damages could include personal injuries that require medical treatment or harm caused to personal property that must be repaired.
How personal injury attorneys prove each of the elements of negligence in a particular case frequently depends upon the circumstances of the collision and the type of vehicles involved.
Common causes of car accidents
The most common cause of car crashes is human error. Leading driver behaviors contributing to car accidents include the following:
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Failing to obey traffic lights and stop signs
- Tailgating and other acts of reckless or dangerous driving
The facts and the circumstances of the car accident must be carefully examined to accurately determine the cause. For example, just because there are slippery road conditions after a rainstorm does not mean that a driver isn’t at fault. Drivers must leave more stopping distance between vehicles and take greater caution to account for dangerous road conditions.
Fault in causing trucking accidents
The same negligent conduct that causes car accidents equally applies to truck drivers. However, there are unique circumstances of commercial trucking that could establish liability on the part of other parties. In addition to negligence on the part of the driver, the owners of the company could also be at fault.
Trucking companies own the vehicles, maintain them and hire drivers. A truck company could be at fault if a crash results from brake failure or other mechanical issues. The trucking company has a responsibility to do regular maintenance or safety inspections on its full fleet. Hiring unqualified drivers could also make trucking companies liable in the event of a crash caused by driver negligence.
An investigation into a commercial trucking crash could uncover evidence that improperly loaded or secured cargo was at fault. For instance, loads can shift or objects may fall from a truck because they weren’t adequately tied down. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and cargo handlers that are responsible for loading commercial vehicles could be liable when their conduct contributes to causing an accident.
Motorcycle Accidents and determining fault
Motorcycle riders are subject to the same rules as drivers of other types of vehicles, but the smaller size of a motorcycle makes it difficult for other drivers to see them or judge their speed, which can contribute to collisions. Even though they may not take up an entire lane, drivers of neighboring vehicles must use caution to not encroach in the path of a motorcycle.
Motorcycles size makes them susceptible to loss of control when other, larger vehicles pass too closely. For instance, a car or truck may produce a strong gust of wind when driving by. The force from the gust of air generated by the other vehicle could cause an accident even without making contact.
Drivers following too closely might not realize a motorcyclist is slowing down and hit the motorcycle from the rear. Motorcycle riders can slow their vehicles by shifting to a lower gear without using the brake. A trailing driver not seeing a brake light might not slow down in time to avoid colliding with the motorcycle.
Determining fault in a bicycle accident
Under Florida law, a bicycle is not a toy. It is a vehicle that must obey the same traffic laws as operators of cars, trucks and motorcycles. Bicycles must be equipped with brakes and a white headlight if operated after dark. They must also have a red light on the rear. Riders must stay as close as possible to the right side of the road except when passing or turning left.
Bike riders who fail to obey the law could be liable if involved in a crash with another vehicle or pedestrian. For example, wearing earbuds or other device making it difficult to hear traffic is a violation of Florida law that could make the rider responsible in the event of a collision.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
If you’ve been injured in an accident where you believe someone is at fault, consult the experienced personal injury attorneys at Kinney, Fernandez & Boire. We will help carefully evaluate your case to establish if another party is at fault and should be held liable for your injuries. Contact our office for a free case evaluation and consultation today.