Although many motorcycle accidents in Miami and the surrounding areas of Florida are caused by an inconsiderate, inattentive, or careless driver of a car, pickup, or SUV, the driver of the other vehicle often will claim the rider was negligent. Some injured motorcyclists assume they cannot pursue a personal injury claim because they were violating a traffic law or otherwise driving in an unsafe manner. Florida negligence law allows a plaintiff to recover in a personal injury or wrongful death action even if the injured party is partially at fault for causing the collision. In this blog post, our Miami motorcycle accident lawyers examine a Florida appellate court decision allowing a fatally injured motorcycle accident victim to recover despite evidence he was speeding.
In Diaz v. FedEx, the Florida Fifth DCA allowed a motorcycle accident victim to recover compensation for his injuries even though he was determined to be partially responsible for causing his collision with a FedEx truck. At the time of the collision, the motorcyclist was determined to be driving at a rate of 59 to 79 mph, which substantially exceeded the speed limit of 45 mph. The personal representative of the estate of the decedent defended against the wrongful death claim based on evidence that the plaintiff was driving at an unsafe speed at the time of the collision.
The estate argued that the fatally injured motorcyclist still was entitled to recover damages in the wrongful death action because the driver of the FedEx truck failed to obey a stop sign at the intersection where the crash occurred. While the truck driver claimed to have stopped, experts for the wrongful death victim disputed the claim that the FedEx driver came to a stop at the sign. Several eyewitnesses to the crash were unsure whether the truck ran the stop sign before turning left. The decedent hit the car broadside when the rider proceeded into the intersection.
An understanding of Florida comparative negligence law is critical to understanding the outcome of this lawsuit. Florida adheres to the pure comparative fault system of assigning negligence between multiple at fault parties. This system does not bar a negligent plaintiff from recovering damages even if the plaintiff is determined to be more responsible for causing his injuries than the defendant(s). However, the amount of recovery is adjusted down based on the percentage of liability assigned to the plaintiff. If the jury decides the plaintiff is 35 percent at fault and the defendant 65 percent liable, for example, damages of $100,000 will be reduced to $65,000.
The trial judge granted a motion filed by the estate seeking exclusion of evidence of any traffic tickets or determination of fault by the police officer. Despite this ruling, the attorney for FedEx asked the officer who investigated the crash whether factors other than the speeding of the decedent played a role in causing the accident. The officer testified that he had “no reason to feel there was any fault” on the part of the FeEx driver.
The jury returned a verdict for the defense after the trial judge denied the request for a new trial. Instead, the judge instructed the jury to ignore this testimony by the officer. On appeal, the 5th DCA reversed and ordered a new trial. The court reasoned that the jury instruction was not sufficient given the fundamental nature of the improper testimony to the core issue in the case.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Serious Injury and Wrongful Death Victims and Families
This case serves as a reminder that personal injury victims can obtain compensation even when a police report concludes they are at fault, or they have received a traffic citation. Further, the jury will not even hear this evidence in most cases. Even if an accident victim is definitely at fault, another party also might be liable, so you should speak to an experienced Miami motorcycle accident attorney.
Our lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance clients need to pursue the results they desire. For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida. We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.