Fatal Crash Raises Multiple Legal Questions
One motorist is dead after a four-car pile-up crash on U.S. 301.
Seventy-four-year-old Berrisford Turner was the wreck’s only serious casualty. According to authorities, 23-year-old Mauricio Chacon was southbound in a 2010 Ford van when he initially sideswiped a Ford F-150 then careened into the rear end of Mr. Turner’s 2014 Honda Accord. The force of the impact pushed the vehicle onto the northbound side, whereupon Patricia Gerbino struck the Accord head-on. Mr. Turner was transported to a local hospital with internal injuries, where he was later declared dead.
Mr. Chacon, an on-duty driver for Express Medical Transportation, did not show signs of impairment and passed a blood test.
Defenses in a Negligence Case
Especially in multi-car crashes that involve unexpected events, like a car being pushed into oncoming traffic, the insurance company will deploy a number of defenses to either reduce the amount of recovery or deny recovery altogether.
When there is an unanticipated event, like a tire blow-out, the sudden emergency defense may apply. Essentially, the defendant must prove that:
- There was an unexpected emergency, and
- The defendant acted reasonably in the wake of that emergency.
Common occurrences, like a stalled car or pedestrian crossing outside the crosswalk, are generally not considered “sudden emergencies” in the legal sense of the phrase.
In other situations, the insurance company tries to shift part of the blame to the plaintiff. For example, the company’s lawyers may admit that the defendant was speeding but argue that the plaintiff made an unsafe lane change. Fortunately for victims, Florida is a pure comparative fault state that apportions damages based solely on the amount of fault.
So, if the jury determines damages to be $20,000 and the plaintiff to be 60 percent at fault, the victim would still receive $8,000 (40 percent of the total). Most other states have a 50 or 51 percent cutoff.
Third Party Liability
If the tortfeasor (negligent person) was a delivery driver or taxi driver, the doctrine of respondeat superior normally applies. According to this doctrine, an employer is legally responsible for the damages that its negligent employees cause. To apply the theory, the plaintiff must prove:
- Employee: The tortfeasor must have been an “employee,” a term that is defined very broadly and normally applies even if the worker was classified as an intern or independent contractor for other purposes.
- Scope of Employment: If the employee was engaged in any activity that benefited the employer in any way, such activity is normally considered to be within the scope of employment.
Third party liability is particularly important if the tortfeasor was uninsured or underinsured, because such theories create an additional source of recovery for injured victims. Victims who suffer serious injuries are normally entitled to compensation for both their economic damages, like property damage, and noneconomic damages, like loss of enjoyment in life.
Reach Out to Aggressive Lawyers
Even if the facts seem relatively straightforward, most all car crashes are complicated legal affairs. For a free consultation with an assertive personal injury attorney in Orlando, contact Reed & Reed. From our office in Brandon, we help clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida.