As truck accident attorneys, we frequently see cases that involve the truck driver, or trucking company violates a state law, state regulation, or federal regulation. We try to use the violation to hold the driver and company liable for your injuries by arguing a legal theory of “per se negligence.” Under Florida law, the legal theory means that the person who broke the law is automatically liable for the injuries caused by the violation. We like to use per se negligence as often as we can because application of the theory resolves the question of liability in our clients’ favor. Unfortunately, per se negligence does not apply in every case. In some instances, the question of responsibility for the truck crash remains even though the driver or the trucking company violated a law because the violation of a traffic statute is merely evidence of negligence.
The question of whether a violation of the law is per se negligence in Florida arose recently in 2015 in the case of Nadia Registe et al. v. Link America Express, Inc. et al. In that case, Nadia was driving her children on the highway in Florida when another car swerved in front of Nadia. In response, Nadia took evasive action and pulled to the right. She then over-corrected and struck a guardrail. The minivan Nadia drove spun back into traffic and came to rest perpendicular to the travel lanes, facing the breakdown lane. The minivan became disabled, and Nadia tried to free her passengers. An adult passenger went to relative safety in the breakdown lane. Nadia tried to remove her children from their car seats when an 18-wheeler approached. The truck driver swerved to the right in an effort to avoid striking the minivan. However, Nadia’s adult passenger was on the right shoulder. The truck driver pulled to the left to avoid hitting the passenger but could not avoid striking the car. Nadia and her children suffered injuries in the crash.
Nadia filed suit against the trucking company and several other parties seeking damages for personal injuries resulting from the truck accident. Nadia lost the trial, and she appealed. One of the issues on appeal was whether the trial judge made a reversible error by refusing to give instruct the jury on the law relating to per se negligence. In Florida, a violation of a traffic law, such as speeding or failing to drive within marked lanes, is merely evidence of negligence and is not per se negligence. In contrast, a violation of a criminal statute, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, could be per se negligence. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, of which Florida is a member, ruled that the trial judge correctly refused to give the per se negligence instruction. The Court of Appeals approvingly noted that the trial judge allowed the parties to argue to the jury how they wanted. The ruling is significant because the plaintiff’s attorney could have argued the violation of the law meant the driver negligently caused the crash.
The plaintiffs raised another interesting argument in their appeal. They wanted to admit Florida statutes and federal regulations in evidence. The trial judge correctly ruled that information was not relevant. On appeals, the plaintiff’s attorneys argued that because they primarily practiced in Georgia and Georgia courts permit the practice, which they should be able to do it in Florida. The Court of Appeals disagreed because no Florida rule allows Courts to do what the plaintiffs requested.
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The attorneys at Greenberg, Stone, and & Urbano have over 130 years of combined legal experience at your service. Let South Florida’s Top law firm – as voted by the Miami Herald – Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, represent you or your loved one for injuries or wrongful death caused by a truck driver’s negligence. They know Florida law and how to use it to their advantage. Call the South Florida truck crash attorneys at Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano – an AV-rated firm by Martindale-Hubbell – today at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 to schedule your free consultation.