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Miami Trucking Accident Attorneys Analyze Florida 4th DCA Decision Ordering New Trial on Issue of Comparative Fault

Miami tractor-trailer injury attorneys recognize that a “minor trucking accident” is a fiction.  When a collision occurs between vehicles that are 25 times different in weight, the smaller vehicle does not tend to hold up well under the force of the impact.  While tractor-trailer accidents often result in catastrophic injury or wrongful death, the individual who suffers life-altering injury or wrongful death is almost exclusively an occupant of the other vehicle.  In fatal collisions between passenger vehicles and large trucks, the party who dies is an occupant of the passenger vehicle 97 percent of the time.  Given the high stakes in personal safety and loss of life associated with collisions involving large trucks, allegations that a plaintiff’s conduct contributed to his own injuries can have a devastating impact.  In this blog post, our Miami tractor-trailer accident lawyers review a recent court case where a new trial was ordered so that a jury could evaluate the issue of the plaintiff’s fault.

In the 4th DCA decision of Botta v. Florida Power & Light Co., a motorist injured in a collision with a large truck filed suit alleging negligence.  During an after hours power outage, the utility company dispatched a driver operating a large truck to investigate the problem.  Although it was dark outside, the driver of the truck from the utility company did not put out reflective markers when he parked on the side of the road.  The parties disagreed on the question of whether the driver of the truck turned on his hazard blinkers.  The plaintiff slammed into the back of the large truck, but he contended that he thought the vehicle was in motion. While the plaintiff also presented evidence that he attempted to brake to avoid the collision, a witness testified that the plaintiff did not reduce his speed before the accident.  Conflicting evidence also was presented regarding whether the plaintiff had his headlights on at the time of the crash.  The utility company argued that the defendant had poor vision, which contributed to the accident.

The jury found that the trucking company was responsible for the accident.  Because the defendant suffered severe injuries that required amputation of his arm, the jury awarded damages of a million dollars.  The utility company moved for a new trial which was granted by the trial judge essentially taking the decision away from the jury.  While many people might assume that a jury verdict cannot be overruled, the trial judge can order a new trial when it determines the decision is against the weight of the evidence.

On appeal, the court found that the trial judge’s decision to order a new trial was within the judge’s discretion.  The court did narrow the issues in the new trial by limiting the scope of the re-trial to the comparative negligence of the plaintiff.  The appellate court’s approach provided a better outcome for the plaintiff because the finding that the utility company was negligent and the amount of damages remained intact.  However, the new jury could find that the plaintiff failed to take reasonable care to prevent foreseeable self-injury based on evidence regarding the plaintiff’s vision or failure to have his headlights activated.  If the jury on retrial decides that the plaintiff was negligent regarding his own safety, the amount of his recovery would be reduced according to the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Serious Injury and Wrongful Death Victims and Families

Given the devastating type of injuries common in trucking accidents, comparative negligence of the plaintiff can have a significant impact on the outcome of a case.  Our Florida trucking accident lawyers anticipate such defenses, so we can gather appropriate evidence and tenaciously contest allegations of comparative fault.  Our Miami personal injury lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to pursue the results you 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.

Sources:

http://trucksafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/large_truck_dangers.pdf

 

 

 

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