Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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Earlier this month, a tragic accident on I-295 took the life of one college student and injured two others. According to a report by the Florida Times-Union, the three college students were travelling on I-295 in Duval County, Florida, shortly before noon on December 13th, when they came upon a pickup truck that was travelling slowly in their lane. As the driver attempted to swerve around the pickup truck, she lost control of the vehicle and she over-corrected. The vehicle then spun out of control.

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The vehicle containing the three college students then hit a semi truck in a neighboring lane before rolling over. The vehicle ultimate came to a rest upright a few lanes away. All three occupants were wearing their seat belts when the accident occurred. One girl was killed in the accident and the other two were taken to Shands Jacksonville in critical and serious conditions. Police do not believe that drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident.

This is certainly an unnecessary and sad accident. Giving the timing and the age of the occupants, they may have been headed home for Christmas break from college. The grief of their families must be tremendous.

Reckless Driving Causes Accidents

It certainly seems that, in the above example, the driver came needlessly close to the vehicle in front of her before changing lanes. Perhaps this was the result of: failing to properly observe conditions in front of her; being distracted; or driving too aggressively.

Generally reckless or negligent driving can be considered to be any of the following:

– Inattentive Driving (talking to a passenger, day dreaming);
– Distracted Driving (texting, applying make up, reading, eating);
– Speeding;
– Impaired Driving (drugs or alcohol);
– Erratic Passing (cutting in and out of traffic, speeding while passing, passing on the right).

This list is not exhaustive, however. Anytime a driver is not paying full attention to the road, fails to properly maintain their vehicle, or intentionally disobeys a traffic law, that driver is negligent. Negligent driving causes accidents.

When drivers act in an aggressive manner, they greatly increase the chance of causing a car accident. When a driver’s reckless or negligent behavior causes an accident that injures another, that victim is entitled to recover for the cost of their medical bills, future medical expenses, as well as for the pain and suffering resulting from personal injuries.

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Earlier this week, a 66-year old man was hit as he was trying to cross a street in Jacksonville’s westside. According to a report by Jacksonville.com, the man was attempting to cross the 1300 block of Cassat Avenue when he was struck by a Saturn car that was heading south on Cassat. The car vs. pedestrian accident, that occurred shortly after 10:30 p.m., left the pedestrian dead and the driver of the Saturn uninjured. Police do not suspect that alcohol was a factor, and criminal charges have not been filed.

Crossing%20the%20Street.jpgPedestrian Accidents Are Increasingly Common on City Streets

If you have been paying attention to the headlines lately, you may have noticed that there has been an increase in car accidents involving pedestrians. This deadly trend is due, in part, to the increasing stress placed on Jacksonville’s streets as populations increase, as well as an increase in pedestrian traffic as more people eschew cars for public transit and walking options, especially in light of many people still suffering financially from the recession and having to forego the expense of owning a car.

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Over the weekend, a bicyclist was hit and killed near the intersection of State Road 16 and Four Mile Road in St. Augustine, Florida. According to a report by the St. Augustine Record, the bicyclist was heading east on State Road 16 shortly after 10:30 a.m. when a car, attempting to turn unto Four Mile Road, hit the bicyclist. The bicyclist was riding in the designated bicycle lane at the time of the accident.

The bicyclist was taken to Flagler Hospital immediately, but then transferred to UF Jacksonville by lifeflight shortly after. The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the bicyclist’s death on Monday morning, although Jacksonville television stations had already reported the death on Saturday.

Bike%20Derailleur%20Credit.jpgThe driver of the car that hit the bicycle did not stop and there were no eyewitnesses to the hit and run accident. Police are still in search of the driver of the car, and have asked that anyone who knows anything about the accident to come forward.

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Last week a high school student who attended Samuel L. Wolfson High School in Jacksonville was killed in a traffic accident when he was struck twice while crossing Toledo road. According to a report by Jacksonville.com, the student was first hit by a car driven by another 17-year old student. Afterwards, a utility truck ran over the student’s legs.

The case is still under investigation and criminal charges have not been levied against either of the drivers.

Orange%20Pedestrian%20Sign%20Credit.jpgThe Dangers of Being a Pedestrian

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Last week, another fatal accident occurred on Interstate 95 in Jacksonville. According to a report by Jacksonville.com, a man driving a Honda north on Interstate 95 near Bowden Road, when he changed lanes without realizing that another car was occupying the lane. As the driver of the Honda entered the occupied lane, the other driver attempted to avoid the car, but ended up clipping the rear end of the Honda in the process. As a result, the Honda spun out of control, off the road, and into a tree. The driver of the Honda was killed and the passenger was taken to the hospital in critical condition. She is expected to survive. Fortunately, the driver of the second car did not suffer any injuries.

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Driving Requires Full Attention

While this particular stretch of I-95 can be quite busy, the truth is accidents occur on all types of roads. From scenic rural roadways with their hills and curves, to the larger roads connecting the major cities across our beautiful state, accidents happen.

Safe driving requires 100 percent of our attention on any type of road. Most of us drive every day and we get used to the process, forgetting how important it is to stay focused. Many times, drivers do not pay as much attention as they should, engaging in activities like talking on the phone, texting, applying makeup or shaving.

All of these activities constitute what has become known as distracted driving. Distracted driving is responsible for a huge number of traffic accidents and deaths nationwide. In fact, cell phone use causes 28 percent of all car accidents each year, according to the National Safety Council. That amounts to 1.6 million automobile accidents annually that could be prevented if drivers would put their cell phones down while on the road.

In Florida specifically, lawmakers have begun to crack down on distracted driving by enacting laws such as the recent texting ban that went into effect October 1, 2013. The law-which considers texting while driving a secondary offense-is just one step toward the eventual goal of creating safer roadways.
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A woman was killed last Tuesday afternoon when a Dodge Durango crashed into her car as she was waiting to pull out of a church parking lot at 2:30 in the afternoon.

According to a story by Jacksonville.com, the driver of the Durango was traveling at excessive speeds and could not properly negotiate a turn near Zion Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Edgewood Avenue in Jacksonville. As the driver lost control, the Durango slammed into the woman’s car. One passenger from the Durango got out and was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the Durango and the other passenger fled the scene. Police have apprehended the driver, but are still looking for the passenger.

Speeding Remains a Leading Cause of Traffic Accidents

Among all the potential causes for fatal traffic accidents, speeding is still one of the most common. About one third of all fatal traffic accidents are the result of at least one car traveling in excess of the speed limit. In 2007, there were more than 13,000 lives lost in the United States due to speeding. Other major causes of fatal traffic accidents are distracted driving and drunk driving.

According to the American Association of Automobiles, half of the drivers in a recent survey admit to exceeding the speed limit by more than 15% on residential roads and highways. The same survey shows that most drivers consider speeding acceptable.

A significant safety hazard posed by speeding is that it decreases the amount of time it takes a driver to recognize there is a hazard in the road and respond to it. Obviously, a car takes longer to stop the faster it is going. In addition, sometimes drivers don’t realize how tight some turns are. That is what happened in the above story; the driver failed to properly negotiate the turn and ended up losing control of the vehicle.

Consequences of Speeding

Aside from being issued a traffic ticket, paying a fine and possibly adding points to your driving record, a speeder might also face serious civil penalties for an injury or property damage he or she causes as a result of speeding. In many cases, if the injured party can show that the driver was negligent in traveling at the excessive rate of speed, and the driver’s speeding caused the injury or property damage, the injured party can recover monetary damages from the speeder. Aside from compensating the injured party, this serves a useful purpose in deterring dangerous driving habits.

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As a mother and young daughter were on their way to a Yom Kippur service in Jacksonville, they were both hit by a Toyota Camry as they walked across San Jose Boulevard in Jacksonville. The car accident, which occurred last Friday, left the mother dead and the daughter in critical care. The daughter was taken to UF Health Jacksonville, where she is in stable condition.

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According to a story by The Jewish Daily, the driver of the Camry had been involved in another fatal traffic accident in 2006 resulting in the death of a 6-year old girl. That accident occurred while the girl was crossing at a crosswalk with her mother and younger brother. While the driver was not found to be at fault in that particular accident, he did have a significant record of traffic violations dating back several years.

What Does a Previous Accident Mean in Terms of the Driver’s Liability?

If you ask most people whether it is relevant that the driver was involved in a previous fatal accident, many would say yes, it is relevant. However, under Florida law, it is not quite that easy to say. Previous acts that do not constitute criminal acts are admissible in a trial only under certain, limited circumstances.

The law is structured this way to discourage jurors from basing their decision on previous involvments rather than focuing on the current charge. The purpose of a trial is to determine whether the defendant is liable for the accident in question, not an incident that occurred years ago.

However, if the previous accident is introduced for a permissible reason, it might be considered evidence, albeit with a “limiting instruction.” A limiting instruction is basically an instruction that the judge gives to the jury telling them they can only consider the evidence for its proper purpose; the purpose for which it was admitted. In other words, a judge issuing a limiting instruction might say, “You are instructed that the evidence suggesting the defendant was previously involved in a fatal accident is not relevant as to his fault in this accident and is only to be considered for the purpose of understanding his prior driving history.”

Did the City of Jacksonville Play a Role in this Accident?

Orthodox Jews are prohibited from using electric devices on Jewish holidays. In keeping with Orthodox Jewish custom, the woman crossing the street did not push the “walk” button which gave her only 21 seconds to cross the eight-lane intersection. Pushing the button would have given her twice the amount of time to make it across the busy boulevard. Some residents believe that the amount of time given to cross the busy intersection is not long enough, even when the button is pushed.

The Rabbi of Etz Chiam Synogogue, the one the woman and her daughter were planning to attend, says he has contacted a Jacksonville representative to see if the green light could be extended to provide longer times for crossing the street, especially during Jewish holidays. The Rabbi said he never recieved a reply.

Have You Been Involved in an Auto Accident?

If you or a loved one have recently been involved in an auto accident, you should contact an experienced Jacksonville injury attorney. With an attorney’s help, you will best be able to gauge what available options you have and which course of action is best for you and your family. Contact the Lawrence Law Group immediately to discuss the fact of your specific case. As always, there is no risk to speak to an attorney because we do not bill you for anything unless we are able to make recovery for you. Contact us today at (904) 632- 0077.

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On August 26, a 14-year old boy was riding his bike on Sibbald Road in Northwest Jacksonville at one o’clock in the morning when he was fatally struck by a car. According to a story by News4JAX.com, the teen was riding beside two pedestrians when a car, traveling south, collided with the teen, sending him flying into a ditch. The driver of the car did not stop and render aid, and instead chose to flee the scene of the accident.

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While neither of the pedestrians was injured, the teen was found dead by emergency personnel upon their arrival. Charges have not been issued against the driver.

Why Have No Charges Been Filed Against the Driver?

While police were able to quickly find the car that hit the teen and interview the owner, the owner denies that he was driving the car at the time of the accident. Jacksonville Police are still trying to determine who was driving the car.

This is an issue that is not uncommon with hit and run accidents. Due to the nature of a hit and run, the driver is obviously not present at the scene to be identified. In addition, hit and run drivers are not usually the type of drivers who are concerned for fellow citizens (after all, they usually make a conscious decision to flee the scene of an accident rather than stay and render assistance) and might also be prone to lying to police when asked if they were driving the car.

How Do These Cases Get Resolved?

In cases like these, the police have little choice but to hope that either that a camera caught the driver in the act-which is rare-or that an eyewitness will come forward. In this case, police are hoping an eyewitness comes forward. In addition to asking for an eyewitness to come forward, the police have issued a $3,000.00 reward for information leading to the arrest of the hit and run driver.

Hit and Run Accidents in Civil Cases

In cases initiated by the injured or the deceased’s family against hit and run drivers, the fact that the driver fled the scene becomes relevant in proving the driver’s liability to the injured party. If the injured party can show that the driver knew that he hit someone, and chose to flee, this shows the driver’s recklessness and disregard for human life. Juries are likely to consider this fact when determining guilt, as well as any punitive damages that may be at stake.

If the injured party can show that the driver knew he hit someone and chose to flee, then the driver can be held liable for wrongful death. This term refers to a death that is caused due to someone else’s misconduct or negligence.

Wrongful death claims differ from other types of lawsuits because the victim–the person who died– is not the plaintiff. Instead, the suit is brought by the decedent’s family members or members of the estate. The purpose in a wrongful death suit is not to recover damages which are personal to the victim, but to provide compensation to the family members who have suffered emotional and financial harm due to their loved one’s death. Compensation in a wrongful death suit may include an award for loss of support, love, benefits or services of the deceased. Awards may also include compensation may include an award for medical and funeral expenses, punitive damages or for the loss of the deceased’s future wages.

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Last Friday, just before 5 a.m., two people traveling in a minivan died after colliding with a garbage truck on Philips Highway in Jacksonville. According to a story by Jacksonville.com, the minivan was heading southbound on Philips Highway on the inside lane when the garbage truck pulled out in front of it. The garbage truck turned left from the outside lane into the path of the minivan to make a left turn through the median. Not having time to react, the minivan struck the rear end of the garbage truck. The minivan overturned and the driver and the passenger, both males, were found dead when emergency crews arrived shortly thereafter.

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Part of Philips Highway was closed for nearly four hours as Highway Patrol worked to clear the accident. One of the two occupants was wearing a seat belt. The driver of the garbage truck was wearing a seat belt and was not injured.

Collisions involving large trucks and regular size cars are often fatal for the occupants of the car. More than 100,000 people are involved in a collision involving commercial trucks every year. Injuries arising from collisions with garbage trucks are especially severe and often fatal. This is not surprising when you consider that a full size garbage truck weighs about 25 tons, compared to just 4,000 pounds for an average car.

Drivers Must Pay Attention

The law generally requires that all drivers remain attentive while driving, in order to discourage accidents like the one mentioned above; when drivers stop paying attention, people get hurt. To ensure that drivers are attentive, respectful, and take driving seriously, the law provides those injured by inattentive drivers the opportunity to seek compensation for their injuries.

This is called the law of negligence. Negligence, if proven by a plaintiff, can provide actual and, in some cases, punitive damages to the injured party. Punitive damages act to “punish,” or discourage, certain types of behavior. To prove negligence, a plaintiff must show that the other driver acted negligently and that actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

A Recent Example of Punitive Damages

For example, recently some courts across the country have started issuing punitive damages to plaintiffs injured by drivers who were texting while they caused the accident that injured the plaintiff. Assessing punitive damages, which can often be quite hefty in size, is an effective way to discourage behavior that, while it may not be technically illegal, is undesirable and negligent. In fact, texting while driving is actually against the law in Florida as of this year. Drivers cannot be pulled over solely for texting however, as it is considered a “secondary offense.” However, what really may deter drivers from texting is the fact that, if they do cause an accident, they may be responsible for punitive damages if the case is decided against them.

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Yesterday, a Jacksonville Transit Authority bus struck and killed a man shortly after he disembarked. After the man exited the bus, the driver accelerated before returning the wheels to a straight position. Because the wheels were turned sharply to the right, the bus lurched forward to the right. As a result, the bus ran into the passenger, a fence, two signs and a tree. The man was taken to Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

According to Jacksonville Transit Authority records, the bus driver had four previous accidents while on the job. After the first accident in 2001, the driver received a reprimand and a seven-day suspension. She also had to undergo remedial training twice, once after a passenger was hit by the bus’ wheelchair ramp, and again after hitting a pole at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station. The driver is currently on administrative leave while the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office and JTA investigate the accident. With so many accidents, we have to wonder why this driver was still on the road.

The City of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority are entitled to limited sovereign immunity. The doctrine of sovereign immunity stems from centuries old legal principle that the government (or king) should be immune from suit. The Florida Legislature enacted a limited exception allowing for suit against the state and its municipalities in an amount not to exceed $100,000 per person and $200,000.00 in the aggregate. In some intstances, a claims bill can be brought to the Florida Legislature seeking additional funds.

Despite the low levels of these caps, we have sucessfully sued Florida municipalities, including the City of Jacksonville for, among other things: causing automobile accidents, failing to maintain roadways and for premises liability.

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