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Church Van And BMW Collide Near Port St. Lucie

Authorities are still investigating a serious vehicle crash in Delray Beach that killed one person and injured at least twelve others.

The wreck occurred at the intersection of Lake Ida and Davis Roads. A BMW, which was apparently turning left from Davis onto Lake Ida, collided with a church van that was carrying eleven people. First responders had to use the Jaws of Life to free at least one occupant from the crushed BMW; a woman in the passenger seat was seriously injured and pronounced dead at the scene. Ten people in the church van were all treated for various injuries, but they are all expected to survive.

Almost exactly a year before this crash, a Fort Pierce-area church van plunged over an embankment in a similar wreck. That March 2015 crash killed eight people and injured ten others.

Comparative Fault

In many vehicle collisions, more than one driver contributed to the crash. For example, in the above story, it appears that the church van may have failed to yield to traffic and the Mercedes-Benz may have failed to stop completely before entering an intersection. In situations like this, Florida is one of only twelve states that apply a pure comparative fault statute. This rule is harshly criticized by some, because a plaintiff could theoretically be almost entirely at fault and still recover damages.

Assume that Peter Plaintiff is travelling at 45mph in a 40mph zone when David Defendant, who is intoxicated, runs a red light and broadsides Peter. Legally speaking, either driver could be considered liable for the other party’s damages. But most jurors would conclude that David was mostly, or perhaps even entirely, at fault for the crash.

The jury or other factfinder must divide fault on a percentage basis. If the damages were $50,000 and the jury concludes that Plaintiff was 30 percent at fault and Defendant was 70 percent at fault, Plaintiff would recover $35,000 (70 percent of the total).  If the percentages were flipped, a Plaintiff would still recover $15,000. Most states have a 50 or 51 percent cutoff.

Third Party Liability

Church buses and other similar vehicles are always interesting cases, in terms of respondeat superior. This rule makes employers liable for the negligent acts of their employees. Many times, the driver was an unpaid volunteer, so the church often argues that the driver was not an “employee” in the legal sense of that word.

But, for negligence purposes, most courts define “employ” as “suffer or permit to work.” So, workers who are volunteers or interns for most other purposes are usually still employees for car crash purposes. The same logic applies if the worker was classified as an “independent contractor.”

According to respondeat superior doctrine, employers are liable for damages if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was an employee who was acting within the course and scope of employment at the time of the vehicle wreck.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Car crashes often involve complex legal issues. For a free consultation with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. An attorney can arrange for victims to receive ongoing medical care, even if they have no money and no insurance.

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