Dual Fatal Crash in Martin County on Interstate 95
Two people died and several others were seriously injured when a driver lost control of his pickup truck on a rural stretch of I-95.
The two individuals were passengers in a 2011 Chevrolet Silverado. For unknown reasons, the driver “failed to maintain control” of his vehicle, according to the report. The truck tipped over and tumbled onto a grassy median. It eventually came to reset about twenty yards from the highway. One other passenger was seriously injured in the wreck.
Only one of the deceased victims was wearing a seatbelt.
Passenger Injuries in Florida
Most people do not hesitate to consider legal action when the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was a stranger in another vehicle. But if the tortfeasor was a friend or acquaintance who was driving the car, the dynamic is different.
There are several important points to remember. First, medical providers do not discount their fees because the victim knew the tortfeasor. Someone has to pay the entire bill, and if the accident was not your fault, that person should be someone else. Additionally, individuals are not financially responsible for damages, at least in most cases. Insurance companies have a duty to provide legal representation and also pay compensation. Your friend or acquaintance pays nothing.
Finally, a negligence case is not about “blaming” anyone for the crash. We all cause car crashes and make other mistakes from time to time, and we all must face the consequences of our mistakes.
Legally, passenger injury claims often involve the assumption of the risk defense. This legal doctrine is usually associated with premises liability claims, like dog bites, but it might apply in these situations as well. In Florida, assumption of the risk has two basic prongs:
- Voluntary Assumption: Getting into another person’s vehicle is usually a voluntary act. However, that’s not always the case. For example, the victim might have been stranded without any other way to get where s/he was going. Additionally, victims cannot get out while the car is moving.
- Known Risk: A car wreck is a theoretical risk, even if the tortfeasor was impaired in some way. The risk is only a known one if the victim witnesses the tortfeasor driving erratically or otherwise placing people at risk. And, this behavior must normally be immediately prior to the accident.
The insurance company has the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion in assumption of the risk claims. Lawyers must convince judges the defense applies from a legal standpoint. Then, they must convince jurors that it applies under the facts of that specific case.
The Seatbelt Defense in The Sunshine State
Florida is one of forty-nine states with a mandatory seatbelt law. However, only a few jurisdictions recognize the seatbelt defense, and Florida is one of them. In St. Lucie County, insurance company lawyers may use seatbelt non-use to reduce the victim’s compensation.
The above burden of proof/burden of persuasion discussion applies here as well. First, insurance company lawyers must produce an expert, usually a doctor, who testifies that the lack of a seatbelt substantially caused the victim’s injuries. Florida has a rather strict expert witness standard, so it is not easy to find experts who qualify under the law.
Even if the insurance company clears this hurdle, lawyers must also convince jurors that the lack of seatbelt was a significant factor in the victim’s injuries. Many experts are bright people but they are not very persuasive in court. Additionally, a Port St. Lucie car crash lawyer can cross-examine these witnesses and poke holes in their testimony.
Damages in a car wreck claim usually include money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Connect with an Assertive Lawyer
Even if they were not wearing seatbelts, car accident victims might be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Port St. Lucie personal injury lawyer, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.