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October 2015 Archives

Safety Alert: Have Your Tires Been Recalled?

At a recent meeting in Washington, accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, reported that the federal recall system that is supposed to keep potentially dangerous car tires off the road is "completely broken." While each year tire problems cause 33,000 accidents, and only one in five defective tires is being taken out of service via recalls. Investigators found that more than half of recalled tires remain in use.

Safety Alert: DOT Considers Requiring Auto-Breaking Systems

Recently, the Federal Department of Transportation issued a press release saying it has begun to work and assess whether it is necessary to enact a federal rule to require new trucks to be equipped with crash avoidance systems that automatically brake without driver input. The DOT's comments came in response to a petition filed in February by several pro-regulatory agencies like the Truck Safety Coalition, the Center for Auto Safety, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Road Safe America. The recommendation has also been issued by the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board). The DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( the agency responsible for such a mandate) did not say when it would make a decision to create a rule or not. Nonetheless, the Administration has been studying and will continue to study the systems and its decision will be "made after study of the requested action and the various alternatives in the course of the rulemaking proceeding."

Florida Insurance Requirements

This past Thursday, there was a tragic accident that occurred right in the heart of Destin. A Niceville man was heading north on Danny Wuerffel Way around 8 p.m. on a 1985 Harley-Davidson when a 2007 Expedition, driven by a man from Arkansas turned left in front of him. The significance of the impact killed the driver, and his 17-year-old passenger was reported to be in serious condition at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. Unfortunately, the Niceville man was not wearing a helmet. The Expedition sustained $6,000 worth of damage in the crash, according to the FHP media release, and the Harley-Davidson sustained $10,000 in damages. FHP is investigating the crash.

Pedestrian Deaths In Florida

A pedestrian is dead after he was struck by a car while walking along a road in Jackson County. It happened on Highway 231 near Dionne Road around 8 p.m. Tuesday. Florida Highway Patrol says a 47 year old male was driving on Hwy 231 in a Toyota Tacoma while a 61 year-old male, was walking along the same road. Authorities noted that it was dark with no artificial lighting on the roadway and that the Tacoma traveling in the outside lane, failed to see the pedestrian. After the right front of the truck hit the pedestrian, he was taken to Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan, Alabama, for treatment but was later pronounced dead by hospital staff. The crash investigation continues, according to FHP.

Alarming Statistics For Teens Driving

Saturday afternoon, a tragic accident occurred on Highway 231. According to FHP, two 17-year-old males were on the side of Highway 231 changing a tire Saturday afternoon. Subsequently, they pulled back onto the road, allegedly not looking to see if there were any oncoming vehicles and hit a motorcycle which had two people on it. Both people were thrown from the motorcycle. FHP reports that the passenger on the motorcycle died and the driver of the motorcycle is in critical condition at Bay Medical Center. Both people on the motorcycle were wearing helmets.

Florida Supreme Court: Collateral Source Rule & Medicare

Are Medicare benefits a collateral source that a jury should consider when determining future damages? The Florida Supreme Court said NO in Joerg v. State Farm. John Joerg, Jr., etc. et. al v. State Farm Mutual Insurance Co. (October 15, 2015).

Car Accidents: The Rear-End Collision Rule

Northwest Florida Daily News reports that a three-car collision on the Mid-Bay Bridge on Monday night sent one driver to a local hospital. The accident happened about 9:30 p.m. when a car driven by 25-year-old male from Niceville failed to stop for slower traffic. He was driving north on the bridge when he struck a Mercedes driven by a 44-year-old male from Niceville, whose car then hit a Toyota driven by 25-year-old male from Niceville. The 25 year-old who caused the collision had minor injuries but was not taken to the hospital. The male driving the Mercedes whose vehicle was sandwiched between the two, was taken to Twin Cities Hospital with serious injuries. The 25 year-old male was charged with careless driving.

Florida Shows A Sharp Increase In Motorcycle Fatalities

The Northwest Florida Daily News reports a Laurel Hill motorcyclist was killed late Friday around 9:40 p.m. when he was struck head-on by another vehicle while traveling on U.S. Highway 90 in the Holt community, The 51 year-old male was riding a 2014 Harley-Davidson motorcycle east on U.S. Highway 90, approaching a 2001 Saturn driven by 21-year-old male of Milton. The Saturn was headed west, veered into the oncoming lane and hit the Harley-Davidson before traveling another 500 feet down the road. The male and his motorcycle were thrown to the shoulder of the road, and he died at the scene of the accident. The driver of the Saturn was taken to North Okaloosa Medical Center with minor injuries. He was released at 3:40 a.m. Saturday and immediately charged with DUI Manslaughter and driving without a valid driver's license, the news release said.

Distracted Driving On The Rise

A Honda Civic with six people inside was headed east on Sunday afternoon when the vehicle crossed the center line for an unknown reason and skidded into the oncoming lanes, according to a crash report. A westbound pickup truck hit the car's passenger side, ejecting all six occupants, the crash report said. FHP say the 32-year-old female was a passenger in the Honda Civic. The driver's name is listed as "unknown" and FHP says that person died as a result of the accident. The driver's name will be released pending further investigation.The female driver was taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital in critical condition. She was the only one in the Civic who survived the accident. The other occupants, a 43 year old male and 4 children, ages 7, 6, 15 and 3 lost there lives in the accident. All of the Honda passengers were from Winder, Georgia.

Fatal Car Accidents Are More Common On Rural Roads

Early last Saturday morning, a male was driving his motorcycle south on SR-77 when a second driver merged into the south lane of SR-77 from the central median divide and side swiped the motorcycle. The front of the motorcycle collided with the left side of the vehicle. The driver of the motorcycle fell off his motorcycle and is now in critical condition at Bay Medical Center. Officials say the driver of the motorcycle was wearing a helmet, and at this time charges are pending. Early last Sunday morning, another horrible accident happened on another rural road in Bonifay. According to FHP, the driver and the passenger were heading southbound on CR-173 when they passed another vehicle in a "no passing zone." The driver of the vehicle lost control and entered into a ditch. The vehicle overturned several times and the two occupants were ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead on scene. Officials say neither occupant was wearing a seatbelt, and alcohol may have been a factor. At this time officials are still investigating who was driving the car at the time of the crash.

Agritourism Activities: Safety and Liability

We recently went to a farm for pumpkins, sunflowers and fall festivities. As we bounced up and down on the hayride, I started to think about the possible liabilities in "agritourism". I expect that inviting the public to your farm increases your liability and legal responsibilities. First, what is an agritourism activity? An "agritourism activity" is any agricultural related activity consistent with a bona fide farm or ranch or in a working forest which allows members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, to view or enjoy activities, including farming, ranching, historical, cultural, or harvest-your-own activities and attractions. An agritourism activity does not include the construction of new or additional structures or facilities intended primarily to house, shelter, transport, or otherwise accommodate members of the general public. An activity is an agritourism activity regardless of whether the participant paid to participate in the activity. In 2013, Florida passed a law limiting the legal liability of landowners, agritourism operators, and employees for the inherent risks associated with the activity. This protection is afforded to those who post a notice of the risks. What is considered an inherent risk? Inherent risks of agritourism activity means those dangers or conditions that are an integral part of an agritourism activity including certain hazards, such as surface and subsurface conditions; natural conditions of land, vegetation, and waters; the behavior of wild or domestic animals; and the ordinary dangers of structures or equipment ordinarily used in farming and ranching operations. The term also includes the potential of a participant to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to the injury of the participant or others, including failing to follow the instructions given by the agritourism operator or failing to exercise reasonable caution while engaging in the agritourism activity.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

In Progressive American Insurance Company v. Grossi, 164 So. 3d 790 (Fla 5th DCA 2015) John Grossi was the named insured of an automobile insurance policy. His wife, Judy, was also insured by and through the Progressive insurance policy. After an automobile accident, Progressive denied John's claim for Uninsured/Under-Insured motorist benefits ("UM benefits"). Progressive established that Judy had changed the policy by making a modification (rejecting UM benefits). At the trial court, a summary judgment was entered in favor of John and Judy Grossi; Progressive appealed. The question on appeal was whether Judy Grossi had authority to reject UM coverage as her husband's actual or apparent agent. John claimed that Judy did not have actual or apparent authority to decline the valuable UM coverage. John argued that only he (the named insured) had the authority to reject UM coverage. Progressive disagreed and asserted that the wife was acting within the actual or apparent authority of her husband and that her rejection was of UM coverage was valid. Florida's Fifth District Court of Appeal held that the named insured could reject uninsured motorist coverage through an agent. Furthermore, the court found that there was a plethora of evidence to support the insurer's position, including but not limited to Judy's numerous modifications of the policy in the past. Thus, the court reversed the trial court's order granting summary judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for determination of disputed issues of material fact.

Pre-existing Injuries And Personal Injury Claims

This year, Florida's Second District Court of Appeal weighed in on whether or not a pre-existing injury unrelated to a car accident was relevant and discoverable by the defendant. In Muller vs. Walmart Stores, the plaintiff alleged he sustained an injury at a distribution center when he was struck by a truck owned by Walmart and driven by one of it's employees. During discovery (the information gathering phase of the case), plaintiff revealed he had served in the U.S. army and had three different injuries in that time period. The plaintiff stated that he was not asking money for the aggravation of those prior injuries. Regardless, the defendant requested the plaintiff's entire military personnel file, some of which is classified as sensitive information. The plaintiff argued these records were irrelevant to the case at hand. The trial court granted the defendant's request, but the appellate court reversed. The appellate court found that, while there may be relevant information in the plaintiff's military records, the records also contain a lot of information that would not be pertinent to the present case. Thus, permitting the defendant access to the records would be "highly intrusive to [the plaintiff's] private interests." Consequently, the case was remanded (sent back) to the trial court, so that the trial court could receive the military file, review it, and only disclose the relevant documents to the defendant. Muller vs. Walmart Stores Inc., 164 So.3d 748(Fla. 2nd DCA 2015) To read the appellate decision: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/fl-district-court-of-appeal/1701679.html

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Our legal team consists of attorney Wm. Dennis Brannon and his son C. Paul Brannon. We work together as a father and son team to provide our clients with exceptional service and solutions in motor vehicle accident claims and other personal injury matters.

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