Elderly Man Seriously Injured in Intersection Crash
An 83-year-old man who apparently pulled out in front of a pickup truck barely survived an intersection collision in Palm Harbor.
The wreck occurred on U.S. Highway 19 near Curlew Road. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the 83-year-old man, who was northbound, tried to make an unprotected left turn against traffic. When he did so, he crossed directly into the path of an oncoming Dodge pickup. The pickup smashed into the other car’s passenger side, propelling it off the road and onto the shoulder.
The Dodge driver was not hurt.
Fault vs. Liability in Car Wreck Claims
This distinction is often important in intersection collision claims in general, and in left-turn crashes in particular.
Insurance companies almost always assign fault to the driver who broke a safety law by crossing the center line, failing to yield the right-of-way, or whatever. But this preliminary determination often does not hold up in court, mostly because of the last clear chance doctrine.
Assume Billy, who is southbound, crosses the center line, perhaps because he is trying to pass another vehicle. Mandy, who is on the northbound side, sees Billy coming, but she does nothing to prevent the crash. She does not slow down or swerve out of the way.
An insurance company would almost certainly fault Billy for the wreck. However, legal liability could be different. Arguably, Mandy had the last clear chance to avoid the crash. Since she did not take advantage of this chance, she could be legally responsible for damages, although she did nothing wrong.
Note that there is a difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. Environmental conditions, traffic conditions, and other variables could make such emergency maneuvers very dangerous. So, if Mandy tried to swerve out of Billy’s way, she might have caused a more serious wreck than the one she prevented.
So, no matter who the insurance company finds was at fault, always have a Tampa personal injury attorney evaluate your claim. You never know what compensation you might be entitled to until you ask.
Insurance Company Defenses
Last clear chance is often an effective insurance company defense in these situations. If it applies, it excuses negligence. However, as outlined above, the last clear chance doctrine only applies in limited situations.
Intersection and other such crashes might also involve the contributory negligence defense. Unlike last clear chance, this doctrine does not flip liability. Rather, comparative fault shifts part of the blame for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim.
If both parties shared legal responsibility, the jury must apportion fault between them on a percentage basis. Florida is a pure comparative fault state. So, even if the tortfeasor was only 1 percent responsible for the wreck, the tortfeasor is liable for a proportionate share of damages.
Insurance companies have the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion in this area. First, insurance company lawyers must convince a Hillsborough County judge the defense is available. That means there are specific facts which indicate joint responsibility. Second, insurance company lawyers must convince jurors of the same thing.
So, an attorney has two chances to halt, or at least limit, the comparative fault defense and thus maximize compensation. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
Intersection collision claims are usually quite complex. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa car accident lawyer, contact Mark H. Wright, PLLC. We routinely handle matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.