Automobile Accident Death and Trial Aftermath

texting and driving auto accident

Automobile Accidents

Driving is a dangerous activity. Since we get in our cars every day to travel from one place to another, we become accustomed to driving and easily get into “autopilot” mode when behind the wheel.

Because of the nature of driving and the attention it requires, it’s important to be safe, never drink alcohol or take drugs and drive, and be sure to avoid distracted driving. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states the deadliness of distracted driving as so severe, it killed 3,166 people alone in the year of 2017 and 9.5 of all crashes over the past 6 years involved a distracted driver (Source: https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving).

Vehicle Deaths Estimated at 40,000 for Third Straight Year

For the first time since the Great Recession, the U.S. has experienced three straight years of at least 40,000 roadway deaths, according to preliminary estimates released February of 2019. (Source: National Safety Council).

The National Safety Council (NSC) collects fatality data every month from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and uses data from the National Center for Health Statistics, so deaths occurring within one year of the crash and on both public and private roadways – such as parking lots and driveways – are included in the estimates.
To help ensure safer roads, NSC urges motorists to:

    • Practice defensive driving: Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation (such as a rideshare app) to eliminate impaired driving. Get plenty of sleep to avoid driving with fatigue and drive attentively, avoiding distractions such as texting, choosing your favorite Spotify playlist, or even checking your reflection in the mirror.
    • Recognize the dangers of drugged driving, including impairment from prescription opioids. Visit StopEverydayKillers.org to understand the impact of the nation’s opioid crisis.
    • Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits. Stritly prohibit teens from texting and driving under ALL circumstances! Visit DriveitHOME.org for resources.
  • Learn how to use your vehicle’s safety systems. Seems self-explanatory, but not all of us understand how to properly use our vehicle’s safety systems. Visit MyCarDoesWhat.org for information.
  • Fix recalls immediately. Visit ChecktoProtect.org to ensure your vehicle does not have an open recall. It only takes minutes!!
  • Ask lawmakers and state leaders to protect travelers on state roadways. The NSC State of Safety report shows which states have the strongest and weakest traffic safety laws. (Not-so-fun-fact: Florida received a D!!!)
  • Join the Road to Zero to understand how safety professionals are addressing motor vehicle fatalities. Visit nsc.org/roadtozero to get involved.

The above examples are helpful in terms of understanding how car accidents can be prevented by practicing safe driving habits.

Unfortunately, even if you are a safe, attentive driver, you can’t control other motorists behind the wheel. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, click here for information about Car Accident Injuries and taking legal action for deserved compensation.

Accidents can occur in a fraction of a second. All it takes is a quick turn into oncoming traffic or following too closely behind or near another vehicle, and then you’ve been in a collision.

In the event of a fatality, anyone who leaves the scene of an accident will be charged with first-degree felony, which is punishable with fines and prison time. In addition, the defendant’s driver’s license may be revoked.

Florida law requires that you seek medical attention within fourteen days from the time of the accident. Check out our Florida PIP Coverage & What You Need to Know blog for more information about Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage under your Florida auto insurance policy.

Remember that every case is unique. The best way to get a sense of the strength of your claim — and what to expect if you decide to file a lawsuit — is to sit down and discuss your case with an experienced car accident lawyer, such as Brandon Stein who has years of experience representing injury victims in cities all over Florida:

  • Aventura
  • Miami
  • Fort Meyers
  • Tampa

Accidents can occur in a fraction of a second. All it takes is a quick turn into oncoming traffic or following too closely behind or near another vehicle, and then you’ve been in a collision.

With so many factors involved in car accident injury cases, especially those involving wrongful death, every case is unique. Here’s an example of an automobile accident death and trial aftermath, Harrison vs Gregory:
motorcycle crash with ambulance

Jury Verdict Involving Florida Car Accident Death:

Harrison vs. Gregory

In July 2017, the case Harrison vs. Gregory was heard in Orlando, Florida. The outcome of this case looks at an automobile accident death and trial aftermath. As you can see, an automobile accident that results in death does not always create a cut and dry trial. There can be many complications and disagreements that arise in court, challenging who is at fault.

Case Background

Marie Harrison was driving her automobile when she collided with a motorcycle driven by Joshua Raim Kalphat Lopez. Mr. Lopez died as a result of the crash. At the scene of the accident, Ms. Harrison was overheard calling her sister and stating, “I just killed a kid.” This fact was brought up during the trial, but was argued to be inadmissible in court because it doesn’t necessarily imply fault or guilt. Additionally, another witness reported hearing Ms. Harrison make the same statement. Although the court ruled that the first statement was inadmissible in court, the second witness was allowed to testify on what he heard.

The third issue with the trial was that an expert witness mentioned that Ms. Harrison’s car was taken to a storage yard by “the insurance company.” At the mention of the insurance company, Ms. Harrison’s attorneys moved for a mistrial. However, the mistrial was denied but there was no more mention of the insurance company in the case.

In other cases, the mention of the insurance company would not be enough to cause a mistrial. However, it was argued that this, combined with the two witness statements above, did make the refusal to grant a mistrial for referencing the insurance company an abuse of discretion.

Finally, during closing arguments, the plaintiff’s attorney addressed Mr. Lopez’s use of cocaine and marijuana while operating his motorcycle and as a causal factor to the accident. If the jury decided that Mr. Lopez was less than 50% at fault, they would skip certain questions. If he was more than 50% at fault, they would ask more questions.

During the plaintiff’s closing argument, the jury was advised that if they found that Mr. Lopez was more than 50% responsible, then his estate would recover nothing. The court found that comment highly improper.

Case Ruling

Based on the combined effect of all the errors described above (the controversial witness statements, the insurance company reference, and the references to fault and recovering nothing), the court said they could not be viewed as harmless. As a result, Ms. Harrison was granted a new trial.

The Importance of Experienced Car Accident Lawyers for Your Legal Case

So, even if it is clear that an automobile accident results in death, there are still many things that need to be discussed before blame can be placed. If you are currently in a situation where you have been in a car accident that sadly resulted in a death, you need an attorney to navigate these confusing times. SteinLaw is experienced in handling these situations. Contact our car accident injury and wrongful death lawyers at SteinLaw today to learn more. Call now at 877.STEINLAW or text 844.STEIN.99 – (Se Habla Español & Nou pale Kreyòl)

Brandon Stein

Chief Executive Officer

Brandon Stein, the owner and founder of SteinLaw, is a Florida-based trial attorney who focuses on personal injury cases such as wrongful death, car accident, slip and fall, and a variety of other civil litigation areas. Being a former associate at a prominent Florida Defense Law Firm, Brandon Stein understands the strategy and tactics...[READ BIO]