Orlando Car Accident Involving Passenger Injuries & One Fatality
As an Orlando car accident attorney, sometimes I receive calls from Florida injury victims who were passengers in the car with the at-fault driver.
Just this week in the news, for example, a young man named Jacob Johnson was driving in Polk County (Oviedo), going westbound on I-4 near State Road 559, when he lost control of his car. The vehicle first hit the the median guardrail, then spun across the entire interstate, then went up the side of the road shoulder, flew into the air, and rammed into the concrete overpass.
This was an unimaginably tragic Orlando car accident. One of the young passengers, Donald Johnson (19), died at the scene. Two other passengers, Nicholas Salomone (20), and Hanna Schagrin (20), are in serious condition. The driver, Jacob Johnson, is also in critical condition.
What Might Cause An Orlando Car Accident Where The Car Driver Lost Control?
Although Florida Highway Patrol said that drunk driving did not appear to be a factor in this Orlando car accident, something obviously went very wrong. My random guess is either that distracted driving was involved, such as the driver texting while driving, changing radio stations, eating, or even talking with the passengers. Or, possibly another vehicle forced them off the road? I can’t know for sure without talking to witnesses. There is probably a smaller percentage chance that something went wrong with his vehicle, such as malfunctioning brakes, steering control, or something similar.
In any event, there is a strong likelihood that any of those injured in this Orlando car accident, or the family member of the victim who died, could recover money for their injuries or losses. That includes the driver, although the driver recovering money might be a long-shot. Recovery for the driver depends a lot on what happened. Recovery for the passengers is almost certain, as long as there is sufficient insurance coverage.
May Passengers Recover Money If They Were Driving With The At-Fault Driver?
Sometimes passenger victims in the car with the at-fault driver do not understand that they can recover money from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. But they almost always can, as long as the driver has bodily injury coverage on his auto policy. And as long as some freak accident, completely out of the driver’s control, wasn’t the cause. Those are exceptionally rare exceptions.
However, sometimes the insurance company defense attorneys may argue that the passengers contributed to an Orlando car accident. If they did, then they might be responsible for some percentage of their injuries. The reason is that Florida has a rule called “comparative negligence.” That means, in accident & injury cases, jurors can assign percentage blame to anyone involved.
So, let’s just say the passengers were distracting the driver (like putting a cell phone in front of his face to show him something). Then the defense lawyer might argue that the jury should find them some percentage responsible. If the jury agrees, then they might say the driver was 80% responsible, and the passenger was 20% responsible. If the jury found that the passenger had 300,000 in damages from the car crash, the judge would reduce their recovery by 20% (using that example, the passenger would only recover 240K, or 80% of his damages).
This reminds me of a car accident case in the news in 2013, where a passenger untied the bikini top of a young woman driver. She lost control of the vehicle, and that same passenger died. In that case, the courts decided that the driver had no responsibility for the accident. So unusual facts can clear the driver of responsibility. But, in most cases, the driver has a large percentage of the responsibility.
Do Passengers Have To Sue Friends Or Family Members Who Caused The Accident?
This week I had discussions with a family member who felt terrible about suing another family member. But, as I explained, sometimes in legal cases, even spouses sue each other. Orlando auto accident attorneys are usually trying to recover the auto insurance policy money from the at-fault driver. With rare exceptions for high asset or wealth defendants, injury attorneys usually are not trying to get the individual driver’s assets (often because Florida’s collection law, combined with bankruptcy, makes collecting individual assets extremely unlikely and/or impossible). So I try to make victims understand that we are really battling the insurance company.
Sometimes victims want to explain, to their friends and family, why we might have to sue them. Explaining why we are filing against them may or may not be a good idea, depending on what evidence will be needed to explain the cause of the Orlando car accident. So making that decision (regarding what to say to family or friends you might need to sue) should only be done in careful consultation with an Orlando auto accident attorney. But, no matter what, you should understand that you will not have to “go after” your friend or family member. Plus, in the end, they will learn that their insurance company is likely to pay.
Usually, those who caused any Orlando car accident understand the need for victims to recover money for extensive medical treatment, and pain and suffering.
Can The Driver Recover Any Money After Losing Control Of His Vehicle?
Whether the driver can recover any money for this type of Orlando car accident depends entirely on the facts. If another driver forced him off the road, then he might have a good claim for his own injuries. Or, if something went wrong with the vehicle, there may be some other responsible party, such as someone who didn’t repair brakes properly, or a vehicle manufacturing defect. Also, as in the bikini top example above, if a passenger played a big role in causing the accident, then the driver might recover some money. In those situations, whether there would be available insurance coverage would also be a complicated question, requiring analysis of each potential policy involved in the accident, and what type of coverage might be available.
If you were a passenger or driver injured in an Orlando car accident, then I’d be glad to discuss whether anyone else might have any legal responsibility for your injuries.
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