If you’ve lived in Florida long enough, you’re well-aware of the fact that — in addition to palm trees and beautiful beaches — the Sunshine State is home to an astronomical number of car accidents. Sometimes, people get rear-ended because the car in the back failed to keep a safe distance. Other times, a driver may get t-boned at an intersection. Every single one of these events is unfortunate, and the damage can affect even more people when the crash involves three motor vehicles. Who’s at fault in these types of accidents? And, how can you prove it?
3-Car Accidents and Negligence Claims in Florida
To prevail in a negligence claim, you have to prove that the other party (or parties) breached a duty of care and that such a breach was the cause of the accident. You also have to show that your damages are the result of the breach.
Every single motorist who drives on Florida roadways owes a duty of care to other drivers on the road. This duty is breached by anything that would increase the risk of an accident, including:
- Taking your eyes off the road momentarily
- Driving at excessive speeds
- Failing to comply with traffic signs
- Running a red light
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Stopping suddenly
- Knowingly driving with a car that has a mechanical failure
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
If there’s a three-car accident, it’s possible that one single person caused it — such as a speeding motorist who hits the car in front of them, causing a chain reaction that also hits the car in front of that one. But, it’s also possible that more than one person was negligent — such as when a person is speeding, but another driver is scrolling through their phone while driving. This is a crucial component, since Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. For example, let’s say another driver is speeding, so they can’t slow down fast enough and hit a car stopped at a red light. That driver was negligent. But, let’s say that the car they hit had broken brake lights that they had failed to fix. That second driver is also negligent. Therefore, whatever they could recover would be decreased by their own percentage of fault.
How do you prove negligence in a 3-car accident?
There are many elements that come into play in any negligence case. One party could have caused the accident; but — by the same token — more than one person could’ve been responsible for it. The variables include:
- One of the other drivers
- Both of the other drivers
- You (or you, along with one or both of the other drivers)
- A car manufacturer who placed a defective product in the stream of commerce
- A mechanic who failed to notice a defect in a car they were paid to fix
- The Department of Transportation, for failing to keep roads/signs/lights in good condition
In order to prove who was at fault, you have to go through a legal process called discovery. During this process, all the parties to the action try to get all the pieces together to figure out exactly what happened. This includes — but is not limited to — requesting surveillance video (if available), mechanic records (if applicable), information about vehicle recalls (if applicable). If the accident was caused by poor road conditions, missing signs, poor visibility due to bad upkeep, etc, discovery will also involve taking photographs of the scene of the accident.
Lawyers will also want to schedule depositions of opposing parties, witnesses, and applicable experts (such as doctors and accident reconstruction experts). During a deposition, the lawyer who schedules it goes in with a list of questions. The party who’s getting deposed has to answer them under penalty of perjury. The interrogation could last anywhere from a couple of minutes to several days. If the party being deposed has an attorney, their lawyer will object to any questions they don’t deem appropriate. Once everything starts coming together, the parties start settlement negotiations. If there’s no settlement agreement, the case moves on to trial.
Call Clark Law If You’ve Been in a Car Accident in Tampa Bay
If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, and we can help you determine the best next step.