Automotive, Motorcycle and Marine Injury
What's the law?
The law of automobile, train, marine, and motorcycle accidents is diverse. The most pervasive laws are the state motor vehicle and boating laws. These provide a framework for the operation of automobiles and watercraft. Violation of these laws leading to an injury is usually negligence per se. However, the civil laws, not the criminal laws, determine the payment of compensation and the assignment of liability. Thus, even if a person is charged with an accident, he or she may still seek compensation from the other vehicle. Negligence in many states, including Florida, is apportioned according to the principles of comparative negligence. Thus, if a party is 60% at fault for his or her own injuries, he or she may still collect 40% of the loss from the other party. Watercraft operating on navigable waters must, in addition, be aware of a comprehensive set of regulations issued by the United States Coast Guard. Similar comparative negligence principles can apply to violation of Coast Guard regulations, however.
Whenever a mishap occurs, it is vital to ascertain the cause or causes of injury. Were other drivers contributory? Was the car at fault, either by design or by failure of a part? Was the car design inherently unstable? Were the brakes and tires properly installed? These and many other questions can only be answered by intensive investigation. The police investigation is no substitute for a motivated investigation by a private attorney. The investigators must possess a detailed knowledge of the physics of moving bodies and the automobile engineering issues involved. See Mr. Wilner’s essay on transportation physics.
Special types of mishaps
Sport-Utility Vehicles such as the Ford Explorer are the fastest growing section of the automotive market. Although roomy, these cars may have hidden dangers. The firm has been retained to investigate several rollover injuries from these high center-of-gravity vehicles.
The center of gravity or center of mass is a point at which the entire mass of the vehicle can be considered located. When a vehicle turns a corner, it undergoes lateral acceleration. That lateral acceleration is equal to the square of the speed divided by the radius of the corner. This lateral acceleration applies an inertial force to the center of mass. Equivalently, the pavement generates a centripetal force at the contact patches of the tires. When the center of mass is high, there is a greater distance between the contact patches and the center of mass produces rolling moment. The strength of the moment is proportional to the distance between the center of mass and the contact patches times the amount of acceleration. Rollover may occur if the geometry of the vehicle cannot resist the lateral acceleration. Rollover is an extremely hazardous event and accounts for over 30% of highway fatalities.
Our research has shown that certain design features of certain vehicles may make them very dangerous to unwary consumers-especially if they subject to excessive lateral accelerations, such as if they drift off the shoulder of the road or are involved in a collision. The firm is researching documents and interviewing engineers to uncover the design flaws of these popular "SUVs".
Florida has the highest concentration of registered boats in the United States. Unfortunately, marine accidents are more and more common. Marine law is complex and can involve admiralty, the “law of the sea,” laws and regulations of the U.S. Coast Guard and of Florida, E.P.A. and state environmental regulations, and the common law of negligence. Mishaps aboard boats are often severe, and the danger of drowning is always present. Members of the firm regularly operate sail and powerboats and are familiar with the manufacturers and the rules and regulations.
Scuba diving injuries
Florida is a diver's paradise, with offshore reefs and clear water springs. Sadly, there are often serious injuries and drownings while diving. Most of these incidents can be traced to improper equipment, instruction, or supervision. Members of the firm are certified open water and cave divers who have spent many hundreds of hours diving in various locations. They are experienced and knowledgeable about the equipment and hazards faced by undersea divers and can consult on any dive incident.
Major defects have been identified with Firestone and some other time brands. These defects can lead to tire failure and serious injury. The usual mode of failure when a defective tire is involved is called tread separation. Tread separation occurs when there is a localized area of weak bonding between the tire casing and the tread. During normal use the tread flexes at each revolution of the wheel. The area of poor bonding grows minutely and silently, until it fails without warning. The failure can lead to loss of control, rollover, and serious injury. Tires with these defects can be identified by experts after the mishap. It is essential to have an expert evaluate any accident where a tire might have failed. Only through a detailed examination of the tire and the circumstances of the accident can a conclusion be reached about the contribution of a tire defect to an injury.
Our client was driving on a remote rural road in northeast Florida. A train track crossed the road with no warnings or protective bars. A train approached at high speed, struck the car, and seriously injured our client. The railroad claimed that the train had blown its whistle. Our investigation involved surveillance of the crossing to record numerous trains which failed to give the required signals. Faced with the possibility that a jury would conclude that no warning was given, the railroad consented to a favorable settlement.
Thousands of injuries occur each year in motorcycle mishaps. The most common source of injury is collision with an automobile, and usually the automobile driver is at fault. While many injuries are unavoidable, certain injuries would be prevented by better motorcycle crashworthy design, including protection of the lower legs. The firm’s members include active motorcyclists, who are well versed in motorcycle technology and technique and are ready to investigate any motorcycle injury.
Unsafe infant car seats
An infant was seriously injured in a frontal collision when he struck the convenience tray affixed to the infant car seat. Investigation revealed that the tray served no safety purpose and presented a collision hazard. A case against the manufacturer for negligent design is ongoing.
Two deaths from seat collapse-- substantial settlement
Most people are unaware of how poorly designed the seats are in most domestic cars. As two families traveled to Georgia along I-95, they were unaware that the seats in their Chevrolet Lumina had serious defects. When they were rear-ended in a relatively mild collision, their seats collapsed, pulling the driver from the steering wheel and ejecting the passenger to her death. The firm was hired to research why the seats collapsed. Our findings, based on engineering analysis and a trove of previously secret documents from the automotive industry, were shocking-many cars have seats that collapse in 10 mph impacts, and the industry as known about these inadequacies for years. A case was filed against General Motors which was was settled for a substantial sum.
Download our brief in support of punitive damages against GM. The U.S. District Court found in our favor and allowed us to claim punitive damages against General Motors for their reckless disregard of consumer safety in manufacturing inadequate seats.
Double amputation from automobile collision -- $2.5 Million settlement
Our client was standing in front of his van adding oil when the defendant’s Mercedes sped by. A pickup truck pulled in front of the Mercedes and struck it. The Mercedes was deflected into our client, pinning him against his van and traumatically amputating his legs. Although the Mercedes was not initially cited in the accident, investigation revealed that it was speeding, and that the driver had not attempted to brake or otherwise avoid the accident. A settlement for the policy limits of $2.5 million was concluded within 6 months of suit.
Asphyxiations in an RV
Three young men perished in a rented RV, the victims of poisonous carbon monoxide. But where did it come from? The firm’s attorneys, led by Mr. Spohrer, uncovered a hidden defect in the RV that allowed the deadly gas to from the generator to leak into the passenger compartment. When the evidence was brought forward, the manufacturer made a substantial settlement for the families of the victims, and in addition instituted a national recall to repair the problem. Hopefully, the young men did not die in vain if future incidents were prevented by this important detective work.
Drowning in a Florida Spring
One young man drowned in a Florida spring while on an instructional dive. The dive instructor ignored the youth, who inadvertently entered a cave system that was extremely hazardous because of silting and poor visibility. The instructor had not shown the youth the entry to the cave and had failed to monitor his progress. The youth’s body was found over 500' back in the cave. No air remained in his tanks. The firm has determined that the dive instructor and the national certifying organization are at fault, and suit is being prepared.