With a population of 182,437, Fort Lauderdale is a large city. Add to that the thousands of people who show up for spring break and the summer tourist season each year and accidents are bound to happen. People drive under the influence, some are just learning how to drive, and some are just not good drivers. With the city’s crowded streets, it’s the perfect storm that leads to many car accidents.
Common Causes of Car Accidents
Even with the new safety technology in today’s vehicles, including backup cameras and forward collision systems, the Fort Lauderdale area still sees too many car accidents. The causes vary and include driver error and factors outside of the driver’s control. No matter the reason, a car accident can significantly change an accident victim’s life. While many accidents result in injuries that heal within weeks or maybe a few months, some victims suffer catastrophic injuries that lead to long-term or permanent disabilities, while others lose a loved one in the crash.
One of the top reasons for car accidents is distracted driving. Most people think of texting or talking on the phone as distracted driving, but it includes much more. Even a phone conversation using a hands-free device can distract a driver. Eating, applying makeup, reading a book or newspaper, fiddling with the radio and climate controls, constantly looking at kids in the rearview mirror, and even having a conversation with someone in the front passenger seat are all forms of distracted driving.
Driving Under the Influence
Drunk driving, driving while high on illicit drugs, legal prescription drugs, and/or illegal prescription drugs are all driving under the influence. About 28 people die every day in an accident caused by someone who chose to drive under the influence.
People who live in and visit the Fort Lauderdale area for the beaches and the nightlife drink and drive far too often. Even driving after one drink can cause a driver to make dangerous decisions behind the wheel.
People choose to speed for many reasons. A person might speed because they are late to work or an appointment. Or that person might speed because they are upset or are running from the police. Speeding is a form of reckless driving. Even driving a few miles per hour over the speed limit can cause an accident.
Roads have speed limits for a reason. Engineers determined a safe speed for the road and neighborhood in good road conditions. Roads that need repair or bad weather make speeding even more dangerous.
Ignoring Traffic Signals
People ignore traffic signals for all kinds of reasons. After a car accident, many drivers say they did not notice that the light was red, that they tried to beat a yellow light, or allege that they did not see a stop sign. Regardless of why they ignore a traffic signal, a driver who does so can cause a car accident. Some drivers even ignore extremely important traffic control signs that tell them to yield or slow for children, merge. Ignoring any traffic control device can cause an accident and, depending on the circumstances, that mistake can be deadly.
Reckless and Aggressive Driving
There’s a fine line between reckless driving and aggressive driving. Both involve driving behaviors like weaving in and out of traffic, frequently changing lanes, tailgating, riding another driver’s bumper, flashing lights and honking the horn at other drivers, and other dangerous behavior.
When a driver engages in two or more reckless acts, they are engaging in aggressive driving. For example, a driver weaving in and out of traffic is driving recklessly, but they are driving aggressively if they do it while speeding. Eventually, a driver’s aggressive behavior catches up to them, and the driver ends up wrecking, and the results can be devastating for other drivers on the road.
Fatigue and Tiredness
Fatigue is not the same as being tired. If a person is tired, a good night’s sleep will have them feeling refreshed again. But if they are fatigued, they lack energy and motivation. Fatigued or extremely tired driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving because fatigue also impairs a driver’s ability to focus and make decisions on the road.
When people think of weather-related accidents, they often think of snow and ice. However, rain and sun can also make driving conditions dangerous.
Fort Lauderdale can get some whopper rain storms in the afternoons. The rain comes down hard and fast, which causes flooding. Even light rain can make the roads slippery. Oil on the roads floats on top of the water, making the situation worse. Tires do not have the same grip in the rain as they do on dry roads.
The sun can also cause accidents. Sometimes, the sun's angle is such that not even visors and sunglasses can help a driver see better. The sun in a driver’s eyes can momentarily blind them—and that is all it takes—a few seconds at 55 miles per hour to run into someone or something.
High winds can also cause accidents. The wind can easily tip tall vehicles like buses or big rigs over and these large vehicles can land on top of other vehicles, causing severe injuries and even death.
Road conditions can also cause accidents. Potholes, cracks, sandpits on the side of the road, and other hazardous conditions can cause a person to lose control of their vehicle. And, after a heavy rain, if the road washes out, especially on a road with a higher speed limit, drivers might not notice the washout until it is too late. These conditions can cause drivers to swerve at the last minute, slam the brakes on at the last minute, or even hit something that could cause the vehicle to careen out of control.
Defective parts are a common cause of accidents. We describe some of the most common vehicle defects below.
- Manufacturer defects. In some cases, vehicles can have defects right from the manufacturer. It takes many complaints about a defect for the manufacturer to issue a recall, and vehicle owners don’t always know that a manufacturer issued a recall for their vehicle’s make and model.
- Aftermarket part defects. All vehicles need repair sooner or later. Replacement parts can be defective, whether they are original equipment or aftermarket parts. While auto technicians usually inspect parts before they put them into a vehicle, they cannot always see defects with a surface-level inspection. For example, a brake pad might look just fine to the naked eye, but as soon as a driver puts excessive pressure on the brakes, the defective pad could disintegrate.
- Auto technician error. Even if the parts are fine, an auto technician can make a mistake when making repairs to a vehicle. When a technician takes something apart on a vehicle to repair it or replace a part, they often need to keep track of many bolts. If the tech puts the wrong bolt in the wrong place, the part could fall off or otherwise malfunction and cause an accident.
- Lack of maintenance. Sometimes, the auto tech and the vehicle or part manufacturer are not to blame. If the vehicle owner does not bring their vehicle in for repairs and maintenance, worn parts can cause the driver to lose control. For example, if the owner does not replace a vehicle's worn brakes, the fault lies with the vehicle owner who did not repair the vehicle when they should have.
Car Accident Injuries
The type of injuries accident victims suffer in a car accident can depend on the circumstances.
Factors that can determine the severity of injuries or death include:
- The size of the vehicles involved.
- The number of vehicles in the wreck.
- The speed the vehicles were going at the time of the accident.
- Objects, including vehicles and trees, in the path of the vehicles involved.
- The environment, such as whether the road is gravel, cement, paved, or if the vehicles are in a parking lot, on a highway, or a surface road.
Injuries victims might suffer include:
- Cuts, scrapes, scratches, bumps, and bruises.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles, and other soft tissue injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Amputation of a digit or limb during the accident.
- Road rash.
- Chemical and thermal burns.
Accident victims can also suffer secondary injuries, such as infections. Victims are more likely to suffer infections if they have underlying conditions such as diabetes, immunodeficiencies, or are taking medication that lowers their white blood cell count. Because the accident victim wouldn’t have suffered the secondary injuries if it weren’t for the defendant’s actions, they may also hold the defendant responsible for expenses related to those secondary injuries.
Recovering Damages After a Car Accident
In Florida, an accident victim can recover compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages include economic damages and non-economic damages.
A court orders compensatory damages in an attempt to make the victim financially whole again. While money cannot take away the injuries or any long-term or permanent disabilities the injuries caused, nor can it bring back a loved one, it can reduce some of the financial stress a victim suffers because they cannot work or because they lost a loved one who provided income and love for their family.
Economic damages, sometimes also called special damages, have an easily calculated monetary value and can include:
- Past medical expenses incurred because of the accident and before a settlement or a trial award.
- Future medical expenses incurred because of the accident and after a settlement or a trial award.
- Past lost wages lost from the accident date until the time of a settlement or a trial award.
- Future lost wages lost after a settlement or a trial award. A victim might also receive partial future lost wages if they can work after the accident, but they cannot work in the same capacity and for the same income as they did before the accident.
- Loss of quality of life if a victim has to take medications or use ambulatory aids for the rest of their life.
- Loss of companionship if the victim can no longer enjoy family activities and events.
- Loss of consortium if the victim can no longer have a physical relationship with their spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a hand or foot.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as eyesight or bladder control.
- Amputation, whether doctors could not save a limb or digit injured in the accident or because the victim developed gangrene because of an open wound or an underlying condition made worse because of accident injuries.
- Extensive scarring and disfigurement.
The court only orders punitive damages if the victim can prove grossly negligent actions or inactions caused the accident. The court only orders punitive damages to punish the defendant’s egregious behavior, not to compensate the victim for their losses.
In Florida, a victim also has to take the extra step of pursuing a second trial for punitive damages. Since a victim can only receive punitive damages if the court first orders the defendant to pay compensatory damages, the law requires victims to prove that the defendant was grossly negligent after the first trial for compensatory damages ends. The victim does so in front of the same jury and same judge.
Contact a car accident lawyer as soon as you can to find out what damages, if any, you may seek for the damages you suffered in your Fort Lauderdale car crash.