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Time to learn a little Florida law.

A very recent Appellate Opinion underscores some of the problems and issues created when a victim experiences two automobile collisions separated by a short period of time.

STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant, v. JOHN ROBERT WILLIAMS, Appellee. 1st District. Case No. 1D06-1354 (31 Fla. L. Weekly D3104d)

In the first accident, a vehicle driven by an uninsured motorist hit the rear of Williams’ vehicle, after which [Williams] received treatment for back pain. In the second, Williams was a passenger in a vehicle that collided with another vehicle, rendering Williams unconscious, and requiring that he be taken to the hospital.

Williams sued State Farm, his uninsured motorist carrier, seeking damages for injuries allegedly sustained as the result of the first collision. Before trial, State Farm admitted that the uninsured motorist had been negligent, and that Williams had not. Therefore, State Farm also admitted that it was liable for any damages incurred as the result of the first accident. At trial, Williams maintained that it was not possible to apportion damages attributable to injuries allegedly sustained in the two collisions and that, therefore, State Farm was responsible for all damages. …State Farm maintained that damages could be apportioned.

Given the factual setting, a settlement between Williams and the party responsible for the second collision was relevant because it was intended to explain why doctor bills which before the settlement had indicated they were attributable to the second accident began indicating after the settlement that treatment was attributable to the first accident.

The Opinion actually deals with further complications during the trial which involved a motion for a mistrial, jury instructions and objections. All of the complications were related to the unfortunate circumstance of two auto accidents happening within a short period of time.

Over my years of practice, as the Tampa Bay area has become more heavily populated repeat accidents have become more and more common. Whether my client claims that both accidents caused some injury or not there are always complications during the medical care (especially in the medical record notations and billings), during the negotiation process and at any trial that becomes necessary. At times we are forced to bring both accidents before the court in one trial in order to have the jury provide complete justice. At other times, careful attention to the potential complications allows us to achieve fair settlements.

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