Florida Court Discusses Directed Verdicts in Car Accident Cases

Many drivers in Florida either do not have insurance or lack adequate coverage. When drivers with insufficient insurance cause collisions, injured parties often have to look to their own insurers for benefits. People seeking uninsured motorist benefits must still prove liability and causation to recover damages from their insurer, though, as discussed in a recent Florida opinion in which the court reversed a directed verdict in favor of an insured. If you were injured in a crash caused by a driver with inadequate insurance, it is advisable to speak with a seasoned Florida car accident attorney to determine what damages you may be able to recover.

The Accident and Trial

The plaintiff was involved in a collision with the defendant driver that caused her to suffer a knee injury. She filed a lawsuit against the defendant driver and the owner of the vehicle he was driving at the time of the accident. As the defendant driver and owner lacked adequate insurance coverage, she filed an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim against her insurance company as well.

During the trial, the plaintiff filed a motion for a directed verdict on the issues of causation and the permanency of her injury, which the court granted. The jury then issued a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed, arguing that disputed issues of fact existed as to whether the accident caused her alleged harm.

Grounds for Granting a Directed Verdict

On appeal, the appellate court explained that directed verdicts are rarely appropriate in negligence actions. This is because the evidence produced in support of a negligence claim is usually open to more than one interpretation. Essentially, a directed verdict takes the right to have a decision rendered by a jury, which is afforded by the constitution, away from the parties. Thus, they should only be granted when no interpretation of the evidence or any inferences that could reasonably be drawn from the evidence could support a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party.

The court must therefore view the evidence of record in a light that is most favorable to the nonmoving party and derive every possible inference in favor of that party as well. If the parties produce conflicting evidence or opposing inferences can be drawn, a factual dispute exists that must be presented to a jury. The question a judge presented with a directed verdict must ask is not whether a jury should consider an issue to reach a certain verdict but whether it could.

In the subject case, the appellate court noted that simply because the defendant did not produce expert testimony did not mean there were no disputed issues of fact on the cause and permanency of the plaintiff’s injuries that should be submitted to the jury. Thus, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Trusted Florida Attorney

It is not uncommon for motorists with inadequate insurance to cause collisions, and when they do, accident victims often have to turn to their insurers for benefits. If you were hurt in an uninsured motorist accident, trusted Florida attorney Jarrett Blakeley can assess your rights and help you to pursue any benefits and compensation recoverable under the law. You can contact Mr. Blakeley through the online form or by calling (800) 602-5000 to set up a conference.

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