Our Tampa car accident lawyers know that in any case, it’s important to look beyond the immediate actors involved in determining the full scope of liability.

In cases where multiple vehicles may have been involved, it is especially important to examine all evidence for potential liability.  In the recent case of Pope v. Babick, a couple seriously injured in a California crash took to task not the driver who struck them, but a third driver who reportedly made a negligent lane change that set off a chain reaction, causing the other driver to strike them. Plaintiffs also sued vehicle owner for vicarious liability.brokencar

According to court records, the crash occurred in the summer of 2008 on the highway, when a couple in their 50s in one vehicle was struck by a 19-year-old driver, carrying three passengers. The evidence would later indicate that driver had been drinking the night before on vacation, and hadn’t slept much that night. A third car was driven by a 47-year-old transporting the vehicle to his brother’s home.

On the westbound lanes of the interstate, according to a crash report, the driver of the third car began to change lanes into the lane of the second driver, causing her to swerve to her left. However, to avoid another car, she swerved back to the right. This caused her to lose control of the vehicle, which spun and at some point impacted plaintiff’s vehicle, causing plaintiff vehicle to flip.

The driver of the third vehicle was not involved in the actual impact, and he did not stop at the scene.

Others would later testify the younger driver was speeding, and she too conceded to this fact. However, other drivers who witnessed the incident were concerned enough about the actions of the third driver to write down the license plate and report the information to police.

The accident report indicated the 19-year-old driver caused the crash by initiating an unsafe lane change. Plaintiffs later settled with her and her insurance company.

They they initiated a lawsuit against the third driver. Prior to trial, a judge granted a motion to exclude certain testimony by officers indicating causation. However, that order was violated when defense lawyer when the officer was on the stand. The officer was pressed for information about what he thought caused the crash, and following plaintiff objection, a curative instruction was given to the jury not to consider that information.

Further, the plaintiff’s expert witness, an accident reconstructionist, concluded the young driver had caused the crash by overreacting, due to her inexperience.

The jury found the third driver not negligent.

Plaintiffs appealed to the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, arguing the conclusion was not supported by the evidence, and that defendant’s attorney’s actions warranted a mistrial.

Appellate court affirmed. The defense attorney had been sanctioned, and the jury was given a curative instruction. However, the court declined to find the action so prejudicial as to warrant a mistrial or new trial. Specifically, the testimony given by the plaintiff’s own witness supported the jury’s conclusion.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident in Tampa, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Pope v. Babick, Sept. 18, 2014, California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District, Division Three

More Blog Entries:

Boozer v. Stalley – Florida Court Declines Attorney-Client Privilege Exception in Bad Faith Insurance Claim, Sept. 20, 2014, Tampa Car Accident Attorney Blog