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Husband and Wife Die in Accident with Garbage Truck

Chris Russo Dec 3, 2013

This accident appears to have occurred as a Republic garbage truck attempted to cross the road and, in doing so, collided with two people on a motorcycle.  The accident occurred after Stanley and Yvette Cox left Lake Miriam Plaza Publix Supermarket on South Florida Avenue in Lakeland.  The garbage truck was pulling out from the Grove Glen west subdivision and needed to cross Lakeland Highlands Road.  The garbage truck pulled out directly into the path of the motorcycle according to the article written in The Ledger about this accident.  The garbage truck was headed toward the Grove Glen east subdivision.  It was reported that Cox attempted to take evasive action but the impact occurred anyway.  Stanley Cox was found next to the motorcycle while Yvette Cox was found under the truck.  The garbage truck was reported to make an emergency stop after the collision.  Lakeland Highlands Road was closed between Clubhouse Road and CR540A for almost 4 hours.

This accident presents some unique legal issues.  In many areas, garbage pickup is a service provided a municipality and are sometimes employees of the municipality.  Those municipalities have sovereign immunity, which means that a person can only sue for damages within the allowable limits.  In other areas, garbage pickup is done by a contract with a private company and the private company does not enjoy sovereign immunity even though they are contracted by the government.  Such a private company almost always has insurance and their liability is not usually limited.  A further legal issue presented in this case is that of wearing a motorcycle helmet.  In recent years, the Florida Legislature abolished the requirement to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle.  While the Legislature did this, they did not specify what who would be responsible for injuries caused in accidents by not wearing helmets.  Case law prior to the new law generally took the position that the failure to wear a motorcycle helmet was equivalent to failing to wear a seatbelt.  Therefore, failing to wear a motorcycle helmet would be considered comparative fault and would function to limit the liability of the person who caused the accident.  However, after the new law, there is still an obligation to wear a seatbelt in Florida but there is not a requirement to wear a motorcycle helmet.  One important thing to consider in a case like this is whether the helmets, if worn, would have made any difference and what kind of a helmet would they have worn.  If the Cox's died of anything other than "head injuries", then it may fairly be said that a motorcycle helmet would not have saved their lives.  For instance, if their necks were injured in the collision resulting in a severe spinal cord injury, then a helmet would not have prevented that injury.  On the flip side of that equation, if there was not a spinal cord injury and the person died of a "brain injury", then a helmet may have made a significant difference.  I have personally seen cases where a motorcyclist died as a result of a collision without a helmet but there were "facial injuries."  In at least one of those cases, the cause of death was from asphyxiation due to soft tissue swelling of the airway rather than a head injury.  Therefore, in that case, a helmet would not have made a difference as the vehicle would have protruded into the facial opening of any motorcycle helmet and the person would have died anyway but for someone opening the airway timely at the scene of the accident.  I know that this is a gruesome issue to discuss, however, there are motorcycle accidents occurring every day in central Florida with people being seriously hurt or killed.  I personally believe that the law should be changed back to require motorcycle helmets on all persons riding motorcycles, however, I am simply a lawyer and not a legislator.  While I would agree that the best practice in riding a motorcycle is to do absolutely everything that you can possibly to do to save yourself from an injury while riding, I would not agree that the law requires that or that the motorcyclist should be penalized for not using equipment that is not mandated by law.  If you or a loved one has suffered an injury on a motorcycle, then you should speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss the legal aspects of the injury.  There are important decisions that need to be made after an accident on a motorcycle and you need the right lawyer who is going to be straightforward and honest with you about the issues that you and your family face in such a time of need.  The attorneys at Moody Law are here to help you with those issues.

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