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Fault in Alabama Car Accident Cases: Zito v. Advanced Medical Services

May 20, 2012 - Car Accidents by

The roads can be dangerous for anyone driving. One moment of careless driving in Tuscaloosa can lead to a lifetime of injuries.
If you have been in an accident and need guidance to get the compensation you deserve, it is critical for you to have an experienced Tuscaloosa injury attorney.

Recently the Louisiana courts dealt with a lawsuit arising from an unusual vehicle accident. This case arose in 2006 when an ambulance had to pull over to the shoulder of a four lane highway to deal with transmission problems. Zito v. Advanced Emergency Medical Services, Inc., No. 2011-C-2382 (La. May 8, 2012).The ambulance was covered in reflective tape making it highly visible to cars on the highway, from a far distance. This ambulance was owned by Advanced Emergency Medical Services, Inc. (Advanced) and insured by Empire Indemnity Insurance Company (Empire).

Later in the evening, Jeryd Zito (Zito) was driving his pickup truck on the same highway in the right lane. Zito was going about 60 to 65 miles per hour, and he did not see the ambulance despite the reflective tape. Thus, Zito smashed into the left rear corner of the ambulance owned by Advanced. Because of the extent of the ambulance skid marks, it was determined that the ambulance had been parked five feet to the right of the right travel lane of the highway. An investigation found that Zito had not stepped on the brakes before he crashed into the ambulance, but was driving carelessly while playing with his cell phone.

A thorough investigation also revealed that Zito was under the influence of several prescription narcotic drugs. He had obtained these drugs because he was suffering from a previous back injury. However, Zito testified that the drugs did not impair his ability to drive, and he simply had not seen the ambulance. The police arrived at the scene and issued Zito a ticket for careless driving. Zito suffered significant injuries and property damage.

Zito argued that Advanced should be held liable for his injuries because the ambulance was parked negligently on the side of the highway. Zito asserted that the negligence could be inferred because the ambulance was disabled but did not have its hazard lights or signals on to stand out to other drivers. Additionally, Zito argued that the ambulance was not fully out of the travel lane, despite proof that the ambulance’s skid marks showed that it began to skid from the accident five feet from the white line, indicating the most right travel lane.

The lower court that heard this case found that the accident was a direct and proximate cause of the negligently parked ambulance and awarded Zito a large amount in damages. This court found that the placement of the ambulance was the only reason for this accident. Advanced appealed this court decision.

The Supreme Court of the State of Louisiana dealt with the question of whether it would be reasonable to find that the facts of the case indicated that the sole cause of the accident between the parties was the defendant’s negligence in where the disabled vehicle was parked and what warnings were given.

The court found that because there were other factors that indicated that the plaintiff had also been negligent, the lower court’s award of damages to the plaintiff was erroneous. The plaintiff was negligent, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded, because he drove while taking prescription narcotic drugs and was playing with his cell phone while behind the wheel. As a result, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s ruling.

This case is an example of the difficulties that are often times encountered in establishing liability in automobile accident cases. If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident, please contact our car accident attorneys

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