After Further Review, Police Reverse Venus Williams Fault Declaration
Recently obtained video footage in the tennis star’s wrongful death lawsuit appears to show that Ms. Williams did not run a red light, as Palm Beach Gardens police officials had previously stated.
In a statement accompanying the surveillance video, police said that Ms. Williams “lawfully entered the intersection on a circular green traffic signal, and attempted to travel north through the intersection to Ballenisles Drive,” but another car blocked her path. Moments later, as her light cycled to red, a westbound vehicle entered the intersection, colliding with her northbound SUV. The passenger in that vehicle, a 78-year-old man, died as a result of his injuries. The evidence came to light shortly before a hearing to discuss electronic evidence in the case.
The victim’s lawyer said that the new video did not change their theory of the case, since it “continues to support the fact that Ms. Williams remained in the intersection at a red light, violating the [victim’s] right of way.”
Gathering the Facts in a Car Crash Case
Not all the critical evidence in a car crash case is readily available. Of course, the police report, pictures of vehicle damage, emergency room records, and witness statements taken at the scene have a considerable impact on the case, and in many cases, victims need no additional evidence to establish negligence.
But in many other cases, the initial evidence is inconclusive as to liability, especially in “who had the light” intersection crashes like the one described above. Fortunately, there is a vast array of additional evidence there for the taking, including:
- Additional Witness Statements: First responders only interview witnesses at the scene who promptly came forward to share their stories. An attorney can canvass the area to find additional witnesses who may have seen critical parts of the crash but, for whatever reason, did not want to talk with police officers.
- Event Data Recorder: The “electronic evidence” mentioned in the above story was most likely the EDR, a gadget that captures and records vehicle speed, turning angle, brake application, and other important crash data.
- Surveillance Video: Given the plethora of security cameras, red-light cameras, amateur videographers, and other active recording equipment in most urban areas, this evidence is often available yet, as the above story illustrates, almost never available in the immediate aftermath of a car crash.
Typically, the evidence-gathering process starts well before the claim for damages is filed. For example, attorneys usually send spoliation letters to preserve the EDR. Furthermore, to examine and download its contents, an attorney usually needs to obtain a court order, because of privacy laws.
Using the Facts
As the Venus Williams fatal accident saga so clearly illustrates, once all the facts are assembled, they often dramatically change the complexion of the case.
Intersections collisions like this one often involve the last clear chance defense, which Ms. Williams’ lawyers will almost certainly assert during settlement negotiations and at trial. Essentially, this rule states that a tortfeasor (negligent driver) is not legally responsible for damages if the other driver had a reasonable chance to avoid the collision and failed to do so.
In this case, Ms. Williams’ lawyers will most likely argue that the other car had the last clear chance to avoid the crash, since that car only had to pause before entering the intersection. Of course, the fact remains that Ms. Williams was in the intersection illegally, so more than likely, a jury will have to decide liability.
Reach Out to Experienced Attorneys
The initial evidence in a car crash does not end the story. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.