Fatal Wreck on Okeechobee Road
A Fort Pierce man is dead, and five other people are seriously injured, after a vehicle collision in St. Lucie County.
According to police and witnesses, a southbound GMC Sierra and eastbound Chevrolet C-10 collided at the intersection of Shinn Road and State Road 70. The C-10 driver was declared dead at the scene. Five other people were rushed to nearby hospitals.
Police are still investigating the crash to determine a cause.
Evidence in Car Crash Claims
Many collisions are like the one in the above story, in that the cause is uncertain. In fact, there is often a difference between fault at the scene of a collision and legal responsibility for damages. For example, in many cases, the police accident report is incomplete or inaccurate.
This written report usually forms the basis of a claim for damages. But it is sometimes misleading, especially in complex intersection wrecks. Sometimes, the reporting officer cannot properly sort things out, Even the most experienced emergency responder is not an accident reconstruction professional. Furthermore, officers usually have little evidence when they write these reports. Officers may have talked to a few witnesses who voluntarily came forward at the scene, but that is probably it. Finally, if the victim was killed or seriously injured, the accident report probably only reflects one side of the story.
So, both to build a claim for damages and properly assess liability, a Port St. Lucie car crash attorney must normally collect additional evidence. Sometimes, this evidence includes additional witness statements. For various reasons, many witnesses do not loiter at the scene and talk to police officers. An attorney, perhaps in partnership with a private investigator, knows how to reach these individuals.
Electronic information, such as a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder, is often important as well. Much like a commercial jet’s black box flight recorder tracks important mechanical data, a vehicle’s EDR measures and records things like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Brake application,
- Steering angle, and
- Engine RPM.
Both kinds of data are critical in many cases, and attorneys must act quickly to preserve them both.
Many people think that memory is linear and it degrades slowly over time. But in most cases, that’s not true. Most individuals forget most of what they see and hear within 48 hours. So, unless an attorney quickly talks to witnesses, they may forget important details which could make a big difference in the case.
As for the EDR, many insurance companies “accidentally” destroy these gadgets. An attorney must send a spoliation letter to preserve the EDR and other physical evidence in the case.
Legal Issues in Florida Car Crash Claims
All this evidence is important because victim/plaintiffs must show liability by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Some different legal theories may affect liability as well.
Many intersection collisions involve the last clear chance rule. For example, if Driver A changes lanes without signalling and hits Driver B, even though Driver A broke the law, Driver B may be legally responsible for damages. The last clear chance rule flips liability in this way if the driver had a reasonable chance to avoid the collision, perhaps by changing lanes, yet did not do so.
Significantly, this rule only applies if the driver had the last clear chance to avoid the crash, as opposed to any possible chance. Many times, perhaps due to weather or traffic conditions, emergency maneuvers like quick lane changes are not practical. Indeed, such moves may cause an even worse crash.
Contributory negligence is a similar theory. But unlike last clear chance, which flips liability altogether, contributory negligence only reduces the amount of compensation.
If the jury decides that both the victim and tortfeasor (negligent driver) were partially at fault, the jury must divide liability on a percentage basis. Florida is a pure comparative fault state. So, even if the victim was 99 percent responsible for the crash, the victim still receives a proportionate share of damages.
These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Contact an Aggressive Lawyer
Many car crashes involve complex factual and legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Port St. Lucie car accident attorney, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.