Fireball Christmas Day Crash Kills Four
A sharp curve may have contributed to a head-on wreck in Highland County. Who may be legally responsible for this tragedy?
Florida Highway Patrol troopers shut down much of State Road 70 as they investigated the Christmas Day wreck near County Road 721. Investigators believe that a Buick was travelling westbound in the eastbound lane as it approached a sharp curve. The Buick collided head-on with a Toyota travelling eastbound in the eastbound lane. The Buick tumbled into a ditch and caught fire.
Each vehicle contained a driver and a passenger, and none of them survived.
Fault v. Liability in Head-on Wrecks
Typically, emergency responders only perform cursory accident investigations. Their priorities lie elsewhere. That’s especially true if the crash was very serious, multiple victims need immediate attention, and a crowd of onlookers gather. Generally, officers talk to a witness or two, and the parties if they are available, and then close their investigations.
As a result, a preliminary fault determination is usually much different from a finding of legal liability. So, even if the police officer says you were at fault, always contact an attorney. You never know what a second opinion might find.
Wrong-way crashes are a good example of this phenomenon. In these incidents, emergency responders almost always fault the wrong-way drivers for the crash. But this initial fault finding may not stand up under scrutiny.
Many of these wrecks involve the last clear chance defense. Assume Tim was driving on the wrong side of the road, and Julie saw Tim’s oncoming vehicle. If Julie had a reasonable opportunity to avoid the crash, perhaps by changing lanes, she’s legally responsible for the wreck if she lets that chance slip by.
Note that Julie, or any other similarly-situated driver, must have the last clear chance and not just any possible chance. There is a significant difference.
Defective Road Claims in Port St. Lucie
Roadway design and maintenance may contribute to a crash as well. Some examples include:
- Curves that do not support speed limits,
- Narrow lanes,
- Short on-ramps,
- Inadequate signage,
- Improper grading,
- Large potholes,
- Partially-obscured signs, and
- Excessive amounts of loose gravel.
Procedurally, defective roadway claims are much different from driver negligence claims. Florida has a rather strong sovereign immunity law, so in many cases, government agencies have at least partial immunity. A damages cap may apply as well. Finally, the state or other government agency has six months to investigate the claim before it must tender an initial settlement offer. So, these cases sometimes move rather slowly.
Damages in a car crash case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages are sometimes available as well, in extreme cases.
Connect with Assertive Lawyers
Even seemingly straightforward cases often involve complex legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.