Investigation Bumps Highlight Evidence Issues In Port St. Lucie Car Crash Claims
Less than two weeks after a bicyclist died in a hit-and-run crash, authorities have apparently given up the search for the driver. However, if a civil jury heard the facts that are already available, it would almost certainly hold the tortfeasor (negligent driver) liable for damages.
Investigators from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office followed a coolant trail to locate the car that knocked over and killed a 67-year-old military veteran. That accident occurred near the intersection of Northwest Green River Parkway and Jensen Beach Boulevard; authorities located the suspect vehicle, a 2007 Pontiac sedan, at a nearby apartment complex. They identified the vehicle’s owner, but have no leads as to the driver’s identity.
While the Florida Highway Patrol is keeping the case open for now, investigators do not anticipate an arrest anytime soon.
The Burden of Proof in Port St. Lucie Negligence Cases
In a criminal leaving the scene of an accident case, identifying the vehicle’s owner usually means nothing, because there is no evidence that the owner and driver were the same person. However, in civil court, such evidence is usually enough to establish the tortfeasor’s identity.
Prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Essentially, that means the evidence must be so overwhelming that a jury could not possibly return a verdict other than guilty. If the driver is not positively identified, there will always be a doubt in this area.
But in civil court, victim/plaintiffs must establish facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). If there are two equally-sized stacks of typing paper side by side, and someone moves one piece of paper from the right to the left, the stack on the left is bigger than the one on the right. That’s all the plaintiff need do in a Florida civil court.
Although owners do sometimes loan their vehicles to others, it is always more likely than not that the vehicle owner and vehicle driver were the same person. That’s especially true if the owner does not have an incredibly powerful alibi for the time of the accident. “I was home alone watching TV” probably does not count. In case you’re curious, Netflix and other services usually record the date and start time of a Port St. Lucie streaming session, but not the end time.
Evidence in Port St. Lucie Car Crash Cases
In hit-and-runs and all other kinds of negligence cases, the victim/plaintiff must have evidence to establish liability. Such evidence often includes:
- Witness Statements: The victim’s and tortfeasor’s accounts are usually significantly different, usually not because one of them is lying, but because they perceive things differently. Third-party witness statements are usually much more reliable and therefore very important.
- Accident Report: While the police report is usually not biased, it often only reflects one side of the story, especially if the victim was either killed or too seriously injured to answer questions.
- Video Footage: Intersection red-light cameras, nearby surveillance video cameras, and amateur videographers at the scene often fill in the evidentiary gaps for the jury.
- Event Data Recorder: The EDR is like a commercial airplane’s black box. It records steering angle, vehicle speed, and other car crash metrics. In addition to EDRs, many commercial vehicles have ELDs (electronic logging devices) that automatically record hours of service. These tools are useful in drowsy driving cases.
If a Florida victim suffers a serious injury, the damages available include compensation for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Contact Assertive Lawyers
A good lawyer can usually prove liability in civil court. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle cases in St. Lucie County and all along the Treasure Coast.