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The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Your trusted legal advisors since 1976

Alcohol-Related Fireball Crash in Tampa Kills One


One man’s BAC level was almost twice the legal limit when he wrecked his car and killed the passenger in his vehicle.

Near the intersection of Westshore Boulevard and Montgomery Avenue, the 24-year-old motorist moved into the left lane to pass another vehicle. In so doing, he struck the median and then careened into some shrubs and bushes. His Jeep Grand Cherokee then collided with another vehicle and burst into flames. The passenger, whose name was not released, died at the scene.

Authorities charged the man with DUI Manslaughter and several other offenses.

Establishing Liability in Tampa Alcohol-Related Crashes

The above wreck clearly illustrates both the effects that alcohol has on the mind. It appears that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) misjudged the amount of space he needed to safely pass the other vehicle. Once he realized his mistake, his reaction abilities were too slow to make adjustments.

Because a high level of alcohol makes it so dangerous to drive, people who are arrested for DUI may be liable for damages as a matter of law. Florida’s negligence per se doctrine fully applies if:

  • The tortfeasor violated a criminal safety law, like the DUI law, and
  • That violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s damages.

A DUI conviction is not necessary in civil court. The Hillsborough County jury determines all the facts in a civil case, including whether it was proven that the defendant was driving while impaired.

Most people are “impaired” after they consume three or four drinks. But alcohol impairment begins with the first drink. To establish lower-level impairment, victim/plaintiffs may use circumstantial evidence, such as:

  • Erratic driving,
  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Slurred speech, and
  • Odor of alcohol.

Evidence like this generally only establishes alcohol consumption in court. But since impairment starts with the first drink, the victim/plaintiff need only prove consumption. In fact, it may be enough to show that the tortfeasor just came from a place which served alcohol. In that case, it is more likely than not that the tortfeasor had something to drink at that establishment, and more likely than not (a preponderance of the evidence) is usually the burden of proof in civil court.

Passenger Injuries in Florida

Typically, car crashes injure vehicle operators. Many times, the driver is the only person in the car. Additionally, largely because of the driver’s position near oncoming traffic and the large steering column, driver are more likely to be injured than passengers.

Additionally, the insurance company may have an additional legal defense in passenger injury cases. The assumption of the risk loophole applies if the victim/plaintiff:

  • Voluntarily assumed
  • A known risk.

In alcohol-involved crashes, insurance companies often argue that the victim/plaintiff should have not gotten into the car with a drunk driver. But alcohol, in and of itself, is only a theoretical risk. It only increases the probability of a collision and therefore is not a known risk. Unless the injured passenger witnessed erratic driving or some other evidence of dangerous driving, the assumption of the risk defense usually does not apply in these situations.

Connect with Assertive Lawyers

Alcohol-impaired drivers often cause serious injuries in car wrecks. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa car accident attorney, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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