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

Drunk Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Wimauma Woman


An allegedly intoxicated motorist rear-ended 37-year-old Shawna Smith’s car, killing her almost instantly.

The wreck occurred on Interstate 75 near the Big Bend Road exit. According to police and witnesses, 32-year-old Alberto Vigo, of Bradenton, tried to pass Smith as the two were travelling north. Vigo misjudged the angle and clipped the rear of Smith’s car, causing it to overturn. Vigo continued travelling for several miles. When his pickup finally broke down, he fled on foot before being apprehended. He was booked into the Hillsborough County jail on various charges.

Smith was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.

Liability in Substance-Related Crashes

Collectively, alcohol and drug impairment cause or contribute to almost half of the fatal car crashes in Florida. Frequently, the substance is either medical marijuana or a prescription painkiller. These substances might be legal to ingest. But it is dangerous, and usually illegal, to drive under the influence.

These substances affect different drivers in different ways. Usually, however, alcohol’s effects start slowly and build quickly. A prescription painkiller’s effects usually kick in a short time after the tortfeasor (negligent driver) took the pill. Generally, marijuana highs begin immediately and fade quickly.

In all these cases, one pill, one drink, or one drag is enough to cause impairment. Evidence of impairment includes things like:

  • Erratic driving,
  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Unsteady balance, and
  • Slurred speech.

A Tampa personal injury attorney can use evidence like this to establish a breach of the duty of reasonable care. This duty requires drivers to be in top physical and mental condition when they get behind the wheel. Substance impairment dulls the edge.

Roughly this same evidence might also establish third party liability. Bars, restaurants, and other commercial alcohol providers might be vicariously liable for damages if they serve people who are habitually addicted to alcohol.

If the tortfeasor was legally intoxicated, the negligence per se doctrine usually applies. Tortfeasors might be liable for damages as a matter of law if:

  • They violate a safety law, like the DUI law, and
  • That violation substantially causes injury.

Damages in a car crash case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in extreme cases.

Special Issues in Hit and Run Wrecks

Unless they are apprehended immediately after the wreck or voluntarily surrender, hit-and-run tortfeasors are rarely successfully prosecuted in criminal court. The burden of proof is too high.

But civil court is different. The burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a Tampa personal injury attorney can usually hold tortfeasors responsible with comparatively little evidence, such as:

  • Additional Witness Statements: Many emergency responders do not interview witnesses who did not see the actual crash. But a witness who saw part of the crash could provide valuable information in civil court.
  • Surveillance Video: The same thing applies with regard to security, red light, and other cameras. If a camera recorded part of a license plate number, that nugget might be enough to track down the tortfeasor.
  • Body Shop Records: If an owner ordered body work on damage consistent with the accident shortly after the accident, it is more likely than not that the owner also caused that accident.

It’s not always possible to locate the tortfeasor. In these cases, victims can usually file claims against their own insurance companies and obtain compensation for their injuries.

Touch Base with Assertive Lawyers

Impaired drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa car accident lawyer, contact The Matassini Law Firm. Home and hospital visits are available.

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