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

Fatal Head-On Wreck in Hernando County

Car Accident

One person was killed and two others were seriously injured when a woman lost control of her vehicle and slammed head-on into an oncoming SUV.

The wreck occurred near the intersection of Broad Street and Old Church Road in Brooksville. According to police, a 70-year old woman could not negotiate a curve and she wound up on the opposite side of the road. She smacked into an oncoming SUV and then spun into a concrete wall. The 70-year-old driver was declared dead at the scene. Her 38-year-old passenger, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was seriously injured. The SUV driver was seriously injured as well.

None of the names were released.

Head-On Collisions in Florida

In terms of the injuries they cause and the legal problems they create, head-on wrecks are some of the most serious vehicle collisions in Florida.

These crashes usually involve head injuries. Even the strongest vehicle restraint systems can only absorb so much force. And, when two vehicles smack into each other at full speed, the g-forces are often too much.

That jarring motion is usually sufficient to cause a head injury. The skull is essentially a water tank which suspends the brain in cerebrospinal fluid. During a car crash, the brain repeatedly slams against the inside of the skull.

These soft tissue injuries normally do not appear on MRIs and other diagnostics, so they are difficult to diagnose. Furthermore, these injuries are difficult to treat. Brain injury physical therapists must train uninjured areas of the brain to assume lost functions. That’s usually a long and laborious process.

Legally, head-on wrecks often involve the last clear chance rule. This legal loophole, if it applies, shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim. Regardless of how other drivers operate, all drivers have a duty of reasonable care. Part of this duty involves avoiding accidents if possible.

In the above story, it appears the vehicle driver was clearly responsible for the wreck. After all, she crossed the centerline.

But there could be a difference between fault for the accident and liability for damages. If the SUV driver saw the other car approaching and had a reasonable chance to avoid it, the SUV driver might be legally responsible for the crash.

Additional facts in such crashes usually include the way the car crossed the centerline. If it was careening out of control, the crash might have been impossible to avoid. But if the driver was erroneously on the wrong side of the road, that crash might be avoidable.

The Seatbelt Defense in Hillsborough County

Only a handful of states recognize the so-called seatbelt defense, and Florida is one of them. However, even if the victim was not properly restrained, the victim might still be entitled to substantial compensation.

The seatbelt defense is a case-specific defense. Insurance company lawyers cannot simply cite safety statistics and shame the victim. The insurance company has both the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion.

First, insurance company lawyers must convince the judge the defense applies. That’s not always easy to do, and carseats are a good example. A significant number of parents place their children in safety seats, but they do not properly restrain them. They might buckle it wrong or anchor it incorrectly.

Technically, that child is not properly restrained. However, most Hillsborough County judges would rule that the seatbelt defense is inapplicable in such a case.

Next, insurance company lawyers must convince jurors that the defense applies. Much depends on the quality of the expert witness and a Tampa personal injury attorney’s ability to cross-examine that witness. Many doctors and other experts are smart, but they are not very good in court.

If the jury doubts the expert’s testimony or credentials, they usually discard what the expert says, at least for the most part.

Reach Out to Assertive Lawyers

Even seemingly straightforward car wrecks are usually complex court cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa car accident lawyer, contact The Matassini Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

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