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

Fatal Road Rage Crash In Bartow


An apparent disagreement between two frustrated motorists ended in tragedy, as authorities found a man dead in his pickup truck.

According to witnesses and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, a 22-year-old man and a 27-year-old man were weaving in and out of traffic on southbound U.S. Highway 98. As tensions escalated, the former apparently cut off the latter in traffic, forcing him into an abandoned building. Prior to that collision, the 27-year-old man apparently drove through a plastic fence. A piece of that fence impaled him, killing him almost instantly. Investigators believe that a number of people witnessed the crash, but almost none of them have come forward. One of the deceased’s neighbors remembered him as “a hell of a person” who would “help you out any way he could.” A friend remembered him as a “good dad for his son Bentley” and someone with a “compassionate spirit.”

During the crash investigation, authorities discovered what they believe to be methamphetamines inside the deceased’s pocket.

Negligence Per Se in Florida Road Rage Crashes

In many jurisdictions, negligence per se is a straightforward doctrine which reduces the number of factors that the jury must consider and therefore increases the odds of a successful outcome. Normally, tortfeasors (negligent drivers) are liable for damages as a matter of law if they:

  • Violate any safety statute, and
  • The violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s damages.

But negligence per se works a little differently in Florida road rage crashes. The second element (substantial cause) is usually rather easy to establish. But that first element is much more complicated.

In Tampa, negligence per se only applies if the tortfeasor violates a statute which carries potential jail time, such as the DUI law. Florida has an aggressive careless driving statute, which applies in most “road rage” situations. But 316.1923 does not carry potential jail time.

However, Florida’s reckless driving law, which applies to anyone who operates a motor vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property” could also apply in these situations. Section 316.192 has a maximum punishment of 90 days in jail.

In a Hillsborough County civil case, the jury determines all the facts. That includes whether the tortfeasor violated a particular law. So, if the facts indicate that the tortfeasor was driving recklessly according to this law, the negligence per se shortcut applies.

A civil jury only needs a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) to make such a conclusion. On the other hand, a criminal jury must have proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much higher standard, to convict a driver.

Contributory Negligence in Tampa

As a driver, being under the influence of a controlled substance can be clear evidence of partial fault in a collision. Such evidence, if presented against a plaintiff is all the defendant needs to reduce the compensation which the victim/plaintiff receives.

In crashes involving death or great bodily harm, authorities usually perform bloodwork on all drivers of the vehicles involved. Typically, if there are even trace amounts of a controlled substance or alcohol, a jury usually assigns the victim/plaintiff at least some fault for the collision.

The good news is that Florida is one of just a few pure comparative fault states. The judge divides damages strictly according to the percentage of fault. So, even if a jury determined that the victim/plaintiff was mostly at fault for the collision, the victim is usually still entitled to a proportional share of damages.

These damages usually include compensation for both tangible losses, such as current and future lost wages, and well as intangible losses, such as loss of consortium (companionship).

Join Forces with Savvy Lawyers

Road rage crashes in Florida have a number of legal and factual complexities. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Since 1976, The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. has been helping victims of negligence receive fair compensation for their injuries and damages.


A civil jury only needs a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) to make such a conclusion. On the other hand, a criminal jury must have proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much higher standard, to convict a driver.

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