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Fatal Wrong-Way Crash on Interstate 275


Police do not know how long a southbound motorist operated her vehicle on the northbound side of I-275 before she struck another car head-on.

The wreck happened near mile marker 49 at about 4:30 a.m. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 39-year-old Aryail Gomez was travelling on the wrong side of the freeway when she smashed into 30-year-old Brittany Castilleja. Gomez was declared dead at the scene; Castilleja was rushed to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.

Troopers are unsure how long Gomez was on the wrong side of the freeway before the crash.

Circumstantial Evidence in Car Wreck Claims

In many situations, there is direct evidence of negligence in a car wreck claim. This evidence usually includes traffic citations from the scene of the crash. In Florida, speeding tickets and other such citations usually create a presumption of negligence.

To establish liability, the victim/plaintiff just needs a little more proof. For example, a ticket for ignoring a red light is not enough. But there is a big difference between a rolling right turn and ignoring a red light altogether.

Sometimes, non-driving facts serve as circumstantial evidence. If a driver has epilepsy, diabetes, or certain other medical conditions, it is more likely than not that the driver may have passed out behind the wheel. That’s especially true in loss-of-control collisions. Or, if the crash occurred early in the morning or late at night, fatigue may have been a factor. People are naturally drowsy at these times, no matter how much rest they had the night before.

A vehicle’s Event Data Recorder also provides critical evidence in this area. Much like the black box flight recorders in commercial airliners, EDRs capture and record data like:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle,
  • Engine RPM, and
  • Brake application.

Evidence like this is especially valuable in a no-witnesses collision.

Attorneys must act quickly to preserve physical evidence in car crash cases. Insurance companies often destroy totaled vehicles with a few days. If that happens, any physical evidence the car contains, including the EDR, is lost.

So, attorneys send spoliation letters to custodians. These letters create a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence, including the EDR, for trial.

Furthermore, these devices are technically sophisticated. Attorneys need more than screwdrivers and laptops to access and download their data. And, Florida has very strict vehicle information privacy laws. Typically, attorneys must obtain court orders before they can have access to the at-fault party’s EDR.

The Last Clear Chance Doctrine

At first blush, it seems clear that the wrong-way driver was responsible for this crash. But that conclusion may not be true, because of the last clear chance rule.

All drivers have a duty of reasonable care. Among other things, they must avoid crashes if possible. Another driver’s misconduct does not alter this responsibility. So, if a motorist has a reasonable opportunity to avoid a crash but does not do so, that driver may be legally responsible for his or her proportion of damages.

In wrong-way crashes, this rule could apply if one driver does not make evasive maneuvers, such as slowing down or changing lanes.

Significantly, the driver must have the last clear chance, as opposed to any possible chance. Sometimes, traffic and other conditions make emergency maneuvers impossible. That’s especially true if the victim was on an unstable motorcycle instead of a stable four-wheel vehicle.

Contact Savvy Lawyers

Wrong-way crashes often involve complex factual and legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa car accident lawyer, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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