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High-Speed Police Chase Wreck Kills Two


What began as a routine traffic stop ended with two deaths after a violent collision in Lakeland.

Early one morning, officers tried to detain Cleon Truedell for a traffic violation. Rather than pull over, Truedell sped away. Officers pursued him until he ran a red light at the intersection of Lakeshore Drive and East Memorial Boulevard. Truedell collided with Linel Marie Vega-Ortiz’s Mitsubishi sedan. The force of the impact propelled the Mitsubishi into a utility pole. Vega-Ortiz was declared dead at the scene. Similarly, Truedell’s car careened into another utility pole. First responders rushed him to a nearby hospital, where he later died.

Police do not know why Truedell fled the scene of the traffic stop.

High-Speed Police Chases

As far back as the 1990s, the Department of Justice called high-speed police chases the most dangerous law-enforcement activity, in terms of its possible consequences for innocent bystanders. Indeed, these incidents kill or seriously injure many times more people than police shootings. Many, if not most, of these people are innocent bystanders.

Despite pressure to end these chases, they are probably here to stay. On the record, officers justify high-speed chases over trivial offenses by saying that they cannot pick and choose when and where to enforce the laws. Off the record, they admit they like the tremendous adrenaline rush that comes from “getting the bad guy.”

When officers recklessly pursue suspects, the resulting collisions often cause serious injuries, such as:

  • Head Injuries: Even if victims wear seat belts, they may sustain head injuries. Immediately after impact, their heads often thrust forward and snap back in a violent, whip-like motion. If not treated properly and promptly, whiplash may cause paralysis and permanent nerve damage.
  • Broken Bones: Car crash-induced broken bones are much more serious than fall-induced broken bones. Since the breaks are usually not clean, doctors must often use metal pins and crews during reconstructive surgery. As a result, post-recovery physical therapy is even more difficult and expensive that it would have been otherwise.
  • Internal Bleeding: The same forces that cause head injuries often cause internal organs to grind and bump against each other. When that happens, they often bleed profusely. And, this bleeding is difficult to detect and even more difficult to stop.

Damages in a high-speed police chase crash usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Your Claim for Damages

To obtain this compensation, a Tampa personal injury attorney must overcome many obstacles. The sovereign immunity doctrine is probably the biggest one. This rule prevents victims from filing claims against the government. Fortunately, Florida has waived its sovereign immunity defense, at least to an extent. To obtain damages in a police chase crash, the victim/plaintiff must normally establish one of the following:

  • Extreme Recklessness: To determine if police officers acted with extreme recklessness and therefore entirely waived their sovereign immunity, most Hillsborough County judges look at a number of factors. These factors include the time of day, amount of traffic, nature of the area (g. was it a residential neighborhood or a freeway), and the severity of the offense involved.
  • Policy Violation: Some police departments have firm no-chase policies. Other times, a dispatcher gives instructions like “do not pursue” or “pursue with extreme caution.” Violation of a written or oral policy is usually a presumption of negligence, even in these cases.

With the advent of James Bond-like devices, such as shootable GPS trackers, more police departments may discourage or ban high-speed chases. Yet for the reasons outlined above, such crashes will probably continue.

Contact Assertive Lawyers

Reckless, high-speed police chases often cause serious injury. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa car accident attorney, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

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The greatest distinguishing feature among attorneys is their level of experience. Our firm has more than 60 years of legal experience, much of it spent in the courtroom at trial. As a result, our Tampa personal injury lawyers rarely encounter an unfamiliar situation and can thoroughly answer your urgent questions. Our criminal defense practice features a board certified criminal trial lawyer and two former prosecutors with impressive knowledge of trial tactics and procedures.

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Whether your case involves medical malpractice, an auto accident or a wrongful death, your attorney must be prepared to take the case all the way through trial to verdict. Many personal injury attorneys advance the cost of litigation, so they can only last so long before financial pressures start to mount. As a client, you have to wonder whether an attorney's advice to settle your case reflects the quality of the offer or your attorneys need to get paid. Fortunately, The Matassini Law Firm has the resources to pursue civil verdicts and settlements that reflect the actual value of your case.

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A crisis in your life calls for capable and compassionate assistance. The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. addresses your needs all the way through the legal process. For your free initial confidential conference with one of our Tampa car accident attorneys, call us today at 813-217-5715 or contact us online.

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