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

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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