Hit and Run Driver Kills Tampa Pedestrian
Police have little to go on after an unknown driver fatally struck a pedestrian in the predawn hours of May 12, 2020.
The wreck happened near the intersection of West Hillsborough Avenue and North Dale Mabry Highway. Emergency responders arrived to find a deceased adult male who apparently died almost instantly. Investigators are looking for a 1997-2007 Ford van E-series, which probably has extensive damage to the front driver’s side headlight area. Investigators also believed the hit and run driver fled eastbound on Hillsborough Avenue.
None of the names were released.
Speed is usually the critical factor in pedestrian injuries. The risk of serious injury, like broken bones, internal injuries, and head injury, is less than 15 percent if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is travelling slower than 20mph. The serious injury rate catapults to 90 percent if the tortfeasor is moving faster than 40mph.
Most pedestrian accidents fall into that second category. Typically, the pedestrian is crossing the street outside a marked crosswalk and outside an intersection. As a result, there is a good chance the negligent driver is travelling at or near top speed.
Technically, the driver usually has the right-of-way in these cases. However, the driver still has a duty of reasonable care. That duty includes a responsibility to avoid accidents if possible. So, the ordinary negligence doctrine usually applies.
In response, insurance companies often try to use the sudden emergency defense. This legal loophole excuses negligent conduct if the tortfeasor:
- Reasonably reacted to
- A sudden emergency.
Arguably, neither of these things apply in hit-and-run accidents. Fleeing the scene of a serious injury or fatal collision is not a reasonable reaction. And, a jaywalking pedestrian is not a “sudden emergency” in this context. That designation belongs to unexpected events, such as lightning strikes and hood fly-ups.
Tracking Down Hit and Run Tortfeasors
In many jurisdictions, less than half of hit-and-run drivers are successfully prosecuted in criminal court. That’s usually because the burden of proof is so high. Prosecutors must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. So, unless an eyewitness saw the defendant behind the wheel at or near the time of the crash, there is probably not enough proof.
But in civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). In practical terms, that usually means a Tampa personal injury attorney must only locate the vehicle’s owner. It is more likely than not that the owner was also driving the car at a particular time, unless the owner has a completely ironclad alibi.
Frequently, attorneys partner with private investigators to find additional witnesses who might have seen something, review video evidence, and ask questions at local body shops. Police investigators rarely go the extra mile in these ways.
Legal Options in Hit and Run Cases
All hit and run victims are usually entitled to compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Many Hillsborough County jurors dislike hit and run drivers. So, if an attorney identifies the tortfeasor, there is a good chance jurors will award additional punitive damages. These damages punish the tortfeasor and deter future wrongdoing.
If an attorney does not find the tortfeasor, most victims can file claims with their own insurance companies. Since the insurance company wants to keep its customer happy, many of these claims settle quickly and on victim-friendly terms.
Reach Out to Aggressive Lawyers
Hit and run pedestrian victims might be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa car accident attorney, contact The Matassini Law Firm. You have a limited amount of time to act.