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

New Port Richey Child Seriously Injured in Two-Vehicle Collision


A 4-year-old child is in the hospital after he was ejected from a vehicle that was involved in an intersection wreck.

The wreck occurred at the intersection of Hudson Avenue and Little Road. According to police and witnesses, 25-year-old Natali Howe failed to completely stop at a red light. She collided with a Kia Optima, causing her Jeep Grand Cherokee to overturn. An unrestrained 4-year-old boy, whose name was not released, was ejected from the vehicle and seriously injured. Three other children, only one of whom was wearing a seat belt, were not injured.

Police say they intend to press charges against Ms. Howe.

Legal Issues in Intersection Collision Claims

In the kinds of cases described above, emergency responders almost always side with the driver who had the green light and issue a citation to the other driver. But there is a difference between fault and liability. So, no matter what first responders did, if you were hurt in a car crash, you need to speak with a Tampa personal injury attorney.

The facts matter a lot in these claims. In terms of the traffic law, there is no difference between a rolling right turn at a red light and blowing through an intersection against the light at full speed. However, there is a big difference between these two things in terms of negligence law.

That difference is especially acute in Florida. In many jurisdictions, if drivers commit moving violations, such as speeding, they are liable for damages as a matter of law. But in the Sunshine State, these negligence per se cases only create a presumption of negligence. To obtain compensation, the victim/plaintiff normally needs to present additional evidence of negligence.

The last clear chance doctrine often comes into play in intersection collision cases as well. Red light crashes are a good example. Especially during the day when visibility is good, it is fairly easy to tell if an approaching driver is going to stop at a red light or not. If the other driver can somehow avoid the crash, perhaps by changing lanes or applying the brakes, that driver is legally responsible for the collision. That’s even true if emergency responders gave the red light runner a ticket.

The stakes are very high in these cases. Damages in vehicle collision claims typically include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some cases.

The Seat Belt Defense in Florida

The Sunshine State is one of the only jurisdictions which recognizes the so-called seat belt defense. If victims were not properly restrained, they may still file damage claims, but the court may lower their recovery amounts.

However, to take advantage of the seat belt defense, insurance company lawyers must do more than introduce safety statistics. A doctor must testify about the exact nature of the victim’s injuries. Additionally, the doctor, or another expert, must testify that, if the victim had been wearing a seat belt, the victim’s injuries would be X percent less.

The seat belt defense also assumes that the victim’s seat belt was in perfect working condition. Seat belt defects are rather common, especially in older vehicles. And, the insurance company has the burden of proof on this point. The victim/plaintiff need only create doubt about the seat belt’s functionality.

Work with Hard-Hitting Lawyers

Even seemingly straightforward car crashes often involve complex legal questions. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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