Reckless North Port Crash Kills One and Injures Many
A 19-year-old Port Charlotte High School graduate is in police custody after a deadly alcohol-fueled wreck.
When Stephanie Evrard missed a curve near the intersection of Jenip Court and Joewood Circle, there were multiple teenage passengers in her SUV. Several teens were clinging to the roof of the vehicle. The SUV overturned and ejected several passengers. Police did not release the names of the victims, but they were all teenagers.
Authorities charged Ms. Evrard with one count of DUI manslaughter and three counts of DUI injury.
Liability in Alcohol-Related Crashes
Alcohol causes about a third of the fatal car crashes in Tampa. This substance inhibits motor skills, prevents multitasking (like watching the road and speedometer at the same time), and impairs judgment. These effects make alcohol incredibly dangerous for drivers and, consequently, everyone else out there.
Victim/plaintiffs may use direct or circumstantial evidence to establish liability (legal responsibility) for damages in civil court. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Scientifically, alcohol impairment begins with the first drink. Therefore, any alcohol consumption is a breach of the duty of reasonable care. In plain English, everyone knows it’s dangerous to drink and drive. If that lack of care substantially caused the crash, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is typically liable for damages.
In most of these cases, a legal shortcut is available. The time-saving negligence per se rule applies, and tortfeasors are liable for damages as a matter of law, if:
- The tortfeasor violated a safety law, like the DUI law, and
- That violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s damages.
If the tortfeasor committed a non-criminal violation, such as running a stoplight, the negligence per se rule may only be a presumption of negligence.
Additionally, alcohol-related wrecks often involve third party liability. Vicarious liability theories are very important in wrongful death and other catastrophic injury cases. Many times, the tortfeasor does not have enough insurance coverage to fully compensate for these losses.
Both commercial and noncommercial alcohol providers may be vicariously liable for damages in the cases. Florida’s dram shop law applies to commercial transactions. Bars, grocery stores, and other alcohol providers are responsible for damages if they illegally sold alcohol and the customer caused a car crash. For dram shop law purposes, the sale was illegal if the customer was:
- A minor under 21, or
- Habitually addicted to alcohol.
Noncommercial providers, like party hosts or parents, may also be responsible for damages, according to theories like negligent entrustment and negligent undertaking.
Passenger Injury Claims in Hillsborough County
When passengers are injured in Florida car crashes, insurance companies often raise the assumption of the risk defense. This legal loophole applies if the victim:
- Voluntarily assumed
- A known risk.
Essentially, insurance company lawyers argue that the victim should have known better than to get in a vehicle with a drunk driver, so the victim is legally responsible for damages.
But there is a big difference between a known risk and a possible risk. In the above story, unless the injured passengers saw Ms. Evrard driving erratically in the moments before the crash or there was other clear evidence of danger, the assumption of the risk defense probably does not apply.
Connect with Aggressive Lawyers
Alcohol-related crash victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa car accident attorney, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.
Since 1976, The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. has been helping victims of injury and medical malpractice seek justice throughout Florida. Nicholas M. Matassini and Nicholas G. Matassini are both AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell.