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Sixteen Injured And One Dead In Serious Crash


A packed passenger van and a pickup truck were the two primary vehicles in a multi-car collision on Alligator Alley, a famous Florida highway.

Multiple agencies responded to the scene. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, a pickup truck rear-ended a passenger van near Mile Marker 41 on the northbound side. The force of the collision propelled the van onto the southbound side, where it overturned. That van was full of people who had just attended a baseball tournament in nearby Fort Myers. Several of the occupants were ejected from the van and seriously injured as a result. One did not survive.

None of the names were released.

Determining Liability in Florida Car Crash Cases

At first, liability may seem obvious in a rear-end collision case. However, that’s not always true. Otherwise, the common “swoop and squat” insurance scam, in which one driver pulls out in front of another one and suddenly stops, would always work.

The police report, which forms the basis for these preliminary conclusions, is often wrong. First responders are on the scene to keep people safe and not to collect evidence for a lawsuit. So, Tampa reporting officers use the available evidence to prepare their reports. Typically, that means self-serving party declarations that may or may not be supplemented by fragmented witness statements.

In contrast, an attorney uses the best evidence to ascertain the events leading up to a car crash. Some common supplements include:

  • Additional Witness Statements: People who will not talk to the police often talk to a personal injury attorney. So, the jury has a much clearer picture of what actually happened.

  • Electronic Evidence: Most new cars have Event Data Recorders. These devices capture and record items like vehicle speed, brake application, and steering angle. Such evidence, which is not available to first responders, is often critical.

  • Video Evidence: Nearby surveillance cameras, such as red-light cameras, often capture details which witnesses overlook. Area surveillance cameras might capture important sights as well, such as a tortfeasor (negligent driver) leaving a bar a few minutes before the crash.

Electronic and video evidence has another advantage. Unlike witness statements, it is almost impossible to challenge the accuracy of such items. Furthermore, machines are never biased or prone to outside influence.

Multiple Fault in Florida

All this evidence often gives rise to a contributory negligence defense. For example, the tortfeasor might be speeding and the victim might have made an illegal lane change. Florida is a pure comparative fault state. The jury apportions damages solely in relation to fault. So, a victim could be 90 percent responsible for a crash yet still recover a proportional amount of damages.

Contributory negligence also extends to seat belt use in Florida. The Sunshine State is one of the few jurisdictions which recognize the so-called seat belt defense. In Tampa, victims like the ones in the above story, who do not wear their seat belts and are injured, may be partially responsible for their own injuries. The insurance company usually has the burden of proof on this point and it is based on the idea that the injuries would not have been so bad had a seatbelt been worn.

The Amount of Damages in a Florida Car Crash Case

All Tampa car crash victims are entitled to compensation for their lost wages, property damage, medical bills, and other economic damages. Victims who suffer serious injuries are entitled to additional compensation. The law defines a serious injury as:

  • Scarring or disfigurement,
  • Significant loss of function, or
  • Permanent injury.

As a rule of thumb, if your vehicle was not drivable after the Tampa accident, you probably suffered serious injuries. The additional compensation includes money for pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), emotional distress, loss of enjoyment in life, and other noneconomic damages.

In some cases, additional punitive damages may be available as well. The victim/plaintiff must present clear and convincing evidence that the tortfeasor recklessly put other people in danger. Alcohol-related car crashes with a very high BAC level are one possible example.

Work with Experienced Lawyers

Even seemingly straightforward car crashes often involve complex legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.



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The experience you need in your pursuit of justice

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.

The resources to provide quality representation for the length of your case

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.

Call our Tampa Bay car accident lawyers for a free consultation

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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