The Florida Highway Patrol is reporting one person died in the truck accident, a 38-year-old visiting from Iowa. Two others suffered critical injuries and eight others suffered moderate to minor injuries. In addition, two firefighters who responded to the scene also required medical attention.
The decedent was riding in the rear seat of a Lincoln Town Car that was rear-ended by the semi truck. That Town Car is alleged to have burst into flames upon impact. Decedent was declared dead at the scene.
Witnesses said an Iraq War veteran who was nearby sprung into action to pull several victims from the seven vehicles involved in the horrific crash. His actions may well have saved lives and lessened injuries.
Investigators have not yet filed charges in the case, though they have said that action is likely, based on what they know so far. A statement released by FHP indicated that an improper lane change may have played a central role in the crash, though it’s not clear which vehicle made that improper lane change.
Typically anytime there is a rear-end collision, there is a rebuttable presumption that the driver in the rear is at-fault. There is a general understanding that vehicles ahead may need to halt abruptly. That’s why motorists need to keep an assured clear distance.
However, there may be some instances in which the driver in the rear could be cleared of liability.
The 2007 decision by Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal in Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles v. Saleme established that a rebuttable presumption can be refuted if:
- There was a mechanical failure involving the rear vehicle;
- There is evidence of a sudden and unexpected stop or lane change;
- There is evidence that the vehicle struck was illegally stopped on the road.
Courts have been particular about how they apply these exceptions. For example, it’s not enough to show that the driver in the lead slammed on his or her brakes. It has to be both sudden and unexpected. That usually means a scenario like a vehicle stopped arbitrarily in the middle of a highway. But if, for example, the car ahead stops suddenly at an intersection because another driver is running a red light, that is not considered an unexpected scenario.
If the other driver presents sufficient evidence of one of these exceptions, then the court may consider comparative fault by that lead driver (or others).
Truck accident lawsuits in Florida tend to be more complicated anyway, which underscores the need for an experienced lawyer. While in most car accident cases, one would simply sue the at-fault driver, a collision with a commercial truck usually involves naming numerous defendants – the driver, the carrier, the truck owner, the mechanic and more. In a situation like this where multiple vehicles were involved, there may also be a number of other at-fault too.
Injured persons will also want to keep in mind that most auto insurance policies have a per-accident damage cap. Because so many people were injured in this crash, there will likely be multiple people vying for a piece of that insurance money.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Semi truck causes fiery 7-vehicle crash with fatality in Fort Myers, May 16, 2016, FOX 4
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