Lawsuits Against State Likely Following Deadly Florida Auto Accident
Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) February 15, 2013 - One of the worst auto accidents in Florida history continues to work its way through the courts.
Following lengthy mediation sessions in late 2012, it appears that the pain and expense of lawsuits stemming from a devastating series of fatal crashes on Interstate 75 in January of that year will be largely avoided. However, legal action against the state of Florida for its controversial role in the incident seems likely to go forward.
“This is a terrible accident – probably one of the worst in state history,” said Tampa personal injury lawyer Robert Joyce. “Many mistakes were made that morning, and victims want to determine whether the state shares in the blame.”
In the early morning hours of January 29, 2012, I-75 near Paynes Prairie, south of Gainesville, was shrouded in a combination of smoke from a nearby brush fire and heavy fog. At about 4 am, a tractor-trailer and two cars arrived at the smoke and came to a complete stop in the northbound travel lanes. Moments later, multiple vehicles began rear-ending them.
In total, 25 vehicles were involved in the collisions, 11 people died, and dozens more were sent to local hospitals with injuries.
Just before midnight that night, two non-fatal crashes – one on nearby US 441 and one on I-75 – had prompted the closure of both of those roads for stretches of several miles. But just before 3:30 am, I-75 was re-opened on the controversial order of a Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officer.
A lengthy report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on the FHP's actions in the hours leading up to the crashes contained numerous criticisms, but no disciplinary action has been taken against anyone at FHP. The officer who ordered I-75 reopened has received a promotion and been reassigned.
Attorneys have sent Florida's Division of Risk Management 3 notices of intent to sue the state for its role in the accident. No lawsuits have yet been filed.
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