Teenager Dies in Sarasota Car Crash
Investigators believe that a driver lost control of his car immediately prior to a violent car wreck which killed one teenager and seriously injured three others.
Shortly before 11 p.m., a 17-year-old driver lost control of his car near the intersection of University Parkway and Blithe Avenue in Sarasota. The car hit a culvert and then catapulted into a tree. A front passenger, a 16-year-old, was ejected from the vehicle and declared dead at the scene.
Two backseat passengers, along with the driver, were rushed to an area hospital with serious injuries.
Car Crash Liability Issues
Today’s cars are larger, faster, and more responsive than ever before. As a result, inexperienced operators often have a hard time controlling them, especially when the sky is dark or other conditions are less than ideal.
Regardless of their age or experience, all noncommercial operators have a duty of reasonable care. They must obey the rules of the road, avoid accidents when possible, and drive defensively. Losing control of one’s vehicle clearly violates this duty of care.
Uber drivers and other commercial operators usually have a higher duty of care in Florida. These operators are practically insurers of safe conduct from Point A to Point B. This duty begins the moment the driver collects a passenger, and does not end until after the passenger has safely exited the vehicle. Furthermore, commercial operators, or the companies which control them, have a duty to prevent passenger injuries during transit, such as falls on a tour bus.
If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) breached the duty of care and that breach substantially caused the crash, the tortfeasor is legally responsible for damages. These damages usually include economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Frequently, a third party is financially responsible for damages. That’s usually true if the tortfeasor was under 18. Vehicle owners are usually responsible for crashes if they knowingly allow incompetent drivers to use their motor vehicles. Evidence of incompetency includes:
- No valid drivers’ license,
- Driving in violation of a license restriction (g. no freeway driving),
- A poor driving record, or
- Operating a new kind of vehicle (g. the tortfeasor normally rides a moped and borrows a Suburban).
Negligent entrustment is a bit easier to prove in Florida because of the family purpose doctrine. If a family member borrows a car, there is a presumption that the owner had some control over that transaction.
Special Issues in Passenger Injury Claims
The duty of care protects other drivers on the road and also passengers in that vehicle. That being said, passenger injuries often have some unique emotional and legal issues.
Most passengers know most drivers. In fact, in many cases, the relationship is very close. For this reason, some injured passengers hesitate to file claims against negligent drivers.
This reluctance is understandable yet unnecessary. Negligence claims do not “blame” anyone for the crash. They simply hold people responsible for the mistakes they make. If we all accepted responsibility for our actions, Florida would be an even better place to live. Additionally, the insurance company, not the individual, writes the check. Yes, the insurance company will probably raise the tortfeasor’s rates or even cancel the policy. But that probably would have happened even if the victim did not file a claim.
Legally, passenger injuries sometimes involve the assumption of the risk defense, a defense which often comes up in dog bite or other premises liability claims. Victims are responsible for their own injuries if they voluntarily assume a known risk.
The risk of a car crash is usually a theoretical risk as opposed to a known risk. Therefore, even though most passengers voluntarily get into most cars, this defense is normally inapplicable.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
Injured passengers normally have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa car accident lawyer, contact Mark H. Wright, PLLC. We routinely handle matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.