Local community members are asking many questions about the safety of our area roadways following a series of Florida car accidents last Sunday on Interstate 75 that took the lives of at least 10 Floridians. Those driving in the area probably noticed that heavy smoke and fog blanketed large stretches of the highway, making visibility for drivers close to impossible. The fog was caused by a fire that had started in the Paynes Prairie area south of Gainesville. According to a report in the USA Today, it wasn't long before the weather led to a 3-vehicle accident. One motorist was severely injured in that collision and a stretch of the highway was temporarily closed.
Shortly after the road re-opened following that initial crash, an incredible 18 vehicles were caught in a chain-reaction collision instigated by the poor visibility. More than a dozen cars and at least 6 tractor-trailers were involved. When all was said and done, at least 10 travelers were killed and many others were injured – some severely. Our Florida auto accident lawyer has worked on these motor vehicle cases for years and understands that this tragedy is one of the worst pile-ups in decades.
The Panama City car accident attorney at our firm knows that in the aftermath of these accidents, the legal issues related to the event are far from the minds of the victims. Medical recovery and dealing with the grieving process are of paramount concern. However, there will eventually come a time for very serious questions to be asked about what caused this accident, how it could have been prevented, and what steps need to be taken to avoid a repeat occurrence. When it comes to potential legal liability there are two big issues to sort through:
1) What individual acts of negligence led to the pile-up? Subsequent legal actions filed on behalf of victims would try to parse out the series of events that actually caused the chain-reaction to occur. For one thing, the source of the fire must be determined, as the fire is likely one of the main causes spurring the accident. The overall analysis will rely heavily on the results of investigations into the collision by law enforcement officials. Similar legal principles will apply whether the suits are filed by injured victims or whether they are wrongful death lawsuits filed by family members of those killed in the tragedy.
2) Do public bodies, which allowed driving in the dangerous stretch of road in the middle of such challenging weather conditions, bear some responsibility? Interstate 75 has had its share of road tragedies in the past, and one local paper has referred to the stretch of highway between Ocala and Gainesville as a "Bermuda Triangle." Should public officials have better warned drivers of the danger of the area? Officials had the power to close the highway, particularly because there had already been a serious 3-car accident before the larger eighteen-vehicle collision. Officials may have been able to do more to prevent the pile-up. Over the years many have actually called for a truck bypass to be built in the area to avoid tragedies just like this one.
Whatever the case, there is undoubtedly much more to this Florida road tragedy. Everything must be done to ensure the victims (and their families) are provided as much support as possible. Other motorists should also take note and use the incident as another reminder of the risks that exist whenever one travels, and the need to take every possible precaution to remain safe on the road.