At least six lawsuits have been filed in response to a 70-car pileup that took place on Interstate 4 in January of 2008, the Lakeland Ledger reported Jan. 30. One woman who was widowed in the crash filed a Florida trucking accident lawsuit against a trucking company whose driver she alleges was not paying attention to the road when he slammed into cars that had already crashed, rolling the truck over onto her husband’s car and killing both drivers. Another lawsuit accuses several state agencies of negligence in allowing a controlled burn to spread, creating a wildfire whose billowing smoke allegedly obscured the view of drivers on the highway and caused the crash.
The road was both smoky and foggy on the day of the crash, which the Ledger said started when a man in a truck rear-ended a semi that had slowed because of the bad visibility. Twenty-two more vehicles crashed into them and each other, leaving four people in the 24-car crash dead. Other pileups that day along the same stretch of highway involved 46 other cars; the combined crashes left five people dead and 37 injured. A Florida Highway Patrol report in January said no charges would be filed aside from the 12 careless driving tickets already issued, but most of the crashes could have been avoided if drivers had slowed down to accommodate the smoke and fog.
That article also says that Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson denied that the smoke from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission fire played any part in the accidents. However, as a South Florida trucking accident lawyer, I believe the FHP report will provide compelling evidence to the contrary in these Tampa auto accident lawsuits and Polk County trucking accident lawsuits. Most of the lawsuits the paper reported allege negligence by truckers and trucking companies as a cause of the pileup -- and while that may certainly be a factor in this tragedy, it’s clear that visibility likely also played a part.
Suing a government agency is entirely appropriate when that agency bears responsibility for an injury -- but it requires victims to overcome multiple bureaucratic hurdles. Thanks to the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity, governments can and do set very tight deadlines or special filing requirements that can make or break a case. That’s why experts recommend that people with cases of government negligence get help right away from an experienced Florida auto accident attorney. Cohn, Smith & Cohn has more than 25 years of experience working exclusively with victims of serious accidents; we can help. For a free consultation on your case and your legal options, call us at (954) 431-8100 or contact us online today.