Car Crashes Along I-75 in Rainy Conditions Near Sarasota Damage Almost Fifty Vehicles
A series of automobile accidents along Interstate 75 involved about forty-seven vehicles and injured more than fifty people. No fatalities were reported, but the crashes caused extensive damage and forced the closure of the highway for hours. Rainy weather and low visibility reportedly played a major role in the accidents. The state of Florida currently faces multiple lawsuits arising from another series of crashes on a different stretch of I-75 in January, also allegedly resulting from weather conditions.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that the accidents began occurring around 3:00 p.m. on Friday, October 5, 2012, in the southbound lanes of I-75 and the University Parkway overpass along the county line between Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Heavy rain conditions caused significantly reduced visibility. A crash involving at least eight vehicles occurred on the overpass, injuring at least ten people. Additional accidents happened on the highway below. The precise sequence of events may never be known, but at least two semi trailers were involved, one of which leaked fertilizer onto the road. A jackknifing trailer on the highway caused a series of crashes as cars tried to avoid the wreckage.
In all, forty-seven cars and other vehicles were damaged. The wreckage stretched for about half a mile from the overpass, and people remained stranded on the highway for hours. About fifty-four people were injured, with two airlifted to a trauma center, thirty-two people taken by ambulance to hospitals, and about twenty people receiving treatment at the scene. None of the injuries were fatal or life-threatening, a fact that a spokesperson for the Sarasota County fire department called “miraculous.” Both she and a lieutenant with the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) said it was the largest automobile accident either of them had ever seen.
Florida has faced other massive automobile accidents caused by weather conditions that affected visibility. A series of crashes along I-75 near Gainesville killed eleven people in January 2012. Low visibility caused by foggy conditions and smoke from nearby brush fires was reportedly responsible for the crashes. Much of the area was under a heavy smoke advisory from the National Weather Service at the time. A report issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) several months later concluded that the FHP had failed to enact reforms to its procedures for low-visibility conditions recommended after a series of fatal accidents on I-4 in 2008. This affected the FHP’s response to the smoke and fog conditions along I-75. The FDLE’s report essentially charged the FHP with failing to monitor the highway adequately before the January crashes.
The Associated Press reported in August that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Department of Motor Vehicles had received at least thirteen notices of lawsuits related to injuries and deaths occurring in January. The FDLE report likely played a role in the lawsuits’ allegations. The FHP released its own report later in August, asserting that the January crashes were probably inevitable, and that “no amount of planning or policy changes” would have made a difference. The lawsuits will explore whether the state of Florida, through the FHP and other agencies, was negligent in its management of the highways, and whether that caused or contributed to the car crashes.
The attorneys at Cohn & Smith help recover compensation for people in South Florida who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones in automobile accidents. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our lawyers, contact us today online, at (954) 431-8100, or at (305) 624-9186.
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South Florida Has Some of the Worst Drivers in the Nation, According to Insurance Company Survey, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, October 2, 2012
Florida Court Rules on Question of Insurance Coverage for Negligence and Wrongful Death Claim: Maryland Casualty Company v. Smartcop, Inc., South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, September 27, 2012
Florida Supreme Court Rules that Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine Applies to Motor Vehicles Other than Automobiles, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, September 13, 2012