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Palm Beach County Officials Call to Hurry Guardrail Installation After Family Dies

Another accident in a deadly stretch of State Road 80 has Palm Beach County officials calling to speed up the process of installing guardrails there. As a Margate auto accident attorney, I was disappointed to read in the Palm Beach Post Feb. 14 that a 32-year-old woman and her two daughters died Feb. 12 after veering off the road and into a canal eight miles east of Belle Glade. The deaths of Dieula Francois, 32; Midjina Francois, 10; and Claudiz Francois, 3, come after four other deaths on the same stretch of road since 2009 and nine deaths in total since 2004. The Florida Department of Transportation agreed to put in guardrails last August after county officials requested it, but said it couldn’t open bids until July of 2011.

The 18-mile stretch of State Road 80 is in western Palm Beach County between Belle Glade and 20-mile Bend, with a canal running along its south side. The Florida Department of Transportation originally did not install a guardrail there because the road didn’t meet guardrail standards, but reconsidered last summer after reports of the deaths were detailed. However, it said it couldn’t open bids for the work until this year because the $4.3 million to pay for the guardrails wasn’t in its budget and wouldn’t be until the next fiscal year. The explanation upset county commissioner Jess Santamaria and others, who said lives were at risk and suggested that the DOT should have emergency funds available for these situations.

Dieula Francois was coming home from a shopping trip when she apparently swerved across a grassy median, over the eastbound lanes and off the side of the road into the canal. She managed to call 911 as the car was sinking, but a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County sheriff’s office said emergency workers arrived too late to help. She said emergency workers were distraught and called for guardrails.

As a Cooper City car accident lawyer, I’m disappointed that the state of Florida doesn’t have the money needed to get started on this project right away. With the Francois family, the total is seven deaths on this part of the road since 2009, which most people would agree is unusually high. Of course drivers should be careful, but government agencies responsible for roads are also obligated to make sure those roads are designed in a reasonably safe way. When governments fail to take those basic steps, those governments may be just as negligent as a distracted driver. If that’s the case, people who are killed or seriously injured as a result can hold the governments legally responsible, just as they might sue an individual.

Cohn, Smith & Cohn represents clients who were seriously injured or lost a loved one in a car crash because of someone else’s bad decisions. In most cases, that means the bad decision of another driver – but government agencies are also liable if they design defective roads or fail to maintain them. Lawsuits against government agencies are substantially more complicated than lawsuits against private individuals or insurance companies, with shorter deadlines, extra administrative processes and caps on how much you can recover. That’s why you should come see one of our experienced Davie auto accident attorneys as soon as possible if you’re considering a lawsuit against a government agency.

If you or someone in your family was hurt in a car wreck you believe was caused or worsened by a defective road design, you should call Cohn, Smith & Cohn as soon as possible. To set up a free consultation, you can reach us through our website or call our Pembroke Pines office at (954) 431-8100 today.

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