A motorist drove around parked emergency vehicles and collided with a medevac helicopter that was preparing to transport a critically-injured pedestrian.

The wreck took place near 192’s intersection with State Road 429. Twenty-year-old Cameron Sunderly said he was returning from a local restaurant when he smashed into the helicopter’s rear rotor, damaging the aircraft so badly that it had to be towed away. Mr. Sunderly failed a field sobriety test at the scene, according to Florida Highway Patrol officers, and was then transported to the Orange County Jail. He blew a .18 on the Breathalyzer, which is nine times the legal limit for minors in Florida.

At various points, Mr. Sunderly said that he was sorry for “all this” and “I really appreciate you for keeping people like me off the street.”

Third Party Alcohol Liability

In alcohol-involved crashes, the person or entity who provided the alcohol may also be responsible for damages. Third party liability is especially important if the tortfeasor was uninsured or underinsured, as is often the case.

Florida has a rather limited dram shop law that holds bars, restaurants, private clubs, and other commercial providers liable for damages if they:

  • “Willfully and unlawfully” serve a minor, or
  • Serve any person who is “habitually” addicted to alcohol.

The first area is entirely objective: the customer is either 21 or younger. It is normally not a defense for the server to say that the person “looked” older; in some cases, liability still attaches even if the person presented a fake ID. The second area is more subjective, because the server must actually know that the person is addicted to alcohol.

Florida does not have a social host liability law, but a non-commercial alcohol transaction may still give rise to damages, in some cases. For example, if a host allows an intoxicated party guest to drive home after having said that such guests must stay the night, the host may be liable under a negligent undertaking theory.

First Party Alcohol Liability

If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated a non-traffic criminal law, such as driving with a suspended license or driving while intoxicated, the negligence per se (negligence “as such”) shortcut may be available. In a traditional negligence case, the plaintiff must prove duty, breach, cause in fact, proximate cause, and damages. But in the case of a statutory violation, the plaintiff must only prove that the:

  • The tortfeasor violated a law,
  • The victim was among the people the law was designed to protect, and
  • The plaintiff suffered injury.

The plaintiff must establish each element by a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not.

If the tortfeasor committed a traffic violation, like running a stop sign or speeding, such an infraction is evidence of negligence, but not conclusive proof. So, while it is easier to establish liability in these situations, the “shortcut” is not available.

Contact Serious Attorneys

Alcohol-involved crashes cause significant personal and property damages. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury attorney in Orlando, contact Reed & Reed. We do not charge upfront legal fees in car crash cases.

From our office in Brandon, Reed & Reed helps clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida.