Two people were killed, and a third person was seriously injured, after yet another car crash on a deadly stretch of road in Orange County.
The wreck occurred near the infamous Lake Pickett Road/Fort Christmas Road intersection, which is in a rural area about 20 miles east of Orlando. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 20-year-old Thomas Stutts temporarily lost control of a Ford SUV while southbound on Fort Christmas. After he overcorrected, the vehicle left the road, smashed through a fence and slammed into a tree. Mr. Stutts was pronounced dead at the scene, as was 20-year-old Justin Vail. A third occupant – 20-year-old Omokolap Hunpatin – was ejected from the vehicle and seriously injured, but he is expected to survive.
Area residents say that this intersection has been the site of numerous fatal and serious injury wrecks. In this instance, authorities believe that Mr. Stutts may have been speeding moments before the crash.
Speed in Car Crashes
Excessive velocity is a factor in about a third of fatal car crashes. As illustrated by the above story, drivers have less time to react at higher speeds and evasive maneuvers are harder to perform. When a crash happens, Newton’s Second Law of Physics states that velocity multiplies the force when objects collide. In car wrecks, the effect is twofold:
- Externally, speed transforms non-injury “fender bender” crashes into serious wrecks that involve significant property damages and personal injury
- Internally, loose objects in the vehicle, like cell phones, become high-speed projectiles, because they continue travelling at the same speed as before even when the vehicle comes to a sudden stop.
Car crashes that involve serious injuries are exempt from the no-fault law, so victims in these cases are entitled to compensation for both their economic damages, like lost wages, and noneconomic damages, like loss of consortium (companionship).
Suing the Government
Immediately north of the Lake Pickett Road intersection, Fort Christmas Road curves about 45 degrees after many miles of straightaway. Making matters worse, there is an elbow curve which is concealed by trees. And, just like motorists have a duty of reasonable care, governments have a duty to maintain roads, highways, bridges, overpasses and other public thoroughfares, to keep them safe.
Florida has waived its sovereign immunity, so it is possible to sue the government, but only in some circumstances. Generally, government officials cannot be sued for any function that involves official discretion, such as deciding whether or not to place a traffic control device at a certain location.
However, if the negligent act was a ministerial function that involved no official discretion, sovereign immunity does not apply. Some examples of ministerial functions include:
- Giving medical care to prisoners,
- Replacing burned-out or non-working streetlights, and
- Ensuring that traffic signs and traffic control devices are visible.
Erecting a stop sign, trimming trees to improve visibility, and other such acts are normally discretionary functions. But in some cases, they are ministerial; for example, a municipality might agree to put up a stop sign but drag its feet about doing so.
Reach Out to Experienced Attorneys
Excessive speed and lack of traffic control devices can be a deadly combination. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury lawyer, 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.