A University of Central Florida student is dead following a violent rear-end crash near Walt Disney World that involved multiple vehicles.

According to police and witnesses, 21-year-old Maxine Bartkovich, a senior hospitality major, was in a Toyota Corolla on Interstate 4 when she was struck from behind by a Ford pickup truck. The force of the impact propelled her vehicle into another Ford pickup in front of her, and the Corolla was sandwiched between the two other vehicles. Ms. Bartkovich was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. Friends and family later held a memorial service at a local coffee shop to remember Ms. Bartkovich, who was described as “lovable, kooky,

eccentric, unique, joyful, crazy – in the best way – soulful, and wonderful.”

Charges are pending against the first pickup driver, whose name was not released.

Fault in a Rear-End Crash

These instances are nearly always triggered by a defendant’s breach of the duty of reasonable care, and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has compiled a list of the most common faults in this area. They include:

  • Speed: Velocity increases braking distance in two ways. First, speed increases reaction time, which is the distance the vehicle travels in the time between the driver sees the event and applies the brakes. Secondly, speed increases stopping distance.
  • Distraction: Cellphones, whether hand-held or hands-free, are just one of the more obvious sources of distraction.
  • Alcohol: As little as one drink impairs motor skills and thought processes, both of which are essential for safe driving.

Adverse weather is involved in about 70 percent of crashes, suggesting that many drivers ignore environmental conditions.

While the police report relays important facts about the crash while the events are still fresh on the parties’ minds, the report is not necessarily conclusive. First responders usually collect contact information for witnesses and may speak to them briefly, but they are not at the scene to gather evidence. Instead, the police report nearly always comes from the first-hand accounts of the participants, and these accounts could be biased.

Legal Issues

Although fault appears relatively straightforward in these matters, there are a number of defenses that insurance companies often use to reduce the amount of damages, or even deny compensation altogether.

One such defense is sudden emergency. This is basically a fact-based argument that excuses negligent conduct if:

  • The driver is faced with an unexpected emergency, and
  • Acts reasonably in the wake of that emergency.

The insurance company normally tries to apply this defense to more predictable situations, like a car stopped in the road or a pedestrian walking onto the street between parked cars. But courts fairly consistently apply this doctrine only to unexpected situations, like a hood fly-up or tire blow-out.

Rely on Assertive Lawyers

Despite what television commercials may imply, the insurance company’s only interest is to deny compensation to victims. For a free consultation with Orlando personal injury attorneys who fight for victims, contact Reed & Reed. From our office in Brandon, we help clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida.