At least eleven people were seriously hurt after an SUV driver, who may have fallen asleep while driving, crossed the centerline and collided with a busload of people.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 36-year-old Megan Hester-Villalobos, of Groveland, was southbound on the northbound side of Sherbeth Road when she smashed into the 16-passenger bus; the vehicles almost immediately caught fire. Video taken at the scene graphically shows the flames engulfing the vehicles under plumes of smoke as both bystanders and first responders rush to offer assistance. Ms. Hester-Villalobos was rushed to a local hospital along with her husband and son; eight of the people on the Super Transportation of Florida bus were also injured.

The boy in the SUV supposedly told investigators that his mother fell asleep while driving after a long day at the theme park.

Fatigued Driving

More than one-third of drivers admit they have been so tired while operating a motor vehicle that the fell asleep; roughly twice that number admit to being tired enough that their driving skills were impaired. As a rule, drowsy driving statistics are probably understated, because they depend on drivers to self-report their fatigue; moreover, some law enforcement agencies do not even have a code for drowsiness-related vehicle wrecks.

To ward off the effects of fatigue, some drivers roll down the windows, turn up the air conditioner, or turn on the radio. While these little tricks may help drivers feel more alert, at least for a few minutes, they do not remove the effects of fatigue. These effects can be compared with alcohol consumption. In fact:

  • Driving after 18 consecutive waking hours is the equivalent of a .04 BAC, which is more than enough to establish impairment in civil court, and
  • Driving after 24 consecutive waking hours is the equivalent of a .10 BAC, which is over the legal limit in Florida.

If a car crash victim is seriously injured, damages include compensation for both economic losses, such as lost wages, and noneconomic losses, including emotional distress. Punitive damages are also available, if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) showed no regard whatsoever for the safety and property of others.

Legal Issues in a Negligence Case

The insurance company nearly always tries to shift some or all of the blame to the victim, in order to reduce the amount of damages or even deny compensation altogether. Two of these defenses – comparative fault and sudden emergency – have been discussed in previous posts. Another one, the last clear chance doctrine, completely flips liability for damages.

This defense often applies in wrong-way and rear-end crashes, in which the defendant is normally clearly at fault. But if the jury determines that the plaintiff had a legitimate opportunity to avoid the crash, by slowing down, changing lanes, or making other evasive maneuvers, yet failed to take such action, the defendant may be excused from liability.

For the defense to apply, the other party must have the last clear chance to avoid the crash, as opposed to the last possible chance.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Serious car crashes involve major injuries and complex legal issues. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury lawyer in Orlando, contact Reed & Reed today, because you have a limited amount of time to act.

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