Authorities are searching for answers after a serious wreck on the Florida Turnpike killed two people and severely injured three others.

The collision occurred between Osceola Parkway and State Road 417, when 26-year-old Nicole Varona lost control of her SUV, apparently because the tire tread on one of the wheels separated. The SUV apparently struck a guardrail and then ping-ponged back into traffic. A trailing, fully-loaded car carrier slammed into the SUV from behind after the driver was unable to avoid the collision. 25-year-old Rebekah Pollard and 5-year-old Esibel Varona were ejected from the vehicle; both died at the scene. When first responders originally arrived, they observed several children trapped inside the SUV; Steven Montiero of the Florida Highway Patrol added that there were “backpacks and blankets” strewn along the roadway.

Twelve-year-old Emilia Varona and 26-year-old Leonel Cobo were both seriously injured. Officials say that none of the victims were wearing seatbelts.

Evidence in Car Crash Cases

If there is no obvious cause for a car wreck, like alcohol impairment or excessive speed, investigators often turn to the Event Data Recorder for answers. All new cars sold in the United States have EDRs. Capability varies by make and model, but most of these devices capture and record a great deal of safety-related information, including:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Brake application,
  • RPM,
  • Steering angle,
  • Seatbelt use,
  • Airbag deployment, and
  • Certain mechanical faults.

Florida does not have a specific EDR access/privacy law, so in most cases, the information can only be downloaded after obtaining a court order or the owner’s permission. To bypass the need for either of these things, an attorney will send a spoliation letter to the record owner as well as the person or entity in possession of the vehicle. This letter creates a legal duty to preserve all evidence in the case, including the EDR.

It is important to act quickly in these matters, because in many cases, the insurance company will destroy a totaled vehicle within a few days or weeks, and the EDR will be lost forever.

Passenger Restraints and Comparative Fault

Sometimes crashes happen for reasons that are not readily apparent, and sometimes the plaintiff is partially at fault for the damages sustained. For example, the plaintiff might have been speeding at the same time the defendant ran a red light.

Florida is one of only fifteen states with a seatbelt nonuse law. Section 316.614(10) states that failure to wear a seatbelt “may [emphasis added] be considered as evidence of comparative negligence.” The good news is that nonuse cannot “be considered in mitigation of damages.” So, in addition to considering seatbelt nonuse, the jury can consider other pertinent factors.

Contact Zealous Attorneys

For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury lawyer in Orlando, contact Reed & Reed. We do not charge upfront legal fees in personal injury 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.