A pickup truck driver apparently lost control of his vehicle, swerved into oncoming traffic, collided with several vehicles, and killed four people.

The wreck occurred on Interstate 4 between Kathleen and Memorial in Lakeland. Authorities state that a 22-year-old man from Haines City crossed over from the eastbound side to the westbound side, careening into a pickup truck and a Nissan sedan. Two other trucks hit debris from the earlier wrecks. 12-year-old Cassie Gatcha, who was in the Nissan sedan, and a 59-year-old man from Alpharetta, Ga., who was in one of the latter two trucks, were killed; the driver and passenger in the truck that caused the crash were both ejected from the vehicle, and they also died.

Interstate 4 was shut down for several hours as authorities investigated.

Breach in Car Crash Cases

Excessive speed is a primary contributing factor in about a third of all fatal car crashes. Many of these wrecks involve velocities that do not exceed the posted speed limit, because drivers do not slow down enough when the roads are slick, which interferes with steering and braking, or visibility is poor, which means that reaction times are shorter.

Well over 30 percent of drivers under 24 admit to speeding, and the crashes that speeding drivers cause inflict much more personal injury and property damage.

Indeed, there are certain factors involved in speeding that are responsible for many crashes, including the following:

  • Reaction Time: Slower-moving drivers can take evasive maneuvers to avoid sudden and unexpected hazards, but faster-moving drivers are often unable to do so.
  • Braking Distance: Vehicles moving at 70mph take almost twice as long to stop as vehicles moving at 50mph.
  • Collision Force: The added vehicle-vehicle force transforms “fender benders” into serious crashes, and the force in the secondary collision – when a vehicle occupant’s head strikes the dashboard or other solid object – is much higher as well.

Victims who suffer serious injuries are normally entitled to compensation for both their economic losses, like medical bills, and noneconomic losses, like loss of enjoyment of life. Punitive damages are also available, in some cases.

Proximate Cause in Car Crash Cases

To be held liable for damages, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) must “cause” the damages in both a factual and legal sense. For most of the last century, proximate or legal cause has been synonymous with foreseeability. Because of the rule articulated in Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. (1928), tortfeasors are responsible for the damages they cause both directly and indirectly.

This colorful case, which is a law school classic, involved a woman (Helen Palsgraf) who was waiting for a train to New York’s Rockaway Beach with her daughters. As they waited, a late-arriving passenger, who may have been somewhat overweight, tried to board a departing train as it was already pulling away from the platform. One pullman tried to push the man into the car from behind while another one tried to pull him up from the inside. In all this jostling, the man dropped a package of fireworks that exploded and sent a shock wave to the other platform, which caused a large penny scale to topple over onto Ms. Palsgraf.

The court ruled that, for the defendant to be liable, the damages must be foreseeable. While the almost unbelievable chain of events in Palsgraf was not foreseeable, it is definitely foreseeable that a collision would create debris and that other vehicles may collide with such debris.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Excessive speed causes car crash damages both directly and indirectly. For a free consultation with a seasoned personal injury attorney, contact Reed & Reed. From our office in Brandon, Reed & Reed helps clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida.