Most of us speed much more often than we care to admit. If the road is flat, straight, and dry, the weather is clear, and the traffic is light, speeding is not particularly dangerous. But if even one of those “ifs” is not present, speed is often deadly. In fact, excessive velocity is a factor in about a third of the fatal car crashes in Florida.
How does simple velocity have such a significant impact, and how can victims of these car crashes obtain compensation and justice?
The Connection Between Speed and Wrecks in Florida
Speed increases braking distance. At most, it only takes a split second for drivers to see approaching hazards. That’s reaction time. Then, it takes another second or so for drivers to move their feet from the accelerator to the brake pedal, apply the brake, and stop the car. That’s stopping time. When combined, most cars travel:
- Six car lengths at 30mph, and
- Eighteen car lengths at 60mph.
Put simply, there is a multiplying effect. The faster a car travels, the higher the risk of a speed-related car crash.
These are just average figures. Stopping distance varies greatly, depending on the size of the vehicle, environmental conditions, and other factors. That’s why even one out-of-place element can cause a Florida car wreck.
Speeding vehicles are also difficult to control, especially when the driver is negotiating a curve. Many times, speeding drivers understeer as they approach the curve, because they underestimate the need to maneuver. Then, they oversteer to correct their angles. That action frequently causes loss of control.
Most car crash damages occur not in the first collision (vehicle against vehicle) but in the second collision (people against the inside of a vehicle). Speed has a multiplying effect here as well, according to Newton’s second law of motion. Ordinary cellphones and other loose objects basically turn into high-speed projectiles at this point.
As a result, speed transforms many “fender bender” collisions into serious injury crashes. So, the victims are entitled to compensation for not only medical bills and other economic losses, but also emotional distress and other noneconomic losses.
Establishing Liability in Florida Speed-Related Wrecks
The negligence per se shortcut works a little differently in Florida. Typically, a statutory violation is conclusive evidence of negligence and victim/plaintiffs need only prove cause. In Florida, that statement is true with regard to penal statutes, such as DUI. But as for non-penal statutes, such as:
- Traffic laws punishable by fine only,
- OSHA rules, and
- Municipal codes,
Negligence per se is only a presumption of negligence.
So, in speeding cases, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is presumed negligent. However, the tortfeasor has an opportunity to rebut that presumption, often with the contributory negligence defense.
The Comparative Fault Defense in Florida
Often, insurance company lawyers try to shift accident blame onto the victims. For example, a lawyer may admit that the tortfeasor was speeding but insist that the victim’s illegal lane change really caused the accident.
In these cases, it’s important to point out all the circumstances to the jury. For example, speeding 5mph over the limit may not be significant under normal circumstances. But if the road was wet or the tortfeasor was negotiating a curve, that 5mph could be fatal.
Even if the insurance company lawyer succeeds in raising this defense, its impact is often negligible in Florida. The Sunshine State is a pure comparative fault jurisdiction. Even if the victim is 90 percent responsible for the crash, the victim still receives a proportional share of damages in Florida.
Connect With Experienced Attorneys
In a nutshell, speed often causes serious collisions. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).