WorldAtlas.com, the Orlando area is the second-most-popular family vacation spot in the
country. As the home of family-oriented attractions such as
Walt Disney World Resort and
Universal Studios Orlando Resort, the area attracts an estimated 38% of the national domestic vacation
travel market. When you take into account that the Miami / Miami Beach
/ Dade County area attracts an additional 15% of domestic vacationers,
it is easy to understand why the I-75 corridor, and its “feeder”
roads are among the nation’s most heavily-traveled highways.
The Facts Behind the Accident
In the hours and days following
any fatality traffic accident, much of the publicly-available information
regarding the cause and circumstances of the accident are generally based
on the recollections of “eyewitnesses” and the initial findings
of the investigations conducted by local and state law enforcement agencies.
With these potential shortcomings in mind, a compilation of information
carried by local and
national media sources suggests the following chain of events.
According to a statement released by the Florida Highway Patrol and quoted
WTXL, at around 3:00 pm on Thursday, January 3rd a commercial tractor-trailer rig was traveling in the northbound lane
of I-75 just south of Alachua when it struck a much smaller
Honda Fit subcompact. The impact caused both drivers to lose control of their respective
vehicles, causing both to crash through a guardrail before crossing the
grassy highway median and enter the flow of traffic in the southbound
lane. At that time the out-of-control semi struck a privately-owned van
that was traveling southbound, causing it to overturn several times while
ejecting its passengers. The truck then struck another southbound semi,
and a fuel leak of some type caused both trucks to burst into flames.
In a later press release the Florida Highway Patrol stated that 7 people
had died at the scene, with five of the victims being children between
9 to 14 years old who were on their way to Disney World on a trip sponsored by
their church in Marksville, Louisiana. Both truck drivers were also killed and 8 other accident victims, presumably
passengers in the van transporting the children, were being treated in
How Semi-Truck Accidents Occur
In accidents of such magnitude as this, one of the first questions asked
is usually “Who was ‘at fault’ in the accident?”,
which translates to “Who is going to be held liable for compensating
the accident victims and their families?” In spite of its seemingly-obvious
answer (the driver and that driver’s employer, via the doctrine of
respondeat superior), this accident raises several issues of law that must be addressed:
While again acknowledging that the investigation of this tragedy is in
its earliest stages, the currently available witness statements indicate
that the accident began when the driver of the northbound semi made contact
with the Honda subcompact. Who, or what, caused this initial contact is
unknown and will have to be determined by a forensic accident reconstruction
conducted by investigators from the Florida Departments of Transportation
(DOT) and Public Safety (DPS) as well as the National Transportation Safety
Board (NTSB). However, past investigations of similar accidents suggest
that the most likely cause would be an improper lane change by either
the semi or the Honda, but
probably due to the Honda being in the semi driver’s “blind spot”
and thus invisible to the driver of the northbound truck.
- Was negligence a factor in the accident?
In its online coverage of the accident. the
Herald reported that the driver of the northbound semi, 59-year-old Steve Holland
of West Palm Beach, had been ticketed in several times in the past for
“moving violations” including speeding, operating an overloaded
vehicle, operating an unsafe vehicle, and failure to carry proof of insurance.
While Holland’s previous driving record
does not mean that he was violating traffic laws at the time of the accident, that
record could be cited in a civil lawsuit in support of an allegation that
his previous record indicated a
tendency toward unsafe driving habits that should have been known to his employer.
- Which state’s civil laws will apply if a civil lawsuit is filed?
Since the accident occurred in Florida, any lawsuits will be filed in Florida
courts where both Florida’s rules of civil procedure and statutory
(written) law will apply even though the accident victims were
not Florida residents. This fact could have a significant impact on any future
legal actions because, by state law, Florida is a “no-fault” state.
As a no-fault state, Florida imposes several complicated rules that can
limit the type and amount of damages that an accident victim (or a victim’s
survivors) can recover. In some cases, and depending on the amount of
damages claimed, Florida law can restrict an accident victim’s right
to file a lawsuit! These rules are best explained by a
personal injury lawyer who has experience in dealing with Florida accidental injury and wrongful
Involved in an accident with a semi? Why you will need a truck accident lawyer
As we have seen, Florida motor vehicle accidental injury and wrongful death
cases can become quite complicated from a legal standpoint. In fact, visitors
from other states are often shocked to learn that their right to receive
compensation for their injuries may be limited by state law.
If you, or a family member, were injured in an accident involving a commercial
truck and are unsure of the best course of action to protect your legal
right to compensation for your injuries and other losses, we invite you
to contact the
commercial truck accident injury lawyer at
The Doan Law Firm to arrange a free, no obligation, review of your accident and a discussion
of the options that may be available to you.
At our firm, your first consultation is always free and
does not require you to hire us as your legal representative. Should you decide
that you want to file a lawsuit and that you would like us to represent
you in court, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects
of preparing your case for trial in return for a percentage of the final
settlement that we will win for you.