It was a horrific scene on I-75 northbound, on Florida’s east coast, near Winter Haven. That’s where authorities say a 24-year-old woman behind the wheel of a sport utility vehicle carrying nine children – ages 6 months to 10 years – plus one other adult, veered off the road, became airborne, rolled over numerous times and struck several trees.
A 2-year-old boy was killed after he was ejected from the vehicle. The other children also were ejected, and suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious. The 6-month-old is in serious condition, as is the other adult passenger, 44.
While the adult passenger wore her seat belt, authorities say none of the children wore seat belts or were properly belted in with size-appropriate restraints. There was one car seat in the vehicle, however authorities say it was not in use at the time of the crash.
Additionally the driver – mother of five of those children – is alleged to have been drunk at the time of the crash.
The driver, who was also injured, is now facing charges of DUI manslaughter, DUI causing injury, nine counts of DUI causing injury and child neglect.
While losing a child is likely the worst punishment any parent can receive, criminal penalties for these offenses are severe, and could lead to life imprisonment.
In many ways, this case would be much simpler from a civil litigation perspective if it was not the mother/aunt of these children behind the wheel.
It is likely medical expenses for the driver’s children would be covered under the mother’s insurance policy.
As far as the other children are concerned, their mother was the passenger. The passenger and driver were sisters. The passenger and her children could file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and her insurance company for damages.
It’s always tough when injured persons are faced with the possibility of filing a lawsuit against a loved one. This is especially true in cases when a person hasn’t so clearly crossed the line. People often drive with relatives, and sometimes those drivers may be impaired, distracted or just make a mistake behind the wheel. What’s important to remember is that usually, these claims are not personal. They are against the insurance company, and it’s not as if victims are seeking to hurt their relatives or loved ones. The goal is to ensure the victims’ medical bills and other expenses will be covered.
Often, that may not even take filing a lawsuit. With the help of a lawyer, sometimes a claim can be filed and a just settlement reached before it ever gets to that point. But having solid legal representation can help victims determine all possible avenues, and to approach them in the most sensitive way possible.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Woman charged with DUI after child killed on I-75, March 1, 2015, By Kim Kuizon, FOX 13 News
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