Albert Hagar and Susan Helie were critically injured in a Brooksville, Florida motorcycle accident yesterday. Sadly, another rider, Patricia Drew, was also killed in the accident.
According to news reports, Linda Peoples, 51, was driving eastbound on S.R. 50 when she turned into the path of two on coming motorcycles. One motorcycle was driven by Albert Hagar and a second motorcycle was driven by Patricia Drew. Susan Helie was Albert Hagar's passenger.
Reports indicate that Peoples was trying to make a left turn onto Weeping Willow Street when she crossed paths with the motorcycles. This caused Albert Hagar to collide with the side of her car. As a result, Hagar then crashed into the motorcycle driven by Patricia Drew. This second collision in turn caused Drew to be ejected from her motorcycle. Peoples was not injured in the crash.
Police investigators drew a blood sample following the motorcycle accident and that charges may be pending. If Peoples is the one charged, past experience tells me that police are considering DUI charges at this time.
Because someone was killed and two others were seriously injured, if Peoples is charged, she will likely face one count of DUI Manslaughter and two counts of Felony DUI. In total, she may be facing a maximum prison sentence of 25 years, if charged accordingly.
As a Florida personal injury lawyer, my purpose in writing this blog is to identify and analyze the legal issues cases like these present for members of the public. According to motorcycle accident statistics, motorcycle accident fatalities are increasing when compared to passenger vehicle fatalities.
Like many motorcycle accident cases before it, this case presents a number of specific issues. However, the reader is cautioned that this case is still under investigation by the authorities, and therefore, no final or concrete conclusions may be drawn at this time.
That said, I strongly suspect that Linda Peoples is the person responsible for this motorcycle accident. Based on the description reported in the media, it sounds like Peoples violated Hagar's and Drew's right of way. If true, Peoples can be held accountable for the ensuing injury and death under Florida law.
Put simply, Peoples had a legal duty to let the motorcycles pass before making her left hand turn.
When it comes to building a successful injury case, an attorney must identify three basic elements in the client's case. They are:
1) Provable Negligence
2) Provable Injury
3) Insured/Collectible Defendant
In this case, it seems pretty clear that the first and second elements are easily met. Peoples failed to yield right of way, thereby causing a crash that critically injured two people and killed one.
That said, the one variable in this case concerns insurance and collectibilty.
Considering this final element, Peoples' auto insurance would be the first source of compensation for Albert Hagar, Susan Helie, and Patricia Drew's survivors.
Under Florida law, when a person is liable for injuring another person, they can be held financially accountable for the injuries and death he/she causes.
For people like Albert Hagar and Susan Helie, there is a very real practical need to get compensation. They will have medical bills that need to be paid, they may have economic losses like lost wages, and they may require future medical treatment.
All of this stuff costs money and they should not be the ones to pay it.
Not to mention, they are entitled to compensation for pain and suffering and any lasting effects left by the accident... such as a diminished earning potential due to disability.
In regards to Patricia Drew, her family may be entitled to compensation under Florida's wrongful death statute. While there is no ongoing need for medical treatment, surviving spouses, children, and others are entitled to compensation for the loss of their loved one.
The law is very serious about these things because they touch on such personal and important issues.
But what happens if Peoples is either uninsured or under-insured?
This leads me to my next point.
If Albert Hagar and Patricia Drew had uninsured motorist coverage (also known as "UIM"), they will both be able to make claims against their own policies. Such claims are not uncommon at all and are the reason why a person has such coverage in the first place. Susan Helie would also be able to make such a claim.
First and foremost, we must not forget that Patricia Drew lost her life and two other people are sitting in the hospital with critical injuries as a result of this crash. My condolences go out to these people and their families for their loss. Hopefully Hargar and Helie will have a speedy recovery.
As an injury attorney, I see this case as yet another example of how dangerous Florida's roadways are. People need to pay closer attention and not be in such a rush. There are countless cases where waiting an extra ten seconds can make the difference between life and death. It happens every week in Florida.
Had Peoples waiting a few more seconds to let these bikers pass, I strongly suspect that this tragedy could have been avoided.