Robert McNeely was crossing Broadway Street as a pedestrian near the intersection of Lakewood Court when he was struck and killed by an SUV on December 18, 2016. McNeely was only 22 years old at the time of this death. The accident happened at approximately 11:20 p.m. when Danielle Bonin was headed eastbound on Broadway Street. Afterward, Bonin said to police that she knew that she hit something but did not immediately see what is was or realize that it was a person. She went approximately 1/4 mile before calling 911 and returned to the scene of the accident. McNeely was taken to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center and was pronounced dead. The Ledger reports that there were no streetlights in this area.
Speed Limit is 30 MPH
The speed limit along this stretch of roadway is 30 mph. It is also a neighborhood. At 3o mph, the likelihood of not seeing a pedestrian is slim unless there is another factor at play, such as either speed or distraction (or possibly both). The evidence of this is the fact that Ms. Bonin did not immediately realize that she had struck a person with her car.
Almost a Hit and Run
While she did the right thing by calling 911 and returning to the scene, the fact that the story unfolded in this manner is suggestive of speeding or distraction. Hitting a person who weighs 150-200 lbs. is a significant event that the driver should be aware of and should know to stop. Because Ms. Bonin returned to the scene, she should not be charged with leaving the scene of an accident. However, the circumstances are suggestive that she has liability for the accident in that, if she were keeping a proper lookout on the roadway, then she should have seen McNeely.
Location of Impact is a Question
One other fact that was not specifically mentioned is where the impact happened. Without such information, it is possible to conclude that the impact could have occurred on the shoulder where McNeely may have thought that he was safe. A distracted driver could easily hit a passenger who is standing on the white line or was on the shoulder of the road. Until further information surfaces, we simply do not know.
Lakeland Pedestrian Wrongful Death
The evidence reported is enough to support a wrongful death claim in Florida. A jury will likely be suspicious of the fact that Ms. Bonin didn’t realize she hit a person and later came back to the scene. Speculation would have it that she wasn’t paying full attention to the roadway when the impact happened (that’s why it was a surprise to her) and then she panicked before reason set in. While Ms. Bonin may not fully comprehend why this accident is a wrongful death, common law in Florida requires a driver to pay full attention to the roadway at all times. Unless Mr. McNeely suddenly darted out into the road from obscurity, then a jury is likely to find that Ms. Bonin wasn’t paying full attention to the road.
Call a Lakeland Wrongful Death Lawyer for Advice
There should be a $5,000 death benefit under Florida’s no-fault law that is payable to a funeral home or to Mr. McNeely’s survivors. At age 22, Mr. McNeely may have had a spouse or child, but is most likely survived by his parents. Mr. McNeely’s parents have a claim for wrongful death under Florida law and should decide who is going to open a probate as personal representative. If you or someone you know needs help settling a personal injury claim or needs to establish a probate after a wrongful death, please contact a Lakeland personal injury attorney for a free case review.