A car accident on West Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland, Florida took the lives of two people and closed down the roadway for over five hours. The accident happened at approximately 12:20 p.m. between Brunnell Parkway and North Lincoln Avenue. The Ledger reports that Alexas A. Moore was driving a 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier westbound on US92 when she lost control during a heavy rainstorm. The news reports that a witness statement indicated that a gray vehicle pulled out in front of the Chevrolet Cavalier just west of North Walker Avenue.
Thereafter, the Chevrolet Cavalier hit the raised curb of the median, went through bushes in the median, and went into the eastbound lanes of US92. The car rotated and flipped after impact with a 2011 white Jeep Cherokee, driven by Charles R. Harrelson. The posted speed limit is 45 mph. Harrelson and his wife are in critical condition at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center. Blannie Denmark was also a passenger in the Jeep Cherokee and died as a result of the accident. Moore and her passenger, Armani T. Evans, were both ejected from the Chevrolet Cavalier. Moore was not wearing a seatbelt. It is not known whether Armani was wearing a seatbelt. Harrelson was wearing a seatbelt but it is not known whether his passengers were wearing seatbelts.
This accident likely involves some degree of negligence of the drivers of the red Chevrolet Cavalier and the unidentified gray vehicle that witnesses say pulled out directly in front of Ms. Moore. Ms. Moore was likely traveling above the posted speed limit at the time she encountered the gray vehicle. Based on that assumption (and the length of the skidding), the speed of the Chevrolet Cavalier was likely a major contributing factor to this collision.
“Phantom” Vehicle Means An Unknown Vehicle
With that being said, the death of Ms. Denmark is considered a wrongful death under Florida law as it was the result of negligence. The proportion of legal liability between Ms. Moore and the unknown “phantom” vehicle is to be determined by a jury. The same applies to legal liability for injuries to Mr. Evans, Mr. Harrelson, and Mrs. Harrelson. Because of the liability of the “phantom” gray vehicle, if any of the injured had uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UM), then they can make a claim for the negligence of the “phantom” vehicle. UM coverage normally applies to all resident relative household members. Considering that Ms. Denmark was in her 80’s, she could be a mother or mother-in-law to the Harrelsons and may qualify for UM coverage as a resident relative household member.
Seatbelts And Comparative Fault
The issue of whether any of the occupants were wearing seatbelts or not will bear out with some degree of comparative fault assigned by the jury. For the seatbelt defense to be an effective defense, the defendant must be able to prove that the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt made a difference. There are some accidents where a seatbelt makes a difference and some accidents where a seatbelt does not make a difference. However, it is the law for children and front seat occupants to wear seatbelts (see section 316.614, Florida Statutes). Therefore, under Florida law, Ms. Denmark may not have been required to wear a seatbelt and may not have any degree of liability assessed against her for failure to wear a seatbelt.