La'Rae H. Hendrix P.A.

Personal injury claim changes to wrongful death if victim dies

In Florida and all other states, a driver who rear-ends a stationary vehicle on the roadway is liable for the injuries and damages that flow from that act of negligence. The operator or passengers in the struck vehicle have a right to bring a claim for personal injury damages against the driver of the offending vehicle. If a victim dies as a result of the rear-end collision, the deceased person's estate may bring a wrongful death claim for damages against the wrongdoer.

These principles will be put to the test as a result of a recent accident in Ocala where a Florida woman was arrested for DUI after crashing into the rear of a car on U.S. 27 on May 10. The 60-year-old driver of the struck vehicle was taken to Ocala Regional Medical Center where she died on May 14. The perpetrator, a 44-year-old female, tested with a blood alcohol level that was more than twice the legal limit.

Authorities arrested her for DUI with serious bodily injury. The woman's future treatment by the courts will not be helped by the fact that she was seen brightly and proudly smiling in her May 10 mug shot. After the victim died on May 14, the police arrested the suspect again and charged her with DUI manslaughter, an offense that results in a mandatory, substantial prison sentence upon conviction.

When photographed for her second mug shot, there was a deep frown on the woman's face, as though she had finally woken up to realize the consequences of her actions. The estate of the deceased victim may bring a wrongful death action under Florida law against the accused perpetrator. If she was drunk at the time of the accident and if her impairment directly resulted in the woman's personal injury and death, the victim's estate may even claim punitive damages to supplement the claim for compensatory damages.

Source:, "Woman smiles in DUI mugshot after fatal Florida crash", May 22, 2018

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