The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) has been faulted but not held criminally liable for playing a role in a series of deadly crashes that occurred in January on Interstate 75. According to Fox News, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has determined that the FHP erred in reopening a dangerous road but that no there were no criminal violations. On January 29th, the FHP reopened I-75 outside of Gainesville even though it was blanketed by fog and wildfire smoke. That morning, 6 fatal accidents claimed the lives of eleven people.
According to the investigation, Highway Patrol Sgt. Bruce Simmons stressed that the highway should stay closed, but he was overruled when Lt. John Gourley said that visibility had improved and that it could be dangerous to keep the road closed. The crashes occurred where the highway cuts through Paynes Prairie State Park, an area with no artificial lighting. The accidents included at least a dozen cars, pickup trucks and a van, six semi-trailer trucks and a motorhome.
Simmons allegedly said over his in-car recording device, “I said it will roll in faster than you can shut it down. This crap wouldn’t have happened if he’d have listened.” In addition to not correctly handing this case, the FHP has been faulted for not having guidelines for how to approach these types of situations, including how troopers should share crucial information during the day. Further, authorities never consulted technical specialists with the Forestry Service or National Weather Service.
Sadly, serious auto accidents are not uncommon and often lead to debilitating injuries or premature death. Accidents are frequently caused by the actions of another driver or other factors like road conditions, signage problems, automobile defects, and a number of other factors that are not the fault of the driver. If you are injured in an accident deemed not to be your fault, you may be eligible to receive compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. As finding out who is at fault for an accident must be done soon after the accident, do not hesitate to contact a dedicated car accident lawyer to find out if you can pursue legal recourse.