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Florida likely faces lawsuits over 2012 crashes

More than a year after a series of traffic crashes on I-75 in Florida killed 11 motorists and injured several more, the state of Florida will likely face multiple lawsuits for the incident. Insurance firms and trucking companies were able to avoid lawsuits with the families of over 40 victims, but state officials have repeatedly denied being responsible for the crashes. According to one attorney, Florida "has been indignant about engaging in any sort of dialogue to resolve these matters."

Called Florida's most fatal serious car accident, the multivehicle wreck occurred in January 2012, due to poor road conditions compounded with a mixture of fog and smoke, described by witnesses as "a white blanket." Several collisions were caused when semi-trucks suddenly braked in response to the smog, causing dozens of vehicles behind them to slam into each other. In the following months, numerous wrongful death and negligence lawsuits were levied against truck drivers, insurance companies and other defendants, although most of these claims did not result in trials.

Experts now say that the state of Florida itself will likely find itself defending against similar lawsuits. Despite findings that found violations by the Florida Highway Patrol were a significant factor in the deadly accident, the state has refused to accept culpability for the incident. As a result, at least 34 attorneys have submitted notices of intent to sue to Florida's Department of Risk Management. However, the immunity statute would prevent judges from awarding plaintiffs damages exceeding $200,000 unless specially approved by the governor and Legislature.

While sources with the Highway Patrol have declined to comment on claims that its troopers' mistakes were partially responsible for the fatal crashes, attorneys say the FHP has a history of violating its own safety policies, particularly those implemented after another smog-related crash that killed four people in 2008.

Source: Gainesville.com, "Suits still likely against state over I-75 crashes," Cindy Swirko, Jan. 27, 2013

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