Did Defective Road Contribute To Tragic Car Crash In Bithlo/Christmas?
Many of us here in Winter Park — and especially those of us who are parents of recent and current Winter Park High School students — were shocked and saddened to learn of a tragic car accident that happened a couple of nights ago out in the Bithlo/ Christmas area. The one-car crash killed Thomas Stutts and Justin Vail, and injured Omokolap Hunpatin, after the SUV they were traveling in left the roadway of Fort Christmas Road, crashed through a fence, and into a tree.
The coverage that I saw was from the good folks at WESH.com (who I think always do a great job on local reporting.) As an attorney who has handled car accident and wrongful death cases for a long time, a couple of things struck me about the story.
First, I was shocked at the destruction to the SUV that these young men had been driving in. I was, frankly, surprised that anyone could have survived this crash. I was not surprised to hear from the Florida Highway Patrol that speed may have been a factor in the crash.
However, my interest really perked up when the WESH reporter started interviewing neighbors, who reported that horrible accidents (many of them involving fatalities) happen along that seemingly quiet road all the time. Video captured for the story showed multiple crosses and other memorials laid out beside Fort Christmas Road where other fatal crashes have presumably occurred.
Normally, a governmental entity cannot be held responsible for planning-level decisions — such the decision to build a road, or where the road will travel, or where to put a stop sign.
However, when it becomes apparent that something about the design of the road contains some kind of defect or makes for a dangerous condition, then a governmental entity can be held responsible for damages for personal injuries or wrongful death.
When I hear about multiple deaths on the same stretch of road over a period of time, I start to wonder whether we have a defective road. I become suspicious that perhaps the County, or State, or whichever entity built that road, could have done more to make it safer – like perhaps installed barriers on the edge of the roadway, or speed humps, or some other similar seemingly simple remedy that might have saved these young men’s precious lives.
If you have any questions regarding a Florida car accident or wrongful death case, please call Winter Park personal injury attorneys Kim Cullen and Robert Hemphill at 407-254-4901 for a free, no obligation strategy session, or download their free, information-packed Florida car accident guide by clicking here.