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Fireball Large Truck Collision on Florida Turnpike

Oldham & Smith Nov. 23, 2017

Two people escaped from a burning passenger car-semi truck wreck on the Florida Turnpike, but a third victim died in the flames.

On a stretch of highway in Osceola County, 44-year-old Rafael Contreras, of Kissimmee, made an illegal lane change in his 2015 large truck. He literally ran over a 2018 Chevy Malibu, which lodged underneath the trailer. After the two vehicles drifted to the guardrail, they broke apart and burst into flames. Both drivers got out in time, but 63-year-old Gerald Hall, of Fort Pierce, was unable to open the Malibu’s passenger-side door. First responders arrived quickly, but they could not save him, and he died at the scene.

Florida Highway Patrol officers are investigating the crash and expect to file charges against one or more drivers.

Large Truck Crashes

Fully-loaded tractor-trailers weigh at least 80,000 pounds, and officials routinely grant allowances that enable these vehicles to carry even heavier loads than that. These vehicles also carry up to 120 gallons of diesel fuel. Due to the vehicle’s size and hazardous cargo, large truck collisions often involve severe injuries such as:

  • Serious Burns: Diesel fuel and gasoline burn at different temperatures, so tractor-trailer crash victims often have third or even fourth-degree burns over much of their bodies. These painful injuries always require extensive skin grafts.

  • Head Injuries: Many passenger car restraint systems simply are not designed to handle the massive force involved in a high-speed, heavy object collision, and the sudden motion or trauma injury usually causes paralysis or other serious injuries due to head and neck wounds.

  • Broken Bones: Victims often sustain fractures so serious that bones are more crushed than broken. This kind of injury typically means highly invasive corrective surgery and months of physical rehabilitation.

Because of the particularized nature of these injuries, an attorney usually refers victims to an injury care specialist, and this doctor usually does not charge any money upfront.

Liability Issues

Based on the available facts, it appears that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) in the above story violated Section 316.085, which is Florida’s unsafe lane change law. Statutory violations like this usually mean that the victim/plaintiff can use the negligence per se shortcut. In these cases, victim/plaintiffs only need to establish that:

  • The tortfeasor violated a safety law, and

  • Said violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s injury.

In some jurisdictions, negligence per se is a presumption of negligence as opposed to absolute proof of negligence.

Work With Experienced Attorneys

Due to the serious injuries in large truck crashes, the victims are often entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Orlando, contact Oldham & Smith. We can assist you in recovering the compensation that you deserve.