According to official statistics from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV), over 3,000 deaths occurred because of car accidents in 2018 alone. If you have been involved in a car accident in Tampa where someone lost their life, it is important that you seek legal representation immediately. Depending on the facts surrounding the accident, you could be facing second-degree or first-degree felony charges and a lengthy prison sentence. Furthermore, as well as state charges, you could also be sued in a civil court and ordered to pay compensation to the victim’s family.
Many people wrongly assume that because they had no intent to cause the death of another person, that they will not face felony charges. However, your actions leading up to a car accident may still mean that you are held responsible for any serious injury or death that occurs. For example, if you caused an accident whilst driving under the influence, your wanton disregard for the safety of those around, you will mean that you will face the most serious penalties.
If you or a loved one have been accused of causing an accident that resulted in death, The Law Place can help. Our law firm has a team of some of the best criminal defense attorneys in the state. We will relentlessly fight your criminal charges and defend your rights. With the help of a qualified Tampa personal injury lawyer, your charges could be reduced or even dismissed. For a free case evaluation, call us today at (941) 444-4444. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Negligence Under Florida Law
When it comes to car accidents that involve a death, negligence is a major factor. According to the Florida Standard Jury Instructions, negligence is the “failure to act with reasonable care,” in the same way, any reasonable person would under similar circumstances.
Just because a motor vehicle crash that you caused was accidental, it does not mean that you will not be held responsible in some way. The prosecution will seek to establish that your actions were negligent, reckless, or that they showed a wanton disregard for the safety of others. According to the law in Tampa, all residents must owe a duty of care to others. If a defendant took a course of action despite any foreseeable risk, they would face criminal charges for any damage, injury, or wrongful death that occurs as a result.
The prosecution has the burden to establish the following elements to achieve a conviction of negligence.
- The legal duty to use due care – The existence of a duty of care that is recognized by law, which states that a person must meet a certain standard of conduct to protect others.
- Breach of that duty – The defendant’s failure to meet this standard of conduct.
- Causation – The connection between the defendant’s negligent actions and the injury or death of the victim.
- Damage/injury –The loss, injury, and damage that was caused because of the breach of duty.
Death Caused by Reckless or Careless Driving
If you or a loved one was involved in a car accident in Tampa that involved a death, and the prosecution can show that the accident was caused by reckless or careless driving, you will face charges of negligence.
Examples of reckless driving include driving dangerously above the posted speed limit, ignoring traffic signals, and tailgating. According to Florida Statute 316.192, any person in Tampa who drives “in a willful or wanton disregard” for the safety of others will be found guilty of reckless driving. If an accidental death was caused by reckless driving, the defendant would face felony charges of the third-degree under Florida Statute 775.082, 775.083, and 775.084.
Death Caused by Driving Under the Influence (DUI Manslaughter)
If you were driving under the influence at the time of a car accident that involved a death, you would face DUI manslaughter charges.
According to Florida Statue 316.193, you can be convicted of a DUI if you are found to be in control of a vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol (BAC above 0.8%), chemical substances, or controlled substances. If, whilst driving under the influence, you cause an accident that results in the death of another person, you could be convicted of DUI manslaughter and face second-degree or even first-degree felony charges.
Aggravated Fleeing to Elude Law Enforcement in Tampa, FL.
According to Florida Statue 316.1935, it is illegal to flee to elude a law enforcement officer. If you have been given an order to stop by an officer in an official patrol vehicle with their sirens activated, you are required by law to stop. To elude law enforcement, suspects usually flee in a reckless manner, and serious car accidents can occur as a result. If a person is killed or suffers a serious injury because of this reckless behavior, the driver will face aggravated fleeing to elude charges under Florida Statute 316.061 and Florida Statute 316.027.
Leaving the Scene of a Tampa Car Accident That Involved Serious Injury or Death
Leaving the scene of an accident, otherwise known as a hit and run, when a death has occurred is a very serious traffic offense that can lead to first-degree felony charges under Florida Statue 316.027. Anyone who is involved in a car accident is required to:
- Stop their vehicle at the scene or as close to it as possible.
- Give assistance where needed.
- Exchange names and addresses with any other persons involved in the car accident.
- Report the car accident to law enforcement.
We understand that “fight or flight” often kicks in when these incidents occur. If you have found yourself facing charges of leaving the scene of an accident, you need a knowledgeable attorney by your side. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
Wrongful Death Civil Lawsuits in Tampa, FL.
Under Florida Statute 768.19, when a person’s death is caused by negligence, wrongful acts, or breach of contract by another person, the victim’s loved one can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit in the civil court. This could be the deceased person’s spouse, children, parents, or any blood relative or adoptive sibling who is “partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for services or support.” According to this statute, you could be ordered to pay compensation for causing the death of the victim, in addition to your criminal charges. They can sue you for damages and seek compensation for lost wages, loss of companionship, medical expenses, and funeral expenses. Defending wrongful death claims is emotionally charged and very complex. Only the most experienced lawyers can provide an adequate defense. Call The Law Place today to speak to someone on our team.
A wrongful death lawsuit in Florida must be filed within two years following a car accident, as stated under Florida Statute 95.11. If this time limit has passed, compensation may not be awarded.
Penalties in a Fatal Tampa Car Accident Case
Many factors are considered in the process of determining which felony charges a defendant should face. The court will consider any prior convictions and all the circumstances surrounding the case. Your lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea deal to avoid a jury trial, but you could still face felony charges.
- First-degree felony – For an accident involving a death or serious injury, depending on the circumstances, you could face first-degree felony charges. A first-degree felony conviction is punishable by $10,00 in fines and up to thirty years in prison.
- Second degree-felony – If you are convicted of a second-degree felony, you will face up to fifteen years in prison and up to $10,00 in fines.
- Third degree-felony – If you are convicted of a third-degree felony, you will face up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
A felony conviction is something everyone wants to avoid. With the help of an experienced Tampa wrongful death lawyer, you could have your charges reduced to a misdemeanor or even have your charges dropped. Call The Law Place today!
Consequences of a Felony Conviction in Tampa, Florida
If you are found guilty of causing an accident that resulted in death, you will likely face felony charges. You may automatically think of lengthy prison terms, but the long-term consequences will be even more devastating. Felony charges cannot be expunged or sealed, so the label of ‘felon’ will stay with you and affect the rest of your life. The state places certain restrictions on felons, and while some rights can be restored, many of these restrictions will cause issues for you and your family forever. Amongst other things, you will be prevented from voting, applying for certain jobs, and applying for housing.
If you have been previously convicted of two or more felonies on top of this one, you could face a lengthy prison term under one of Florida’s repeat offender sentencing schemes, otherwise known as the “three strikes and you’re out” law under Florida Statute 775.084.
The only chance you have of avoiding these charges following an accident involving a death is with the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer. Contact The Law Place today for a free consultation.
Defenses in a Fatal Tampa Car Accident Case
These types of cases are always complex, and only a lawyer with the knowledge and expertise in Florida law will be able to build an adequate defense on your behalf. Some examples of defenses that may be put forward in your case include:
- Wrongfully accused – There may be evidence to show that you have been wrongfully accused of the crime.
- Comparative negligence – This refers to whether the deceased is somehow partly responsible for their own death. For example, if they were cycling on the road at night with no light reflectors and killed by a passing car or truck, they may be comparatively negligent.
- No causation – There may be evidence to prove that your actions did not cause the death of the deceased. The prosecution needs to make a clear connection between your contact and the death that occurred. If your lawyer can find weaknesses in their case, your charges may be dismissed.
- State of mind – You were not in the right state of mind at the time of the accident due to no fault of your own. For example, you had taken prescribed medication, and this caused the accident.
Whatever the circumstances surrounding your case are, The Law Place can help, so call us today for a free consultation.
Steps to Take at the Scene of a Tampa Car Accident
If you have been involved in a traffic accident, there are steps you should take. All of these steps could help your defense at a later date.
- Don’t leave the scene – As previously mentioned, you should not leave the scene of an accident; you should remain to offer assistance. If you are responsible for the accident, leaving the scene will make matters much worse.
- Check for injury – No matter who is at fault, under Florida law, you can make an insurance or compensation claim for any injury you have sustained. Check for any injuries and seek medical attention straight away.
- Gather witness information – If there are any witnesses to the accident, gather their contact information so that they can be contacted at a later date.
- Take pictures – Photographic evidence of the accident scene may be crucial in your case. Take pictures as soon as you can following the accident before evidence is lost.
- Contact your insurance company – You will need to speak to your insurance company sooner or later, so don’t avoid this call. Give an honest account without making any formal statements.
- Seek legal advice – Contact a trusted law firm straight away. An attorney can guide you through the legal process and protect your rights.
Statute of Limitations in Tampa Felony Cases
In Florida, all criminal prosecutions are subject to a “statute of limitations.” This is a period of time that begins once the alleged crime has been committed. A conviction must be reached before the statute of limitations has passed. Otherwise, they cannot be charged. In the case of life felonies and capital felonies that have resulted in wrongful death, no statute of limitations applies. Crimes in the first-degree usually have a four-year statute of limitations, and other felonies have a limitation period of three years, but this always depends on the circumstances surrounding the case.
What a Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Do for You
When a car accident occurs, many drivers assume that their insurance company will support them through the legal process. However, when it comes to car accidents that involve serious injury or death, the support of a qualified injury lawyer is vital. This goes for civil lawsuits for compensation claims as well as criminal trials.
An experienced criminal defense attorney from The Law Place will support you from the very beginning. We can look closely at all of the facts surrounding your case in order to successfully scrutinize the prosecutor’s case.
You may think that all of the evidence is stacked up against you. However, we may be able to negotiate a plea deal. Due to political pressure and overcrowded jails, plea deal negotiations have become even more common recently. We can work to achieve reduced sentences or reduced bail. Remember, you should never speak to law enforcement or the prosecution, before speaking to a lawyer. They may pressure you to accept a plea deal that is not in your best interests.
The experienced injury attorneys at The Law Place offer an attorney-client relationship that is built on trust. Our law firm works as a team, so your case will benefit from an abundance of combined knowledge and expertise.
Call The Law Place Today for a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident that resulted in death or serious injury, you need legal representation now. The severe penalties associated with serious car accidents such as this can be extremely detrimental to yours and your family’s future. As well as prison time, you could face extortionate bills for compensation following a civil lawsuit.
The experienced personal injury lawyers at The Law Place have over 75 years of combined experience and have helped countless people just like you. We can provide you with the very best defense following a car accident that involved a death.
Don’t waste any time. Call us today at (941) 444-4444 for a free consultation. We are ready to get started on your case.