A massive car pile up on I-75 near Gainesville, Florida has killed 10 people and injured at least 18 others. According to news reports, the massive car accident was initially caused by heavy fog and smoke. News outlets are reporting that the smoke may have come from an intentionally set brush fire. After crashing into each other, one after the other, a number of the involved vehicles burst into flames. (Photo: Fox News)
The fire was so intense that one tractor trailer was reduced to its metal skeleton, while the tires of other vehicles were burnt completely off, leaving only bare metal wheels.
For those who are unfamiliar with brush fires, I can tell you that they are actually quite common in Florida. I myself have witnessed many brush fires on Florida’s roadways.
Unlike brush fires that occur naturally, most brush fires in Florida are intentionally set by farmers looking to fertilize and clear land to prepare for new crops.
I myself have even seen how these fires are set. Described briefly, farmers basically drive along the border of a field in a tractor that is specially fitted with a fire spitting receptacle that is aimed at the base of the brush being targeted.
Its surreal to watch and almost looks like a scene out of a war movie.
The heat created by these fires is so intense that it makes you feel uncomfortable as you drive by. It was really shocking to me when I saw this for the first time. I remember how my right sleeve felt warm for a couple minutes after I passed the scene.
Worse than the intense heat, the smoke these fires create is very thick. Now that I think about these fires, every time I have seen one from my car, it has been on a day when the wind blows the smoke away from the roadway and into the field.
As an injury attorney, the presence of this fire makes me wonder if property owners or farmers may be held accountable for the deaths and injuries caused in this terrible accident.
If you are a farmer doing this type of procedure, I believe you have an absolute duty to check weather and wind conditions to make sure your smoke does not overcome a nearby roadway or highway.
If the police investigation reveals that the smoke in this case was caused by a nearby farm, the property owners and farm operators must be held accountable because causing the deaths of 10 people and the injuries of 18 others is completely unacceptable.
If this fire was set by a farm, I would bet that these farmers knew their smoke has overcomes the highway many times in the past. Interviewing locals and researching past car accidents in the area might yield some very interesting evidence that can be used by injury attorneys to prove that farmers were very well aware of the hazardous conditions they were creating.
In my experience, the case that results in multiple fatalities usually isn’t the first and only time someone acted specific irresponsible fashion.
However, my analysis of this case does not end there.
In the picture seen above, we can clearly see a small car sandwiched between two tractor trailers.
As horrible as this case is for the drivers of those rigs (who I am sure have also suffered loss of life or serious injury), I personally have to come down on the side of the car drivers.
Unlike mom and pop motorists behind the wheel of a family sedan, big rig truck drivers are specially trained and specially licensed professionals.
For that reason, they should be held to a higher safety standard than a regular motorist.
Unlike mom and pop, big rig drivers should especially know when to pull over.
Not only do they have specialized training and unique professional experience to reflect upon when encountering hazardous road conditions, but they are also responsible for safely operating massive death machines that are impossible to stop in emergencies.
What were these truck drivers thinking? If the smoke was so intense that there was hardly any visibility, what was their plan in the event that they had to make an emergency stop?
What would they do if they encountered road debris, a wild animal, a broken down vehicle, or in this case, an accident?
Is this case really the first time they have encountered such situations? Do you mean to tell me that they do not teach this chapter in commercial truck driving schools?
When visibility turns to zero, a big rig operator has a duty to immediately pull over and prevent his truck from causing or contributing to a serious accident.
Unlike a small car, a big rig is unwieldily and impossible to maneuver safely in the event of an emergency.
For these reasons, I expect injury lawyers to hold the professional truck drivers to a higher standard than the mom and pop motorists.
Cases like these are extremely complex and require the skills of an injury lawyer with experience.
To build a winning case for the victims, injury attorneys will need to map out the sequence of the multi-car pile up. This is important because when one car rear ends another, the one doing the rear ending is usually held accountable.
Figuring out which insurance companies need to pay compensation to which motorists is the essence of what needs to be done next. This includes claims for uninsured motorist coverage.
At the end of the day, it will most likely be the insurance companies who are held responsible for making monetary payments to the effected parties and their survivors. To obtain the best compensation possible, injury lawyers need to map out the chain of events in this case and simply figure out who hit who and in what order.
The most important job an injury attorney has at this stage is to collect and preserve evidence. In normal cases, this includes crash reports, photographs, police reports, medical records, vehicle computer data, insurance information, as well as eye witnesses.
In this case, it is very important to identify the source of the smoke. While I could be wrong, I would bet the source is a local farm. I have seen it before.
For this reason, injury attorneys need to send their own team of investigators to scour the area for farms that may have created the smoke that caused this accident. This may include interviewing locals or simply making personal observations of the immediate area. Whatever the method, identifying the source of the smoke early on is extremely important.
Given my perspective as a Florida injury attorney, I expect the victims and their families to be entitled to VERY substantial compensation for their losses. This case is a horrible example of what can go wrong on our roadways. Clearly, no amount of compensation will ever, even remotely, account for the terrible losses suffered by the victims and their families.
I feel terrible for those who have lost their lives and who have suffered disabling injuries. If my suspicions about the brush fire are correct, the losses in this case are made worse by the fact that the smoke may very well have been an avoidable factor in this case.
If I was a victim, I would not let this slide. A thorough investigation needs to be conducted an the responsible parties must be held accountable.
In fact, I would say that the possibility of criminal charges for manslaughter or culpable negligence is a very real possibility.
Regardless, my condolences go out to the families and to those effected. I hope the survivors are all able to make speedy recoveries and resume their normal lives as soon as possible.