Manuel Velasco died in a crash with James Choaffner in Palm Beach, Florida, early this morning. James Choaffner was airlifted to a hospital and is listed in critical condition. The car accident happened around 5:00 a.m. this morning and it still under investigation.
According to news reports, Manuel Velasco was driving his Chevrolet van northbound on Haverhill Road when a collision occurred with James Choaffner’s Lincoln. It is being reported that James Choaffner’s car was traveling eastbound on Forest Hill Blvd.
For those who are not familiar with this area, this is a major intersection. Both streets have two lanes of traffic that travel in each direction for a total of four lanes each. Forest Hill Blvd is an East/West road and Haverhill Road is a North/South road. Each has its own designated turning lanes that add an additional element of chaos.
Manuel Velasco, 62, has been employed as a parking service aid at the Palm Beach International Airport since 2004. The occupation of James Choaffner, 26, is unknown at this time.
Clearly, this case is extremely tragic for both sides. Sometimes accidents like these occur when one driver does something careless, albeit unintentional. In other cases, DUI is a cause. Since this case is still under investigation, no conclusions can be made just yet about who is responsible.
As a trial lawyer, my first reaction is to analyze the evidence. Given the location of this accident, my instinct tells me one person ran a red light or there was a traffic light malfunction.
If there was a traffic light malfunction, Palm Beach County may be the responsible party here. Candidly, traffic light malfunctions are uncommon and this case was likely caused by one of the two drivers.
Car accidents at intersections are frequently caused by impatient drivers who accelerate in an effort to avoid getting “stuck at a light.” At the same time, it is equally possible that one party drove the wrong way, made a wild maneuver, or was speeding so fast that a small change in traffic conditions resulted in an inability to react safely.
It is also possible that the person who caused the accident, whether it was Mr. Velasco or Mr. Choaffner, was reacting to a third party that fled the scene. For instance, if one of the two caused the accident by swerving to avoid another car, blame may be hard to place.
The possibilities about who caused the accident and why are limitless at this point. It will be interesting to know what each person’s driving record looks like.
Regardless, once the police make a finding about who is responsible, the victim’s family should immediately hire a lawyer. I know that sounds so cliche, but the truth is that this case is complicated and calls for a lawyer with tremendous experience in car accident reconstruction and police investigations.
For families that have lost a loved one to a car accident, like Manuel Velasco’s, the first concern is to know what happened and to understand why their loved one was killed. They want answers and deserve to know the truth.
For the family of someone injured, especially someone critically injured like James Choaffner, the main concern is focused on immediate medical attention and recovery from injuries.
After some times passes, both parties will need to address the practical problems created by this accident… such as how to financially support dependents and how to make living with serious bodily injuries or disability. I do not intend to sound morbid, but car accidents like these have very long lasting effects well after they fade from the spotlight of the media.
For all the bad press lawyers get, we analyze and critically evaluate these matters because we deal with the practical aftermath cases like these leave behind. Helping injured victims and surviving family members obtain the right compensation from insurance companies is an important task. To be successful, a lawyer has to know what he/she is doing.
For that reason, the family must hire an intelligent and aggressive lawyer from the start.
Timing is important because an independent investigation into the facts of this case must begin immediately. Police are notorious for blundering even the simplest of cases and they should not be relied upon as the sole source of information when so much is at stake for the victim and his family.
If I was hired to represent one of those injured, I would immediately begin by visiting the scene of the accident… of course I would not interfere in any way with the police, but visiting the accident scene in a case like this one is crucial. Seeing the layout of the accident and the location of the crash in person provides the lawyer with an invaluable mental picture, even when he/she is familiar with the specific intersection in question.
Next, any and all video surveillance must be located. Since this car accident happened at a major intersection, there is a high probability that there are red-light cameras that may have captured all or part of the accident on high definition video. Nearby ATM machines and outdoors surveillance cameras may have also captured some or all of the accident.
These videos make cases very easy to settle, especially when one party is clearly responsible for causing the car accident.
Next, I would send my private investigators to canvass the scene of the accident to identify any eye witnesses missed by the police. You would be amazed to know how often police miss crucial eye witnesses.
For example, there may be people who routinely sit at a nearby bus stop, at the same time as the accident, as they travel to and from work. Given the early morning hour of this car accident and the fact that it occurred on a Sunday, this possibility is probably low, but still worth pursuing. You never know what crucial evidence can be uncovered in a case until you look.
Attention to detail and the dilligence to uncover such details is crucial in cases like these.
Once all available information is harvested from the crime scene, a thorough review of all police reports, including crash reports, and witness statements, will be necessary. After eye witness observations, the police reports will be the next best source of information.
Without delving into the details of all the work that must be done, it should be clear that these cases are anything but simple. The families of Manuel Velasco and James Choaffner should stay clear of fast talking lawyers who do not explain the details of dealing with a case of this type, the investigatory phase, and the legal process.
This type of legal work is no different than the practice of medicine and it calls for an extremely high level of professionalism on the part of the lawyer.
At the present time, this case is in the investigatory phase. More information is needed before a determination may be made about what happened who is responsible.
Once the initial shock of this car accident has passed, the families should retain legal counsel to best represent their interests and the interests of their loved ones.