In yet another example of the reckless, maniacal driving that exists on our roadways, local news media is reporting that a woman was killed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida during a hit-and-run that allegedly occurred around 3:30 this morning. According to the news, the victim was hit by an unknown first vehicle that failed to pull over and was then hit by a tractor-trailer. Unlike the driver of the first car, the driver of the tractor-trailer is reported to have pulled over.
Cases like these are hard to solve for law enforcement, especially since the primary witness has been killed.
While the challenges presented here may be great, many tough cases like this one have been cracked by thorough investigative work. For instance, there are two possible sources of information that may help investigators crack this case.
The first is the driver of the tractor-trailer. This is obvious. If he saw what happened, he may be able to provide police with a vehicle description and if they are really lucky, a license plate number. Even a partial plate identification would be helpful.
Second, police may consider pulling the surveillance cameras from nearby toll plazas. As we all know, SunPass toll plazas are equipped with surveillance cameras to ticket drivers who fail to pay tolls. Since the accident occurred on westbound I-595, there is a chance that the driver who first hit the woman fled onto westbound I-75. In the alternative, he or she may have fled south on the I-75, ultimately hitting tolls on the Gratigny Express or the Turnpike. While I am familiar with these areas, I do not recall with specificity where else there may be toll plazas.
However, even if police investigators do take the time to pull these videos and the vehicle in question is actually recorded on one of them, identifying that vehicle may still prove difficult since the cameras likely only record the rear portion of autos that pass through the toll plazas.
Unless front-end damage, shattered windshields, or other visible signs of damage consistent with this accident can be seen, the videos may prove worthless.
Since this case presents more questions than it does answers, I would be very interested in representing the family of the victim. The victim’s family deserves answers and they should hire an attorney or law firm with experience in police investigations, forensic evidence, accident reconstruction, and electronic evidence (surveillance videos).
However, even if video surveillance is obtained in this case, the investigation would not end there. Rather, such videos would provide police with clues for additional investigation. For instance, if toll plaza videos reveal that 5 cars with front-end damage passed through a nearby toll plaza at a time consistent with the timing of the accident (and how long it would conceivably take the fleeing driver to get to that particular toll plaza), police would still need to locate the vehicles in question and hopefully convince the owners to give voluntary statements about their whereabouts and how their vehicle came to have front-end damage.
Obviously, no person is under any obligation to speak to the police. In fact, it is normally a good idea just to remain silent, guilty, innocent, or otherwise. But in a case with as little clues as this one may have, I think police investigators owe a duty to the victim to be as thorough as possible in their approach to this case, even if it is laborious and time consuming.
You never know, upon being located by police, the true offender may break down and admit what he did.
Aside from identifying the driver of the first car, police investigators will also need to determine which impact killed the woman or if she died as a combination of the two impacts. Cases like these are very fact specific and the observations made by the driver of the tractor trailer will be very important, as will be any forensic evidence obtained from the vehicles, the roadway, and the victim’s autopsy.
Whether it was the tractor-trailer or the first car that killed the victim, the ultimate question comes down to causation. In other words, did the first car do something wrong that set off a chain of events that resulted in the woman’s death? For instance, even if the first car only “nicked” the woman, but that caused her to lose balance and fall into the path of the tractor-trailer, the first car is still responsible for the woman’s death, even though it was the tractor-trailer that killed her.
As a second matter, investigators will also need to rule out any actions by the victim that may have contributed to the causation of the accident. For example, was she walking or standing in an area that is not designated for pedestrians? Did she walk into the roadway, causing the first car to unavoidably hit her?
Was the victim intoxicated? Was she under the influence of narcotics or other controlled substances?
Most importantly, what was she doing on the highway?
Before any conclusions may be drawn, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. If the first car is never located, this case may remain unsolved.
Ultimately, this is a very sad case since someone lost their life. Hopefully the truth about this accident will come to light and justice will be served.