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Collision with Bear Leads to Death of Three Good Samaritans

On the highway, even minor vehicle collisions can compound into a chain reaction that causes several accidents and generates murky legal questions for those involved. For example, even if the initial accident was not a result of an avoidable mistake or distracted driving, the drivers who followed after may be held responsible for increasing the damage. Further, rescuers may subject themselves to liability in some instances. One recent Florida crash raised these issues and ended the lives of three Florida residents.

Late in the evening on a two-lane road through the Florida everglades, a three-hundred pound bear was wandering across the road when it was struck and instantly killed by a sports utility vehicle driven by a tribe member. Although the driver was uninjured, her car was undriveable. Eight individuals discovered the woman’s immobilized car, and parked their three vehicles to provide assistance. While the “good samaritans” were standing on the shoulder, another car approached from the other direction and struck two vehicles, resulting in injuries and three deaths.

Attributing Fault to Chain Reaction Drivers

No lawsuit has been filed in this matter, and no allegations have been made that either driver, who both escaped uninjured, was at fault in the crash. However, this accident illustrates how fault can be allocated in such a theoretical lawsuit. For the injured rescuers to succeed, they would have to demonstrate that one or both of the drivers failed to exercise reasonable care, either by driving while distracted or by some other avoidable error.   Further, in the case of the initial driver, they would have to establish a sufficient causal connection between the initial collision and their injuries, i.e. that the initial crash caused them to be on the shoulder, and that it precipitated the second incident.

This illustrates that either driver in a chain reaction accident may be held accountable in various circumstances. Because Florida is a comparative fault state, defendants would be assessed damages according to percentages of fault as determined by the court or a jury. If the rescuers were found to be partially at fault in some way, their recovery would be diminished by that amount.

Attributing Fault to Rescuers

What would have happened if the initial driver had been injured, and if the “good samaritans” had made a mistake during their attempts to rescue the woman? Florida law provides protection for rescuers who attempt to provide medical assistance, even though there is no affirmative duty to help. To be protected, a rescuer must stop assisting if the victim objects. Further, the rescuer must assist in good faith, or “gratuitously”; in other words, not in exchange for expected payment. Finally, the rescuer must be responding to an actual emergency, and provide the kind of treatment an “ordinary reasonably prudent person” would provide in that situation.

Attributing Fault to the Bear

Finally, some commentators have attributed the cause of the incident to a rising bear population, which has resulted in over one hundred bear deaths in this year alone. The Florida black bear, which is no longer classed as a threatened species, recently experienced a surge in population due to conservation efforts.

If you are injured in a chain reaction vehicle accident, there may be several ways to pursue compensation for your injuries. Contact experienced Fort Lauderdale vehicular accident attorney Scott Newmark for assistance navigating your potential lawsuit or claim.

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