Authorities say a 49-year-old man was drunk when he blew through a red light in St. Petersburg, killing a 22-year-old college student who was on her way home from a night of bowling with her boyfriend and some friends.

trafficlight-225x300Family members gathered the following weekend, struggling to grasp the gravity of their loss. A graduate of Boca Ciega High School, she was working toward a degree in physical therapy at St. Petersburg College. Loved ones referred to her as an “angel” who “hurt no one” and had a loving, “Christian heart.”

Investigators believe the at-fault driver was operating a Chevy pickup truck when he ran a red light at 34th Street South and 5th Avenue in St. Petersburg. He slammed into the passenger side of the vehicle, where decedent was seated.

The crash happened around 3:50 a.m., and decedent was declared dead at the hospital. Her boyfriend was also transported for treatment for injuries, though his are not life-threatening.

Alleged drunk driver fled on foot, but authorities caught up to him soon after and he was apprehended following a brief struggle. He too sustained injuries and was taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and then released to the custody of authorities.

He is now facing charges for DUI manslaughter, driving with a suspended license, leaving the scene of an accident involving death, vehicular homicide and battery on a law enforcement officer.

Prior to this incident, defendant was no stranger to the law, according to news reports. He’d previously been arrested on charges ranging from burglary to drug trafficking to disorderly intoxication to driving without a valid license and battery, as well as a host of traffic-related offenses.

Our Fort Myers DUI wrongful death accident attorneys know there is nothing that can ease the burden of a loved one lost to such reckless and unnecessary actions.

It’s true the criminal case will hopefully hold the accused to account for his wrong deeds. But families in these cases are also entitled to pursue compensation via the civil court system.

In a situation like this where the at-fault driver was driving on a suspended license (and therefore likely uninsured), compensation will most likely come from one of a few places: Decedent or decedent driver’s insurance company (in the form of uninsured motorist coverage), directly from the at-fault driver (which may not be worth pursuing depending on his or her financial status), the owner of the vehicle driven by at-fault driver (if different from the driver) and/or the bar or restaurant that served alcohol to driver (only as applicable under Florida’s dram shop law).

Florida’s dram shop law only allows recovery of damages from licensed facilities that served alcohol to either a minor or someone known to be habitually addicted to alcohol.

Owners of vehicles can be held personally responsible through vicarious liability for the actions of the driver, as motor vehicles are considered dangerous instrumentalities under state law.

Insurance companies often refuse the full policy limits at the outset of a case, but can often be persuaded by an experienced injury lawyer.

There are typically a number of viable theories of law by which decedent’s estate may recover damages. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

DUI driver runs light, causes fatal accident in St. Petersburg, May 24, 2015, 10 News Staff WTSP

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Travelers Home & Marine Ins. Co. v. Castellanos – UIM Coverage Debated, June 11, 2015, Fort Myers DUI Accident Lawyer Blog