On May 15, 2013, County employee Alfredo Menendez was placed on leave for ramming his county truck into several stopped vehicle, causing a pileup accident at the intersection of Flagler and Lejeune Road in Miami. According to reports in the local media, witnesses saw the county truck run a red light and crash into a vehicle before swerving off the road and slam into a bus bench on Lejeune Road. The violence of the crash and the speed at which the county truck is alleged to have been traveling at the time caused a chain reaction of collisions which involved a total of seven vehicles.
Paramedics confirmed that three people were waiting at the bus stop at the time of the crash. Ambulances and firefighters were dispatched to the scene immediately. In all, five people - including the county truck driver - were transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital. One victim, 80-year-old Transito Lopez, reportedly lost a leg in the accident. His family has yet to visit with their relative who is said to be in critical condition and in a coma.
While the police investigation is still ongoing, several witnesses have come forward and shared what they saw. One person whose vehicle was involved and damaged in this accident said that the driver was not paying attention: "Very simple, that truck was on the phone, it was obvious he didn't see the red light. How can you be going 60 miles 300 yards before a red light."
If the investigation confirms these early witness accounts that place 100% of the blame for this needless accident on the county employee's negligence, victims will have a negligence claim against the county. Last year, a new law increased the governmental caps on damages from $100,000/$$200,000 to $200,000/$300,000. In Florida, when a public entity such as a city, a county, and their employees, injure an innocent person, the public entity will not pay damages in excess of $200,000 to one person, or a cumulative $300,000 if more than one person has a claim against it.
In some instances, depending on the egregiousness of the facts and smart lawyering, it is possible to obtain a recovery beyond the statutory governmental cap. Leesfield & Partners' Thomas Scolaro recently obtained such a result which we discussed here: Settlement reached in Florida Keys seven mile bridge fatal car accident In that case, several victims were involved in a crash caused by the negligence of a state agency's employee while traveling on the seven mile bridge in Marathon, FL.
Regarding the claim that Menendez was on his cell phone at the time of the incident, if true, it would only add to the level of disregard displayed by the county employee. In Florida, it is perfectly legal for anyone to drive a vehicle while using their cell phone, talking or texting. A very limited texting ban should be signed into law by Florida Governor Scott in the days or weeks to come as we previously discussed: Florida's ban on texting while driving - A toothless law in need of more bite! and Florida on its way to ban texting-while-driving? How a worthless piece of legislation will keep roads unsafe.
If you have any information about this accident, and have not been heard by the police, contact the Miami-Dade Police Department immediately to report what you saw, or contact our law firm to discuss your potential personal injury claim at 1-800-836-6400.