On Sunday March 18, 2012, Alanna Demella, 26, from Medford, Massachusetts, was tragically killed while on vacation in Ft. Lauderdale when an out-of-control vehicle traveling on a nearby roadway, slammed through a fence and crashed into the Riverside Hotel’s cabana building where Alanna was changing at the time. She was seven months pregnant and her husband was just feet away when the awful collision destroyed two support pillars and a wall of the cabana, taking the lives of the young woman and her unborn son.
While at first blush this horrific resort-related death seems like a freak accident and the unfortunate luck of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, the causes of the accident certainly are not yet fully established. From a Personal Injury/Wrongful Death lawyers standpoint, the investigation as to the causative factors is much wider than just looking at the fault of the driver and her negligent operation of the vehicle. As is often the case in Florida, people carry minimal automobile insurance or sometimes none at all. Even someone with full coverage does not likely have enough in policy limits to cover the tremendous damages that this case would entail. Therefore for the Personal Injury/Wrongful Death lawyer, it is crucial to act as quickly as possible to preserve the scene and gather evidence than may no longer exist if left in the hands of nature or potential defendants. There may be other responsible parties that could have prevented this foreseeable incident. For example if there were prior crashes in the area or if the building structure was unsafe and building codes, permits and standards were violated. That is why it is of the utmost importance for the grieving family to act promptly in retaining counsel who specializes in these types of cases. Especially where the victim’s relatives are from out of state. This will allow for the family to put the work in the lawyer’s hands while they tend to the grieving process.
Leesfield Scolaro is one of the leading resort tort law firms in Florida. Our Resort Tort attorneys have helped countless out-of-state clients who were victims of resort-related incidents similar to the ones the Demella family is now sadly involved in. While Florida in general, and South Florida in particular, is a very popular destination for tourists, incidents do occur with frequency. Consequently, Ira Leesfield helped creating and currently serves as Chairman of the Resort Tort Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice (AAJ).
The first thing that should be done immediately in a case like this is an inspection of the resort property, impact area and vehicle. At Leesfield Scolaro, our team of lawyers, investigators and experts are on call seven days a week. We will go to the scene to take photographs and canvas the area for possible witnesses in order to take statements. We will also act quick to contact law enforcement and other investigating agencies to obtain and exchange information. A scene inspection must be conducted with an accident reconstruction expert to establish the speed and direction which the driver was traveling when she collided with the fence, and then the pillars. Properly reconstructing the accident and understanding the facts, can lead to other viable theories of causation.
Another issue that must be investigated locally is whether the Riverside Hotel was in compliance with the Florida Building Code and whether the cabanas, as built, had been inspected and approved by the Division of Professions Building Code Administrators and Inspectors Board. A full report of prior investigations and reports must be obtained to make sure that the construction of the cabanas were in fact legal and compliant with the Florida Building Code. A building code expert must be hired to not only review the findings of those reports, but to establish whether one or multiple violations existed which may have contributed to the destruction of the two pillars that held up the hotel’s cabana building. One other important area that must be looked into is whether the proximity of the cabana building to the roadway played a part in the cause and severity of the crash and whether the cabana building’s location was in compliance with the many building code set back rules and regulations
As part of the investigation, we of course put the driver of the at-fault vehicle on notice that there is a potential claim against her. We would request her insurance information and reach out her carrier to ascertain if she had any other forms of insurance, assets or perhaps was in the scope and course of employment, that would protect her and provide for additional insurance coverage. We would also notify the owners of the resort property, its management company and any other related entities.
In a recent motor vehicle accident case involving the deaths of 2 family members when there was minimal insurance coverage on the at fault vehicle, Ira Leesfield and Alexander Perkins were able to turn a $50,000 insurance coverage into a settlement of $10,500,000. The investigative steps taken by Mr. Perkins at the onset of the case, along with “out of the box”-thinking were determinant to establish the liability of multiple non-obvious defendants and to compensate the victims for the loss of their mother and wife. Read about the case above-mentioned by clicking here: Auto Accident / Negligent Road Design yields $10 Million Result