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New Law Institutes Mandatory Minimums for Leaving the Scene of an Auto Accident

Categories:Auto Accidents

Just before 6 a.m. in early February 2012, Edna Walsh and Aaron Cohen were bicycling eastbound on the Rickenbacker Causeway in Miami. Suddenly, they were struck by a silver Honda driven by a man named Michele Traverso, who had been partying at a Coconut Grove bar before the crash. Traverso immediately fled the scene and drove home instead of stopping to help or call 911. A security employee at his condo noticed Traverso’s damaged vehicle, reporting to police “a vehicle with heavy damage to the front, hood, and roof area entered the complex and parked,” according to NBC6. Additionally, per HuffPost Miami, surveillance video appeared to show Traverso unsteady on his feet as he walked through the parking lot and subsequently returned to the vehicle with his father. Later, police discovered the vehicle covered with a tarp.

Finally, 18 hours later, Traverso turned himself into the police. Of course, by that time, despite indications Traverso was intoxicated, investigators were unable to take a timely blood alcohol test.

Walsh was treated at a local hospital for a leg injury, but unfortunately Cohen died of head trauma sustained from the impact.

Traverso was charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving death and driving with a suspended license. Aaron Cohen’s widow also filed a wrongful death suit against both Traverso and his father Juan Traverso, who owned the car Michele was driving at the time of the crash. The lawsuit alleges Michele Traverso was negligent when he struck and killed Aaron Cohen and sought monetary damages.

Cohen’s death intensified calls for immediate safety improvements on the Rickenbacker Causeway. His death spurred even further-reaching impact, however. After Traverso received less than two years’ incarceration for striking and killing Cohen, the Florida legislature took notice.

On July 14, 2014, Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 102, which officially made the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act law. This bill increases the punishment for leaving the scene of a crash resulting in serious injury to a person, imposing a mandatory minimum term for imprisonment of four years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of a person, increases the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment from two to four years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of a person while driving under the influence, and imposes a minimum driver license revocation period of at least three years.

The concern prior to passage of the law was that the penalty for DUI Manslaughter was a minimum mandatory of 4 years of imprisonment, while leaving the scene of the accident involving death or serious bodily injury did not carry a minimum mandatory unless it could be proven that the person was also driving under the influence, in which case they would face a mandatory minimum of only two years. Obviously if the person flees, proving that the person had been driving under the influence becomes that much more difficult. Now, leaving the scene, in and of itself, also carries the 4 year minimum mandatory. In a nod to Polk County, it is noteworthy that Sheriff Grady Judd was a strong supporter of SB 102.

Therefore, in situations where a car crash occurs which results in a death, if said driver also leaves the scene, they now face much stiffer criminal implications as a result of SB 102 becoming law. In terms of civil actions resulting from these situations, where it can be proven said drivers were negligent, and their negligence resulted in the other person’s death, the drivers also face wrongful death lawsuits.

Wrongful death claims can arise from numerous tragic situations, including reckless drivers such as Michele Traverso, trucking crashes, defective products, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, and more. If you have lost a loved one from being struck by a car while walking or bicycling, or in any situation as a result of the other party’s negligence, you may have a claim for wrongful death. Recoverable wrongful death damages include loss of support and services, lost prospective inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses, among other losses. Call Brooks Law Group today to determine if you have a wrongful death claim and may be entitled to compensation.

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