Will You Go to Jail After a Fatal Car Accident in St. Petersburg, FL?

Unfortunately, fatal car accidents are common in Florida. In 2022, police-reported fatal car crashes totaled 3,281, including 115 fatal crashes in Pinellas County. Roughly 3,521 people died in fatal crashes in 2022, averaging almost ten traffic fatalities daily.

Fatal car accidents happen for many reasons. Negligence and human error are the most common causes, but intentional acts and other factors can contribute to a fatal accident. Common causes of fatal traffic accidents in Florida include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (DUI and DUID)
  • Speeding 
  • Aggressive driving and road rage
  • Inexperienced drivers
  • Reckless driving
  • Failing to follow Florida traffic laws
  • Inexperienced drivers
  • Distracted driving, including texting while driving
  • Improperly maintained and/or designed roads
  • Defective automobile parts

Florida’s no-fault insurance laws require drivers to maintain a minimum amount of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. No-fault insurance pays benefits to the insured regardless of who is at fault for causing the car crash. You cannot sue the other driver for economic or non-economic damages unless you sustain serious injuries that meet the statutory threshold. 

What Happens if You Kill Someone in an Accident in St. Petersburg, FL?

In addition to facing a civil wrongful death lawsuit, you could face criminal charges for causing an accidental death by vehicle. Law enforcement officers in St. Petersburg or the State Highway Patrol investigate fatal car accidents to determine how the crash occurred and may bring charges as a result.

Several criminal statutes and traffic offenses could result in criminal charges. If you are convicted of killing someone with your car, you could go to jail for a fatal car accident in St. Petersburg. Examples of traffic offenses and criminal charges that could result in jail time include, but are not limited to:

  • Impaired driving (DUI accident)
  • Speeding through construction zones and school zones
  • Running stop signs and traffic lights
  • Racing other drivers
  • Fleeing the scene of a traffic accident (hit-and-run accident)
  • Driving too fast for the current conditions
  • Reckless driving
  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Fleeing or eluding law enforcement 
  • Vehicular homicide

Depending on the charges and the case facts, you could face a felony or misdemeanor charge. The amount of time you will spend in jail or prison depends on the charges and circumstances of the case.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits a Fatal Car Accident in St. Petersburg, FL

Wrongful death claims hold at-fault parties liable for the damages and losses caused when their actions result in the death of another person. Family members can file a claim or a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages, including:

  • The value of lost support and services
  • Loss of income and benefits the deceased would have contributed to the family
  • Medical bills and expenses paid by family members from the accident date until the date of death
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of guidance, instruction, companionship, and protection
  • Reasonable and necessary funeral and burial expenses

If the accident victim survives their injuries for a period after the crash, the probate estate may have the right to file a survival action. A survival action could result in additional compensation for the family. 

Proving a wrongful death claim requires the family to have evidence establishing all legal elements of a wrongful death case. Those elements are:

  • The at-fault driver owed the deceased a duty of care
  • The at-fault driver failed to meet the duty of care
  • The breach of duty was the proximate and direct cause of the accident victim’s death
  • The accident victim’s death resulted in damages to the surviving family members

Breach of duty and causation are usually the most challenging elements of a wrongful death case to prove. All drivers have a duty to use reasonable care when operating a motor vehicle and follow traffic laws, so that element is rarely at issue. 

Wrongful death claims for fatal car crashes usually involve proving negligence. For example, a driver was drunk when the accident occurred, or they failed to yield the right of way. An experienced St. Petersburg wrongful death lawyer understands the evidence needed to prove your case and has the resources to investigate the crash and hire experts to assist.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits for a Fatal Car Crash in Florida?

Typically, the wrongful death statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. If you fail to file a lawsuit before that time, the court can dismiss your case. 

When you are grieving, two years seems like a long time. However, two years pass very quickly. Contacting a St. Petersburg car accident lawyer as soon as possible is the best way to protect your right to pursue a claim.

Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm – Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys

Contact a St. Petersburg car accident lawyer at Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys and schedule a free case review today.

Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys
700 7th Ave N Suite B St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 933-0015