Recently, tennis star Venus Williams settled a wrongful death lawsuit over the death of a 78-year-old motorist in June 2017. Celebrity and the absence of a criminal prosecution do not block the ability to pursue a lawsuit for motor vehicle accidents in Florida, as shown by this case.
The crash near her Palm Beach home was captured on video. The victim’s wife was driving a 2016 Hyundai Accent that T-boned into William’s sports utility vehicle after she had to stop in an intersection.
At first, police held Williams responsible for the accident because she did not yield the right-of-way. She told police she tried to drive across the junction but that backed-up traffic made her slow down to a crawl. This left her stranded in the middle of the intersection as the light turned green in the direction of the victim’s vehicle before the Hyundai crashed into the SUV. Police did not pursue charges.
The victim, sitting in the passenger seat, suffered serious head injuries and was hospitalized before he died. His wife was taken to a hospital for treatment of a cracked sternum, several broken bones and other injuries.
About one month later, the victim’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Williams. They sought damages for loss of companionship for his wife and other family members, loss of earnings, pain and suffering and medical and funeral expenses.
Distracted driving became an issue. The victim’s estate alleged that Williams was using a cellphone shortly before the crash and sought a subpoena for all phone devices that Williams had during her accident.
Williams claimed that the request was a fishing expedition and argued that the subpoena would allow the plaintiffs to inspect everything on her phone. She also said that the family never suggested that she was speaking on her phone and merely referenced background data usage.
The plaintiffs said that they needed to determine whether the data usage occurred seconds before or during the accident and whether it was used passively on her phone during an open running application.
The judge granted their subpoena on Aug. 31.
Ten days later the plaintiffs filed a motion for settlement which was reached on Nov. 15. The settlement amount was undisclosed.
Accident victims and their families should seek legal representation to pursue a lawsuit. An attorney can help gather important evidence.