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Venus Williams’ Florida Car Accident: The Tricky Business of Determining Fault

Initial investigation of a fatal South Florida car accident involving tennis star Venus Williams resulted in law enforcement’s conclusion that Williams was at-fault. However, new video evidence – specifically, surveillance footage obtained form a nearby community just south of the Palm Beach Gardens intersection where the crash occurred – led police to walk back their original findings. car accident

Although Williams is listed in a defendant by decedent’s widow, who was also in the vehicle at the time of the crash, police now say it was Williams who was cut off by another vehicle upon entering the intersection. This in turn set off a chain event crash that within seconds resulted in a fatal collision with a third vehicle that critically injured a 78-year-old man who died two weeks later.

His estate, represented by his bride of 33 years, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Williams, alleging Williams was negligent and seeking damages for medical and funeral expenses, pain and suffering, lost earnings, loss of companionship/ consortium and funeral expenses. Although Williams has expressed her “devastation” over the incident, her attorney insisted from the beginning that she was innocent, traveling only 5 mph when she entered the intersection with a green light.

The case underscores how determinations of “fault” in Florida car accidents may not always be a simple, straightforward matter. Eyewitnesses to the very same events can emerge with a different accounting of what happened. Experts must work to piece together what they can with accident reconstruction methodology and technology, but even that sometimes is subjective. Absent clear video footage of the crash – and even that sometimes doesn’t tell the whole story – the truth of what happened may be obscured. 

Although some elements of this crash reportedly remain in dispute, it seems most all agree the crash happened around 1 p.m. on June 9th. Williams was in her sport utility vehicle traveling around 5 miles-per-hour in an intersection when a smaller car, driven by 68-year-old plaintiff, reportedly drove through a green light and struck the side of Williams’ vehicle. The crash caused serious and ultimately fatal injuries the plaintiff’s passenger, her 78-year-old husband. Plaintiff too suffered a cracked sternum and a broken wrist. Williams was not injured.

Initially police hefted blame onto Williams, saying she ran a red light and violated the other driver’s right-of-way and Williams’ actions made a collision unavoidable. This was based in significant part due to witness statements obtained by police indicating their belief that Williams ran the red light.

This finding prompted plaintiff’s wrongful death lawsuit. However, while the new surveillance video – and the police reversal of the determination of blame – will likely mean Williams won’t be cited (police were originally going to cite her for careless driving, among other offenses), it isn’t necessarily the end of the legal battle. First, the police investigation is ongoing. But as our Fort Myers car accident attorneys can explain, it’s not the police who make the final determination when it comes to civil liability for crashes.

That said, the about-face by police does put Williams in better standing to defend herself against any allegation that she was negligent and engaged in conduct that was unreasonable. A finding that Williams was compliant with the law will support her stance that she was driving reasonably. In fact, had Williams been injured (she was not), she would likely have ground sto consider filing her own personal injury lawsuit against the plaintiff. Even though plaintiff ha the green light, drivers typically aren’t permitted to proceed into an intersection when other vehicles are blocking. Williams has given no indication she plans to file any action, and has expressed sympathy to the family of decedent.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Legal impact of Venus Williams being cleared after fatal car accident, July 12, 2017, By Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated

 

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