Multiple Orlando media outlets have been reporting about the tragic wrongful death of a University High School student in front of his home on Valencia College Lane in East Orlando. The teenager’s brother, also 15, was also struck and sustained serious injuries.
Apparently at 6:30AM on Wednesday, November 3, 2010, a white 2001 Pontiac Grand Am owned by Eric Wydra made its way off of the roadway on Valencia College Lane and into the grassy area in front of the teenagers’ home. Both boys were struck by the car, then the vehicle left the scene. However, debris from the vehicle — its entire front bumper — were left at the scene, so law enforcement knew what kind of vehicle they were looking for.
Later in the day, police received a tip from a retired firefighter about a vehicle in a Publix parking lot that, to the experienced firefighter, looked like it had recently been involved in some kind of incident. Apparently, the Grand Am had a cracked windshield and was missing a bumper. Police waited until the driver of the vehicle returned with groceries. Eric Wydra was the person who showed up.
At this point, police cannot tie Mr. Wydra to the scene of the accident, and so far Mr. Wydra isn’t talking, other than to tell Channel 9 News that he didn’t hit anyone.
As an Orlando personal injury lawyer who has represented many families in wrongful death traffic accidents, my heart goes out to the family of these teenagers. Not only have they lost a precious member of their family, but they also have a child that they will have to care for through some very serious injuries. I sincerely hope that whoever was driving the car (I suspect it was Mr. Wydra) is brought to justice for vehicular manslaughter.
On the civil side, regardless of whether Mr. Wydra wants to admit that he was driving, the owner of the vehicle is responsible for paying any damages or injuries caused by the vehicle, under Florida law. I am actually going to hope — for the grieving family’s sake — that Mr. Wydra is not the owner of the vehicle. It appears from media reports that Mr. Wydra has a long history of traffic problems, and may currently be driving on a suspended license. This suggests to me that Mr. Wydra may not have insurance to answer from the injuries his vehicle has caused. This would be a second injustice to the teenagers’ family. In such case, I hope that somebody else owned Grand Am, and I hope that the teenagers’ family has Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage.
If you have any questions about a Florida car accident, call Orlando personal injury lawyer Kim Cullen at 407-644-4444.