According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, a multi-vehicle accident on Highway 39 killed two people and injured four others. The Dec. 13 incident reportedly occurred within the unincorporated community of Lithia at approximately 7 p.m.
A 23-year-old man driving a van south on the highway purportedly crossed the centerline just south of Alderman Fork Park Drive and collided with northbound Chevy Impala. It was a head-on crash, authorities reported.
Subsequently, a Honda Civic that had been traveling south behind the Impala became involved in the wreck, its 64-year-old driver unable to avoid it . The Impala absorbed a significant portion of that impact, authorities said. The Impala driver, a 44-year-old Ruskin man, was killed in the the three-vehicle crash. So too did the 23-year-old Ford driver suffer fatal injuries in the accident, according to officials. A teenage passenger in the Impala was transported to a hospital with serious injuries, and medical personnel reportedly listed the teen's condition as critical. The Honda's three occupants, including the 64-year-old driver, suffered minor injuries. While police reportedly suspect that impaired driving was an element influencing the crash, their investigation was still receiving input immediately following the event.
However, if the investigation were to yield evidence corroborating the police's suspicion and ultimately conclude that a drunk driver caused the wreck, the tragic highway accident could give rise to not just criminal proceedings but also a wrongful death claim, filed by the fatal victim's family in civil court.
The drunk driver would likely be a defendant common to both cases. A wrongful death lawsuit might be the easier to prove, since claimants need only a preponderance of evidence to convince the court that the drunk driver's actions warrant penalties..
Source: Brandon Patch , "Names Released in Lithia Fatal Crash", Sherri Lonon, December 14, 2014