The Port of Miami worker who served as the sole support for his 72-year-old ill mother and his 19-year-old student daughter was walking his miniature Doberman Pinscher early one recent Friday morning when it happened: An alleged drunk driver came barreling down the cross street and lost control when accelerating mid-turn, causing the vehicle to skid sideways for 75 feet, striking Wimpey.
The man allegedly behind the wheel, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, was Michael Vincent Smith. The 32-year-old was seen by witnesses in the wake of the accident, down on the ground with the severely injured Wimpey. He was sobbing, begging for help and screaming, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to do this!”
Of course, it’s rare that anyone ever “means” for something like this to happen. But the fact is, when individuals make the choice to consume excessive amounts of alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle, this is what happens. It’s part of a conscious decision to act recklessly, even if the intention is never to hurt anyone. Further, it is not necessary to prove intent to prove negligence, or even criminal liability, in a wrongful death lawsuit.
As it now stands, Smith faces charges of vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter, for which he could ultimately be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Wimpey’s family is reeling not only with loss, but with the many reasons this should never have happened.
First of all, Smith was impaired by the time he left a local bar in Broward County, according to the reports. This is known because the bartenders who were serving him and the friends who were there with him later disclosed it to authorities. The night began as a going-away party for one of Smith’s friends. More than a dozen people gathered for the send-off. But at some point, Smith had consumed far too much. The bartenders stopped serving Smith alcohol. Friends pleaded with him to let them take him home. He refused those offers, belligerently held onto his keys, refused to let a sober friend drive and ran to his vehicle. His wife even sent him a text message, telling him not to drive if he was too drunk, that she would pick him up. He didn’t take her up on the offer. No one contacted police to report the potentially lethal situation.
A friend who had been following Smith witnessed the crash, got out of his vehicle and began shoving Smith, yelling, “What did you do? I can’t believe you hit someone!”
Wimpey, meanwhile, would never have been walking the dog if his earlier plans hadn’t fallen through. He had made arrangements to give the dog away to another family. However, the person who was supposed to come get the dog called at the last minute to say it would have to wait until the following morning. When the dog cried to be let out in the early morning hours, Wimpey got up and took him.
Smith told investigators he only lost control of the vehicle because he sneezed. However, when police investigators initiated a road sobriety test on Smith, he allegedly failed it.
Now, he is being held without bond on felony charges.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
DUI driver hits, kills ‘good soul’ who was out walking his dog, deputies say, Oct. 2, 2015, By Wayne K. Roustan, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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Fatal Shooting at Florida Nightclub Raises Issue of Premises Liability, Sept. 30, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Wrongful Death Lawyer Blog