Who would have thought that a prostitute would be the star witness in convicting a drunk driver, Robert Velazco, who negligently and recklessly ran over a young father of three with his truck. In June of 2014, Velazco was drunk and high on cocaine when he blew through a red light in West Miami, Florida, running over Alex Rodas, a young father, who was on a scooter, causing severe brain injuries.
On this particular evening, Leticia Suri, a Miami harlot, had just been picked up on South Beach and was riding shotgun in Velazco’s car. Suri was terrified when she witnessed her “nighttime companion”, drunk driving in a large white pickup truck, run a red light and drive directly into the path of a Mr. Rodas. It was obvious that Rodas has sustained very serious injuries. So Ms. Suri bolted from Velazco’s car the second he parked. Instead of staying at the scene of the accident, Velazco drove off and attempted to get away from being prosecuted on criminal charges. However, something unexpected happened. Suri flagged down a Miami-Dade cop and immediately led the cop to Velazco’s home.
Earlier this month, on January 9, 2018, Velazco was sentenced to 20 years in prison. A jury convicted Velazco of driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident involving serious bodily injury. In fact, according to a Miami-Dade Police Officer, Richard Closius, told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cristina Miranda that the defendant said “I didn’t hit that f—er. That f—er hit me.” In addition to that incriminating statement, the auto collision was captured by a red-light video camera.
During trial, the State’s star witness happened to be Ms. Suri. And despite her admission to being picked up for hire by Velazco that night, a Miami-Dade County jury believed she had sufficient credibility to convict the Defendant of the alleged crime.
The victim in this case, Mr. Rodas, suffered extensive injuries, including brain trauma and broken bones. In addition, the nerves on half his face are destroyed, leaving Rodas in excruciating pain to the point where he must take a battery of pills every day. Furthermore, Mr. Rodas used to be employed as a bar back at a salsa club, but he can no longer works because of the injuries sustained in this collision.
Even in times of peril, such as sustaining injuries in a serious DUI auto collision, the main question to ask is, who is liable and what are the damages? Additionally, another question to ask is how does a DUI affect the issue of liability in a personal injury case under Florida law. Most notably, a victim in an automobile accident may be awarded punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages when the responsible party is driving under the influence. Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant for his conduct and serve as a deterrent to future acts. Punitive damages increase the value of damages for the victim.
Pursuant to Florida Statute section 768.72, no claim for punitive damages will be allowed unless there is a reasonable showing that would establish a reasonable foundation for the claim. The standard jury instructions, which has already been outlined by the Florida Supreme Court, validate punitive damages if, by greater weight of the evidence, the jury finds the defendants conduct:
- So flagrant and gross as to show reckless disregard for human life or the safety of those exposed to it;
- Showed an entire lack of care that the defendant was consciously indifferent to the consequences;
- Showed an entire lack of care that the defendant recklessly or wantonly disregarded public welfare;
- Showed such reckless indifference to the rights of others as to equate to an intentional violation of those rights.
In a hit and run accident, an independent witness, such as Ms. Suri, is critical in successfully proving liability. Not only did her testimony aid in holding Velazco accountable for his reckless actions, a Miami-Dade jury will also have the opportunity to punish him for his reckless conduct that led to permanent, life-threatening injuries.
At the Aigen Law Firm, we zealously fight for every client that walks through our law firm’s door. When our client is injured due to the reckless and dangerous driving of an intoxicated driver, we fight to ensure these perpetrators are punished with punitive damages.
If you or someone you know require a seasoned Miami personal injury attorney, Aigen Law Firm, is here to assist you. We understand that in this moment, especially when there is a death or an injured individual, that litigation may not be on your mind. However, your lawyer at Aigen Law Firm will be available to guide you, protect your rights, answer all your questions, and fight to ensure that you maximize your recovery against all responsible parties. Please do not hesitate to submit an online FREE CASE REVIEW. At Aigen Law Firm, an experienced lawyer is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week working relentlessly on behalf of victims who suffer from all types of accidents. We offer a free consultation for your personal injury case and there is no fee unless we recover for you.