Date 11.06.2018

Holiday Trip Turns Into Interstate Catastrophe

Posted By: Coker Law

It was a tragic pileup that made news across the country.  Ten people were killed, and 18 others hospitalized in a multi-vehicle crash on I-75 just outside of Gainesville, Florida.  The disastrous crash set off a fiery chain reaction that witnesses described as looking like it was the end of the world.  Margie and Bernie deWit were traveling in the early morning hours of that fateful day on Sunday, January 29, 2012. The couple married for more than 40 years was heading from their home in Michigan to enjoy a vacation in Southwest Florida.  But their dream vacation turned into a nightmare just as they entered the Paynes Prairie area. They found themselves engulfed by extremely heavy fog and smoke.

Trail of Tragedy

Concerned that he couldn’t see the road in front of him, Bernie slowed almost to a stop, carefully searching for the roadway exit. But before he could find the off ramp, the couples’ car was violently rear-ended by a UPS tractor-trailer, pushing them into another tractor-trailer that had already stopped on the roadway.  “I was slowing down because I couldn’t see,” recalls Bernie deWitt. “The next thing I remember was hearing someone say that I was moving and then being pulled from my car.” The dual impacts were so significant the couple was hospitalized for weeks. Bernie suffered a broken back among other injures and Margie was left with a permanent traumatic brain injury with future medical costs estimated in the millions of dollars.  According to CBS News, the total disaster scene ran for one mile along I-75 and was littered with the burned-out shells of up to 19 vehicles, including at least seven tractor-trailers.

A Hard-Fought Case From The Start

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Florida Department of Transportation along with area law enforcement were all part of the crash investigation.  Coker Law partner, Matthew Posgay had to sift through layers of investigative reports and fight off significant arguments made by the defendant in the case.  Those arguments included trying to place blame for the crash on the government agencies that reopened the roadway prior to the crash, the entities responsible for the smoke drifting onto the roadway, in addition to placing blame on Bernie for slowing on the roadway, and on Margie who had been napping in the back seat at the time of the crash.  The case was hard-fought from the beginning, it was litigated for close to three years, mostly in federal court.  It was finally resolved on the eve of trial.

Grateful For The Team Work

“Coker Law’s ability to fight a long, hard and expensive battle, is something many firms just don’t have the ability to do,” said Posgay. “At every turn, decisions were made based on what was best for the client, not on what it might cost the firm. The deWits are grateful to be alive, but Margie will never recover from her injuries and still relies on a wheel chair with limited short-term memory.  “We are thankful for Coker Law,” explains Bernie.  “They really worked well together, they kept me informed through the process and we are grateful that Margie will be cared for during the rest of her life.”


Coker Law cautions drivers to be careful and if you are injured by a negligent driver, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. You may qualify to receive compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses related to your injuries. To speak with Coker Law attorney Matthew Posgay, or for more information call (904) 356-6071 or click here to schedule a free consultation.

Case Title: deWit vs UPS

Attorneys/Staff Involved in Case: Matthew Posgay, Denora Buben, Kim Heine, Howard Coker, and Dan Iracki

Date of Settlement: March 2018

Amount of Settlement: Confidential

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