Driver Sentenced to 10 Years in Lake Hollingsworth Bicycle Accident

Car Accidents

Ronald Akins was sentenced to 10 years in prison for DUI manslaughter after hitting and killing Byers Levy, who was riding a bicycle around Lake Hollingsworth in Lakeland, Florida.  The accident happened on September 8, 2013 at approximtely 5:00 p.m. when Akins swerved and then overcorrected into the opposing lane of travel striking Levy.  Levy was 59 years old and the owner of Florida Gate Masters.  Akins is 78 years old and had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.09 and 0.10.  This is slightly above the 0.08% limit allowed by Florida law.  Akins pleaded no contest to DUI manslaughter on December 19, 2016 but was not sentenced until January 27, 2017.  Akins faced up to 15 years in prison with a 4-year mandatory minimum sentence.

Filing An Insurance Claim After A DUI Driver Causes A Wrongful Death

After a DUI driver causes a wrongful death, the family of the deceased is forced into dealing with the tragedy of the incident and having to file the right insurance claims and court documents.  Typically, the first insurance claim to bring is a claim for the $5,000 death no-fault death benefit that is available under the deceased’s own automobile policy.  No-fault benefits in Florida apply to situations when a person is covered by a no-fault policy and dies while occupying a car, is on a bicycle, or is a pedestrian.  No-fault benefits follow the person rather than the vehicle.

Secondly, Akins should have had some sort of bodily injury liability coverage on his automobile insurance policy for the family of Levy to claim in a wrongful death case.  Those benefits should have been paid a long time ago and likely were.  In Florida, a liability insurer has a duty to offer policy limits even without a demand letter from the plaintiffs in a case where it is clear that the value of the claim exceeds the policy limits.  Failure to do so may result in extra-contractual damages payable by the insurer.

Third, as the owner of a business, Levy likely had purchased uninsured motorist’s (UM) coverage on his own automobile insurance policy.  This coverage pays over and above the policy limits of the person who caused the accident or when the at-fault driver does not have insurance at all.  It is important to keep in mind that Florida does not require bodily injury liability coverage to be purchased.  This means that there are a significant number of vehicles on Florida’s roadways without any insurance at all for bodily injuries that a driver causes to someone else.

Probate For Wrongful Death

Finally, a probate is generally required in a wrongful death case to establish the authority of the personal representative, to disburse the assets of the decedent, and to properly settle a wrongful death claim.  A person with a complicated financial picture will need a probate to deal with creditors who have claims against the decedent’s estate and to equitably apportion the damages between the decedent’s survivors and the estate.  The survivors should be careful in making the equitable apportionment to consider the value of what the survivors have lost in comparison to the estate.  Damages put into the estate from a settlement will be divided among creditors whereas damages directly attributable to the survivors are not subject to creditors’ claims.

Call A Lakeland Wrongful Death Attorney To Discuss Your Case

If you lost a loved one in a car accident, you should consider your legal options and should consult with a Lakeland wrongful death attorney to discuss what actions you should take under the circumstances.  A consultation with an attorney is free and without obligation.


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January 30, 2017