Distracted Driving

Almost seven years after a traffic accident killed a fourth grader, the driver who caused the crash was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Why did the case take so long to weave through the court system, and will the punishment set a new precedent?

A Tragic Accident

On Sept. 15, 2016, the Scherer family was traveling on Interstate 75 near Brooksville, Florida, when they encountered a traffic jam and came to a stop. The family of four included Brooke and Jordan Scherer and their children, Logan and Mallory.

At the same time, Gregory Andriotis was on Interstate 75 approaching the family’s SUV. Andriotis was not paying attention to the road and didn’t notice the sudden stop in traffic, according to Tampa Bay Times reporting. His car slammed into the back of the Scherer’s SUV.

Three of the family members were seriously injured, and 9-year-old Logan was killed by the impact.

Related: Injured in a Car Accident? Here’s What You Need to Do Right Away.

Family Pushes for More Accountability

While the three surviving family members recovered from their injuries, Andriotis was given his punishment for causing the accident that left three family members in the hospital and one dead.

Andriotis was given a fine and one-year license suspension.

The Scherers were not satisfied. They began pushing prosecutors to file stiffer criminal charges, and they launched a nonprofit, Living for Logan, to lobby legislators to pass tougher laws governing cell phone use while behind the wheel. The family’s work took time but led to a change in the prosecutor’s approach to the case.

In March 2018, almost two years after the accident, Andriotis was arrested on a vehicular homicide charge and three counts of reckless driving resulting in serious injury.

Related: Injured in a Car Accident? Here’s What You Need to Do Right Away.

The Case Against the Driver

Andriotis was criminally charged, and the case would eventually go to trial almost seven years after the accident. During the trial, a jury heard evidence about Andriotis’ phone usage in the time leading up to the crash.

An expert analysis of Andriotis’ phone usage 30 minutes before the crash showed a high level of activity. Andriotis had searched for and downloaded the Excel application. While he was driving 80 mph, he used his phone apps. He would later say the last thing he did before the accident was open the Excel app.

Other evidence presented at trial showed that Andriotis didn’t break or try to swerve to avoid the accident. The car’s computer indicated that the vehicle accelerated before the crash. Witnesses said they saw no brake lights before the impact.

The jury found Andriotis guilty of vehicular homicide and three counts of reckless driving resulting in serious injury. Assistant State Attorney Lori Ellingsworth asked the judge for the maximum sentence for the charges, and he got it.

The judge sentenced Andriotis to 30 years in prison — fifteen years for Logan’s death and another five years for each of the reckless driving charges.

Related: Should Bayshore Driver Get a Sentence Reduction After Deadly Crash?

Vehicular Homicide & Distracted Driving

Vehicular homicide is defined in Florida Statute Section 782.071 as “the killing of a human being, or the killing of an unborn child by any injury to the mother, caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another.”

In Florida, it is against the law to type into a phone while driving. The law, known as the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law,” is defined in Florida Statute 316.305. It says, “A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging.” The statute also gives permission to law enforcement to review the wireless data of a driver if they are involved in a crash resulting in death or personal injury.

The Scherers’ case is one of the first prosecuted involving a fatality under Florida’s texting and driving laws. The outcome may set precedent for future cases involving deaths that are a result of distracted driving through the use of mobile devices.

While Andriotis has been found guilty in criminal court, he could still face consequences in civil court. Cases of vehicular manslaughter can also lead to civil personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits.

Related: What To Do After a Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault 

Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

Around two million car accidents happen per year. If you or a loved one are involved in a car accident, make sure you speak to an attorney right away. Protect your rights and get justice if you are injured due to the negligence of another party. Talk to a personal injury attorney who can guide you through the legal process and lead to the best possible outcome.

Start your free case review today. Contact attorney TJ Grimaldi to discuss the details of a recent accident. Request an appointment or call 813-226-1023.

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