The family of a cyclist who was killed in a hit-and-run crash on the Rickenbacker Causeway has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver, their attorney said Tuesday.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Miami-Dade, claims driver Michele Traverso was negligent when he struck and killed 36-year-old Aaron Cohen as Cohen rode his bicycle on the causeway the morning of Feb. 15.
"He was in a drug treatment program at the time that this happened," attorney Lewis "Mike" Edison said. "He chose to go somewhere and drink, he chose to get behind the wheel and run down these two men and kill Aaron Cohen."
After Traverso struck Aaron Cohen, he fled the scene, police said. Cohen died from his injuries the next day.
Traverso later turned himself in to authorities, some 18 hours after the crash, according to the lawsuit, which also names Traverso's father, Juan Manuel Traverso.
The lawsuit claims Traverso drove his badly damaged car to his condominium on Key Biscayne, where he and his father covered it with a tarp.
Traverso, 25, is charged with leaving the scene of a crash causing death and driving with a suspended license in the crash. He is being held without bond.
"He was my everything," the man's widow Patricia Cohen said about her husband. "It's not like I lost somebody else, it's like I've lost a part of myself. I believe he's responsible for what happened. There is no question about that."
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Patricia Cohen and the couple's two children, claims the family has suffered loss of support and services, loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering.
It seeks over $15,000 in damages.
"He was my everything," Patricia Cohen said. "There doesn't seem to be the right words to convey something like this. It just changes your whole life."
Traverso was in court for a hearing Monday where Judge William Thomas set the trial date for the criminal case for July 9.
Patricia Cohen attended the hearing, where she was asked by Thomas about plea deals that would see Traverso receive a sentence below the 30-year maximum if he's found guilty.
"It's very difficult for us, it's a very difficult time, but I did appreciate what the judge said," Cohen said after the hearing. "I now understand that when it comes to trial he really is going to, we are going to have an opportunity to really tell him and explain what an exceptional person Aaron was."
Ramon De la Cabada, who represents Traverso in the criminal case, has said the only crime his client committed was leaving the scene.
De la Cabada said Traverso may retain a separate attorney for the wrongful death lawsuit.
"They're legally entitled to do that and other than that I have no comment," De la Cabada said about the lawsuit. He also said that any attempts to portray his client as someone who tried to avoid a DUI test are false.
"If there's something slightly positive that can come from it, that maybe our community can be slightly safer, our rods safer, for drivers and bikers and everybody," Patricia Cohen said. "It may be some small solace."