Near-fatal accident inspires Stetson Law student to pursue career as prosecutor

Story by Valeria Obi

Nicole Martingano, a third-year law student at Stetson, experienced a severe and unexpected hardship at the age of 19 that motivated her to go to law school.

Stetson Law student Nicole Martingano aspires to be a prosecutor.

Stetson Law student Nicole Martingano aspires to be a prosecutor.

In 2006, Martingano was an undergraduate student at the University of Florida in Gainesville with uncertain academic plans. On Feb. 25 of that year, Martingano’s life changed dramatically when she was hit head-on by a drunk driver.

After the accident, Martingano suffered from left-side paralysis and was in a coma for 11 days. She was hospitalized for three months and had to undergo occupational, speech and physical therapy to recover. As a result of the car accident, Martingano has a steel plate in her arm and a titanium rod in her leg.

It took a year for her to fully recover from the car accident. Martingano had problems with her long- and short-term memory, and struggled putting words together.

“How it affected my family was the hardest part of dealing with the accident,” said Martingano. “They went through more pain then I did. Physical pain is nothing compared to emotional pain.”

The doctors told Martingano that only 90 percent of her brain would revert back to normal functioning. Six years after the accident, she still struggles with her hand-eye coordination and her ability to run. She recently received a scholarship awarded to victims of sudden traumatic brain injuries.

When she was lying in the hospital bed in Gainesville, Martingano said she made a decision to deter drunk driving by speaking to her peers and by one day becoming a prosecutor.

Since the accident, Martingano has turned her near-fatal injuries into a public awareness campaign. She has spoken to thousands of students at colleges and high schools about the consequences of drunk driving.

At Stetson Law, Martingano is honing her advocacy skills as a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Board, and she has recently become a Student Ambassador at Stetson. Next spring, Martingano plans to participate in Stetson’s Prosecution Clinic.

Upon graduation, she aspires to work as a prosecutor in the Tampa Bay area where DUI conviction rates are the highest in the state.

“As an advocate, my goal is to be a prosecutor, and I’m determined to deter crimes like the one I was a victim of,” said Martingano. “More expensive fines don’t necessarily deter people from driving drunk. Having the experience deters people. Community service deters people.”

For more information on Martingano’s life-changing experience, visit her website at How to Save A Life: