Investigators are not sure who is at fault after one driver crossed the center line on East Mountain Parkway and struck another vehicle.
According to police and witnesses, an eastbound cargo van crossed the center line and smacked almost head-on into an eastbound GMC Acadia. The force of the collision ejected the eastbound driver, killing him almost instantly.
The wreck took place near mile marker 68 in Salyersville.
Fault v. Liability
Many people assume these terms are synonymous, and frequently, that’s true. But fault is a fact issue, and liability is a legal issue.
Insurance company adjusters often review police report narratives to determine fault at the scene. Wrong-way crashes are a good example. Regardless of the other facts, adjusters almost always assign fault to the driver who crossed the center line.
Lexington personal injury attorneys review these facts, as well as the applicable law, to determine liability, at least on a preliminary basis. The judge or jury has the final say as to who is legally responsible for a wreck.
In terms of the applicable law, the last clear chance doctrine is usually paramount in wrong-way crash claims. Assume Archie crosses the center line for some reason. Jughead, who is driving in the opposite direction, sees Archie approaching, but he does nothing to avoid the crash. An insurance adjuster would almost certainly assign fault to Archie.
Legally, Jughead cannot be fatalistic and simply let the crash happen. If he can avoid it, perhaps by stopping or changing lanes, he has a legal duty to do so. If Jughead does not fulfil this specific part of his duty, he could be legally responsible for the wreck, even though Archie was on the wrong side of the road.
Making things even more complicated, there are different degrees of wrong way crashes. If Archie was driving erratically or suddenly swerved into oncoming traffic, it would be difficult or impossible for Jughead to avoid him. However, if Archie was steadily on the wrong side of the road, perhaps because he made a wrong turn earlier, the last clear chance doctrine almost certainly comes into play.
Electronic Evidence in Car Crash Claims
Legal theories like last clear chance are important in car crash claims. But evidence is even more important. The victim/plaintiff must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not.
Traditionally, the Big Three of witness statements, medical records, and the police report made up almost all the victim/plaintiff’s evidence. In many cases, that’s still true. Increasingly, however, Lexington personal injury attorneys turn to electronic evidence. A vehicle’s Event Data Recorder is a good example. Much like back box flight data recorders in commercial jets, EDRs measure and record operational information like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Steering angle,
- Brake application, and
- Engine RPM.
Electronic evidence like EDR data is usually more useful than eyewitness testimony. A witness could testify that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was speeding. An EDR could show that the tortfeasor was travelling 87.6mph. Furthermore, eyewitnesses could be biased or wrong. Assuming the gadget was working correctly, a computerized EDR has no such flaws.
Surveillance cameras are another good example. At least one camera covers almost every intersection in Lexington. And, these cameras usually record digital, high-definition video.
Tech-savvy Fayette County jurors typically respond very well to electronic evidence. So, if this proof is available, it often increases a claim’s settlement value. Insurance company lawyers know electronic evidence’s value. So, they adjust their settlement offers accordingly.
Determining a claim’s settlement value is a somewhat complex process. Economic injuries, like medical bills and lost wages, are rather straightforward. Noneconomic injuries, such as pain and suffering, are another matter.
To ascertain a fair number, most attorneys multiply the economic damages by two, three, or four, depending on the evidence available, the applicable law, and a few other factors.
Additional punitive damages are sometimes available as well, if there is clear and convincing evidence that the tortfeasor intentionally disregarded a known risk. Examples include noncommercial drivers with very high BAC levels and truck drivers who fell asleep at the wheel because of excessive fatigue.
Vehicle collisions often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.