Investigators do not know why a 17-year-old motorist suddenly crossed the centerline on Rineyville Road. They do know that a woman is dead because of the crash.
The 17-year-old was driving a Dodge Charger on Rineyville Road near the Crume Road intersection. When the teen crossed over, the Charger smacked into a westbound Honda. The deceased woman was a Honda passenger. Both drivers were rushed to nearby hospitals with serious injuries.
First Party Liability
In these situations, insurance companies almost always assign fault to the motorist who illegally crossed the centerline. Emergency responders typically say the same thing to victims. But there is often a difference between fault at the scene and liability for damages. Fault is a preliminary fact determination. Liability is a full factual determination as well as a legal issue.
The last clear chance rule, which we have blogged on frequently, is a good example. Most noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. This duty includes a responsibility to avoid accidents when possible. The duty of care is personal. Another driver’s behavior or misbehavior does not affect it.
Assume Thelma, who is eastbound, crosses the centerline. She hits Louise, who is eastbound. According to the last clear chance rule, either Thelma or Louise could be legally responsible for the wreck. Generally, the key question is whether the wreck was a wrong way crash or a head-on crash. Many people believe these terms are synonymous. But there are some important differences.
This clip from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is a wrong-way wreck. Loveable lunk Dell Griffith (the late great John Candy) was driving normally, albeit on the wrong side of the road. So, the oncoming trucks probably should have seen him coming and should have done something to avoid the accident.
On the other hand, this clip from Tommy Boy is a head-on crash, or at least a potential head-on crash. Struggling brake pad salesman Tommy (the late great Chris Farley) suddenly and unexpectedly crossed the centerline. So, there was no way an oncoming motorist could have avoided a crash.
These clips do not convey absolute truth. In the real world, people almost never walk away from incidents like these. Instead, they normally cause serious or fatal injuries. Frequently, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is not the only responsible party in these situations.
Third Party Liability
Tortfeasors are legally responsible for their driving mistakes. That’s the essence of a negligence claim. Frequently, a third party is financially responsible for damages. Vicarious liability gives victim/plaintiffs an additional source of recovery. Since many drivers are either uninsured or underinsured, vicarious liability, if available, could be the difference between obtaining fair compensation and settling for less.
People under 18 cannot legally own motor vehicles or other property. So, the 17-year-old driver in the above story was borrowing someone else’s property, even if the car belonged to the teen for all practical purposes.
Property owners are financially responsible for damages if they knowingly allow incompetent drivers to use their motor vehicles, and the incompetent driver causes a crash. Evidence of incompetency includes:
No drivers’ license,
Safety-suspended drivers’ license,
Previous at-fault accidents,
Defying drivers’ license restrictions (e.g. driving without eyeglasses), and
Poor driving record, such as multiple prior moving violations.
Damages in a car wreck claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Frequently, a Lexington personal injury attorney is able to settle these claims out of court.
Vehicle collisions are often legally complex matters. 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 insurance or money.