Loss of Control Wreck Kills One, Injures Four

| Jan 8, 2021 | Car Accidents

Even though this collision occurred across state lines in Michigan, an ensuing legal dispute could wind up in a Kentucky court. 

A 37-year -old man from Ann Arbor was westbound on Geddes Avenue near the intersection of Towsley Road where, for unknown reasons, he spun out of control. His vehicle came to rest in a traffic lane. A trailing vehicle, which contained a family of four from Kentucky, struck the Ann Arbor motorist. The Michigan man was declared dead at the scene. The occupants of the other car were all seriously injured.

Investigators believe that the unusual design of the road, specifically a back-and-forth curve, might have contributed to the wreck.

Jurisdiction and Venue in Car Wreck Claims

Before a Lexington personal injury attorney files a legal claim for damages a lawyer must first lay the groundwork for a successful claim. Evidentiary issues usually dominate this area. Victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not.

However, there are some procedural matters to consider as well. Jurisdiction refers to a court’s legal authority to hear certain claims. In most states, different courts have different jurisdictions, mostly depending on the amount in controversy. Small claims courts, which are basically Judge Judy without the TV cameras, usually handle disputes over less than $10,000 as well as certain kinds of lawsuits, such as forcible detainer (eviction) actions. 

Venue is another matter. The V-word usually refers to geographic authority. Every American court, from the lowest small claims court to the Supreme Court, may only hear cases which arise from certain geographic areas.

In personal injury claims, the venue usually depends on the county. Legally, victims may bring personal injury claims in the county where the injury occurred or the county where they reside. Frequently, venue is not an issue, because the plaintiff resides in the county where the injury occurred. But an attorney sometimes has a choice, and there are some pros and cons to consider.

Generally, most of the evidence, such as eyewitnesses, is in the county where the injury occurred. Since victims have the burden of proof, it’s usually better to file a claim where the injury occurred. However, many injured victims have a hard time travelling long distances. So, it’s usually more convenient to file claims in the county of the plaintiff’s residence.

Can I Sue Dead People

Car crash procedural matters are not limited to jurisdiction and venue. There are often some other things to consider as well.

The auto accident fatality rate is very high. So, there is a good chance that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) might not survive the crash. Many people think that, if the tortfeasor dies, there is no one to hold responsible for the wreck. However, the tortfeasor’s estate is still financially responsible for the wreck.

Generally, attorneys must pursue injury claims in probate court. When people die either testate (with a will) or intestate (without a will), most or all of their estate usually goes through probate court. An estate representative, who was either named in the will or appointed by the judge, usually handles most issues. These issues include settling all pending claims, such as personal injury claims.

This environment favors injury victims. Typically, personal estate representatives accepted the burden out of loyalty to the deceased person. So, they are anxious to wrap up the estate’s affairs and get back to their own jobs and families. As a result, these claims often settle frequently and on victim-friendly terms, since the estate administrator is a motivated seller, so to speak.

 

Liability Issues

Wrecks like the one in the above story are quite complex, from a legal perspective. Drivers clearly have a responsibility to maintain control of their vehicles. Drivers also have a duty to avoid accidents when possible. The possibility of a defectively designed roadway makes things even more complex.

The last clear chance doctrine usually comes into play in situations like these. Whichever driver had the last clear chance to avoid the wreck is usually responsible for damages. Perhaps the Michigan driver could have avoided the wreck by driving more carefully. Or, perhaps the Kentucky driver could have avoided the wreck by stopping suddenly or changing lanes. More evidence is necessary.

As for the defectively designed roadway, the county might escape responsibility under the sovereign immunity doctrine. Immunity usually hinges upon the nature of the act. County governments and other governments are normally responsible for damages if the underlying act was a ministerial function which involved little or no judgement or discretion. Once again, more evidence is necessary to make a determination.

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. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.