Authorities reported that forty-two traffic accidents, including ten serious injury collisions, occurred in a twenty-four hour period during February 2021.
The collisions included a jackknifed eighteen-wheeler on Interstate 65 in Hardin County. That crash killed one person. Most of the wrecks in the Lexington area occurred during the overnight and early morning hours, since according to law enforcement, most roads were “slick and covered” during this time period. Similar conditions were prevalent throughout the state.
Authorities also responded to twenty-four tree falls, twenty-five downed power lines, and three malfunctioning traffic signals.
The Duty of Care and Environmental Negligence
News reports usually characterize such crashes as weather-related accidents. This label is very misleading. Driver error causes about 95 percent of the car wrecks in Kentucky.
Inclement weather may have contributed to the crash, but it did not cause it. Furthermore, these incidents are usually not accidents at all. People accidentally misplace their car keys. They do not accidentally lose control of their vehicles and cause wrecks. Furthermore, when these incidents occur, drivers cannot shift blame from their own negligence to the weather. At least, they cannot shift the blame in a court of law.
Bad weather does not alter the duty of care. This duty requires noncommercial motorists to drive defensively, obey the rules of the road, and avoid accidents if possible. Uber drivers, taxi driver, bus driver, and other such commercial operators have an even higher duty of care in Kentucky.
If anything, bad weather intensifies the duty of care. During these times, all drivers have a duty to slow down and use extreme caution. Environmental negligence is basically a failure to adjust to these conditions. Other situations which could involve environmental negligence include dark skies and high winds.
Nevertheless, the blame-it-on-the-weather mindset does not just affect tortfeasors (negligent drivers) and newscasters. Emergency responders usually have this attitude as well. As a result, they rarely issue citations in these situations, even if a tortfeasor crossed the double line or otherwise clearly broke a traffic law.
So, environmental negligence claims usually involve the ordinary negligence doctrine. If the tortfeasor breaches the duty of care, probably by failing to adjust to conditions, and that breach caused injury, the tortfeasor is liable for damages.
In most car crash claims, these damages include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Evidence in Weather-Related Wrecks
Victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in negligence claims. So, evidence is critical, and not just to establish liability. There is usually a direct link between the amount of damages Fayette County jurors award and the amount of evidence presented.
The Big Three of medical bills, witness statements, and the police accident report are usually, but not always, sufficient to establish liability and obtain maximum compensation.
Some witness statements exemplify these evidence problems. If the victim was severely injured or killed, the victim’s testimony is generally unavailable. Furthermore, not all eyewitnesses are convincing or competent. Some people are simply not good public speakers. Others only saw part of the crash, have vision impairments, or have a personal interest in the case.
Electronic evidence, such as a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder, often fills in the gaps. Most EDRs measure and record things like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Steering angle,
- Brake application, and
- Engine RPM.
Computers, unlike eyewitnesses, are never biased and never wrong, assuming the devices were working correctly. So, again unlike eyewitnesses, EDR evidence is essentially bulletproof in court. Furthermore, tech-savvy Fayette County jurors usually respond very well to electronic evidence.
This critical evidence is not always available. There are some legal and practical hurdles to overcome.
Legally, Kentucky has very strict vehicle information privacy laws. Typically, a Lexington personal injury attorney needs a court order to access and download EDR information.
This access and download is not always a simple process. A lawyer needs much more than a laptop and a screwdriver to fully tap into an EDR. That’s especially true of a large vehicle device, like a semi-truck’s EDR.
Claims built on solid evidence usually survive procedural motions, affirmative defenses, and anything else the insurance company can throw at them. So, these claims usually settle early and on victim-friendly terms. These out-of-court settlements significantly benefit victim/plaintiffs. They end cases early, speed compensation to victims, and give the parties additional control over the outcome of the case.
Operator negligence, not inclement weather, usually causes winter car wrecks. 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. #goodelawyers