The weather, a negligent semi-truck driver, her own failure to wear a seat belt, or a combination of some or all of these things killed a person on a Kentucky freeway.
The wreck happened near I-64’s Olive Hill exit. According to the Kentucky State Police, a 43-year-old woman partially lost control of her car, possibly because it slipped on black ice. As she was straightening out, a trailing semi-truck rear-ended her, propelling her vehicle into a guardrail. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver was apparently not wearing a seat belt.
In many contexts, legal responsibility is fixed. New lawyers and new doctors do not get accommodations if they mishandle cases. However, it’s important to note that not every lawyer who loses a case or every doctor who loses a patient is negligent.
Typically, the duty of reasonable care in car crash cases is different. This duty usually changes, largely depending on the environmental conditions. For example, drivers have a duty to slow down when the roads are slick, the sky is dark, or there are other adverse conditions.
The law sometimes reflects this difference. The speed limit is a good example. Even though state highways and urban streets are made from the same material, the speed limit is higher on most state highways. Furthermore, many areas feature one speed limit during the day and a lower speed limit at night.
The duty of care is not always flexible. New drivers have the same legal responsibilities as experienced drivers.
If a negligent driver caused a crash, a Lexington personal injury attorney can usually obtain substantial compensation for the victims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Liability in Commercial Operator Claims
Semi-truck crashes often cause much more severe injuries than passenger vehicle wrecks. Such commercial collisions also involve complex liability issues, in terms of first and third party liability.
Statistically, only a handful of vehicle collisions involve fires. But a fully-loaded semi-truck carries hundreds of gallons of highly-flammable diesel fuel. As a result, these wrecks often cause catastrophic burns. These injuries usually require extensive, and expensive, treatment at specialty burn centers. Even then, permanent scarring is usually inevitable.
As for the duty of care, the law frequently holds truck drivers to a higher standard, as mentioned above. Furthermore, since these operators are professional drivers, a higher standard usually applies in ordinary negligence claims as well. The higher the duty, the easier it is to prove a breach of duty in court.
So, a wreck which might be an unavoidable accident in some cases is actionable negligence in these situations. A partial loss-of-control wreck is a good example. Truckers have a duty to follow other vehicles at a great distance, especially if the weather is bad. If this truck driver was following even a little too closely, the trucker could be legally responsible for the above wreck.
Finally, commercial vehicle wrecks usually involve the respondeat superior rule. Employers, like transportation or shipping companies, are vicariously liable for damages if their employees are negligent during the scope of their employment.
Kentucky law defines respondeat superior’s key terms in broad and victim-friendly ways. For example, even though truckers are normally owner-operators for tax purposes, they are normally “employees” for negligence purposes.
The Seat Belt Defense in Kentucky
In some states, seat belt non-use is completely inadmissible in car crash civil claims. This principle comes from the mitigation of damages rule, a complex doctrine which states that victims do not have a duty to mitigate (voluntarily reduce) their damages before accidents happen.
Other jurisdictions fully recognize the so-called seat belt defense. Non-use is available to reduce damages or even to disprove liability.
Kentucky’s seat belt defense law tries to strike a middle ground between these two poles. So, it is rather complex, to say the least.
In the Bluegrass State, insurance companies cannot technically use seat belt non-use as an excuse to reduce or deny compensation. However, insurance company lawyers can emphasize that victims have a legal duty to care for their own safety. They can then point out that the victim wasn’t wearing a seat belt. At that point, the jury can put two and two together.
A Lexington personal injury lawyer can rebut this indirect defense by showing that the extreme force of the collision, as opposed to the failure to wear a seat belt, substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s injuries.
Truck crash victims are entitled to substantial compensation, but these claims are complex. 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