The two young men who died in a Memorial Day Weekend 2021 vehicle collision were both standout athletes at Lexington Catholic High School.
Investigators from the Scott County Sheriff’s Office believe that the vehicle in which the teens were riding sideswiped another car, causing the driver to lose control. The vehicle then careened off the road and smashed into a pole. The two boys were declared dead at the scene. Two other people were rushed to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.
At this point, investigators believe that speed was the primary contributing factor to this wreck.
Passenger Injuries in Vehicle Collision Claims
For the most part, the rights of injured passengers mirror the rights of injured drivers in these situations. The same duty of care and other basic principles apply to everyone. However, passenger injuries include some unique moral issues. A Lexington personal injury lawyer must be fully aware of them.
If the injured passenger was in the same vehicle as the tortfeasor (negligent driver), the two were probably familiar with each other, perhaps even intimately familiar with each other. Commercial vehicle passengers, like Uber or taxi passengers, are about the only exception to this rule.
Incidentally, there is no spousal privilege in this area in Kentucky. An injured wife may file a legal claim against her tortfeasor husband.
Obviously, a legal claim could affect the relationship between the victim and tortfeasor. But there are some things to remember.
First, a negligence claim does not “blame” anyone for the crash. Rather, an injury claim is all about fair compensation for serious injuries. Additionally, negligence claims force reluctant people to accept responsibility for their mistakes. In a perfect world, legal action wouldn’t be necessary on this point. But we do not live in a perfect world.
Additionally, individuals are not financially responsible for wrecks, at least in most cases. The insurance company pays for a lawyer and also pays damages. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
The tortfeasor might suffer some direct effects, but these effects aren’t related to the legal claim. Most insurance companies raise the tortfeasor’s rates or cancel the policy in these situations. But these things probably would have happened anyway.
Finally, legal claims, or even demand letters, often aren’t necessary in these cases. Once the victim partners with an attorney, many people, and even a few insurance companies, voluntarily do the right thing.
First Party Liability
To obtain the aforementioned compensation, victim/plaintiffs must prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. There are usually two available legal theories.
Ordinary negligence is usually a lack of reasonable care. This duty requires motorists to drive defensively and avoid accidents when possible. Commercial operators usually have a higher duty of care. They must proactively avoid crashes, so their passengers get safely from Point A to Point B.
Negligence per se is a lack of statutory care. If the tortfeasor c=violates a safety law and that violation substantially causes injury, the tortfeasor could be liable for damages as a matter of law. The traffic or other citation is all the evidence needed, at least to establish liability. Additional evidence is usually relevant to the amount of damages.
Device distraction claims are a good example of the different ways these different legal theories work.
Kentucky has a very limited cell phone ban. It only prohibits texting and driving. Furthermore, the listed exceptions are much broader than the law itself. So, negligence per se only applies in limited situations.
The duty of reasonable care most definitely applies to drivers who were continually using hand-held phones when they caused a wreck. These gadgets combine all three forms of distracted driving, which are:
- Manual (hand off the wheel),
- Visual (eyes off the road), and
- Cognitive (mind off driving).
Extremely limited use, such as swiping a screen to decline a call, is technically distracted driving. But most jurors would not say that such behavior is bad enough to constitute a lack of reasonable care.
A lack of utmost care, the duty for commercial drivers, is different. Any device use could constitute a breach of care. These operators must focus exclusively on driving. Multitasking is not allowed on any level.
Crash victims are entitled to fair compensation for their serious injuries. 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. #goodelawyers