A driver who was on the wrong side of Interstate 75 plowed into a carful of people, killing everyone inside it.
Police received several calls about a wrong-way driver on Interstate 75. That driver turned out to be a 38-year-old Madison County woman. Before responders could intervene she struck a vehicle containing a woman and four children from Owenton. One of the occupants, a 9-year-old girl, was declared dead at the scene. The mother and three other children were rushed to nearby hospitals, but they did not survive.
The wrong-way driver also died in the wreck.
Fault vs. Liability in a Car Wreck Claim
A non-lawyer emergency responder, insurance adjuster, or other such professional usually determines fault in an accident based solely on the evidence which is available at the scene. This preliminary determination often does not hold up in court. A legal doctrine and/or additional evidence could change a subsequent liability determination. This second determination is the only one that matters, in terms of victim financial compensation.
So, if you were hurt in a car wreck, always have a Lexington personal injury attorney evaluate your claim. Even if an insurance adjuster said you were completely at fault, you might be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.
A number of legal doctrines could alter the initial fault determination. The last clear chance doctrine might be one of the most significant ones. This rule almost always comes up in wrong-way wrecks.
All drivers have a duty of care at all times. Another driver’s negligence does not affect this legal responsibility, which includes the duty to avoid accidents when possible.
Assume Brenda is driving on the wrong side of the road. Lisa sees her coming. But Lisa does not change lanes, change speeds, or do anything else to avoid a wreck. Under these facts, Lisa could be legally responsible for the resulting crash, even though she did nothing wrong.
That’s not always the case. If Brenda was driving erratically and drifted over the centerline at the last minute, it would have been very difficult for Lisa to avoid a wreck. Ditto if traffic, weather, or other conditions made evasive maneuvers, like a sudden lane change, difficult or impossible to perform.
Preliminary evidence gathered at the scene could be misleading as well. That’s especially true if the victim and/or tortfeasor (negligent driver) died in the crash. In that case, the police accident report’s narrative obviously only contains one side of the story.
Attorneys have access to additional evidence. The Event Data Recorder is a good example. EDRs measure and record information like vehicle speed, brake application, and steering angle. Therefore, EDR information could establish or disprove a defense like last clear chance.
Kentucky has very restrictive vehicle information privacy laws. If someone other than the vehicle’s owner wants to access EDR information, that person usually needs a court order or search warrant. Police investigators sometimes take these additional steps, but usually they do not. Instead, they leave the matter for a civil court to decide.
Wrongful Death Damages
Some people rightfully question the role of money damages in a wrongful death claim. It’s almost insulting to imply that a human life, especially a young child’s life, has a price tag.
Money cannot possibly fill the emotional void in these situations. But money does allow survivors to comfortably pay final expenses and move on with their lives. The decedent would have wanted these things. That’s why people buy life insurance policies.
Wrongful death lawsuits are very narrow in Kentucky. Typically, only the decedent’s personal representative may file an action. Damages in these claims are usually limited to:
- Final expenses, such as burial and funeral costs,
- Medical bills related to the decedent’s final injury or illness,
- Other economic losses, such as property damage, and
- Compensation for the decedent’s pain and suffering.
Under Kentucky law, the personal representative must pay expenses from the proceeds of any judgement or settlement. Survivors, usually the spouse or immediate family members, are entitled to the remainder.
These survivors may file separate claims and obtain compensation for things like lost future emotional and financial support. Frequently, attorneys partner with accountants and psychologists to determine a fair amount of compensation for these losses.
Even seemingly straightforward vehicle collision claims are often complex. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We routinely handle matters in Fayette County and nearby jurisdictions. #goodelawyers