A driver who apparently lost control of his vehicle crossed the dividing line and hit an oncoming vehicle almost head on.
The collision took place on U.S. Highway 31 East near the intersection of State Highway 101 in Allen County. According to the limited evidence available, a 27-year-old Scottsville man lost control of his vehicle and crossed from the southbound to the northbound side of Highway 31. He smashed into an oncoming pickup. Emergency responders rushed him to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.
The wrong-way driver, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from his vehicle and died at the scene.
Evidence in Car Wreck Claims
Victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in these claims. They must prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. Sometimes, there is plenty of evidence available at the scene. Much more frequently, however, credible proof is in short supply.
Rural accidents are a good illustration. Frequently, a Lexington personal injury attorney relies on witness statements. Usually, witnesses give a vivid account of how an accident happened, as well as the aftermath of the crash (e.g. the car was on fire or the victim wasn’t breathing). But in a rural collision, the only witnesses might be the people involved in the wreck. These witnesses are understandably biased toward one side or another. So, jurors often take such testimony with a very large grain of salt.
Driving records sometimes fill in the gap. But their use is limited. These records are only admissible in certain situations. Furthermore, as a matter of law, jurors usually cannot conclude that if Ben was a bad driver before, he was also a bad driver in the moments leading up to the wreck.
Commercial collisions are a bit different. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration runs the Safety Maintenance System database. The SMS report, which usually pertains to truck drivers, typically contains a wealth of information in areas like:
- Substance abuse background,
- Vehicle maintenance history,
- Collision background,
- HOS (Hours of Service) compliance, and
- Hazardous materials transportation.
The SMS report usually pulls information from law enforcement records, as opposed to judicial records.
For example, if Wendy gets a fix-it ticket about her brakes and promptly takes care of the repair, the citation probably wouldn’t show up in a judicial record search. But it probably would appear in an SMS report, since the ticket is most likely part of the permanent law enforcement record.
The Different Types of Wrong-Way Collisions
From a fault standpoint, pretty much all these accidents are the same. Emergency responders and/or insurance adjusters typically assign fault to the driver who crossed the centerline. Any other facts are pretty much irrelevant.
But from a liability standpoint, there are some important distinctions to consider. These differences could be the difference between receiving fair compensation and walking away with nothing.
Assume David mistook an exit ramp for an entrance ramp in the dark. He drives defensively on the highway, but in the wrong direction. If Chris sees David approaching and does nothing to avoid the wreck, Chris could be legally responsible for damages, even though he did nothing wrong.
According to the last clear chance doctrine, the driver who finishes the crash, and not the one who starts it, could be liable. The duty of care requires drivers to avoid accidents when possible. They cannot simply sit back and let them happen.
Now assume David was driving erratically and suddenly veered over the center line and directly into Chris’ path.
Most likely, the last clear chance doctrine wouldn’t apply in this case. Chris probably had no realistic opportunity to avoid the wreck.
The Seat Belt Defense in Kentucky
Every state except New Hampshire has a mandatory seat belt law. But for reasons which are fraught with Legalese and very obscure, the so-called seat belt defense varies in different states. In some states, failure to buckle up may derail an injury claim. In other jurisdictions, seat belt non-use might have no effect on a claim at all.
The Bluegrass State tries to navigate a middle ground between these two sides. As the old saying goes, if you try to stay in the middle of the road, you often get run over.
Failure to properly use a child safety seat is usually not admissible in any way, shape, or form. These claims are often a can of worms. Statistically, most caregivers place most kids in safety seats. However, most caregivers also either use the seat wrong or use one that’s not age appropriate.
The rules are different for older children and adults. Kentucky law imposes no legal duty to wear a seat belt in a civil claim. However, insurance company lawyers may casually bring up the fact that the victim wasn’t properly restrained and remind jurors that people have a duty of care to look after their own safety. Jurors may then determine if the victim breached that duty of care and if that breach substantially caused injury.
In other words, jurors must determine that the victim consciously and dangerously refused to buckle up. Excuses like “I was just going to the store” or “The seat belt doesn’t fit right” don’t work in traffic court, but they could hold up in civil court.
Furthermore, the insurance company must prove that the failure to wear a seat belt, as opposed to the tortfeasor’s negligence, substantially caused the injury. That showing is almost impossible to make.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. 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