One person is dead, and another one may face permanent injuries, after a high-speed, two-car wreck on Interstate 71.
According to witnesses, a 2017 Corvette sideswiped a guardrail and spun into the path of a 2012 Mini Cooper near Mile Marker 41, which is in Carroll County. The Corvette driver was killed almost instantly. Emergency responders rushed the Mini Cooper driver to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.
A passenger in the Mini Cooper refused medical treatment at the scene.
Speed and Car Crashes
Excessive velocity is a factor in about a third of the fatal vehicle collisions in Kentucky. Speed raises the risk of a collision as well as the force in a collision.
To stop their vehicles, drivers must first spot hazards. Then, they must move their feet from the accelerator to the brake. Finally, they must slam on the brakes and stop the car. Almost all vehicles have anti-lock brakes, so this maneuver is largely safe.
This entire process usually takes less than a second. In that very brief time window, a vehicle travelling 30mph moves forward an additional six car lengths. At 60mph, this stopping distance multiples to eighteen car lengths. Certain factors, such as wet roads or low visibility, could augment stopping distance even further. More on that below.
Speed also multiplies the force in a collision. Essentially, speed turns a non-injury “fender bender” accident which only causes property damage into a serious injury collision. According to Sir Isaac Newton’s Second Law of Motion, speed multiples the force in collisions between two objects.
Furthermore, when a vehicle stops suddenly, either because a driver slams on the brakes or it smacks into another object, small items in the car keep moving forward at the same speed. In other words, these objects become high-speed missiles which, in many cases, are aimed at a person’s head.
Because the injuries are so severe, available compensation in a high-speed wreck is usually quite high. Obtaining this compensation is easier said than done.
Establishing Liability in Speed-Related Wrecks
High speed collisions could involve the negligence per se rule. However, in most cases, a Lexington personal injury attorney uses the ordinary negligence doctrine.
If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was travelling above the posted speed limit, and that excessive velocity substantially caused a wreck, the tortfeasor could be liable for damages as a matter of law.
There are some possible issues. First, there’s a difference between excessive speed and negligent speed. 1mph over the speed limit is illegal but probably not negligent. So, a traffic ticket is not necessarily a Golden Ticket for compensation purposes. Additionally, many emergency responders don’t issue citations following traffic accidents. They have other priorities, mostly securing the scene and tending to injured victims.
So, the ordinary negligence doctrine is usually the rule of choice in speed related wrecks. Basically, ordinary negligence is a lack of care. Most noncommercial motorists have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and avoid accidents when possible. Most commercial motorists have a duty of utmost care. They must take all possible precautions in order to avoid collisions.
As mentioned, environmental factors affect stopping distance. Therefore, drivers, especially commercial drivers, have a duty to slow down during these times. This same responsibility could apply if the driver is behind the wheel of an unfamiliar vehicle. There’s a big difference between a Hummer and a Honda.
On a related note, even if the driver is travelling below the posted limit, police officers may still issue speeding tickets. The speed limit is a presumptively reasonable velocity under ideal conditions. Officers may cite drivers whom they feel are driving too fast for the conditions.
The Comparative Fault Defense
Frequently in these situations, both motorists were speeding. If that’s the case, the comparative fault defense could apply. This legal doctrine shifts accident blame from tortfeasors to victims.
The insurance company has both the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion in these situations. Let’s start with the burden of proof. As mentioned, there’s a difference between marginal speeding and reckless speeding, at least for negligence purposes. So, the insurance company must convince the judge that the victim was travelling so fast that his/her excessive speed was a primary contributing factor to the wreck.
As for the burden of persuasion, the insurance company must basically do the whole thing over again. Its lawyers must convince jurors that the victim was speeding so much that the victim’s speed, as opposed to the tortfeasor’s negligence, substantially caused the wreck.
Once they hear the evidence, jurors must divide fault on a percentage basis, such as 50-50, between the two drivers. Kentucky is a pure comparative fault state. So, even if the tortfeasor was only 1 percent responsible for the wreck, the tortfeasor is liable for a proportionate share of damages.
In contrast, most jurisdictions are modified comparative fault states. Generally, unless the tortfeasor is at least 50 percent responsible for the wreck, the victim receives nothing in these states.
Damages in a vehicle collision claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
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 routinely handle matters in Fayette County and nearby jurisdictions. #goodelawyers