Fatal Wrong-Way Collision in Hancock County

by | Oct 20, 2021 | Car Accidents, Injuries

A man is dead after he inexplicably crossed the center line and collided head-on with an oncoming school bus.

The wreck happened on State Highway 1389. Trooper Corey King noted that the area is known for its many “hills and valleys, and curves and twists and turns.” The 27-year-old motorist died at the scene and the school bus driver was seriously injured. However, the students aboard the bus were not seriously hurt.

“School buses are the best and the safest mode of transportation for students,” Trooper King remarked. “It always has been, and the technology has enhanced throughout the years. This is proof right here that you had five students, and all five were okay.”

Fault v. Liability in Car Wreck Claims

Emergency responders are quick to blame wrong-way drivers for wrong-way crashes. In many cases, this initial assessment is accurate. But in many others, this initial assessment is wrong. Additional evidence, as well as legal doctrines, sometimes change this conclusion.

That investigation usually includes a thorough vehicle inspection. Defective products, such as defective tires, often cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles. In these situations, the manufacturer, as opposed to the driver, is legally responsible for damages, in most cases. In fact, most manufacturers are strictly liable for damages. Negligence, or the lack thereof, is usually irrelevant.

Many tire makers try to shift blame onto consumers in these situations. They blame owners for failing to properly inflate the tires, using the wrong kind of tire (e.g. using off-road on tires that are designed for on-road use only), or failing to inspect their tires. These deflections might hold up in the court of public opinion. But they don’t hold up in a court of law.

Legally, consumer misuse affects strict liability only if that misuse is unforeseeable and dangerous. Using a lawnmower to trim ivy off a brick wall is an illustration of unforeseeable misuse.

The legal doctrine which comes up most frequently in these situations is the last clear chance rule. 

Assume Bob mistook a freeway exit for a freeway entrance, so he is driving on the wrong side of the road. Rick sees Bob approaching, yet Rick does nothing to avoid a head-on wreck. Legally, Rick could be responsible for the collision, even though he did nothing wrong, because he had the last clear chance to avoid a crash.

Now assume that Bob was driving erratically and suddenly crossed the center line moments before he collided with Rick. In that scenario, the last clear chance rule probably would not apply. There was little or nothing Rick could have done to avoid a collision. After all, this legal rule only applies if a driver had the last clear chance to avoid a wreck, as opposed to any possible chance to avoid one.

Additionally, different drivers have different legal responsibilities in Kentucky. These different responsibilities change the meaning of the last clear chance rule, as well as other legal doctrines.

Duty of Care in Vehicle Collisions

Most noncommercial motorists have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and obey the rules of the road. Commercial drivers, like bus drivers, have a higher duty of care. They must take affirmative steps to anticipate accidents and avoid them.

To illustrate the difference between these two duties, let’s go back to the second example used above, and change the facts a bit. Now assume Bob was driving erratically and Rick was driving a school bus. As a commercial operator, when Rick saw Bob driving erratically, he had a responsibility to immediately change lanes or take other such actions to avoid a possible wreck. If Rick waited until Bob crossed the center line, that would be too late.

Negligence in vehicle collision claims is basically a lack of care. The higher the legal responsibility, the easier it is to establish a lack of care. In other words, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

If a Lexington personal injury attorney establishes a lack of care, the damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Although most of these cases settle out of court, they often don’t settle right away.

Your Claim for Damages

If all the issues in a case are relatively clear, most insurance companies have a duty to tender reasonable settlement offers within a few weeks. But the issues are not usually clear-cut. The last clear chance doctrine is just one possible insurance company defense. Others include comparative fault, a lack of evidence, and questions about the nature of the victim’s injuries.

If settlement negotiations stall, most attorneys file legal paperwork to jumpstart these talks. This move also protects the victim/plaintiff’s legal right to obtain compensation.

At this point, most Fayette County judges refer contested claims to mediation. A third-party mediator meets with both sides and tries to convince them to settle the claim. Since both sides have a duty to negotiate in good faith, which basically means they must sincerely work toward reaching an agreement, mediation is usually successful.

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