Investigators believe that alcohol was a factor in this wreck, which also seriously injured two people.
A westbound Buick driver on the Audubon Parkway sideswiped a Sentra and then careened into three other vehicles. One of these collisions was almost head-on. At that point, the Buick catapulted onto a grassy median. The Buick driver was killed, and two other people in two other vehicles were seriously injured.
The Buick driver was not wearing a seat belt.
First Party Liability
The hazards of drinking and driving are well-known by everyone. Yet “drunk driving” is still a serious problem in most areas. Alcohol impairs judgement ability. This substance gives people an inflated sense of well-being that usually borders on euphoria. As a result, they take unnecessary risks, both before and after they get behind the wheel. That includes the decision to drive in the first place.
Impairment continues as these individuals try to drive. The judgment effects prompt intoxicated motorists to take unnecessary chances. Motor skill impairment makes this judgement effect even worse. Simply stated, drivers are more likely to roll the dice and more likely to roll craps.
Many drugs have similar impairing effects. Marijuana and prescription pain pills, both of which are at least semi-legal in Kentucky, are the two most common impairing substances. Others include illegal street drugs, like cocaine and heroin, and powerful over-the-counter drugs, like NyQuill and Sominex. Even if these substances are legal to consume, it’s illegal, and dangerous, to drive under their influence.
If authorities cite the driver for DUI or DUI-drugs, the negligence per se rule could apply in civil court. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) could be liable for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate safety laws, and
- Those violations substantially cause injury.
A Lexington personal injury lawyer doesn’t need evidence to establish liability in a negligence per se claim. But evidence is admissible regarding damages. Usually, there’s a direct relationship between the amount of evidence in the case and the amount of damages jurors award.
These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Evidence in an alcohol-related collision case helps jurors see how serious the accident was and how impaired the driver was. Such evidence includes:
- Tortfeasor’s statements about prior alcohol use,
- Erratic driving prior to the wreck,
- Tortfeasor’s prior schedule (i.e. did s/he recently visit a place which served alcohol)
- Collision damage, and
- Bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol, and other physical symptoms.
This evidence could also establish liability. Many drivers are not legally intoxicated, but they are impaired. In fact, alcohol impairment begins with the first sip. In other words, only one drink is one too many.
Third Party Liability
Much of this evidence, especially physical symptoms of alcohol consumption, could also establish vicarious liability. Restaurants, bars, and other commercial alcohol providers could be financially responsible for car wreck damages if they knowingly sold alcohol to intoxicated individuals, and those individuals subsequently cause car wrecks.
The dram shop law applies to other injury actions as well. Assaults, which often involve alcohol consumption, are a prime example. Moreover, if a landowner failed to provide adequate security, the store or other owner could also be vicariously liable for damages. But that’s the subject of another blog.
Vicarious liability theories are particularly important in catastrophic injury claims, like wrongful death actions. Frequently, these tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to pay fair compensation. Kentucky has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country.
The Seat Belt Defense
This legal defense varies significantly in different states. In some jurisdictions, victims who don’t buckle up cannot receive compensation as a matter of law. In other states, seat belt non-use is entirely inadmissible. Insurance company lawyers cannot bring up the issue in court. Kentucky’s seat belt defense is a rather complex combination of both these philosophies.
Failure to use a child booster seat is inadmissible in court. That’s probably because this issue is a can of worms. Nearly all caregivers use child safety seats. But most caregivers either have the wrong kind of safety seat, usually one that’s age-inappropriate, or do not install the safety seat correctly.
If the victim was over eight, which is old enough to wear a standard seat belt in Kentucky, an insurance company lawyer may imply that the victim wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was thus responsible for his/her own injuries. But a lawyer cannot explicitly make this argument. That’s a very fine line which a judge must draw.
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