A 28-year-old man who struck and killed a teenage girl following a March 2021 carjacking now faces additional federal charges.
Investigators believe the 28-year-old man stole the car at gunpoint in nearby Simpsonville. He was driving on the wrong side of the Dixie Highway when he struck a 17-year-old girl’s car head-on. He tried to flee on foot, but witnesses detained him until police arrived. “A truck went flying by and hit the car, went over into the next lane, hit her head on so I immediately backed up and got out and ran over there,” one witness said. “A good 30 or 40 people ran to the scene. They were trying to get the door open so they could get to her and then a nurse that I guess was across the street ran over and started doing CPR on her.” The girl did not survive.
The man was allegedly intoxicated at the time.
Alcohol and Car Wrecks
The duty of reasonable care requires motorists to be at their best before they get behind the wheel. Since alcohol adversely affects judgment ability and motor skills, both impairment and intoxication clearly breach this duty. These two I-words are not synonymous. However, because of the negligence per se rule, intoxication, which is an extreme form of impairment, is easier for a Lexington personal injury lawyer to prove in court.
Negligence per se is basically a violation of a safety law. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who violate such laws and cause crashes could be liable for damages as a matter of law. These damages normally include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
This rule does not affect many Fayette County injury claims. Even if one driver is clearly at fault, officers often don’t issue citations, especially following serious injury accidents. First responders are frequently so busy securing the scene and tending to injured victims that issuing citations is a low priority.
DUI is different. These infractions oil the machine. In many jurisdictions, about half the probationers were convicted of DUI or a related offense.
.08 is the legal limit for non-commercial drivers in Kentucky. That’s the equivalent of about three drinks, at least in most cases. However, alcohol’s impairing effects, including the aforementioned judgment and motor skill inhibitions, begin with the first drink. Evidence of impairment includes:
- Erratic driving before the wreck,
- Tortfeasor’s statements about alcohol consumption,
- Physical symptoms, such as bloodshot eyes, and
- Tortfeasor’s previous schedule (i.e. did s/he just come from a place that served alcohol).
The burden of proof in impairment cases is only a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. So, a little proof goes a long way.
Much of this same evidence, such as physical symptoms, could also establish vicarious liability. Commercial alcohol providers are vicariously liable for car crash damages if they knowingly served intoxicated people.
Hit and Run Wrecks in Kentucky
From an alcohol-related crash standpoint, the above case is rather typical. As mentioned, police officers usually cite motorists for DUI whenever possible. But from a hit-and-run perspective, the above case is rather unique. In many places, law enforcement investigators solve fewer than 10 percent of these cases. Unless tortfeasors turn themselves in or officers apprehend them at or near the scene, there is simply too little evidence to go on.
The higher burden of proof in criminal court is another factor. Prosecutors must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, the state must have an overwhelming amount of evidence. So, it’s not just a matter of getting started. Investigators know there is a long road ahead, and they would usually rather spend their limited resources elsewhere.
However, as mentioned, the burden of proof in civil court is much lower. So, evidence which is almost useless in criminal court is often compelling in civil court.
Assume a witness gives a vague description of the hit-and-run driver’s vehicle, like “it was a blue pickup.” A few minutes later, a security camera a few miles away captures footage of a blue pickup truck moving away from the accident scene.
That proof is meaningless in criminal court. Who knows how many blue pickup trucks are in Fayette County. However, especially if the camera caught part of the license plate number, that proof is enough to identify the vehicle’s owner. It’s more likely than not that the pickup was involved in the wreck and it’s more likely than not that the owner was driving it. Admittedly, that’s thin evidence. But it could be enough to obtain maximum compensation.
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. Home and hospital visits are available. #goodelawyers