A 21-year-old Louisville man is dead after he lost control of his vehicle and careened into the pathway of an oncoming semi-truck.
The wreck happened near the intersection of State Highway 210 (Old Hodgenville Road) and Noe Road. Initially, the 21-year-old man’s Nissan Altima ran onto the right shoulder. The car was still out of control when it crossed the center line. A semi-truck collided with the Altima’s driver’s side, killing the driver almost instantly.
An Altima passenger was seriously injured and airlifted to a nearby hospital. The semi-truck driver, who does not face charges at this time, wasn’t hurt.
Duty of Care in Vehicle Collision Claims
The facts are often obscure in car crash claims like the one in the above story. But if a commercial operator, like a taxi driver, truck driver, or Uber driver, is involved in the wreck, once the dust settles, the commercial operator is usually responsible for the crash. Since they are professional drivers with additional training and/or additional responsibilities, commercial operators have a duty of utmost care in Kentucky. They must take affirmative steps to avoid accidents.
Adverse weather conditions are a good example. As outlined below, noncommercial motorists usually have a duty of reasonable care. So, they must slow down when it rains or snows. Since commercial drivers have a higher duty of care, they arguably have a responsibility to not drive until the weather clears.
This could mean that they miss a deadline or suffer other financial consequences. But that’s another part of the commercial operator duty of care. These drivers must put roadway safety above making money.
Unusual events, like a car banging off a guardrail and spinning into an oncoming traffic lane, are another example. Since they have a lower duty of care, noncommercial operators usually are not at fault for these wrecks, because of a doctrine called foreseeability. Commercial operators are different. Usually, these drivers cannot use another driver’s mistake to excuse their own negligence.
Typically, the duty of care is the same for all drivers. They have the same responsibilities whether they have been licensed for five decades or five minutes.
Legal duty is the cornerstone of an injury claim. However, to obtain compensation for this injury, a Lexington personal injury attorney must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not.
We discussed a general lack of care above. Negligence could also be a lack of statutory care. According to the negligence per se rule, tortfeasors (negligent drivers) could be responsible for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a safety law, and
- That violation substantially caused injury.
The safety law at issue is usually a moving violation, like speeding or making an illegal turn. It could also be a non-moving violation. A semi-truck overweight violation is a good example. Trucks that are too heavy are difficult to control. If excessive weight contributes to a loss of control or a failure to stop, the negligence per se rule could apply.
Theoretical responsibility (duty of care) and practical responsibility (negligence) is not enough to obtain maximum compensation. The evidence must also be strong enough to refute some common insurance company defenses.
When motor vehicles bounce around roads like ping pong balls, the sudden emergency defense often comes up. This legal doctrine excuses liability, such as a head-on collision with another vehicle, if the driver:
- Reasonably reacted to
- A sudden emergency.
Most people respond reasonably to crashes. They remain at the scene and wait for emergency responders to arrive. The second prong is different. “Sudden emergency” has a very limited meaning in this context. This label usually only applies to hood fly-ups, lightning strikes, and other completely unexpected situations. A car crossing the center line is very unusual, but certainly not completely unexpected.
The sudden emergency doctrine is more complex if the operator was driving erratically before s/he crossed the center line. Because of the duty of care, this situation might constitute a sudden emergency for noncommercial drivers, but probably not for commercial drivers.
Damages in a vehicle collision claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in an incident like a catastrophic injury commercial operator claim.
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