Few details were available after a passenger car apparently turned in front of a big rig. The passenger car driver died almost instantly.
The wreck happened at the intersection of U.S. Highway 231 (Veterans Memorial Highway) and State Highway 1332 (Halfway Halifax Road). According to investigators, a 64-year-old Scottsville man, who was on the southbound side of VMH, tried to turn left onto Halfway Halifax. In doing so, he crossed directly in front of an oncoming large truck.
The truck driver was not hurt.
Fault v. Liability in Vehicle Collision Claims
Left-turn wrecks like the one described above are quite common on the semi-rural highways which criss-cross much of Kentucky. Emergency responders and insurance adjusters almost always assign fault to the driver who turned left, apparently without yielding the right-of-way. That’s because “fault” is a preliminary determination based solely on the evidence available at the scene.
Liability, which determines responsibility for car crash damages, is a ginal determination based on applicable legal principles as well as additional evidence which was unavailable at the scene. If a commercial vehicle is involved in a left-turn wreck, the biggest legal doctrines are the duty of care and the last clear chance doctrine.
Generally, commercial drivers have a higher duty of care than non-commercial drivers. That’s especially true for ridesharing and other commercial operators who transport people in addition to cargo.
Noncommercial drivers usually have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and avoid accidents when possible. Commercial operators usually have a duty of utmost care. Driving defensively is not enough. These motorists must take affirmative steps to avoid wrecks.
Highway intersections are a good illustration. When commercial drivers approach unprotected interchanges, they must assume that someone might turn illegally in front of them. Therefore, they must adjust their speed accordingly and take other precautions.
The last clear chance rule is a similar doctrine. If Ollie turns left in front of Stan, Ollie is most likely at fault for the wreck. However, if a jury concludes that Stan had the last clear chance to avoid the wreck, Stan might be responsible for damages. This last clear chance might have involved changing lanes or speeds.
The two ideas go together. As mentioned, commercial operators usually have a higher duty of care. Therefore, the failure to take advantage of the last clear chance is more common in these wrecks.
If the other driver was liable for the wreck, a Lexington personal injury attorney can usually obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.345
At-fault drivers are legally responsible for these damages. A third party, such as an employer, is often financially responsible for them. The respondeat superior rule usually applies if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was an employee who was negligent in the scope of employment. State law broadly defines these elements. So, the rule applies in most truck accident claims.
Evidence in Truck Wreck Claims
Now, let’s talk about part two of a liability determination. Evidence at the scene of a truck wreck usually includes witness statements and the drivers’ statements. Some physical evidence, like skid marks and crash damage patterns, might be available as well.
A significant amount of evidence usually surfaces later in the process. Some, like a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder, is electronic. An EDR is basically like the black box flight recorder in a commercial jet. EDRs usually monitor and record information like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Engine RPM,
- Brake application, and
- Steering angle.
All these figures have significant bearing not only on the duty of care, but also on the last clear chance doctrine.
Other evidence, like a driver’s Safety Maintenance System database report, is non-electronic. Basically, an SMS report is a multi state driving record which focuses on:
- Crash history,
- Prior HOS (Hours of Service) compliance,
- Vehicle maintenance history,
- Prior substance abuse issues, and
- Traffic citation history.
Many items in the SMS report, especially prior substance abuse, are subject to very strict privacy laws. So, a Lexington personal injury attorney must normally obtain a judge’s permission in order to inspect this report.
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 do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters. #goodelawyers