Investigators believe that heavy fog contributed to a chain-reaction wreck that sent a pickup truck barrelling across a highway barrier.
This crash occurred on the New Circle Loop between Harrodsburg Road and Versailles Road. A Honda Civic in the onramp sideswiped a Ford F-150 as the Civic driver tried to merge into traffic. The force of the collision propelled the pickup from the inner loop to the outer loop. At that point, an oncoming GMC Yukon hit the pickup. The Yukon driver was seriously injured and rushed to a nearby hospital.
Two other people were treated at the scene.
Kinds of Negligence in a Car Crash Case
From a strictly legal standpoint, driver error is driver error. Any additional circumstances are largely irrelevant. Yet these additional circumstances sometimes make a big difference in terms of the compensation that a Fayette County jury awards in these cases.
Occasionally, the weather causes car wrecks. Very rarely, lightning strikes vehicles, strong wind gusts push them into oncoming traffic, or earthquakes literally swallow them. Much more frequently, however, the weather is a contributing cause. The dense fog in the above story did not “cause” the wreck as such. But it did limit driver visibility and increase the risk of a wreck.
Weather events like fog, rain, sleet, and snow are fairly common and fairly easy for forecasters to predict. Therefore, drivers should be aware of these hazards and be prepared to deal with them. That’s part of the duty of reasonable care. These tortfeasors (negligent drivers) expect other motorists to slow down and adjust to weather conditions. They should do the same thing.
However, many jurors are conditioned to believe otherwise. For example, when snowstorms hit, police investigators often “blame” the weather for the wreck. As a result, some jurors are somewhat forgiving in these situations. To overcome this tendency, a Lexington personal injury attorney must emphasize the driver’s failure to slow down or otherwise adjust to the adverse conditions. This task is a bit easier if the tortfeasor was not going to work, the doctor’s office, or another such place.
Speed is the most common example of operational negligence. Excessive velocity is a factor in about a quarter of the fatal car crashes in Kentucky. Failure to yield the right-of-way, a broad category that includes most unsafe turns and lane changes, is a rather distant second.
Like the other forms of negligence, operational negligence could involve the ordinary negligence doctrine or the negligence per se rule. Speed is a good example of the difference.
Even if the driver is traveling below the posted speed limit, driver velocity could proximately cause a wreck. Assume Rick, who just bought a new Dodge Charger, is on a straight portion of a street. He wants to see how fast his new car can accelerate, so he floors it. He’s so obsessed with his car that he doesn’t see Lisa step into the road. He hits her and kills her.
Most likely, at that point, Rick was not technically speeding, especially if the posted limit is more than 40 or 45mph. However, he was clearly driving too fast and was therefore negligent.
Negligence per se is a violation of a safety law. Tortfeasors could be liable for damages as a matter of law if they break a safety law and that infraction causes a wreck. Strictly speaking, if the tortfeasor was traveling 41 in a 40, that’s speeding. But that’s not the way things work in court.
First, the negligence per se doctrine only kicks in if police officers issue citations. They often don’t do that in car crash cases. They see these wrecks as civil disputes. So, they don’t want to write tickets and involve themselves in these claims. Furthermore, there’s a difference between 41 in a 40 and 55 in a 40. Most people, including most jurors, would not say that 1mph over the limit substantially contributes to a wreck. 15mph over is a very different story.
This final category usually refers to driver impairment. Jurors often award higher compensation in these cases. Arguably, these drivers knew they should not get behind the wheel. Yet they chose to drive anyway and intentionally put other people at risk. Some kinds of driver impairment include:
- Drugs: Marijuana, which is semi-legal in Kentucky, is by far the leading cause of stoned driving in the Bluegrass State. Prescription pain pills, which are also semi-legal, are a rather distant second. Even if these drugs are legal to ingest, it’s illegal, and dangerous, to drive under their influence.
- Alcohol: This substance gives people an artificial sense of euphoria, so they often take unnecessary risks. At the same time, alcohol affects motor skills. That’s a very dangerous combination when a person is behind the wheel.
- Device Distraction: Anything that causes drivers to take their eyes off the road (visual distraction), take their minds off driving (cognitive distraction), or take a hand off the wheel (manual distraction) constitutes distracted driving. Hand-held cell phones combine all three forms of distraction. Hands-free gadgets are not much better. They are visually and manually distracting.
Once again, either the ordinary negligence doctrine or the negligence per se rule could apply in these wrecks. Device distraction is a good example. Hands-free phones are dangerous to use, but they are legal to use.
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