Authorities Blame Winter Storm for Multiple Collisions

by | Jan 10, 2022 | Car Accidents, Injuries

Freeways in Fayette County resembled demolition derbies as authorities responded to approximately eighty-three car crashes during a winter storm that hit shortly after Epiphany 2022.

Portions of Interstates 75 and 71 were the hardest hit. These roads were partially shut down for several hours. Several other states, including Tennessee, were crippeld as well. Governor Andy Beshear asked Kentuckians to avoid non-essential travel. Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton also urged people to stay home if possible.

At least a dozen people were seriously injured in the Kentucky car wrecks.

Duty of Care

Winter, spring, summer, or fall, non-commercial motorists in Kentucky usually have a duty of reasonable care. Many people act like they are alone on the road when they get behind the wheel. If these people don’t cause accidents, this attitude is only annoying. If they cause accidents, that’s different.

No state or national legislature created the duty of care. Instead, courts developed it through case law over a period of many years. 1932’s Donoghue v. Stevenson is perhaps the pre-eminent, pre-duty of care negligence case.

A woman was enjoying a desert of ginger beer poured over ice cream. That concoction doesn’t sound very appetizing, but apparently it was quite popular back in the day. Anyway, unbeknownst to Ms. Donoghue, a dead snail was in the bottom of a beer bottle. According to the record, “the nauseating sight of the snail in said circumstances” as well as “the noxious condition of the said snail tainted ginger beer” caused “shock and illness.” 

In the 1920s, when this case originally went to court, victims like Ms. Donoghue usually filed contract claims. But her friend bought the beer for her, so there was no contract between her and the bottler. So, she sued Mr. Stevenson, the beer bottler, alleging the relatively-novel concept that he had a duty “to provide a system of working his business that was safe, and would not allow snails to get into his ginger beer bottles (including the said bottle).”

The court eventually agreed with her. As a way of establishing the appropriate duty of care, the court articulated the neighbour principle. “You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour.” An individual’s neighbors, according to the court, are “persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.”

Uber drivers, truck drivers, and other commercial operators usually have a higher duty of care in Kentucky. Driving defensively is not enough. These motorists must take affirmative steps to avoid wrecks. For example, when environmental conditions are bad, non-commercial motorists have a duty to slow down and be more careful. Arguably, commercial motorists have a duty to wait until conditions improve before they hit the road.

Kinds of Negligence in Car Crash Claims

Negligence, or a lack of care, comes in many forms. Usually, it happens in one of the following scenarios.

Environmental

Politicians’ pleas to stay off the roads during the recent winter storm may have been a bit misleading. Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers’ advice to “slow down and allow yourself extra time” was probably more on target. Bad weather may contribute to car accidents, but it doesn’t cause them. Driver error usually causes car wrecks. 

Most people know to slow down when roads are visibly icy and snowy. Most cars and trucks simply have very little traction in such situations. So, drivers can steer, accelerate, and brake. They just cannot do two of these things at once or do any of them quickly.

Sometimes, environmental negligence involves more subtle hazards, like the dreaded black ice. This thin, translucent patch ice is very difficult to see, especially when the sky is cloudy or dark. Furthermore, black ice is much slicker than visible road ice. Finally, even if the temperature is above freezing, patches of black ice could still be on the road.

Once again, slipping on ice does not excuse negligence. The duty of care requires motorists to anticipate such possible hazards and either avoid them or deal with them appropriately.

Behavioral

Environmental negligence is basically a failure to drive safely. Behavioral negligence doesn;t involve driving at all, at least in most cases. Instead, behavioral negligence is usually related to pre-driving behavior. Some examples include:

  • Fatigue: Drowsy driving is about as dangerous as drunk driving. In this clip, Homer was the only victim, and he cannot sue himself for negligence. But most drowsy driving crashes have multiple victims.
  • Substance Abuse: Alcohol impairs judgement. So, many people cannot keep track of how much they drink and/or they don’t realize the extent of their impairment. Stoned driving, mostly due to marijuana or prescription pain pill use, is a worse problem than drunk driving in many jurisdictions.
  • Medical Condition: Simply stated, people with conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and epilepsy shouldn’t drive. These conditions could cause a sudden and unexpected loss of consciousness. If that loss happens as they drive, the results could be indeed tragic.

Behavioral negligence could involve a breach of the duty of reasonable care or a violation of a safety law. In either situation, a Lexington personal injury attorney can usually obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages could be available as well, in some extreme cases.

Operational

Speeding, changing lanes unsafely, and running a red light or stop sign are the most common operational negligence episodes.

These incidents usually involve the negligence per se rule, which is a violation of a safety law, as mentioned above. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) could be liable for damages as a matter of law if they violate safety laws and those violations substantially cause damages.

Attorneys may not need evidence to establish negligence in these cases. But evidence is critical to maximum compensation. There’s usually a direct relationship between the amount of proof a victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of compensation a jury awards.

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. You have a limited amount of time to act. #goodelawyers