Few details were available after a 56-year-old woman lost control of her vehicle and, according to investigators, slammed into an “earth embankment.”
The wreck happened on State Highway 181. Emergency responders rushed the seriously-injured driver to a nearby hospital. A passenger in the vehicle, an 11-year-old child, was killed in the wreck.
The child wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
Passenger Injury Claims
All vehicle collision claims involve some emotional as well as legal issues. These issues are even more acute in passenger injury claims.
Usually, an at-fault driver in another vehicle is a complete stranger. These emotional dynamics are a lot different in passenger injury cases. Typically, the injured passenger knows the at-fault driver very well. Quite understandably, many victims don’t want to “blame” these drivers for these “accidents.”
Civil lawsuits don’t assign blame. They assign liability. There’s a big difference between these two concepts. Blame is a criminal law concept that implies moral responsibility. Liability is a civil law concept that’s more like accepting responsibility for a mistake.
Furthermore, we all cause accidents. If Timmy accidentally forgets to water his neighbor’s plants during her vacation, Timmy, or Timmy’s parents, must pay to replace the plants. Likewise, if a driver causes an accident, that driver, or rather that driver’s insurance company, must pay compensation.
This observation brings up an important point. Tortfeasors (negligent operators) usually aren’t financially responsible for damages or any other litigation costs. Their insurance companies usually pay everything. The insurance company will probably increase the tortfeasor’s rates or maybe even drop coverage altogether. But these things would have happened anyway.
Wrongful Death Claims
These claims involve emotional issues as well. A legal action doesn’t bring a person back to life. Furthermore, all the money in the world couldn’t begin to fill the emotional void that a wrongful death creates. So, why should we work with a Lexington personal injury attorney?
We discussed responsibility above. This discussion certainly applies in wrongful death claims. And please spare us the bit about “the driver feels so bad for causing the accident that a lawsuit is like pouring salt in a wound.” The fact is that survivors need and deserve financial compensation.
Survivors need these compensation to pay the decedent’s medical bills and final expenses, such as funeral and burial costs. These financial losses are ongoing, in the form of lost future monetary contributions.
Furthermore, survivors deserve compensation for lost future emotional support. As mentioned, nothing could possibly substitute for lost support. But at least money assuages the grief these survivors feel.
On a related note, legal claims are a little different if the tortfeasor didn’t survive the crash. Generally, these claims go to probate court. Victims and/or survivors usually file claims with the tortfeasor’s estate. Usually, these claims settle quickly. Estate administrators are usually family friends or other people who are just serving out of loyalty to the departed. So they’re anxious to wrap up the estate’s affairs and move on with their own lives.
The Seat Belt Defense in Kentucky
Although they vary slightly in different jurisdictions, every state except New Hampshire has a mandatory seat belt law. These laws have different effects on civil claims in different states. Kentucky’s seat belt defense is unusually complex.
Failure to properly use a child booster seat is completely inadmissible in civil court. That’s probably because booster seats are a legal can of worms. Most caregivers either don’t use an age- or weight-appropriate booster seat, or they don’t install it properly.
Kentucky law is a little vague as to the booster seat/seat belt requirement. All children under eight must be in an age- or weight-appropriate booster seat. Older children may wear a seat belt or be in a booster seat.
As for older children and adults, failure to use a seat belt is, strictly speaking, inadmissible. This rule is in line with other legal rules in this area. We don’t have a responsibility to wear fireproof suits or crash helmets when we go for a drive.
However, insurance company lawyers may indirectly bring up this point. Although individuals have no duty to use seat belts, juries may consider the general duty to exercise ordinary care for one’s own safety. Then, jurors must decide if the victim breached that duty, and if that breach substantially enhanced the victim’s injuries.
Many people don’t wear seat belts because they don’t fit properly or they are defective. Furthermore, seat belts reduce certain kinds of injuries, but they don’t prevent any kind of injury.
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.