Car Crash Kills Boyle County Teen
A 16 year old was a passenger in a single-car accident just east of Danville; and the unnamed victim, who was partially ejected from the vehicle, died at the scene.
The unnamed victim, and three other juveniles whose names were not released, were in a 2003 Chevrolet Impala when the teenage driver apparently lost control of the car. The vehicle slid off the road and slammed into a concrete bridge. According to investigators, the driver did not have a license and none of the occupants were wearing seatbelts. Investigators also believe that the driver may have been alcohol impaired, but no arrests were made.
Car Accident Liability
While the teen driver was clearly negligent, the unlicensed driver almost certainly did not have any insurance. So, to obtain financial compensation in cases like these, the victims must find an applicable vicarious liability theory. In this case, based on the preliminary facts, there are two possibilities.
The first one is negligent entrustment, a third-party liability theory that mirrors the employer liability rules applicable in most commercial car accidents. Most Kentucky courts recognize common law negligent entrustment, which has two elements:
- The tortfeasor (negligent driver) was incompetent, and
- The owner knew about the vehicle use and the driver’s incompetency.
Under Kentucky law, unlicensed drivers, or those with suspended licenses, are incompetent as a matter of law. In the absence of strict liability, victims can use circumstantial evidence to prove incompetence, such as inexperience with that particular kind of vehicle or a poor driving record.
Unless the teens took the car without permission, the adult owners almost certainly knew about their use. Furthermore, parents almost always know if their children are licensed drivers or not.
Facts obtained during discovery would most likely answer these questions.
The second issue, since the driver was alcohol impaired, is simple negligence. There are five elements in a negligence case:
- Duty: Parents have a duty to control their children and ensure that they do not endanger the safety or property of other people.
- Breach: Providing alcohol to minors, or turning a blind eye in this situation, clearly violates that duty.
- Cause in Fact: The driver was arguably either too inpaired, or too incompetent, to safely operate the vehicle, thus causing the car crash.
- Legal Cause: It is foreseeable that people may be injured or killed when a car runs off the road.
- Damages: Wrongful death is probably the most serious type of personal injury that can occur in a car accident or any other event.
The plaintiff must prove each element by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
In passenger injury cases, defense lawyers often raise the assumption of the risk defense. The tortfeasor is not liable if the victim voluntarily assumed a known risk. Neither of these elements may be present, as an alcohol-impaired 16-year-old is probably incapable of knowingly and voluntarily doing anything, and many children that young do not fully appreciate the risks involved in potential car accident situations.
Furthermore, in Kentucky, defense lawyers cannot argue that not using a seatbelt, as opposed to the tortfeasor’s negligence, caused the car accident.
Car accidents usually raise complex liability questions. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Mumfordville, contact Attorney Gary S. Logsdon. Home and hospital visits are available.