Dangerous Curves

Dangerous Curves

One person was killed, and two people were seriously injured, in a speed-related car crash on a hazardous stretch of Pleasant Valley Road in Florence.

Police state that 17-year-old Dannicah Coffman, of Burlington, may have been travelling as fast as 60mph in a 45mph zone when she oversteered around a curve and temporarily ran off the road. She then overcorrected, crossed the center line, and crashed almost head-on into an oncoming SUV. The driver of that vehicle, Michael Robinson, and his 8-year-old son Cameron were both transported to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. Ms. Coffman died at the scene.

Neighbors say that the road is dangerous. Boone County officials approved plans to widen the road and make other improvements, but so far, nothing has been done.

First Party Car Crash Liability

Speed is a factor in about a third of the fatal car wrecks in Kentucky, largely because excessive velocity increases both the risk of car crashes and dramatically increases the force in collisions.

As velocity increases, stopping distance (reaction time plus braking time) increases as well. At 30mph, most passenger vehicles travel about six car lengths from the time drivers see a hazard to the time the brakes take full effect and safely stop the car or truck; at 50mph, stopping distance more than doubles to thirteen car lengths. In other words, speeding drivers are often unable to safely react in emergency situations. Furthermore, Newton’s Second Physical Law says that speed multiples the force in collisions, so non-injury “fender-benders” become serious injury crashes.

If the crash involved a serious injury, victims are entitled to compensation for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as emotional distress. Punitive damages are available as well, in some cases.

Third Party Liability

Most minors cannot own property in Kentucky or any other state, so if a tortfeasor (negligent driver) is under 18, negligent entrustment almost always applies, because the tortfeasor borrowed another person’s vehicle. Under the Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision in McGrew v. Stone, vehicle owners are liable for damages if they knew, or should have known, that the tortfeasor was “inexperienced, careless, or reckless, or given to excessive use of alcohol while driving.” Persons without valid drivers’ licenses are presumptively incompetent; plaintiffs can also meet this burden with circumstantial evidence, such as the driver’s age, driving record, and road conditions.

If road conditions are an issue, the county or other responsible government agency may be liable for damages as well. The government has a duty to keep roads reasonably safe, and although most governments are immune from negligence lawsuits, liability may attach in certain circumstances. For example, some road maintenance is a ministerial function and therefore falls under an exception to the sovereign immunity doctrine. Special procedural rules may apply to these actions.

Kentucky is a pure several liability state, so damages are usually apportioned between multiple tortfeasors based on the percentage of fault.

Many car crashes involve multiple tortfeasors. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Morgantown, contact Attorney Gary S. Logsdon. Home and hospital visits are available.