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A Closer Look at Accidents on Highway 275 in Ohio

Highway 275, the third-largest urban loop in the nation, which encircles Cincinnati and goes through three states, is known for its numerous sharp curves. Near Harrison, Fort Thomas, and several other spots, these curves are almost 90 degrees. Engineers usually make sharp curves to cut down on fatigued driving wrecks. That is a noble goal. But sharp curves have the opposite effect on roadway safety.

Defective roadway design claims against a city, county, or engineering firm are complex. Car accident claims are almost equally complex. Therefore, only the most experienced Hamilton personal injury attorney should handle such claims. Your injury claim is far too valuable and far too intricate to be a training tool for an inexperienced lawyer.

Choosing the Right Lawyer

Experience might be the most important quality to look for in a Butler County personal injury lawyer. But experience can be deceptive. For example, many lawyers practice law for many years and hardly go to court. Your family does not need a lawyer who knows how to settle cases quickly and take the easy way out. Instead, your family needs an attorney who knows how to diligently build a legally sound, evidence-based case.

In addition to experience, your Hamilton personal injury lawyer should have dedication and accessibility.

Dedication does not mean dedication to making money. Instead, it means dedication to upholding individual legal and financial rights. Only attorneys who focus on personal injury and related matters, like criminal defense, have this level of dedication.

Accessibility includes physical and professional accessibility. Small firms often only have one office. Attorneys at large firms often over-delegate work to less-experienced associates or non-lawyer paralegals. Multiple office locations improve physical accessibility. As for professional accessibility, your lawyer should assume primary responsibility for all the work done in your case.

Crash vs. Accident: What’s in a Name

We still have not discussed building a case yet, but we are getting closer. Artists usually paint pictures before they select frames. Attorneys are artists as well. However, they usually begin by properly framing the case. A simple, one-word change effectively re-frames a picture for a jury.

People accidentally leave the gate open. So, an accident is a minor and unintentional mistake. “It’s not my fault the dog got out…I just accidentally forgot to close the gate.”

“Crash” is a lot different. Trains derail, airplanes crash, and ships sink, even though the engineers, pilots, and captains did not mean to hurt anyone. We still hold these individuals responsible for the damages they cause, and the same standard should apply to tortfeasors (negligent drivers).

Driving errors, like speeding and driving while intoxicated, cause most of the car crashes in Ohio. Usually, these mistakes are negligence, or a lack of care, which means compensation is available.

Incidentally, newspapers began calling car crashes “car accidents” early in the motor vehicle era. In the early 1900s, factory owners called workplace injuries industrial accidents. Using the A-word shifted blame off their unsafe factories and onto allegedly careless workers.

Vehicle Collision Injuries

Crash victims do not contact Hamilton personal injury lawyers out of curiosity. Instead, they reach out to attorneys because they have been seriously injured in a collision. Common car wreck injuries include:

  • Head Injuries: Whiplash is a head-neck injury that is almost always caused by car wrecks. Nerves in the cervical spine are so fragile that almost any jostling knocks them out of alignment. If not promptly and properly treated, whiplash could cause paralysis.
  • Internal Injuries: The same force that shakes nerves in the neck causes internal organs to grind and bump against each other. The resulting abrasions usually bleed badly because these organs have no protective skin layer. The blood loss is so gradual, yet so steady, that many victims are almost in hypovolemic shock by the time they reach hospitals.
  • Broken Bones: Sometimes, stray bone fragments rip into internal organs and cause internal bleeding. That is because the force of a wreck often shatters bones instead of merely breaking them. Because doctors must use more aggressive means to treat these injuries, like metal implants to reconstruct the bones, physical therapy is much tougher and costlier.

These costly injuries are difficult to diagnose and treat. So, a Hamilton personal injury lawyer connects crash victims with doctors who focus on injury-related conditions.

Evidence

Some lawyers rush into court before they fully develop their claims. That is a good strategy in some situations. However, it is usually a poor strategy in car crash claims.

First, attorneys often give insurance companies a chance to quickly do the right thing. Insurance company lawyers almost always refuse to take this opportunity and instead choose to fight the claim. However, we keep offering this chance anyway. In personal injury claims, and in life in general, it is usually best to try the easy way first.

Insurance companies notoriously make early settlement offers, frequently while a car crash victim is still in the hospital. But these offers are usually low-ball, take-it-or-leave-it offers. They are not meaningful settlement offers.

To determine a meaningful amount, a Hamilton personal injury lawyer must determine a claim’s settlement value. A close examination of the evidence in the case, as well as any applicable legal theories, usually determines the settlement value.

The settlement value, which is like a new car’s sticker price, usually begins with medical bills. Generally, these bills are the largest component of economic damages in a personal injury claim. The aforementioned injuries often take months to treat. Meaningful settlement negotiations cannot begin until medical treatment is at least substantially complete. By that time, all the bills are in, and a professional can estimate the cost of future medical expenses.

Medical bills and other documents usually make up most of the evidence in this area. Statements from friends and family could be important as well. Margaret’s husband cannot testify about the medical aspects of her brain injury. But he can testify about how that injury affects her everyday life.

This evidence alone is not enough to obtain maximum compensation. A Hamilton personal injury attorney must also prove that negligence, or a lack of care, caused the victim’s injuries. Additional evidence usually includes the police accident report and accident witness statements. This evidence is often solid, but it could also be misleading.

Police accident reports are a good example. Police officers do not arrive at accident scenes so they can write detailed reports. They are there to secure the scene and tend to injured victims. The report is an afterthought. Additionally, if the victim died, their report only contains the tortfeasor’s side of the crash story.

A good attorney knows how to evaluate car crash evidence and how to supplement it when necessary. Electronic evidence often provides the necessary supplemental proof.

Almost every passenger vehicle on the road has an Event Data Recorder. This onboard computer is like an eyewitness to a crash that is never wrong or biased. Additionally, onboard computers never crack or change their stories under cross-examination.

First Party Liability

Based on the evidence, a Hamilton personal injury lawyer can use the negligence per se theory or the ordinary negligence theory in court.

Negligence per se is essentially a violation of safety laws. Tortfeasors who speed, drive drunk, or break another safety law and cause a crash could be responsible for damages as a matter of law.

This doctrine saves time in court. However, lengthy evidence collection is still necessary. There is usually a relationship between the amount of evidence a victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of compensation jurors award.

Almost all crashes involve safety law violations. However, emergency responders often do not issue citations in these situations. As mentioned above, their priorities lie elsewhere. Additionally, as far as many officers are concerned, car crashes are civil disputes. Most officers shy away from complicated civil disputes. That is the main reason many officers do not make arrests in non-injury domestic violence situations.

The ordinary negligence doctrine is usually available in all car wreck cases. This doctrine has four basic prongs:

  • Duty: Some drivers, mostly commercial drivers, have a duty of utmost care. They must do whatever it takes to avoid crashes. Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must go out of their way to avoid causing vehicle collisions.
  • Breach: If Fred was traveling 5mph over the speed limit when he hit Barney, Fred probably did not breach his duty of care. He was not excessively speeding. If Fred was traveling 15mph over the limit, Barney may have a negligence claim against Fred.
  • Cause: Barney has a negligence claim if Fred’s negligence substantially and proximately caused Barney’s injuries. Substantial cause basically means Fred’s negligence was the primary cause. Something else, like bad weather, might be a contributing cause. Proximate cause means foreseeability (possibility) of injury.
  • Damage: Victims must sustain a physical injury to obtain compensation for their economic losses, such as medical bills, and their noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Driver negligence causes most of the vehicle collisions in Ohio. Defective tires and other defective products cause a handful of car wrecks in Butler County. Extreme weather events, like sky-to-ground lightning strikes, occasionally cause collisions as well.

Third-Party Liability

Tortfeasors are legally responsible for the damages they cause. Frequently, a third party is financially responsible for these damages. Vicarious liability is an important component of a personal injury case. Most tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation in many cases, especially wrongful death claims.

Alcohol provider responsibility, employer responsibility, and owner responsibility are the Big Three vicarious liability theories in Ohio.

Commercial alcohol providers, like restaurants and bars, can stop car crashes before they start. So, Ohio law makes these providers vicariously liable for car crash injuries if a provider illegally sells alcohol to a tortfeasor who causes a wreck.

Sales to intoxicated persons are the most common dram shop law violation. Evidence of intoxication at the time of sale includes prior alcohol purchases at that establishment, statements the tortfeasor made about alcohol intoxication, and physical symptoms, like bloodshot eyes and unsteady balance.

Other illegal alcohol sales include underage sales, unlicensed sales, and before or after-hours sales.

The respondeat superior doctrine usually applies to Uber drivers, taxi drivers, and other commercial driver wrecks. Employers are financially responsible for these collisions if the tortfeasor was an employee who was acting within the course and scope of employment at the time.

State law broadly defines these elements. For example, almost all commercial drivers are employees for negligence purposes, even if they were independent contractors, owner-operators, or even unpaid volunteers for most other purposes.

Out-of-state holding companies usually own companies like restaurants and taxi firms. So, vicarious liability claims are very complex. Likewise, these companies usually own U-Hauls and other commercial vehicle rental outlets. In addition to the out-of-state thing, these claims are difficult to prove under Ohio law.

The Buckeye State does not have a vicarious liability statute. Additionally, the federal Graves Amendment further limits these claims.

Noncommercial owner liability claims (e.g., a teen borrowing a parent’s vehicle) also have lots of moving parts. Ohio does not have a family purpose doctrine law. Therefore, it is difficult to prove that the teen tortfeasor in this example was driving with the parent’s knowledge and permission. These two elements are part of a negligent entrustment owner liability claim.

Compensation is still available in negligent entrustment claims if an attorney is well-prepared enough to fight for it in court.

Count on a Diligent Butler County Lawyer

Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Hamilton, contact Kruger & Hodges, Attorneys at Law, by going online or calling 513-894-3333.

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