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Legal Options Following a State Route 127 Wreck

This highway, which opened as a dirt road in 1912, basically runs parallel to the Indiana-Ohio border in the extreme western part of the Buckeye State. State Route 127, like many other old highways, has not kept pace with automotive innovations. As a result, parts of State Route 127 are extremely hazardous. In fact, at just one intersection, three people died in 45 collisions in less than a six-year period. The state finally agreed to redesign the intersection of Kruckeberg Road and State Route 127 in Greenville Township, but for these victims and their families, this move was too little and too late.

Vehicle collisions usually cause serious injuries that, in many cases, are permanent. Brain injuries are a good example. When brain cells die, they do not regenerate. Sometimes, physical therapists can train uninjured parts of the brain to take over lost functions. That is why most of these victims must learn to walk, talk, and do almost everything all over again. Many brain injury victims never fully regain what they lost, or rather what was taken from them.

If someone else’s negligence causes injury, a Hamilton personal injury lawyer can obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Most State Route 127 car crash claims eventually settle out of court. However, as outlined below, these claims are very complex. Therefore, “eventually” is normally a very long time. Many victims, and many lawyers as well, often lose heart during this process. But only racers who finish are eligible for the prize, and only victims who finish the process are eligible for maximum compensation.

Evidence in Car Crash Claims

Victims have the burden of proof in personal injury claims. Therefore, a Hamilton personal injury lawyer’s top priority is evidence collection. The evidence usually determines the course of the lawsuit, as outlined below.

This burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That is much lower than the burden of proof in criminal court. Hit-and-run wrecks, which have criminal and civil implications are a good example.

In criminal court, a reliable witness must testify that, at or near the time of the wreck, the defendant was driving the car. Otherwise, jurors will almost certainly have a reasonable doubt as to the car’s driver.

In civil court, a Hamilton personal injury lawyer must normally only identify the vehicle’s owner. A partial plate number and a vague vehicle description are usually the only clues needed. It is more likely than not that the owner was driving the vehicle at the time of the wreck unless the owner has an ironclad and verifiable alibi.

Proof in a car crash claim usually includes the police accident report, witness statements, and medical bills. A minimum amount of evidence produces minimal results. That is especially true if this evidence is weak.

Witness statements are a good example. Frequently, the only witnesses to a State Route 127 wreck are the victim and tortfeasor (negligent driver). That’s especially true if the wreck happened on a remote section of this highway. Victims and tortfeasors very seldom deliberately lie. However, they, like the rest of us, remember events selectively.

Expert testimony from someone like an accident reconstruction engineer often effectively supplements weak evidence. These professionals piece together seemingly random bits of proof and nail down exactly what happened.

Vehicle Collisions on State Road 127 and Ordinary Negligence

Driver error causes about 98 percent of the vehicle collisions in Ohio. Usually, this error is negligence or a lack of care. An ordinary negligence claim has four basic elements:

  • Duty: Most Ohio motorists have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively, obey the formal and informal rules of the road, and avoid crashes if possible. Commercial drivers, such as ridesharing drivers and truck drivers, usually have a higher duty of care in Ohio.
  • Breach: Impaired operation and aggressive driving are the two most common breaches of duty. Almost half of Ohio tortfeasors were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the wreck. Other kinds of driver impairment include fatigue, distraction, and a medical condition. As for aggressive driving, speeding is very common on State Road 127. Changing lanes unsafely is a close second.
  • Cause: Tortfeasors are eligible for damages if a breach of duty substantially and foreseeably caused the victim’s damages. Substantial cause basically means primary cause. Bad weather often contributes to wrecks but driver negligence, usually speed, normally causes them. Foreseeability basically means predictability. If Mary crashes into Jim and Jim’s ambulance crashes on the way to the hospital, Mary isn’t legally responsible for this unpredictable injury.
  • Damages: In most cases, victims must sustain a physical injury, be it personal injury or property damage, to obtain compensation. These categories are broad. PTSD is a physical injury. Extreme stress alters brain chemistry. Other legal theories, such as negligent infliction of emotional distress, are available in a few cases.

Significantly, most car crashes are not “accidents.” People accidentally leave the gate unlocked. They do not accidentally drive drunk and cause wrecks.

Car Wrecks and Negligence Per Se

Most forms of aggressive and impaired driving violate safety laws. If the tortfeasor violated a safety law, and that violation substantially caused injury, the tortfeasor might be liable for damages as a matter of law.

A Hamilton personal injury lawyer does not need evidence to prove negligence in these cases. However, an attorney needs evidence to obtain maximum compensation. Usually, there’s a direct relationship between the amount of evidence a victim presents and the amount of compensation the court awards.

This shortcut is only available if emergency responders issue citations. Frequently, they do not give tickets, even if the victim is seriously injured or killed. As far as most officers are concerned, car crashes are civil disputes between insurance companies. So, they do not want to issue citations and be pulled into a civil claim.

Nevertheless, negligence per se is an important part of a case evaluation. If a shortcut is available and it will not affect the result, you should typically take the shortcut.

Third-Party Liability

Ohio has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country. Therefore, many tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to fully compensate victims, especially in catastrophic or fatal injury cases.

In many cases, a third party is financially responsible for damages. Vicarious liability makes more money available, so victims do not have to settle for less.

Respondeat Superior

Employer liability might be the most common form of third-party liability in Ohio. Employers are financially responsible for damages if the tortfeasor was:

  • An Employee: A court of law, not a boss, determines what workers are employees for negligence purposes. Most courts use the primary benefits test. If the employer is the primary beneficiary in the relationship, the worker is an employee, regardless of other status determinations. The employer’s degree of control is important as well.
  • Working in the Scope of Employment: A form of the primary benefits test also applies to these determinations. Any act that benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. Truck drivers ferrying empty trucks to garages are working within the scope of employment.

Respondeat superior has enormous financial benefits, but it greatly complicates these cases. Most employers are out-of-state holding companies.

Dram Shop

Restaurants, bars, and other commercial alcohol providers could easily prevent alcohol-related wrecks. They must simply stop serving customers before they are intoxicated.

So, these companies are financially responsible for damages if they illegally sell alcohol. A Hamilton personal injury lawyer typically uses circumstantial evidence to prove illegal sales to intoxicated customers. Such proof includes:

  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Slurred speech,
  • Unsteady balance, and
  • Slow reflexes.

Underage sales are probably the number two illegal alcohol sales in Ohio. Usually, the dram shop law applies, even if the tortfeasor “looked older” or used a fake ID.

Owner Liability

We discussed vehicle owners in the hit-and-run cases above. Owners could be liable for damages in other State Route 127 crashes as well.

Legally, owners are financially responsible for damages if they allow knowingly incompetent drivers to drive their motor vehicles. Evidence of incompetence includes:

  • No valid driver’s license,
  • Violating a license restriction, like no highway driving,
  • Prior recent safety suspensions, and
  • A poor driving record.

Negligent entrustment cases are rather difficult to prove in Ohio. That is especially true in commercial negligent entrustment cases, like U-Haul truck rental wrecks.

Non-Negligence Claims

A few final words about non-negligence claims. These claims include defective products and roadway design wrecks.

Defective tires are the most common crash-causing product defect in Ohio. Usually, manufacturers are strictly liable for the injuries their defective products cause. As is the case in negligence per se cases, a Hamilton personal injury lawyer must present additional evidence to obtain maximum compensation.

Usually, counties and other government entities are responsible for defective maintenance wrecks, such as large potholes or obscured signs. They may be liable for discretionary acts, such as the refusal to add lanes to State Road 127, in some cases.

Rely on a Diligent Butler County Lawyer

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

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