To paraphrase the late, great James Brown, superhighways may run from coast to coast, but it is not easy to get anywhere. Since it opened in the late 1950s, traffic congestion and poor maintenance have contributed to many accidents on Interstate 71 in Ohio.
Originally, state engineers planned for State Road 1, the route that became Interstate 71, to be a second Ohio Turnpike that would link the state with Pennsylvania and New York. Although designers anticipated and hoped for heavy traffic, the freeway itself was not designed to accommodate this much traffic.
The state largely neglected Interstate 71 until the late 1990s. By then, over 30 years of wear and tear had transformed minor issues into expensive problems. Citing a lack of money, the state did not finish Interstate 71 upgrades until 2012. Now, over ten years later, some of the same problems are beginning to reappear, and the state seems to have no plans to address them.
When people cannot count on their governments to keep them safe, a Hamilton personal injury lawyer stands in the gap. A lawyer files legal actions to draw attention to safety problems and force stingy bureaucrats to act. Additionally, an attorney obtains the compensation accident victims need and deserve.
As mentioned, most victims file car accidents and other negligence claims for the principle of the thing as well as for practical reasons.
This principle is usually responsible. When we make mistakes at work or home that cost our company money or hurt someone emotionally, we must pay for them. When drivers make mistakes that injure someone, they must pay for them.
We emphasize that the drivers, not Medicare and not a private health insurance company, must pay for these mistakes. If a public or private insurance company pays, that means the rest of us to pay in the form of higher taxes or higher premiums. That ain’t right.
Principles are important, and the practical reasons for filing a negligence case maybe even more important. These victims must often pay sky-high medical bills, such as:
Medical expenses are just the beginning of the costs victims face. Most victims cannot work for weeks or months after a crash. Especially if they are independent contractors, this lost time could mean significant lost income, especially in the future.
Additionally, property damage costs might be almost as high as medical costs. That is especially true since an item like the family car has an emotional value that often exceeds its economic value.
We are not finished yet. Victims need compensation for these losses, and they deserve compensation for their noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, and emotional distress. No victim should have to suffer in silence.
We still are not finished. Many victims are entitled to additional punitive damages, especially in extreme cases, like a tortfeasor who had a very high BAC level. These damages are available if a Hamilton personal injury lawyer proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) intentionally disregarded a known risk.
Interstate 71 runs from Louisville to Cleveland. So, there is a good chance the victim and tortfeasor reside in different counties or even in different states. Venue and choice of law issues, both of which are rather obscure legal principles, could greatly affect the outcome of your car crash claim.
Usually, the venue is a choice between different courts in the same state. Generally, car crash victims may file legal actions in the county where the injury occurred or the county of the victim’s residence. Each choice has some pros and cons.
Victims who file claims in the county of injury have easier access to the evidence in the case, especially eyewitness testimony. So, their cases may be easier to prove. However, local jurors often don’t have much sympathy for a victim from the other side of the state.
On the flip side, victims who file actions in their local courthouses may have issues accessing evidence. Witnesses must travel, and their travel expenses must be paid. That is assuming the witness is physically capable of making the trip. That is also assuming the witness voluntarily cooperates. Usually, a court’s subpoena power is only effective for about 100 miles.
However, when local victims file actions in local courts, they have something of a home-field advantage. That is especially true if, as is usually the case, insurance defense lawyers are out-of-towners.
Choice of law usually pertains to the state of filing. Negligence laws vary in different states. The comparative fault structure in Ohio and Kentucky is a good illustration. In Ohio, tortfeasors must pay damages if they are at least 51% responsible for wrecks. In Kentucky, tortfeasors are liable for a proportionate share of damages even if they were only 1% responsible for the crash. More on the comparative fault defense is below.
Regardless of where an Interstate 71 accident happens, most of these wrecks aren’t “accidents.” Driver error causes over 98% of vehicle collisions in Ohio. Sometimes, this error is a wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time matter. Generally, however, this error is negligence. In Ohio and most other states, including Kentucky, negligence claims have four basic elements:
Attorneys must prove every element of a negligence claim by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Sometimes, the negligence per se shortcut is available in freeway wrecks. Many forms of aggressive driving, like speeding, and impaired driving, like alcohol intoxication, violate safety laws. If a tortfeasor violates a safety law and causes a wreck, the tortfeasor could be liable for damages as a matter of law.
The proof is critical in both ordinary negligence and negligence per se claims. Even though victims/plaintiffs need not establish negligence in a negligence per se claim, there is usually a relationship between the amount of proof the plaintiff presents and the number of compensation jurors award.
Evidence in an Interstate 71 wreck is often difficult to obtain. We mentioned witness issues above. Locating witnesses is usually a bigger task than working out the logistical details of witness testimony. For various reasons, most people don’t stop and loiter at highway accident scenes so they can give official statements to police officers.
Frequently, attorneys partner with private investigators to locate witnesses and hear their stories. Even if a witness only saw part of the wreck, that witness could provide the last critical piece of the puzzle.
Absolutely not. Usually, in life, minimum effort leads to minimum results. The maximum effort usually yields maximum results. In court, a prima facie, or preliminary, case basically gets the plaintiff’s foot in the door. Then, it’s up to a Hamilton personal injury attorney to overcome insurance company defenses and seal the deal.
We mentioned comparative fault, which is one of the most common insurance company defenses in car wreck claims, above. Essentially, comparative fault shifts blame for an accident from the tortfeasor to the victim.
We also mentioned the two major causes of car wrecks, aggressive driving, and impaired driving, above. Assume Fred was impaired when Barney pulled out in front of him. Because of his alcohol consumption, Fred could not react quickly enough and rear-ended Barney.
Incidentally, there is a difference between alcohol impairment and alcohol intoxication. Most people are impaired after one drink. Most people are intoxicated, which means the complete loss of physical or mental faculties, after three or four drinks.
The jury must carefully consider the evidence to divide the fault between Fred and Barney. If Fred just had half a glass of champagne at his daughter’s wedding, he was technically impaired, but most jurors would say he wasn’t seriously impaired. If Fred had a glass or two, that’s different.
In pure comparative fault states like Kentucky, contributory negligence usually only reduces compensation for victims. In modified comparative fault states like Ohio, contributory negligence could torpedo a damage claim.
Other affirmative defenses, like sudden emergency or its cousin, the last clear chance doctrine, often apply in rear-end wreck claims.
If the jury finds that Fred would not have been able to stop even if he was stone-cold sober, the sudden emergency defense applies and transfers all the blame to Barney.
If, on the other hand, the jury finds that Fred had the last clear chance to avoid a wreck, but he did not slam on the brakes, change lanes, or whatever, Fred could be completely responsible for the wreck, even though he did nothing wrong.
All these defenses are affirmative defenses. Insurance company lawyers must admit liability and then argue that defense applies. Basic defenses in car crash claims include a lack of evidence, as outlined above. The lack of evidence defense often does not hold up in court since the burden of proof is so low. However, insurance company lawyers still use it.
Injury victims can be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney, contact Kruger & Hodges, Attorneys at Law by going online or calling 513-894-3333.