Court: Brain Damage to Student Hit by Drunk Driver Not School’s Fault

A freshman in college was walking single file with her row team crew members down a dark road. They were headed back to their vehicles after a late practice. They would have used the parking lot where the equipment was kept, but school administrators had previously blocked it off.
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In the same spot where just three months earlier, a pedestrian had been struck and killed, a drunk driver came barreling down the dark road. He struck one of those students, the 19-year-old freshman. She was propelled 20 feet into the air. She suffered severe brain injuries, and had to undergo numerous surgeries. She is now incapacitated, and guardianship has been granted to her parents.

Meanwhile the driver, a habitual drunk driver who had a suspended driver’s license, sped off. Surveillance video from a nearby store helped authorities track him down, and he’s now serving a seven-year prison sentence.

But without a license, he didn’t have insurance. That left her family – through no fault of their own or her own – not only reeling from this tragedy and their new reality, but also struggling with mountains of medical bills and no real way to pay.

In these situations, it is imperative for a pedestrian accident attorney to carefully review the facts of the case to determine other potential sources of recovery or defendants. In a case like this, those entities might include:

  • Uninsured motorist coverage. This would be available so long as the student was on a policy that had that type of coverage. Even though she wasn’t in a vehicle at the time of the crash, the fact that she was struck by one means she was in an “accident” for purposes of the policy.
  • The local establishment that served alcohol to the driver, assuming he was visibly intoxicated. South Carolina case law precedent allows plaintiffs to sue bars and other establishments for selling liquor to someone who is either underage or visibly drunk.
  • The owner of the vehicle. There could be a claim here either for negligent entrustment or vicarious liability.
  • The school. The question is whether the college owed a duty of care to the student at the time the accident occurred.

We don’t know whether plaintiffs availed themselves of all these options, but we do know they pursued action against the school.

They alleged in their civil complaint that the school owed a duty of care to ensure their daughter had a safe means of travel from a school-sponsored sporting event. There was a parking lot available, but administrators chose to close it to students. They alleged the school knew this practice of allowing students to walk down this dark road at night was dangerous because there had been a fatal pedestrian crash in that same spot just several months earlier.

However, trial court recently ruled the school could not be liable for an incident that happened off-campus, on a public highway while student was walking to a private vehicle.

Her parents have said they plan to appeal that ruling.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Lafayette College not liable for student’s brain injury after accident, Sept. 15, 2015, By Rudy Miller, Lehigh Valley Live

More Blog Entries:
Jones-Smith v. Safeway Insurance Co. – Misrepresentation Impact on Insurance, Sept. 15, 2015, Greenville Car Accident Attorney Blog

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