The family of a 24-year-old man killed in a car accident earlier this year is awaiting judicial approval of a $25,000 settlement with the 30-year-old driver of the vehicle in which their son was a passenger at the time of his death.
According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, the female driver rear-ended a tractor trailer as it slowed to make a right turn into a private driveway. The driver of the passenger car allegedly failed to apply the brakes in time, and slammed into the back of the large truck. Neither driver nor passenger were wearing seat belts at the time. Investigators say that while speed was not a factor, distraction and possibly impairment were. Driver had cocaine and marijuana (but no alcohol) in her system, and was reportedly eating something behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
The news story makes no mention of an insurance company’s involvement in the settlement, but we do know that $25,000 is the minimum coverage amount drivers are required to maintain per person for bodily injury or death in Missouri. In South Carolina, the minimum is $50,000.
Given that this settlement is not for a substantial amount – particularly considering this involved the death of a young man in his prime who was not comparatively negligent – our Rock Hill accident lawyers would suggest his parents (the plaintiffs) explore additional options for compensation. Although not all the facts are evident from the news stories that have been published so far, some possible avenues we might look into:
- Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. Even though the driver had insurance, it was minimal, and it may not cover all the losses incurred by the family. Although many states don’t require the purchase of UM/ UIM coverage, it’s a good idea for situations like this, or when the at-fault driver lacks insurance altogether. In these situations, UIM coverage will provide the difference between what was collected and the actual losses – up to the limits of the policy. Further, it applies in any accident case, even if the insured was not the one driving.
- Claim against the trucking company. Typically in rear end accidents, it is the rear driver that is presumed to be at-fault. However, evidence can be presented to rebut this presumption. An example would be if the driver in front stopped suddenly in a way that was unexpected by the motorists behind him. Even if a court determined the truck driver wasn’t solely responsible for the crash, he and/or his employer/ insurer may be required to pay a portion of the damages.
- Claim against vehicle owner. This would be applicable if the vehicle owner was someone different from the driver. In some cases, vicarious liability or negligent entrustment may apply.
- Claim against the city/ road designer. This can be more of a long shot, especially with sovereign immunity issues to overcome. However, if there is any evidence that the road was negligently designed, constructed or maintained and this somehow contributed to the cause or severity of the crash, it may be worth exploring.
- Claim against vehicle manufacturer. This would apply if there is any evidence that the vehicle or a vehicle part malfunctioned or did not work the way it should have, causing either the crash or contributing to its severity. We have seen examples of this in recent years with unintended acceleration, airbag deficiencies and defective seat belts.
These are just a few examples, but it’s illustrative of why victims of crashes should consult with an experienced injury law firm to weigh all options.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Settlement awaits approval in lawsuit over fatal crash, Dec. 4, 2015, By Alan Burdziak, Columbia Daily Tribune
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Sanon v. Ameriqual Group et al – Overcrowded Van Crash Proves Deadly, Victims Sue, Dec. 14, 2015, Rock Hill Accident Attorney Blog