A grandfather is suing his grandson for the wrongful death of his grandmother after he accidentally crashed into her while attempting to help her put her minivan in gear in a parking lot. This case raises some interesting legal questions, given that the grandson was just 13 and not a licensed driver.
People often have an initially poor reaction upon hearing about lawsuits against relatives and other loved ones. There is a sense that “accidents happen,” and unless there was an actual intent to cause harm, families should refrain from taking grievances to court.
But our Greenville accident lawyers want to make sure people understand that in the vast majority of these cases, claimants are not trying to collect money from the individual who is the named defendant in the lawsuit. Instead, they are trying to collect insurance money for the losses incurred, which may include medical bills, lost wages, and more. It is not about punishing the defendant. It’s about helping the victim recover.
In this particular case, out of Chicago, the incident occurred back in March when the grandmother gave her grandson the keys so that he could help her get the vehicle in gear while in a shopping center parking lot. As the boy was shifting gears, he hit the gas pedal instead of the brake. The grandmother had been approaching the driver’s side door at that very moment and was struck. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was soon afterward pronounced dead. A medical examiner ruled after the autopsy that her cause of death was an “accident.”
The car accident lawsuit filed by the grandfather asserts the grandson was careless in failing to keep the vehicle under control, failing to give an adequate warning, and failing to yield the right-of-way.
What will inevitably come up in this case is the situation that:
- The boy, at 13, did not have a license to drive a motor vehicle;
- The grandmother knew he did not have a license but entrusted him with control of the vehicle anyway; and
- The fact he did not have a license may well mean he was not legally insured.
It’s probable that the defense is going to argue the grandmother was at least contributorily negligent in entrusting the vehicle to a minor. If the case were heard in North Carolina, that would be the end of the story because contributory negligence is a bar to recovery for accident victims. However, in South Carolina, plaintiffs can still collect damages even when they are partially negligent, as long as their negligence does not exceed the negligence of others. Their total recovery, however, is going to be reduced proportionately by plaintiff’s fault.
So let’s say, for example, the jury decides the grandmother was 40 percent negligent and the grandson 60 percent. The grandfather (as the representative of his wife’s estate) could still collect 60 percent of whichever damages might be awarded. However, if the percentages were reversed, he would not be allowed to recover anything because her negligence would exceed the grandson’s.
We do recognize that injury lawsuits against family members must be handled carefully. Ultimately, we want what’s best for our client, and these situations require an experienced legal team.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Chicago-area grandfather sues grandson, 13, for car accident that killed grandmother, Sept. 26, 2016, Staff Report, CBS News
More Blog Entries:
Holloway v. Direct Gen. Ins. – Filing Bad Faith Claim Against Auto Insurer, Sept. 25, 2016, Greenville Car Accident Lawyer Blog