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Articles Posted in Fatal Accidents

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DSC1824Edit-DTV-1-238x300Super Lawyers has named Varellas & Varellas attorney Todd Varellas a top rated personal injury attorney in Kentucky for 2023. Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Kentucky as selected through a peer nomination process and based on the results of independent research. The lawyers selected are those who received the highest point totals during the annual nomination, research and peer review process, resulting in a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys. Super Lawyers also previously named Todd a Rising Star, when he was a younger attorney.

These lists recognize attorneys in each state “who exhibit excellence in the practice of law.”

The Super Lawyers lists recognize no more than 5% of attorneys in the state. For Rising Stars for younger attorneys, it recognizes no more than 2.5% of younger attorneys in the state. Super Lawyers is a research-driven, peer-influenced rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Attorneys are selected from more than 70 practice areas and all firm sizes which helps assure a credible and relevant annual list.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers magazines, regional magazines, and newspapers across the country.

Todd is an experienced trial attorney at Varellas & Varellas focusing on serious personal injury cases involving trucking collisions, car wrecks, fatal accidents and wrongful death, as well as  nursing home abuse and neglect.



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Collisions involving tractor trailers cannot be handled in the same manner as car wrecks since they involve laws and regulations implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) in addition to the rules of the road every other driver must follow. Truck drivers are professional drivers that are held to higher standards and these standards have been put in place for your protection on the roadway.

Hiring an attorney that’s able to turn over every stone is vital to reaching the maximum recovery for you. The attorneys at Varellas & Varellas have the knowledge and experience to aggressively pursue your claims following a collision with a tractor trailer along with a track record of results. These results put insurance companies on notice that your case will be effectively litigated to recover all the benefits due you.

In Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky alone there were 3,730 crashes involving heavy trucks between 2014 and 2018 while in Jefferson County there were 10,249. While Fayette and Jefferson Counties had the most accidents involving heavy trucks, the annual crash rate based upon each county’s population sheds light on which citizens of Kentucky are most at risk for being injured by a tractor trailer. Broken into five categories for increasing populations, the report determined Gallatin, Carroll, Hart, Scott, and Boone counties had the highest rates of collisions involving heavy trucks based on their populations.

The Kentucky Transportation Center (“KTC”) published the Kentucky Traffic Collision Facts Report analyzing crash data in Kentucky from collisions in 2019. For crashes involving trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds, which include tractor trailers, the KTC report found a recent increase in the number of crashes compared to the previous four-year average. Unfortunately, this increase in negligent driving has also increased the number of injuries and fatalities involving tractor-trailers crashes.

According to the KTC report, the most frequent contributing vehicular factors for tractor-trailer collisions in 2019 were as follows: Defective Brakes, Defective Headlights, Other Lighting Defects, Steering Failure, Tire Failure, Tow Hitch Failure, Overload/Improper Load, Oversized Load, and Load Securement. The top driver contributing factors leading to collisions were: Inattention, Misjudge Clearance, Not Under Proper Control, Failure to Yield Right of Way, Following Too Close, Too Fast for Conditions, and Distraction to name a few.

While this data focuses only on the tractor trailer and driver, it is often the negligent and sometimes intentional practices of the company that hired the driver and owns the truck which ultimately plays a major role in causing the collision. Unfortunately, the conduct of some companies frequently highlights practices aimed at earning higher profits rather than protecting your family’s safety. Inspections can be rushed and repairs can be pushed back – all aimed at making an extra few dollars while putting you at risk. Aggressively pursuing every trucking case is essential to your maximum recovery as punitive damages are often proper due to gross negligence and punitive damages can drastically increase the value of your claim.

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A two-vehicle crash on Cane Ridge Road in Bourbon County near Paris, Kentucky killed four people and injured two others on March 20, 2015. Four men, including Julio Barrios and Javier Henriquez, both of Galax, Virginia, were riding in a Hyundai passenger car when it crossed the center line into the path of a minivan before turning sideways.

Barrios and Henriquez died from their injuries at the scene. James Henry Stevens and Margaret Franklin, from Bourbon County, were riding in the minivan and were also killed. Stevens was taken from the scene to the Bourbon Community Hospital but he did not survive his injuries.

The men in the Hyundai were on their way back to work at a local farm and the accident happened at a curve on a dangerous stretch of the road. The force of the wreck threw several people out of the vehicles leading to speculation that they were not wearing seat belts. Two of the men in the Hyundai were injured and taken to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries.

Officials do not yet know what caused the car to cross the center line but believe that the vehicles were not speeding. Tests will be conducted to determine whether drugs or alcohol were a factor in causing the crash.

The severity of the crash caused the closing of Cane Ridge Road from Glenn Road to Steele Road for several hours.

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Sprinter limo bus

Comedian Tracy Morgan has filed suit against Walmart after he was critically injured in a multi-vehicle collision in New Jersey on June 7, 2014 that killed Morgan’s friend, James McNair, and injured several others. Police believe the truck driver, Kevin Roper of Georgia, dozed off while driving the Walmart tractor trailer, allowing his large rig to slam into the Sprinter limo bus Morgan and six others were riding in. Roper is charged with vehicular homicide and four counts of assault by auto, and the criminal complaint against Roper stated that he had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the trucking accident.

Morgan suffered multiple broken bones in the accident including broken ribs, a broken leg and a broken nose and was listed in critical condition after the accident. He has since been released from the hospital to continue his rehabilitation at home. McNair, a comedy writer, was fatally injured and three others were transported to the hospital with injuries of various severities.

Walmart truck

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the 6-car pileup caused by the driver of the Walmart tractor trailer. During its investigation, the NTSB will review the driver’s log and fuel receipts to determine the driver’s activities prior to the accident and investigate all available facts to determine whether the driver was in violation of the rules regarding hours of service. Under Federal law, drivers can work no more than 14 hours for any shift and only 11 of those hours can be spent driving. Read the preliminary report on the crash from the NTSB here.

According to the lawsuit filed in federal court in New Jersey against Walmart by Tracy Morgan and others, Roper commuted from his home in Georgia to the Walmart facility in Delaware to begin his shift driving the Peterbilt truck-tractor and semitrailer combination vehicle. The limo bus in which Morgan and others were riding had slowed on the New Jersey Turnpike due to construction work and closed lanes on the Turnpike. The driver of the Walmart commercial truck apparently did not slow down and struck the rear of the limo bus. The lawsuit seeks damages against Walmart since Roper was an employee of Walmart and was operating the truck in the regular course of his employment.

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In our Kentucky personal injury practice, we sometimes hear the question: I’m not the type to sue someone for injuring me, so why should I? There’s a short answer: that’s what insurance is for. People purchase insurance policies specifically to guard against the risk of being sued, and insurance companies expect to have to pay for losses. While insurers are not inclined to pay out claims easily, they do anticipate paying in the event that their insured customers’ liability for your injuries are proven. Moreover, Kentucky has a built-in protection against weak claims that should alleviate any possible anxiety you may feel about bringing a lawsuit.

Kentucky is a “no-fault” insurance state, which means that usually your right to sue someone for causing your injuries is already limited to those threshold instances set by statute. In order to sue in most motor vehicle cases, you must incur at least $1,000 in medical expenses or you must suffer a fractured bone, loss of a bodily function, disfigurement, loss of a body member, loss of a bodily function, a permanent injury, or death. “No fault” also means your motor vehicle policy will include coverage to pay the first $10,000 of your medical bills and lost wages in the event you are in a car accident; these benefits are available to you even if an accident is your fault. This coverage makes sure your medical bills are paid without delay and helps protect your credit rating.

The underwriting departments of insurance companies evaluate risk and rate an insurance company’s exposure to a lawsuit before an insured person pays a single premium. Insurance companies collect premiums from consumers based on their calculation of the risk of insuring that particular person. The risk analysis is somewhat similar to the analysis undertaken by a bank when it offers a homeowner a mortgage. Also, if an applicant purchases a homeowners’ policy, he or she will be asked about characteristics of the property, type of construction, square footage and more. Similarly, as you know if you’ve purchased auto insurance, an applicant is asked a variety of questions related to his or her vehicle, age, gender, the names of other drivers for the vehicle and geographic location in order to determine the premium to be charged. Continue reading

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Georgetown, Scott County, Kentucky

The Georgetown News-Graphic reports that Anthony Scott Ryman, 30, from Cocoa, Florida, the driver of a car on U.S. 25 in Scott County, Kentucky, lost control of his car on July 14, 2013 and struck a culvert, killing his passenger. Ryman was driving northbound on U.S. 25 (known also as Cincinnati Pike), just north of Georgetown, when he apparently was unable to negotiate a curve. The car left the road and overturned several times after hitting a light pole. The passenger in the car, identified by Scott County Coroner John Goble, was Brian D. Armstrong, 48, from Etowah, Tennessee. Armstrong was killed in the crash and pronounced dead at the scene. Ryman survived and was transported to Lexington, Kentucky, to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital with serious injuries. High speed and alcohol are believed by state police to have been contributing factors in the accident and charges are pending against the driver. Armstrong’s death raises the total traffic fatalities in Scott County to six in just four weeks.

Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

In Lexington, Kentucky on July 14, 2013, a woman working on a road crew was struck by a hit-and-run driver. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that the road crew was working for a private company on Sunday night restriping the road near Nicholasville Road and Reynolds Road when the victim was struck by a vehicle described as possibly a blue Toyota Camry. The worker sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was transported to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. Police are looking for the driver and the car which appeared to sustain damage on the left side. The driver was believed to be a man with a white beard.

Liberty, Casey County, Kentucky

Late Sunday, July 14, 2013, James L. Baugh of Liberty lost control of his vehicle while driving on U.S. 27 just south of Liberty according to a report by the Lexington Herald-Leader. Baugh was driving a 2004 Saturn and overcorrected when he tried to regain control. The vehicle overturned and Baugh was killed. Samantha Dilbeck of Liberty was Baugh’s passenger and sustained injuries in the wreck. Dilbeck was treated and released at the Casey County Hospital. Kentucky State Police report that alcohol is suspected as a contributing factor in the fatal accident.

Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky

The driver of a 1996 Chevrolet Blazer that rear ended a tractor trailer in Franklin County on July 10, 2013 had to be extricated from his vehicle by the Franklin County Fire Department. Charles Bates was driving on U.S. 127 in Franklin County when the wreck occurred. Witnesses told Franklin County Sheriff Department deputies that Bates of Frankfort, Kentucky didn’t apply his brakes and was driving erratically before crashing into the rear of the tractor trailer. The State Journal reports that the driver was taken to Frankfort Regional Medical Center and then transported to University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center where he was listed in serious condition.

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The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2011, 3,331 people were killed and 387,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents involving a distracted driver. The NHTSA further reports that for drivers under the age of 20 who were involved in fatal accidents, 11% were reported to be distracted at the time of the crash, and for 15-19 year olds who were distracted when involved in fatal crashes, 21% were distracted by using cell phones. The National Safety Council estimates that there were more than 500,000 crashes involving drivers using cell phones and texting in the first half of 2013 and that these distracted drivers cause an additional wreck every 30 seconds.

Kentucky enacted laws that went into effect in 2010 that prohibits drivers from “texting while driving,” i.e., text messaging while a vehicle is in motion. KRS 189.292. In addition, any person under the age of 18, whether using an instruction permit, intermediate license or operator’s license, is prohibited from both texting and cell phone use while driving. KRS 189.294. Text messaging is more dangerous than talking on a cellphone since it requires the driver’s visual, manual and cognitive attention, the three main types of distraction.

In spite of the laws prohibiting texting while driving in Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported in May, 2013 that less than 1,000 citations had been issued state-wide during the more than two years since the new laws went into effect since police say it’s difficult to determine if someone is violating the law while driving down the road. Lexington police stated that in 2012 cell phones were a contributing factor in 26 accidents, but the number for 2013 had already climbed to 38 by May. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported in January, 2013 that although accidents caused by distracted driving dropped statewide in 2012, such accidents rose to the highest level in Jefferson County in a decade.

The National Transportation Safety Board found that when a driver crashed his truck into a van carrying 10 members of a Kentucky Mennonite community in March 2012, causing one of Kentucky’s deadliest highway accidents, the driver might have been on his cellphone. Continue reading

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In Kentucky, as in other states, personal injury lawsuits may seek compensation for another person’s negligence that causes injury. However, these compensatory damages are not meant to punish the negligent person. Punitive damages may be awarded only where a party is found to have acted with “gross negligence.” It is not sufficient to show merely that someone failed to exercise reasonable care. It must also be shown that the person displayed gross negligence or reckless disregard for other peoples’ lives, safety or property.

In a recent case involving a fatal accident, the Supreme Court of Kentucky considered punitive damages in the context of a coal trucking accident. A coal truck flipped over in 2004 while it was being driven on Highway 80. From the opposite direction, a man was driving a pickup truck with a seventy-eight year old passenger. Because coal had spilled all over the highway, the man was not able to stop and crashed into the coal truck. His passenger was injured and died.

The man driving the pickup and the passenger’s estate sued the employee who had been driving the coal truck and its employer for ordinary negligence. They also sued the employer for gross negligence in failing to properly maintain the coal truck. The pickup driver settled his claims, but the estate went to trial against the employer and employee. The employer asked for a directed verdict from the trial court, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to find it had conducted itself with gross negligence. The trial court denied the motion for directed verdict. The jury awarded the estate $2,121,371.31 in compensatory damages, as well as $2 million in punitive damages against the employer for the wrongful death of the passenger.

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Fatalities involving motorcycle wrecks increased by more than 200 percent from 1997 to 2009 even though fatalities involving passenger cars and light trucks decreased by 27% during the same period. Concerned about this trend, Congress funded a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) research project to provide insight into the factors contributing to motorcycle crashes throughout the country. The Motorcycle Crash Causation Study (MCCS) will collect data through 2014 and will be supported by federal agencies, departments of transportation from the various states, local police and the motorcycle industry. The study is the most comprehensive look at the causes of motorcycle crash in more than 30 years, and the final report is expected to be completed in 2015. It is anticipated that the study report may lead to educational programs, new roadway safety measures, and policy decisions based by the data collected in the comprehensive study.

Our motorcycle accident attorneys have seen the devastating effects of motorcycle wrecks that have seriously injured our clients or caused the death of our clients’ loved ones. We encourage all motorcycle owners to take their safety and the safety of their passengers seriously so that wrecks and injuries can be avoided. Safety demonstrations, exhibits and free educational materials will be provided by the Kentucky State Police along with a cook-out and prizes during the Kentucky State Police 6th Annual Motorcycle Safety Awareness Day on Friday, July 26, 2013 at KSP Headquarters in Frankfort.

Even though motorcycle fatalities in Kentucky dropped from 80 in 2010 to 61 in 2011, the number of fatalities increased back up to 78 in 2012. So far in 2013, numerous motorcycle crashes in Kentucky have caused serious injuries or death. After the Scott County sheriff’s department worked three motorcycle crashes in a three-week period that resulted in fatalities, Sheriff Tony Hampton asked the people in Scott County to consider wearing a helmet. Although Kentucky law does not require a motorcyclist to wear a helmet, Sheriff Hampton stated he believed all three of the victims could have survived the wrecks if they had worn helmets. Continue reading

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As summer arrives and Kentuckians take to the roads for vacations and outdoor activities, drivers need to be careful to avoid car wrecks and other motor vehicle accidents. Holiday weekends are especially dangerous, and the Independence Day and Labor Day holidays were the two deadliest in Kentucky in 2011 according to the Kentucky State Police 2011 Report of Traffic Collision Facts. The report shows that in 2011, 335 people were injured over the Independence Day holiday and 327 people were injured over the Labor Day holiday. A total of 24 deaths occurred over the two holidays compared to 20 deaths during all the other holidays combined.

The personal injury attorneys at Varellas & Varellas have represented victims of car accidents for decades and have seen many sad cases of clients seriously injured in summertime crashes. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that summer is a carefree time when roads are clear and safe and driving safety is less important because the statistics paint an entirely different picture.

Although drivers understand that roadways that are wet or covered with snow, ice or slush create dangerous driving conditions, the Report of Traffic Collision Facts shows that the large majority of all collisions and all fatal collisions in 2011 occurred on dry roads. According to the Report, 71.7% of all collisions and 79.6% of fatal collisions happened on dry roadways. The data also reveals that 79% of all collisions occurred on straight roads while 21% occurred on curved roads. Continue reading

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