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Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

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Varellas & Varellas has obtained another favorable verdict for its client from a Fayette County jury. After three days of trial, the jury awarded the Plaintiff raw damages of $355,000, including her past medical expenses of $105,000, as well as an additional $250,000 for pain and suffering after she sustained injuries to her face, hand, fingers and knees as an automobile passenger at the time of the collision. The verdict was reduced by 20% due to apportionment of fault. After the collision, the Plaintiff required progressive medical treatment for her knees including injections, arthroscopic surgery and eventual knee replacements.

The driver who caused the wreck was not insured so the Plaintiff proceeded directly against her own uninsured motorist policy issued by Auto-Owners Insurance Company. Auto-Owners was permitted to argue at trial that its liability should be significantly reduced because the Plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision (despite her having a doctor’s note restricting her use of a seatbelt), but the jury only apportioned 20% of fault to the Plaintiff. William Smock, M.D., biomechanical expert, testified on behalf of the Plaintiff and Michael Voor, Ph.D., Professor at the University of Louisville, testified on behalf of Auto-Owners.

The verdict for the Plaintiff was nearly twice the limit of the Auto-Owners insurance policy and nearly 15 times the highest amount offered as settlement by Auto-Owners over the course of more than 5½ years since the claim was filed.

This Plaintiff’s verdict, along with the $2.4 million jury verdict returned in a previous case tried by Varellas & Varellas in 2015, are among the largest verdicts awarded by juries in Fayette Circuit Court in the past several years in cases involving personal injury or wrongful death. The case was tried by Sandra Varellas and Todd Varellas. Jim Varellas and Jay Varellas also assisted with the case over the course of the lengthy litigation.

Contact Varellas & Varellas to discuss your potential personal injury, wrongful death, nursing home abuse or neglect, tractor trailer wreck, dump truck accident, and motor vehicle collision claims with one of our experienced trial attorneys. Use our online form or reach us by telephone at 877-634-1519 or locally at 859-252-4473 in Lexington or 502-595-7955 in Louisville.

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Even if they are minor, car accidents can ruin the day and have significant consequences later. An accident can cause you to miss work or important events, and you may have to deal with traffic citations, liability issues, vehicle repairs, and sometimes injuries or even death of a loved one. If you’re in a car accident in Kentucky, the first thing you should do is to follow safety precautions.

As soon as possible, turn on your hazard lights, setting out flares or warning cones if you carry them. You should call the police to have an accident report prepared and get assistance with finding immediate medical care. A police report can help with the insurance process, and prompt medical care can make a difference in how fast you get better and also creates a record of the extent of your injuries.

If there is an injury, call 911; otherwise, call the Police Department Administrative number for your area. Move your vehicle only if its position puts you in danger or you are instructed to move it by a police officer. However, if the accident occurs on an interstate highway or parkway or an on–ramp or off-ramp and does not involve death, injury or hazardous material, Kentucky law requires that you move the vehicle off the roadway as soon as the vehicle can be moved without the risk of further injury or damage.

After contacting the police, exchange your name, address, phone number, and insurance policy information with the other driver. Write down the driver’s name, insurance policy number, driver’s license number and license plate number. If the driver’s name is not the same name listed on the insurance card, find out what the relationship is and take down both individual’s names, addresses and phone numbers. Note the year, make and model of the car and the location of the incident.

After a car accident, you may want to make an expression of sympathy to the other driver. While you should be polite, don’t apologize. An apology could be construed as an admission of fault in legal proceedings. You should not state that the accident was your fault or your opinions about whose fault it was. Don’t get into an argument with the other driver and if the other driver tries to get into a fight with you, stay calm. Continue reading

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crash-car-825017-mIn 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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In Kentucky, to bring a negligence action for personal injury damages in a car accident case, a plaintiff must prove three elements: the defendant’s duty, the defendant’s breach of that duty, and a causal relationship between the defendant’s breach and the plaintiff’s injury.

Occasionally, circumstances arise that can make it difficult to establish one or more of these elements. In 2012, the Kentucky Court of Appeals considered an automobile accident case in which the plaintiff was sitting in a parked car in a parking lot. Suddenly his car was struck by a moving vehicle that had just been hit by another vehicle on a nearby highway.

In the first accident, a driver had moved from the westbound lane into the eastbound lane of the highway, hitting the driver of another vehicle who was driving for his job. The latter’s vehicle then hit the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff filed suit against several car insurers and also the employer of the driver whose car hit him, claiming negligence.

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Monetary awards in personal injury cases are generally intended to compensate a victim of negligence for actual past and future compensatory losses or “special damages”—whether medical bills, lost income, future impairment of ability to earn money—as well as pain and suffering. However, where a defendant has acted with  at least recklessness or gross negligence in Kentucky, an award of punitive damages by a jury is warranted. Additionally, where intentional conduct is involved—such as an intentional assault and battery—punitive damages against the one who caused the harm are similarly warranted.

Punitive damages can be used in a wide array of circumstances, whether it is to punish an individual who drives drunk or texts while driving and injures someone else, whether it is to punish and deter a bouncer and bar for an intentional assault of a patron by the bouncer, or whether it is to punish a corporate or wealthy defendant whose conduct the jury wants to deter, such as the owner of a service station who permits an attendant to possess and use a  firearm but fails to train the employee resulting in injury, just to name a few situations. A punitive damages award can also be used to deter a particular type of conduct generally, among similarly situated defendants, such as manufacturers of similar products or hospitals that employ similar policies that are detrimental to patients.

In a car accident case which went to the Court of Appeals this year, a couple that had undergone gastric bypass surgery several years earlier were driving home when another driver turned his Nissan Altima into the wrong lane and drove towards them. An SUV driving in front of them managed to swerve away, but they crashed into the Altima. The Altima driver, who was drunk, died on the scene.

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Semi tractor-trailer accidents in Kentucky can lead to some of the most serious personal injuries or death. A semi can weigh more than 80,000 pounds; compare this to the average automobile that weighs only about 3,000 pounds. Although there are fewer semi accidents than car accidents, accidents involving semis are much more dangerous and can lead to catastrophic results.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, conducted a Truck Causation Study  to determine the top 10 common causes of tractor trailer accidents. These are: issues with brakes, traffic congestion, prescription drug use, speed, unfamiliarity with a road, road problems, required stops, over the counter medication use, inadequate sight, and driver fatigue.

Just this summer, a woman was killed in a crash photo_561_20051116with a semi near Louisa, Kentucky. She crossed over the center dividing line and collided head-on with a semi tractor-trailer. The driver claimed to have hit the brakes as soon as he saw her, but it was too late.

Because of accidents like this one, driving a semi tractor-trailer is covered by more restrictive laws than driving a car. For example, drivers of semi tractor-trailers cannot drive for more than a set number of hours before being required to stop for a rest. If you get into an accident with a semi tractor-trailer, the trucking company may have a team of lawyers already working on the case before you get a chance to consult an attorney. You may even get a tempting quick offer to settle.

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Cycles At Curb

Although less common than car accidents, motorcycle accidents remain common in Kentucky. In 2009, there were 1,915 motorcycle accidents in Kentucky, which included 89 fatalities, according to the Kentucky State Police. Getting in a motorcycle accident in Kentucky can be the result of road conditions, another driver, or a variety of other reasons. While they are less common than car accidents, the personal injuries caused to a motorcyclist can be quite severe.

If you go to trial against a potentially responsible party after a motorcycle accident, prior to the trial both sides will try to limit the subjects which can be presented to a jury by making what are called motions in limine. By the time the actual trial comes around, the judge will typically have ruled on most of these motions and you will mostly know what the other side will be allowed to argue at trial. A defendant driver, for example, might argue that you were at fault as a motorcycle driver for failing to use an appropriate signal while turning or failing to stop at a stop sign. Sometimes, however, a surprising statement or unexpected issue may still  surface at trial.

A case last year illustrates the difficulty of predicting the outcome of a motorcycle accident case. In the case, two couples who went motorcycle riding together were involved in a crash. As they rode down the hill, the second couple saw the first couple crash their motorcycle. Seconds later, the second couple’s motorcycle also crashed and struck the woman motorcyclist. She was knocked into a pickup truck and badly hurt. Several witnesses testified later that the motorcyclists lost control of their motorcycles because of a slick substance, probably diesel fuel, on the road.

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In Kentucky, car drivers are required to carry basic Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage. PIP benefits are also commonly referred to as “no-fault” benefits because they are to be paid to the person injured through use of a motor vehicle, regardless of whose fault the injury is. An injured driver or passenger can claim against the basic PIP of the vehicle in which he or she was riding. An injured pedestrian can claim against the PIP coverage for the car that struck him or her. Basic PIP gives coverage to each person in each accident a minimum of $10,000 to cover out of pocket costs, such as medical expenses or lost wages.

Unlike other states, in Kentucky, drivers are presumed to have limited rights to sue unless they file a special form rejecting no-fault limitations. If they are subject to no-fault limitations, they cannot recover medical expenses or wage loss from the at-fault party unless they have more than $1,000 worth of medical expenses, a broken bone, a permanent injury or disfigurement. A person’s estate may collect if they die.

If you are in a car accident and have any kind of significant injuries or pain, it is important to not only alert insurance carriers but consult an attorney as soon as possible, too. Last year, a Kentucky appellate court considered a car accident case in which a woman had been injured when her car was rear-ended. She received basic PIP benefits from her own carrier. About two months after the accident, the woman started to experience serious medical problems like projectile vomiting, vertigo and Raynaud’s phenomenon. Her physicians couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her for two years. Continue reading

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Motor vehicle owners in Kentucky who are also parents need to pay attention to whether or not it’s appropriate to let their children drive. Even though a parent who signs the application for a minor to obtain a driver’s license accepts liability for any damage caused by the teen, a parent who doesn’t sign the application can also be held liable for damages caused if there is negligent supervision of the teen. In addition, if an underage driver without a license gets into a car crash while driving his parent’s car, those that he hurts may have a cause of action against the parents for negligent supervision.

Negligent supervision cases are based on the idea that a parent has a duty to exercise reasonable care to make sure his or her minor child does not intentionally harm another or create an unreasonable risk of bodily harm. To prove921217_crashed_car negligent supervision in the context of a car accident, a plaintiff must show (1) the defendant has a duty, (2) breaches the duty; and (3) as a result of the breach, an actual injury occurred. More specifically, to be held responsible, a parent must know or have reason to know of his or her ability to control the minor and must know or should know that it is necessary  and possible to control the child.

Foreseeability is the issue on which a parent’s responsibility to control his or her child turns. Foreseeability usually requires that the child has committed the same or a very similar act previously. Parents are not required to be fortune-tellers about their child’s behavior. But in the case of car accidents, parents who know that their child has been drunk and driven on multiple prior occasions may be liable to anyone the child injures. 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 c1016504_81419132ar 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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