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Millions of Dollars Collected for Our Injury and Wrongful Death Clients – Car Wrecks, Nursing Home Abuse, Workers’ Comp, Med Mal and more.

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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 provenegligent 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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Some people find the name Varellas difficult to pronounce and spell. The name of our law firm is pronounced Va-Rel-iss (rhymes with trellis) and is sometimes misspelled as Varella, Varela, Varelas, Verallas, Varallas, Varillas, Varilla, Valera or Varallis. The misspellings are understandable since reports periodically appear in the news concerning people with names similar to ours but with various spellings.

In recent news, there was a report concerning Rosella Varela, the mother of four children who were on a school bus on April 9, 2013 that drove over an embankment in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.  The driver of the school bus was killed and two of the Varela children were seriously injured. Derrick Varela, 9, suffered a broken hip and Rusti Dawn Varela, 16, lost several teeth and was taken to surgery to repair broken bones in her face. The other two Varela children sustained minor bruising and a chipped heel.

Monica Varillas, 21, was injured in an Anaheim, California car wreck in December 2011, when a driver made an unsafe left turn and fled the scene. Police reported that Varillas was driving a Honda Civic with her 1-year-old child when the wreck occurred. Donta J. Lewis and Heather M. Varalli, were slightly injured in August, 2012 in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in a two-vehicle accident when Lewis turned left in front of Varalli’s vehicle, and he was struck by her vehicle, police said.

Victoriano Varelas and Bartolo Santos filed a lawsuit in 2009 against a truck driver and his employer, a Texas corporation, after the employee drove the truck into the rear of their vehicle. Varelas was driving his motor vehicle in Harris County, Texas with Santos as his passenger, and Brandon L. Dover was driving the truck behind them. The men alleged in their lawsuit that the trucking accident happened after Dover fell asleep, failed to control his speed, and crashed into the back of the vehicle in which the men were riding

In August, 2010, 18-year-old Anthony “Nini” Varela died in a car accident in Pleasant Grove, Texas when a drunken driver ran a red light. After he was declared brain dead, however, his parents donated his organs, bones and tissues thereby improving the lives of 114 people. One year later, the anniversary of his death was marked by a gathering at Grove Hill Memorial Park in Dallas by family, friends and those whose lives were touched by the generous donation of Nini’s parents. 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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A “statute of limitations” is a law which sets a specific deadline for filing legal proceedings. Statutes of limitations can apply to civil cases or criminal cases and are adopted primarily to prevent the filing of claims or criminal charges after evidence has been lost and witnesses have disappeared. Statutes of limitations vary by state and can be very complicated to interpret and apply to a particular set of facts.  As with all statutes of limitations, the statute of limitations for lawsuits involving injury cases in Kentucky is strictly enforced by Kentucky courts. As with all legal issues, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to determine how the statute of limitations applies to your particular case.

The statute of limitations for many types of injury cases in Kentucky is 1 year from the time of the injury. KRS 413.140. This 1-year time limit for settling the claim or bringing a lawsuit generally applies to dog bites or other animal attacks, slip and fall, assault, medical malpractice, and nursing home neglect and abuse cases, among others, although in some cases, such as medical malpractice, the 1-year statute of limitations may not begin to run until the injury is discovered or until you quit treating with the professional who has committed negligence or malpractice. Since cases must be properly investigated before suit can be filed and evidence must be gathered and preserved as quickly as possible, it is imperative to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the injury has occurred or been discovered.

Some of the personal injury claims resulting from car wrecks, truck wrecks or other motor vehicle accidents must generally be settled or filed in court no later than 2 years after the date of the injury, death, or the last payment of basic or added reparation benefits was made to the injured party. KRS 304.39-230. Basic or added reparation benefits are also known as personal injury protection (“PIP”) benefits or no-fault benefits. However, many factors will have an effect on the statute of limitations that will be applied to a particular case, such as whether PIP benefits have been paid or not paid after the injury, and whether the injury resulted in death. Furthermore, there are numerous exceptions to the 2-year statute of limitations for motor vehicle accidents which will reduce the statute of limitations to 1 year, so care must be taken in relying on the 2-year time limit. An experienced personal injury lawyer must review all the facts and details of the case to determine the deadline for filing suit. 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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Due to the vulnerability of nursing home residents, Kentucky has enacted statutes aimed at protecting them from nursing home abuse and neglect. Kentucky law mandates in KRS 216.515 that all residents shall be free from mental and physical abuse, and they must be free from restraints by physical or chemical methods except in emergencies or other specific circumstances specified in writing by a physician.

Kentucky statutes further provide in KRS 216.515 that residents whose statutory rights are deprived or infringed upon shall have a cause of action against the facility responsible for the violation. In a lawsuit brought under the nursing home statutes, the nursing home resident or legal representative can recover actual and punitive damages for denial or infringement of the resident’s rights as well as attorney’s fees and the costs of the lawsuit.

In a suit brought under the Kentucky nursing home statutes, a jury in Louisville awarded an $8 million verdict for nursing home abuse to the estate of a retired surgeon whose sustained broken bones while he was in the care of Treyton Oak Towers. Dr. Griffin’s legs were broken when he was improperly transferred from his chair to his bed and, due to a previous stroke, he was unable to tell anyone about the pain he was suffering. After his legs were broken, the staff put him back in bed and pretended it didn’t happen.

The nursing home initially denied any wrong doing and even tried to cover up the nursing home neglect that eventually led to the patient’s wrongful death less than two months later. There was also evidence presented that the nursing home was understaffed and failed to properly evaluate and train its staff. Continue reading

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As lawyers who handle wrongful death as well as other car accident cases, we are keenly aware of the effect that motor vehicle accidents can have on insurance premiums. Every motor vehicle owner is required by Kentucky law to carry insurance for each vehicle owned, or severe penalties will be assessed. Insurance premiums are a necessity and they will likely increase if you are involved in an accident. To reduce your premiums, you may be considering new options being offered by insurance companies.

More and more insurers are offering discounts to drivers that agree to install a device in their car that will monitor their driving style. Progressive offers Snapshot, State Farm offers Drive Safe & Save with In-Drive, and Allstate has Drive Wise. The company sends you a device, called a telematic device, that you plug into the vehicle’s diagnostic port, usually under the steering wheel, and the company monitors your driving habits. The cautious driver who drives fewer miles would likely pay lower insurance premiums since they’re less likely to be involved in an accident. However, the device becomes an electronic snoop and wirelessly transmits information to your insurer detailing not only how far you drive, but also when you drive, how fast you accelerate and turn, and how hard you accelerate, brake and corner. The drawback to using these devices is a loss of privacy and possible use of the information against you.

It appears that many drivers are willing to install the telematic devices and transmit detailed driving data to their insurer in the hopes of receiving a discount, and a recent study commissioned by Ford may explain their willingness since the study found that 99 percent of drivers believe they are good drivers. Of the participants in the study, however, 76% admitted they eat or drink while driving, 55% admitted to speeding, 53% talk on handheld phones, 37% drive even when they’re too tired and 25% use their phones to search contacts. So, even though you may think you’re a safe driver, the information sent to your insurer may paint a different picture and may not get you the discount you hoped for. Continue reading

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